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Biden Unbowed, Insists To Key Democrats And Donors He's Staying In Race; White House Says, Cannot Confirm Why Parkinson's Specialist Met With Biden's Doctor; Trump Looks To Reclaim Spotlight With V.P. Rollout, GOP Convention; Beryl Slams Texas With Deadly Force, Leaves Millions Without Power; Boeing Takes Plea Deal To Avoid Criminal Trial Over 737 MAX Crashes. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 08, 2024 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now. President Biden unbowed by the growing pressure within his own party to exit the 2024 race. We're getting new reaction to the president's outreach to Democratic lawmakers and donors and his defiant insistence that he will beat Donald Trump.

Also tonight, White House records reveal a Parkinson's disease specialist met with the president's physician this year, the top Biden spokesperson declining to directly answer questions about that during a very combative briefing.

All of this as Donald Trump is trying to reclaim the spotlight amid his opponent's troubles exactly one week before the Republican National Convention begins in Milwaukee. Stand by for new information on Trump's V.P. rollout, his party platform, and convention strategy.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.

We begin with President Biden's full court press as he to convince Democrats he has what it takes to win re-election. The fallout over his poor debate performance showing no sign of easing up as Congress returns to Washington and new information related to the president's health emerges.

Our Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is standing by live up on Capitol Hill, but, first, this report from CNN Senior White House Correspondent, M.J. Lee.


M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, a defiant President Biden going on offense.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: We're not going anywhere. I am not going anywhere.

LEE: The president increasingly under siege after his disastrous debate performance last month, calling in live to MSNBC amid the furious speculation and criticism about his age and fitness for office.

JOE BIDEN: I wouldn't be running if I didn't absolutely believe that I am the best candidate to beat Donald Trump in 2024. We had a Democratic nominee process. The voters spoke clearly.

LEE: Biden asked about one particular statement he made last week that alarmed and angered many Democrats.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: And if you stay in and Trump is elected and everything you're warning about comes to pass, how will you feel in January?

JOE BIDEN: I feel as long as I gave it my all and I did the goodest jobs I know I can do. That's what this is about.

LEE: The president playing clean up, making clear losing is not an option.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would you say to those who are concerned by that answer?

JOE BIDEN: It's not an option. And I've not lost. I haven't lost. I beat him last time. I'll beat him this time.

LEE: But new questions tonight about the president's health dogging the White House, after The New York Times reported that an expert on Parkinson's disease from Walter Reed had visited the White House eight times in eight months.

CNN confirming that the neurologist met earlier this year at the White House with the president's physician, the White House refusing to say if that specialist was consulting about the president.

REPORTER: It's a very basic direct question.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Hold on. Hold on. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait a second.

REPORTER: Eight times or at least once in regards to the president specifically.

JEAN-PEIRRE: I just -- wait, hold on a second.

REPORTER: That much you should be able to answer by this point.

JEAN-PIERRE: No, no, no, no, no, no, wait a minute. Ed, please. A little respect here, please. So, every year, around the president's physical examination, he sees a neurologist. That's three times, right?

LEE: This, as the Biden campaign and its top surrogates are trying to calm the nerves of voters, lawmakers and donors.

JILL BIDEN, U.S. FIRST LADY: For all the talk out there of this race, Joe has made it clear that he's all in. LEE: The president calling into a meeting of donors on Monday, pledging to attack Trump much more aggressively in their next debate. And in a new letter to Democratic lawmakers, Biden refusing to back down, writing that he is firmly committed to staying in this race, to running this race to the end and to beating Donald Trump.


LEE (on camera): and the president's new and more aggressive strategy of flooding the zone is going to continue into tonight. We are learning that the president is going to be meeting virtually with members of the Congressional Black Caucus.


Of course, some of his most fierce defenders on Capitol Hill have been CBC members. It's not lost on anyone, Wolf, right now that as the president is fighting for his political life, the campaign is hoping that, once again, black voters will play a decisive role in helping to save his campaign. Wolf?

BLITZER: M.J., stand by over there at the White House. I want to go to Capitol Hill and CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju right now.

Manu, Democratic Congressman Adam Smith, I understand, just became the sixth House Democrat to publicly call for President Biden to step aside. You've been talking to other Democratic lawmakers up on Capitol Hill. They're just returning to the Hill tonight from recess. What are they saying?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a lot of them still are waiting for a key meeting that will occur tomorrow morning. The House Democratic Caucus will meet in full for the first time since the aftermath of the debacle of Joe Biden's debate performance more than a week ago. They've been in recess last week. This would be the first time for an in-person meeting, and a lot waiting for The Democratic leader, Hakeem Jeffries, to issue any sort of cues to tip his hand in one way or the other about how he may come down and whether he supports Joe Biden staying at the top of the Democratic ticket.

Also, Chuck Schumer, the Senate Majority Leader, said simply today, I'm for Joe. He refused to answer any other questions. His caucus will meet tomorrow. The Senate Democrats will meet behind closed doors over lunch to talk about Joe Biden's future.

Now, a lot of them said that they support Joe Biden. Some of them said Biden needs to do more to reassure confidence behind his candidacy.


RAJU: Do you think that Biden should remain as your party's nominee?

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Well, he's definitely the nominee, there's no doubt about it. And he already won the nomination. So, if there were to be any change, it would have to come from him.

RAJU: Yes. But what do you think? I mean, do you think he should step aside?

RASKIN: Well, you know, I don't have any -- I don't have anything further to help illuminate the situation at this point.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (I-WV): The senators who are up for election, they're going to have a lot of input. I'm anxious to hear from them and anxious to hear from their conversation with the president, if they had that.

RAJU: Do you have confidence that he can beat Donald Trump?

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): I believe the Democratic coalition is quite capable of beating Donald Trump.

RAJU: What about Biden? Are you concerned about Biden's chances in November?

CONNOLLY: At the moment, President Biden is leading that coalition. So, yes, I do. Is it a little steeper climb today than it was a few weeks ago? Yes, but we have a long way to go between now and November.

RAJU: But if he does not meet that test, is it time to move on and replace him with somebody else?

CONNOLLY: I believe that we have to have a family conversation if that test is not met.


RAJU: Now, the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Pramila Jayapal, just told me moments ago that her bloc of Democrats will meet with President Biden later this week.

Tonight, Biden has a key meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus, a group that has significant clout within the larger House Democratic Caucus.

I do want to ask the chairman of the CBC about what's going on. Mr. Chairman, do you expect full support within the Congressional Black Caucus behind Joe Biden?

REP. STEVEN HORSFORD (D-NV): Well, we'll have that conversation tonight with the president, and we'll have an opportunity to talk further about that after we have that conversation. But my statement that I put out is on behalf of Nevada and the 4th Congressional District and the 14 million Americans who have already voted to date, including those in Nevada who support his presidency. He is the nominee.

And it's time for us to focus on Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress who are trying to roll back our freedoms, our rights and our opportunities, freedom for women to make their own health care decisions, freedom for small businesses to have access to capital, freedom for us to learn our full history. These fundamental freedoms, these rights and these opportunities are under attack. And I'm going to be backed by Donald Trump and Republicans who have a Project 2025 agenda that will roll us back, not move us forward.

RAJU: All that, but Joe Biden, you saw him at the debate and you've seen the polls. Aren't you concerned that he's going to cost you guys the House and the presidency?

HORSFORD: I listened to my constituents during the district work period. I'm not going to judge the president on a 90-minute debate. I'm going to focus on the historic wins that we've already achieved. But more importantly, the vision and the action that we'll take with a Democratic majority in the House with --

RAJU: One other question, did was this Joe Biden's idea to meet tonight or was this your idea?

HORSFORD: It was important for me that members have the opportunity to speak directly to the president, and he welcomed the invitation.

RAJU: You invited him, okay. Thanks for your time. All right, Wolf, you're hearing an influential member within the House Democratic Caucus, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Steven Horsford, coming out in support, strong support for Joe Biden.


The question will be how many other members of that influential group of Democrats will be aligned with Steven Horsford, and a lot of them so far have. That'll be a key moment for Joe Biden when he meets with them virtually tonight. Wolf?

BLITZER: Manu Raju and M.J. Lee, thanks to both of you very much. And we're going to be speaking with another key house Democrat in just a few moments. So, stand by for that as well.

I want to dig deeper right now into the unanswered questions about why a Parkinson's disease specialist met with the White House physician earlier this year.

CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner of George Washington University is joining us right now. Dr. Reiner, thanks so much for joining us. What do you make of this New York Times report that an expert on Parkinson's disease visited the White House eight times over the course of the past eight months?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, we've known since the president's position, Kevin O'Connor, released his yearly summary of the president's current medical status that the president did meet and was examined by a neurologist who specialized in movement disorders. And I think the, you know, the reason why the White House did that was that the president exhibits, you know, a very, very stiff gait, short steps, doesn't swing his arms. And some of those symptoms are symptoms that are seen in people with Parkinson's disease.

But in Dr. O'Connor's note, he said that the evaluation ruled out the presence of Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis, or ALS. So that's reassuring. So, I'm not surprised to see that a movement specialist from Walter Reed saw the president this year. What's a little surprising is that he visited the White House eight times.

Now, I will say that the White House medical unit treats not just the president, but other senior members of the White House staff, and it is certainly very possible that a neurologist was coming to see not just the president but other people, but it is certainly curious.

BLITZER: Yes. And doctors, they come to the White House not just to treat, as you correctly point out, the president, but all the U.S. military personnel who are assigned to the White House as well. And there are large numbers of military personnel over at the White House. Dr. Reiner, what else can you tell us about Parkinson's disease and how does that compare to what you've observed in President Biden?

REINER: Well, Parkinson's disease is a progressive and neurologic disease that affects a part of the brain and the nerves that basically involve the movement of muscles. And when these nerves die, a specific neurotransmitter called dopamine is lost, and that's necessary for movement.

Patients can have a variety of symptoms, a lot of the symptoms that I mentioned to you earlier, a stiff gait, the classic symptom, which the president does not appear to have, which is a specific tremor of the hand. It's sometimes called a pill rolling tremor, because it looks like you're rolling a pill between your thumb and forefinger.

As I said, stiff gate, sometimes people will get what's called a mask- like face, sort of loss of expression in the face, what we call bradykinesia, very slow movements. And the president does exhibit some of these symptoms. Now, you can have these symptoms in the absence of Parkinson's disease, but I think this is what has heightened everyone's attention about the presence of a Parkinson's expert at the White House.

BLITZER: Dr. Jonathan Reiner, thanks so much for joining us. We'll continue this conversation, to be sure.

And just ahead, a key house Democrats skeptical of whether President Biden should stay in the race reacts to all of the day's headlines. Congressman Scott Peters is standing by live.

Plus, Republicans scaling back official party policy on very controversial issues just ahead of their convention next week, as Donald Trump enters the final stages of picking his running mate.



BLITZER: President Biden declaring today that he's not going anywhere, his words, not going anywhere, as Democrats are divided over whether he should stay in or get out of the race for the White House.

Joining us now, a Democratic lawmaker who says the Biden campaign has been arrogant in its response to the president's rocky debate performance. Congressman Scott Peters of California is joining us. Congressman, thank you so much for joining us today.

As you know, six of your Democratic colleagues have now publicly called for President Biden to step aside in the 2024 race. Are you ready to join them?

REP. SCOTT PETERS (D-CA): Well, I mean, we're at a critical time. Wolf. We don't have a lot of time left. I just want to start by saying that President Biden is one of the finest people I've met in politics, on his record, on infrastructure, on getting us through the pandemic, on fighting for civil rights, he's earned re election. The problem is the polls aren't going that way. And we were in trouble before that debate. We wanted a boost. We didn't get a boost. In fact, we have a setback, and I think we have to be really clear eyed about where we're going, and it's not in a good direction.

So, we're having a caucus meeting tomorrow. I'd love to hear from the campaign about what their response is, what their plan is to win this election, and turn things around, particularly in those swing states. But it's been over a week, and I haven't heard that yet. So, I'm getting pretty close to saying it's time to make a switch.

BLITZER: But you're not yet ready to say that, at least not yet, right?

PETERS: Well, you know, we're in bad shape. You know, this is not that difficult a problem to understand. There's only six to ten states that are competitive. And in those states we were behind, we're further behind than we were before. So, we don't have a lot of time before the convention to get this right but we need to understand what the campaign's plan is to win these states. And so far I haven't heard it. I heard a lot of denial at the beginning, calling people with legitimate concerns, bedwetters. These are legitimate concerns. Finally, the president acknowledged in a letter today, these are legitimate concerns. We need more of that, but we also need to see the president out more and unscripted and answering questions and proving that he's up not just for the campaign, but for the job, which I believe he is.


He's done a wonderful job, but to be our candidate and to win this election and keep Donald Trump out of the White House.

BLITZER: Do you think Vice President Kamala Harris might be a stronger Democratic presidential nominee?

PETERS: I think we have a deep bench. We have a lot of potential nominees as a Californian, I'm impartial to the vice president. But I think I like the idea of a mini primary, like Rep. Clyburn suggested recently. Let's have a look at everyone. And, again, let's focus on those six to ten states.

I'll just note that I'm from California. Our party's leadership in the House are from California, Massachusetts and New York. These are states we do well in. The states we've got to win are the ones that don't come as naturally to us. And we should be really listening to folks in those states, including the elected governors and senators we have there about who's best to win those states and bring -- make sure that the Democrat stays in the White House.

BLITZER: Just six of your Democratic colleagues in the House have said publicly so far he should drop out of this contest right now, but what is your sense of how widespread these concerns are about the president in your Democratic caucus?

PETERS: The caucus is very concerned. I hear a lot of despair among people who are concerned we can't win. As you know, the donor community is upset and a lot of those folks who provide the resources for our campaigns are urging a change. Just in my district, though, everyone was home for 4th of July. We had over 300 messages to our office, which is a lot. It was ten to one requesting that we, we stand up and ask President Biden to step down in favor of a candidate who will better be able to explain the good record that we have, the plans we have that are for the country -- lead the country forward and the danger that Donald Trump represents in this country. So, there's a lot of concern from all corners and the campaign has not met that.

BLITZER: Our Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju just caught up with the House Democratic leader, Hakeem Jeffries, just moments ago. I want you to watch and listen to this, and then I'll get your response. Listen to this.


RAJU: Do you support Joe Biden staying as your Democratic nominee?

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D_NY): Yes. I made clear, the day after the debate publicly that I support President Joe Biden and the Democratic ticket. My position has not changed.


BLITZER: So what's your response, Congressman?

PETERS: I think that's the appropriate response for the leader. We need to support the ticket until it changes. But he's also -- I give the, the leader credit for reaching out to members of the caucus and making sure he hears from us. We're going to do that tomorrow. I hope tomorrow we have a clearer picture of where people really are. There won't be any leaks. There'll be no cell phones in that meeting. I hope that people feel free to speak their mind, like they are in the text chains that I'm a part of and express the concerns that they have about whether Joe Biden is the person, despite his record and what a great job he's done, who can lead us to victory in November. And, again, not just the presidency, it's the House and the Senate as well.

BLITZER: Well, do you have a timeline, Congressman, on when you and many of your other colleagues will make a final decision?

PETERS: I don't think we let this go by past this week. The longer, the more we talk about this, the more we talk about Parkinson's disease, the more we talk about all these issues that's time we're not spending talking about all the accomplishments of the Democrats, in the White House, in the Congress this term, in the last term, we're not talking about the threat that Donald Trump poses in the Supreme Court with civil rights, with tariffs, taxes on the American people, we've got to make sure that we get this cleared up this week. And I want to hear from the campaign how they expect to win this campaign in those swing states where we've gone backwards since the debate when we needed a boost.

BLITZER: Democratic Congressman Scott Peters of California, thanks so much for joining us.

Right now, I want to bring in our CNN Political Commentators Maria Cardona and Scott Jennings for some analysis. Maria, President Biden told donors his strategy for the next debate would be to attack, attack, attack, his words, specifically attack Donald Trump. I want to play a little bit more from Biden's interview earlier today when he tried to do that. Listen to this.


JOE BIDEN: He said, I think I encouraged Russia from going -- I encourage -- I think he encouraged Russia going in. I mean, you know, I'm reading from a list of lies. First of all, he was made up quotes suckers and losers. I was with -- he called Americans in the cemeteries from World War I suckers and losers. And so this guy's going to have to start to answer for what he did.


BLITZER: Do you think, Maria, that this interview shows that Democrats -- shows Democrats that President Biden is capable of effectively taking on Trump down the road?


MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think he is capable, Wolf. He's going to have to prove it. And there's no question that after the debate that he just had, and even some of the stumbles that you just showed, he is going to -- he has an uphill to climb and he's going to have to prove some things that have become difficult.

But here's where I think the president currently is, the campaign, and why they're there. I think what has been missing from a lot of the breathless coverage of members of Congress who are rightly concerned and from so much of the media coverage of breathless quotes from people at the White House is the voters themselves, Wolf.

And the reason that the president is dug in right now is because he has been hearing from those voters. His campaign is hearing from the people that they talk to when they go door to door. They've been hearing from grassroots leaders who are also hearing this from their membership and that is that they are sticking with President Biden.

And they are sticking with President Biden because, and I've heard them say this, on President Biden's worst day, they prefer to back somebody like him than to back somebody like Donald Trump, who represents an existential threat to so many communities in this country. And that's where they're going to continue to stand until otherwise.

BLITZER: And, Scott Jennings, President Biden says he's not going anywhere. Do you buy that?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I do. I think they're dug in. I think his wife is dug in. I think his son is dug in. And that's all that matters. He's got the delegates and they can't really take it away from him. So, I expect him to be the nominee. I expect him to carry a mid to high 30s job approval into the fall election. And I expect him to be a drag on his ticket. I expect the map to be much bigger than they anticipated it being.

And right now, if the national polling holds up from CNN and other news outlets, I expect Joe Biden to be on the -- losing in a landslide and his legacy becoming that he left Donald Trump at a much stronger position than he found him. It'll be quite a failure for someone who ran to try to rid our politics of Trump, to leave him in a much, much stronger position. But that's where Joe Biden is headed right now if he can't change the trajectory of this campaign.

BLITZER: Maria, we all just heard Democratic Congressman Scott Peters of California say this all needs to be decided by the end of this week. What can possibly happen by then to change the current situation where so many Democrats are now questioning President Biden's fitness?

CARDONA: Well, I think what will happen, which I don't think it will, Wolf, is for the vast majority of Democratic lawmakers, specifically our leadership, to change their minds and change their positions. I think you would also have to see the campaign's internal polls, and I do want to talk about polls in one second, also bottoming out, they are not. And I think you would have to see grassroots voters telling the president that it is time to step aside. That is not happening.

A little bit about the polls, Wolf. If we had focused so much on the polls and really believed that they were the be all and end all, Hillary Clinton would be president. If we believed all the polls going into 2022, there would have been a massive red wave and the Republicans would have a 60-seat majority in the House and a 20-seat majority in the Senate.

We all know that the polls are not reliable. There was a Bloomberg poll that came out just yesterday, showing that President Biden was ahead by two or three points in every single swing state, except Pennsylvania. There's an Ipsos/Reuters poll that has President Biden and Donald Trump even at 40 percent.

So, until we see something different, you are going to continue to see this president fight for the voters, the delegates that voted for him throughout this process, because those voters, Wolf, do not want an imperial presidency. They do not want a 34 times convicted felon. They do not want a democracy that is going to be put in danger in November, 2024. BLITZER: Maria and Scott, to both of you stand by. We're going to get back to you. But also coming up one of the top contenders to be Donald Trump's running mate now set to join the former president at a rally tomorrow, just as the campaign says, the big announcement of who the Republican vice presidential candidate will be could come at any time.



BLITZER: Tonight, as President Biden's campaign troubles dominate the headlines, Donald Trump is trying to shift some of the focus back to him, with only seven days to go before the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is in South Florida right now. That's where Trump will soon make a return to the campaign trail. Kristen, how is Trump navigating all of this?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, they're still trying to figure out exactly what the next two weeks look like. This is a very critical time for Donald Trump's campaign. And while right now, as you noted, President Joe Biden is dominating the headlines, they have a lot of big campaign announcements coming up. First, before we even get to that convention in Milwaukee, Donald Trump has to actually pick his running mate so the two of them can be announced together.

Now, we still don't know when exactly that announcement is coming. I am told by the campaign that it's going to happen before Monday. That is their deadline. The Milwaukee convention starts on Monday. But one source said it could come as late as Monday.

Now, you noted this in your tease before you went to the break that someone, one of those top vice presidential contenders, will be at his rally tomorrow in Doral at his resort, and that is Senator Marco Rubio.


This, of course, Miami being his hometown, but we are told by the campaign not to read too much into that, that this is all just Donald Trump getting back on the campaign trail. And even if you talk to the people who are closest to Donald Trump, they say they still don't know who his vice presidential pick will be.

But while we wait for that announcement, that planning around the convention is still going full speed ahead today, the Republican Party approving a new platform for the party that looks dramatically different from what we have seen in years past, particularly in 2016 and 2020. This is a scaled down version, Wolf, that really mimics Donald Trump himself as the candidate. It has watered down language on abortion. When it comes to issues like marriage, it no longer defines traditional marriage as between a man and a woman. This really reflects the candidate and goes to show you the grip that Donald Trump now has over the Republican Party in full, Wolf. BLITZER: Kristen Holmes down in Miami for us, Kristen, thank you very much.

I want to turn back right now to our analysts, Scott Jennings and Maria Cardona. Scott, tomorrow is Trump's first public appearance in, what, about 11 days. How does he balance his return to the spotlight with President Biden's campaign crisis right now?

JENNINGS: Well, first of all, they've done a masterful job of doing nothing for the last 11 days while Joe Biden and his campaign self- immolate. So, that was the correct strategic call. But now he's getting ready for his convention. And what he needs to do is just talk about his platform that the RNC approved today, talk about what he wants to do for the country. I'm sure he's going to point out the differences between where he sits today and where Joe Biden sits today and all the divisions that are going on in the Democratic Party.

But at this point, Wolf, the Republicans have the tiger by the tail. Trump has got a pretty substantial lead in the national polls. He's got a lead in the swing states. The map is expanding. So, they don't have to throw too many long passes down the field here. I think it's going to be a lot of handoffs straight up the middle and just keep moving the football methodically until they get to their convention next week and then on past that, if Trump continues to lead, you don't have to take too many chances or too many risks in your strategy.

BLITZER: Maria, could Trump's return to the limelight in the coming days turn the focus away from President Biden, or could it actually drive home some Democrats' deep concerns about President Biden's ability to beat Trump?

CARDONA: I actually think it could drive home all of the millions of voters that are backing Biden. Currently, the reason why they're backing President Biden as opposed to the unhinged craziness that you know we are going to hear out of Donald Trump's mouth. I think Republicans have been lucky that Trump has not been out there on the campaign trail because the less he says, the better.

We all know that once he gets in front of a microphone, he's not going to be able to help himself. He's going to go back to his message of retribution and vengeance and the politics of resentment. He's going to go back to re-litigating the 2020 election. He's going to complain about the government. He's going to -- who knows what kind of craziness he's going to talk about.

And that's going to let Democrats remind the American people that as bad as the debate night President Biden had that Thursday, it was not all that much better for Donald Trump. The fact is just the focus was not on him. He told over 50 lies. He talked gibberish about what he wanted to do when he was president. It scared a lot of people. The people who heard that debate through translators, who could focus on the substance thought that President Biden won because they focused on the substance, not how things were said.

And at the end of the day, that is going to be the important thing for Democrats to remind people is the stark contrast between somebody who has been decent and accomplished and wants to do so much more for the country versus somebody like Donald Trump, a convicted felon, who is only in this to stay out of prison and for himself.

BLITZER: Scott, I'm curious. How do you read the fact that Senator Marco Rubio is joining Trump at his rally tomorrow in Miami?

JENNINGS: Yes, I'm not overreading it. I mean, obviously, Rubio is from the area, a senator from Florida, so I would expect him to be there. And I don't really know which way Trump's headed on this thing. I think he's got an embarrassment of riches. He's got a full basket. I think Rubio would be a great choice. I also think Burgum would. I think Tim Scott would as well. He's got lots of good choices.

So, I'm not over reading it, but there are a lot of Republicans that would be excited about a Rubio candidacy, particularly when you look at how well Trump is doing with Hispanic voters in this election. All the polls show that Hispanics are pretty tired of the policies of the Biden administration. And they actually prefer Donald Trump's views on the economy and on immigration to Joe Biden. So, you can see where Marco Rubio would be an excellent ambassador to the Hispanic community if Trump does choose him.


But either way, I think he'll be an important surrogate for the campaign in the fall.

BLITZER: Scott Jennings and Maria Cardona, to both of you, thank you very much.

Just ahead, new reporting on why this week's meeting between American allies and President Biden is taking on a new sense of anxiety and uncertainty right now.


BLITZER: Tonight, President Biden is on the brink of a critical new test. He's hosting a key meeting of NATO allies here in Washington this week.

Brian Todd is joining us right now. Brian, concerns about the president extend beyond U.S. politics.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They certainly have, Wolf. CNN is reporting that diplomats around the world were really taken aback by President Biden's performance in the debate on June 27th. So, the attention on his physical and mental wherewithal at this NATO summit will be intense.


TODD (voice over): It wasn't long after he took office that President Biden was in Europe, reassuring America's allies that there was a new day dawning, following years of contentious European relations with his predecessor, Donald Trump.

JOE BIDEN: At every point along the way, we're going to make it clear that the United States is back.


TODD (voice-over): But tonight, as NATO leaders gather in Washington for a summit marking 75 years of NATO, there seems to be renewed anxiety among the alliance's leaders over Biden's health and his ability to lead.

In recent days, CNN's Jennifer Hansler, Kylie Atwood, and Pamela Brown reported the diplomats around the world reacted with shock and concern over Biden's calamitous debate performance on June 27th, and cited multiple diplomats as saying the president will be under enormous pressure to perform well at the NATO summit.

ISAAC ARNSDORF, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: This is a huge test and actually one of the rare instances where he is going to be interacting with a lot of people who don't work for him, right. So foreign leaders and their staff who are going to be seeing him in these unscripted candid moments and making their own observations and impressions of how he's doing.

TODD: When asked by Wolf Blitzer today about what NATO allies are most concerned about, former U.S. ambassador to NATO, Kurt Volker, said:

KURT VOLKER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: It's the leadership the United States in NATO. Is its going to be President Biden? Is he capable of that? Is he going to run for reelection? Is he going to get elected? If so, what does that look like?

TODD: Volker pointed out, many allies were already concerned about the level of commitment the U.S. has to help Ukraine defeat Russia. CNN reports many NATO allies believed Donald Trump is a threat to the alliance if he's reelected because of his repeated threats to draw back American support of NATO.

ARNSDORF: Right? It's not an exaggeration to say that the future of the transatlantic alliance is on the ballot in terms of how -- how Biden approaches NATO versus how Trump approaches NATO, the war in Ukraine.

TODD: The White House today, pushing back on the notion that the president will have to reassure his NATO allies of his fitness for office.

JOHN KIRBY, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER: And we're not picking up any signs of that from our allies at all, quite the contrary. The conversations that we're having with them in advance is they're excited about this summit. They're excited about the possibilities and the things that we're going to be doing together.

And Biden himself in his interview with ABC News last week, sticking part of his comeback on highlighting his success with European allies.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm the guy that put NATO together, the future. No one thought I could expand it. I'm the guy that shut Putin down. No one thought it could happen. (END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Still, multiple sources telling CNN tonight that those in attendance with President Biden at this summit, Wolf, were going to be looking at every aspect of how he looks, how he moves around the room, and especially how he speaks.

BLITZER: Critically important meetings this week here in Washington.

Brian Todd, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, a live report from hard hit Texas where millions, millions of people remain without power after a deadly hurricane.



BLITZER: We're tracking very dangerous weather after Beryl slammed into Texas today with deadly force as a category one hurricane.

CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam is in Houston for us.

Derek, give us the latest.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yeah. Beryl was actually the first Atlantic hurricane to make landfall here in the U.S., and it made his name known, particularly here in Houston. This storm is racing away from the eastern portions of Texas, but it's bringing a tornado and flash flood threat along with it.

Here's the basics, 45 mile per hour tropical storm conditions still possible in the Ark-La-Tex region right now. But look at these wind gust, they have been significant in and around Houston all the way to the coastline, exceeding 90 miles per hour. And that, of course, has brought down power lines and trees.

Currently 2.7 million customers without power across the state of Texas. Now, that's a problem considering that there is a heat wave that is going to build into this region. Heat advisories in place for Houston, where I'm standing now as heat indices climbed to near 100 degrees.

I want to show you at home and not only the destruction that we had from falling trees and power lines, but how susceptible the city of Houston is to flooding. So this is a deceptively shallow floodwater area, and this is actually a major thoroughfare for people who work in the city of Houston as they exit the city. But I want to show you just how quickly things can change and how vulnerable the city of Houston actually is to flooding.

So what I'm seeing behind me or street lamp posts that are 10 feet tall, topping out of the floodwater here. Can you imagine if you took your family in a vehicle across flooded roadways like this? That could be your worst nightmare. There's a reason that the National Weather Service has a slope and turnaround, don't drown for instances, just like this -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Our meteorologist Derek Van Dam in Houston for us, Derek, thank you very much.

Coming up, why Boeing has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States?



BLITZER: Tonight, Boeing has agreed to plead guilty to defrauding the U.S. in order to avoid a criminal trial for its role in two fatal 737 MAX crashes.

CNN aviation correspondent Pete Muntean reports.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A guilty plea by Boeing is not enough for the parents of Samya Stumo, killed in the 2019 Ethiopian Air crash of a Boeing 737 MAX. Her father, Michael Stumo, says that Department of Justice did not punish the company hard enough.

Were you at all surprised by this deal?

MICHAEL STUMO, FATHER OF SAMYA STUMO: We were not. It's always an uphill battle.

MUNTEAN: Boeing's guilty plea is the latest blemish on its once sterling record.

January's door plug blowout on a 737 MAX caused the Justice Department to revisit possible charges against Boeing for the 2019 Ethiopian air crash and the 2018 Lion Air crash.

Both involved 737 MAX jets, 346 people died.

STUMO: This is a major corporate killing case.

MUNTEAN: What would Samya think about this?

STUMO: She fought for justice all the time. And we are as well.

BOB CLIFFORD, ATTORNEY FOR 737 MAX FAMILIES: The families call this a sweetheart deal. It's incomplete.

MUNTEAN: Attorney Bob Clifford says, Boeing covered up design changes that lead to the MAX crashes. By agreeing to the plea deal, Boeing admits it defrauded the Federal Aviation Administration.

The company will also be forced to pay a $487 million fine, the maximum according to the Department of Justice, but well shy of the $25 billion that families pushed for. Boeing will also be overseen by an independent compliance monitor. But attorneys point out that Boeing will have a say in selecting who that monitor is.

CLIFFORD: We're all hopeful that this exterior monitor is going to be a meaningful addition to the safety that we all assume and demand and want and need in our aircraft.

MUNTEAN: So far, Boeing has only issued a statement confirming an agreement in principle. Attempting to turn a corner, the company invited reporters do at 737 MAX factory last month to show the start of a years-long manufacturing overhaul.

Elizabeth Lund is the head of Boeing's quality control.

How confident are you that the door plug incident, what led to it will not happen again, leaving this factory?

ELIZABETH LUND, BOEING: I'm extremely confident -- I am extremely confident that the actions that we took have ensured that every airplane leaving this factory is safe. I feel very confident that it will not happen again.

MUNTEAN: Pete Muntean, CNN, Washington.


BLITZER: Thanks to Pete Muntean for that report.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll also see you tomorrow morning, 11:00 a.m. Eastern for "CNN NEWSROOM". Until then, thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.