Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

Biden Addresses NATO Summit Amid Intense Scrutiny And Campaign Crisis; Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) Becomes Seventh House Democrat To Publicly Say Biden Should Not Run For Re-Election; Death Toll From Russian Strikes Across Ukraine Rises To 43; Soon: Trump Rally In Florida Amid Growing VP Speculation; Putin Works To Strengthen Global Ties And Taunt NATO; Jury Seated In Alec Baldwin "Rust" Movie Shooting Trial. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 09, 2024 - 18:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The President of the United States of America awards this Presidential Medal of Freedom to Jens Stoltenberg. A visionary statesman and ceaseless defender of democracy, Secretary- General Jens Stoltenberg has guided the NATO alliance through the most consequential decade for European security since World War II.

When Vladimir Putin launched his brutal assault on the people of Ukraine, betting that NATO would break, Secretary-General Stoltenberg proved him wrong under his stewardship, NATO has become stronger and more united than ever, and Americans for generations to come will benefit from the safer world he helped create. He demonstrates that the core truth of the alliance is as powerful now as it was 75 years ago. Together, we are stronger.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room. We've been watching very dramatic moments right now, President Biden's remarks to the NATO allies who have gathered here in Washington. They've gathered for this pivotal summit, the 75th anniversary of the NATO alliance, the president speaking amid urgent discussions at the same time, especially among his fellow Democrats about the future of his re election campaign.

I want to cover all of this, this hour. Let's bring in our CNN Senior White House Correspondent M.J. Lee. M.J., the President's every word is under heightened scrutiny right now, but give us the bottom line of his message. I wrote down two sentences. He said, very significant, Russia will not prevail, that Ukraine will prevail. Russia will not prevail. Ukraine will prevail. And he also said that Ukraine can and will stop Putin. Strong words from the president of the United States, M.J.

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, very strong words from the president and certainly remarks that were centered on Ukraine. We are seeing the president here trying to project, of course, the image of the statesman.

This was the first time that the president has really taken the global stage since his halting debate performance last month, and we saw there how the president tried to use the 75th NATO anniversary summit to send a forceful message about the importance of protecting democracy all across the world and more importantly America's role in leading those efforts.

We saw the president there announcing the U.S. and its NATO allies providing for Ukraine additional air defense systems. This, of course, is trying to sort of shore up that support, of course, again on an important stage like this as Ukraine is continuing to try to fight back Russia's offensive. And you're absolutely right, Wolf, that these remarks come at a time of really real political vulnerability for the president, where he has faced serious questions here at home about his health and his fitness to serve another four years in office and every public move that the president is going to be making, public remarks, interviews that he does are being very closely scrutinized including by everybody that is in that room.

We do have a little bit of sound of the president talking about the importance of democracy in this moment where he said this moment in history calls for our collective strength. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: My friends, it's good that we're stronger than ever because this moment in history calls for our collective strength. Autocrats want to overturn global order, which is, by and large, kept for nearly 80 years and counting. Terrorist groups continue to plot evil schemes to cause mayhem and chaos and suffering. In Europe, Putin's war of aggression against Ukraine continues.


And Putin wants nothing less, nothing less than Ukraine's total subjugation to end Ukraine's democracy, to destroy Ukraine's culture, and to wipe Ukraine off the map. And we know Putin won't stop at Ukraine, but make no mistake Ukraine can and will stop Putin.


LEE: But, Wolf, we should be clear, even as the president is under close scrutiny, President Biden's team has made very clear that, as far as they are concerned, there is nothing more to debate. The president is going to stay in the race and there is no scenario where he is going to leave his campaign.

BLITZER: M.J., I want you to stand by over there at the White House.

President Biden's remarks come, as we all know, amid new fallout over up on Capitol Hill over his debate performance and Democrats' fears about his campaign.

I want to go to CNN's Manu Raju. He's joining us from Capitol Hill right now. Manu, a lot of developments today, give us the latest.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there's deep concern among Senate and House Democrats about President Biden's viability come November, particularly among members who are in difficult races, Mikie Sherrill from New Jersey becoming the seventh House Democrat to call for him to step aside. Also behind closed doors, three Democratic senators at a private meeting said that Joe Biden can't win. Two of those Democratic senators in difficult races in Ohio and Montana.


RAJU (voice over): President Joe Biden is putting Democrats in a jam.

REP. RITCHIE TORRES (D-NY): If the president declines to leave voluntarily, then he's going to be our nominee. And we have to make the best of a complicated situation.

I think I'm viewing it pragmatically.

RAJU: Some resign to supporting the president, even as they fear he may lose to Donald Trump.

REP. SEAN CASTEN (D-IL): The stakes of this are about what is the future for our country in two different scenarios. And I think there's a lot of concern about, will we be able to have that conversation in this media environment? But my God, that's the conversation we have to have.

RAJU: Do you support keeping him on the top of the ticket, Biden?

CASTEN: That's all I have to say.

RAJU: In their first in person meeting today since Biden's debate debacle, House and Senate Democrats aired out their grievances and left with no consensus.

REP. MARC VEASEY (D-TX): My concerns are the concerns that everybody has. What I said this morning and expressed to my colleagues, particularly for members on the frontline, is that I think they need to do whatever it is they need to do in order to come back and be re- elected then. And so if they need to distance themselves, then that's what they need to do.

RAJU: Yet some, like Congressman Jerry Nadler, now say they are on board with Biden, despite privately calling for a change on Sunday.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): He made very clear he's going to run. He's got an excellent record, one of the most existential presidents of the last century. Trump would be an absolute disaster for democracy. So, I'm enthusiastically supporting Biden.

RAJU: What did you say on the call on Sunday?

NADLER: I'm not going to comment on what I said on a private call.

RAJU: Several Democrats pointedly refused to say that they supported keeping Biden atop the ticket. Mr. Colvin, do you support keeping Biden as your nominee?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No comment. RAJU: Do you support keeping Biden at the top of the ticket?


RAJU: Do you think that Biden should stay as your nominee?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love that tie.

RAJU: Biden has won strong support from senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): All I can tell you is I am a big supporter of Biden.

RAJU: But many people would believe that he's going to lose.

WATERS: I am going to. I'm going to work as hard as I can for him. Biden is going to win. The team Biden-Harris is going to win, win, win.

RAJU: In the Senate, Democrats, like Patty Murray, raising deep concerns about Biden's viability, while some standing firmly by him, including Bob Casey, facing a tight race in battleground Pennsylvania.

Do you support keeping Biden at the top of the ticket?

SEN. BOB CASEY (D-PA): Well, I've said so numerous times. You heard my remarks over a week ago in Scranton.

RAJU: The other concern is that he could sink vulnerable Democrats like yourself, what do you say to that?

CASEY: I'll leave that to the pundits.

RAJU: Following an intense afternoon meeting with Senate Democrats, Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, would only say this about Biden.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): I'm with Joe. I'm with Joe. As I've said before, I'm with Joe.


RAJU (on camera): And despite this lengthy meeting behind closed doors with Senate Democrats where they talked about Biden, they raised concerns about Biden. When the Democratic leaders came out to talk to reporters, they did not want to talk about Joe Biden. In fact, they want to talk about abortion politics instead. And Chuck Schumer, as you heard just there would only say, I'm with Biden, when we asked him about a range of concerns that had come up about Biden in the aftermath of that debate. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Manu Raju and M.J. Lee, to both of you, thank you very much.

I want to break all of these dramatic developments down with our political experts who are here. And, David Chalian, you're our CNN political director. Beyond the substance on NATO, what we just heard from the president of the United States, what did you think of his delivery, the way he spoke, and will that reassure some of these nervous Democrats?


DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I think it's going to be very hard to reassure from now through November, because I think Democrats are going to be nervous with each one of his outings. So, yes, was that a typical President Biden presentation? Yes, it was. But the concern here is that Biden has emerged from the debate in a weakened position in this race than he was prior to the debate. And that is the reality that he now faces as he pledges to go on with the nomination.

Today, obviously, this was potentially a very big day for the president as a test here. Did the House Democratic Caucus get together? Did the Senate Democratic Caucus get together? And the news here is what didn't happen, which is that there was no rush to the microphones en masse, all these Democrats calling for Biden to go. No. The effort to push him out of this nomination is currently failing. That is where that story is. So, I don't think Joe Biden's in balance here, oh, is he going to be the nominee or not? Joe Biden has made it pretty clear he's the nominee, and Democrats on Capitol Hill, as of this moment, Wolf, make pretty clear that they think he's going to be the nominee, too.

The problem is, those same Democrats who think he's going to be the nominee, many of them don't think he can win the race against Donald Trump, and they are very concerned about what it means for their own chances. They just don't see a path of him not being the nominee at this point.

BLITZER: Kaitlan Collins is with us.

How do you see it?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I think what's important when you see a moment like that, and the White House will certainly highlight that speech, that moment where he awarded the secretary-general the Medal of Freedom, is he's also using a teleprompter there. And what we have heard from so many Democrats that we've talked to, even those who are forcefully defending him, Bernie Sanders, he's an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, told me last night they want to see Biden out there doing unscripted moments, town halls with voters, press conferences, more interviews with reporters, because those are the moments that they believe will not all at once, of course, but steadily help to rebuild that confidence that was lost even among his own party during that debate. And so that's one really big part of it.

And when you listen to Senator Chuck Schumer in Manu's report there, as you see him, Senator Chuck Schumer is incredibly loquacious. He has never wanted to really hold his thoughts to him. And I watched that press conference. He only took three questions. He would not elaborate at all on his position on President Biden. He would just say, I'm with Joe, I'm with Joe, I'm with Joe. He said it three times. But that was all he said, really. He didn't go into any more details, which I do think is also telling of what we're hearing in private versus what we're hearing in public from these senators.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But I think part of that was about, and we did hear this from other Democrats, kind of going back to what David said, it was about what you didn't hear, right? And what I actually heard, having been the communications director of the DNC, was Democrats saying a lot of the same thing. They were trying very hard to turn the page, to talk about Project 2025, to talk about Trump, to stop talking about Joe Biden, regardless of what they may have said behind closed doors.

And this was an important moment for the president. They knew it was an important day. And I think there's a feeling that, look, let's get through this week. And then the attention turns to the Republican Party. And we expect, all due respect to you, Bryan, I expect it to become something of a clown show.

BRYAN LANZA, FORMER DEPUTY COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Let's talk about how Biden today. It's a scripted event. He's probably practiced the speech. They've told him. They've showed the photos where we go, and we're all watching him to see if he screws up. That's where we are as a country. It's a scripted event, and we still expect him to screw up.

That's a problem, and that bell cannot be unrung. I think you were relieved when he put the, when he put that thing on.

FINNEY: I was joking. Come on, Bryan. That's a low blow.

LANZA: I'm just saying, but people are looking at these things saying a scripted event and he's barely getting through it, that's a low bar. So, when he has non-scripted events, it's going to remind people of, of, of his debate. And that's the problem that Joe Biden has. His neurological fitness is just not there. And no matter how much the Democrats try to say and prop him up and say, let's turn the page, that's the first question that's going to be asked. We have NATO here today. We have Russia bombing children's hospitals today in Ukraine, bombing those hospitals because they don't view President Trump or President Biden and NATO as strong enough.

FINNEY: That's absolutely not true.

LANZA: Absolutely. He is weaker than the rest of the states.

FINNEY: Joe Biden is the one who put NATO back together after Trump dumped on them for four years.

LANZA: And rightfully so, because they didn't spend the money. They didn't spend the money. Let's talk about Nord Stream 2. Who released the sanctions on Nord Stream 2? It was Joe Biden, wasn't it, which provided money to these Russians.

FINNEY: (INAUDIBLE) who's been echoing the talking points --

LANZA: Please, please.

BLITZER: Hold on, guys.

LANZA: Go ahead Wolf.

BLITZER: David, let's talk a little bit about the speech that the president just delivered. Yes, he was reading it, scripted speech from the teleprompter. But he did a powerful job, and he made some very, very powerful points about NATO and Ukraine.

CHALIAN: This has been one of the president's selling points to the American public since the beginning of his presidency, basically. He has, and certainly, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, you know, whether it was, that train ride he took to Kyiv, whether it was standing with allies in every European capital, showing that he can bring Europe together, NATO together, keep, expand NATO, and keep a united front against the Russian aggression.


This has been part of what Joe Biden says is his experience, wisdom, years on the public stage and an expert in foreign policy.

The question is, does a good speech on a wheelhouse topic actually change his standing in this race? It doesn't. I mean, and, and to the point of watching every one of his moves, this is now Joe Biden's reality in the post-debate. Everyone is going to apply such a higher level of scrutiny we in the press, Democrats watching, to every public utterance he makes.

FINNEY: But I think again and again and again, the thing we also need to remember over the last several weeks, the polls suggest that things pretty much remain the same. It'll be interesting to see if we get a change in some form or fashion. Certainly, they wanted that coming out of the debate, but we're basically where we were and voters are saying the same thing.

CHALIAN: Which is that Joe Biden was losing this race.

LANZA: Yes, and he missed the opportunity to change the (INAUDIBLE).

FINNEY: That they don't want Trump and then they don't want, then they're --

BLITZER: I thought it was interesting, Kaitlan, that before the president's speech at this NATO summit right now, another Democratic Congresswoman, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, came out publicly and said it's time for the president to step aside.

COLLINS: And she essentially clearly felt that way before today, but she was waiting until they had that big meeting with House Democrats today. They each respectively met, Senate Democrats and House Democrats, until she came forward. And, clearly, her concerns, her qualms were not changed at all by anything the President Biden has done in recent days or what he said.

Now, that being said, on Sunday, when we were talking to White House officials and allies of the president, they thought that number could be a lot higher. That's why President Biden immediately on Monday morning was working so hard to heat off these defections, so having one more House Democrat there.

But I think it's interesting also to look at the, the, who's getting behind. President Biden at this point, because if you look on the Hill, especially in the House, it's Hispanic and black Democrats who are lining up and are very unified behind him for the most part. It's a lot of Democrats who are in tough swing districts that are facing tough election battles in the Senate as well, that are much more skeptical and at least putting a lot more distance between themselves and the president when you talk to them about whether or not they have confidence.

BLITZER: Seven Democratic representatives out of, what, almost 200 or so in the House of Representatives. That's a relatively small number. Has the president been able to stem the bleeding that's been going on?

CHALIAN: I mean, thus far, he has prevented mass defections. I don't think any president wants to see members of their own party 40 days before their convention or 100 and some odd days before the election saying he shouldn't be the nominee of the party. That's not a great place to be in. But I think in terms of what Kaitlan is saying, just in the movement in the last 12 days and the president going on a much more offensive posture in the last 48 hours seems to be keeping at bay some mass defection within his own party.

One thing about Mikie Sherrill that I think is really interesting, back in 2019, you remember it was these national security freshman Democrats, Mikie Sherrill, one of them, that sort of moved Nancy Pelosi off the dime to move towards that first impeachment of Trump. It took them a long while to join their more progressive Democratic colleagues. This wasn't in a group this time. Mikie Sherrill was alone in this moment doing that. I think that was an interesting difference from what we saw when they tried to tackle other tough decisions about where to position themselves.

BLITZER: Everybody stand by, there's a lot more we need to discuss. I want to be -- an important note to our viewers, be sure to join Kaitlan later tonight, 9:00 P.M. Eastern, when she anchors The Source. Democratic Senator Michael Bennet will be joining her. That'll be an important interview.

And just ahead, we'll get an insider's take on the Democrats private wrangling over President Biden's candidacy, a Congressman urging the president to step aside, Mike Quigley, will join us live. That's coming up next.

And later, CNN is on the scene of a Donald Trump rally down in Florida as the speculation about his vice presidential pick is clearly intensifying right now.

Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.


[18:23:02] BLITZER: We're back with the breaking news we're following, President Biden welcoming NATO allies to a historic summit here in Washington, even as he's working to tamp down the crisis within his own campaign. We're getting new information about the private wrangling among Democrats up on Capitol Hill over whether the president should actually stay in the 2024 presidential race or call it quits.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois, one of seven House Democrats who are now publicly urging the president of the United States to step aside. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

What was the mood like inside that closed door meeting earlier today up on Capitol Hill? And was there a consensus about President Biden's candidacy from your House Democratic colleagues?

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): Yes, we can't quote from me, but I would call it respectful and thoughtful. And I wouldn't make too much of a single meeting, but think of this as a process. This is as close to political post-traumatic trauma that I've seen. And every member has to process that a different way and decide what's best to do. And that takes a little while. You have to see what your constituents think, how it affects the election, the polls, the control of the House and Senate. So, I see people moving in that direction, and today was just sort of a public airing of people's issues and concerns.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, as you know, he, she joined you today becoming the seventh Democrat to publicly call for the president to step aside. But the vast majority, there are 213 Democrats in the House, as you know, the vast majority of your colleagues say they still support President Biden. Given that, do you still believe the president should drop out of the race?

QUIGLEY: Sure. I mean, first of all, I think that process for many of my colleagues is going to take a little bit longer. I would say they almost all have very serious concerns about this campaign.


Many of them are saying, I agree with you. I'm still thinking about that. So, I think there's a very large number that are going to get to this part of the argument pretty soon. We'll see how long it takes them. And why do I still have these concerns? Nothing good has happened since the debate. We were told it was a bad night and everything's fine. It was a horrible night and almost nothing is fine.

When I first started talking about this a week ago, you know, I think very respectful and thoughtful of the president, thanking him for his great four years in office and what it meant for our country, but asking him to consider what this means to down ballot races. The House and Senate are controlled by a handful of votes. And all those races are very, very tight, and he is being outperformed by those frontliners. That's not a recipe to win back the House and keep the Senate.

BLITZER: But you insist that many of your Democratic colleagues privately agree with you, but clearly at this point they're not willing to go public. Why do you think that is?

QUIGLEY: It takes some time. It's jarring. It's unprecedented. They're honestly thinking through this is just the best way I can describe it. And they're also -- I guess the most fundamental reason is that, They really love and respect Joe Biden and they saw what he did, taking us from the depths of January 6th and the pandemic and growing the economy and a very proud record. So, they're still hoping to see a glimmer that that old Joe will come back and be the kind of candidate he was. I simply don't see that happening.

BLITZER: How do you respond to so many of your Democrats who insist that publicly questioning the Democratic presidential nominee is only helping Donald Trump?

QUIGLEY: Yes. I think there's a reason that Donald Trump is so quiet right now, right? This is -- the situation is chaotic and that's good news for him, the fact, I think, the Republicans want Joe Biden to stay on the ballot. So, I think that's very telling about what's taking place right now. But, again, I tell you, don't discount polling. It's what all of us look at so much in making these analytical decisions. It's going south in a hurry. I'm not a pundit, it's getting into the cross tabs, but it dramatically affects all those close races in the House and Senate. I just encourage my colleagues, this isn't a time to think about this as being loyal or disloyal or friends. This is pragmatic politics at a time when our very fragile democracy is at great risk.

BLITZER: Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois, thanks very much for joining us.

QUIGLEY: Thank you.

BLITZER: And coming up, CNN gets a close up look at the devastation at a children's hospital in Ukraine after a deadly Russian missile assault on Kyiv, the capital.



BLITZER: Tonight, brazen Russian attacks across Ukraine are taking an even worse toll, with 43 people now confirmed dead, the bombardment leaving a children's hospital in Kyiv in ruins.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen got an up close look at the destruction. Watch this.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the exact impact site where that missile hit, and you can see that it's completely flattened part of that building, which is, of course, the largest children's hospital here in Ukraine and one of the largest in Europe, sustaining major damage behind me. It's evident to see that the floors here just completely got obliterated, and all that's left over is rubble right now. Now, the Ukrainians say that the death toll currently stands at two, while dozens of people have been wounded in this attack. They say one of the fortunate things that happened is there was a missile alert, and the staff of the children that were being treated here actually got evacuated to a bomb shelter. The staff then immediately came out and started sifting through the rubble. Now all of this is currently a cleanup operation. But you can see just how powerful that blast must have been. This is one of the floors of that building, and here it's evident that it just flat packed down. Those are some of the supporting beams.

And the Ukrainians say that there will be a response to this. The Russians claim this might have been a stray Ukrainian interceptor that hit the building. The Ukrainians having none of it, saying it was a Russian missile, saying this is an attack on Ukraine's healthcare system and also on Ukraine's children. And if we look over here, you can see this whole complex was damaged by it. That's another building here as well. And clearly the facade sustained major damage.


BLITZER: And Fred Pleitgen is joining us now live from Kiev. Fred, I want you to stay safe over there, but what's the sense over there where you are in the Ukrainian capital of what's going on in Washington right now with this NATO summit?

PLEITGEN: Well, I think one of the main things that the Ukrainians are going to be looking at is exactly what President Biden said there in his speech. And that's a drastic increase, it appears, of what NATO is going to be offering Ukraine as far as air defense is concerned. And, you know, being on the ground there and seeing some of the traumatized hospital staff who said they were absolutely terrified when that missile hit, they said that obviously Ukraine needs more air defense systems in order to keep cities, like the one that I am, safe, but, of course, also Ukrainian frontline troops as well.

And one of the things that a senior NATO official has actually told CNN, Wolf, is that apparently they believe that it's likely that Russia could launch more such attacks as this summit is going on, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, we did hear the president of the United States in his address to the NATO allies just a little while ago say Ukraine can and will stop Putin, and he was upbeat saying Russia will not prevail, Ukraine will prevail.

Those are strong words and I'm sure people where you are in Kyiv over there are happy to hear that from the president of the United States.


PLEITGEN: Yes, I think they'll be very happy to hear that, especially in light of the fact that the going, of course, has been very tough for the Ukrainians. You have seen the Russians made some incremental gains over the past couple of months, although the Ukrainians have not managed to stabilize the front. Right now, it appears as though neither side really is able to strike a decisive blow. Nevertheless, of course, the Ukrainians are going to be very happy to hear that as well.

You've heard of Vladimir Zelenskyy as he was on his way to that summit in Washington, saying he's going to call for decisive action on the part of NATO members. Of course, again, air defense, one of the main things for the Ukrainians, especially in the frontlines also, Wolf, we're seeing the Russian Air Force more effective as using its firepower. So, the Ukrainians are saying they especially need those two Patriot surface-to-air missile systems to keep the Russian jets away from Ukrainian frontline positions. But then also, of course, the topic of the F-16 is definitely going to want to going to be when it also comes up. The Ukrainians hoping that those are going to be on the battlefield or in the skies above the battlefield around July, those, of course, coming from European countries. The Ukrainians would like to see the U.S. hop on board that as well, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, they certainly would. Fred Pleitgen reporting for us live from Kyiv, thank you very much.

Let's discuss A little bit more about Ukraine, the NATO summit, and more, the State Department spokesman, Matt Miller, is joining us right now. Matt, thanks very much for joining us.

Of course, you saw those devastating images, the strikes. NATO is set to offer, we're told now, new air defense missile systems to Ukraine and an irreversible path to membership, eventual NATO membership. How is that going to change, though, the reality right now on the battlefield?

MATT MILLER, SPOKESPERSON, STATE DEPARTMENT: So let me talk about the reality right now on the battlefield and that is that we have seen Russia's offensive that they launched late last year that continued early this year, stall on the frontlines. We saw them have early success around Kharkiv partly -- not exclusively, but partly because we were slow to get security assistance to Ukraine because of the delay in passage of the supplemental. But once that supplemental passed, we served security assistance to Ukraine, worked with our allies and partners, and we've seen them stabilize the front and Russia stopped making major gains all along the frontlines.

Now, that's not to say Ukraine doesn't continue to need help. Of course, they do. We saw that yesterday with that brutal attack on a children's hospital, as well as other civilian sites in Ukraine. And that's why we continue to support them, including with the announcement the president made tonight that we are sending five strategic air defense systems to Ukraine, including Patriot batteries. These are batteries supplied by the United States and our allies and partners, and dozens over the coming months of tactical air defense systems. These are systems that can be deployed to protect Ukrainian cities and to protect Ukrainian troops on the frontline.

And what I can tell you is that is the first announcement of security assistance that is being made over the course of the three days of the NATO summit here in Washington. It is not the last one. BLITZER: We heard President Biden just a little while ago, Matt, say that NATO is stronger than ever right now and Ukraine will prevail. But can world leaders trust President Biden in the long-term when they see him in this major political crisis right now here in the United States, and they potentially could have concerns, at least in private, about his fitness to serve another term?

MILLER: So, look, of course, European leaders and other leaders around the world pay attention to our elections, just as we pay attention to other countries' elections. That's a natural thing to do. What we can do is tell leaders around the world is that the commitment from the United States that we have made is one we continue to stand by. As long as President Biden is in office, he will continue to support Ukraine. We have made clear from the beginning that we have had Ukraine's back.

But I also think it's important to note that there are clear, overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress that support Ukraine. And if you look at poll after poll, there is overwhelming support for Ukraine from the American public.

BLITZER: As you know, The Wall Street Journal is now reporting that back in June of 2022, Secretary of State Blinken went to a meeting with the German chancellor instead of President Biden, saying the president had to go to bed. You denied that. But can you say the Biden administration has been fully transparent about the toll the president's age is apparently taking?

MILLER: Of course, of course we have been. And I can tell you with respect to that that report, it was absolutely not true. Secretary Blinken did go to that meeting, as he had planned to all along. And the remarks that he has reported to have said, he just flat never said. I talked to him about that, made that clear to The Wall Street Journal. They decided to run that anyway.

Look, the White House will continue to speak about the president's health, the president's stamina, and they've done that over the past few days, and I think you'll continue to see the president out, as you did tonight, over the course of the next few days, speaking directly to the American people, and speaking to the world about all the work that we're doing through this NATO summit to strengthen our national security and strengthen our transatlantic alliance.

BLITZER: While I have you, Matt, I quickly want to turn to Israel's war in Gaza that's still continuing, obviously. At least 25 Palestinians have been killed and dozens wounded in the strike on a school in Khan Younis.

Matt, I quickly want to turn to Israel's war in Gaza that's still continuing, obviously.


At least 25 Palestinians have been killed and dozens wounded in the strike on a school in Khan Younis, sheltering displaced civilians. At what point should we assume the U.S. is comfortable with these levels of civilian casualties in Gaza?

MILLER: We are uncomfortable with any level of civilian casualties in Gaza. We have continually impressed upon Israel that they need to do more to reduce civilian casualties. I do think it's important to note that civilian casualties have come down dramatically over the past few months from the really catastrophic levels that they were at earlier this year and, of course, late last year.

But we want to see civilian casualties completely go away, and that is why we are pushing so hard, have people in the region right now working to try to achieve a ceasefire that would secure the release of hostages, that would alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people, that would allow us to surge humanitarian assistance in and ultimately, we believe, would set the conditions for the end of the war. That's what we've been focused on and what's what we're spending all of our time trying to get over the finish line.

BLITZER: Let's hope that happens. Matt Miller, chief spokesman at the State Department, thanks very much for joining us.

MILLER: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: And just ahead, we're only moments away from Donald Trump's first campaign rally in days and he could be dropping a major hint about his pick for a running mate.

Stick around. You're in The Situation Room.



BLITZER: Donald Trump is back on the campaign trail tonight as anticipation for his VP announcement is building and building, just ahead of the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee next week.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is standing by for us. She's over at the Trump rally in Florida.

Kristen, do we expect the former president to offer any hints about his vice presidential pick tonight?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we'll certainly be reading all the tea leaves. Here's what I can tell you right now, we're obviously in Miami, Florida or Marco Rubio, hometown here in Miami, also front runner for vice presidential picks, recently spoke at this rally before Donald stage and Rubio's whole family is here.

However, I will say I am just reading tea leaves because I am told by senior advisors that announcement is not likely to come tonight.

However, another aide to Donald Trump told me they just don't really know what he's going to do. Remember, Wolf, but I know we've discussed this before. They have until Monday to announce who is going to be on the ticket with Donald Trump and Donald Trump has indicated he's going to wait as long as possible.

In fact, one source told me it will come as late as Monday morning. Now, I have been told by various events by these senior advisers when I look at these events, not to read too much into that, but obviously don't have any answers. So, we are reading into everything he's doing. On Saturday, he has a rally in Pennsylvania.

Obviously, that is not home to JD Vance. He is the senator from Ohio, but it is technically JD Vance territory, something that we are looking at closely. Now, one of the other things were going to look at tonight is how Marco Rubio and Donald Trump interact. We obviously are looking detail for any kind of detail as to when this announcement is going to come and who is going to be the top three contenders.

We are still told North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, Senators Marco Rubio, and Senators JD Vance and, Wolf. As soon as we have any details, I will come back and update you.

BLITZER: I know you will. Kristen Holmes, thank you very, very much.

And we'll be right back.



BLITZER: As NATO leaders are meeting here in Washington, D.C., Russia's Vladimir Putin is taunting the U.S. and its allies, putting on a lavish display of his ties to a major world leader.

Brian Todd is working the story for us.

Brian, Putin is sending an unmistakable message to NATO.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDNET: Certainly, he is, Wolf. Vladimir Putin used to relish being invited to gatherings like this, like G7 summit and other meetings. Now, he is shutout.

But the Russian president is determined to show the West that he has not as isolated as they'd like him to be.


TODD (voice-over): A red carpet rollout in Moscow for India's Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. Vladimir Putin sparing no pomp and circumstance for his strategic and economic ally. Putin hosting Modi at his home, chatting over tea. The former KGB colonel conferring Russia's highest civilian honor on Modi warm hugs between the two leaders on the steps of Putin's residence outside Moscow.

They ride in a golf cart to a horse stable. Putin looking content as he rubs the nose of one of his prize colts, a two day trip for India's leader, his first to Russia since Putin began his invasion of Ukraine more than two years ago.

For Putin, this is calculated counter-messaging, analysts say, as NATO allies meet in Washington to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the formation of that alliance.

EVELYN FARKAS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE MCCAIN INSTITUTE: Vladimir Putin is absolutely counterprogramming to NATO. He understands that the NATO alliance is basically arrayed against Russia, so he's trying to show that Russia has friends.

TODD: Modi was cagey when discussing the war in Ukraine, knowing that U.S. officials, also his allies, are wary of his visit to Russia.

NARENDRA MODI, INDIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): On the battlefield, solutions aren't easy to come by between guns, bombs, and bullets. We have to adopt a path to peace through dialogue.

TODD: But Modi also has genuine strategic motivation to curry favor with Putin.

FARKAS: His inclination is to work with strong leaders like Putin. He's also trying to make sure that Russia doesn't get too close to China because China, from the Indian perspective, is the number one adversary.

TODD: Putin for his part, has been on somewhat of a crusade reasonably to prove he's not as isolated as the U.S. and its allies are trying to make it.

PATRICK CRONIN, HUDSON INSTITUTE: But Putin really is desperate. He knows that if the alliance that is formed ever since his invasion in February 2022 continues to cohere, his economy gets weaker. He'll have bigger problems. He doesn't have the forces.

TODD: Just last month, Putin received a royal welcome in Pyongyang from Kim Jong Un. The two strong men riding in armored limousines on streets packed with a sea of people waving Russian and North Korean flags. North Korea and Russia reviving a defense treaty from the cold war, agreeing to help each other if attacked, the strongest military pact between the two nations in decades.

While much of this is for show, one analyst warns of what could come if Putin feels newly strengthened by his alliances.

FARKAS: If he feels emboldened, he might consider taking action against NATO allies, ultimately. And that would be a really dangerous thing. I mean, that would be the beginning of World War III.


TODD (on camera): While the State Department this week said it made clear with India the U.S.'s concerns about its relationship with Russia, the Kremlin couldn't help but take a jab at the U.S. and NATO.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, mocking the west for feeling what he called jealous of Russia's ties with India -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us -- Brian, thank you very much.

And this just coming into CNN, a jury has now been seated in the criminal trial of Alec Baldwin for the "Rust" movie shooting. We're live outside the courthouse, that's next.



BLITZER: Just in to CNN, a jury has now been seated in the criminal trial of the actor Alec Baldwin, stemming from the fatal shooting on the set of the film, "Rust". CNN's Josh Campbell is covering the trial for us. He's in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Josh, tell us more about this jury and what happens next?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Wolf, that jury just impaneled, and actor Alec Baldwin himself just leaving court a short time ago. Now, there's been this question, how do you find an impartial jury in a case involving a megastar, a case that's been seen around the world? All sides here believe they did just that -- 11 women, five men here in Santa Fe had been impaneled.

The prosecution spent much of the day asking questions since about the type of media coverage that for some prospective jurors had taken in. Most said that they could still render some impartial jury verdict even though most of them had heard about the case.

For the prosecution's part, they actually appear to reference President Donald Trump and actor Alec Baldwin's unflattering depiction of Trump on "SNL", telling the jurors, look, this is an actor. He may have imitated someone that you didn't like. He may play a role of someone that you don't like, but you have to set that aside, saying that this is a person and today is his day in court.

We expect that opening argument mean its will begin tomorrow, Wolf, and then well see where this trial goes. Of course, the actor has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter. If convicted, he faces up to 18 months in prison -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Do we have any idea how long? This trial is expected to go on?

CAMPBELL: So, the judge is keeping this moving at a rapid clip. She says that she expects this will go for about two weeks and she even told the attorneys at one time during these clashes between arguments in pretrial that I will put a timer on you if I have too to keep this get this trial on schedule. So we're looking at two weeks and then it goes to the jury. And of course it's up to them how long they take before they ultimately render a verdict, Wolf.

BLITZER: CNN's Josh Campbell reporting, thanks very much.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.