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Biden Goes on Full Offensive, I'm Not Going Anywhere; Left-Wing Beats Far-Right Coalitions in the French Election Results; Boeing Agrees to Guilty Plea; Biden's Mental Fitness Takes Center Stage. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired July 08, 2024 - 10:30   ET




BRIAN STELTER, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, VANITY FAIR: I don't want to use the phrase Trumpian and go down that path as an insult because it's not meant always as an insult. It's a recognition that certain political tactics that worked for Donald Trump might also work for other politicians.

But yes, Biden did sound a bit Trumpian in this most recent call. He did, by the way, also on ABC. There is an element of resentment and grievance that you and I very well recognize from the former president. And we do know that motivates some voters. It certainly is a way to fire up base voters. What it probably doesn't do, though, is change these anxious, nervous, panicked Democrat lawmakers.

Whether it's going to sway them. I think that's an entirely different question, but it was so telling, Jim, to hear Biden say, it's driving me crazy listening to all this. He's saying all the columnists and writers calling for his departure that he doesn't care about what they're saying, but he clearly does. And he should pay attention to what they're saying. They're making cogent arguments.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Brian, I mean, those are very good points. And I also want to bring in Tom Nichols, staff writer at "The Atlantic." Tom and I have had lots of conversations about all of this. And Tom, you know, one of the things I want to ask you about is basically, just to get your reaction to the president is -- he is defiant. It sounds like he is just dead set against getting out of this race. It looks as though the White House and the Biden campaign have basically launched a media blitz this week. He went on one of the morning talk shows this morning, fired off a letter to the Democrats up on Capitol Hill. Do you think this can work? Can this settle things down for Joe Biden?

TOM NICHOLS, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: I don't know if it can work. I'm not -- you know, I'd be fascinated to be in my old job working on Capitol Hill again and just sort of listening, you know, outside of doors right now. But I think the thing that I find striking about this is while, you know, the president is defiant because it is his right to keep the nomination. I mean, he ran for it. He got the votes. And if he wants to run, that's, you know, no one's saying that it's not his right to do it.

But the problem is, you know, as Brian was pointing out a moment ago, so much of what he's saying now is about him. And that's not really what this is about. This isn't, you know, some sort of personal vendetta that, you know, it's -- it almost seems like he's coming across -- like he's trying to talk to those newspapers and to some of the people on the Hill.

And, you know, I think everybody has the same goal in that coalition, which is to beat Donald Trump. And when it gets down to a lot of, you know, I did this and I did that, and only I can, that's -- I think that's uncomfortable because that's not who Biden was when he ran the last time and how he's governed. And now, he's kind of really, you know, gotten -- and you saw it Friday night as well, that it was just -- you know, it's a -- if I do OK, I'll be happy. Well, that's great, but that doesn't leave the rest of the country in a very good spot.

ACOSTA: No. And I talked to some Democrats over the weekend and they were not happy with that answer in particular. And I talked to one House Democrat this morning who said when they come back to town things might change it. That makes me wonder whether or not the president is going to be successful in trying to put the pieces back together again.

And, Tom, I mean, one of the things that I have been wondering all weekend long is if you do try to go to a brokered convention, if you do have a fractured convention, how does that help the Democrats at the end of all of that? And the president sounds as though -- I mean, he just said a short while ago in one of the other networks, hey, OK. Challenge me at the convention. What are your thoughts on that? Could that possibly blow up in their faces? I suppose there's another line of thought that says, you know what, maybe it will invigorate the Democratic Party and produce a candidate that can be Donald Trump? What do you think?

NICHOLS: But that's what I mean about making it about himself. I mean, nobody wants the challenge -- I shouldn't -- I don't -- again, I'm not privy to the conversations in the halls of the Democratic Party. But I doubt that anybody in the Democratic Party really wants to go and try to take down Joe Biden in the middle of a convention, you know, go to 3:00 a.m. with, you know, roll call votes and all of that. That's Joe Biden playing chicken.

And, you know, the letter that he sent this morning -- look, if things were going well, and he really thought that, you know, this was something that -- you know, where he really had the support of the party, you don't send out a Monday morning letter at 9:00 a.m. as everybody is coming back because you think things are going well. That's meant to head off all of the people that you think are about to call you or come to your office or send you mail.

And the thing about a brokered convention, like I said, it's just playing chicken. There are many other options. If Biden decides that he really can't carry the campaign or that he's lost the confidence of his party, there are other options. There is remaining -- you know, running the country, being president and deciding to open it to Kamala Harris and a future VP. There's an open convention without Biden. There's other ways to do this. But that was a nonstarter.


And again, kind of a mean -- kind of a -- I won't say mean, but kind of almost defiantly destructive thing to say, take me on at the convention. I mean, that's not where we should be right now.

ACOSTA: I think we can all agree he does sound feisty this morning. And -- but, Brian, you know, one of the complaints -- and this is kind of more of a media question, one of the complaints I've heard from Democrats, I was off for a little bit, is that we in the press have focused so much on Joe Biden and whether or not he should stay in the race that we've completely forgotten about the former president. He lied throughout that entire debate performance the other night. He's been laying low ever since. And there's been this entire I guess, you know, conversation about Project 2025.

And one of the things I heard over and over again while I was off talking to folks is, why don't you guys talk more about that? This initiative by the Heritage Foundation, it's a consortium of other conservative groups working with the Heritage Foundation on this, laying out what Trump would do at a new administration.

And take a look at some of the folks who would be involved. I mean, this is some of the ideas that they're talking about as part of Project 2025. And much of it involves stocking the new administration with, you know, Trump loyalists and trying to get rid of as many civil servants as possible. And then you have folks like Ben Carson, Ken Cuccinelli, Rick Dearborn, Johnny McEntee, Stephen Miller, Peter Navarro. The list goes on and on. People who were involved with the Trump administration who were involved in Project 2025.

And you know, there are a lot of critics out there who say, why don't you guys cover that? What do you think?

STELTER: I think the answer is all of the above. And there has actually been quite a bit of news coverage of Project 2025. There will be more, I'm sure, in the weeks to come, even though Trump is trying to distance himself from it.

Ironically, Project 2025 is a forward-looking plan that many conservatives are very much on board with. It's actually a plan for the future. The critique of Biden right now is that he's stuck in the past, talking about his past accomplishments.

So, ironically, Project 2025, even though it scares a lot of liberals, it's actually a forward-looking plan. Biden would benefit from talking more about what Trump is proposing, what the Heritage Foundation wants to do, and to contrast that with his own plans for the future, rather than talking about the past.

I think in terms of the media critique, right now, it's an unprecedented crisis to the Democratic Party. This has never happened before in our lifetime. The idea of this elderly man, whether he should step aside, whether he should step down. We're in uncharted territory, so it's a major, major media story. But there's, of course, many, many months to come -- not months, the many weeks to go in this campaign. Trump will continue to be scrutinized. And here's, I think, the bigger story, Jim. This is not just about Biden, it's not just about Trump, it's about the American gerontocracy. It's about elderly people running the government and most younger voters being sick and tired of it.

The average 30, 30, 40, 50, 60-year-old does not want 80-year-olds running the government. That's the story here. Biden's a part of the story. Right now, it's Biden's turn to be scrutinized by his own party. But Trump would also be one of the oldest presidents in -- you know, in memory. So, I think the bigger story here is about the gerontocracy and that should be coming through in the news coverage.

ACOSTA: Tom, last final quick thought from you?

NICHOLS: I think that's an unfair criticism from a lot of folks supporting Biden because a lot of us out here have been talking about Trump and Project 2025 and the terrible things that will happen. But the Biden campaign created this story. You know, why are you so obsessed with us? Well, you told us to watch that debate. You told us to watch what would happen Friday night, and twice that's gone really badly.

They're acting as if the president, you know, seeming to be having problems, health problems or concentration problems isn't a real story. And of course, it's going to get covered. As Brian said, it's an unprecedented crisis. And the notion that, you know, you should just stop talking about it and start talking about Trump again, you know, we -- everybody involved here can chew gum and walk at the same time. There are many stories covered, but this is a story and it's unavoidable.

ACOSTA: Yes. No, the news is the news and the president whether he can continue his campaign, that's news, and we got to cover it. All right. Tom, Brian, thanks a lot, guys. Appreciate it.

New this morning, we're watching reaction and the fallout to a stunning election result in France.




ACOSTA: Left-wing alliance becoming the leading force, it looks like, in the French Parliament, stopping a surge by the far-right according to these election returns. The result is likely to cause some political gridlock in France and it could have broad implications for the election French support for Ukraine, relations with the U.S., NATO, and so on.

Let's go to CNN's Melissa Bell in Paris. Melissa, do we know what happens next?


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The truth is nobody knows that, Jim, and I include in that France's most senior politicians. We have behind us a French National Assembly that is very divided, much more fractured than it was before these elections.

Of course, the headline last night was that the far-right had been kept from power in the second round of voting. But that left-wing alliance that kept them out of power, that became the biggest group in the assembly here is itself extremely fractured. There are going to be all kinds of negotiations going on behind the closed doors about how and whether the left can agree, even on what candidate it would like to put forward as a potential next prime minister.

For the time being, Emmanuel Macron has asked Gabriel Attal, the current prime minister, just to stay on. He tried to give his resignation this morning. He's asked him to stay on as a sort of caretaker prime minister in the hope that that'll bring some stability to the government until the parliament can figure out exactly what it's doing.

But just a reminder, out there, you can see on the National Assembly the signs, we're 18 days away, Jim, from the start of the Paris Olympics. And these are Olympics that are likely to happen at this stage in scenes of extreme political chaos with questions about who the prime minister will be by the time they begin, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. Melissa Bell in Paris. We'll all be watching. Thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

Coming up, Boeing agrees to plead guilty to criminal fraud charges, avoiding a trial surrounding two recent deadly crashes. How victims are reacting, their families are reacting, that's next.



ACOSTA: New this morning, Boeing has agreed to plead guilty to one of -- one charge, I should say, of conspiracy to defraud U.S. regulators after two fatal crashes involving its 737 MAX airplanes. The embattled company could face up to $487 million and fines. But families of crash victims, they oppose this deal right now. They say Boeing is trying to get off too easy. CNN's Pete Muntean joins us now. Pete, what more you learning?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Pretty big new development in this year's long saga and another huge blow to Boeing's once sterling reputation. The company not really saying all that much this morning, only that it has reached an agreement in principle with the Department of Justice.

Here are the terms of that deal according to the government. Boeing's being signed $487 million, the maximum fine allowed by law, according to the Department of Justice. The government will also be appointing an independent compliance monitor to see -- oversee Boeing over the next three years. That monitor will give reports to the court each year. But the biggest part of this is Boeing agreeing to plead guilty to criminal charges.

Remember, this is for the 737 MAX 8 crashes, the Lion Air crash in 2018, the Ethiopian Air crash in '19, 346 people killed in those two crashes. Boeing is agreeing to plead guilty to defrauding the FAA about the MAX 8 that Boeing hid major design changes that led to the two crashes.

Now, originally, Boeing was able to reach a settlement with the government to avoid criminal charges. But that deal also came with three years' probation. The January 5th door plug blowout on the Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 happened just days before that probation was set to expire. So, that made the Department of Justice look at that original deal again, ultimately triggering this new deal.

Now, victims' families are calling this a sweetheart deal because they wanted Boeing to face a nearly $25 billion dollar fine for the crime. Paul Castle is the leading attorney in the civil case, and in a statement, he says, the sweetheart deal fails to recognize that because of Boeing's conspiracy, 346 people died. This deceptive and generous deal is clearly not in the public interest.

Of note here is that Boeing executives avoided criminal charges themselves. The Department of Justice says, this deal gives them no immunity, though, and that applies to the MAX 8 crashes as well as the door plug incident. So, that is something that we could see continue unfolding here, Jim.

ACOSTA: Yes, those families still want answers from all of this.

MUNTEAN: No doubt.

ACOSTA: Pete Muntean, thanks very much. We'll be right back.



ACOSTA: As President Biden fights back against calls for him to drop out of the 2024 race, his physical and mental fitness are coming under scrutiny. Biden is resisting calls to take a cognitive test. And some lawmakers say it is time for both him and the former president, Donald Trump, to do so.

Joining me now CNN medical analysts and professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University Dr. Jonathan Reiner. Dr. Reiner, great to see you over the weekend. You tweeted at this point, what is the rationale for not supporting a formal cognitive evaluation of the president and the former president? What do you think?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST AND PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE AND SURGERY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: I think we really should see that. This is the oldest pair of candidates for president that have ever run. And while, you know, you can make an argument that in older people without any symptoms, cognitive testing is not necessarily required, and that is really the conclusion of the United States Preventive Task Force, you can also now make an argument that both candidates have shown symptoms potentially of cognitive decline. And for the president that was manifest most dramatically at the debate 10 days ago.

Look, when I see a person walk up a flight of stairs, stop midway, clutch their chest and have to sit down, you know, I don't know what's going on there, but I would suggest that perhaps they get a stress test and see a cardiologist. And when I see an older person, you know, struggle with language or to complete a thought, it makes me wonder whether they do have some evidence of mild, you know, cognitive impairment or early dementia. Maybe, maybe not, but that's worth a look.

And as the commander-in-chief of the United States military and the CEO of this government, it seems like we should probably rule that out if there are symptoms.


DR. REINER: And likewise, for -- you know, for Trump, we've seen, you know, ramblings in his rallies. A few weeks ago, he stopped, you know, mid speech for about 30 seconds and just, you know, look like loss for words. So, I think there's reason for both candidates to be to be tested. Yes.

ACOSTA: And Dr. Reiner, I mean, that's -- I mean, it sounds like both candidates are saying no, they're not going to do that. The president was resisting that notion earlier this morning on one of the morning shows. Absent that, what can be done? What can voters look for in both of these candidates?

Because you're absolutely right, I mean, with one of the things that has not been covered a whole lot since the debate is that Trump does a lot of the same stuff too. He's out on the campaign trail saying thing -- talking about Hannibal Lecter and getting electrocuted with the electric boats and so on. And folks are scratching their heads and saying, well, what's going on here?


DR. REINER: Jim, I think we -- this points out that we don't know enough about the health of both candidates. I think the White House and the White House medical unit has done a pretty good job of sort of rounding out a picture of the president -- president's health. Dr. O'Connor released a very long letter in February detailing the president's health, but there was no discussion of his mental health.

Former President Trump, we know nothing about. I mean, his doctor, who I think has cared for him for two years, last November released a three-paragraph note that was devoid of any data that basically said, nothing going on here, you know, move along.

ACOSTA: Right.

DR. REINER: But here's the thing in medicine, you don't find what you don't look for. And sort of -- and the flip side of that is if you don't want to know the answer, definitely don't do the test.


DR. REINER: And I think here, the stakes -- you know, the stakes are just too high. And I think we should take this off the table. Look, if the president is fine and Trump is fine, then, you know, let's -- there's no reason to discuss this anymore. But there are legitimate concerns that -- by about 51 million people that suggests that this should be done.

ACOSTA: All right. Dr. Reiner, great to talk to you as always. Let's keep this conversation going. A lot of folks want to talk about this. We'll keep talking about it as well. Thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

And thanks very much for joining us this morning. I'm Jim Acosta. Our next hour of "Newsroom with Wolf Blitzer" starts after a short break. Have a great day.