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Erin Burnett Outfront

Biden In First TV Interview Since Debate: "It Was A Bad Episode"; China Ousts Defense Ministers As Xi Tries To Tighten Military Grip; These Americans Don't Have Power, A Brutal Reality In Severe Heat. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired July 05, 2024 - 19:00   ET




Breaking news, President Biden defiant, vowing to stay in the race no matter what, as he sits down for a new high stakes interview. We're going to play for you what Biden just told ABC News.

Plus, lawmakers turning on the president. Reports a top Senate Democrat is trying to recruit other senators to call on Biden to step aside. We have a Democratic lawmaker joining us live.

And we'll speak to a major Biden donor who tonight is still standing by the president, but he says the window is closing for Biden to turn things around.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. Welcome to a special edition of OUTFRONT. I'm Boris Sanchez, in for Erin Burnett.

Tonight, we start with breaking news. President Biden's make-or-break interview. We just got our first clip from Biden's highly anticipated interview with ABC. And in it, Biden speaks about his disastrous debate performance, which sparked serious concerns among members of his own party that he's not fit to serve another four years.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Let's start with the debate. You and your team said, have said you had a bad night, but your --


STEPHANOPOULOS: But your friend Nancy Pelosi actually frame the question I think is on the minds of millions of Americans, was this a bad episode with a sign of a more serious condition?

BIDEN: It's a bad episode, no indication of any serious condition. I was exhausted. I didn't listen to my instincts, in terms of preparing, and a bad night.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, you say you were exhausted and I know you said that before as well, but you came and you did have a tough month, but you came home from Europe about 11 or 12 days before the debate, spent six days in Camp David, why wasn't that enough rest time, enough recovery time?

BIDEN: Because I was sick. I was feeling terrible. A matter of fact, the doc is with me. I asked him, he did a COVID test, trying to figure out what's wrong. He did a test to see whether or not I had some infection, you know, virus. I didn't. It's just a really bad cold.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And did you ever watch the debate afterwards?

BIDEN: I don't think I did, no.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, what I'm trying-- what I want to get at is what were you experiencing as you're going through the debate, did you know how badly it was going?

BIDEN: Yeah, look. The whole way I prepared, nobody's fault, mine. Nobody's fault but mine. I -- I prepared what I usually would do, sitting down as I did come back with foreign leaders or National Security Council for explicit detail. And I realized -- about partway through that, you know, all -- I get quoted, "The New York Times" had me down at 10 points before the debate, nine now, or whatever the hell it is. The fact of the matter is, what I looked at is that he also lied 28 times. I couldn't -- I mean, the way the debate ran, not -- my fault, no one else's fault, no one else's fault.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it seemed like you were having trouble from the first question in, even before he spoke.

BIDEN: Well, I just had a bad night.


SANCHEZ: And today, Biden was defiant that he's not dropping out, repeating that message multiple times.


REPORTER: Are you going to drop out of the race, or are you completely ruling that out?

BIDEN: Completely ruling that out.


SANCHEZ: He echoed that at an energetic but short campaign rally in Wisconsin.


BIDEN: Well, guess what? They're trying to push me out on the race. Well, let me say this clearly as I can, I'm staying in a race. I'll beat Donald Trump. I will beat him again in 2020. By the way, we're going to do it again in 2024.


SANCHEZ: Despite this effort, a growing number of people do not want Biden in the race. You can see one person at Biden's rally with a sign, as he was walking in that says "pass the torch, Joe".

According to "The Washington Post", Democratic Senator Mark Warner is right now attempting to get a group of Democratic senators to ask President Biden to exit the race. You also have Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey now urging Biden to, quote, carefully evaluate whether he is the party's best chance to defeat Donald Trump.


Arlette Saenz is OUTFRONT live in Madison, Wisconsin, where the president was earlier today.

Arlette, what do you know about how Biden and those closest to him are viewing how this rally and this interview today went?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Biden himself, Boris, told reporters that he thought it was a good interview, but we will see whether it eventually accomplishes the goals that his advisers had hoped it would do.

Of course, Biden team had hoped that this interview, that this rally here today in Wisconsin will be part of the work to ease the concerns of voters who are worried that Biden may not be up for a second term in office. Of course, they're also looking to tamp down some of the very serious doubts from within top official, from top officials within his own party about him remaining on the top of the Democratic ticket. A come November.

Now, President Biden came here to Wisconsin, and was quite defiant, insisting that he would remain in this race and also saying that there are some in the party who wants to push him out, that he didn't say specifically who, but we know that there have been a public and private calls among Democratic officials for the president to consider stepping aside in this race.

Now, Biden's team was well aware of what a high stakes moments today would be with this campaign rally and also that interview. They know that every moment and the president's schedule that his words are closely dissected and watch as people are trying to ascertain whether Biden can, in fact, serve a second term in office. They are hoping that some of these public like messaging events, will really help turn the tide towards Biden, even as there are serious expressions of doubt within his party.

Now, I will note the president spoke here for about 15 minutes using a teleprompter. He then moved on and actually spoke without a teleprompter to an overflow crowd to campaign insist that there will be more unscripted moments like that, more for interviews, he will be conducting at a time when his allies have encouraged him to do that, to try to win over these voters.

But he is facing serious headwinds from within his own party about whether he should remain in the race.

SANCHEZ: Arlette Saenz, live for us in Madison, Wisconsin, thanks so much, Arlette.

Let's discuss now with our panel, starting with David Axelrod. David, I remember speaking to you last year when you express concerns about President Biden's mental acuity and his ability to run for reelection. Obviously, this is still in the moment.

We haven't seen the full interview, but I'm wondering from the clip that we saw from the speech earlier today, how far does this go and helping him regain the confidence of Democrats like yourself?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Of course, first of all, let me, let me clear up. I didn't say a year ago that I had questions about his mental acuity. I had questions about the wisdom of running for president when you're at 82 years old.

And I said at the time that my concerns were not political, but actuarial. I know what the presidency is. I know how crushing the job is. Every single person who serves their ages rapidly.

And if you start at a baseline of 78 which is, by the way, I guess with Donald Trump would be if he got elected, you know, you're going to run into problems and so, you know, I take no great pleasure in that having said that, where we are now.

And watching that interview, I found it poignant. I don't know that its going to relieve anyone to hear the president and explain what happened and it seemed a little disjointed as it -- not as disjointed as he was in the debate, but its still didn't seem like he had completely grasped what happened and why or why people are so concerned. The issue is not present, said the rally, you know, we're not going to let 90 bad minutes erase three-and-a-half years.

I'm one who believes Joe Biden has been a really fine president. I think he's done things that are historically important, but this isn't about that last four years. This is about the next four years. And people are making a judgment as to whether he is up for it.

There's nothing about that debate and, frankly, nothing about that brief clip, in the interview that would give people confidence.

SANCHEZ: Francesca Chambers, I want to replace some of the interview where Biden tries to reassure voters. Let's listen.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's start with the debate. You and your team said, have said you had a bad night. But your --

BIDEN: Sure did.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But your friend Nancy Pelosi actually framed the question that I think is on the minds of millions of Americans. Was this a bad episode or the sign of a more serious condition?

BIDEN: It was a bad episode. No indication of any serious condition. I was exhausted. I didn't listen to my instincts in terms of preparing and -- and a bad night.


SANCHEZ: Based on what you're hearing in real time, Francesca, do you think he's doing enough to slow down calls from Democrats to get out of the race?

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: Well, one Democrat who I spoke to resort before we saw that clip of him on ABC said that essentially they had stabilized the patient, stopped the bleed out, but he's still in critical condition.


And it wasn't just the interview that Democrats were looking to, to make a determination. It was a series of things including the town halls that they have said that they want to see, and the campaign has not said that they would schedule anything like that. It was the fact that they said they wanted to see him out in battleground states. The campaign said earlier today that all four principals, including him and the vice president, would be hitting every major battleground state in the month of July, but they didn't describe what that effort look like.

And so, Democrats still had questions regardless of the interview about what the next steps would look like. And they have said that while he still has some time here, that time is running out, and Biden maybe on borrowed time because members of Congress will be returning to Capitol Hill next week, and they will be pressed on this issue.

SANCHEZ: I want to play another exchange that Biden had about the debate. Let's listen.


STEPHANOPOULOS: And -- did you ever watch the debate afterwards?

BIDEN: I don't think I did, no.


SANCHEZ: Tim, is it a problem that he wasn't able to say whether or not definitively he watched the debate afterward?

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, of course, it's a problem. We've, of course, only seen clips of this interview. But as David noted, the president is not very fluid -- fluid in this interview. He actually loses his train of thought, at least in the clip that we heard.

There's a central contradiction here I think for Democrats and independents and never Trump Republicans -- if our country is facing the crisis, if our country is at a moment of decision for the future of our democracy and the rule of law at home and for deterring fascism and imperialism abroad, is that the moment to take a chance on someone however beloved who might sundown publicly in the four months that we have until the election?

I think -- I think if we are in the crisis that we say we are in, I believe we are -- is that not a reason to change horses and say, look, thank you, President Biden. You were the indispensable man in 2020, but unfortunately, and it's not your fault, time does this to people. You cannot be the indispensable man in 2024.

SANCHEZ: Scott, I think it's fair to say that for Republicans, you may want to see him actually do well in an interview like this because it would keep him in the race and the way that things are trending, it would benefit Republicans. Is that a fair assessment?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes. I mean, you want to just talk about it politically. I think it's probably better if Biden continues because he might be their weakest option at this point.

But honestly, Boris, after seeing this clip and again, I want to watch the whole thing at 8:00. I'm worried about the president. I think most Republicans look at this and say, you know, is he okay? And what's going on over at the White House? I'm worried about our country.

I mean, there's credible reporting today, apart from this interview tonight and apart from all the things we've seen, that the president's having trouble during the day acting independently, that there's three staffers in the White House who essentially take them around and tell him what to do during the course of the day.

This is extremely concerning. It ought to be concerning the Democrats and Republicans alike. In this interview, by the way, he said that he was exhausted. So, he said that fulfilling the duties of the office of the presidency made him too exhausted to perform one day on the campaign trail.

Now if I'm a Democrat and I'm looking at this situation right now, I'm thinking, is the commander in chief too exhausted by his official duties to lead my party into the election. I think were in a real crisis here because we don't know what's going on at the White House, we're worried about the president.

And I also think were in the middle of an unfolding scandal about the people who who've not been honest about the president's condition for the last three-and-a-half years. I don't know what's going to happen. It feels like the Biden family is very dug in and it seems like the president has dug in and he is on the brink I think of running a reelection campaign that ultimately will make his legacy this, he'll leave Donald Trump better and in a stronger position that he found him and that'll be a heck of a thing after 50 years in office for his legacy to be left that way.

SANCHEZ: David, I'm curious to get your response to Scott's view of Biden's potential legacy? AXELROD: Look, I think that for those who care about the president,

I'm sure his family does. But family advisers who are I think indulging, him here by telling him that there's a path forward I think that there's a terrible risk to this.


I do think that this is a -- this will define him if he moves forward.

He's had an extraordinary career. I worked with him in the White House. I enjoyed working with them in the White House. I think he was an enormous asset to President Obama. I think he's done some really great things as president, and he -- he routed Donald Trump from the White House, which was a great service to the country.

To give it back because he was told that he could win an election that is increasingly out of reach. I thought it was telling this week that Lara Trump, of all people, was standing up for Biden and saying she thought it would be in affront to democracy if Biden were removed from the ticket, leaving the irony of that aside, it tells you everything you need to know that the Trump campaign is trying to keep him in the race. That's something that he and his people should consider and ask why.

SANCHEZ: Francesca, I'm curious to get your thoughts on this effort by Democrats on Capitol Hill to sort through this, you have Hakeem Jeffries setting up this virtual meeting over the weekend and then you have reporting in "The Washington Post" that Mark Warner is trying to gather a group of senators to actually approach Biden to open up a discussion about him dropping out of the race.

CHAMBERS: Well, on this goes back to lawmakers coming back from recess next week when there'll be pressed on this issue, one reason that more lawmakers may not have spoken out about these Chinese because they haven't had to, they haven't had reporters walking up and asking to them on camera what they think about this. And that is something that's been raised to me by Democrats, that's something that's critical to watch over the next week.

One thing they have said that President Biden needs to do is stop anymore defections from taking place like the ones that we've seen, or even more Democrats, like Maura Healy raising questions about whether or not President Biden should potentially continue on in this race.

And so, that is absolutely something that Democrats are looking to over the next week, as well as donors. Whether there are any more donor defections.

SANCHEZ: And, Tim --

AXELROD: Boris, can I make a -- can I make an economic appoint about Wisconsin?


AXELROD: The one person who wasn't -- the one person who wasn't at the rally today was Senator Tammy Baldwin, who is engaged in a competitive race. She was somewhere else in the state and made a point of not being at this event.

The poll suggests that the president is now fallen behind in that state by more than five points. This -- he's going to see more and more of this, candidates who are in competitive races this is running away from him.

And so, you know, this is not on a good path and he needs to come to grips with this. I know he cares about the country, cares deeply about the threat that Trump represents, he needs to act on that.

SANCHEZ: And on the question of timing, Tim, how long do you think President Biden has to decide before its past the point of no return to potentially replace him as the nominee?

NAFTALI: The point of no return is the convention, but I want a dignified exit for this great public service, if that's the direction that we're all going in. He deserves a great exit. The presidents who have decided not to run again, all we're able to shape the way in which they shared this decision with the American people.

Harry Truman, LBJ, they both shaped it, found a way to describe the exit is something other than a defeat. Those who love President Biden, those who know him personally, should be working with him to create the circumstances for a beautiful, powerful and dignified exit.

The longer he waits, the harder it will be to achieve that.

SANCHEZ: Tim Naftali, Francesca Chambers, Scott Jennings, David Axelrod, great to have you on and get your perspective. Thanks.

AXELROD: Thank you.

JENNINGS: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: OUTFRONT next, our breaking news continues. New reporting just into CNN, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, now calling for a meeting with Democrats. I'll talk to a member of the House Democratic Committee, or rather conference, about their concerns.

Plus, our Dr. Sanjay Gupta says it's time for the president to undergo detailed cognitive testing and share the results. Why now? He joins us OUTFRONT.

And we'll speak to a major Biden donor who is still behind the president as major donors, including a Disney heir, are withholding their money until he steps aside.



SANCHEZ: Breaking news, CNN learning that House Democrats were on edge tonight, waiting to see President Biden's full interview with George Stephanopoulos. This as tonight, there are now four House Democrats calling on Biden to step aside.

Congressmen Mike Quigley, a Democrat from Illinois, just saying, the only thing Biden can do to, quote, prevent utter catastrophe is to step down and let someone else do this.

Sunlen Serfaty is OUTFRONT.

Sunlen, what are you hearing about how Democrats are now reacting?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Boris, very clear that the concern among House Democrats, especially is only intensifying tonight. They are growing in numbers, as you noted at the top. We now have four House Democrats, four House members that have officially called for President Biden to step aside and get out as the Democratic Party nominee.


You heard -- you read the part of Congressmen Mike Quigley's statement. They are tonight acknowledging that his legacy is set. But interestingly, in this statement, Boris, Quigley says, you owe, you owe a great debt of debt, gratitude. And the only thing you can do now to cement that for all time and prevent utter catastrophe is to step two down and let someone else do this.

So that's certainly an interesting comment coming from the congressman. We also heard from Congressmen Seth Moulton, who officially in an interview with WBUR called for Biden to step aside. He says, quote, President Biden has done enormous service for our country, but now is the time for him to follow in one of our Founding Fathers George Washington's footsteps and step aside to let new leaders rise up and run against Donald Trump.

And we know, according to more and more members, sources telling us behind the scenes that they are expressing grave concerns about President Biden, his viability going forward in this race. And that potentially could only grow throughout the weekend. Now on Sunday will be a critical moment for House Democrats, Leader Hakeem Jeffries, he is called a conference call, a virtual meeting with many of the top Democrats in the committee, ranking members of all the committees to talk about the path going forward.

And we know these conversations are being had between members and staff members. These members have been back to their home districts. They've been talking to constituents. They've been working the phones with their colleagues. All of that is going to change when they get back to D.C., not only House members, but Senate members who have their concerns two and our privately expressing this, they are going to be meeting, they're going to be talking to reporters and it was quite clear that the concerns bins are still rampant at this moment. So consequential moment for Biden, consequential moment for those on the Hill, especially as House Democrats quest to retake the House in November.

The political reality of this moment for Joe Biden on the Hill, Boris, is that is a very tough hill to climb with them. SANCHEZ: Sunlen Serfaty, thanks so much for that update.

OUTFRONT now, Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman from California.

Congressman, thank you so much for being with us this evening.

Congressman Quigley, your colleague, just became the fourth Democrat calling for President Biden to step aside. Let's listen to what he had to say.


REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): I say, Mr. President, your legacy is set. We owe you the greatest debt of gratitude. The only thing that you can do now to cement that for all time and prevent other catastrophe is to step down and let someone else do this.


SANCHEZ: Congressman that sound comes after the clips of President Biden's interview with ABC.

Do you believe that Joe Biden is still your party's best shot to win in November?

REP. BRAD SHERMAN (D-CA): I think that we need to test Biden further. The first test well see in just a few minutes is his 20-minute edited taped interview with Stephanopoulos. I think we need to see an extended live interview, and see whether Biden passes that test.

And what matters is not what members of Congress say. What matters is what the delegates say, and the delegates are a group of activists who are all pro-Biden. They're a loyal to Biden as matter of fact, if you wanted to be a delegate pledged to Biden and Biden camp didn't think you were loyal to him, they could cross you off the list and put in somebody else.

So this is a pro-Biden group of roughly 4,000 delegates. They need to be convinced. They need to see the interview in a few minutes. But I think they need more.

SANCHEZ: It sounds like you are preparing for a potential group of delegates to dissent at the convention if President Biden stays on, otherwise, I don't think you would be pointing that out. Is that fair to say?

SHERMAN: I would hope for the opposite. I would hope that he does a extended live interview and that all you're talking heads on CNN said, by God, he did a great job.

So I think we need another test. And I and I don't think it'll be a small group of dissidents one way or the other. I think all 4,000 delegates will tend to move in one direction or the other based on what they see from this president. The first step is tonight, but the second step is a longer and live interview. SANCHEZ: I'm curious about how you feel regarding the campaign and the

White House's approach to this because its now been more than a week since that debate performance. And this is the first television interview that president has done.

Do you think he should have come out sooner and more aggressively?

SHERMAN: He did an effective job just the day after the debate with the rally in North Carolina.

SANCHEZ: That was in a teleprompter.


SHERMAN: That is -- it's a different skill and speaking to a rally is different from an interview or debate. That's why we need the extended interview, to see whether that important part of the test can be passed.


But I'd seen him work hard, and I'd seen him work a rope line for an hour or an hour-and-a-half. This is -- this is a man who may very well be able to give us another great for years. But we ought to see a live interview and extended interview.

SANCHEZ: Congressman, if President Biden stays in the race, and Democrats lose the White House and they lose control both chambers of Congress, what do you think Joe Biden's legacy would be?

SHERMAN: Look, it's not good to lose. On the other hand, there's no assurance that any other mechanism is going to win I like to see what Joe Biden can do in an extended interview. And he may be our best candidate. He's the only person to ever beat Donald Trump and that's why I -- you know, Biden had a bad night. Trump has led a bad life and I'm not willing to have just one 90-minute debates decide this. I want to see he's tested again.

SANCHEZ: Congressman Sherman, we have to leave the conversation there. Thanks for sharing your evening with us.

SHERMAN: Good to be with you.

SANCHEZ: OUTFRONT next, Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us on why he says its time for Biden to undergo detailed cognitive testing.

Plus, more Biden donors calling for the president to step aside. We're going to speak with one supporter who still has his back though he is issuing a warning tonight.



SANCHEZ: Breaking news, President Biden going into greater detail about his health leading up to his disastrous debate performance last week.

Listen to this.


BIDEN: I was sick. I was feeling terrible. Matter of fact, the docs with me, I asked if they did a COVID test because they're trying to figure out what was wrong. They did a test to see whether or not I had some infection, you know, a virus. I didn't. I just had a really bad cold.


SANCHEZ: This as the White House now says Biden recently had a, quote, verbal check-in with his doctor about that cold after repeatedly saying Biden has had no medical exams since his annual physical in February.

OUTFRONT now, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent.

Sanjay, what was your reaction to that moment from Biden?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think there's two things. First of all, I -- someone who has a viral illness, a cold even, that can cause someone to have brain fog. That can cause someone to, especially someone who's older. It can affect them in some of the ways that we saw during that debate.

But at the same time, Boris, I was just -- one minute of a clip, so it's very hard to really read into that anymore in terms of how it compares now, compared to what we saw during the debate. That was a much longer episode of seeing some of the symptoms that you and I've been talking about throughout the day.

SANCHEZ: And to that point, Sanjay, you're saying that now is the time for Biden to undergo detailed cognitive testing to share the results with the public. What specifically have you been seeing from Biden over the last few days and the debate that made you feel he needs to do that?

GUPTA: Well, it was really -- it was really the debate. I mean, I don't think that there was anything, frankly, new there. I think there's been these episodes of people have seen in the past. But I think it was more pronounced during the debate. And I think it was very sustained for a long period of time, specifically, and there was all these different neuro docs who are calling me and texts me and emailing me about this.

I think that some of the specific symptoms, the halting speech, sort of the rambling, sometimes it was confused rambling, but also just the voice volume, just speaking very softly and reduced facial movements.

Again, he said he had a cold. Could a cold account for some of these things? Yeah, and nobody is saying that these particular signs are diagnostic of anything. But I think what a lot of people have suggested and I think makes sense is that he should get a cognitive exam. It would sort of later rest this site -- this question, are these just episodes or is this some sort of underlying condition that could be diagnosed and potentially treated.

By the way, I should point out that in the United States, anyone over the age of 65 is supposed to get a cognitive exam as part of their annual wellness check. That's supposed to happen. It doesn't often happen. It takes a while to actually do these types of exams.

But that is sort of standard recommendation for anyone over the age of 65. So it wouldn't be that out of sorts to have had that done. But according to the White House, President Biden has not had a cognitive exam and his doctors have never recommended one.

SANCHEZ: If he were to take one, what would you be looking for? What would be the most important things that you would identify and what would they tell you?

GUPTA: Yeah, so these types of -- this type of testing is pretty involved. You're looking at cognition, but you're also looking at the overall metabolic health. You're seeing what the impact of physical health is on the brain.

You're talking to family members. You're doing extensive physical exams. But what you're really ultimately trying to get at is how is the person doing in terms of processing speed? How are they in terms of their executive judgment? And how are they doing in terms of memory?

But I get -- I think getting back to this crucial point, everybody has bad days, time to time, no matter your age. Frankly, everyone has bad days and they could be exacerbated by a for night sleep by low blood sugar by a viral illness.

So the real question is, when you do these types of testing, are you finding things that are indicative of a more long-lasting condition of some sort. And this isn't to malign or embarrass. It's more to say, hey, look, there's something going on here, something that could potentially be treated or addressed.


SANCHEZ: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, always appreciate the insight.

GUPTA: You've got it. Thanks, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Thanks.

OUTFRONT now, Charles Myers, a major Biden donor.

Charles, thanks so much for being with us.

You are still behind President Biden, but you said that the window for him to turn this around is shrinking. How critical do you think this interview is in the next 24 to 48 hours are for his campaign?

CHARLES MYERS, DEMOCRATIC DONOR: Well, I think the interview is very important because the American people need to see the president unscripted, answering questions and to show, or to see if he is alert and capable not only of running the rest of this campaign, but continuing think to run the country for another four years.

So I do think it's important. I think also he's out on the campaign trail. Wisconsin on his way to Pennsylvania, seeing him on the campaign trail also matters.

I think they've got about a week to turn this around. I know they're working very hard to do that.

SANCHEZ: From what we've seen so far in the interview, what did you think?

MYERS: Look, he sounds good. You know, I think -- I haven't seen a lot of it because ready to come on air, frankly, but I look forward to watching the whole thing and I'm guessing that he's going to look and sound pretty strong.

SANCHEZ: I'm also wondering what you think about what we just heard from Sanjay. Do you think the president needs to take a cognitive test and then release the results to reassure the American people that he's up to the job? And another potential for years like, I think a lot of people call for that. I think perhaps if we hold every politician to that standard, then yes. But I don't think its going to happen.

So, you know, instead, you know, as I've been saying, you know, we're in a full force political hurricane in this country where you have a sitting president who just won the primary and people, in his own party and donors calling for him to step aside. It's unprecedented, and I think its a bit unfair. I think he should be given the opportunity test or not. I think he should be given the opportunity as any elected official in the world would do after a stumble to try to turn this around.

And I'm buying them as long as he's trying.

SANCHEZ: So that question of donors, there was a major Democratic donor, an heir to the Disney fortune, Abigail Disney, that issued this ultimatum to Democrats. She said, quote, I intend to stop any contributions to the party unless and until they replace Biden at the top of the ticket.

How seriously do you think this kind of message is taken in Biden world? How does the Biden campaign see that kind of threat?

MYERS: Well, you know, Boris, I always say this as a donor as well, I think because most donors tend to be, you know, pretty successful people, they tend to overestimate their importance and their influence on both sides. You know, there are a handful of donors that have spoken up very publicly, including the person you just mentioned, that are calling for the Biden -- President Biden to step aside.

But the truth is the Biden campaign is in absolute damage control mode. I don't think that focused on what a handful of donors are saying. The truth is actually one of the other big donors that's putting together a PAC to support someone else, never supported Biden. Actually, in the primary supported Dean Phillips.

So again, I think it's a handful -- most donors or sticking with the president for now to see if he can turn it around. Secondly, by the way, what a lot of donors aren't spending enough time on is what is plan B, right? A lot of donors and I'd argue a lot of Democrats who want the president to step aside or engaged in the political version of fantasy football, you know, coming up with all sorts of creative combinations. Michelle Obama with all sorts of people.

The truth is, the plan B is Kamala Harris and we need to focus on that if the president steps aside. In the meantime, let's give him a chance and some room to turn this around.

SANCHEZ: Charles Myers, we appreciate you joining us.

MYERS: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: OUTFRONT next, former defense ministers, senior generals, and other executives, all purged from China's communist party. What's going on with the largest military in the world?

And will take you to one community it has absolutely no escape from the deadly heatwaves that are suffocating the southwest.

We'll be right back.



SANCHEZ: Tonight, China gaming out how to blockade Taiwan with just drones. And it's likely not a coincidence as the U.S. is developing its own plan to send thousands of drones to the Taiwan Strait to fend off a possible attack by China.

But is China's military even capable of what it claims?

Will Ripley has a story you'll see first on OUTFRONT.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): China's People's Liberation Army under strongman leader Xi Jinping projects power, pouring billions to rapid-fire military modernization, some say the worlds biggest build-up in a century.

The dramatic downfall of two former defense ministers purged from China's communist party for alleged corruption, along with about a dozen other high-ranking officials, has some wondering just how bad already the PLA really is.

Li Shangfu and Wei Fenghe also stripped of their rank as senior generals, seriously polluted the political and industrial atmosphere in the field of military equipment, Chinese state media says, calling their actions extremely serious, both handpicked by Xi himself.

ANDREW YANG, FORMER TAIWAN DEFENSE MINISTER: The armed forces, the PLA, has to be very loyal to the communist party.

RIPLEY: Loyalty and corruption widespread in the Chinese military says Taiwan's former defense minister Andrew Yang.


YANG: I would say it's really built into the communist party system, therefore, he has to introduce a very heavy punishments.

RIPLEY: The latest bombshells exposing the limits of Xi's anti- corruption campaign, both disgrace defense ministers linked to Chinas elite rocket force.

PETER LAYTON, VISITING FELLOW, GRIFFITH UNIVERSITY ASIA INSTITUTES: This will not be helping them from a war fighting viewpoint.

RIPLEY: Longtime Asia analyst Peter Layton says, systemic corruption challenges Chinas ambition to grow into a world-class military power in a matter of years.

LAYTON: He's constantly pushing it to get, to get better and better. As you say, to be able to fight wars and to win wars.

RIPLEY: From the South China Sea to Democratic Taiwan to Cuba, where CSIS says China may be expanding spy bases less than 100 miles from the Florida coast, China calling that pure fantasy, saying that basis never existed. The U.S. and the world are watching closely.


RIPLEY (on camera): Watching, not just China's military moves, but also the fallout from this latest scandal, Boris. Li and Wei, like most generals dismissed or disappeared in the last year, have been linked to the rocket force or military equipment. And earlier this year, the vice chair of China's central military commission talked about cracking down on what he called fake combat capabilities, raising questions about the rockets and equipment they were purchasing. Could Boris trying to actually be signaling that they're not ready for war?

SANCHEZ: Yeah, an important question.

Will Ripley, thank you so much for that report.

OUTFRONT next, imagine having to endure 110 degree temperatures with no electricity. It's a reality for many in one community here in the United States. A special report, straight ahead.



SANCHEZ: Tonight, a sweltering heat and no air conditioning. It's the reality for one of the poorest places in the country.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Allen Bryant watches a power lines crew with curiosity and wonder. For 70 years, he's lived on this patch of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico without electricity.

It seems like a life changing moment for you.

ALLEN BRYANT, NAVAJO NATION RESIDENT: Yes, it is. It's going to be real good.

LAVANDERA: His family's home will soon be connected to the power grid. That means air conditioning and a refrigerator. And it comes as the summer heat intensifies.

BRYANT: Yeah. Yeah. It's getting hot and hot and hot, drier and drier.

LAVANDERA: Right. And that's dangerous.

BRYANT: Yeah. The sun comes down, it's like, right first.

LAVANDERA: This summer power line crews have planted 55 polls stretching along four miles through this rugged landscape. The work is part of a non-profit partnership known as Light Up Navajo. The goal is to bring power to 13,000 families who live without electricity in one of the poorest places in the country.

The crews come from 46 different power utility companies in 16 states. This group of linemen signed up for this assignment and as the planet gets warmer, they sensed the urgency of their mission.

JOE TSETHLIKAI, JOURNEYMAN LINEMAN, TRICO ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE: To me, it's just some thinkable that here, we're the greatest country in the world than we have Americans are living without power, water, all that.

BRYAN ENGLISH, CREW FOREMAN, TRICO ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE: It's crazy that still happens in America in 2024.

LAVANDERA: So, well, you're less than 24 hours away from getting electricity at your house?


LAVANDERA: This is William Tom's last night living without power. Tomorrow, crews will connect his home to the newly installed power lines reaching his house.

He's lived here 15 years and often slept outside because it's cooler.

Did you ever get frustrated? Did you ever think, yeah, this is a hard way to live?

TOM: Yeah, of course. You know, there's frustration.

LAVANDERA: This summer though, will feel different with a flip of a switch.

TOM: When you're ready, ready. Here we go there we go. All right, Yeah, the lights, it's pretty good.

LAVANDERA: Light bulbs working.

TOM: Yeah. Yeah. Light bulbs working.

LAVANDERA: Now you can go buy an air conditioning unit?

TOM: I need to, I need to, yes, I do.

LAVANDERA: The Light Up Navajo Project started in 2019, almost 850 homes have been connected to the power grid.

Navajo Nation is roughly the size of West Virginia with home spread out across rugged and isolated terrain. It will likely take decades to finish the project.

While one family celebrates, it's a reminder that thousands of others remained disconnected, left struggling through the painful summers.

Arlene Henry's house has a small solar panel that provides a few hours of electricity. But her son needs around the clock oxygen. They use their car as a power source.

And you'll come here just to cool off?

ARLENE HENRY, NAVAJO NATION RESIDENT: Yeah. Cool off in here, too, that's where our AC.

LAVANDERA: She's lived like this for 56 years.

HENRY: Yeah, it wears us out. Yeah. It's too hot. It's scary. Right now, it's too hot in there.

LAVANDERA: Yeah, because it's almost -- almost 100 degrees today?

HENRY: Yeah, I get scared. I'm scared for my son. It's too hot. I wish we have electricity.

LAVANDERA: It's not clear when the Light Up Navajo initiative will reach Arlene's home. Until then, her family will find refuge from the heat by chasing the shade cast by their home as the sun passes over.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, the Navajo Nation in New Mexico.


SANCHEZ: Our thanks to Ed for that report and to you for sharing your evening with us.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Jim Sciutto starts right.