Return to Transcripts main page

The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Sen. Bernie Sanders: Biden Needs To Get Out There, Talk To People, Hold Press Conference; Biden Asks Congressional Black Caucus For Continued Support, No Member Pushback On Call Tonight; Trump Seeks To Distance Himself From Pro-Trump Project 2025. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 08, 2024 - 21:00   ET



DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It also increased the power outages, now currently sitting at 2.5 million-plus customers without power.

And the problem with that is, here in Houston, we have a heat advisory, going forward, over the next couple of days. So, without that ability to cool your home down with air conditioning, no electricity, it is going to be a very difficult next couple of days.

The good news out of all of this is this is not a Hurricane Harvey.


VAN DAM: This system is moving quickly. And it's got its eyes set on the Canada-U.S. border, Anderson.

COOPER: Derek Van Dam.

VAN DAM: Winds there (ph).

COOPER: Derek. Thanks so much. I appreciate it.

The news continues. "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS" starts now.


Defiance from President Biden, amid more party defections. One top Democratic senator says it's time to have a conversation, about Biden staying in the race.

While another key voice, Bernie Sanders, is my source tonight.

And there's more proof tonight that the Republican Party is fully within Donald Trump's grasp. We have the new language, in the party's new platform. It reads almost like one of the former President's rallies, and only mentions the word, abortion, once.

Plus tonight, we have the G.O.A.T herself, Team USA swimming icon, Katie Ledecky, will join me, as she is set to compete in her fourth Olympic Games.

I'm Kaitlan Collins. And this is THE SOURCE. And we are live, tonight, from Washington, during a week that may prove to be one of the most critical in President Biden's 50-year political career.

From the White House, he is fighting to ward off a handful of defections so far, within his own party, and also working to insulate himself with lawmakers, who could ultimately serve as a key line of defense for him.

In the last hour, he just sat down virtually with one of his strongest group of supporters on Capitol Hill, the Congressional Black Caucus, whose Chairman says they are standing behind President Biden.

With another prominent member, Congressman Bennie Thompson, telling Anderson Cooper just in the last hour of the day believe the President's record speaks for itself.

That comes as a sixth House Democrat publicly defected, earlier today, Congressman Adam Smith of Washington State, joining five others, in calling for Biden to drop out of the race.

But so far, and this is important here, leadership has not, with the House Democratic Leader, Hakeem Jeffries, telling CNN this.


MANU RAJU, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Leader, do you support Joe Biden staying as your Democratic nominee?

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


COLLINS: A smile on his face there, as there are a lot of questions, inside that caucus, about what's going to happen, going forward. He's going to be meeting with the entire group, tomorrow. That's going to be a key moment to watch here in Washington.

And it comes as a top Democrat, in the Hill's other chamber, Senator Mark Warner, who chairs the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee said, tonight, in a statement, in part, "With so much at stake in the upcoming election, now is the time for conversations about the strongest path forward."

He notably does not say in that statement that that path is President Biden, in what could be one of the clearest signs yet that Warner may be open to a new Democratic nominee.

Now, this is all coming as President Biden says he will be the nominee, at the Democrats convention, in 42 days from now, daring those who are calling for him to exit the 2024 race, to challenge him there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I'm not going to explain any more about what I should or shouldn't do. I am running. I am running.

I'm getting so frustrated by the elites. Now, I'm not talking about you guys, but about the elites in the party who -- they know so much more. If any of these guys--


BIDEN: --don't think I should run, run against me. Go ahead. Announce, announce for president. Challenge me at the convention.


COLLINS: Just a few hours after that, the White House briefing room devolved into a shouting match, over unanswered questions about this new reporting. Why a Parkinson's specialist has visited the White House eight times in the last eight months.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Has the President been treated for Parkinson's? No. Is he being treated for Parkinson's? No.

We cannot share names of specialists broadly, from a dermatologist to a neurologist. We cannot share names. There are security reasons we--

ED O'KEEFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE AND POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, CBS NEWS: We're miffed around here about how information has been shared with the press corps about him.

JEAN-PIERRE: What are you -- what are you miffed about?


JEAN-PIERRE: What are you miffed about?

O'KEEFE: Everything he just asked about.

JEAN-PIERRE: What do you -- and then every time, I come back and I answer the question that you guys asked.

O'KEEFE: And you answer incorrectly. And you'd have to come back and clean it up--

JEAN-PIERRE: I never answer the question incorrectly. That is not true.


COLLINS: And I want to begin, with a leader of the powerful progressive movement, in this country, who once vied for the Democratic presidential nomination himself, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Senator, it's great to have you here.


On this, have you spoken to President Biden?


COLLINS: And what was your -- how was your conversation with him? What did he say to you?

SANDERS: Why would I tell you that? Because then, the next time I talk to the President, he would not tell me what he thinks. So, we keep those conversations confidential.

COLLINS: Well, obviously, a lot of these conversations though that he has been having, Senator Chris Coons said, he was asking, who do I need to talk to? Who is concerned on the Hill?

You obviously are an Independent. But you caucus with Democrats. What are you hearing from your fellow Democratic senators, tonight?

SANDERS: Well, what I'm hearing from the people of this country, and I get around the country a lot, is that they want politicians, to stand up for a working-class, and take on powerful special interests, who are in many ways, running our country.

I find it interesting. There have been, I think, five or six articles, in The New York Times, talking about what the donor class, right? This is what the donors are thinking. Really? The last I heard, American democracy was supposed to be about what ordinary people think. Not just wealthy people.

So, I think the crisis that we're facing, right now, is that we need a Democratic Party to make it clear. They're going to stand up for the working-class of this country. They're going to tackle big-money interests. And they are going to pass legislation, which improves lives for all people, not just a few.

COLLINS: Yes. And I see what you're saying about the donors. I think the reason people focus on them is because they need money. I mean, Trump is a fundraising machine.

SANDERS: But what does that tell you?

COLLINS: Democrats obviously--

SANDERS: I mean, it talks about the corruption of the American political system.

COLLINS: Sure. And that's--

SANDERS: That billionaires can spend as much money as they want, electing or defeating candidates. That's a real problem.

COLLINS: And that's a larger conversation. But I've talked to sources, over the last few days, who -- they're getting a lot of phone calls from donors.

But on President Biden himself, without telling me the specifics of your conversation, I understand that, were you reassured by what he said to you in that conversation?

SANDERS: Look, this is -- this is what I think, Kaitlan. I think that President Biden has stood up for the working-class of this country, probably more strongly than any president in modern history.

I think he had a terrible debate. Nobody disagrees with that. I think he's been doing better, since that debate. I think he's got to get out there. He's got to talk to people. He has a press conference, on Thursday. People will see how he does. In my opinion, all right, I think that he has the ability to be an excellent president.

But what we need, right now, in that campaign, is an agenda that speaks to the next four years. People are hurting. You can't just say, hey, this is what I did last three-and-a-half years.

25 percent of elderly people in this country are living on $15,000 or less. What are we going to do to improve life for the elderly? Well, I think we've got to expand Social Security benefits.

You have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country on Earth. We have to make that child tax credit permanent.

And by the way, on all of these issues, standing up for the working- class, the Republicans are on the other side. They are more interested, not only in undermining American democracy, denying women the right to control their own bodies. They really are going to come out time and time again, on the side of the rich.

COLLINS: Well, and it sounds like you may not be seeing enough of that from the Biden campaign, tonight.


COLLINS: But on these conversations on the Hill, right now. Senator Mark Warner put out a statement, earlier, saying that it is time for conversations about the strongest path forward.

How do you convince the Democrats that you caucus with, that President Biden is the strongest?

SANDERS: Look, it's not my job to convince the Democrats I caucus with.

The question, right now, is the President has got to get out and convince the American people. And you do that by talking about a very good record. But more importantly, saying: You know what? We got a housing crisis in America.

My city, cost of housing is outrageous. Republicans have nothing to say about that. We have got to build millions of units of low-income and affordable housing. All right?

Elderly people can't afford dental, hearing, or vision care. But the President has got to say, we're going to expand Medicare to cover those needs.

So, what you have got to do, right now, to win the support of working families, who will determine the outcome of this election, stand by them, come up with an agenda, get it done.

COLLINS: And have you heard enough, of those pressing issues that from the President?


COLLINS: Is he making that case?

SANDERS: No. I think what they have talked about with some pride is their accomplishments, and lowering the cost of prescription drugs.

Absolutely right. We put more money into infrastructure than any time in the history of this country, rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. Very good. More money into transforming our energy system.

You got Donald Trump. You're talking about who's fit for office? Donald Trump, believe it or not, thinks that climate change is a hoax created by the Chinese. That is an insane statement, and a dangerous statement. So, when you talk about fitness for office, take a look at that.

But bottom line is we've accomplished a lot under Biden. We need to aggressively go forward, because so many of our people are hurting. 60 percent living the paycheck to paycheck, we got to speak to their needs.


COLLINS: But there are a lot of voters, who are concerned about President Biden's age, and what he displayed on that stage, a few Thursdays ago, in Atlanta. 50 million people were watching that. So, you're talking about the issues. But what about the age aspect of this conversation? And not just age, but his ability to do his job?

SANDERS: It's an issue. But you know what else people are worried about? Yes, they're worried about his age. They're worried about his mental acuity. But you know what else they're worried about? They're going to be able to -- are they able to afford to feed their families, to pay the rent?

COLLINS: But they trust Trump.

SANDERS: Are they having a living wage? No, what media does--

COLLINS: They trust Trump on the economy war--

SANDERS: No. Let me -- let me just say this. COLLINS: --in the polls.

SANDERS: What media does, to a large degree, is make politics into a beauty contest, into a Grammy Award-winning contest.

You are voting for somebody on policy. Who is going to improve your life? Do you want somebody, who thinks that climate change is a hoax, who takes away women's right to control their own bodies, who has appointed extremely anti-union leaders to his administration, which is what Trump did.

COLLINS: But what about a poll -- and the latest Gallup poll shows that voters when it's asked, who do you agree with on the issues that matter the most to you? Donald Trump's almost at 50 percent. President Biden's at 37 percent. So, you're arguing, who do you trust more on the issues.

SANDERS: All right. Let me give you an example. All right?

COLLINS: But what if they don't see that?

SANDERS: An example. Should we cut Social Security, or expand Social Security benefits, by lifting the cap on taxable income, so the wealthy start paying their fair share of taxes? Do a poll on that. I will bet you, 85 percent, 90 percent of the people think we should lift the cap, have wealthy people pay their fair share, so we can expand benefits and extend the life of Social Security.

All polls, about expanding Medicare, to cover dental, hearing and vision, 90 percent of the people support it.

Raise the federal minimum wage. People support that.

So look, I trust that poll. But the problem is the President has not gotten out. And contrast it, his point of view, representing working people, with the Republicans.

COLLINS: And you're talking about the issues, which obviously are of grave concern to voters.

SANDERS: Yes, some concern--


COLLINS: And we look at -- we look at democracy. We look at this.


COLLINS: But if you can't get your guy reelected, if President Biden isn't reelected, I mean? And this is what's at stake. That's the concern here. And so, when you see the White House at the briefing today, or President Biden repeatedly refusing to undergo a cognitive exam, and to release the results of that--

SANDERS: You what a cognitive--

COLLINS: --do you think it'd be better if he would?

SANDERS: What I think is best is for him to get out, to talk to people, to do town meetings, to do press conferences, and let the people decide. That's how I think you determine cognitive ability.

COLLINS: But so far, voters have shown concerns about his age.

SANDERS: Yes. Well, I saw that debate. And it--

COLLINS: What does he need to do specifically? What do you think would help? You're saying -- you're not saying he needs to do a test. You're saying he needs to get out there. What does that look like?

SANDERS: See, you keep--

COLLINS: A press conference, interviews?

SANDERS: --talking about is cognitive issues. And they're real and legitimate. And I'm suggesting--

COLLINS: I'm talking about voters' concerns.

SANDERS: Yes. And those are--

COLLINS: Not my concerns.

SANDERS: Yes. And you're right.

And I think what he has got to do is get out there, interact with people, turn off the teleprompter. And people can make a judgment for themselves how well he is doing.

But what I would also say that what we are not talking about, and this, I really fault media for, this is not who is the best entertainer?

The truth is Trump had a good TV show. He was a very good entertainer. But do people really think and want to vote for somebody, who thinks that climate change is a hoax, who wants to deny women the right to control their own bodies? I don't think so.

So, what we have got to do is inject policy, the contrast between what Biden stands for, and what Trump stands for. And then, if you do that, I think Biden's could do just fine.

COLLINS: And with all due respect, obviously, President Biden and Donald Trump had 90 minutes side-by-side, to draw those contrasts themselves.


COLLINS: President Biden had that opportunity.

But you said yesterday, to Robert Costa of CBS, that President Biden certainly can beat Donald Trump. Do you think he is the best Democrat to beat Donald Trump? SANDERS: I think he's the President of the United States. He is at this moment, the Democratic nominee.

And I would repeat, absolutely. If he runs on a platform that stands for the needs of the working families, demands that the billionaire class start paying their fair share of taxes, and respects the needs of workers, yes, he will win the election.

COLLINS: You said he is, at this moment, the Democratic nominee. If he decides to drop out of the race--

SANDERS: You're speculating. I'm not into speculation. He is right now the--

COLLINS: It's a real conversation though that even your--

SANDERS: Well it's a real con-- look, that's what -- I know, and what CNN is--

COLLINS: --the lawmakers on Capitol Hill are having.

SANDERS: --all they talk about, 24 hours a day.

But what I'm suggesting is that what we should be talking about is which candidate is best-able to represent the needs of the vast majority of our people. Maybe, just maybe, we might want to talk about that.

COLLINS: And you do believe that that is President Biden?

SANDERS: Right now, President Biden is the Democratic nominee. Until I hear differently, I will support him. And I do believe that if he makes it clear that he is prepared to stand up for working people, take on powerful special interests, yes, he will win the election.


COLLINS: And if he does not run, would you support the Vice President if she is--

SANDERS: I'm not going to -- I am--

COLLINS: --if he gets behind her?

SANDERS: Right now, Biden is the Democratic nominee. Period.

COLLINS: Senator Bernie Sanders, thank you for your time tonight.

SANDERS: Thank you.

COLLINS: More new reporting ahead. What Democrats are saying, after the President's meeting tonight, with an influential group of their fellow Democrats on the Hill?

Also, why Donald Trump has been uncharacteristically and relatively quiet, the last several days? We'll talk about that after a quick break.



COLLINS: Moments ago, President Biden wrapped up a virtual meeting, from right there at the White House. He was calling in, to speak with the Congressional Black Caucus, an influential group of lawmakers down the street.

It could serve as a political firewall against the growing number of Democrats, so far it's a handful, who are calling for him to drop his reelection bid.

Congressman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi was one of the members in that meeting. Here is what he just told CNN.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): We heard from him. We felt very good. And we understand. But we will take Joe Biden any day over a convicted felon.


COLLINS: Here in Washington, tonight, with reaction from our panel of political experts.

And Karen, and when you -- when you hear that, this is a group that obviously could be deeply influential, as Biden is kind of trying to hold on to all the support he can get, right now. What do you make of what Bennie Thompson had to say?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That was an important message. That was intentionally delivered, tonight, before the meeting, tomorrow, with other members of Congress.

Because most members in the Democratic caucus, Senators and House members, are going to think twice before crossing the CBC, because they knew, in their own races, Black voters are going to be critical. And you don't want to have CBC members out there, crossways, who maybe won't do all the things that they could do, to help you, if you've crossed them.

COLLINS: Yes. And it seems, Alex, like the survival strategy is kind of coming into play. Obviously, this week is big, because all the lawmakers are back here in town.

Biden sent that letter to House Democrats, today. He was calling into one of his favorite morning shows, to be incredibly defiant, saying challenge me if you -- if you think I should get out of the race, but also, holding meetings with people, the groups like the Congressional Black Caucus.

ALEX THOMPSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, AXIOS: Yes. I mean, some Democrats feel that Biden now is effectively holding them hostage, right? Because he is not -- and he is now, after five days of silence, he is not entertaining any talk, the fact that he could be replaced.

And if you're a Democrat, and you're worried about the ticket, it does not help you now, to go public, with your concerns. Because if he's insisting that he's going to stay in, then it doesn't do anything.

FINNEY: But can I just point out, just one thing by the rules? And Doug and I are rules nerds.

Technically, by the rules of our party, the nomination process has ended. Joe Biden got 14 million votes. He got the delegates that more than the delegates he needed. Members of Congress don't actually even get to vote till the second round of voting at the convention, basically.

So to some degree, I wouldn't say it's about being a hostage. He is the nominee. He has -- and in talking to--


FINNEY: --delegates though.

HEYE: He's sort of the nominee.

FINNEY: But here's the thing.

HEYE: He's definitely the apparent nominee. But he's--

FINNEY: Well on the--

HEYE: But he has not--


HEYE: --been nominated.

FINNEY: But Doug.

HEYE: That is a key difference.

FINNEY: But as you know, he's got the pledged delegates. And as far as -- what I've been told and what -- from the conversations I had this weekend, they're not going anywhere. So, members of Congress can be agitated. But as long as he's got the pledged delegates, he does -- that is a big sort of ace to have up his sleeve.

THOMPSON: Well and there's sort of this very sort of morally gray calculus going on with Democrats, right now. Because essentially, like Biden is still electable, like Biden could still pull this out.

And as Bernie Sanders just sort of articulated, this is about bigger than Joe Biden. This is about the cause. This is about the issues, right? But you ask Democrats, you put any Democrat on truth serum, you talk to them privately. They say, should Joe Biden be president, even two years from now? No one would give you an unequivocal yes. And that's sort of this morally gray calculus going on.

COLLINS: Yes. And that's what the White House is obviously trying. I mean, no Democratic leaders, in the House or Senate, want to come out and be the first ones to say that maybe he's not the strongest candidate. And that's obviously something that the White House is watching closely.

Because, yes, the delegates are important. But maintaining that grip on support is obviously what President Biden is trying to do right now, Doug.

HEYE: Sure -- the biggest thing Biden has going for him right now is that nobody wants to be really first.

And we've seen a few members of Congress. Mike Quigley is a good example. Adam Smith is a good example. And yes, Adam Smith is Ranking on Armed Services. It's a pretty senior place. But he's not leadership-leadership.

And if any of the Big Four go on Biden, he's got a very real political problem. He already has a real political problem. But that gets existential immediately. And it's part of why, he was not really playing offense right now, except, it's a four corners delay of game offense.

So, he had a bad debate. It took eight days for him to be in front of a camera. He called in today. That doesn't really count. The press conference is going to be six days after the bad interview. He's trying to play this clock out, so the time runs out. And then, Democrats say, well, there's nothing we can do at this point.


HEYE: Now it's too late.

COLLINS: And we're just hearing from our reporting coming in literally, right now, about this meeting, is it was about 30 minutes long, with the Congressional Black Caucus. We're told that he -- President Biden didn't get any pushback from those lawmakers.

Not a surprise, because we saw them going into it being pretty united behind him.


COLLINS: But obviously, we have to listen between the lines, to what some of these other lawmakers are saying.

And I want you to listen, Karen, to what Jamie Raskin, Pramila Jayapal, some of these Democrats had to say about President Biden today.


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): If there would have been any change, it would have to come from him.


RAJU: Yes, but what do you think? I mean, do you think that 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.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Right now, I'm just listening to and continuing to listen to members and see where they are.

Our members really need to continue to just see how this week plays out, and see the President in unscripted situations.


COLLINS: There is a lot of keeping your powder dry happening, right now, on Capitol Hill.

FINNEY: Absolutely. And look, the other piece that I want to just bring to the table on this. Obviously, the President's made very clear, he's in it to win, and he's not dropping out.

However, if there were to be any change? What I think some of these members may be starting to understand, is it's a lot more complicated, to replace him at the top of the ticket, than they would have let you think, last week, when people were just kind of, throwing the idea around.

We already know that the RNC has said they will sue anybody, you know, if anyone other than Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are on the ticket, in certain states. They're going to sue to get people off the ballot. So again--


FINNEY: --just understanding the money, the logistics, I think people are recognizing, let's take a step back, and make sure we know what we're about to get ourselves into. And I think, as they've said, I mean, as we've seen, the polls generally are about the same, where they were before the debate, granted, we needed the debate to be a big, a movement--

COLLINS: Yes. Well and--

FINNEY: --of ours, but.

COLLINS: --and speaking of, I mean, those numbers and what they look like. Donald Trump has been not silent, because he's Donald Trump, but he has been very quiet--

HEYE: Yes. COLLINS: --as all of this going on.

HEYE: And this is the first time he's come up in the -- in this conversation. And look, he is being cagey here, because Joe Biden is on the rockiest political ground of anybody that we've seen, at least since Bill Clinton's impeachment hearings, if not well before that.

His job is -- obviously Donald Trump is going to Donald. But his job is to stay out of the way. Let this be the Democrats' fight. Let them fight amongst themselves.

COLLINS: Yes. We'll see what that looks like.

Doug Heye, Karen Finney, Alex Thompson, thank you all for being here.

Speaking of Donald Trump, we just heard from him, a few moments ago, weighing in on that debate that he has not weighed in very much on. We'll show you what he said, right after that.

Also, the new Republican platform that proves it truly is Donald Trump's party now. We'll tell you what it says.



COLLINS: Moments ago, former President Donald Trump, as we were just talking about how he's been pretty quiet, in recent days, called into Fox News, and was asked questions about President Biden's debate performance and for his thoughts on it.

Donald Trump though seemed to be holding his fire to a degree, not giving any kind of full-throated blistering takedown when he was given this ample opportunity. And instead, knocking Biden for what he claimed was his pale appearance and weak voice.

Here's what Donald Trump said.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I was thinking about what I was saying. I wasn't looking over at him almost at all. Except when he went a little bit haywire, I didn't look at him at all.

And I'm very disappointed in him. He's the worst president in the history of our country. We've never had anything like it, what he's done to our borders, what he's done to our country, inflation, the people that he's hurting.


COLLINS: Joining me tonight.

Trump's former White House Communications Director, Alyssa Farah Griffin. And also, New York Times Senior Political Correspondent, Maggie Haberman.

Maggie, just to -- just start with you. When you hear Trump, tonight and how he has been uncharacteristically and relatively quiet over this, I wonder what you make of his response there.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think he doesn't like being out of the news cycle.

And I think that it's seeming safer to Trump and his world that Biden is digging in, and is -- even if not more likely, than not to say that he's not going -- that to not go anywhere. He's clearly saying that he's not going to step aside, and let somebody else be the nominee, or endorse someone else being the nominee. So, I think that that makes him emboldened.

I will say, Kaitlan, he hasn't been that quiet. If you look at Truth Social, and you look at his feed, which doesn't get a whole lot of coverage, he has been quite, quite, quite active there, saying all kinds of things, including posting an old video clip, of him telling Hillary Clinton, during their debate that she would be in jail if he was running the country.

I think that he just wants the narrative to be back on him. And I think that he's feeling better about the idea that the race is going to be him versus Biden.

COLLINS: Yes. Alyssa, what do you make of that as we're now, one week from today, we'll be at the Republican Convention in Milwaukee. There certainly will be a quite a lot of attention on Donald Trump.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Listen, Trump gets antsy when he -- the media attention is not on him, to Maggie's point.

And calling into "Morning Joe" is vintage Donald Trump. That was his playbook from 2016. So, I don't doubt that he saw President Biden do that this morning, and just wanted to get back out there.

But the crazy part is this is like Donald Trump benefits from being largely out of the spotlight. This has been the best news cycle, for Donald Trump, because he's not in it, and because it's negative for Joe Biden.

But the -- while the Biden team is probably hoping this convention, coming up, is going to take a lot of the heat off of Biden, I'm a little bit skeptical of that. I think that you're going to see a lot of scripted speeches.

You're going to see a lot of folks, talking from teleprompters, about the way that the Republican Party is united, talking about things voters care about, like securing the border and growing the economy. I'm not sure that this is going to be the Trump sideshow that perhaps a rally or some of the more unhinged Truth Social posts might be.

COLLINS: Yes, we saw the convention, obviously, in 2020. [21:35:00]

But on the platform itself, Maggie, and you were reporting on this, the Republican Party laying it out, a source tells CNN that Trump was actually writing some of the portions of this himself. It's about a 16-page document. And it's kind of a sign of just how far the party has shifted, not that we really needed one, since 2016.

But, I mean, in 2016, Republicans had support for a federal ban on abortion, after 20 weeks. Now, there is no mention at all of a federal ban. It's only the word is only mentioned there once. And it's saying that they want to oppose late-term abortions. It's not talking about the national debt.

I mean, when you kind of read it, if you've been to a Trump rally, it sounds like you're at a Trump rally, when you read this platform.

HABERMAN: That's well-put.

I mean, I was thinking about what Alyssa was just saying, about how she doesn't think there is going to be a lot of high off-script drama, next week, at the RNC that's going to distract Democrats from what they're dealing with. And I think she's probably right. The platform was the big chance.

Now, look, there could still be some pushback, from some social conservatives. There was some disappointment from some corners of social conservative activists. But I don't think that's going to be the likely scenario, because most of them praise this and bought into it.

And to your point, Trump has bent the party to his will. I mean, this is really a Trump document. It's very close to what Trump wanted to do in 2020, where he wanted a condensed platform. They ultimately didn't do that in the middle of COVID, and just reverted to the 2016 platform.

This is the Trump Republican Party. And it is a -- you know, his message to these activists, privately is, he won. He is the nominee three times. This is his party. This reflects what he wants it to look like. Will it be a forever document? Probably not. But it will be for a while.

COLLINS: Yes. And Alyssa, on that -- on that front, I mean, if you -- if you read a Republican Party platform, from any other presidential election, pre-Donald Trump, it would talk about traditional marriage being between one woman and one man. It would talk about the national debt. It would obviously have a lot more to say about abortion.

I wonder what you make of how far it says that the party has truly shifted under Donald Trump's reign.

FARAH GRIFFIN: Yes, I've been to every convention since 2012, including the small one in 2020. And it's the remaking of the GOP. I mean, talking about the approach to trade, the leaning into tariffs and to trade wars, completely throwing away the sort of Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan approach to free-market economics. It's shifting things on its head.

And I think that there's this actually dictating some of these more social policies into it, too. It reads pretty much like a script from a Donald Trump rally. I agree with Maggie. I don't know if it's an enduring document. But I certainly think it gets you through, if there's a Trump presidency, and then whoever his successor may be.

COLLINS: Yes. And what might be more enduring is Project 2025. And we just saw Trump, in recent days, distancing himself from this, Maggie.

For people, who don't know, and aren't on Twitter, necessarily, as much as we are. But this is like this playbook that was crafted by the conservative group, The Heritage Foundation. It's to influence how the Executive branch would operate under a Trump presidency, or any Republican.

And the group's leader came under fire, in recent days, after claiming that a second American Revolution is underway, said it would remain bloodless if the left allowed it to be.

Trump came out, over the weekend, and said, "I know nothing about Project 2025. I have no idea who is behind it."

Though, it is a lot of people, who worked for him, who are working on this very effort, Maggie.

HABERMAN: So, the Biden campaign has decided to frame Project 2025 as a Trump effort. It's not actually a Trump effort. Agenda 47 is Trump's policy platform. And his aides have actually been very frustrated by a lot of the Project 2025 efforts.

It is true that some key Trump advisers are involved in Project 2025. It is true that some of those people would almost certainly staff another Trump administration.

But there's a lot of what is in that document that you've never heard Trump talk about, that I don't think that he would actually be interested in. There's a whole also, you know, swath of policy that both of you know, he just doesn't care about. And so, there are specific discrete things that he is interested in.

But by answering this, by giving this statement, on the one hand, yes, that statement is now going to be reflected on, in most stories. Going forward, in coverage, it'll say Trump says he has nothing to do with this. But then everybody's going to fact-check that statement. And it has just made this into a bigger deal.

So, this is exactly what Trump's advisers had been concerned about, for some time. Is this statement going to make this go away? It doesn't really seem like it.

COLLINS: Maggie Haberman, Alyssa Farah Griffin, great to have you both. Thank you.

HABERMAN: Thank you.


COLLINS: Meanwhile, the White House, today, was responding to questions that they got, from many reporters, about the President's health. Specifically on this, why a Parkinson's specialist was visiting the White House eight times within eight months?

Seemed like a very difficult question for them to answer. We'll show you what happened next.



COLLINS: Tonight, the White House is declining to answer a pretty simple question. Did a renowned Parkinson's disease expert, from Walter Reed, visit the White House, to evaluate President Biden?


JEAN-PIERRE: Every time he has a physical, he has had to see a neurologist. So, that is answering that question.

O'KEEFE: No, it's not.

JEAN-PIERRE: No, it is. It is. You're asking me--

O'KEEFE: Did Dr. Kevin Cannard come to the White House specifically--

JEAN-PIERRE: I cannot -- but I just -- I also said to you--

O'KEEFE: --because of the President's condition?

JEAN-PIERRE: Ed, I also said to you, for security reasons, we cannot share names. We cannot share names. We have to -- we have to--

O'KEEFE: You can answer names of others he would have met with.

JEAN-PIERRE: We cannot--

O'KEEFE: But you can't share names in regards to--

JEAN-PIERRE: No, no, no, no, no. We -- no, we cannot share--

O'KEEFE: --if someone came here with regards to the President.

JEAN-PIERRE: We cannot share names of specialists broadly, from a dermatologist to a neurologist. We cannot share names. There are security reasons.



COLLINS: White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre there, dodging that question, even though I should note visitor logs are what show that the expert visited the White House eight times within eight months, including at least once for a January meeting, with President Biden's physician.

Joining me here, on set, Washington oncologist, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a former member of Biden's 2020 Transition COVID task force, and health policy adviser to the Obama White House. So, a lot of familiarity with that room that we just saw.

I do want to get your reaction, because we're just getting information, from the White House, tonight. And essentially, what they did not want to get into was the specifics of why this personal doctor was there, what he was doing.

But a key line that we are getting from the White House, right now, is that President Biden has not seen a neurologist outside of his annual physical. Trying to answer the question everyone had there today, which is why this doctor was there eight times, within eight months, and if you'd seen President Biden himself.

What did you make of just the transparency effort overall?

DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL, VICE PROVOST OF GLOBAL INITIATIVES, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Well, they obviously didn't want to answer that question.

And they did say some very definitive things. He wasn't on L-dopa and Parkinson's medication. And he doesn't have a diagnosis of Parkinsonism. But going further, whether he'd been examined, they obviously did not want to say,

COLLINS: Yes. They would put some information out there, but not others.

And I should note, also, President Biden signed a national plan about ending Parkinson's, recently. Some people were saying maybe that was it. The White House didn't point that out today.

But overall, you are familiar with President Biden. You served on the COVID task force, in the campaign, and then when he was inside the White House. When you see him, just how he was four years ago, how he was at the State of the Union, a few months ago, and how he was at the debate, and lately, I wonder if you see a difference.

EMANUEL: Oh, yes, there is a clear difference.

He was -- and you can see this on the videos that are circulating from 2020. During the campaign, he was very mentally nimble, asking very perceptive questions, on point, and very clear. And so, I think he was very pointed.

In the debate, he was not coherent right from the start. It wasn't as if he got more tired as the debate went on. And questions he's answered many times before, he did not answer clearly. And he was not giving very sharp answers and very nimble responses. When Trump said he didn't -- he oversaw a terrible economy, et cetera?

He didn't simply say, look, I've created 15 million jobs, more than you and your predecessor -- your Republican predecessor combined. That would have been a simple answer to back that false claim out of the air. But he didn't do that.

COLLINS: Well, and you wrote a pretty lengthy piece on this.

And I should note. You have always been very careful in your assessments. You're not someone, who just goes out and says, I'm diagnosing this person that I've watched on television. And you've always been really thoughtful about that.

And you wrote in a piece, for "The Atlantic," a few days ago, there are exceptionally sharp octogenarians. Biden isn't one of them. And you talked about that debate, saying it indicated possible cognitive problems that interfere with his ability to function.

I think when people look at it, and the people who defend him right now, the other question is, he'd be 86, at the end of a second term, if he is reelected. And I think people have concerns of what that could look like.

EMANUEL: Yes. Look, all people's cognitive function declines after about 30. We have two kinds of intelligences.

Crystallized intelligence, that's vocabulary, things you've learned, like knitting or bicycle riding.

And then you had fluid intelligence. That's your attention span, your ability for verbal free -- fluency, your ability to adjust and problem-solve in new situations. And that fluid intelligence is what declines.

Crystallized intelligence stays, and may actually improve with age. But the fluid intelligence, adapting to new circumstances, keeping something in your head as you are trying to manipulate that information, that does go down.

And what was particularly worrisome, I think, to people, Americans, and those of us who were watching, was the lack of any verbal fluency, which was a pretty good assessment of fluid intelligence during that debate.

COLLINS: And you're not even just looking at President Biden. You talk about how former President Trump goes off about sharks, and boats being so heavy that they sink, and talked about this. Just from your standpoint--

EMANUEL: Well, President Trump is a -- former President Trump, he also has attention problems. He can't focus. He meanders of different subjects that come up, and sort of stream of consciousness. He brings in irrelevancies. You get a lot of that lack of fluid intelligence from him. I think it's overshadowed by the fact that he lied so much.

During the debate, last Thursday, he was lying so much that the CNN fact-checker just gave him -- threw up his hands. So, I think the lies--


EMANUEL: --overshadow his lack of fluid -- or his declining fluid intelligence too.


But this is a very important -- very important election.

COLLINS: It is very.

EMANUEL: More important than any election since the Civil War.


EMANUEL: And the American public needs transparency.

COLLINS: And it's a great piece for people to read.

Dr. Emanuel, thank you for joining tonight.

EMANUEL: Thank you.

COLLINS: Great to have you.

And of course, we are going to talk about the Olympics, next. Take a little break from politics. because here to help us get ready for what is exciting -- what is -- we're excited about what's happening in Paris soon, is the G.O.A.T herself, the swimmer, Katie Ledecky, next.



COLLINS: The 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris are almost here. And one of the most decorated female swimmers of all time, Katie Ledecky, will be there, aiming to add a few more gold medals to the trophy case.

Katie Ledecky joins me now, who is also the Author of The New York Times bestseller, "Just Add Water: My Swimming Life," her great new book.

And Katie, it's so great to have you back.

The last time we talked, you talked about the big goals that you had, not just for yourself, but also for Team USA overall in Paris. And now that we're a few weeks out, what are you hoping to have happen, while you're there?

KATIE LEDECKY, OLYMPIC SWIMMING STAR, 7-TIME OLYMPIC CHAMP: Well, thanks for having me on, Kaitlan.

I am really excited. We're just under three weeks out from the start of competition. And I'm together with Team USA, right now, the USA Swimming Team, preparing and training hard, getting that last -- last bit of preparation in. And I'm really excited about how we're coming together as a team.

I think a lot of people see swimming as an individual sport. But when you put that -- that USA cap on. In training, these last few weeks, we really feel like this is a team sport, and we come together to represent Team USA. So, I'm excited to see what happens. I think we're going to have a great team.

COLLINS: I think a lot of people have no idea what it's like to prepare for the Olympics.

And I loved what you described yourself, your lifestyle, in, as your book as a sporty nun.

What is your schedule, like, especially when you're preparing for something like the Olympics?

LEDECKY: Yes, I talk a lot about it in my book. It's a grueling -- grueling training schedule. But it's something that I love. I love the training, almost more than the racing. I swim nine to 10 times a week in training, two hours-plus at a time, plus dryland, weights training four or five times a week. So, it's a lot.

And then you add in the recovery, sleeping well, eating well, doing all the little things right, and those have become more important, over -- over time for me, definitely.

COLLINS: Well, now I'm worried we're like keeping you up past your bedtime.

LEDECKY: I'm all right. I'm all right.

COLLINS: I mean--

LEDECKY: I'm getting used to that -- I'm getting adapted to the Paris time -- time -- time change.

COLLINS: Yes, that's true. You're going to have to deal with a new time zone.

This is going to be your fourth time at the Olympics. There are so many people who love watching you. They loved when we had you on the show last time. But also to see you there.

It was -- it's crazy to think that you were just 15-years-old, your first time at the Olympics. And I wonder, how you're reflecting on that, and how you're viewing this? Do you have -- do you have many more in you? Or how are you kind of looking at this?

LEDECKY: I still love it just as much as I did when I was 15-years- old, or even when I was 6-years-old, just starting to swim. As I -- as I described in my book, just the joy that I felt in the water, from day one, it's something that has almost grown over the years.

And now I'm 27-years-old. I'm on the older end of the swim team. Not the end (ph), but on the older end. And it's such a joy to be around some of these 16-year-olds, 17-year-olds that are coming to their first Olympics, and going to experience a lot of what I experienced.

Just being in the village, seeing all these athletes, from all around the world, all different sports coming together, and just competing against the very best. It's so unique. It's so special.

And just to see it through their eyes is, it's really refreshing and fun for me. And I hope that I can help them along their journey, over these next few weeks.

COLLINS: Yes, and when I -- your recognition. And I used to cover the White House. We talk about politics so much on the show.

But you got something that wasn't political, the other day. But it was the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which of course is our nation's highest civilian honor. You're the first swimmer, to actually be awarded that. We have a picture of you here, being awarded with it, by President Biden.

I just wonder, one, what that moment was like for you. And two, where you put a medal like that one, in relation to all of the others that you must have in your trophy case.

LEDECKY: That was a really special day. I grew up in the Washington, D.C. area. So, just to get a few days at home, be there with my family, get to go to the White House with my family and a few friends. It was -- it was a really special day, and just to be surrounded by so many inspiring people.

I just walked away feeling more inspired, to represent our country, more inspired to continue on, trying to help other people. And I think that's something that I want to carry with me beyond the sport.


I'm not done swimming. I'm still going to be competing after Paris, maybe through L.A. So, it's, there's still a lot ahead of me, and a lot that I want to accomplish, in and out of the pool. So, I take it day by day. But that was a very special day, and ranks right up there with any gold medal.

COLLINS: L.A., 2028, we'll see.

Katie Ledecky, it's so great to have you on.

LEDECKY: That's right.

COLLINS: Good luck in all your training. Thank you for being here.

LEDECKY: Thank you.

COLLINS: And thank you all so much, for joining us.