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Several Top House Democrats Want Biden to Exit Race; Left-Wing Coalition Beats Far Right in Surprise Result; Hurricane Beryl Gains Strength; Ceasefire-Hostage Release Talks to Resume in Qatar this Week. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired July 08, 2024 - 04:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the democratic party behind you, sir?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That debate performance was concerning and it wasn't the Joe Biden that I know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's highly likely there will be some more public pressure on him this week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here in France, the country's left wing alliance has come out on top after the second round of parliamentary elections.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Water temperatures over this part of the Gulf of Mexico are running abnormally high. And that is like jet fuel for strengthening hurricanes and tropical systems.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and a warm welcome to our viewers joining us from the United States and all around the world. It is Monday, July the 8th. I'm Max Foster reporting live today from Paris, where the left wing coalition has defeated the far right in a, let's say, surprising election result.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Rosemary Church at CNN World headquarters here in Atlanta. We will, of course, dive deeper into the French election results in just a few minutes.

But we begin this hour with U.S. politics and a growing number of House Democrats who are joining the chorus, calling on U.S. President Joe Biden to abandon his reelection bid after his poor debate performance against Donald Trump.

Lawmakers will be returning to Capitol Hill in the coming hours after they likely heard from constituents over the holiday weekend about whether the president should stay in the race. There's deep concern over having Joe Biden at the top of the ticket this November and what it could mean for the Democrats' chances of retaking the House. While recent polls suggest Biden is slipping, he insists he still has his party's support. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the democratic party behind you, sir?



CHURCH: And the president is out to prove he's still fit for the job, traveling to the battleground state of Pennsylvania on Sunday for several campaign stops. CNN's Danny Freeman asked one voter about her concerns.


DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What do you need reassurance about?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think just in general about his mental acuity. Right. I mean, I personally had a -- I lost a grandmother and 104 and she was sharp as a tack through 95. So I absolutely believe that it's possible to do. It's just that that debate performance was concerning and it wasn't the Joe Biden that I know.


CHURCH: Danny has more now on the president's latest campaign stop.


FREEMAN: On the last day of the Fourth of July weekend, President Biden made another attempt at reassuring Democrats that he is still the man for the job by really projecting a show of force in battleground Pennsylvania. That included stops in Philadelphia and in Harrisburg before ultimately heading back to D.C. He made appearances with Senator Bob Casey up for reelection. Also, Senator John Fetterman and Governor Josh Shapiro.

Now, the day started in a predominantly black church in northwest Philadelphia, where he really tried to tout the accomplishments of the administration when it comes to African American people in this country. And the rest of the day strategically was more focused on informal, unscripted events throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to really show that President Biden is still able to think off the cuff and be smooth like that. I want you to take a listen to some of the comments that President Biden said when he was rallying campaign staffers at a campaign office in Philadelphia.

BIDEN: We're drawing crowds that have been really big crowds ever since the debate, not joking. Even that night in the debate, we had great crowds afterwards. And so things are moving. They're moving hard.

And look, the other thing is that people want to know you care. They want to know we care. There's nothing letting someone know you care like knocking on the door and saying, my name's so-and-so. I'm here for Joe Biden. Is there anything? What do you need? What do you need?

FREEMAN: Now, here in Harrisburg, President Biden was met with a very friendly and receptive crowd here at the Union Hall behind me. He was also unscripted and informal in this particular event. He only spoke for about seven minutes, but then he worked the rope line for about 45 minutes, shaking hands, taking some voters questions. A lot of it was out of earshot of reporters.

But that's clearly the image that the campaign wants to put out there, that he is not someone that Democrats have to worry about when it comes to his age and his vitality and his ability to do the job.

Danny Freeman, CNN, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.


CHURCH: And joining me now from Lancaster, England, is Richard Johnson. He is a lecturer in U.S. politics at Queen Mary University of London. Appreciate you joining us.


CHURCH: So, according to CNN sources, more top House Democrats are calling on President Biden to step aside and suspend his 2024 campaign based on his poor debate performance. About 11 out of 213 House Democrats, so not very many really, but what do voters want? And what's the right next move for Democrats? Should they replace Joe Biden or get behind him?

JOHNSON: Well, the polls are showing that voters are increasingly anxious about Biden's age. Four years ago, there was about 40 percent of voters thought that Biden was too old to be president, but that would have been overwhelmingly driven by Republican supporters. Now the polls are showing something like three-quarters of voters think Biden is too old to be president, and that therefore is including a very substantial proportion of Democratic voters.

I think these calls from House members, while themselves not decisive, if they are part of a trajectory of more House members, and then we have senators, governors, and crucially, I think, congressional leadership, the speaker, majority leader, that pressure, if that all came to pass, then I think there is a tipping point where Biden has to think about stepping aside. But ultimately, it is mostly his decision. I mean, he has 99 percent of the delegates at the Democratic convention in August, and if he still wants to stay on, it's going to be pretty difficult for him to be removed involuntarily.

CHURCH: And of course, right now, President Biden remains defiant, hitting the campaign trail in Pennsylvania, saying he has the backing of his party. Do you agree with that assessment, for the most part? And what more do you think he needs to be doing right now to turn his fortunes around? JOHNSON: I thought, particularly in the interview that he did with George Stephanopoulos, the president sounded in a bit of denial about the reality of where this election is. As things stand, if the election were held tomorrow, the Democrats would lose to Donald Trump. Biden now has actually quite a steep hill to climb, both in the popular vote and in his standing in swing states.

The polls do show that alternative Democratic candidates are not polling dramatically better than him. Kamala Harris, in a CNN poll last week, did seem to look a bit stronger than Biden, but not overwhelmingly so. But at the same time, these candidates, the alternatives, have not had an opportunity to put out their stall in the way that Joe Biden has.

I'm increasingly of the view that, especially now that people have come out in the Democratic Party and said that they don't have confidence in him to carry on for the next four and a half years, I don't think you can have a nominee in the Democratic Party that has that kind of doubt lingering over them. This is not just a question about can Joe Biden make it to November. It's also can Joe Biden make it until January of 2029?

And if you ask Democrats, honestly, I don't think many really feel that that that is the case.

CHURCH: And you mentioned Donald Trump. Sources revealed to CNN that he and his campaign want President Biden to remain at the top of the ticket, presumably believing it will be easier to beat the president rather than an alternative nominee. What do you say to that?

JOHNSON: Well, I certainly think that now, you know, maybe a few months ago that that might not have been the case. But now that there is significant doubt within the Democratic electorate over Biden's fitness to be president, I could certainly see why the Trump campaign would want him to stay on.

This is what I call an all hands on deck election. In order to defeat Donald Trump, Joe Biden is going to need the whole anti-Trump coalition to back him, not to splinter, not to vote for third party candidates and also to turn out. And there's a real risk, I think, if this saga continues and Joe Biden remains the nominee, the Democratic enthusiasm for him will be depressed. And if it's depressed in those crucial swing states, which are decided by, in some cases, tens of thousands, in some cases a few thousand votes, then then the election could be lost for the Democrats.

And if this is an election where democracy is on the ballot and the stakes are as high as Joe Biden indeed says, then I think that Joe Biden needs to think very carefully about his responsibilities, not just to his party, but also to his country.

CHURCH: Richard Johnson, many thanks for your analysis. Appreciate it.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

CHURCH: Well, now to France, where the left wing coalition has won the most seats in the parliament, defeating the far right in a stunning upset. My colleague Max Forster is in Paris with the latest on this surprise turnaround -- Max.


FOSTER: Shocked turnaround even, Rosemary. The New Popular Front, a coalition of several parties, won 182 seats in the National Assembly, making it the largest bloc. It doesn't have an absolute majority, though. None of the blocs do.

President Emmanuel Macron's Centrist Ensemble Alliance got 163 seats, whilst Marine Le Pen's far right National Rally and its allies got 143 seats. And it's worth noting National Rally will be the largest individual party in the new parliament. So it will be the official opposition after the first round of voting.

The far right's run to power was undone by tactical deal making between centrist and leftist opponents. More than 200 candidates withdrew from the second round to avoid splitting the anti-National Rally vote.

Now the National Rally's Marine Le Pen says the party's victory has only been delayed.


MARINE LE PEN, NATIONAL RALLY (through translator): The quagmire that I warned about has of course come true. France will be totally blocked with three groups that have more or less the same influence in the National Assembly. Well, we're going towards that. It's sad.

We're losing one more year. One more year of unregulated immigration. One more year of losing purchasing power. One more year of a blowing up of insecurity in our country. But if we need to go through that, then we'll go through that.


FOSTER: Let's head over to the prime minister's office. Gabriel Attal is submitting his resignation today. He will, though, continue his duties as long as needed.

And Jim Bittermann is outside his office there. He may continue for quite a while because the, you know, process of finding a prime minister is very complicated now.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Max. But in fact, we're not at the prime minister's office. We're inside the National Assembly courtyard.

I just wanted to show you how things are going to transpire about four hours from now when these new deputies, the 577 deputies who were officially elected yesterday, actually some of them were already elected from the previous week on the first round.

Anyway, they're going to come through those blue-gray doors back there. They've got a sign out front that says, this way for the deputies. And then they're going to come through here.

They're starting to prepare things to sort of get the security check and to get the I.D. check that goes with getting access to the National Assembly. They've got a little coat rack room back here that they can put their coats in or they can put their luggage. Because some of these people will be coming in from all over the country and some places outside the main country of France in the territories, the overseas territories. And so there's going to be people trickling in probably for the next day or two.

Eventually, all 577 that will take up offices in there. They'll get their housing vouchers if they need them. Basically, the National Assembly has a lot of studio apartments that they let the members use if they need them. Some of them are from Paris. Of course, they don't need them. I

n any case, that will be all taken care of. Logistics will be taken care of in the next day or two. Tomorrow they'll get a calendar of events. And, of course, as you mentioned, Max, one of the things that we're all going to be watching for is this left-wing group, this alliance, very rough alliance, that took the most seats.

182 of the 577 seats belong to the New Popular Front, as it's called. But it's made up of five individual parties. And one of the most extreme parties is headed by a guy named Jean-Luc Melenchon. He wasted no time yesterday claiming the prime minister-ship. Here's what he had to say.


JEAN-LUC MELENCHON, FRANCE UNBOWED LEADER (through translator): Now the will of the people must be strictly respected. From now on, no tricks, backroom deals, nor combinations would be acceptable. The lesson to be taken from the vote is definitive.

The defeat of the president and his coalition has been confirmed with clarity. The president has the power. The president has the duty to call on the New Popular Front to govern.


BITTERMANN: Yes, and that's exactly what the president's problem is going to be. If he wants the extreme left in power, I don't think he does. But this is the reward for the headline of the day has to go to Le Parisien because they said, and now what? What do we do? What do we do now with a very perplexed-looking Mr. Macron on the cover?

That's exactly what's confronting France right now. Who is going to be the prime minister? And which one of these many party groups is going to really represent the government of France -- Max?

FOSTER: Jim, thank you. A question we're going to put to Daniele Obono. She is a member of parliament with France's Unbowed Party led by Melenchon.


You were with him last night. He was pretty quick off the blocks. Within minutes of the projection coming out, he was out claiming victory. What was that like?

DANIELE OBONO, MEMBER OF FRENCH PARLIAMENT, UNBOWED PARTY: That was a pretty intense feeling. I think everybody was both relieved and very overwhelmed by everybody being so happy. And also, we felt that we were at a turning point in our country's history. And we managed to beat the odds and win and defeat the far right, which everybody predicted they would win. And the people rose up and said, not today. They're not going to win this time, nor ever. So that was a very powerful moment.

FOSTER: That was very successful, the way the parties on the left and in the middle ground came together to squeeze out the far right. But you also had a very strong turnout. So are you finding that people were really quite shocked by that first-round election with the National Front -- you know, far right actually coming out on top?

OBONO: Yes. And I think for millions of people in this country, it was about their very lives that was threatened. And we had groups of far right groups roaming the streets, threatening LGBT people, threatening migrant people. A lot of people were abused verbally and called names. And it was a matter of life and death for a lot of people. And parents telling their kids that they should leave their country because it would be impossible to keep living in this country if the far right would win.

So it was very -- it was not something theoretical for us, and many of us. So -- and I think that the fact that there was such a high turnout that people realized what was at stake and rose to this historical moment.

FOSTER: There were people in the center ground that also didn't like your language either. You know, they were as worried about the far left as they are about the far right. What are you saying to them today?

OBONO: First of all, we are the left as a whole.

FOSTER: But your party is far left.


FOSTER: As a group.

OBONO: It's on the left. And our highest administrative courts said that we were the left. And the National Rally was the far right, which I think closed the debate.

But most of all, it's not about the language or, you know, how bright is our smile or anything. It's about our platform. And I think we convinced people that our platform, what was needed in order to beat the fascists, but also to change people's lives. And that's what's the most important for us. We got elected on a mandate to make more social justice, to implement green policies in order to face climate change, and to change our system to make it more democratic. And I think that's the most important, rather than language or the way we behave, supposedly behave.

I think that's what people are looking for. And they will be very serious about what we're going to do next.

FOSTER: Your party's platform has been very clear. The issue is that the platform of the left alliance that has come out of this isn't clear. And there's going to be a big struggle to decide on who is going to be the next prime minister.

Melenchon has obviously put himself forward. But how are you going to, you know, none of the analysts I've spoken to say it's just not clear how you're going to agree with the moderates on who should replace Atal.

OBONO: You know, most of the analysts over the past three weeks didn't know --

FOSTER: They didn't see this coming.

OBONO: They didn't want this coming, really, because we had the entire establishment media saying that we will lose and the far right will win. So I'd say to you, don't listen to those.

FOSTER: Well, to be fair, they did base a lot of that on the first round election, which is pretty clear.

OBONO: Yes, but I think they underestimate the resistance in our people's, you know, political history and identity to the far right. And also, I would say that our platform, the New Popular Front, is basically most of our program from La France Insoumise. But also, everybody agrees that that's what people are waiting for.

And I think nobody actually read, I mean, from, you know, in the media, the people talking about it. They weren't talking about what we actually put forward. We had over 300 high-level economists, among which the Nobel Prize in Economy, Esther Duflo.

We had Gabriel Zucman. We had Thomas Piketty, who actually supported our program, said that was what needed in order to meet people's needs. And also, that was good for the economy.


Just on that issue, we were proved to be way better than what Macron did over the past seven years.

FOSTER: I spoke to someone close to Macron, one of his MPs, and he said that in time, actually, the far right might be seen as the winners because they did gain a lot of seats. And over the years, they're gaining seats. They're gaining power. So it's a matter of when, not if, they actually gain power. So this is just a temporary win. Is that a legitimate argument?

OBONO: I would say Macron and his people shouldn't be saying anything because they are the one who made it possible. When Macron was elected in 2017, he was elected on the mandate to oppose the far right. Seven years later, you get the far right at its highest level.

Of course, he is the one responsible for that. He gambled on our lives when he decided to do this snap election. So, and he --

FOSTER: A lot of his own party agree with that.

OBONO: Yes, and I think he wanted the far right to win rather than us.

FOSTER: To show them off.

OBONO: But what's right is that we need, we beat them this time, but we need to implement a program and we need to have a government that actually change people's lives. Because, of course, if we don't do that, the far right can come back and rear its ugly head again. So we have to be at the moment and be ready to rule this country with our program and our social measures.

FOSTER: Daniele Obono, thank you so much for coming and joining us and coming up to this glorious view on this momentous day -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, it certainly is. Our thanks to Max. We'll come back to you very soon.

But we continue to monitor Hurricane Beryl, which is still gaining strength as the storm center approaches the middle Texas coast. The category one storm is expected to make landfall in a matter of hours. Coastal residents are being urged not to underestimate this hurricane and to be prepared for a potentially dangerous storm surge, flash flooding, strong winds and power outages.

Beryl has already done major damage in the Caribbean, killing at least nine people throughout the region and Venezuela last week when it became the earliest category five hurricane in the Atlantic on record.

And the sweltering heat plaguing the U.S. from coast to coast isn't losing any steam. More than 250 temperature records could be set in the coming days.

Las Vegas shattered a long held record on Sunday, reaching 120 degrees Fahrenheit or 49 Celsius for the first time ever. The western U.S. in particular has been dealing with an unrelenting and dangerous heat wave. Across the region, excessive heat alerts remain in effect for more than 50 million people through this week. And there's very little relief with high temperature records being broken both during the day and at night.

To this developing story. Now, Boeing has agreed to plead guilty to a criminal charge and could pay nearly $500 million in fines for repeated safety failures. The U.S. Justice Department filed paperwork on the agreement just a short time ago. But lawyers for the families of victims in two crashes say it is a sweetheart deal and that Boeing is getting off too easy. 346 people died in the 2018 Lion Air crash and the 2019 Ethiopian Air crash. Both planes were Boeing 737 Max jets.

Lawyers say the families are upset because no individuals at Boeing will be prosecuted. The deal allows Boeing to plead guilty to one charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Well, a new round of ceasefire and hostage release discussions on Israel and Hamas will restart this week. Why the talks this time are expected to be different.

Plus, dozens of world leaders are arriving in Washington this week for the NATO summit, giving President Biden a chance to reboot his image on the world stage.

We'll be right back with that and more in just a moment.



CHURCH: A possible step forward toward a ceasefire and hostage release deal between Israel and Hamas. CIA Director Bill Burns is heading to Qatar for a new round of talks later this week. Israel's head of Mossad is also expected to attend.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his refusal to stop Israel's Rafah offensive brought Hamas back to the talks.

Over the weekend, a senior Hamas official told CNN the group is ready to reconsider its insistence that Israel commit to a permanent ceasefire in Gaza before signing a temporary truce and hostage release agreement. The Israeli military on Sunday ordered a new immediate evacuation for parts of Gaza City, including Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital.

Hospital officials say many of their patients have been transferred to Indonesia Hospital in northern Gaza.

And CNN's Salma Abdelaziz joins me now live from London with more. So Salma, what's expected to come out of this round of ceasefire and hostage release talks set to resume in Qatar with CIA Director Bill Burns now also joining those negotiations?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so as you mentioned, there's a bit of hope, a bit of optimism this time around. After last week, the U.S. said that a framework for the deal has been agreed. This is after a phone call that U.S. officials praised as a breakthrough took place between President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

You mentioned the key stumbling block there, Rosemary, and that was Hamas's insistence on a more permanent end to the war, for a written commitment to that. Israel, for its part, of course, wanted to retain the right to continue its military operations in Gaza. It says to destroy Hamas.

The U.S. was able to propose language that seemed to find the middle ground here, which will allow the negotiations for a more permanent end to the war continue while the first phase of this deal is carried out.


So step back, bigger picture.

Remember, we have a three-part deal that is on the table that was proposed by President Biden. The first part of that deal, the first part, the first phase rather, is what we're discussing here. And that first phase is a six-week ceasefire that would see Israeli hostages, the most vulnerable among them, so the elderly, the sick, females, exchanged for Palestinian prisoners.

And that's exactly what will be discussed in Doha this week with the CIA director in attendance alongside, of course, the key mediators and the warring parties. But this is going to be a huge challenge, Rosemary. In the past, negotiations around the release of Palestinian prisoners have taken many years. This time, these negotiators are hoping to have a breakthrough in just a matter of weeks.

But there's a lot of pressure that might propel them forward. Inside Gaza, the humanitarian situation is dire. Nearly every single Gazan has been displaced by this conflict. You mentioned those additional evacuation orders that were issued just recently. And then, of course, inside Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu is facing huge pressure from those who want to see those hostages come home.

So we may very well see some progress in the coming weeks. But again, this is going to be a huge challenge, very difficult talks in Doha this week.

CHURCH: All right, Salma Abdelaziz, many thanks for that live report from London.