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House Democrats Meet as Biden to Unite Party Behind Him; Parkinson's Specialist Met With Biden's Physician at White House; Biden Tells House Democrats He's Firmly Committed to Running. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 09, 2024 - 10:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. You were live in the CNN Newsroom. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington. Moments ago, House Democrats wrapped a high stakes meeting behind closed doors as President Biden's political fate hangs in the balance. There are signs now that momentum may be growing for the president. Some Democrats heading into that gathering, making it clear they are rallying behind the president.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe Biden all the way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is our best hope to make sure Donald Trump do not get into the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Joe Biden is the nominee.


ACOSTA: Meanwhile, the Congressional Black Caucus and progressives, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are also announcing their support that appears to outweigh the six Democratic members of Congress who have publicly called on the president to step aside. But despite that pressure, those defiant Democrats are for now holding their ground.


REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): The fighting spirit and pride and courage that served the country so well four years ago to help Joe Biden win. We'll bring the ticket down this time. He just has to step down because he can't win. And my colleagues need to recognize that a dismissive letter is not going to change any minor.


ACOSTA: CNN Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is following it all up on Capitol Hill for us. Manu, things are moving pretty fast. Things were looking a lot shakier for the president about 24 hours ago. I mean, from what we were hearing just a few moments ago might be getting a little bit better. Where do things stand from where you are? What are you hearing? MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. There is a sense that there is significant amount of support for the president, if not for the fact that he says he's not going anywhere. So, a lot of the members are saying, you know, we got to get on board, otherwise we're going to be divided as a party. And, ultimately, that's going to fare even worse for them, they believe, come November, which is one reason why some members are saying, all right, it may not be the best situation, but it's a situation that we have, so let's just embrace it.

And that's what one member said going into this meeting. That was Congressman Jerry Nadler. In a private conference call on Sunday, he told his colleagues that it's time for a new nominee, raising concerns about Biden's fitness to serve, and really to win come November. But when he spoke to reporters just moments ago, he indicated he is now backing Biden.


REPORTER: Is your support for the president a pragmatic consideration, given that the president has said he will remain in?

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Well, yes. He said he's going to remain in. He's our candidate, and we're all going to support him. And I hope we're all going to support him.

REPORTER: That kind of leaves you with no choice then.


RAJU: So, members are just filling out, Jim, leaving this closed door meeting. We'll try to get a sense about whether there was any dissent.

Now, we're also told that the Democratic leadership was in listening mode. They were not coming out to try to prescribe their views on what the caucus should do, really allowing members to air out their private concerns that we have not heard -- they have not heard from each other because Congress was on recess this past week on 4th of July recess. It's the first time they've had a chance to meet behind closed doors in the aftermath that Biden's debate debacle and to discuss about any thought about pushing him out of the top of the ticket.

So, we'll get a sense from the Democratic leadership that two of Hakeem Jeffries' deputies will be having a press conference later today. They have been mummed so far about whether they support a change to the top of the ticket. Hakeem Jeffries told me though yesterday he still supports Joe Biden. And another big question, though, Jim, the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is going to have his meeting with his caucus behind closed doors this afternoon. We'll see what emerges from that. Jim?

ACOSTA: Yes. And Schumer indicated he's backing the president as well right now. So, Manu Raju, we'll check back in with you. Let us know if anything breaks on your end. It's a lot of fast moving developments up on Capitol Hill. And today, questions about the president's health continue to swirl. Visitor logs show a Parkinson's specialist visited the White House eight times over the past year.


Overnight, the White House and President Biden's doctor took the unusual step of providing some additional details, releasing a letter stating that the president has not seen a neurologist, has not seen a neurologist outside of his annual physical.

Joining us now to talk about that and the meeting that just wrapped up a few moments ago is Democratic Congressman Troy Carter of Louisiana. He's also second vice chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Congressman, good morning. Thanks for being with us. We appreciate it. How did that meeting go?

REP. TROY CARTER (D-LA): I think things are going well. I mean, it is it is what it is. The president and our team are convinced that the president should, in fact, be the nominee. And the discussion points are very clear. We had a great call with the president. The president was clear, was energized, was motivated and it's clear that he's up for the job.

You know, it's one thing to recognize and admit that the president had a bad debate. His performance was bad. He was off. But one event does not determine the overall show. We know this, that the work of this president and the evidence of it is very clear.

In the Baptist Church we have a saying that says, let the work that I've done speak for me. And the work that the Biden-Harris administration has done, rather it's the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, Chips and Science Act, reducing insulin -- the price of insulin. These are all things that are receipts. These are actions done, promises made, promises kept. And I think that the American people are starting to realize that we should not fall for the okeydoke of suggesting that we have a switch of candidates midstream.

I want to be abundantly clear, as I've gone through my district and others, the people of Louisiana that I've spoken with, particularly in the African-American community, stands firmly with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

ACOSTA: Congressman, but what happens if the president has another bad moment? What happens if there's a moment like what we saw during the debate? And there's another round of second guessing and questions about whether the president is fit to run and serve as president another four years. What happens then?

CARTER: Well, I don't think that judging someone by a poor performance, rather it's once or twice, is enough to determine that they should not be the candidate. I hope and pray that we don't see that. I don't suspect we will. The circumstances that led to that, a combination of not being a hundred percent healthy, having the former president heckling and making noises on the side of him, distracting him, and even being perhaps overprepared. These are all things that we will better prepare for and I suspect that you will not see a performance of what you did a Thursday or so ago. You will see the Joe Biden that you saw the next day on that you've seen every single day since that debate, an energized, coherent, well-planned and understanding the policies that he has worked so hard to make reality, to be able to articulate them off the top. I think that's what you continue to see.

If you recall the very day he had color back in his skin, he was energetic, he was able to speak, and he admitted that he had a bad day and a bad performance. No one's running from that. This president is ready and we stand with him.

ACOSTA: And last night, the White House released a letter from the president's doctor detailing what has been going on with the president from time to time, meeting with a neurologist, a Parkinson's specialist meeting with the president's physician at the White House visitor's logs showing this specialist going in and out of the White House. The president's doctor trying to clear that up last night, and the White House press secretary trying to clear that up yesterday, saying that the president is not being treated for Parkinson's. Are you getting all the information that you need about the president's health? Should the White House have been more forthcoming sooner?

CARTER: No, I'm very comfortable. I wish the White House had indicated to the American people prior to the debate that the president was not feeling well, that he was had a cold and had some degree of jet lag from previous travels. That would have set expectations and not have people as concerned. But as far as his overall health, I'm very comfortable with what we've seen and what we've heard that this president is more than capable of doing the job that he has done for the last three years and we'll do it in the second term, just as well, if not better.

ACOSTA: And is there any thought in your mind that perhaps the Democratic Party should try to try to perhaps put forward Vice President Kamala Harris or another Democrat or you've just completely ruled that out?

CARTER: Well, I've completely ruled out any changes because the Biden-Harris ticket and team is the strongest team that we have, and it's the team that will win in November.


In any notion of switching is just somebody else's narrative, trying to cloud issues and confuse the American people. Let there be no confusion. We're 100 percent behind President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to continue the work that they've done to making our country stronger, better, our economy better, and our relationships abroad better. This is what we've seen. This is the actions that have been taken, and the receipts, as I've referred to them, promises made, promises kept.

ACOSTA: All right, Congressman Troy Carter, thank you very much for your time this morning, I appreciate it. CARTER: Thank you.

ACOSTA: And for more on this news that the president was examined by a Parkinson's specialist, I want to bring in Dr. Jonathan Reiner. He's a cardiovascular specialist and the longtime cardiologist for former Vice President Dick Cheney.

What did you make of the letter that was released by the White House last night, Dr. Reiner? What do you think?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, they released some more information about the visits of the Walter Reed neurologist. I know Kevin O'Connor very well. And if Kevin says that the neurologist was there not to see the president, but to see other people, and if he says that the president doesn't have Parkinson's disease, then the president doesn't have Parkinson's disease. So, I think that should put, you know, that issue to rest.

The unresolved issue has to do with whether the president is showing any signs of cognitive decline. I think that's still out there. But I think we should just put this discussion about Parkinson's disease to rest. I believe Dr. O'Connor. I would trust him with my life. And he's put an end to that discussion.

ACOSTA: Right. And a letter released by the White House about Dr. Cannard's visits. The White House physician, Kevin O'Connor writes, we can put this up on screen for our viewers, Dr. Cannard was chosen because he's a highly trained and highly regarded neurologist here at Walter Reed and across the military health system with a very wide expertise, which makes him flexible to see a variety of patients and problems.

I mean, I know from my days working over at the White House, covering the White House, Dr. Reiner, people don't realize that doctors come in and out not just to see the president. There is a whole -- there are hundreds of people who work on the White House complex and occasionally from time to time see a variety of medical specialists. I mean, that was certainly the case during COVID. We saw that all the time. We were all getting swabbed and so on during COVID. So, it's not unusual that you would see somebody like Dr. Cannard going in and out of the White House campus.

REINER: The White House medical unit is a very impressive entity and it's basically a clinic. And it's a clinic of docs that mostly practice sort of general medicine, but they have access to an unlimited number of specialists particularly from D.C. and Walter Reed, but from anywhere. And they use the White House as sort of the staging area to treat a large number of people. So, it doesn't surprise me that Dr. Cannard would visit. I think there were, there was concern as to whether he was visiting the president every month, but, you know, if Dr. O'Connor says that that's not the case, then that's not the case.

ACOSTA: But what about the level of information that the public is getting about the president's health? We just heard the congressman say a few moments ago, had the public known that the president was dealing with jet lag issues or battling a cold or not feeling his best going into the debate. That information might have been helpful, not just to the public, but to the president. I mean, you and I have talked about this before, Dr. Reiner. This has been an issue before, not just with this president, but other presidents. Presidents just don't like to put out this information and neither do administrations.

REINER: That's right. And I think that still lingers. And I think this whole issue with Parkinson's disease comes in the context of sort of doubt about whether there has been complete candor about the health of the president. Parkinson's disease, even if the president had that, which looks like he doesn't, would not disqualify him. The major issue though is, has there been any effort to understand whether the president does indeed have any evidence of cognitive decline? And you only discern that if you test for it.

And I still would like to understand why the White House won't test for cognitive issues. As I said in a piece I wrote yesterday, you only find what you look for. And it looks like the White House is -- still, they appear to be reluctant to look for any evidence of cognitive decline in the president.


And the public is sort of being asked to suspend disbelief after that last debate. And the fact that the president had been traveling two weeks earlier, I don't know, that just doesn't seem to make a lot of sense for why two weeks later he would really have a very difficult time completing sentences and finding words and completing his thoughts. So, I think that really still remains out and won't be fully answered until they provide, provide some data.

ACOSTA: Just very quickly, though, I do want to ask you a follow up on that. And I do have to run, so I don't have a lot of time. But why is it that you hear from the Congressional Black Caucus, you see on a morning talk show, I mean, yes, is he 100 percent all the way through crystal clear? No, probably not. But what you're hearing from a lot of other folks anecdotally is that he is much crisper, much clearer in some settings versus what we saw in that debate. How do you make sense of that? I don't have a lot of time. I'm sorry. But how do you make sense of that?

REINER: I can't make sense of that. That's why I want them to do a test. Do a test. So, we have some -- not subjective, but objective data with which to assess.

ACOSTA: All right. Dr. Reiner, thanks a lot. I appreciate it.

Still to come this morning, Donald Trump forcing the hand of the RNC as the committee softens its stance on abortion to be more in line with the former president. We'll talk about that next.



ACOSTA: President Biden taking a bit of a page out of his opponent's playbook as Democrats call on him to do more to prove he can beat Donald Trump. A defiant Biden is touting his crowd sizes, his rallies, blasting the media, slamming his elite critics.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I'm getting so frustrated by the elites. No, I'm not talking about you guys, but by the elite in the party, who they know so much more. They have to acknowledge, we have large crowds and enthusiastic crowds. I am not going anywhere. I wouldn't be running if I didn't absolutely believe that I am the best candidate to beat Donald Trump in 2024. Our allies are looking for U.S. leadership. Who else do you think could step in here and do this?


ACOSTA: Let's discuss with CNN Political Commentators Maria Cardona and Shermichael Singleton.

Maria, I'm sure there are some progressive Democrats who are -- I mean Democrats, in general, who are going to say, do not compare Joe Biden to Donald Trump in any way, shape, or form. It just -- thanks, but no, thanks.


ACOSTA: But, I mean, he has come out more forcefully in the last couple of days, and you have to wonder if there are Democrats who are thinking, gosh, that would have been nice a week ago. What's your sense of it? I mean, the other thing, too, is we were showing Democrats heading into that meeting at the DNC earlier.


ACOSTA: I mean, this was not the fear and loathing we were hearing last week, a little different.

CARDONA: Well, sure, but this is what Democrats want to hear. And it's important for President Biden to continue this sort of forceful, being very focused on committed to staying in this and showing that he can have the strength to continue, not just for the campaign to beat Donald Trump, but then to be in for another four years.

And I think part of what you're saying is, and I said this the night of the debate, we have to wait and see what voters think. That's what matters. It doesn't really matter what we think, what the talking heads think, what the media thinks. It matters what voters think. The 14 million people who voted for President Biden during the Democratic nomination process, and everyone else who understands what an existential threat Donald Trump will be if he gets anywhere near the White House.

I've talked to so many of these voters in these states, and they all say exactly what we're hearing now. They're backing him. President Biden delivered for them. They now have his back. Why are we not focusing on what a horrible presentation Donald Trump had that night, talking about all the lies? What kind of a threat he would be if he gets into the Oval Office, Project 2025, which we now know they're very concerned about, because Donald Trump is trying to distance himself from it when he talks about it every single chance he gets. That is the contrast that Democrats want to continue to be front and center.

ACOSTA: And Shermichael, if you're inside the Trump campaign, if you're down at Mar-a-Lago, do you like seeing Democrats rallying behind the president, getting behind him, making it look as though maybe there's not going to be a switch?

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I don't think it's going to matter for two reasons. One, you run the risk of what we saw Thursday night happening again. And so Democrats are really gambling here, hoping for the next four months that Joe Biden is going to be great. And I'm not necessarily convinced of that. I mean, we saw Jake Tapper's show, at least I did yesterday, and he went through a couple different moments where President Biden wasn't necessarily coherent.

You're still seeing articles from The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Axios, of individuals coming on background, whether it's members, diplomats, individuals at fundraisers saying, well, the president looked frill or he wasn't completing his statements thoroughly. So, I think we're going to see this over the next four months leading up to November.

Now, for Republicans, even if Democrats come rallying behind Joe Biden, which I expect them to do, Joe Biden is still going to go back to where he was before the debate with black voters, with young voters, which was behind. Only 62 percent, according to Ipsos, of black voters are saying that they're willing to vote for Biden in November. The numbers are even worse. Well, no, no, actually, Maria, it's historic lows for a Democrat running for re-election. For younger black voters, the numbers are even worse.

So, if you're a Democrat, you're looking at a candidate that you're nervous about, you're wondering if he can make it through the next four months, and then you're also seeing historical lows among constituents that you absolutely need in November.


ACOSTA: Well, Maria, and one of the questions that I have is that yes, the base can come back to Joe Biden. We saw AOC, we saw the Congressional Black Caucus and so on. But this race is going to be won or lost in the middle, with independents. And if you look at polling, there's been recent polling that indicates Kamala Harris would do better with independents. Other candidates might do better with independents in light of what took place at the debate. Does that concern you?

CARDONA: Because polls are always right. I mean, President Hillary Clinton, right, and there was a huge red wave in 2022. Oh, wait, no there wasn't, because the polls were wrong.

ACOSTA: Yes. CARDONA: And I think, you know, Shermichael has a point where Democrats, before the debate, are not where they needed to be with Latino voters, with black voters, but you know what we're seeing now, and this is kind of counterintuitive, because of what happened in the debate, I think that really garnered and focused the attention, not just of the Democratic base, but of a lot of independent voters who are now seeing, okay, wait, if President Biden is going to be the nominee, and he is the one who is the alternative to Donald Trump, I will take Joe Biden on his worst day over Donald Trump because Joe Biden is not going to destroy our democracy. Joe Biden is not going to take away my bodily autonomy. Joe Biden is not going to deport my family. Joe Biden is going to stick with me and he's going to give me the tools to help me give my family a better life. And that, again, goes back to the key contrast that we need to be making both with the base as well as independent voters.

ACOSTA: And to that point, Shermichael, I mean, the RNC released some new party platform language, a scaling back language on abortion and gay marriage. I mean --

SINGLETON: Well, I mean, they should. We're strategists here. I mean, the reality is --

ACOSTA: Yes, I mean, if that indicates that the polling, which we can go back and forth on that, shows that --

SINGLETON: There are always anomalies.

ACOSTA: The Republican nominee is going to have a problem. Donald Trump will have a problem on that front.

SINGLETON: There's not a strategist in America, at least not a good one, who has worked on a plethora of campaigns who wouldn't say, if you're taking positions that are clearly risk averse, you probably need to change some of your positioning. Maria is right on the reproductive issue. Democrats kill Republicans on that issue. On a host of other social issues, gay marriage, et cetera, you guys do have an advantage. I'm going to be honest about that.

And so what I think you see from Trump and Republicans is a recognition that, culturally, the country is moving in a different direction. And if you're a Republican party and you want to talk about free market capitalism, and you want to talk about strengthening immigration, you want to talk about strengthening the household incomes, then you also need to adopt at least some position where most of the country is headed. And I think that's what you saw in some of the party platforms.

But I do want to say quickly, Maria mentioned that immigrants and other Americans are worried about certain issues that they think Biden is better on, such as the economy and immigration. Yet when you look at the data and not just one poll, but consistent data showcases that a lot of voters look at Trump as being a better arbiter in terms of addressing those issues, speaking to some of the crises that they experienced day to day. CARDONA: So, now where we are is when President Biden delivered on strong border security as well as expanding legal pathways. That is where the vast majority of Americans are literally. 70 to 80 percent of Americans in general support that common sense approach. And that is what President Biden and the administration and the campaign are going to continue to underscore. Because, again, if you are a family in this country and especially -- and even in the swing states, you have a mixed status family, you now have a president that has given you the ability to sleep well at night without fearing a knock on your door because now somebody in your family is going to get deported.

SINGLETON: Maria, that's a little fear mongering. You're right.

CARDONA: Oh, it's not fear mongering.

SINGLETON: Americans do want bipartisan, Democrats and Republicans, approach on immigration.

CARDONA: No question.

SINGLETON: They also want a tougher immigration stance, generally speaking, which you see from Republicans versus Democrats.

CARDONA: Except for Republicans turned their back on the same bill that would have given that kind of strong border security.

SINGLETON: And yet, President Biden could have used executive authority to move the needle forward. Eventually he did. And then guess what? Then two weeks later, Maria, he said, wait a minute, I'm upsetting my progressives. So, I have to come forward with something else.

CARDONA: Not but, and because he knew --

SINGLETON: No, it was definitely a but.

CARDONA: He knew always that that was a common sense approach. That has always been what Democrats supported.

SINGLETON: But that's not true, Maria.

CARDONA: And has always been what Republicans have turned their back on.

SINGLETON: Maria, when President Biden moves forward with his executive actions --

CARDONA: We're going to see some numbers that are going to prove that this is the approach that most Americans support.

SINGLETON: Not to interrupt, when the president moved forward with his executive actions, you had a litany of news articles coming out about progressives being very angry with President Biden because of his immigration stance.

CARDONA: Sure, yes. SINGLETON: So, two weeks later, he came out with a more progressive immigration position.

CARDONA: But it wasn't a but. It was an and. That was always the plan.

SINGLETON: It was certainly a but. It was not the plan. Why don't they (INAUDIBLE) both of those issues at the same time, Maria?


CARDONA: To focus on each one --

SINGLETON: You got a show, Jim.

ACOSTA: I got a good T.V. show over here and getting in my ear to say I got to go. But we'll do this discussion again real soon, guys.

CARDONA: Thank you, Jim.

ACOSTA: Thanks a lot. I appreciate it.

SINGLETON: But good points, Maria.