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Defiant Biden Tells Democratic Lawmakers He Won't Quit Race; Potential VP Picks On Whether Trump Would Seek Revenge; Left-Wing Alliances Stages Stunning Upset In French Election. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 08, 2024 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Joe Biden's strong message to lawmakers and the country this morning that he is staying in the race comes as private calls grow among congressional Democrats for him to step aside. Now Biden's argument for sticking with it is that he checked in with the base and they still want him on the ticket.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've gone over the country for several reasons. One, to make sure my instinct was right about the party still wanting me to be the nominee. And all the data, all the data shows that the average Democrat out there who voted, 14 million of them that voted for me, still want me to be the nominee.


BASH: Joining me now is Massachusetts Congressman Jake Auchincloss -- Auchincloss, forgive me, I said it right before. Thank you for being here. I know you just flew in from your district in Massachusetts. What are you hearing from your constituents? I know you spent the week there, of course. It was July 4th recess.

REP. JAKE AUCHINCLOSS (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The president is right that 14 million Democrats, including many in Massachusetts, voted for him to be the Democratic nominee and they knew he was old and that he wasn't getting any younger. He's not Benjamin Button.

And so the party should walk humbly in asserting any will contrary to the will of the voters. I do think there are concerns. There are concerns about the debate performance. There are concerns about his ability to beat Donald Trump in what is an existential election in November.

And ultimately, while there's going to be a lot of focus on Beltway conversations this week, there's going to be a dynamic discussion in the House Democratic Caucus. The opinion that really matters right now is Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, where the president is in worse shape right now than he was four years ago. We, as a party, have to acknowledge that. And we need to make a strong case collectively with unity about how we are going to outperform current expectations. And ultimately, I don't think it's a question of who is the best Democratic candidate. The answer to that is that Donald Trump is the best chance we have of beating Donald Trump because he is historically unpopular.

And voters do not like his agenda for Project 2025, where we're going to see undermining civil military relations, where we're going to see the politicization of basic services and attack on women's reproductive health care. That is the case that we have to make as a party.

BASH: Well, you talk about the Beltway conversations. You know, what some of your colleagues have rightfully said to me is, particularly in the House, what you are doing is representing your 750,000 constituents or so. And so if you were to listen to your constituents, your Democratic constituents, what would they be -- what would you be telling the president based on what they told you?


AUCHINCLOSS: That the most important thing is not the indispensability of any one individual, but the criticality of beating Donald Trump. And that whatever the party decides, we should do it productively, collectively, with unity. And we should do it in a compelling fashion that can put a strong and sharp contrast in front of voters on, in particular, the rule of law.

Because the GOP is claiming that they're the party of law and order, and yet they're trying to surge machine guns onto our streets. They're trying to defund the FBI. They're nominating a convicted felon. Democrats have a strong case to make on law and order, but we have to make it in a sharp fashion.

BASH: And do you still feel confident that Joe Biden is the right man at the top of the ticket to make the arguments you just made?

AUCHINCLOSS: 14 million voters in a free and open election had confidence in Joe Biden. Joe Biden has confidence in Joe Biden. And the opinion that we have to focus on now as a party is Pennsylvania, and Michigan, and Wisconsin, and the voters there. And that is what we have to be discussing this week in the House Democratic Caucus. And I've got great confidence that Hakeem Jeffries can moderate that discussion.

BASH: Clearly, what the White House, the Biden campaign were trying to do with the president's interview this morning, the letter that -- the lengthy letter that he wrote to you and your fellow House Democrats was to just shut down any more talk of him stepping aside, particularly before you all actually go back to work later today. Do you think that the president's effort this morning will pay off? Will it work?

AUCHINCLOSS: Well, Democrats aren't Republicans. Republicans have become a cult of personality that Donald Trump says jump and they say how high, and it's led them off a cliff, a constitutional cliff. Democrats want to engage in discussion about the future of our country, about the right ticket to lead us forward. And so I think that that's going to be a productive two-way dialogue.

What -- regardless of the outcome, what's not going to change is that this is going to be a team sport going forward. The Democratic Party has such talent on its bench. We've got Pete Buttigieg out there making a case on infrastructure and the economy.

Kamala Harris on law and order and reproductive rights. Gina Raimondo on manufacturing and outcompeting China. We want all of them out there playing to their strengths and playing to the Democratic Party's vision.

BASH: One of the things that I know that you and others have said is that you really want the president to get outside of his bubble as he continues to talk to voters and also get a sense of what he needs to do in order to beat Donald Trump. Do you think that that is something that he is doing more of or that he does continue to need to do more of?

AUCHINCLOSS: I mean, certainly --

BASH: And when I say bubble, I mean every president's in a bubble.


BASH: Of course, but he's a very, very small inner circle of people.

AUCHINCLOSS: I understand. I think less important than the stagecraft is the statecraft. And this NATO summit, I understand some are saying it's ill-timed. I actually think it's well-timed for the president because of all the many reasons why I think he's going to be ranked in the top 10 in terms of presidential terms, his foreign policy is a cardinal one.

Rallying NATO to the defense of Ukraine, rallying Indo-Pacific allies like South Korea and Japan and Australia to counter Chinese belligerence, engaging with the global south productively. He's got a lot of success in his foreign policy domain, and this is going to accentuate that.

BASH: I'm glad you brought that up. Real quick, The Times, The New York Times reported recently and The Post about concerns from European officials, specifically about the NATO summit that's going to be here in Washington this week about President Biden's ability to represent America's interests. Do you have any of those concerns?

AUCHINCLOSS: Not at all. And these diplomats should focus on geopolitics and less so on domestic politics. Joe Biden has been one of the most successful foreign policy presidents of modern history. And the alternative is Donald Trump, who -- and Helsinki in 2018 supplicated himself in front of Vladimir Putin in a manner that two former Republican nominees themselves said was embarrassing. He wants to hand back Ukraine to Russia. So there is no choice here. BASH: Last quick question. Once again, this morning, the president sidestepped questions, pretty much declined a question about whether he would take some kind of cognitive test or release real deep records about his medical situation. Do you want him to do that?

AUCHINCLOSS: I think all presidential candidates should undergo neurological and medical testing that they make available to the public, and that is done independently. Just like presidential candidates release or should release tax returns, they should do similarly for medical information that's pertinent to their ability to perform the job. Presidents don't get privacy.

BASH: OK. Thank you, Congressman. Appreciate it. Nice to see you in person.


BASH: Coming up, jailing political enemies. Donald Trump has made it clear that is what he wants in a second term. What do his top VP picks, at least the choices that he is deciding upon? Think about that. That's next.



BASH: Donald Trump has repeatedly promised that if reelected, he'll appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Joe Biden. He's repeatedly said that members of the House January 6th Committee should be in jail and just last week promoted a social media post calling for Liz Cheney to face a military tribunal.

I want to play you part of an exchange I had about the notion of Trump exacting retribution on his opponents with Senator Marco Rubio. We talked yesterday on State of the Union.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: They're the ones that have been going after their political opponents. Donald Trump has been the one that's been very clear that his vengeance is going to be by winning and making America great again, not going after his political opponents.

He was president for four years. He didn't go after Hillary Clinton. He didn't go after Joe Biden. He didn't go after Barack Obama. He didn't go after any other consultant.

BASH: So you feel comfortable. You're telling me right now --

RUBIO: We didn't see under him what we're seeing now.


BASH: You're telling me right now that a second Trump administration would not go after any Democrats, any of his political opponents, full stop. You can -- you've confidence that that wouldn't happen? RUBIO: Yes.


BASH: Another finalist to be Trump's running mate had a slightly different take.


SEN. J.D. VANCE (R), OHIO: I think Donald Trump saying, look, let's do the basic work of investigating wrongdoing is a totally reasonable thing for him to do. And frankly, the Biden administration has done far worse. I would absolutely support investigating prior wrongdoing by our government. Absolutely. That's what you have to have in a system of law and order.


BASH: And my panel is back here. You know, it's kind of amazing that these are the conversations that we're having with the people who are on the shortlist to be his running mate, but it's important because, yes, on the debate stage, he claimed that he wasn't going to do it. But everywhere else in various forms, he has.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And hence the problem of being Donald Trump's running mate, because you have to support his position, even as out there as it is, even as controversial as it is, even as they disagrees with a key principle like abortion, as we talked about in the previous segment. And Marco Rubio, not on the same page with Trump, but said this is Trump's position. So that's very clear.

I mean, Republicans have tried to investigate Joe Biden since the beginning of this Congress. They had hoped to be impeaching Joe Biden from right about now, but they have not found any evidence of any criminality or wrongdoing as relates to his son's business dealings. So what would I assume Trump will try to go after him, but what will they actually prove, that's not a question.

BASH: Well, OK, so I might have misspoken a little bit because I was talking more about Joe Biden when I was referring to what Trump said on the debate stage. Listen to what he said about those who served on the January 6th select committee.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The unselect committee, which is basically two horrible Republicans that are all gone now out of office and Democrats, all Democrats, they destroyed and deleted all of the information they found because they found out we were right. We were right.

And they deleted and destroyed all of the information. They should go to jail for that. If a Republican did that, they'd go to jail.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I mean, this is the issue that the Biden team would like to be talking about the most. They want to be constantly talking about how Donald Trump is reckless, is dangerous, is a threat to all democratic norms and wanted that to be a standout moment from the debate last month. And instead, they've spent the last 10 days questioning whether President Biden is even going to remain in the race.

And by the way, I mean, we're not even going to remember this at this point, but when the Biden campaign was doing their best to spin the results of the debate the night of, this was one of the issues, the January 6th issue.

The issue of Donald Trump making these kinds of threats was one of the issues that the campaign did say fared the best, was among the best moments for the president. But, of course, again, we've not spent really any time talking about that because his performance was so terrible.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR & CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT: Can I make a couple points here about why this moment for the former president is very different than in 2016 or even during his four years in office, where he was repeatedly, despite what Marco Rubio said, he repeatedly raised in private meetings, according to multiple people I spoke to, the potential prosecution of Hillary Clinton.

He repeatedly raised the potential prosecution of John Kerry. He repeatedly raised the potential prosecution of James Clapper and other intelligence officials. So he did actually raise this. But he had people there who said, can't do that. We don't mess with the Justice Department. They're quasi-independent.

We have a counsel's office --

BASH: Until the end when you totally mess with the Justice Department.

MATTINGLY: Right. Here's what's different now. Those people have all been cast aside. Those people have all been cast out. There are no longer the John Kellys or the Rex Tillersons or the Rod Rosensteins that would be in a second Trump term.

That's because the Trump folks say they're not loyal, they weren't pursuing what the president wanted to do, they have every right to say that. They have made clear inside the Trump operation and his surrounding allies that the Justice Department is not an independent agency, something the Supreme Court seemed to justify with their immunity decision.

BASH: That's right.

MATTINGLY: And so you have allies that will do what the president says and believes what the president is saying on these specific issues. A Justice Department that would not try to have some type of separation or independence. And you have structural, I think, proposals out there, including trying to go after civil service, trying to make it much easier to fire civil servants, intelligence officials as well, that are not just the former president tweeting.

They are actual policy proposals being put together by a team. He can do what he's saying. Whether he follows through or not, we'll see. But he tried to. And now he'll actually have the policy and the people to do it in a second term.

BASH: See, this is why I like talking to reporters, because they give information that they actually hear and have heard over the years from sources. And you three are amazing reporters. Eva, too. Thank you. Thank you all.


A political shocker in France. An alliance of left-wing parties wins the most seats in parliament, defying most predictions that the far- right would seize control. We'll talk about that next.


BASH: That was the scene in Paris last night after a stunning election upset. French voters rejected a far-right majority in favor of a surge on the left. But no single party got even close to the majority needed to form an actual government, which means France is likely heading toward political gridlock.

CNN's Melissa Bell is live in Paris. Melissa, welcome to the club.

MELISSA BELL, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Dana. This is now spread to the other side of the Atlantic. And that political gridlock that you're talking about could last some time.


In fact, we've just heard from a source close to the French president that it is unclear whether or not France is going to have a government in time for the Olympics. You can see there the sign outside the French National Assembly, the French Parliament. A reminder that we are 18 days away from that opening ceremony and that it is possible that France has no government by the time it begins.

Now, it is -- you mentioned those scenes of jubilation across Paris yesterday. It was, of course, a huge relief for vast parts of the country, specifically those that went out and voted tactically to keep the far-right out of power, that that left-wing alliance that was cobbled together at the last minute really less than a month ago in order to keep them out should have functioned, that that alliance should have managed to keep the far-right out of power.

But now, of course, the question becomes who governs France? And that isn't immediately obvious because that left-wing alliance that won the day yesterday is made up of very strange bedfellows who don't happily sit together. The question of how these very disparate parties are going to decide agree on what single candidate should put forward to be the next prime minister, extremely complicated at this stage and very difficult to foresee. In the meantime, the current prime minister is staying on in a caretaker capacity. But the question of how this parliament can be any better for the French president than the last one was being not just more divided than it was, but with the extremes stronger than they were. That extremely unclear for the time being, Dana.

BASH: Absolutely, absolutely fascinating. Melissa, thank you so much for breaking it all down for us.

And thank you for joining Inside Politics. CNN News Central starts after a break.