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5 Killed, 2 Children Injured In Philadelphia Shooting; Israeli Military: Forces Leaving Jenin Camp Tonight; Russia: 5 Ukrainian Drones Downed Near Moscow; Putin Reassures Allies At First Summit Since Revolt; Pence Campaigns In Iowa As Some GOP Rivals Focus On NH. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired July 04, 2023 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN HOST: Happening now, we are standing by for President Joe Biden to address active duty military families gathered at the White House for a holiday barbecue ahead of tonight's July 4th celebrations here in the nation's capital. We will go there live.
Also tonight, a pair of mass shootings interrupting the festivities in two major U.S. cities. A gunman in Philadelphia accused of killing five and injuring two children. One of the victims just two years old. And just hours later in Texas, three people were shot and killed in a Fort Worth parking lot. We'll get the latest on the investigation.
Plus, in Israel, eight people are injured after a man rammed a pickup truck into a crowd of people gathered near a Tel Aviv shopping center. Police say the man then jumped out of his vehicle and began stabbing people before being killed by an armed civilian.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Alex Marquardt. And this is a Situation Room special reporting.
We are standing by to hear from President Biden at the White House. He is scheduled to speak at any moment now as he and the First Lady host military families for a July 4th barbecue. We will be bringing you his remarks as soon as they begin. But as we wait, let's bring in CNN's Jeremy Diamond who is live for us at the White House.
So, Jeremy, what are we expecting from the President's remarks?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alex, President Biden and the First Lady hosting a barbecue for military families here. We're expecting the President to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Force's desegregation, as well as the integration of women. And you can hear behind me, it sounds like the President is indeed coming out.
He will also be honoring the 50th anniversary of the all-volunteer force, Alex. And beyond that, we're going to hear the President hit on some familiar themes, talking about democracy, talking about the fact that that is something that is not guaranteed, but something that we have to fight for. And the President also expected to touch on the notion that the work that remains to unify the country and to live up to the founding ideals of this country, including that notion that all men and women are created equal.
And Alex, you can hear President Biden now arriving behind me alongside the First Lady. I'm going to let you listen into their remarks. Alex.
MARQUARDT: All right, let's take a listen there to the President, who's arriving up on the stage with the Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin.
JOHN BARKEMEYER, U.S. ARMY CHAPLAIN: And let us pray. Almighty God, as we celebrate the birth of our nation, may we never take the freedoms we enjoy today for granted. We are mindful of the countless men and women in uniform who have given their lives so that we can live as a free people. Help us to live always in your light, so that the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness enshrined in our declaration of independence may inspire us to work toward creating a more perfect union each and every day of our lives. Bless the men and women in our military and their family members who regularly make sacrifices in order to serve our country.
And for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, grant them a place in your kingdom where they may know peace and joy in your presence for all eternity. We make this prayer in your holy name. Amen.
And now it is my honor to introduce the First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden.
JILL BIDEN, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. Thank you, Chaplain Barkemeyer. And thank you to the USO for helping to make this event so special and for being such a great partner to my White House Joining Forces initiative that supports military and veteran families, caregivers and survivors. Secretary Austin, Charlene, my fellow military families, welcome to the White House.
All across the country and the bases around the world, people are gathering with family and friends to celebrate the birth of our nation. But even as we laugh with our neighbors and enjoy the parades and cookouts and fireworks, we can never lose sight of the freedoms that this day represents or the families who make that freedom possible. Families like all of you. You are the brave and the bold and the nearly 1 percent of Americans who have made the choice to keep us all safe. You miss births and birthdays, graduation and weddings because you choose to put our country security above your own.
And you're, the spouses and children who serve as well, saying goodbye to friends and jobs, losing sleep when your service member is away, putting your chin up and your shoulders back, no matter what this country asks of you. We are so grateful for all that you do. And our thoughts are with those serving overseas. As a military mom and as your first lady, I am honored and proud to share today with you, and I'm proud to be part of this military family. God bless our troops and their families and have a happy Forth of July.
And now, your commander in chief, my husband, President Joe Biden.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Happy Fourth. Today we celebrate our independence, we celebrate our liberty and our freedom. And Jill and I are honored to spend the day with so many military families. You represent a link in a chain of honor that stretches back to our founding days. You are the sinew, the backbone, the reality of why we're who we are, unbreaking, unbending.
Throughout our history, remind us that democracy is never, never, never guaranteed. Every generation must fight to maintain it. We must always cherish it, defend it and strengthen it. You know, as we remember the extraordinary country this is, I hope we all rededicate ourselves to the essential work of our democracy, which is to unify, to unify, unify this nation, to see each other not as adversaries, but as fellow Americans. Let us remember that.
While the other nation were formed based on things like geography, ethnicity, religion, America is the only nation in history founded on an idea. An idea, and that is that we hold these truths to be self- evident, that all people are created equal, all people endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, among them, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We haven't always lived up to those words, but we've never walked away from them. And today, in all days, we have to say clearly, we never will. We never will.
Folks, this year we honor the 50th anniversary of the all-volunteer force, 50 years, 75th anniversary of desegregating the military.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
JOE BIDEN: And the 75th anniversary of a woman's official integration in to the military. full blown. I've had the great honor appointing some military commanders, haven't I? That are women?
LLOYD AUSTIN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Right.
JOE BIDEN: A lot. Anyway, this is a great guy, by the way. This is a great guy. He has incredible, incredible integrity. We made enormous progress as a nation, and that's due to the people of this nation, the people of this nation, not the politicians, the people.
We just have to keep going, you know, we just have to keep the faith. And we just have to remember who we are. We are the United States of America, and there's nothing, nothing beyond our capacity if we work together.
Ladies and gentlemen, we've come out of every single solitary crisis stronger than we went in for 247 years. That's not hyperbole, that's a fact. We're the only nation that has.
So, folks, happy 4th July. God bless you and may God protect our troops.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
MARQUARDT: The President there speaking to active duty military members and their family on the South Lawn of the White House, saying that democracy is not guaranteed, saying that every generation needs to fight to defend it, and marking the 75th anniversary of the desegregation and full integration of the military.
We're going to move now from celebrating America to some tragic news in America. We are getting new details in two deadly mass shootings. First to Philadelphia, where authorities just wrapped up a press conference just a short time ago. The mayor announcing that the suspect is believed to have been randomly shooting at people during the attack. We're also learning more about the five people who were killed in the attack, which include a 15-year-old boy.
CNN's Senior National Correspondent Ed Lavandera is in Fort Worth, Texas, where another mass shooting took place just hours later. But Ed, let's first start with this Philadelphia shooting. What else did authorities say today?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, authorities say that suspect there is in custody. He was cornered in an alley, according to Philadelphia police where he was then taken into custody. He is expected to be arraigned in court tomorrow and will face murder charges. So, we'll watch for that tomorrow. But authorities also revealing some details of how all of this unfolded, which included this thought that the gunman was randomly shooting at people as he navigated his way over a pretty wide area in this Philadelphia neighborhood.
As you mentioned, five victims ranging in age from 15 to 59. There were also two-year-old twin boys who happened to be driving by in a car with their mother, who were also wounded as well. Authorities say that the gunman in that case was wearing a bulletproof jacket, had ammunition magazines in that vest, and also had a police radio, so suggesting a very premeditated attack there. This is what Philadelphia investigators said a short while ago about this investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERNEST RANSOM, STAFF INSPECTOR, PHILADELPHIA POLICE: The suspect, while wearing body armor, a ski mask, and holding a AR-15 assault rifle, was observed at several locations near 56th street, near Chester Avenue and Springfield Avenue. The suspect then began shooting aimlessly at occupied vehicles and individuals on the street as they walked. None of the victims engaged the suspect or were aware the suspect was going to inflict this act of violence upon them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAVANDERA: And Alex, here in Fort Worth, you know, what we have seen here take place on Horn Street in southwest Fort Worth has really been the extremes of this national holiday. Late last night, it was an impromptu, kind of a chaotic street scene here in this neighborhood as people were celebrating the night before the Fourth of July packed with people, fireworks going off, people spinning out their cars in the intersection. In the midst of all that chaos, gunfire erupted.
Fort Worth police say that 11 people were wounded. Three of those victims have died, and that included an 18-year-old who was a manager at a local McDonald. And authorities here and his mother told us that he had dreams of joining the U.S. Air Force.
MARQUARDT: Two more horrible tragedies in the United States. Ed Lavandera in Fort Worth, Texas, thank you very much for that report.
Joining me now is CNN Security Correspondent Josh Campbell, along with Stephen Gutowski, founder of the Reload and a CNN contributor. Thank you both for joining us.
Josh, to you first, what more are we learning about that deadly shooting in Philadelphia?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually, it appears to be both random and premeditated. At this hour, authorities in Philadelphia are still working to determine what the motive is. As Ed was just mentioning there, why this suspect came open fire indiscriminately, killing several people. And what I think is perhaps most striking is you look at the weaponry, the items that the suspect had. He had multiple firearms, he had multiple extra rounds of ammunition, that body armor as well as a police scanner.
I mean, just think about that, his ability to listen in real time to where police would be going after the 911 call started rolling in shows that the suspect likely wanted to carry on this killing spree for a long period of time. But for those Philadelphia officers rushing to confront him and taking him into custody, you can only imagine how much worse this could have been.
Finally, it's important to note that unlike some shootings where we've seen the suspect die either at his own hand or at the hand of police in a shootout, the suspect's alive. So if he's able to cooperate and talk to police, that may be an opportunity to get to that motive, but certainly a tragedy in Philly.
MARQUARDT: Yes, it certainly is.
Stephen, when you hear those details from Josh, from those officials of this attack and everything that list of items that the shooter had, what stands out to you?
STEPHEN GUTOWSKI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, certainly, I think Josh did a good job of summing up what the supplies he had implies about what he was trying to do, which, you know, it sounds like an active shooter who was trying to inflict as many casualties as he possibly could. And thankfully, the police were able to get there when they did to prevent him from going on an even worse spree.
MARQUARDT: All right, Josh Campbell, Stephen Gutowski, we do have to leave it there. We really appreciate your time and your perspective this evening.
And coming up, new violence erupting in Israel. Eight injured after a man rammed his car into a crowd near a Tel Aviv shopping center. Authorities in Israel saying -- calling it a heinous terror attack. We will go live to the region for the very latest.
MARQUARDT: In Israel, officials are investigating a car ramming and stabbing attack on pedestrians near a Tel Aviv shopping center that left at least eight people injured. Now, that comes just a day after Israel launched its largest military operation in the West Bank in two decades. CNN's Hadas Gold has more live now from Jerusalem.
Hadas, first, what indications are there at this hour that Israel may be winding down this operation around Jenin?
HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're hearing directly from the Israeli military that their forces have started to leave the Jenin refugee camp, and that they do anticipate that in the next few hours this could wind down. But we do know that they're still there. And we have, in the last few hours, still heard reports of ongoing clashes. We did -- we heard from the Israeli military that they once again used a drone to carry out an airstrike against what they say were armed militants in Jenin.
And so while they do say that this is winding down, obviously the operation is still ongoing. And this was a massive two day military operation. Nearly 1000, if not more than 1000 Israeli forces on the ground. We saw multiple drone airstrikes. We saw bulldozers on the streets tearing up these roads, they say to remove IEDs.
The Israeli military saying the whole point of this operation was to dismantle Jenin as a safe haven for militants. And they -- and we have heard from Palestinian officials that at least 12 people have been killed. So far the Israeli military is claiming that non-combatants have been killed, but they are acknowledging that amongst the more than 100 injured, there are civilians. And you just look at the scale of the destruction in the city, you can understand how there could be, of course, civilians injured as well. And overnight, we saw thousands of Palestinians fleeing the refugee camp to try and not to -- and avoid getting hurt.
So even if this does wind down, even if people are able to return to their homes today or tomorrow, there's a question of what will be left in the city. There's obviously going to be a lot of cleanup there as well. Alex.
MARQUARDT: Yes, just an extraordinary show of force by the Israeli military. Hadas, in Tel Aviv there was this ramming attack. Tell us how it
GOLD: Well, this afternoon we heard reports of this ramming attack, and we actually went to the scene to see what happened. And it seems as though some sort of pickup truck mounted the pavement right outside the shopping center in northwest Tel Aviv, hitting pedestrians that were right by a bus stop, severely damaging the bus stop as well. And then the attacker got out of the car after it already had crashed and started stabbing people who were around there. We know of at least eight Israelis who were injured, one of them critically. And the Hamas militant group has taken credit for it, saying that the man who was later shot and killed by an armed civilian who was nearby was one of their fighters.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that these types of attacks, which were in direct connection to what was happening in Jenin, he says they will not stop what he calls their counterterrorism operations. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Today there was a heinous terrorist attack in Tel Aviv that was stopped due to the intervention of an armed civilian. Whoever thinks that such an attack will deter us from continuing our fight against terrorism is mistaken. We will not allow Jenin to go back to being a city of refuge for terrorism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLD: So even if and when this military operation in Jenin wraps up, there is a question of what will this lead to potentially more attacks, potentially even more Israeli military operations maybe elsewhere in the West Bank. Alex.
MARQUARDT: Yes, that is certainly a major fear. Hadas Gold in Jerusalem, thank you for all of your reporting over the past two days.
Joining us now is former State Department Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller, along with David Sanger, White House and National Security Correspondent for the "New York Times," he's also a CNN National Security Analyst. Guys, thank you both for joining us at this really critical moment.
Aaron, I want to start with you. As Hadas was just saying, it seems that Israel is pulling back from Jenin operation not quite done yet, but it could be winding down. When you look at the incredible scale of the operation undertaken by Israel's military over the past couple of days alongside this attack in Tel Aviv, it's hard to imagine the tension easing anytime soon.
AARON DAVID MILLER, FORMER STATE DEPT. MIDDLE EAST NEGOTIATOR: No, I think that's right. Counterterrorism is critically important, particularly given the fact that the Palestinian Authority has almost no influence in these camps. And in Jenin third largest city in the West Bank, where Fatah once predominated but Hamas and Jihad have made tremendous inroads. So the Israelis, tactically, I think, probably achieved what they wanted to do. But the reality, I think, is going to be much tougher because counterterrorism untethered from any sort of broader approach to strengthen the Palestinian Authority, which is critically important.
I mean, who's going to go into those camps to maintain security? And I think the answer is Hamas and Jihad will reconstitute themselves, and in a matter of weeks or months, we'll probably witness, if not before, perhaps another Israeli invasion.
MARQUARDT: David Sanger, there has been a real evolution in terms of the tactics, the weaponry, the violence on both sides. The Israeli military going into Jenin with air power and, you know, tanks encircling the city. You're also seeing Palestinian militants take up real arms. We're a long way from tear gas being fired and rocks in response. What do you make of this evolution?
DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, the first thing that you can conclude from it, Alex, is that the Israelis have made a lot of use of their drones, and they were the ones most involved in the air attacks at the beginning here. And then you saw troops go in and say that they got to the center of this camp. And the camp, of course, is sort of the heart of militant activity around Jenin.
And as Aaron pointed out, they really don't respond or answer in many ways to the Palestinian Authority. So that creates a problem for the Israelis. They can keep mowing along and doing these kind of counterterrorism operations, but you know the problem is going to come back. And what we haven't heard from Prime Minister Netanyahu and certainly from the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority is what is a way out of this cycle. Of course, it's coming at a moment that the Prime Minister is and his government, very conservative government, have been expanding the new settlements, and that's where the split with the U.S. has come in. And, of course, that's in the background of what's causing some of the violence.
Prime Minister would say, of course, that the United States wouldn't allow on its borders a terror group to be gathering arms and that he shouldn't either. So, it's going to be a difficult thing for the administration to condemn.
MARQUARDT: All right, David Sanger, Aaron David Miller, we have to leave it there. Thank you both for coming on today. Happy Fourth of July to you both.
MILLER: Same to you, Alex.
SANGER: Happy fourth.
MARQUARDT: And up next, we will go live to our reporters live across the globe, including in Ukraine, where officials report a Russian attack has wounded more than 40 people. And Russian President Vladimir Putin making his first appearance on the world stage since the Wagner rebellion. We'll tell you what he said. That's next.
MARQUARDT: Tonight, we are tracking the latest developments in Russia's war on Ukraine. Russian defense officials are claiming today that they intercepted five Ukrainian drones near the capital of Moscow. Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials in the city of Kharkiv are saying that more than 40 people have been wounded in a Russian attack there. Let's get straight to CNN's Ben Wedeman in eastern Ukraine. Ben, so what is Moscow saying about this drone attack?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the word from Moscow, Alex, is that everything's back to normal, that there was no damage caused by those five drones, no casualties, that the disruption to air flights in and out of one of the airports in Moscow has come back to normal. But it does raise the question yet again, how much control do the Russians have over rather the Kremlin have over this situation in Moscow.
Keep in mind that back in May there was a similar incident where there were drones flown over Moscow. One allegedly blew up over the Kremlin. The Russians claimed it was an assassination attempt against the President. And of course, on the 24th of June there was that uprising of mutiny by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner private military company. So it yet again raises the question, you know, why -- how is it that these drones are getting over Moscow.
Now sources familiar with U.S. intelligence say that the Ukrainians have developed a network of agents who are launching these drones, but it really underscores the uncertainty in Moscow now after these events of the last two months. Alex?
MARQUARDT: Yes, some fascinating clandestine activities there. Ben Wedeman in eastern Ukraine, thanks very much.
Also today, Russian President Vladimir Putin made his first public appearance on the global stage since that Wagner rebellion late last month. Vladimir Putin appearing alongside other international leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, in a virtual summit. CNN's Will Ripley is covering this story from Taiwan. So, Will, what was the Russian president's message?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was the optics of the whole thing that was particularly interesting to see Putin and Xi, these two no limits partners at a time that Putin's power is very much in question after what happened in late June with the Wagner group. And then, of course, President Xi, who's arguably stronger than ever, really assuming his role of the leader of the authoritarian bloc, if you will, which also includes Belarus and Iran, which joined this Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting, which was hosted online by the Indian prime minister.
And so Putin, in his message, talked about deeper security cooperation between the members of this organization. And he insisted that Moscow would stand up against what he called illegitimate sanctions over his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): The Russian people are consolidated as never before. The solidarity and high responsibility for the fate of the fatherland was clearly demonstrated by Russian political circles and the entire society by coming out as a united front against the attempted armed rebellion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RIPLEY: Obviously, Putin there with a lot of friendly leaders. This was not a contentious group of people that were going to try to go after him or embarrass him in this first multilateral international forum appearance since those armed mercenaries threatened to march san Moscow. But he did express appreciation to the leaders for their support, including China's Xi Jinping. Xi, for his part, he called out kind of in an undirect way, Alex, the United States, saying that the world should reject what he called protectionism and decoupling.
This is a reference, of course, to the United States efforts to try to reduce trade and investment with China, particularly in sensitive areas such as technology, which the U.S. has long just being used by the Chinese military.
MARQUARDT: All right, Will Ripley in Taipei, thank you very much.
Let's get straight to our experts to break all this down. Our military analyst, the retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, and Jill Dougherty, who, of course, is a CNN contributor on Russian affairs, thank you both for joining me on this 4th of July. Jill, I want to start with you. How important is it right now for Putin to appear on this global stage surrounded by big global leaders like those of China and India?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, I think it's crucial because, after all, you know, a week or so ago, you had a rebellion with troops or fighters on their way to Moscow that undermines Putin's image, not only domestically, but internationally. And a lot of these countries that have supported him must be asking the question, is he really still in charge? Is he still, you know, Vladimir Putin, whom we support, et cetera? A lot of questioning behind the scenes, and he absolutely had to get out there. He's been out domestically and now internationally.
MARQUARDT: General Hertling, we just heard today that the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, his term has been extended by another year. What do you think allies need to accomplish in this upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius as it pertains to Ukraine?
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, well, first of all, Alex, that's a great point, because Secretary Jens Stoltenberg has selflessly done this. He wanted to retire long ago. He stayed on because he realizes that NATO is at war in all effects. So, yes, what he will accomplish is a continual coordination of the alliance to support Ukraine. It's an important point.
He is very selfless in doing as I just said, and it's a good thing. There will be several things that he will accomplish, being familiar with the situation and certainly linked with Defense Minister Reznikov from Ukraine, and certainly Defense Minister or Minister of Defense, excuse me, Secretary of Defense Austin, and Secretary of State Blinken from the United States.
MARQUARDT: There are, of course, Jill, real divisions among NATO's leaders about how, when, if Ukraine should join the NATO alliance. How much do you think NATO is weighing Russia's opposition to the expansion of NATO and how Putin may respond to that?
DOUGHERTY: Oh, I think less than ever. I mean, that used to be the debate. You know, will this anger Putin. There's a lot of the reverse feeling now. I mean, what you hear from the allies, especially the ones, let's say, in the Baltics and Poland, et cetera, are saying we don't care what Putin thinks. In fact, if we continue to think about why Putin, what Putin thinks, we will weaken our own defense.
So it's really full steam ahead. The problem, I think, is the United States and some other countries are a little bit more careful about it. And the trick will be trying to figure out what can you give Ukraine to give them hope that there will be something in the future without committing entirely that's really difficult balance. But that's what they'll be working on.
MARQUARDT: And of course, so much has been given to Ukraine ahead of this counter offensive, both in terms of training and in terms of weaponry. General Hertling, are you seeing signs that Ukraine is gaining momentum in this counter offensive? They have taken, I think, some 14, 15 square miles, but really have yet to punch through. How much progress do you think they're making?
HERTLING: I am seeing momentum, Alex, and it's a great question because there's a lot of Western analysts who suggest that Ukraine is not going fast enough. One of the things I'd point out is Ukraine is now the third largest army in Europe, behind Russia and Turkey. That they were at one point about the 11th largest army in Europe, so we're talking about the capability of Ukrainian armed forces to become even stronger on a daily basis.
And what I see is they are conducting this operation in a very correct manner. They're probing. They're continuing to look for ways to assault. They're keeping their reserves. There are nine brigades that have been trained in the west, excuse me, in reserve, so they can conduct the operation once they find the weak spots in the Russian lines. It's going to be a very tough fight in the next six to eight weeks, but I think Ukraine is going to succeed in what they're doing.
MARQUARDT: Yes, a very tough fight could take quite some time. Jill Dougherty, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, thank you both for joining me. A very happy 4th July to you both.
HERTLING: And to you Alex. Thank you.
MARQUARDT: And just ahead, former vice president and now presidential hopeful Mike Pence is spending the July 4th holiday courting voters in Iowa. We'll go there live next for more on how he's staking his own claim in this race, despite his former boss Donald Trump looming large.
MARQUARDT: Tonight, as several Republican presidential hopefuls are spending their 4th of July campaigning in early battleground states, former Vice President Mike Pence is going all in on Iowa. CNN's Kyung Lah is traveling with the former vice president in Boone, Iowa. So Kyung, why is Pence focusing there?
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The campaign is making no secret, Alex, of it is Iowa for now, everything is being put on the line when it comes to the campaign for the former vice president here in Iowa, because this is where the campaign says he flourishes. He's a Midwesterner. He loves this sort of hand to hand campaigning in Iowa, and we certainly saw it during the 4th of July parade in Urbandale, Iowa.
The former vice president didn't just walk the two mile parade route many times he bursts into a full run sprinting from side to side, trying to shake everyone's hand, stopping to take pictures and talking to many people along the route about his faith, about what he believes, about a conservative future, very quickly, of course, as he continued on.
And then he went to where I'm standing here in rural Boone, Iowa, where he talked about energy, the conservative Supreme Court and a conservative future that he believes that will work in this country. It is a ground game here in Iowa, reaching all 99 counties that the Pence campaign says he will do well. It is something that his former running mate and President Donald Trump is not doing, that we certainly saw him point out in his discussion with reporters. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There was no place we'd rather be than in Iowa on the 4th of July. We actually announced our campaign for president here in Iowa because this is where it all begins for America. And the upcoming caucus will play its usual outsized role in shaping our national leadership. And I would tell you, I can't account for what other campaigns decided, but for me it was vitally important to be here, where the journey to the White House always begins.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAH: And it's something that he is not going to deviate from. We certainly saw other candidates like Ron DeSantis instead choosing to go to New Hampshire. Alex? MARQUARDT: All right, Kyung Lah, the first in the nation caucus state, thanks very much.
Now I want to bring in our chief national affairs correspondent Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, you heard Pence saying there that this is where it all begins. So how do you read that strategy of Pence's to focus on Iowa specifically, while other candidates have been also spending some time in New Hampshire?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Alex, it makes a good deal of sense, the former vice president aligns philosophically and politically with many of those Republican Iowa caucus goers largely because of the evangelical strain that really runs through much of the Iowa Republican Party.
But make no mistake about it, he has severe competition in Iowa, not necessarily today on the 4th of July, but many, many candidates are also staking their ground in Iowa as well. The former president not there today, but he will be there on Friday. And of course, he is now leading the way there.
So it's a smart strategy for the former vice president, there's no question. But he's also under no illusions at the fact that this is hardly a two man race. In fact, he needs to jump up a couple levers before -- levels before it would become that. But, look, it's really all he has is the campaign, and there is some history there, 99 counties. Mike Huckabee did it. He won the Iowa caucuses in 2008. Ted Cruz did it. He won the Iowa caucuses in 2016. Of course, neither one of them became the Republican nominee.
MARQUARDT: Yes, Jeff, to that point, there is a huge gap between Pence and the front runner, his former boss. Pence is currently polling in single digits. You reported that a DeSantis Super PAC spokesman is now admitting that their campaign is way behind. So in general, how much of it is an uphill battle in this GOP field for anyone who's not named Trump?
ZELENY: It definitely is an uphill battle, and they all know that. But the reality is about half of the party is interested in turning the page. The question is, who do they turn the page to? So Donald Trump benefits from a very large field. He only needs about 30 percent or so to win these primary races because the rest of the field is splitting up the rest of it.
But the reality here is the next couple of months will be very important for all of these candidates getting on the debate stage on August 23rd that first Republican debate, whether the former president decides to debate or not, all of these candidates are trying to sort of be the one man standing to him.
But my sense as I travel to Iowa and New Hampshire and other states a lot is there is an appetite for someone else, and this is very much a moving target. So let's pay no attention to the polls at this point and focus on the dynamic of the race here. And it is still a very fluid one and an open one, and about six months before the first votes, of course, in Iowa Alex. MARQUARDT: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much. Appreciate it. Happy Fourth to you.
ZELENY: Happy Fourth.
MARQUARDT: And coming up, preparations are underway for fireworks celebrations on this 4th of July. We will go live to the National Mall. That's next.
MARQUARDT: I want you all to join us right here on CNN starting at 7:00 p.m. tonight for the Fourth in America celebration that is hosted by Dana Bash and Boris Sanchez, featuring musical performances from Demi Lovato, Post Malone, Shania Twain, Brad Paisley and many more. Now, nothing goes better than America and hotdogs.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four, three, two, one, put down your hotdogs. Oh, my glory.
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MARQUARDT: Batman there in the middle. That is reigning champion Joey Chestnut right there scarfing down 62, 62 hotdogs in just 10 minutes. That gave him his 16th win at the Nathan's Hotdog Eating Contest, of course, in Coney Island, New York. The reigning champ right there. And then on the women's side, returning champ Miki Sudo. She crushed 39.5 hotdogs in the same 10 minutes. Each top eater taking home the coveted mustard belt and a beefy $10,000 prize.
Tonight, we are, of course, watching the weather all across the country as families celebrate the 4th of July. And we are keeping an eye on how it could impact your holiday plans. Heat advisories are in effect in the west with record temperatures expected in some places. Let's get more from CNN's Chad Myers in the CNN Weather Center. So Chad, how are these conditions looking for the 4th of July tonight?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know getting better from Boston through Hartford as the rain is finally moving offshore, had flooding across that area in New England, Southern New England just a couple of hours ago. Still heating up I think in the plains from probably Minnesota down to Nebraska. But 95 percent of you will see some pretty decent weather. So let's move this radar ahead. Here goes the weather finally offshore. Maybe the eastern tip of Long Island will get that last little thunderstorm here in a little bit, maybe 15 or 20 minutes.
Down to the south, things look really good for D.C. All the way down to Richmond, even toward Atlanta, Georgia. We'll see some showers, but nothing I think that's going to cancel anything. The problem I see still, Alex, is that we still have lightning in the air. There are still lightning strikes happening right now across some of these thunderstorms and even, especially here in the Midwest where we still have severe thunderstorm watches in effect.
If you see lightning, hear the thunder, get in your car or get someplace safe. Wait it out. It's not worth it. Alex?
MARQUARDT: Heed the words of Chad Myers. I always do. Thank you, sir.
Coming up, we are learning more about a mysterious powdery substance found at the White House that prompted an evacuation of the building on Sunday night. Stay with us. This is a Situation Room special report.