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Biden Dismisses Calls For Him To Suspend Campaign; Vice President Harris Attends Essence Festival In New Orleans; Iran Elects A Reformist As New President; Hungarian PM Orban Meets With Russia's Putin In Moscow; Bringing Electricity To Navajo Families Living Off Grid. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired July 06, 2024 - 19:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Pamela Brown in Washington.

Well, President Biden is pushing forward with his reelection campaign. He is digging in his heels and resisting calls from members of his own party to step aside. In the first televised interview since his shaky debate performance last week, Biden once again dismissed the debate as a, quote, "bad night," denied the polls showing him losing to Trump and wouldn't commit to taking a cognitive test.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST: The American people have been watching, yet their concerns about your age and your health are growing. So that's why I'm asking, to reassure them, would you be willing to have the independent medical evaluation?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Watch me -- there's a lot of time left in this campaign. It's over 125 days.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So the answer -- your answer right now is no. You don't want to do that right now?

BIDEN: I've already done that.


BROWN: Well, tonight more Democrats are calling on the 81-year-old candidate to suspend his campaign with one lawmaker telling CNN, quote, "We are screwed."

CNN's Arlette Saenz joins us live from Wilmington, Delaware, where the president is spending the day before heading back to the campaign trail.

So, Arlette, the campaign really wanted this ABC interview to kind of help turn the page, right, to get the focus back on Donald Trump, not on Joe Biden, but even after this interview, you had another House Democrat calling on Joe Biden to step aside. How is the campaign responding to all of this today? ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, the Biden

campaign really expressed optimism after this interview as they viewed this as a key step in trying to reassure voters that President Biden is up for a second term in office. But it does not appear that it fully quelled some of the serious doubts within the Democratic Party about President Biden moving forward with this 2024 race.

Now, President Biden was defiant in his answers insisting that he is not backing down from the campaign, even as there are questions from some within his own party about whether he should continue. And the president also pushed back on the idea that top Democrats want to see him leave this race. Take a listen.


BIDEN: Every one of them, they all said I should stay in the race. Stay in the race. No one said, none of the people said I should leave.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But if they do?

BIDEN: It's like, they're not going to do that.


BIDEN: Yes, I'm sure. Look, I mean, if the Lord Almighty came down and said, Joe, get out of the race, I'll get out of the race. The Lord Almighty is not coming down.


SAENZ: Now so far, at least five House Democratic lawmakers have publicly called for President Biden to step aside in the campaign, the most recent one being Angie Craig from Minnesota, from a swing district. She wrote in a statement that it was the president's performance, but also what she viewed as a lack of a forceful response in the days after that led her to this decision. She believes that the president cannot effectively campaign and beat Trump in November.

Now, prior to this interview, CNN had learned that Senator Mark Warner was trying to assemble a group of Democratic senators to try to get on the same page relating to the president's candidacy with one source familiar with the situation telling CNN that Warner was close to reaching a point where he believed President Biden also needed to step aside. So we will see whether any of that comes to fruition within the Democratic caucus in the Senate.

But there have been these increasing calls from officials within the president's own party for him to step aside, even as he's trying to take these various steps to try to reassure voters. It's just not clear whether it will be enough as the pressure has been mounting on him in recent days.

BROWN: Certainly. And now we're finding out about this radio interviews that the president did right after the debate or a couple of days after. The first pair of interviews that he did where the radio host spoke to CNN's Victor Blackwell this morning and revealed the questions were provided by Biden aides. Let's play that clip.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The questions were sent to me for approval. I approved of them.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: OK. So the White House sent the questions to you ahead of the interview.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got several questions. Eight of them. And the four that were chosen was the ones that I approved.


BROWN: So, Arlette, the Biden campaign is responding to this unusual practice tonight. What is it saying?

SAENZ: Yes, it isn't unusual practice and the Biden campaign did not deny that they had provided some recommended questions to these radio show host. They did note that the interviews were not conditioned on the fact that these questions be used. But today a source familiar with the booking operation, with the campaign told CNN that they will be changing their tactics going forward.


They said, the source said, quote, "While interview hosts have always been free to ask whatever questions they please, moving forward we will refrain from offering suggested questions." It all comes at a very interesting time when the Biden campaign has said that they want the president to start engaging in more off-the-cuff unscripted moments. That is something that many of his allies have called for, including Senator Chris Coons.

I spoke with him a bit earlier today. He was on a call with President Biden, with the co-chairs of the campaign for more than an hour today. He said that in that phone call, the president really tried to seek honest input and advice about the path forward. And it was his expectation that President Biden moving forward will engage in some more of these unscripted moments, perhaps town halls or press conferences.

But certainly there has been a very questionable spotlight shined around the practice relating to these radio interviews, especially since they were the first interviews the president was conducting in the wake of that debate.

BROWN: All right. Thank you so much, Arlette Saenz.

Joining us now is former Republican congressman Joe Walsh.

So, Joe, you're a radio host yourself. I'm just wondering, first, what your reaction is to the fact we're learning tonight that the Biden campaign provided questions to these two black radio hosts who would conduct the first interviews after Bidens debate? And the radio host approved the questions that ask them in that, quote, unquote, "interview." What do you make of that?

JOE WALSH, FORMER REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN: Pamela, as a former radio host, it's stunning and it's not an interview. And if the prerequisite to me interviewing President Biden on my radio show was here are the questions you need to ask him, I would have turned down that interview. Look, this is just the latest evidence of how poorly the Biden campaign has handled this thing since the debate.

Pamela, I always need to say this at the beginning. The only thing that matters is Donald Trump needs to lose because Donald Trump is a threat to our democracy. Joe Biden has always had one thing and one thing only to prove. He's not too old and he's up to the job. At that debate last week, he didn't -- not only did he not prove that he demonstrated that he is too old.

But to your point, Pamela, their behavior in the eight or nine days since the debate, I think has been a bigger fail than the debate. Biden should have gotten out there Friday and Saturday and Sunday and Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday, and to add a two-hour press conference every day. A two-hour unscripted town hall every day. He should have gotten out there this past nine days. And this would have I think quelled this inevitable rush that he's just not capable.

BROWN: It's interesting because I was speaking to a Democratic strategist yesterday and this person echoed that like basically questioning why wasn't Biden working the phones immediately after the debate, you know, rather than go into the Waffle House at North Carolina and so forth, then Camp David for several days, and to letting the narrative kind of fester.

So you say, you know, look, he just had to show everyone, look, I'm not too old. I'm capable. That's what he was trying to do on this interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC. What do you think? Do you think his performance alleviated any of those concerns about the president's age?

WALSH: No. And again, Pamela, I say that as a never-Trumper who will support whoever the Democratic nominee is., If Joe Biden stays in this race, I will run through a wall to help get him elected, but eight days later, eight days, he has a 22-minute interview and the interview to me didn't really go super well and didn't really alleviate a lot of fears, but it's the eight days, Pam, it's the eight days.

You get the sense that Joe Biden is in denial and doesn't fully realize how bad things are, and that he's insulated by people who aren't giving him correct information.

BROWN: And we should note that the White House for its part, the press secretary has given conflicting information from what we're even hearing from Joe Biden, right? I mean, it's been all over the map in terms of his last physical exam and mental exam and when that happened and then he said during the interview that, oh, actually before the debate, he was checked out by doctors. He was tested for a virus and infection. He didn't have one. I mean, we can't get a straight story out of the White House, right, in terms of him seeing a doctor.


During the ABC interview, Biden was asked about how he'd feel in January if he loses the election to Trump. Here's what he said.


STEPHANOPOULOS: And if you stay in and Trump is elected, and everything you're warning about comes to pass, how will you feel in January?

BIDEN: I would feel as long as I gave it my all and I did the good as job as I know I can do, that's what this is about.


BROWN: So in your view, what will be Biden's legacy if he loses come November?

WALSH: Pamela, when I heard that answer last night, I literally was drinking a glass of water. Thankfully it was a plastic cup and I threw the cup against the wall.

Are you serious? Joe Biden has rightly been telling us that Donald Trump is an existential threat to our democracy. That if he's elected we will lose our democracy. He will be a dictator. By the way, I believe that. And so George Stephanopoulos asked him if you stay in and Trump wins, how will you feel? And he says, well, I'll feel like if I did my all and I gave it my best, I'll feel fine, either he doesn't get it or he hasn't been straightforward in what he believes about Trump.

I just -- I think something is going to happen fast and when I say fast, I think within a week or two, we're going to get a decision. But if Joe Biden doesn't get out there and show the American people still he's up for this, I don't know how he stops it.

BROWN: Look, like you said, good decision because Bidens is saying, hey, I'm not going anywhere. So what do you mean by that? Do you think he could change his mind?

WALSH: Well, he has to -- yes, he has to say that until he doesn't because if he didn't say that then watched the barn door, then, you know, everybody would have run from him days ago. So he has to say that but I do not believe there isn't a part of him and his advisers that, no, that may not be the case.

BROWN: Well, it's interesting, too, because he had this call with campaign co-chairs, including Chris coons, where he was apparently asking them for their thoughts on, you know, the path forward. So that does indicate what you said that he's still exploring, you know, whether he should stay in or not. I've interviewed two Democratic House members on the show today.

Neither of them are calling for Biden to step down. We should be very clear. But they do have different opinions about how the perception of Biden after the debate is sticking with voters. Take a listen.


REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D-CA): We had a two-person majority and the Senate was either one person or it was a 50-50 Senate. Extraordinary understanding of how to move the government. Did he lose that in the last month? Absolutely not. He did not. He still has that capability.

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): I am not about to throw him overboard because of a bad experience. I want to give him every opportunity to try to recover. Having said that at the end of the day, we cannot afford to make a mistake about Donald Trump.


BROWN: so I think I'm going to -- I think I know where you're going to go with this. But who should Biden be listening to? I mean those opinions he's hearing. It sounds like from what he said in the ABC interview is hearing more from what the Garamendis, right of, hey, it didn't really make that much of a mark on the voters and not maybe the Jerry Connollys who are saying, I'm worried like this is making a dent in our voters and this could hurt us in November.

WALSH: Somebody, Pamela, somebody has got to pierce the small circle that is protecting him right now. A Barak Obama, a Nancy Pelosi, a Chuck Schumer, Hakeem Jeffries somebody has to pierce that bubble because I can tell you as a former house candidate, who worried about who was at the top of my ticket. Any Democrat right now running for election or reelection in the House in a competitive district is scared to death right now that Biden is going to drag them all out.

BROWN: Then why haven't they speaking out? Because like only one of the five that I have spoken out asking for him to step down is in swing district? Whyt aren't the others? Why aren't we seeing that?

WALSH: So I think you will. You know, the House comes back this upcoming week. They're going to be asked bow this upcoming week. Everything is going to be here. They're going to be asked, they're going to have microphones in, you know, in front of them. So I do think you're going to begin to see a real sea change this week because they can't.

Pamela, they've been told, you know, that their leaders in the House have clearly told them for now stay quiet. But you can only put your finger on that dike for so long and it'll either break this week or Joe Biden is able to get out there this week and show that he is capable.


BROWN: All right. Joe Walsh, thank you so much.

WALSH: Thanks.

BROWN: Also tonight, Tropical Storm Beryl now closing in on Texas, likely to make landfall as a hurricane.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers is in the Weather Center timing it out.

Chad, what is the latest?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, the airplanes are in it right now trying to figure out whether this thing is getting stronger or not. We know that the pressure has gone down a little bit in the first pass of that airplane. It's in very warm water here are the airplanes one coming in from Tampa, and so yes, they're going to be in it all night long, trying to figure out whether it's growing because really this is going to be a category one in the forecast, but a four to six foot surge in places that have quite a few people that could be in the way. And more than 74-mile-per-hour winds in all those little red areas there.

Look at Death Valley yesterday, 127 degrees temperatures up and down the West Coast again, in the 102 to 110 degree range and more fires going on out there. I have a friend who works at the weather service in Los Angeles. He's working the Thompson fire. He said that the firefighters will be working in 115 degree heat today. So when you're having a bad day at work, think about that.

BROWN: Really puts into perspective, Chad. Wow. Thanks so much.

Well, Vice President Kamala Harris is hitting the road this weekend as her camp dismisses calls for her to replace President Biden on the ticket, a move supported by many Democrats.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.



BROWN: Vice President Kamala Harris is hitting the campaign trail tonight and she is at the Essence Festival of Culture in New Orleans. This is part of an effort by the Biden-Harris campaign to reach black voters.

CNN's Eva McKend is there.

So, Eva, what did the vice president have to say at the festival?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: You know, Pam, she framed this election in stark terms, telling this majority black crowd here at the festival that another Trump presidency would translate to imperiling American democracy. She also used the platform to really elevate what she would characterize as the successes of the Biden- Harris administration. So she talked about lowering the cost of insulin. She raised the issue of black maternal health and said that it was a real priority for the administration. What she did not do, Pam, she did not seem to be angling at all to be

at the top of the ticket. That is a conversation that is happening nationwide. But throughout this controversy, the vice president has indicated both publicly and privately that she is completely committed to being President Biden's running mate. She told voters that this election is pivotal. Let's listen.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have the former president who is running to become president again, who has openly talked about his admiration of dictators and his intention to be a dictator on day one, who has openly talked about his intention to weaponize the Department of Justice against his political enemies, who has talked about being proud of taking from the women of America a most fundamental right to make decisions about your own body.


MCKEND: And Pam, I have to tell you there are black voters here from all across the country. You know well that they are core coalition for Democrats. Black women often referred to as the backbone of the party. And in my conversations with them, no indication that they want President Biden to step aside. Time and time again they say they support Biden. They support Harris as Biden's running mate, and ultimately, what is of most consequence to them is the former president not getting reelected-- Pam.

BROWN: All right. Eva McKend, that's really important reporting. Thank you.

Joining us now is veteran California journalist Dan Morain. He's the author of the biography, "Kamala's Way."

So you've said people should not underestimate Harris. Why?

DAN MORAIN, AUTHOR, "KAMALA'S WAY": Well, it's happened many times before and people -- politicians who do underestimate her tend to lose. You know, she is very smart. She's very talented, she is -- you know, she's a very good politician, and, you know, I understand that she has had difficulties early in the administration but you see her kind of hitting her stride kind of at the right time right now.

She's not going to call for Joe Biden to step aside. She would be the last person who would do that. I think it's clear that she's very loyal to the president, but she is becoming more of a force and it's not surprising having watched her run three statewide campaigns out here in California. It's not surprising at all.

BROWN: And it's interesting, too, to see kind of how Joe Biden has been seemingly keeping her closer and maybe it's vice versa, too. She's keeping him close, but, you know, just this week, the vice president has joined the president for his call with Prime Minister Netanyahu and all-staff campaign meeting, and at the closed-door meeting with governors. So what do you make of that, the fact that she is making more frequent

appearances with Biden? Does that indicate to you that they may be putting her in a position to replace him or are we just reading too much into that?

MORAIN: Yes, I think he understands that she's a valuable asset, a political asset, and she's -- and so he's wise to have her there with him.


You know, I'm in California, there in Washington for the most part. I'm a long ways away. That said, he would clearly -- he clearly benefits from her. That's why he picked her in the first place. She brings energy, she brings youth, relative youth. She brings fundraising capability. She energizes crowd. She can energize a crowd. I've seen it happen. And also in a debate she's very good. I moderated debate when she ran for attorney general first time in 2010 out here in California. And if there was any one reason why she won, it was that debate.

BROWN: So then how do you think she would do going toe-to-toe against Trump, given his style of insulting his rivals?

MORAIN: Well, I think, I mean, he's already insulted her persistently, it appears as have his allies. She was a trial lawyer. She was a prosecutor. She understands the give-and-take. In a one on one debate I think she would be formidable. She certainly was when she ran in California. She's a very good debater. You don't become a trial attorney who puts away criminals by being slow on your feet. She can be very quick.

BROWN: All right. Dan Morain, thank you so much.

Well, Iran is welcoming a new president tonight as the reformist candidate manages to defeat his hardline rival. What the victory could potentially mean for Iran's relations with the U.S., as well as U.S. adversaries like Russia.



BROWN: There is a new president and a new regime in Iran. The country elected a reform politician in elections held after the previous hardline president died in a helicopter crash back in May.

The new president is calling for unity and a new chapter for Iran and he could shake its relations with the US and the West.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen has more from Tehran.


Well, pretty interesting election results there in Iran in that runoff election vote. One of the things that of course we were looking at was the voter turnout and normally, it is the case that if the turnout is fairly low, that the conservatives do quite well, but in this case, the turnout was 50 percent, which is still pretty low, but the moderates managed to take the election and Masoud Pezeshkian, the president-elect, he actually won by quite a significant amount of votes against Saeed Jalili, the conservative contender.

Now, Masoud Pezeshkian, during his election campaign and even before that has said that he wants better relations with countries in the region. Of course, right now, the Middle East is in a lot of turmoil, but also better relations with countries in the West.

Now in order to achieve that, he of course, has to not only negotiate with the countries of that region and with the West, but also of course, internally as well.

As far as foreign policy is concerned, everything that happens needs to be signed off by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but also the military in Iran, especially the IRGC, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, is very influential as well. So that could certainly be an uphill battle for Masoud Pezeshkian.

Nevertheless, as far as voters are concerned, many had said that they believed the economic situation needs to be improved, and of course, one of the main ways to do that is with better relations with countries around the world and for Iran to try and get some of those crippling sanctions lifted -- Pamela.

BROWN: All right, thanks so much, Fred Pleitgen.

Among the countries congratulating the new leader of Iran is Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying that he hopes to "expand cooperation" between the countries. Iran has been an important supplier of weapons to Russia in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Joining us now is CNN contributor, Jill Dougherty, she is the former CNN Moscow Bureau Chief and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University.

So Jill, what's going on here? Do you think that Putin is basically blatantly trying to curry favor with the new Iranian president? Do you think it is going to work?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN RUSSIAN AFFAIRS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think definitely, you know, Iran is very, very important and if the new president is going to be, as Fred just pointed out, establishing better or hoping to establish better relations with the West, then Putin is very interested in that because of course, he doesn't want that.

So I would say, obviously, it is a transactional relationship. They need -- Russia needs Iran, especially for drones and equipment for the war in Ukraine. So he is covering all the bases and trying to keep that relationship very strong.

BROWN: Then you have Hungary and its Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who by the way, is an ally of Trump and Putin, who went to Moscow yesterday and met with Putin angering his fellow EU leaders.

Hungary is just now taking its turn and the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU. What do you think had happened? Do you think that the EU could penalize Hungary over this?

DOUGHERTY: Well, you know, if you look at the reaction right now, I would say the allies in the EU are furious. The criticism, Putin is exploiting the situation, you would have to say and Ursula von der Leyen, who is the EU president, calls it appeasement. Another European official from Lithuania said that he is dealing with a bloody dictator.


So you can see the response.

Now, how they can get back at him or punish him for doing this, after all, he really is breaking ranks to say the least.

He is meeting with Putin when Putin with the EU is supposed to be a pariah. Nobody is supposed to be meeting with Putin.

So there is a lot of concern that Orban right now is trying to either undermine or somehow weaken the unity of the EU and whether they can punish him, he just became the head of the EU Council, so it is not clear, but there are some indications, almost like veiled threats that perhaps the EU could take some type of step. It might even be just diplomatic, but to show that it is very angry with the prime minister of Hungary.

BROWN: And we should note, this is the same Viktor Orban, who has essentially dismantled democracy in his country, and who also met with Donald Trump earlier this spring. This is his first visit there since 2022. Why now, do you think?

DOUGHERTY: You know, I think you have to look at the timing of coming into the presidency of the European Council. I mean, they have a moment here where they can get a lot of attention, certainly look at what Orban did. I think it was five days after he became president, he headed to Kyiv, knowing that Zelenskyy will never go along with what Orban is calling his peace mission. Zelenskyy is never going to accept that. And then a day or two later, he goes to Moscow.

This gets attention and you have to say, look at the history of Orban and Ukraine. Orban has tried to make Ukraine make concessions. He stopped any attempt to have any weapons coming through Hungary aid to Ukraine and he has interfered really in Ukraine trying to join the EU.

So he is no friend of Ukraine and bringing that up as a peace program or a peace mission, it is not going to go anywhere, but it gives him attention and it curries favor with Vladimir Putin, who is, you'd have to say an ally of Orban.

BROWN: Yes, that's the bottom line right there.

Jill Dougherty, thank you so much. Well, it is hard to imagine enduring temperatures in the 110, right, without any electricity. That is still the reality for folks in one community. But there is an effort to change that.



BROWN: Sweltering heat and no air conditioning, it is the reality for one of the poorest places in the country, and as global temperatures rise, it is only getting worse.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Navajo Nation.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Allen Bryant watches a power lines crew with curiosity and wonder. For 70 years, he's lived on this patch of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico without electricity.

It seems like a life changing moment for you.

ALLEN BRYANT, NAVAJO NATION RESIDENT: Yes, it is. It's going to be real good.

LAVANDERA (voice over): His family's home will soon be connected to the power grid. That means air conditioning and a refrigerator. And it comes as the summer heat intensifies.

BRYANT: Yes. Yes. It's getting hot and hot and hot, drier and drier.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Right. And that's dangerous.

BRYANT: Yes. The sun comes down, it hits you like -- very fast.

LAVANDERA (voice over): This summer power line crews have planted 55 polls stretching along four miles through this rugged landscape. The work is part of a non-profit partnership known as Light Up Navajo. The goal is to bring power to 13,000 families who live without electricity in one of the poorest places in the country.

The crews come from 46 different power utility companies in 16 states. This group of linemen signed up for this assignment and as the planet gets warmer, they sensed the urgency of their mission.

JOE TSETHLIKAI, JOURNEYMAN LINEMAN, TRICO ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE: To me, it's just some thinkable that here, we're the greatest country in the world than we have Americans that are living without power, water, all that.

BRYAN ENGLISH, CREW FOREMAN, TRICO ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE: It's crazy that still happens in America in 2024.

LAVANDERA (on camera): So, Will, you're less than 24 hours away from getting electricity at your house? WILLIAM LEE TOM, JR., NAVAJO NATION RESIDENT: Yes. Yes, exactly.

LAVANDERA (voice over): This is William Tom's last night living without power. Tomorrow, crews will connect his home to the newly installed power lines reaching his house.

He's lived here 15 years and often slept outside because it is cooler.

Did you ever get frustrated? Did you ever think, man, this is a hard way to live?

TOM: Yes, of course. You know, there's frustration.

LAVANDERA (voice over): This summer though, will feel different with a flip of a switch.

TOM: When you're ready, ready. Here we go there we go. All right, Yes, the light, it's pretty good.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Light bulb is working.

TOM: Yes. Yes, light bulb is working.

LAVANDERA: Now you can go buy an air conditioning unit.

TOM: I need to, I need to, yes, I do.

LAVANDERA (voice over): The Light Up Navajo Project started in 2019, almost 850 homes have been connected to the power grid.

Navajo Nation is roughly the size of West Virginia with homes spread out across rugged and isolated terrain. It will likely take decades to finish the project.

While one family celebrates, it's a reminder that thousands of others remain disconnected, left struggling through the painful summers.

Arlene Henry's house has a small solar panel that provides a few hours of electricity. But her son needs around the clock oxygen. They use their car as a power source.

LAVANDERA (on camera): And you'll come here just to cool off?

ARLENE HENRY, NAVAJO NATION RESIDENT: Yes. Cool off in here, too, that's our AC.

LAVANDERA (voice over): She's lived like this for 56 years.

HENRY: Yes, it wears us out. Yes. It's too hot. It's scary. Right now, it's too hot in there.

LAVANDERA: Yes. Because it's almost -- almost a hundred degrees today?

HENRY: Yes, I get scared for my -- I'm scared for my son. It's too hot. I wish we had electricity. LAVANDERA (voice over): It's not clear when the Light Up Navajo initiative will reach Arlene's home. Until then, her family will find refuge from the heat by chasing the shade cast by their home as the sun passes over.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, the Navajo Nation in New Mexico.


BROWN: That is a heart wrencher. Arlene, we are thinking about you. We hope you get that relief soon.

Well, with the Paris Olympics just weeks away, we are looking back at one of the greatest all-time Olympic performances when Jesse Owens travelled to the heart of Nazi Germany and went home with four gold medals.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.



BROWN: Well, it may be hard to believe, but the Olympic Games in Paris are now less than three weeks away. There have been so many great Olympians over the years, but few can match the impact made by sprinter, Jesse Owens. He won four gold medals at the 1936 games in Berlin, an achievement made all the more significant because he did in front of Germany's Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler.

CNN's Don Riddell spoke with Jesse's grandson about his legacy and here is some of that conversation.


STUART OWEN RANKIN, GRANDSON OF JESSE OWENS: My grandfather competed in the long jump against a German athlete by the name of Luz Long. Luz was the European long jump record holder, and the two of them came together in the '36 Games in a sort of heavyweight battle of long jumpers on August 4th in 1936, right under the nose of and in the face of Adolf Hitler.

What unfolded was something that no one would have predicted. My grandfather and Luz Long through their competition, actually became allies, became friends.

Yes, eventually, my grandfather did win the gold, but Luz got the silver. And I think just as, or more importantly, what came from that was a bond, a brotherhood between two world class athletes on the highest stage of their particular event or sport.

DON RIDDELL, CNN WORLD SPORT HOST: You've referred to him as formerly the fastest man in the world, but he is famous not just because of that and his accomplishments, but because of what he did and where he did it, in Berlin in front of Adolf Hitler. There may be people watching this interview who don't know much about Jesse Owens because this Olympics was almost a hundred years ago now. So, I mean, how would you describe his legacy in its entirety?

RANKIN: You're right. A lot of people watching may not be as familiar with his accomplishments. And those Olympics were made particularly famous because those were the Olympics in Berlin, Germany. And, of course, Hitler's philosophy and mindset was that his Aryan nation was a superior nation and that all other nations and all other people were inferior.

So my grandfather's accomplishments of four gold medals was quite a thumb in the eye of his philosophy. And I know it added a bit of additional fuel for my grandfather to perform well, but primarily, he wanted to perform well for him and the United States of America.

RIDDELL: How did that performance in 1936 change the rest of his life, and therefore, all of your lives within the family?

RANKIN: Most immediately when he returned from the games, it didn't impact his life as we would imagine it would nowadays, because he was returning to 1936 United States of America, which, candidly, was not a very good place for Black Americans.

So my grandfather's accomplishments, I don't think, were fully recognized and appreciated until later in his life.

RIDDELL: Can you remember the first time that you realized that your grandfather was kind of fast and very famous?

RANKIN: Despite growing up as his grandson, it wasn't something that was talked about a whole lot in the family. You know, he was really just a normal, everyday grandfather.

I did eventually learn that he had at one time been the fastest man in the world. And I remember with that because I was a pretty fast kid. As a kid, I thought, well, wouldn't it be neat if I beat in a foot race the former fastest man in the world? And so I challenged my grandfather to a foot race once, fully expecting to be able to beat him because I was probably five, I don't know exactly how old I was at the time, but, you know, to me, he seemed like an old man. So I figured I could beat an old man in a foot race.

And we set off, ready to set, go, and we took off. And I thought I had him for a moment, but then he pretty easily caught up to me and passed me and won the race. So I was really upset. I was sorry that I didn't have the story to tell that I was hoping to be able to tell to my friends at school that I beat the former fastest man in the world.



BROWN: And our thanks to Don Riddell for that. What a fun interview that was.

Well, the greatest athletes in the world now have a very good boy to help them deal with stress. Guess who that might be?

The US Olympic gymnastics team, well, they have a therapy dog. This right here is a four-year-old golden retriever named Beacon. He was in Minneapolis for the Olympic trials this week.

Beacon and his trainer joined Erica Hill earlier this week.


TRACEY CALLAHAN MOLNAR, TRAINER: So, for some, they've said it's just a nice, healthy distraction from the intensity of competition. For others, it's just a calming experience for them to be able to sit and have hands on the dog. Just sometimes they're -- Beacon, come on. There you go. Sometimes they talk to him. Sometimes it's just quiet moments of them petting. There you go.

BROWN: I'm jealous of Erica for getting to do that segment. What a cute little boy.

The US is trying to get beacon approved to go to Paris in time for the Games. Opening ceremonies are July 26th.

Thank you so much for joining me this evening. I am Pamela Brown. I'll actually see you again tomorrow night starting at 5:00 Eastern.

"The 80s" is up next.