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Parkinson's Specialist Met With White House Physician; RNC Panel Approves New Trump-Backed Platform; Biden To Host NATO Leaders Amid Post-Debate Scrutiny. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired July 09, 2024 - 05:30   ET




KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: All right, 5:30 a.m. here in Washington. A live look at the Capitol dome on this Tuesday morning. Good morning, everyone. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's wonderful to have you with us.

In the days since CNN's Presidential Debate, Joe Biden has said his haltering performance was an exception. That it was just one bad night for a healthy, if elderly, man.

But White House visitor logs shows that a top Parkinson's disease specialist held a meeting earlier this year with President Biden's physician at the White House. The logs also show that same specialist has visited at least eight times over the past year.

That reporting leading to a series of testy exchanges, to put it lightly, between White House reporters and the White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Has the president been treated for Parkinson's? No. Is he being treated for Parkinson's? No, he's not. Is he taking medication for Parkinson's? No.

I'm not going to confirm a specialist -- any specialist that comes to -- comes to the White House. I am not sharing -- confirming names from here. It is a security reason. I am not going to do that, Ed. It doesn't matter how hard you push me; it doesn't matter how angry you get with me; I'm not going to confirm a name. It doesn't matter if it's even in the logs. I am not going to do that from here.

I am telling you that he has seen a neurologist three times while he has been in this presidency. That's what I'm --


HUNT: All right. Joining me now to discuss, Mychael Schnell, congressional reporter for The Hill. And NOTUS political reporter, Reese Gorman. Welcome to you both.

Mychael, I think that the sort of tone and tenor of what you just saw there from Karine really underscores the tension that is kind of really on display right now. She really struggled to answer questions about what was going on and why was this Parkinson's specialist going to the White House to meet with the president's personal physician.

MYCHAEL SCHNELL, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE HILL: Right, and Karine up there not exactly answering the questions. But then a few hours later, the president's doctor putting out a letter essentially saying that this was just part of the president's annual physical. That we mentioned in his annual report -- his health report -- that he receives this neurological test. It's part of his wide annual physical and that this was part of it. That's one of the reasons why this medical consultant visited the White House.

So there are some questions about why Karine wouldn't have just said that at the podium, saying that he was here for a routine visit to look at the president as part of, again, this annual physical and there's nothing else nefarious there. But by Karine getting combative with reporters and not giving a straight answer, it raises the speculation about what is actually going on.

And look, the tone and the tenor of that briefing just shows the pressure around the situation. We're not even two weeks out from that debate and there is still this intense continued fallout about whether or not President Biden should remain on the top of the ticket. Whether or not he has the mental capacity to remain there as the nominee.

So this narrative and this conversation about this specialist visiting the White House -- it doesn't help. But it would be easier if the swirling speculation would be put to bed -- if it could have been put to bed with just a straight answer right off the bat.

HUNT: Well, and so, Reese, part of what Mychael is referring to -- the statement that they put out from Kevin O'Connor, who is the president's personal physician, has been for many years is this. "President Biden has not seen a neurologist outside of his annual physical. Many military personal experience neurological issues related to their services and Dr. Cannard regularly visits the White House as part of this general neurology practice."

Of course, there are a lot of military members that do serve at the White House. But again, this doesn't really explain why he was there to meet with Kevin O'Connor, who is the president's personal physician.


This underlying issue that yes, we're seeing reporters try to get at here in this setting -- it seems to be the one that people on Capitol Hill have also been trying to get at, right? I mean, it was Nancy Pelosi who said --


HUNT: -- is this an episode or is this a condition?

GORMAN: One hundred percent. And it's not just -- look, to your point, it's not just us that are wanting these answers. I mean, these is -- this is something that Hill Democrats are really trying to get at. It's like they feel like they're -- the White House is not being upfront with them. And they see stuff like what happened yesterday at yesterday's press briefing and then literally see a statement a little bit after.

The White House is hurting their credibility with these Democrats because they're hearing oh -- they've heard for so long Biden is fine. He's perfectly fit. Obviously, we see what happens at the debate. And now they're questioning every answer and they're seeing every answer be spun and then it comes out later and they're like oh, well, it -- we meant x when we said y, or whatever it may be.

And it's -- and this is really causing a grave amount of concern on the Hill among Democrats because they don't think they can trust anything coming out of the White House right now about Biden's health. And episodes like this do not help and -- because specifically, like you saw how combative that she got with reporters and then only to explain it a couple of hours later.

And this is just -- I mean, Biden needs to reassure not just the American public but also these Hill Democrats - especially the Hill Democrats -- and they're not doing a very good job of that right now.

HUNT: So, Mychael, let's watch a little bit of how Democrats over the course of the last 24 hours have been talking about this. They obviously all came back into town yesterday so we're starting to get kind of this trickling in. It's going to come in in a flood this morning. House Democrats set to meet this morning, Senate Democrats over lunch.

But here's a little taste of what they're saying at this -- at this point.


REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): I support President Joe Biden and the Democratic ticket. My position has not changed.

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): I support Joe Biden, but I also believe that he has to use this time, especially this week, to reassure people in a convincing way.

REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WA): I think he should step aside. I think it's become clear that he's not the best person to carry the Democratic message.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): He already won the nomination, so if there were to be any change it would have to come from him.

REP. JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA): Joe Biden has been a great president and I'm not going to chuck him for a rough debate.


HUNT: Mychael Schnell, what are you looking for? I mean, you're up on the Hill -- in the Halls of Congress every day. What are -- what are -- what's the question you're going to be asking out of the House Democrats' meeting and then out of the Senate one?

SCHNELL: I mean, it's the simple one: Do you think that President Biden should step aside? Because here's the situation here, Kasie. There are about nine -- six Democrats who have publicly said that President Biden should step aside. Three of them also did so on a private call, but that's from a reporter. That's only about nine who have publicly said he is -- should step aside.

Now I'm hearing from sources that behind the scenes, the number is far larger than that. But the only thing is that this public pressure is not exactly going to mount on the president unless more of those Democrats come out publicly --

HUNT: Um-hum.

SCHNELL: -- and to his face say I think you should step aside.

So if those Democrats can come out today after this morning's meeting, that could up the pressure on President Biden. But if some of those Democrats are apprehensive and don't want to face the president head- on, then -- he is picking up support right now from the CBC (Congressional Black Caucus) and from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus -- very public support. So if these detractors don't come public, then President Biden could avoid that dam breaking and be able to move on with this nomination.

I spoke to a House Democrat yesterday who thinks that Biden should step aside. But they told me they don't think that a lot more Democrats are going to come out publicly during this meeting today because they know it's going to be leaked afterwards and they don't want their identity to be known. But the truth of the matter is nothing is going to happen with President Biden at the top of the ticket, I believe, unless these Democrats start to come out publicly in droves.

HUNT: Yeah. I mean -- and Reese, it does feel like yesterday at least turned the tide somewhat toward Biden. Is that your sense in your reporting?

GORMAN: Definitely. I mean, we reported yesterday that this was a good day for Biden since the debate because there was no additional people calling for him to kind of step aside. There were people expressing concern, but they stopped short of saying he should withdraw. There were people that just ignored the question altogether, which is an answer in and of itself.

HUNT: Um-hum.

GORMAN: But as far as people calling for him to withdraw from the race, this did not happen yesterday. And so, it was technically a good day for Biden up on the Hill.

HUNT: What qualifies as a good day has shifted in recent weeks.

SCHNELL: More (PH) has changed.

HUNT: But, yeah, a very high-stakes week.

Guys, thank you both very much for being here.

GORMAN: Thank you.

HUNT: I really appreciate it.

All right. There is a new Republican National Committee platform and it has Donald Trump's fingerprints all over it. A source telling CNN that Trump took the lead in crafting the document, even writing some portions of it himself.

Notably, it softens the Republican Party's language on abortion. That is an issue that Republicans have struggled with after the Supreme Court overturned Roe versus Wade. And, of course, it's one Democrats are aggressively campaigning on ahead of November.

Just yesterday, the same day a Republican panel approved the new RNC platform, Democrats put out this ad on abortion.


DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL AD ON ABORTION: For almost 50 years, Roe v. Wade was the law of the land, ensuring a woman could make her own health care decisions.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And what did is I put three great Supreme Court justices on the court and they happened to vote in favor of killing Roe v. Wade. It's been a great thing.

DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL AD ON ABORTION: Ask yourself, who do you want in the White House? The man proud to overturn Roe v. Wade or the president fighting for your rights?


HUNT: All right. Joining me now live from Milwaukee, Wisconsin is CNN national political reporter Daniel Strauss. Daniel, you're a week early for the convention --


HUNT: -- but it's good to see you and it's good to have you.

Can you walk us through exactly what is the difference between this current platform on abortion and what we have seen from Republicans previously, and how it came about? Because it's Donald Trump who keeps saying well, we've got win elections. This is clearly a move in that direction.

STRAUSS: Essentially, it's the lack thereof of specifics and language. Throughout this entire RNC platform there is an absence of very specific points on where the party should be on the national abortion ban. On a state-by-state -- state-by-state opinion on a limit on weeks on abortion.

And these are things that Republicans have very, very seriously tried to push throughout their party at the same time as having trouble rebuffing a tax by Democrats about whether they support limiting abortions to a certain amount of weeks or would push a national abortion ban into law if they had power of the White House and Congress.

And I think right now, it's pretty clear from this new version of the RNC platform that Republicans see that as a liability. Trump, himself, has said that he does support strong limits on abortion throughout the country, but he also feels that does hinder his chance of getting elected. And this document reflects that.

HUNT: Daniel, this idea that Trump, himself, is writing parts of the platform -- do you buy it?

STRAUSS: Yes, because our sources tell us that.

HUNT: Right. But does this --

STRAUSS: And if you read the language in the document it sounds incredibly Trumpian right down to the grammar. His signature capitalization of words that he wants to emphasize at various points and just the phrasing. It sounds like Trump himself.

HUNT: And do you -- how much of a problem do you think that this is causing with activists in the Republican Party, and how much does that even matter?

STRAUSS: So, it's funny, Kasie. Like, we expected in the few minutes after this platform was quickly passed and approved by the panel in charge of it that there would be pushback from the outside organizations that have been very invested in the findings -- say, gay marriages between -- or defining marriage as between one man and one woman, or groups that have been pushing for stricter restrictions on abortion.

But for the most part, the complaints that you would expect to hear from those groups have been fairly muted, which suggests one of two things. Either they see that Trump's record is more convincing than any promises he makes right now on the campaign trail or that they have come to some sort of compromise with the Trump campaign and view this is as good as they can get at the moment on this document.

HUNT: All right, Daniel Strauss for us this morning. Daniel, always grateful to have you. Thank you so much.

STRAUSS: Thanks, Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Coming up next here, added pressure on President Biden. He's preparing to host NATO leaders.

Plus, a 17-year-old steals the show during a game with Team USA. Sports if coming up.



HUNT: All right, welcome back.

President Biden hosting NATO leaders starting tonight in the nation's capital as, of course, he comes under heightened post-debate scrutiny. His standing with NATO and support for Ukraine make Biden the most significant presidential trustee of the alliance since George H.W. Bush. But Biden's successes, including Sweden and Finland's entry into the alliance, could be eclipsed at this week's summit by doubts about his political future.

Biden defended his re-election bid during an ABC interview Friday and called on voters to watch him at the summit this week.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States and the world is at an inflection point. But the things that happen in the next several years are going to determine what the next six-seven decades look like. And who is going to be able to hold NATO together like me?

A good way to judge me is you're going to have now the NATO conference here in the United States next week. Come listen. See what they say.


HUNT: All right. Joining us now, CNN's political and national security analyst, David Sanger. Also, of course, The New York Times writer. David, it's always good to see you.

And I did want to share a little bit of what you write this morning about Biden heading into this summit. He's set to deliver a speech this evening at the Mellon Auditorium in Washington. That's actually the same exact room where the original NATO charter was signed in 1949.

But you write this. "He (Biden) is now 81 and perhaps the most vocal advocate in Washington for an alliance that has grown from 12 members in 1949 to 32 today as the era of superpower conflict has roared back. But as they gather on Tuesday evening, the leaders will be watching Mr. Biden's every move and listening to his every word for the same signals Americans are focused on -- whether he can go the distance of another four years in office."

And perhaps it's worth noting that President Biden is actually older than the NATO alliance.


And it's going to be pretty remarkable being in that room tonight. I'm looking forward to it because Harry Truman was there with his national security staff signing the 1949 agreement. And so, Biden is -- has chosen this as the spot to gather everyone with all of its historic resonance and with this remarkable moment because we are back in a new version of the Cold War -- a very different one. I would argue a much more dangerous one.

And all of a sudden, the question is: Is there a hole at the core of NATO, which is to say the United States. The options that the other 37 leaders will see over the next three days is a President Biden who may get re-elected but be a weaker president in the last four years as most presidents are. And they're going to particularly worry about his age.

Or one that ushers back in a presidency of George W. Bush -- I'm sorry, a presidency of Donald Trump who unlike past Republicans like Bush and like others, had -- has argued that NATO is obsolete and as refused to necessarily commit to coming to the defense of them. That's unimaginable for previous Republican presidents.

HUNT: Yeah, it is really remarkable. And, I mean, David, it seems that the previous calculus had been that many of these leaders really wanted to avoid the Donald Trump presidency at all costs. I mean, how do you think they're feeling right now about -- I mean, because the reality is the debate performance played into the Trump argument that this shows that Biden is weak on a world -- on the world stage in standing up to adversaries.

SANGER: Yeah. You know, the Trump argument is that the Russians respected him and, therefore, did not invade Ukraine during his time. That they -- attacks on Crimea -- the annexation of Crimea took place in Obama, but the rest of Ukraine happened during the Biden administration.

I think Mr. Trump is being disingenuous on this because there was a war underway that was post-Crimea. Obviously, Russia was occupying Crimea and parts of southern Ukraine, and you did not see President Trump at that time trying to gather the world to force them out. He did provide them -- the Ukrainians -- with more defensive weapons and that's to his credit.

What there isn't right now is a plan for how you either end the war or how you get Ukraine to the position where it could win, which was the phrase that was used again at the White House yesterday by John Kirby, the national security spokesman. And when you ask what win means it means driving the Russians completely out of Ukraine, and that does not seem like a reasonable option right now.

I think the best that NATO could hope for in the next few days is to try to Trump-proof some of their aid to Ukraine by trying to set a good deal of it in place ahead of the possible resumption of a Trump presidency.

HUNT: Yeah, a really remarkable state of affairs.

David Sanger for us this morning. David, always very grateful to have you. Thank you so much.

SANGER: Great to be here.

HUNT: All right, time now for sports.

A 17-year-old is putting some of the best basketball players in the world on notice with an amazing performance at the Team USA training camp.

Carolyn Manno has more in this morning's Bleacher Report. Carolyn, good morning.


Well, the summer games in Paris are just 17 days away now and part of the prep for the U.S. men's team included taking on a select team of 15 players, and that included Duke's number-one recruit, Cooper Flagg. And the 17-year-old absolutely put on a show against the like of LeBron James, Steph Curry, and Anthony Davis. Highlights of the scrimmage went viral on Monday after the six-nine forward showed why he is the projected top pick in the 2025 draft.

He's the youngest player in training camp and he says he knows that he belongs there.


COOPER FLAGG, INCOMING DUKE FRESHMAN: I'm confident in my ability and my skills. So at the end of the day, yeah, I'm confident in who I am and what I can do. So I'm just coming down to play basketball.


MANNO: Elsewhere, second seed and seven-time Wimbledon champ Novak Djokovic is through to the quarters after beating Holger Rune in straight sets.


Throughout the match, fans were loudly saying "Rune!" as fans of the 21-year-old from Denmark normally do. But Djokovic apparently did not hear it that way, thinking that they were booing him. And he made sure to address the crowd after the match before leaving the court.


NOVAK DJOKOVIC, 24-TIME MAJOR CHAMPION: I know they were cheering for Rune but that's an excuse to also boo. I -- listen, I've been -- I've been on the tour for more than 20 years so trust me -- I know all the tricks. I know how it works. It's fine. It's fine. It's OK.

And to all those people that have chosen to disrespect a player -- in this case, me -- have good night. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MANNO: American Taylor Fritz lost the first two sets of his match against world number-four Alexander Zverev before pulling off an incredibly rally to win in five sets to advance. This is the first time that Fritz has beaten a top-five player at grand slam in 10 tries. And tomorrow's match against Italian Lorenzo Musetti is going to be fourth major quarterfinal and second at Wimbledon for him.

American Tommy Paul is also in the quarterfinals, marking the first time since 2000 that multiple Americans have made it this far on the men's side at the All England Club.

Back stateside, the San Francisco Giants, past and present, honoring the late great Willie Mays on Monday night. The 2 1/2-hour public ceremony featuring speeches from Commissioner Rob Manfred and Mays' godson, Barry Bonds.

Manfred saying that Mays dominate the game while also capturing imaginations and inspiring generations.

Hall of Famers Joe Torre, Reggie Jackson, Dennis Eckersley, Rickey Henderson, and former President Bill Clinton also in attendance.

And how about this for you, Kasie? How about this big-league debut? Reds' rookie Rece Hinds destroying a nearly 450-foot home run in a win over the Rockies. He was recalled from the minors with Cincinnati down three outfielders, and he made the absolute most of it, padding the lead in the eighth inning. Cincinnati blanking Colorado 6-0.

The soon-to-be 24-year-old was at a loss for words after the game.


RECE HINDS, OUTFIELDER, CINCINNATI REDS: It was surreal. I mean, I can't really put words to it. I mean, you see my smile. It's all I got for you right now. I don't even know what to think about it.


MANNO: He showed a tremendous amount of power in the minors, Kasie. And to show up in your big-league debut, he had a great game all around and that home run was just absolutely a stunner.

HUNT: Awesome.

All right, Carolyn. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Coming up next here, high water, hair-raising rescues with parts of Houston swamped after Hurricane Beryl.

Plus --


JEAN-PIERRE: It doesn't matter how hard you push me. It doesn't matter how angry you get with me.


HUNT: The White House press secretary clashing with reporters over the president's health.