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George Clooney Calls For Biden to Step Aside; Interview With Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 10, 2024 - 11:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington.

We begin with President Biden's fight for his political future, as questions about his health continue to challenge his campaign. Right now, the president is meeting with union leaders here in Washington. It's just the latest test of his stamina and mental rigor since his shaky debate performance nearly two weeks ago.

But, at this hour, the president's grip on his party seems to be holding for now, as most Democrats are publicly falling in line here in Washington.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): As I have said before, I'm with Joe. I'm with Joe. I'm with Joe.


ACOSTA: This morning, a different story, though, with one of the biggest names in the Democratic Party stopping short of a full-on endorsement of the president.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is asking her colleagues to wait the week out before issuing any more calls for President Biden to step aside. But she's hinting that he may want to reconsider if he has what it takes to defeat Donald Trump. Here's what she said.


QUESTION: Does he have your support to be the head of the Democratic ticket?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): As long as the president has -- the president -- it's up to the president to decide if he is going to run. We're all encouraging him to make that decision, because time is running short.

QUESTION: He has said he has made the decision. He has said firmly this week he is going to run. Do you want him to run? PELOSI: I want him to do whatever he decides to do. Let's just hold

off. Whatever you're thinking, either tell somebody privately, but you don't have to put that out on the table until we see how we go this week.


ACOSTA: As the president looks to shore up support at his party, he spoke with nearly 200 Democratic mayors last night.

Joining us now is one of the people on that call, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas.

Mr. Mayor, thanks so much for being here. Really appreciate it.

I wish we could spend time talking about your Chiefs, but we can't do that today.

But let me ask you this. What did the president say during this phone call? Did it reassure you? And are you -- where are you on all of this?

QUINTON LUCAS (D), MAYOR OF KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI: Well, I think he made it clear last night that he is in the race. He's in the race to win. He is looking for the support of mayors, of people all around the country.

And we talked about the basics, the things that are not necessarily conversations in the political media or in Washington, but the things that people are talking about in places like Kansas City and Kalamazoo, places I have the fortune of having been recently.

And so I think what you see is energy from the president right now. And in response to the last discussion, I think he has said pretty clearly and unambiguously that he's in the race.

ACOSTA: Well, yes, I was going to ask you that. I mean, the president has said he is staying in the race. He's not going anywhere.

But, this morning, the former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested the president should spend some more time thinking about that. What was your response to that?

LUCAS: You know, I think what I would say is that the president has made it clear that everyone else has made it clear largely in terms of his administration and lots of folks who are on the streets in normal towns in America who are saying that President Biden is the candidate for the Democratic Party for president.

He's somebody who has seen great coalescence, particularly at the level of mayors. I think you're seeing it from governors as well. And although there may be different conversations in Washington, what you heard yesterday on the call -- I was one of the people who had the chance to speak with him directly -- is that he is not only committed, but that he's looking forward to getting out on the road, spending more time with the American people to make his case that he is the competent candidate.

He is the one who has a clear agenda for the future, rather than perhaps some of the more divisive political discourse on the issues lately.

ACOSTA: And, Mr. Mayor, do you think he has what it takes to beat Donald Trump?

LUCAS: You know, I think he does.

First of all, I am still just barely in my 30s. I have a 3-year-old son and a 3-week-old son. The president talked to me actually about children yesterday. He talked about the things that people are really fundamentally talking about, whereas President Trump at a rally yesterday was talking about beautiful women and crazy things and all of that.

When you actually look at who is the competent candidate, who actually every day is speaking substance, it's President Biden, not former President Trump. So I do have confidence not only that he can get that message out, but I think that he can win.


ACOSTA: And when you hear somebody like Colorado Senator Bennet saying that the president could lose in a landslide to Donald Trump, you disagree with that?

LUCAS: Yes, I do disagree with that.

I think, first of all, there is this view that there is no American who actually is going to think and talk about the issues that folks are really talking about in this election. I have had fortune of being a surrogate in Detroit, in Kalamazoo, in Grand Rapids throughout Michigan. And, certainly, I'm a mayor of my own city.

People are talking about the cost of groceries. They're talking about basic issues each and every day. And I think the question long term is going to be, who's the one who actually solves those problems for you?

I think President Trump is no paragon of clarity or great speeches or great American rhetoric. And so I think, when people actually see what that comparison is, to me, the choice is going to be clear.

ACOSTA: All right, Mayor Quinton Lucas of Kansas City, thanks so much for your time. We will talk about the Chiefs next time. Thanks very much for your time.

LUCAS: OK. Thanks so much.

ACOSTA: All right, appreciate it. Thank you.

As the president tries to calm some of the storms on the home front, he's also tackling some big issues overseas. Next hour, he meets with NATO allies right here in Washington. Some of them are very concerned about what could happen in Europe if the president loses to Trump in November.

CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson joins us now.

Nic, how much are NATO allies looking at the president right now, not in terms of the substance, but just his performance?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Look, I think they will feel last night that he delivered. It was scripted, yes. He stayed to the script. It was on a teleprompter. He didn't deviate. He didn't sort of lose his way.

That was what they wanted, because, talking to NATO -- people in -- who attending this summit, they're telling me that what concerns them is the message of NATO. That message that he was delivering, the message we're getting from Jens Stoltenberg, the message we're getting from other leaders when they speak is going to get drowned out by the discussion about President Biden's ability to beat Donald Trump.

But be absolutely sure, yes, they're worried about what happens if Donald Trump wins the election. They're worried because his -- he may undermine support for NATO. He may withdraw the United States from NATO. He may withdraw funding from supporting Ukraine. All these sorts of things are on their minds.

So they are saying, however, publicly, as you would expect them to, that they want to be able to -- ready to work with whomever wins and -- who wins the election. I mean, that's the nature of politics. They all understand that you don't always get the leader that you want.

But you want to be ready to work with them.


ROBERTSON: So, that's the narrative here.

ACOSTA: And, Nic, there seems to be a lot of movement on whether or not Ukraine is going to be put on a path to be admitted into NATO. There's a lot on that front, and, also, the U.S. and NATO partners announcing new aid to -- military aid to Ukraine.

The NATO secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, said he expects allies to agree to a substantial package for Ukraine. Is that going to be enough to turn the tide? And I suppose they want to send a message to Russia. The Russians have been sending a message to NATO this week. They want to send one back.

ROBERTSON: Yes, they do.

And one of the things that concerned Stoltenberg is the Russian threat. And that, again, is one of those messages that the -- that these leaders want to get out. And why? Because it's domestic political politics when they get back home. One of the narratives is, we need to spend more money on defense.

Why do we need to spend more money on defense? Because Russia is a real and growing threat. It's a bigger threat than it was back in 2014, when NATO agreed to up its -- up its GDP spending. Stoltenberg said this about Russia's malign threat at the moment.

ACOSTA: All right, Nic Robertson, thank you very much.

We should note to our viewers right now President Biden is over at the AFL-CIO here in Washington meeting with union leaders. You're seeing some of those images come in right now. He's visiting the D.C. headquarters for the AFL-CIO.

As the president gets started there, we will be listening in. We will dip into that, bring that to you as it comes in. So, stay with us for that.

In the meantime, Google searches for President Biden are up nationwide. Why that might not be such a great thing for his campaign.

Stay with us.



ACOSTA: All right, this just in to CNN.

A big Democratic donor, George Clooney, of course, the actor, has just called for President Biden to step aside.

CNN's Arlette Saenz joins us now from the White House.

Arlette, obviously, this is not going to be welcome news over there. What can you tell us?


And this is a significant new "New York Times" op-ed from actor George Clooney. Now, to remind viewers, George Clooney was one of those celebrities that headlined a major Los Angeles fund-raiser with President Biden back in June. And, today, he is saying that he believes it is time for President Biden to step aside from this 2024 campaign.

Now, George Clooney wrote extensively about President Biden, saying: "We are not going to win in November with this president." He recounted being with Biden at that fund-raiser, saying: "It's devastating to say it, but the Joe Biden I was with three weeks ago at the fund-raiser was not the Joe 'Big Effing Deal' Biden of 2010. He wasn't even the Joe Biden of 2020. He was the same man we all witnessed on -- at that debate."

He goes on to say: "Our party leaders need to stop telling us that 51 million people didn't see what we just saw. We're all so terrified by the prospect of a second Trump term that we have opted to ignore every warning sign."

[11:15:00] This is significant, as, of course, George Clooney holds a very large platform. He is well-known, but he has also been a longtime Democratic supporter, fund-raising not just for Joe Biden, but also for former President Barack Obama.

Now, it comes as you have heard these deep reservations expressed from various wings of the Democratic Party from some lawmakers up on Capitol Hill, some donors also indicating that they are concerned about what it would mean to have President Biden at the top of the Democratic ticket in November after that debate.

And now you are hearing George Clooney, a key Democratic supporter, key actor, key activist, adding to that chorus of calls for President Biden to step aside.

Now, President Biden and his team are simply charging ahead with this campaign at this moment. President Biden right now is speaking at an AFL-CIO meeting, as he is trying to shore up support among union leaders, who the campaign believes would be key heading into a November election.

But, certainly, this is another pressure point for President Biden as they are having a major Democratic name call for him to step aside at this moment.

ACOSTA: Yes, Arlette, they are not going to be happy about that.

And speaking of the president being at the AFL-CIO, the big union that is headquartered here in Washington, he was just speaking there moments ago. Let's listen to a bit of that and hear what he had to say.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hey, folks. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Please sit down. Sit down.

Hey, look, number one, the way I look at it, I was thinking about this last night, knowing I'm going to be here and going from here to the NATO summit. We have two strong, strong organizations in America that I look to for our security.

One, literally, and I mean, this sincerely, is NATO. NATO, a joint assembly of democracies that made sure we're keeping the peace and no one's going to screw around with us, is as strong as it's ever been. And I think of you as my domestic NATO, not a joke, not a joke.

You're the ones, you're the ones, beyond me -- and you know, Matt (ph), better than I do, beyond me. It's all about whether or not we're going to grow the economy, whether we're going to give working people a shot.

And I told you, and you know, because you -- a lot of you were there with me all the way back when I was a kid. And I'm only 42.

(LAUGHTER) BIDEN: But when I was a kid back running for the Senate when I was 29 years old, labor elected me. And we were then a right-to-work state, and we changed it all.

And here's what we're doing. You are -- you have heard me say it 1,000 times, but I'm going to say it again. The middle class built this country. You built the middle class.


BIDEN: No, no, no. And, by the way, I don't want to hurt your reputations, but even Wall Street's acknowledging your power.

No, I'm serious. Look at every projection about what we want to do with the economy on the issues that we're talking about and what the other guy wants to do. They're supporting us. It's your agenda we're working on.

And, by the way, I have said from the beginning that, when labor does well, everybody does better. Not a joke.


BIDEN: That's not a talking point. That is a reality. You know that, Lee (ph). That's a reality.

It is an absolute reality. When we were going, making -- I said I was going to be the most pro-union president in American history. Well, guess what? I am, and I'm staying there.



ACOSTA: All right, that's President Biden right there at the AFL-CIO headquarters here in Washington as he tries to shore up support in certain corners of the Democratic Party.

Of course, the breaking news we just heard a few moments ago, actor and Democratic Party supporter George Clooney calling for President Biden to step out of the race.

I want to bring in our CNN senior data reporter, Harry Enten.

I mean, Harry, one of the reasons why there is all of this consternation -- we saw the former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opening the door to President Biden making the decision to get out of this race, even though he has said he wants to stay in. We're seeing a lot of movement in these battleground polls.

And I'm wondering if you could walk us through that, show us why there's some heartburn, a lot of heartburn in the Democratic Party right now, yes.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: You know, Jim, we have been talking a lot about the national polls. ACOSTA: Yes.

ENTEN: But, of course, the race is won or lost in the Electoral College.

And I just really want to give an indication here that Donald Trump is favored at this particular point. That's the bottom line. If the election were held today, according to The Cook Political Report, 268 electoral votes are either leaning or solid in his direction, versus just 226 for Joe Biden.

The only real toss-ups are up here in the Midwest, right, Wisconsin, Michigan, and down the Great Lakes in Pennsylvania. And I will tell you, Jim, that I have been looking and talking with folks on the internal polls in these individual states up here in that Midwest region.


ENTEN: These polls do not look good for Joe Biden at this particular point. Donald Trump is leading in these internal polls.

And then, of course, Arizona, down here in Nevada, Georgia, all states that Joe Biden won last time around, all of them leaning towards Donald Trump at this hour.


ACOSTA: And if he doesn't win those blue wall states, it's over. That's it, yes.

ENTEN: If he wins -- if he doesn't win any one of these...

ACOSTA: He has to win them all.

ENTEN: He has to run the table.


ENTEN: He has to win all of these states. And I know from the internal data that I have been talking to folks, he's not ahead in a single one of them right now.

ACOSTA: And, Harry, you're also looking at Google searches and what that might -- there's some of that data that -- and what that might mean for the Biden campaign. What can you tell us?


We have had this old saying, you always want the attention to be on Donald Trump, that you don't want it to necessarily be a referendum on Joe Biden. Days Biden has led Trump in Google searches, pre-debate, look at this. He led in just 1 percent of the days. I think there were two days out of all of the days early on this year in which Joe Biden actually led Donald Trump in Google searches. But look post-debate. He's led in 86 percent of the days, 86 percent.

Look at this, from 1 to 86 percent. The focus now has been on Joe Biden post-debate after his poor debate performance, as seen by the pundits, as seen by the polls. People are paying attention to Joe Biden, which is not what he wants, and is very different from what we saw earlier on this year.

ACOSTA: And we should point out, I mean, there's a lot of time left before the November election. I was talking with Larry Sabato in the previous hour about this. He's saying it's July. Anybody who says that it's over at this point, they're just overstating things, because you just don't know what might happen in a campaign.

Donald Trump has just started speaking again. And who knows. The attention -- obviously, these...

ENTEN: This could reverse.


ACOSTA: These metrics are going to change, yes.

ENTEN: These numbers could in fact change.

And the fact is, I will point out, how far are the polls off at this point compared to the final margin? At this particular point, the average is six points. In 2020, the difference was five points. And, of course, Trump right now leads Biden by three points in the national polls.

So when you look at this, you realize, yes, it doesn't look necessarily particularly good for Joe Biden in the Electoral College right now. Donald Trump is clearly ahead. And, yes, in those same national polls, as I point out, Trump leads Biden by three points, Jim, but there is a lot of time for this to change.

A lot of things can change. And so the fact of the matter is, when we're looking at this data, we should keep in mind that it's still just July, the election doesn't take place until November. So we will just have to wait and see, Jim, how things shift as things go on from here.

ACOSTA: All right, Harry Enten, thank you very much. Through the magic of television, I have moved from the wall back to the set. I don't...

ENTEN: How'd you do that?

ACOSTA: I don't know if you noticed that. That was pretty, pretty slick on my...

ENTEN: You're -- you flew.

ACOSTA: I don't know.

(LAUGHTER) ENTEN: You took the Concorde.

ACOSTA: I don't fly, but I did walk at a brisk pace.

ENTEN: There you go.

ACOSTA: Harry, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

ENTEN: Thanks, buddy.

ACOSTA: Let's discuss with CNN political commentator and former Obama White House senior adviser Ashley Allison and former Trump administration official, Matt Mowers.

Ashley, let me go to you first on this George Clooney news. We saw the president visiting the AFL-CIO a few moments ago. Obviously, he's trying to show up support with certain parts of the Democratic Party base. But how big of a blow is that to have George Clooney say, you know what, Mr. President, you need to step aside?

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, it's not great to have someone who just held a very large fund-raiser for you to come out and withdraw their support.

I think the thing that is really hard about the comments in the letter is not that he is just saying this based off of the debate performance, but he compared the debate performance to his actual direct interaction with the president.

And I think that the campaign -- everyone who saw the debate in -- a couple weeks ago have been saying to the president, we need you to prove to us that you are able to do it. And people are still waiting for that proof point.

Now, I think they are doing a good job getting him out there, having conversations with people, but it's not a great sign. And I don't want to sugarcoat it. When you hear the polls that Harry Enten is saying that he is down, people know the threat that Donald Trump is to our democracy.

And so when the polls are where they are, we need a couple things to help it to get easier. And a letter like that doesn't make it any easier.

ACOSTA: And, Matt Mowers, I mean, one of the things that we have noticed about Donald Trump lately is, we haven't seen a whole lot of him. He was out at a rally last night, but he's been sort of laying low. And, I mean, this is sort of politics 101.

You're just going to let your -- if your opponent is struggling, you're going to let that continue to happen. This is what the Trump campaign wants right now.

MATT MOWERS, FORMER TRUMP ADMINISTRATION AIDE: Yes, I mean, look, of course, we're right -- we have got Ashley Allison and I agreeing on something, which is that this is bad for Joe Biden. That is not going to happen every single day.

And I have said this a few times now, and I mean this purely figuratively, but there's the old adage, in politics and really anything else in life, when your opponent's committing suicide, don't commit homicide.

Donald Trump doesn't need to do anything right now. You have got the Democratic Party eating itself. It's been happening now for months. For a while, it was happening on policies, right? It was happening on what was going on in Israel and those who took a different side and were supporting -- essentially supporting Hamas.


You had around that going on. You had the base dispirited on other issues. Now it's all about whether they believe Joe Biden is capable of even serving. I mean, I just don't know. And here's the biggest problem, I think, for Joe Biden.

If I was the Biden campaign, this would be my concern every single day. This doesn't necessarily go away, right? Everyone's going to be watching every single interview from now through November. They're going to be watching every single speech from now through November, and they're going to look for any single misstep or miscue to grab on to.

Now, look, based on what we're seeing now, Joe Biden's performance at the debate, George Clooney saying that privately Joe Biden's that same person in private, other Democrat congressional leaders who, after years of saying Joe Biden's fine, trust us, are now coming around saying he can't serve, we really don't believe, and most Democrat members of Congress probably don't believe, that he can have an error- free campaign from now through November.

And that's going to be the issue for Joe Biden.


And, Ashley, I mean, Congressman Ritchie Torres of New York, a Democrat, just said -- quote -- "If we're going on a political suicide mission, then we should at least be honest about it." That is a quote that just came in from Congressman Ritchie Torres.

My colleague Dana Bash reporting that just in the last hour or so.

That's a big reversal from what he was saying earlier on in the week. There's the quote there from Ritchie Torres. And former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sort of leaving the door open for Joe Biden to get out of the race, not really answering the question as to whether or not she wants him to stay in.

How big of an impact is all that having?

ALLISON: So I just want to take a step back...

ACOSTA: Yes. ALLISON: ... and say I think the conversations that are happening

right now are important. And I think it actually demonstrates the contrast between the Democratic Party currently and the Republican Party currently.

Donald Trump has 34 felony convictions, and nobody questioned whether or not he should be running for president again in the Republican Party. Donald Trump was found liable for sexual harassment and sexual assault, and nobody questioned in the Republican Party whether or not he should be running for president again.

Instead, one by one, they continue to fall in line and kiss his ring and rally. Donald Trump uninvited Nikki Haley to the Republican Convention. Where's that party unity?


ALLISON: Nobody has questioned whether or not he should be running for president.

What's happening right now is, the Democratic Party, we are a big tent coalition. We deserve -- we believe in an actual democracy, not just for our country, but in our party. And so people deserve the right to ask questions.


ALLISON: But what I do think is going to happen is that, in the end of the week, in a week or so, when Joe Biden reconfirms or makes his final decision -- and, quite honestly, it has seemed like he has already made his decision -- Democrats will understand that we went through a primary process.

Millions of voters voted for Joe Biden. If he has decided to stay in the race, we will rally behind him, because what I just laid out for who his opponent is in Donald Trump is a stark contrast. And it's not a matter of whether Joe Biden can serve out his term or serve four more years.

It's a matter of, can we beat one of the biggest threats in democracy, which is his opponent, Donald Trump? And that is why we are asking these questions, not because we doubt who Joe Biden is as a leader, but because we want our best candidate put forward. And the voters have decided at this point that is Joe Biden.

And the party is just asking one question because he did have a bad night. And I think it is OK. But, for right now, the contrast is just so different. And I think we are showing it in a display right now by even having the courage to have these conversations as a party.

ACOSTA: All right, Ashley and Matt, thanks very much.

We have got to get to a quick break and get to some other breaking news.

We will be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)