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Biden Speaks at NATO Summit; World Leaders Gather in Washington for NATO Summit; Zelenskyy to Meet with Biden in Washington; Russian Strike Destroys Children's Hospital in Kyiv; Prime Minister Modi's Friendly Visit to Russia; House Democrats Hold a Critical Meeting; Top Dem Strategist Calls for Plan to Replace Biden. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired July 09, 2024 - 10:30   ET





JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: I got a new TV show over here and I'm getting my ear to say I got to go. But we'll do this discussion again real soon, guys.


ACOSTA: Thanks a lot. Appreciate it.

SINGLETON: But good point still, Maria. Good point.

CARDONA: You as well.

ACOSTA: Both did great. Thank you. Coming up, another major test for the president coming in the form of the NATO Summit that is happening here in Washington as allies are out eyeing the November election. That's coming up.


ACOSTA: This morning, dozens of world leaders are gathering here in the nation's capital to kick off the annual NATO Summit. It marks the 75th anniversary of the world's largest military alliance, but that's not what everybody is talking about, obviously. Instead, many eyes will be on President Biden, watching to see how he performs while hosting on the world stage.

And joining me now is CNN's Kylie Atwood. Kylie, I mean, this is a big moment for the president this week.


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, all eyes are going to be on his performance, his stamina, his ability to deliver the message he's trying to deliver. And diplomats are watching closely, right? Particularly because they are concerned about the November elections, what would happen if Former President Trump wins those elections, given his criticism of NATO in the past.

But perhaps more significantly, the president's own party is going to be watching him this week as they're having conversations over whether he is to remain the nominee for their party come November. So, that is one thing we'll be watching. We're also hearing from the White House trying to defend the president, his capabilities to lead NATO, how pro NATO he has continued to be.

We heard from NSC's John Kirby that there's no national security impact given the president's age. Even though he's planning to, you know, not take meetings post 8:00 p.m., he's still available to his national security team. That's what John Kirby said earlier this morning on CNN, no matter the time of day.

And then, when it comes to the substance of this NATO Summit, we're expecting that there's going to be a new announcement of air defense capabilities for Ukraine. That is huge, given this ongoing conflict that we have seen. And we're going to watch and see what they say about the language with regard to Ukraine joining NATO eventually. Ukraine has said that they want a timeline for that. We're not expecting that. But there could be some bolstered language with regard to their pathway to joining NATO eventually.

ACOSTA: That's going to be a huge, huge subject. All right. Kylie, thank you very much. We want to continue this conversation. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will be in Washington later today to meet with President Biden and speak at the Reagan Center.

The NATO Summit could prove to be a major turning point for Ukraine. There are talks going on behind the scenes to label Ukraine's path to NATO membership as "irreversible." This comes as the death toll from the latest widespread Russian strikes across Ukraine, standing now at 39 with more than 360 injured. One of the buildings hit was a children's hospital in Kyiv.

Look at some of these grim images. A new picture coming in of an injured child. That small body smeared with blood. And that's where we joined CNN's Fred Pleitgen. Fred, I mean, the world has just been outraged over the strike on that children's hospital. How crucial is Zelensky's presence here in Washington? How big of a trip is it for President Zelenskyy?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's become all the more crucial now that this happened. I'm actually at the impact site where that rocket hit right now, right at that children's hospital, which, by the way, Jim, is the biggest children's hospital in all of Ukraine, but also one of the biggest in all of Europe.

And you can see behind me, this is one of the main buildings that was hit. It's just absolute rubble. And you can see there that there's medical device in that rubble. I'm not exactly sure what that is. But of course, that's one of the other things about all this. Of course, you have a massive death toll here in this hospital. It was two who were killed and dozens who were injured. But across the city, it was 29 people. But of course, Ukraine is a country right now that needs its medical infrastructure. And certainly, that medical infrastructure, especially as far as care for children is concerned, it's now been badly hit. And now, if we pan over there, you can just see that this entire part of the building here has been completely annihilated by that blast. You can still see some of those rooms that were part of the hospital.

So, certainly, this was a massive explosion that took place. And you're absolutely right, it's caused a big outrage all over the world and certainly, here in Ukraine. The Russians had been saying that they believed it may have been a stray Ukrainian surface to air missile system that might have caused all this, an interceptor as they put it. The Ukrainians, Jim, not having any of that, they're saying it was a Russian rocket. They're calling this a deliberate attack on their healthcare system, a deliberate attack on the children in Ukraine.

And again, what Kylie was talking about is absolutely one of the big issues here when you're on the ground in Kyiv as well, and that is those air defense systems the Ukrainians are hoping that while Volodymyr Zelenskyy is there in Washington, D.C. that he can get more pledges for more air defense systems that can help prevent what we saw here yesterday, Jim.

ACOSTA: Yes. And, Fred, I did want to ask you about India's prime minister Modi on a state visit to Russia. This is a friendly visit. And I want to show this image to our viewers of Modi. There he is, the leader of India and Vladimir Putin hugging one another right after this bombing of this children's hospital, what's the reaction around the world to this? What do you think?

PLEITGEN: Yes. Well, first of all, the reaction from the Ukrainians has been one of outrage. In fact, Volodymyr Zelenskyy himself was on his way, of course, to Washington, D.C. to the NATO Summit as all of this was happening. We have to keep in mind, Jim, that these were essentially almost simultaneous events because Narendra Modi, prime minister of India, he was on his way to Russia when this strike happened here in Kyiv. And Volodymyr Zelensky, he came out and he said that this was a huge disappointment for him and a big blow, as he put it, to international peace efforts as well.

One of the things that he said that I think was quite interesting, he said that, for him, it was an outrage to see the leader of the world's largest democracy speak with someone who the Ukrainians say was responsible for what happened on the ground here. So, there is a certain sense of outrage, especially in light of the fact that the Ukrainians, and of course the U.S. as well are saying that the Indians are essentially giving the Russians an economic lifeline by purchasing so much true oil from Russia, Jim.


ACOSTA: And that's a very crucial point. It is certainly one of the things keeping Putin afloat right now. Fred Pleitgen in Kyiv for us. Thank you very much for that very important report. We'll be right back.


ACOSTA: Right now, we're learning more about what happened inside the meeting of House Democrats that happened earlier this morning. This was the first caucus wide meeting since Biden's disastrous debate performance. CNN's Lauren Fox joins me now. Lauren, what are you hearing?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim and this meeting is still ongoing. It has been nearly two hours and while some members are trickling out what we are hearing from members is this is an opportunity for each of them to make their respective cases about why they think either President Biden should be their nominee, why they think Democrats should unite behind him to get him re-elected, or why they think that Biden needs to step aside.


And, you know, one member who was inside the room told me that there was a sense of sadness in part because they can't really believe that they are in this position. There's sadness for the president, whose many views as aging in this moment and on a national stage. The argument this member said is it is sort of like getting a relative through this very difficult time. They feel like they respect Biden. They believe in him. And at the same time, they aren't sure he's the exact same president that they saw running for office four years ago.

You know, the other thing we are hearing from members is that there were a number of folks who stood up and made their case for why Biden should not be the nominee. Here's one of them. Boyd Doggett.


FOX: Did you make your case? Did you make your case?


FOX: What was your argument to your members?

DOGGETT: The same one I've made publicly before that the debate cannot be unseen. The president has been running behind. We needed a surge. We got a setback. He is a great man who's made a great contribution to the country, but he shouldn't leave a legacy that endangers us that we surrender to a tyrant.


FOX: And, Jim, a lot of members are really closed lip about what happened inside this room, in part because leadership was giving them the directive that this needs to be an inside the family discussion. So, a lot of members keeping their pounder dry right now as they are leaving this meeting, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. Lauren Fox, we'll be watching. We know you will as well. Thanks so much. Coming up, a major Democratic strategist is arguing that former presidents Clinton and Obama should play a role in selecting a replacement at the top of the ticket. We'll discuss that next.



ACOSTA: President Biden says he is staying in the 2024 race, but a top Democratic strategist says his campaign is on borrowed time. In the New York Times op-ed, James Carville, one of the architects behind Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign, says Biden is going to be out, he feels. Arguing that former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama should play roles in helping to select the Democrats new nominee.

Let's discuss more now with the former DNC chair and Vermont governor, Howard Dean, who made his own bid for the presidency back in 2004. I'm old enough to remember that, I'm old enough to have covered it. Governor, good to see you.

Let's just start with James Carville and what he's suggesting. Is that something that's possible at this point, to try and find a new nominee? Is it too late? What's your sense of it?

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN, FORMER VERMONT GOVERNOR AND FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, one of the problems is that James is sort of emblematic of the problems the Democratic Party has. He's a guy who ran a brilliant campaign in 1992 and has been in Washington ever since. That was more than 30 years ago. And those guys live in a world of their own. They're middle school on steroids.

The Republican Party is no longer a serious party. It's either a group of autocrats or people who are afraid of the autocrats. So, now, the Democrats are left and we've got to deal with that. And I think spouting off of the editorial pages is probably not the best way to deal with it. So, let me just say that first.

Second of all, if the president decides not to run, it's almost certainly going to be Kamala Harris, and I think it's much too complicated to try this kind of whatever this stuff is that he's -- you know, some kind of a rank choice voting or whatever it is. The convention is there. It's the Biden-Harris team. If Joe Biden exits, it's going to be Kamala Harris, and I don't see a reasonable way around that with four weeks to go.

ACOSTA: And what is your sense of it right now? Do you support the president staying on top of the ticket, staying in this race?

DEAN: Well, I certainly support the president's ability to run the country. I think he does have the ability to run the country. This cognitive decline, which he does have some of, is not all of a sudden. He has a great team around him. He gets the total issues, and I think he's done a great job his first term, and I think he can have a great second term. That is not what the problem is.

The problem is perception. And as you know, in politics, perception is often more important than substance. Otherwise, we wouldn't be considering a convicted felon for the nomination of president on the other side. So, the real problem is that the public perception of the president is one that I'm not sure he can recover from. And only he can decide that. He's going to have to decide what's best for the country, not that not what's best for Joe Biden. And what's best for the Democratic Party, because what's best for the Democratic Party is what's best for the country, given the lunacy on the other side of the ticket, on the other side of the of the aisle.

ACOSTA: So, Governor, if you were still running things over the DNC, would you be advising the president to step aside and allow Kamala Harris to be the nominee? What would be your advice?

DEAN: I would not be saying -- I wouldn't be saying publicly what I thought then, and I wouldn't be saying publicly what I thought now. As they say in Washington, those who say don't know, and those who know don't say. First of all.

Second of all, the DNC is a creature of the president when you have a president of your own party. So, I think I'd be more inclined to take orders as chairman of the DNC than I would be advising the president to do anything. The president has his advisers, and they're going to give him some advice, and I want him to take that advice.

ACOSTA: And when you were saying earlier that there are perceptions, what does that translate to? I mean, one of the issues, and we talked about this in one of the earlier segments, is that yes, the base can get behind the president, Donald Trump's base will get behind him, but it's really a battle over independence. Is that perhaps where Biden's problems might lie?

DEAN: That is the problem. And today, I saw a poll and, you know, these polls are all crazy because the internet makes polling much harder. But I saw -- I've seen a couple of polls now that show that Kamala actually could run a better race. So, that is a serious consideration.


I have -- as I said before, I have no doubts that Joe Biden can run the country for another term. He's done a great job his first term. He's not so impaired that he can't do a great job his second term. He gets the major issues and Trump doesn't, and Trump never will because he's incapable of doing it.

So, the real question is, at what point do you look at the polls and do you say, we got to do what's best for the country? And what's best for the country is to do whatever it takes to stop Donald Trump from becoming the next president of the United States.

ACOSTA: And knowing what you know about the process and how conventions work, if the president were to ultimately decide he can't do this, I would have to assume you think that the clock is ticking and that time is of the essence and this would have to happen sooner rather than later, because after that it gets more complicated?

DEAN: Right. Yes, I think we don't have much more than a week or 10 days to make this decision. I -- frankly, when I saw the debate performance, which I thought was not great, I thought that this was all going to blow over in 10 days. Well, it hasn't blown over in 10 days. That's a bad sign. Usually, everything that goes on in the media and everything that goes on in Washington disappears in 10 days, we're on to something else. That's not the case this time. That means this issue has sticking power and has sticking power all the way to the first week in November. So, that's really a reset. And we've got to think this again. And the president, I'm sure, is thinking about this again.

And again, we have to let him make this decision. This is a very hard and a very unfair decision. Because this is a guy who's capable of being president of the United States. The problem is how do we convince the vast swath of voters in between who haven't decided what to do yet, or actually, frankly, haven't decided whether to vote or not. And we've got to get those people to the polls or we can't win.

ACOSTA: All right. Governor Howard Dean, former DNC chairman, thanks very much for your time. And thanks to everybody else 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.