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Parkinson's Specialist Met with White House Physician; Max Rose is Interviewed about Democrats Divided on Biden; Biden's Stayin in Race Despite Pushback. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired July 09, 2024 - 06:30   ET





JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have - I mean - I - I guess - anyway. And I don't want to take too much credit. I have a great staff.

And, by the way, I'm proud to be, as I said, the first vice president, the first black woman served with a black president.

How can you assure you're going to be on - on, you know, fate's (ph) not going to intervene on your way to go to, you know, work tomorrow? Age - age wasn't, you know, the idea that I'm too old. I've created over 15 million jobs.


KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: In the days since CNN's presidential debate, Joe Biden has said his performance was an exception. One bad night for an otherwise healthy if elderly man. Interviews that he's done since then have not always buttress that argument.

But CNN has now learned that a top Parkinson's disease specialist held a meeting earlier this year with President Biden's physician at the White House. According to visitor logs, that same specialists has visited the White House at least eight times over the past year. On Monday, the press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, was asked repeatedly about these meetings, and she struggled to answer the questions.


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 specialists that comes to - come - comes to the White House.

I am not sharing, confirming names from here. It is a security reasons. 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 am not going to confirm a name. It doesn't matter if it's even in the log, I am not going to do that from here.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here at the White House?


HUNT: Yikes.

Kate Bedingfield, I mean, look, I think this is the central issue at hand on display, which is that there are a lot of American voters out there who don't feel like the understand what's really going on with the president's health.


And it was very clear that the press secretary didn't have good answers for reporters yesterday.

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, look, this wasn't a great exchange. In talking about it last night, I was - I was saying, you know, the job of the press secretary is incredibly hard. And there are oftentimes when you aren't able to put forward information that you, as a communications staffer, would argue, and probably they were arguing internally, should be put forward. And you're constrained by, you know, different - you know, other factors that prevent you from being able to say something that seems pretty straightforward.

However, after we were discussing this last night, the White House then put out the letter that very certainly -

HUNT: Right, which says, quote, "President Biden has not seen a neurologist outside of his annual physical."

BEDINGFIELD: Right. Right.

HUNT: "Many military personnel experience neurological issues related to their service. The doctor regularly visits the White House as part of this general neurology practice."

BEDINGFIELD: Right. So, I'm not sure why she couldn't say that at the briefing or why they weren't prepared or hadn't - hadn't anticipated that they would get this question and did not arm her - or she did not arm herself, with - with that very simple explanation. So why this sort of bubbled up into a big, combative back-and-forth, I don't - I don't really understand.

HUNT: Why, Jonah, do you think?

JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I have no clue. I really don't get it. I do think, just sort of getting to my point, is that this is going to be replayed over and over and over and over and over again for the next four months because, while Joe Biden wants to put, as he put it, a bullseye on Donald Trump, as long as there are any of these lingering questions, and a lot of the White House press corps feels burned by all of this, they're going to make the issue, Joe Biden's health, whether he's up to the job, whether he's been honest with people, whether people rounded him have been honest. And that's going to make it very, very difficult to make this campaign a referendum on Donald Trump, which is the only way even Biden people concede they can win.

MOLLY BALL, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": And look, it seems clear that they are so used to being able to obfuscate this issue that they are not prepared for the calls for more transparency.

And I think on the one hand you have the transparency issue of what do they know that they're not telling us, right, such as this letter that they belatedly put out after refusing to answer the question and thinking that they could get away with it, and now they are acknowledging that more information is needed, that people do want to know what the nature of these visits was.

But there's also the question of whether Joe Biden is being honest with himself. When he said to George Stephanopoulos that he hasn't had any of these types of cognitive tests, I think that raised a lot of questions with people of, well, why isn't he? Given what we have seen, given the questions that so many people have, why not have further testing, why not have more disclosure to put people's worries to rest? And that is also something that doesn't seem to be happening.

HUNT: Well, and one thing too, you know, that Biden has sort of asserted - President Biden has asserted in the wake of this debate is that he is the only person that can beat Donald Trump is kind of how he's framing it. But back in December, when he was under pressure about his running for re-election, he - he didn't say that. Let's just flash back to that for a second.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think there is an Democrat who could defeat Donald Trump other than you?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You do believe that there -

BIDEN: I'm not the only one that could beat him, but I will defeat him.


HUNT: You know, and I just kind of play that as, you know, we've - we've shown that this has all played out the way it has. And, Molly, your reporting in "The Journal" too that the inner circle did work to keep these signs of his aging under wraps. "Some donors said they wanted to keep their concerns quiet because they didn't want to risk their access or influence. No one wanted to jeopardize a chance to become an ambassador or host a fundraiser, said one L.A.-based donor." "Some who have spent time with the president after not seeing him for a while said they were surprised by how much he had slowed. Last summer, a former top Biden advisor who has met with the president told an associate the meeting was not good and that Biden had noticeably aged since they had last seen each other."

And, of course, you're seeing reflections of, you know, the way this was reported in the press, in the way that the Biden team, you know, interacted with the press on questions. I mean it was "The Journal" that wrote this big story about Biden's age a couple of months ago, or a month or so ago. And it was met with derision, quite frankly.

BALL: They fired back very aggressively to the point of actually monitoring the interviews our reporters were doing and then forcing some of those Democrats to call us back and revise what they had said. So, it was a very aggressive effort to control the narrative and control the storyline around this issue. And some of it also was, as our story today says, just people not wanting to grapple with what they had seen and things looking different in retrospect after the debate. So, a lot of people who had interactions with the president that maybe at the time they found a little bit troubling but weren't sure what to think of or thought might have been a one-off or an anomaly in light of the debate have gone back and thought about those interactions and now have further questions.

HUNT: Yes. I mean, Kate, I guess I just keep coming back to this - you know, we saw Biden there say, oh, 50 Democrats could beat Donald Trump.


We've also heard Biden repeatedly say that beating Trump is an existential challenge for Democrats. And he seems dug in now that he's the only one that can do it. How is he going to reflect if he loses to Donald Trump?

BEDINGFIELD: I think, in his mind - you know, I know he gave that answer to Stephanopoulos where he said, I'll - you know, I'll feel OK and I - you know, we've got to take him at his word, I guess.

But I think, for him, the way he needs to be thinking about this, if he's powering forward, which it seems like he is, is that's not an option. It isn't an option. This is a campaign that he has to win. He has to do everything in his power to win. And so I think for him, if he doesn't view this as an existential fight, which, look, I believe he does. Obviously, you know, look, he gave that answer to George and people, you know, got to take it for what it is. But I think, based on everything I know about him, I think that he does view this as an existential fight, then his attitude has to be, losing isn't an option.

And - but we have to see that in the way that he campaigns. We have to see him out there with some of the vigor that we've seen over the last 48 hours directed at Trump, not directed at hill Democrats.

HUNT: I mean, Jonah, you're no fan of Donald Trump's.

GOLDBERG: Nope. Nope. HUNT: How - I mean, what's it like to watch the - I mean I think for a lot of people that I have spoken to who really - above all they want to beat Trump. And there are a lot of Democrats out there who are way more motivated by being Trump than they are by Joe Biden, no -

BEDINGFIELD: I - none taken. None taken. None taken.

HUNT: But it does seem like - like those are the people that I'm talking to who are angry about what the president is doing?

GOLDBERG: Yes, look, I'm one of these people who thinks that the cult of the presidency has become a form of idolatry in this country, where we imbue the presidency with - we so personalize it as essentially a monarch. The - democracy in America historically is a contest between parties, not necessarily personalities. And Joe Biden is not that important. If the Democrats believe, and I think a lot of them sincerely do that, that this is an existential threat to democracy and all that stuff, whether I think some of that is overblown or not doesn't matter. The only relevant question to ask is, what is our best shot at winning and saying, we owe it to Joe Biden, that he deserves it. Deserve has got nothing to do with it, and neither does the last three-and-a-half years.

What matters is what's happened - whether he can do the job next. And whether he can do the job for the next four months as a campaigner and as a president and whether he can serve as four more years as president. And I think that there are a lot of people who are getting caught up in emotion in all of this, and including Joe Biden, who's digging in and sees it as a personal affront. And I think it is a slow moving disaster for the Democratic Party.

HUNT: All right, up next here, former Democratic Congressman Max Rose of New York joins us to discuss this divided Democratic Party and President Biden's candidacy.

Plus, in our roundup, a plan to give new parents a cash bonus for having a baby.



HUNT: All right, 47 minutes past the hour. Here's your morning roundup.

Today, jury selection begins in the involuntary manslaughter trial of actor Alec Baldwin. The actor accidentally shot and killed a cinematographer on the set of the movie "Rust." A judge ruled yesterday that Baldwin's role as a producer of the film will not be considered during the trial.

Closing arguments resume this morning in the corruption trial of Senator Bob Menendez. On Monday, prosecutors called the New Jersey Democrat a, quote, "bribed man," end quote, who sprang into action for cash and gold. California's Lake Fire is still only 8 percent contained after burning more than 21,000 acres since igniting a few days ago. The Neverland Ranch, made famous by Michael Jackson, is in the official evacuation zone.

And a new ballot measure, spearheaded by a group of Baltimore teachers, would give parents a $1,000 bonus for having a baby if it passes. The bill is designed to combat child poverty. An estimated 31 percent of school-aged children are experiencing poverty in Baltimore.

All right, turning back to this.


JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": "Get on board or shut the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up" is not a particularly compelling pro-democracy bumper sticker. Nor is, "whattya gonna do?" It's 119 days. There are contestants on "The Bachelor" who haven't even met yet that will get married and divorced between now and the election. We have nothing but time.


HUNT: A little perspective there from Mr. Stewart.

On Capitol Hill, President Biden is trying to stave off more defections among Democrats who are trying to determine whether 119 days is, in fact, enough time to replace him on the party's 2024 ticket. Democratic lawmakers remain divided. Some continuing to back the president, while six publicly and even more in private or calling for the president to step aside as anxieties mount over changing voters sentiments about the president after that debate performance.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just need fresh leadership, new leadership.

I like Joe Biden as a - as a person. You know, I think he stands for good things. But I'm just not sure he's - he's there anymore to lead the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that last week hurt so much that he's really got to think of the party and the country before he thinks of himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean it's - something's got to change. We need a logical party.



HUNT: All right, joining me now is former Democratic Congressman Max Rose of New York.

Congressman, thank you so much for joining us. And, you know, you are standing behind the president. You wrote an

opinion piece about the president's "Morning Joe" interview yesterday. You called it, quote, "exactly what everyone had been waiting and wanting to see from the president." And, quote, "just great politics." And that that interview will be a market shift, the catalysts that the president's campaign needed. So, you know, I'm tracking you thought that this was good. This clearly seemed aimed at your former colleagues on Capitol Hill.

Do you think that the president has done enough at this point to put his age concerns to rest? And I guess I would put it this way, when he walks to a microphone or a podium, do you feel 100 percent confident - will you feel 100 percent confident that he's not going to have another episode like the one he had on the debate stage?

MAX ROSE, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE (D-NY): Yes, look, I - I think that it's important to actually reconsider the way we're framing this campaign. These concerns will never go away. And, guess what, the concerns were there before the debate. And despite those concerns, there is a resounding belief in Joe Biden's capacity to lead and his extraordinary record. But I would definitely urge the campaign too really have this deep sense of vigilance and to stay hyper aggressive and to be old school.

What you saw yesterday on "Morning Joe" was the president just calling in and doing a freewheeling interview. And I think that's what the people are looking for.

Some of the anger on Capitol Hill right now is actually not associated with the debate, but associated with the silence of the campaign in the days after the debate. So they certainly should not go back to that point or to any sense of complacency. They've got to keep pushing forward.

HUNT: So, speaking of how they're handling things now, Karine Jean- Pierre was at the podium yesterday with reporters who were trying to get a pretty basic question answered about whether the president had been seen by a Parkinson's specialist who was on the visitor logs as going to see his personal physician.

Here was a little bit of what Karine Jean-Pierre said in response to those questions.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: 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 log, I am not going to do that from here.


HUNT: Do you want an answer to those questions? They did put out a statement afterward, but she could not say when she was standing there. ROSE: Yes, I'm sure everybody to include Karine herself regrets that interview, right? There's really no issue here, as it pertains to the president's health, that doesn't require the ultimate form of transparency. By the way, though, that also applies to Donald Trump and his own health. We're not talking when it, you know, when it comes to him to a particularly young man or someone that would strike anybody as saine or consistent. So, I would certainly urge the White House to be transparent and not ever get back into that type of back- and-forth. And I think the fact that they put out a notice after that press conference shows that they agree with that sentiment.

But look, the - this whole notion that there's questions around whether or not Joe Biden is the nominee, that's going to go away in the next couple of days. I think even the most vociferous opponents of the president in Congress right now on the Democratic side agree that when Joe Biden is the settled nominee, they're going to get significantly behind him. And at that point, the attention has got to focus, refocus on the extraordinary liar, the fraud that is Donald Trump, and all the ways in which he is a danger to the values that we hold dear. And I suspect that at the conclusion of this week, the Democrats will be able to unify and refocus their messaging on that exact issue.

HUNT: Briefly, sir, do you really think its plausible that President Biden can now defeat Donald Trump in the fall?

ROSE: Absolutely it's plausible. And you know what - what's ironic in a way is, because the president's campaign was by no means perfect. What I've been thinking, up to par, in the run-up to the debates. And I think there's a good chance of what we're going to see in the coming months is a freewheeling Joe Biden who doesn't have the shackles of an overbearing campaign staff or White House staff, but is able to go direct to the people, say I don't need a, you know, quote/unquote elitist platforms of any type.


And you might see a campaign - I think you're likely to see a campaign that's even more successful.

HUNT: All right, former Congressman Max Rose, thanks very much for your time this morning. I really appreciate it.

ROSE: Thank you so much for having me.

HUNT: All right, I want to talk to the panel now about this. Democratic strategist James Carville arguing that it is only a matter of time before President Biden drops his re-election bid. Carville wrote this in "The New York Times," quote, "mark my words, Joe Biden is going to be out of the 2024 presidential race. Whether he is ready to admit it or not. We need to move forward. But it can't be by anointing Vice President Kamala Harris or anyone else as the presumptive Democratic nominee. We've got to do it out in the open - the exact opposite of what Donald Trump wants us to do."

The panel is back. Molly Ball, this does seem to be a little bit, you know, he says, well, the president's out, even if he doesn't know it. It's up to the president. And the president seems pretty damn dug in. Excuse my language.

BALL: He does. He does. And - and this is, you know, I think, as, you know, Democrats in the House and Senate meet today, there's going to be a lot of discussion about where to go from here because they had hoped that they could get to him subtly, you know, send messages where you sort of read between the lines. They're not saying anything they might regret later, but they're offering him a gentle nudge.

And it became clear over the past week that that was not going to work. That he was - that he is digging in. And, frankly, some people feel that he - he's being irresponsible in the way he seems to be putting the party at risk here. Whether it's by, you know, insisting on - not just insisting on staying on the ticket, but the, you know, the insults that he is lobbing at the people who are trying to get him to stay, the way that he's dividing the party potentially on class and racial lines by the arguments that he's making, these are potentially damaging, whichever way this turns out. Whether he is or is not the nominee come November. And so, potentially, this could be entering a very ugly phase because there are a lot of Democrats who are not ready to simply declare this episode over and get on board. But you do have a faction in the party that is saying, we do need to stop talking about this. And I just don't think it's going to go away anytime soon.

HUNT: I mean, and, honestly, Jonah, Democrats need anti-Trump Republicans as well to join with them if they want to win in November. And I - I just really struggled to see how they get over this.

GOLDBERG: I do too. I think it's a hot mess. I mean I don't - I don't - you know, there's - one of the reasons why the Republican Party was taken over by Donald Trump, and we're now seeing how like the Republican platform is just basically becoming a long Truth Social post. And one of the reasons why Joe Biden can be in there and stick it out, I think wildly irresponsibly, is because the parties are so unbelievably weak. We have strong partisanship in this country because we have weak parties that cannot police their own, that cannot think about their long-term value of their brand, their fiduciary obligations to all of their candidates. That cannot invest in the sort of decision-making and mechanisms that gives them control over how to run a campaign and an election. And this is what you get, is you get things reduced to fits of peak from two very old men who should have no - who should not be on the public stage anymore.

HUNT: Kate Bedingfield, just circle back to this Carville op-ed. Carville's obviously been on the stage quite a long time as well.


HUNT: Which he has been out there willing to say.


HUNT: He's like, I have no business running an election - a campaign anymore.

But, you know, you heard, I think, the president laughed yesterday when he was asked about David Axelrod's criticism, for example. How does something like this land in the White House??

BEDINGFIELD: I - look, the president is not going to be persuaded by that. We can argue about whether that's a good thing or not. We are arguing about whether that's a good thing or not.

But, you know, no, he's not going to - he's not going to take a look at that and say - and change his calculus. I think he believes he has a path to victory. I think based on the support that he has been able to generate in the Democratic Party, and the success that he had with moderate swing voters in 2020 shows that there is a path for him. He's got to work to get there. I think if the election were tomorrow, he'd be in a lot of trouble.

But I think he has a lot of work to do. I think he can do it. And I'm not sure that kind of a flight of fancy of fantasy football notion about how we should run this would - would be practical in the real- world.

HUNT: All right, fair enough.

All right, I want to leave you with this. A little palate cleanser.

Taylor Swift, and the Chiefs tight end, Travis Kelce, marking an era for them. One year ago this week Kelce went to see her concert at the Chiefs' home stadium in Kansas City with a friendship bracelet featuring his phone number. It's a story that he told on his brother, on their popular podcast.


TRAVIS KELCE, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS TIGHT END: I was disappointed that she doesn't talk before or after her shows because she has to save her voice for the 44 songs that she sings. So, I was a little butt-hurt I didn't get to hand her one of the bracelets I made for her.



HUNT: The misconnection eventually made its way to Swift. The rest is history. She became a fixture at his games, including the Chiefs' Super Bowl victory in February. And, of course, he's been a regular attendee at her Eras Tour shows, making an appearance as a backup dancer show in London just a few weeks ago. Fanning himself. Kelce's side gig may have to go on hiatus though. Training camp for his main job with the Chiefs begins in just a few weeks, while Swift's Eras Tour rolls on in Europe.

All right, thanks to our panel. Thanks to all of you for joining us. I'm Kasie Hunt. CNN NEWS CENTRAL starts right now.