Full transcript of "Face the Nation," July 7, 2024

On this “Face the Nation” broadcast, moderated by Robert Costa: 

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina
  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
  • Democratic strategists and CBS News contributors Ashley Etienne and Joel Payne 
  • CBS News chief White House correspondent Nancy Cordes, Wall Street Journal senior political correspondent Molly Ball and New York Times chief Washington correspondent Carl Hulse

Click here to browse full transcripts of “Face the Nation.”   

ROBERT COSTA: I’m Robert Costa in Washington.

And this week on Face the Nation: With July 4 behind us, the week ahead could be a critical one for the political future of President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party.

Then days after Mr. Biden’s debate performance rattled Democrats, many of them across the country are privately and publicly questioning whether he is the strongest candidate to face former President Donald Trump. President Biden says he’s up to the job and insists, as he did in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, that he will not quit the race.

(Begin VT)

JOE BIDEN (President of the United States): If the lord almighty came down and said, “Joe, get out of the race,” I would get out of the race. The lord almighty is not coming down.

(End VT)

ROBERT COSTA: But the pressure on the president to consider stepping aside from the contest is intensifying.

And with Congress back in session and key U.S. allies headed to Washington for a NATO meeting, the next few days are set to be crucial ones.

As for former President Trump, he’s largely been off the trail, playing golf and poking at the Democrats on social media and finalizing his decision on a running mate.

We will talk to two key political voices, Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders and South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.

Plus, the secretary-general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, will be here to discuss the challenges facing the alliance.

That and more is all just ahead on Face the Nation.

Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation. Margaret is off.

We are less than four months from Election Day, and the dilemma facing the Democratic Party is dominating the headlines, as is the fallout from the presidential debate. But President Biden is determined to stay in the race, even as many Democrats are increasingly worried he might lose to former President Donald Trump.

That all said, Washington Democrats might be on edge, but what do Democratic voters in America think?

Our CBS News campaign journalists have been out talking with them in two battleground states, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Here are their voices.

(Begin VT)

LATOYA (Pennsylvania Voter): It’s choosing the lesser of the two evils, I feel like. And Joe Biden is not really evil. It’s just I don’t think he’s fully equipped for the job at his age and mental capacity right now. Trump, I’m not a fan.

MIKE (Wisconsin Voter): I think it’s time to back off. I’m suspicious that things aren’t as good as – as they were, and maybe things were being hidden from us.

QUESTION: Is there anything he can do to kind of regain confidence from voters?

MIKE: Possibly, I mean – I mean, if he speaks well, looks confident, poised, possibly, but I’m worried that – for short periods of time, he can probably pull that off. I’m worried about the endurance it requires to – to really hold that office. It’s a lot.

MAN: So, tomorrow, at this point, no. It’s a little too late for that. I think he will do fine.

JEREMY (Wisconsin Voter): I’m worried that he’s not going to kind of listen to the commonsense voices who are calling for him to – to let someone else carry the torch from here on out. I would still vote for him, mm-hmm, yes.

QUESTION: Kind of an unenthusiastic vote?

JEREMY: Yes. Yes, exactly. I mean, I think the alternative is just too stark, and that would worry me too much.

QUESTION: Do you think Biden would lose the Trump right now?

JEREMY: I do, yes.

LASHA (Wisconsin Voter): I could probably see myself voting for Biden again, I guess, just like last resort. I mean, I know that he said that he wouldn’t be running again if he didn’t absolutely believe that he was capable of running again, but, I mean, the proof is in the pudding. He’s not really fit.

And I think everybody can kind of see that.

PATRICIA (Pennsylvania Voter): I think there’s nobody in the wings who could – who could beat Trump. I think Biden can beat him again.

(End VT)

ROBERT COSTA: We’re joined now by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. He joins us from Burlington, Vermont.

Senator Sanders, good morning.

You just heard from some Democratic voters in those battleground states. You’re a leading voice on the left in this country. Does President Biden now have your full support?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vermont): President Biden can clearly defeat Donald Trump, the most dangerous president in the history of this country. And the choice is quite clear.

You got, in Trump, somebody wants to take away a woman’s right to control her body, who thinks that climate change is a hoax, and who has turned his back on the working class of this country. And on the other side, you have Joe Biden, first president in American history to walk a picket line.

We have put more money into fighting climate change than any time in the history of this country. We’re rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure.

But this, I do want to say and where I am critical of the Biden campaign. It’s one thing to talk about your record over the last three-and-a-half years, which is a strong record, but the American people are hurting, 60 percent of our people living paycheck to paycheck; 25 percent of elderly people are trying to get by on $15,000 a year or less.

The American people want an agenda for the next four years that speaks to the needs of the working class of this country. And, frankly, I don’t think the president has brought that agenda forward.

He has got to say, I am prepared to take on corporate greed, massive income and wealth inequality and stand with the working class in this country. He does that, he’s going to win, and win big.

ROBERT COSTA: So that’s your advice for President Biden. You want him to stand with working voters, talk about labor, talk about the minimum wage and those issues.

But, politically, can he count on you to be on the campaign trail for him this summer and fall? Can he count on your support?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: I have already done six events in Wisconsin. We’ve been to New York. I have been to Ohio.

And let’s – let me say this, and maybe the most important point, Bob, I want to make this morning. What we’re talking about now is not a Grammy Award contest for best singer. Biden is old. He’s not as articulate as he once was. I wish he could jump up the steps on Air Force One. He can’t.

What we have got to focus on is policy. Whose policies have and will benefit the vast majority of the people in this country? Who has the guts to take on corporate America? Who is talking about expanding Medicare so we cover dental, hearing and vision? Who’s talking about raising the cap on the taxes that people pay into Social Security, so we can raise social security benefits and extend the life of Social Security for 75 years?

Who’s talking about a permanent child tax credit to cut childhood poverty in America by 50 percent? Those are the issues he’s talked about. He’s got to bring them up in the floor. He’s got to promise the American people that, if they give him a Democratic Senate, a Democratic House, reelect him, he’s going to do that in the first 100 days.


SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: That’s what I think the American people want.

ROBERT COSTA: No doubt, Senator, this campaign about the issues, about how policy affects people. It’s also about how people see the stakes.

Let’s listen to what President Biden had to say on Friday about what happens if President – former President Trump wins the election.

(Begin VT)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC News Anchor): And if you stay in, and Trump is elected, and everything you’re warning about comes to pass, how will you feel in January?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I will feel, as long as I gave it my all, and I did the – good a job as I know I can do – that’s what this is about.

(End VT)

ROBERT COSTA: You just heard that.

Senator Sanders, how would you feel if former President Trump wins in November?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I would feel awful, as somebody who has opposed virtually all of Trump’s policies.

And I would feel awful if the American people lost the democracy which we’ve had for 250 years. And I would feel awful if we turned our back on the existential threat of climate change.

But this is not about how I feel. It’s not about how you feel. It is not even about how Joe Biden feels. It’s about how we win this election. And maybe what we should be doing is creating a Democratic Party with Biden at the top that stands with the working class of this country.

I will tell you this. Whether you’re a Republican, Democrat or Independent, the American people are disillusioned. They are angry. They think that government is busy paying attention to the rich and wealthy campaign donors.

And, by the way, I find it personally insulting that “The New York Times” and all these media organizations go out front page, oh, this is what the billionaire campaign donors feel.

Well, to hell with the billionaire campaign donors. Let’s worry about the working class of this country and what their needs are. And let, hopefully…

ROBERT COSTA: Is he – is he, President Biden, talking to you?



SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: … agenda that speaks to their needs, he will win.


ROBERT COSTA: We know the president – is the president talking to you? You’re traveling the country, talking to working voters. I have seen all the video of you meeting with union members.

Has he spoken to you in recent days? And is the White House listening to your advice at all, the campaign?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Yes, he has spoken to me in recent days, and I hope to be meeting on a regular basis with the White House to hammer out an agenda that speaks to the needs of the vast majority of the people who believe that both parties have turned their backs on them.

Right now, we have more income and wealth inequality than we’ve ever had in the history of this country. The billionaire class has never done better. Hey, how about standing up for the working class of this country for a change? If Biden does that, he’s going to win, he will win big.

ROBERT COSTA: Senator Warner of Virginia is collecting colleagues to have a discussion about the future of the ticket. Have you been invited? Will you participate? And what do you think of those talks?


Look, Mark is a friend of mine. I like Mark. He is one of the more conservative members of the Democratic Caucus. No, I have not been invited. No, I will not attend.

I think, right now, look, I understand. Biden had a terrible debate performance. I think he’s done better since. He’s got to do better again. And I know that that is a legitimate concern. But I think, most importantly now, this is not a beauty contest. It’s not a Grammy Award contest. It is a contest of who stands with the vast majority of the people in this country, the elderly, the children, working class, the poor.

And that candidate is obviously Joe Biden.

ROBERT COSTA: Senator Sanders, I must ask. I covered you closely in 2016 and 2020. You’ve run national campaigns. You’ve been a presidential candidate. You know what it takes.

If, for whatever reason President Biden ever decided to withdraw from the race, would you be open to being considered as the nominee?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, right now, I am running for reelection to the great state of Vermont as their senator. That’s where my focus is right now.

ROBERT COSTA: Senator Sanders, we appreciate your time.

And Face the Nation will be back in one minute. Stay with us.


ROBERT COSTA: We go now to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. He joins us from Seneca, South Carolina.

Senator Graham, good morning.

You just heard from your colleague Senator Bernie Sanders. He said he’s not going to meet with Senator Warner and those Democratic colleagues about the future of the ticket.

You’ve been talking to former President Trump, your ally, in recent days. You’ve even played a little golf with Trump. What’s the view from Senate Republicans, and especially from former President Trump, about what’s happening across the aisle?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-South Carolina): Well, I think most of us are – are concerned of the national security implications of this debate about President Biden’s health.

Bernie Sanders’ problem with Biden is, he’s not liberal enough; 70 percent of the public believes that President Biden is not mentally and physically capable of being President; 70 percent of the people believe the nation is on the wrong track.

Most Democrats are worried about Biden winning the election. I’m worried about Biden – Biden being the commander in chief for the next four months. We’re having a meeting with NATO in Washington next week. On October the 7th, Israel’s attacked by Hamas. On October the 8th, President Biden gives an interview to the special counsel, where they determined him to be a nice man with a bad memory and you couldn’t convince a jury he did anything wrong.

I want those tapes released. So, what I would like to see is President Biden take a cognitive test. I think everybody going forward in the line of succession should have a neurological exam on a regular basis.

ROBERT COSTA: Should former President Trump take one as well?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Yes. Yes, I think both – all nominees for president going into the future should have neurological exams as part of an overall physical exam.

I think people in the line of succession should have a neurological exam. My predecessor, Senator Thurmond, was a very vigorous man, but he was 100. He was the speaker pro tem of the Senate. This is a wakeup call for the country. We need to make sure that the people who are going to be in the line of succession are capable of being commander in chief under dire circumstances.

Here’s what I worry about, that our allies see a compromised Joe Biden, that our enemies see a compromised Joe Biden, and I’m offended by the idea that he shouldn’t take a competency test, given all the evidence in front of us. He is not only in denial. This is a dangerous time for the American people to have somebody at the ship – leading the ship of state who seems to be compromised.

So, at a minimum, take a competency exam…


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: … President Biden and Trump.

ROBERT COSTA: Speaking of a wakeup call, many Democrats are alarmed at what the

Supreme Court did this past week in terms of ruling on presidential immunity, saying that presidents effectively have immunity when it comes to official acts.

You are very close to former President Trump. This is someone who pushed to overturn the election in late 2020, early 2021. He pushed officials who were working in an official capacity, like then-Vice President Mike Pence, to the brink in terms of how to use their official powers.

How will Trump use power in a second term in the wake of this Supreme Court ruling?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, you’re going to have the NATO leader on next. I think what President Trump will do when it comes to NATO is pick up where he left off.

Pay more. About 18 members of NATO pay the 2 percent required. Sam Nunn had a proposal in 1986, if you don’t pay 3 percent…


ROBERT COSTA: But I’m talking about, Senator, how he’s going to use power inside the White House and the administration.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: I – well, I – I think he’s going to use power to get NATO to pay more. I think he’s going to secure the border by using executive action.

I think he’s going to be a damned good president to right the ship. I think he’s going to open up America to oil and gas exploration. I think he’s going to do – undo all the problems created by Biden. The question is, will it be on a revenge tour? He’s going to be on a success tour. He’s going to get us energy-independent.

He’s going to control our borders. He’s going to get our NATO allies to pay more. We have to deal with China. We’re the sole supplier of arms for Israel. NATO should pay more. I’m a big internationalist, in terms of a Republican.

ROBERT COSTA: What gives you confidence about that, Senator Graham?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: But I want to tell – I – because of what he did before. The best evidence of how President…

ROBERT COSTA: Well, he’s had a lot of grievances on social media and his speeches in recent weeks.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: When he was president of the United States, he had the most secure border in American history. When he was president of the United States, we had Arabs making peace with Israel. When he was president of the United States, we were energy-independent. Inflation was down.

The best indication of what Trump will do in the future policy-wise is what he did in the past. I love a policy debate. You know, Senator Sanders wants a policy debate, bring it on, the policy of socialism versus the policy of freedom.


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: That’s what this is about.

ROBERT COSTA: It’s not what…

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: But I’m worried right now about the capability of our president to be commander in chief.

ROBERT COSTA: Senator Graham, you want to make this about policy.


ROBERT COSTA: And that’s – that’s a fair point to make as a U.S. senator.


ROBERT COSTA: But, in recent weeks, former President Trump on his social media has been amplifying calls, circulating posts, calling for televised military tribunals – that’s his phrase that he amplified on his social media – for people like former Congresswoman Liz Cheney.

You say he’s not going to be on a revenge tour. But he’s been posting on his social media about not only taking revenge, but having televised military tribunals. And you’re someone who has served this country in uniform. Do you agree with his push, an amplification of those proposals?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Here’s what I know. I know we’re not going to have televised tribunal trials of Liz Cheney or anybody else.

Here’s what I do believe. I do believe that the country is at an inflection point. This is the most important election literally in decades, maybe ever. If you want to change the course we’re on, you need to go back to President Trump. Policy does matter.

I am confident that, if he’s president of the United States, very quickly, we’ll get our border under control, we’ll become energy-independent again, and we’ll bolster our allies, and we’ll put our enemies on their back foot. This is a very dangerous time.

I do not believe – I like President Biden, but what I have seen, I am very concerned that this man is not capable…


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: … of being commander in chief for four more months. So let’s have testing to resolve this debate.

Let’s test Trump. Let’s test Biden. Let’s test everybody in the line of succession to see if they’re capable.

ROBERT COSTA: I know – you’ve made that point clear.

Senator Graham, you’ve played golf with former President Trump.


ROBERT COSTA: We all know you support Senator Tim Scott…


ROBERT COSTA: … your colleague from South Carolina, to be Trump’s running mate.


ROBERT COSTA: One, has Trump decided privately on his running mate? And who’s – who are the front-runners, in your view?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: I don’t think he’s decided. I’m a big Tim Scott fan because I want to expand the map.

Now, I believe, before this is all said and done, that President Biden most likely will be replaced. And Kamala Harris is going to be very vigorous, but she’s for the Green New Deal. She’s for Medicare for All. She’s more like Bernie Sanders on policy.

But if I were President Trump, I would make sure I pick somebody that could add value in 2024, expand the map, take – prosecute the case against the liberals who occupy the White House and really…

ROBERT COSTA: Who is that? Who would that – who should that be?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, I think he’s got…

ROBERT COSTA: If it – if not Senator Scott – if not Senator Scott, who should it be?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, there’s three people being talked about, Burgum, solid as a rock in North Dakota. J.D. Vance would be – is aligned with President Trump in many ways. He could be a good wingman.

Can he expand the map? Marco Rubio, you got a problem in Florida. I think he’s a very articulate conservative that could help President Trump enormously.

But somebody’s not being talked about that should be, in my view, is Youngkin from Virginia. If we win Virginia, we win. It is over. So I’m hoping President Trump is looking for a V.P. pick that not only can carry on the American first agenda after he leaves, but also win in 2024.

I think the V.P. pick by both parties, if Biden steps down, Harris is going to have to pick somebody to help her. If the – if she does become the nominee, this is a dramatically different race than it is right now, today. I hope people are thinking about that on our side.

ROBERT COSTA: Senator Graham, thank you.

I know somebody in Richmond, Virginia, right now is perking up their ears at that mentioned in this season.


ROBERT COSTA: We’ll be right back with a lot more Face the Nation.

Stay with us.


ROBERT COSTA: Leaders of America’s closest European allies will be coming to Washington this week for the annual NATO Summit.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is here.

Good morning, Secretary-General. Great to have you here at the table.

Let me read you a headline from “The Wall Street Journal” – quote – “The world saw President Biden deteriorating. Democrats ignored warnings. European leaders and officials expressed worries about his focus and stamina.”

You’re meeting with NATO leaders this week in Washington. You’re close with President Biden and many other NATO leaders. What’s your real take on the private assessment of the president of the United States among NATO leaders?

JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary-General): I’m absolutely confident that, when all NATO leaders convene here this week, it will be a great summit.

We will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the most successful alliance in history. And I just met President Biden in the Oval Office a couple of weeks ago, and that was a good and productive meeting, where we prepared all the important decisions we’ll make here on defense, on support for Ukraine, and ultimately on burden-sharing, that European allies are now really stepping up and spending record amount of money on defense, and, of course, also on China and our need to work together.

So, this is the substance of the summit. And – and, of course, these decisions would not have been possible to make without a strong U.S. leadership.

ROBERT COSTA: There’s no question the substance is what matters.

But we just heard from Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Republican who’s close to the Republican nominee. He’s saying he has concerns that world leaders don’t trust President Biden to be in command of the job. You speak privately with these people. What’s the truth here?

Are there concerns or not among NATO leaders?

SECRETARY-GENERAL JENS STOLTENBERG: But if I started to comment on issues like that, then, suddenly, NATO, I will be part of domestic debate, and…

ROBERT COSTA: Well, it would be easy to just say no or yes.

SECRETARY-GENERAL JENS STOLTENBERG: Yes, but – but – but I – but I think it’s important for NATO to stay out of that kind of domestic discussion. They’re, of course, important in the United States, but NATO should not be part of it.

What matters for NATO is the decisions what you do together. And just, for instance, on – on defense spending, which has been a big issue for the United States for many years under different presidents, when we made the pledge 10 years ago to increase defense spending, only three allies spent 2 percent of GDP on defense.

This year, it’s 23, allies an increase just this year 18 percent across Europe and Canada also, record high investments for our European allies.

ROBERT COSTA: I under – I understand you want to focus on that, but you’ve just been with President Biden, as you said, in the Oval Office.

What’s your personal assessment? Is he someone you can work with in an effective way on the policy issues?

SECRETARY-GENERAL JENS STOLTENBERG: We had a good – we had a productive meeting. And, of course, there is no – no way to make these big decisions on how to further strengthen NATO, enlarge NATO, new members, without having a strong U.S. leadership.

ROBERT COSTA: Why such a long timeline to bring in Ukraine? You’ve talked about a 10-year window. Why is it 10 years, versus maybe one or two or three years, since they’re facing war?

SECRETARY-GENERAL JENS STOLTENBERG: Well, no one has said exactly 10 years.

But – but – but it’s obvious that it is a very serious issue to bring in Ukraine, because Ukraine is now a country at war. Ukraine has been attacked by – by Russia.

So, the most important thing we should do is to step up our support to Ukraine to ensure that Ukraine prevails. That’s a precondition for any future membership for Ukraine.

ROBERT COSTA: Stay with us.

We’ll have more questions for the secretary-general soon. Please stay with us.


ROBERT COSTA: We’ll be right back with a lot more Face the Nation.

Stay with us.


ROBERT COSTA: Welcome back to Face the Nation.

We return to our conversation with the NATO secretary-general.

Secretary-General Stoltenberg, thanks for sticking around with us.

What are the specific deliverables of this NATO Summit, especially when it comes to whether there could be training and an alliance plan for NATO troops with Ukraine?

SECRETARY-GENERAL JENS STOLTENBERG: Well, we will make important decisions on stepping up our support to Ukraine.

And NATO will take over the provision and the coordination of security assistance to Ukraine and also training. We will have a command established in Germany, and with logistical hubs in eastern part of the alliance, to help to get over the equipment, the ammunition, and also the training for Ukrainian forces.

And this is a – a big and important deliverable from the summit to ensure a more robust framework for our support to Ukraine.

ROBERT COSTA: So, the NATO leaders are in Washington focusing on that deliverable, but the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, on Friday was just in Moscow meeting with Vladimir Putin.

Would you discourage him to continue those talks? And should he let NATO handle this at this point?

SECRETARY-GENERAL JENS STOLTENBERG: Prime Minister Orban, he – he made it clear when he came to Moscow that he didn’t go there on behalf of NATO.

Different NATO allies interact with – with Moscow in different ways. What matters for me is that all allies have agreed that we need to do more for – – for Ukraine, both with this new training and assistance that NATO will provide to Ukraine, but also with the long-term pledge.

And I also think that, by the summit that starts next week, allies will be making new announcements of more air defense and more ammunition. So, yes, Hungary have – as – Prime Minister Orban has been in Moscow, but that doesn’t change the – the common decisions we have made as NATO.

ROBERT COSTA: Does it affect NATO in any way to have Orban doing his own thing?

SECRETARY-GENERAL JENS STOLTENBERG: No, because the reality is that we are able to make decisions on how we are going to step up our support to Ukraine, because we all want peace.

The thing is that the easiest ways to – to – to – to end the war is to lose the war. But that’s not peace. That’s occupation. So, therefore, we need a lasting, just peace. And the only way to get there is to convince President Putin that he will not win on the battlefield.

He has to sit down and accept a solution where Ukraine prevails as a sovereign independent nation in Europe. And the only way to convince Putin that he will not win on the battlefield is to provide military support to Ukraine. So, a negotiated solution that is lasting for Ukraine requires military support to Ukraine.

ROBERT COSTA: It’s notable, Secretary-General, that Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea will be joining this summit. Is this about trying to come up with a strategy for China, as China works with Russia on its war with Ukraine?

SECRETARY-GENERAL JENS STOLTENBERG: Yes, very much so, because the war in Ukraine demonstrates how closely aligned Russia and China and North Korea and Iran are.

China is the main enabler of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. President Xi and President Putin, they all want NATO and the United States to fail in Ukraine. And if Putin wins in Ukraine, it will not only embolden President Putin. It will also embolden President Xi.

As the Japanese prime minister said, what happens in Ukraine today can happen in Asia tomorrow. So, it demonstrates that NATO is important for the United States also when it comes to addressing China. The United States is big, but, in NATO, you have something that no other big power has.

And that is more than 30 friends and allies. The United States is 25 percent of the world’s GDP. Together, with NATO ally – allies, we are twice as much, 50 percent of the world’s economic and military might. So, the United States is stronger also in addressing China together with NATO.

ROBERT COSTA: And last thing here quickly, Secretary-General.

Last week, the American military’s European Command raised the threat level at bases on the continent to what’s called Charlie. That’s the second highest of five threat levels. Do you share, as the leader of NATO, this heightened concern about security in Europe?


We always have to be vigilant and aware of the threat of terrorist actions. And – and, therefore, it is important that the U.S. command is vigilant and – and take the decisions on alert levels which they deem necessary.

ROBERT COSTA: What’s driving it? Is it Gaza, Ukraine, the Olympics?


It’s always a bit dangerous or difficult to go into the details of intelligence. But – but NATO, the U.S., we have to be aware of the constant threat of new terrorist attacks. And that’s exactly what we are by also exchanging more intelligence and working together.

ROBERT COSTA: Secretary-General Stoltenberg, thanks for being here. We appreciate it.

And we’ll be right back.


ROBERT COSTA: We’re back with Democratic strategists and CBS News contributors Ashley Etienne and Joel Payne.

So glad to have you both here on Sunday morning.

Let’s begin with you, Ashley.


ROBERT COSTA: You’re a former top aide to Vice President Kamala Harris.

She is part of all of these discussions among Democrats behind the scenes. Is she getting ready to possibly be the nominee, or is she all in with President Biden? What’s your read, talking to your friends in the party and at the White House?

ASHLEY ETIENNE: Well, she – she said two things. And one is, she said she’s all in with Joe Biden and that they can win this next race in November.

But she’s also said that she’s ready. And I believe that she is. I mean, she’s been putting in the work. She’s hit 20 states, 60 communities. She’s been leading the effort on the issues that we know we’re going to move that 1 to 2 percent, from reproductive rights, to climate change, to democracy and the state of democracy.

So she’s been actually out there doing the work. And it’s showing dividends in the actual polls. She’s polling in some cases even better than Joe Biden among those key constituencies that will make the difference in the election, from people of color, to women, to independent voters.

But here’s my advice. I think they need to elevate her more at the national level. I would have loved to have seen her do a speech over the July 4 weekend about the Supreme Court’s recent decision and what’s on the line here. It’s democracy versus a dictatorship. She can make that argument better than anyone else can, as a former prosecutor, as a child of immigrants.

She’s got the – the skills, the talent. She’s ready to go. But, as it stands right now, she’s in with Joe Biden.

ROBERT COSTA: So, Ashley is someone who knows the vice president so well, worked with the – the vice president.

Joel, you talk to Democrats. You have worked on Capitol Hill. You have worked for presidential campaigns.

What is their assessment of Vice President Harris and of President Biden at this moment?

JOEL PAYNE: Well, look, I mean, I think Democrats writ large overall feel really good about the Biden/Harris ticket.

I think what we’re in the midst of right now is giving the president and his team some space to kind of deal with the fallout from the debate last week. It’s interesting. There were a couple of interventions this week. There was a call with governors. There were events in Wisconsin and North Carolina.

There were a lot of interventions that I think the president and his team wanted to demonstrate that there’s a path forward. And I think that folks are giving him that space. It seems like the negative momentum was slowed. I still think more work needs to be done to calm the waters.

I talked to a source on Capitol Hill, a senior Democrat, who told me, consensus right now among Hill Democrats is that there are still more questions to be answered than those that have been answered. And I think that’s what the president and his team are dealing with going into a really busy week.

ASHLEY ETIENNE: Can I just add something there? I mean, I love the party – – my party, but we need to take a deep breath.

You know, Joe Biden had the worst night of his political career last week, and, still, Donald Trump made no gains. If you look at the polls, the polls are demonstrating that Biden made – closed the – the gap among independent voters, that the push polls show that – that 1 to 2 percent were turned off by Donald Trump on his lies from his record all the way to January 6.


ASHLEY ETIENNE: The other thing is that the polls show that Joe Biden is not a drag on the – the lower ballot, the – the – the ballot below him.

So, I mean, the reality is, is, Biden is in a strong position. We need to rally around the president. But what the president has to do is convince those members of Congress, the donor class, as well as the grassroots, that it’s worth taking this risk on him.

ROBERT COSTA: Help us understand. You’re two of the top Democratic strategists in this country. You’re making the case for President Biden and for why Democrats should give him time to – to reassure people, to maybe right his campaign.

But what’s the truth of what’s happening behind the scenes? Are there moves and discussions happening against President Biden to nudge him away, even push him off the ticket? Or is that just Beltway chatter? What’s the real story?

JOEL PAYNE: Well – well, Democrats have never been – had a reputation as the most confident bunch, even in good times.


JOEL PAYNE: And I think, particularly in a difficult time where you had a really tough show for Joe Biden, I think Democrats are just taking some time to figure out, hey, is this still the best path forward?

I think they want to give the president space to do that.

ROBERT COSTA: Is there a divide between what Democratic voters are saying and what Democratic consultants are saying?

JOEL PAYNE: That’s what I – so, I was – I was just going to add that, Bob.

I think what we’re seeing now, and the Biden campaign, I think, is trying to seize on this, is an emerging fissure between kind of elites, folks inside the Beltway, what they think, which I think, by and large, we’re seeing a lot of concern about Joe Biden.

With voters, it’s unclear if it’s there yet. I talked to an elected official in a battleground state who told me, with older African-American voters, that they didn’t feel like that the debate was going to have that much of an impact, but, with younger voters, those that you need to turn out, that’s where they were concerned about Biden’s performance maybe being a drag.



ROBERT COSTA: … who has influence right now?


ROBERT COSTA: You have worked with Speaker – former Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the highest level.


ROBERT COSTA: You have worked with Vice President Harris inside the Biden White House.

Is it first lady Jill Biden and Hunter Biden? Is it former Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer? Who are the real players right now? Whether he stays, as he continues to insist he – he will, or goes, who are the players who have actual political capital at this time?

ASHLEY ETIENNE: Well, a couple things I can say.

One, this next week is going to be critical for President Biden. He – you know, the – the smart thing is that his – his campaign and the White House have set up opportunities for him to convince the American people that he’s prepared, ready, and competent to handle this job.

But he needs to convince that political class, the donor class, and the grassroots class of that – that fact. The other thing is, you know, the members of Congress are going to be back on the Hill next week, and there’s going to be reporters that are going to be cornering them, asking them, do they support the president, do they not?

Then there’s going to be trackers. And that’s going to mount some pressure. So this is going to be the first test for Congressman Jeffries, Leader Jeffries, as well as Schumer. Can they hold the line? Defactions is – defections is not what the – what Biden needs right now.

So they have got to hold the line for him. The other thing I would say is, we need to – I would caution reporters to not obsess about the number of defections, if there are more. It’s the who, to your point. Who – if – if – who brings someone with them?

If someone like Speaker Pelosi or someone in leadership defects, that’s going to be a problem. If it is someone who leads a big caucus, like the Progressive Caucus, or, even more importantly, I would say, these front- line members. If – if you see more of them start to defect, that’s going to be a problem.


ROBERT COSTA: And – and you – and you have worked for the Senate leadership.

JOEL PAYNE: That’s right.

ROBERT COSTA: Who are you watching, Joel?

JOEL PAYNE: Well, I think it’s notable that some of the folks that we have seen speak out, whether it’s a Mark Warner or an Angie Craig, these are folks who are from Joe Biden’s lane. And I think that’s what’s concerning.

Typically, the way you fix a problem with – that President Biden is dealing with right now is more. You flood the zone with more of him, more public events, more national interviews. And I think, by and large, the Democrats I talk to, they want to see more of the president.

In any scenario, that is the only way out is – is more of the president, exposing Joe Biden – rather, Donald Trump, and showing that Joe Biden can run the vigorous campaign that I think Democrats all want him to…


ROBERT COSTA: And we’re going to have to leave it there.


ASHLEY ETIENNE: That – that it’s only Biden that can temper anxiety.

I think he should go to the Hill next week, meet with the caucus. I think the V.P. should go to the Senate and meet with those members and – and see where we get.

ROBERT COSTA: We will see if they take your advice. Many Democrats often do.

So great to have both of you here at the table. Appreciate your insights as ever.

And we will be back in a moment.


ROBERT COSTA: We’re back with more analysis.

Nancy Cordes is our chief White House correspondent. Molly Ball is the senior political correspondent for “The Wall Street Journal.” And Carl Hulse is “The New York Times”‘ chief Washington correspondent.

Great to have all of you here, top reporters, notebooks ready, reporting ready.

Let’s begin with Capitol Hill.

We heard from Senator Sanders. We heard from Senator Graham. The big story this week is, Senator Mark Warner, others in the Senate Democratic Conference may be meeting, as reported, to talk about President Biden’s future.

Is there an effort afoot? Nancy, you – let’s begin with you. You not only cover the Biden White House, but you have covered Capitol Hill for years and still have great sources there.

NANCY CORDES: There’s definitely an effort afoot. It’s happening in the House. It’s happening in the Senate.

The White House feels like it weathered the storm for a week, but things, as you know, get much different now that members are coming back to Washington after the July 4 break. Any time they’re all in one place together, they talk, they meet, they feed off of each other.

Fear is contagious. Concern is contagious. And up until now, you have been hearing rumors of these letters that exist that are being compiled that maybe have 25 members who are ready to sign on. That really doesn’t mean anything until they do it.

They were hoping that just the talk would kind of put pressure on the White House. The White House said, you know, we’re going to call your bluff. We don’t believe you.

But now that they’re back and they feel that they may need to take this to the next level, we could see this blossom.

ROBERT COSTA: And, Carl, you cover the Senate so closely. Look, senators talk all the time to each other. They never stop talking to each other. They never stop writing memos.

It doesn’t seem to be at this moment a Goldwater to Nixon moment, it’s time to leave. What’s your assessment on your reporting of where this actually stands among Senate Democrats?

CARL HULSE (Chief Washington Correspondent, “The New York Times”): I think they’re trying to figure out what to do.

I do know that Mark Warner, from the moment the debate started, was very concerned, texting his colleagues saying, what are we going to do about this? So I think he was trying to gather them to say, what – how do we approach this?

Not like, hey, who are the three people who are going to march down to the Oval with me, but like, what – where do we go from here? They’re worried. They’re trying to hold on.

The House – the Senate’s being senatorial. They’re being sort of more deliberate. Chuck Schumer has been very low-profile. The House, things are different. The House Democrats thought they were in great position to win the majority. The Republicans have had two horrible years of chaos, inability to govern.

Now, all of a sudden, the House Democrats see this Biden situation consuming everything, and they’re worried that it – that they’re going to miss their chance.

I think the people to watch in some ways are the House, but that Biden is a – is a Senate person. So what the Senate ends up doing and how they approach it, I think, is going to be very important with the president himself.

ROBERT COSTA: And, Molly, you literally wrote the book on former Speaker Pelosi, a terrific biography of her.

What’s her role now, working with Leader Jeffries? And to build off what Carl was saying about the House and the scene there, what are you hearing?

MOLLY BALL (Senior Political Correspondent, “The Wall Street Journal”): Well, and I have been speaking with many lawmakers who are, I think – as Nancy and Carl have both said, they’re looking at each other and they’re trying to figure out what everybody else is doing and trying to figure out how to move forward.

I think there was a real change in tone over the course of this last week, as they, as many Democrats, including elected Democrats, thought that the White House and campaign would immediately sort of jump on the situation and do something to fix it. 

Instead, what they saw were a White House and campaign that were largely sort of staying the course and keeping the president mostly in his sort of bunker. And that did not inspire confidence.

The one interview being so short, being not particularly impressive, and the president seeming not at all to – to have gotten the message about how concerned people are, that did not inspire confidence either. I was texting with one lawmaker in a swing district who was – was watching the interview and saying, this is just sad.

And so there is a sadness that a lot of people feel, but it’s turning to anger, because, as Carl said, their own political careers are on the line, and they are terribly uncertain about where this is all going. And I think panic is not too strong a word. There’s a feeling that something has to be done.

Nobody knows exactly what it is, but they all know that, once they’re all together in the Capitol, some of these efforts are going to start to take shape.

ROBERT COSTA: There will be a lot of people chasing lawmakers this week.

But what about inside the White House? President Biden, elected to the Senate in 1972, come – comes back after failing in the ’88 campaign, stumbles in 2008, gets to become V.P. Inside the White House, is there panic? Or is there a sense of solidarity among family members and top aides?

NANCY CORDES: Well, for now, they are closing ranks around this president. The entire upper echelon is insisting that they can get through this, that he deserves another four years, that he is OK, that they are going to prove that.

They are adding more events to the schedule all the time. I was just told by a White House official this morning that they’re looking at adding an event in Michigan to the schedule on Friday after the NATO conference, obviously, Michigan, a big battleground state. Just today, he’s in Pennsylvania surrounded by the entire Pennsylvania delegation.

He’s there with the governor and the two senators and several lawmakers, the mayor of Philadelphia. The message that they’re trying to send is, hey, you’re hearing all this frustration inside the Beltway, but we have still got a lot of support, and the voters are behind us.

They have been trying to make this case to me over the weekend that – that voters still want him to press on, that what they’re hearing out on the campaign trail, what they’re hearing in talk radio is that people want him to continue, and they’re going to continue to support him.

And, in some ways there’s some validity to that. You played some voters at the top of the show who said they have concerns, but they’re going to vote for him anyway because they don’t like the alternative, which is Donald Trump.

But the big concern for elected Democrats is, what about independents? What about people who weren’t sold on him yet and are – are – don’t feel that same allegiance as Democratic voters do? And, yes, there are only a half-a- dozen elected lawmakers right now who are calling on him to step aside, but there are far more than that who are inching right up to that line and saying, he needs to make a decision. He needs to think about this more carefully.

ROBERT COSTA: Let’s talk about former President Donald Trump.

The Supreme Court ruled this past week that there’s presidential immunity in a sweeping way for official acts.

Carl, your book “Confirmation Bias” about how conservatives have nudged the court to the right. How significant was that ruling, especially if you look at a possible Trump second term?

CARL HULSE: It’s super significant, as, when you interviewed Senator Graham, he didn’t want to talk about that too much, obviously.

Huge decision. So much for no one is above the law. The – John Roberts, the chief justice, he’s – he’s a real believer in executive power. I think, besides the impact on Trump, what that’s doing is, you’re going to see a lot more talk from Democrats about the importance of the Supreme Court. This election is about the Supreme Court. We need to change the direction of the Supreme Court, not only presidential immunity, but also a series of rulings against federal agency power.

This is a long-sought goal of the conservative legal movement, and they basically won. So, I think the Supreme Court is going to be elevated this time on the Democratic side. You even hear House members talking about, they’re going to introduce some articles of impeachment, obviously not going anywhere, but that’s a brand-new step in – in congressional politics.

ROBERT COSTA: And Democrats keep talking about, if Trump wins again, he’s going to have The Heritage Foundation running policy.

They have this so-called Project 2025. Do you see on the Trump side of things a real aggressive policy agenda in the – waiting in the wings?

MOLLY BALL: Yes and no.

I mean, it’s been interesting to see over the past few days President Trump came out on social media and disavowed Project 2025, even though many people very close to him are involved with it. It is like, any of these think tank efforts – and Project 2025 is only the latest iteration of something that The Heritage Foundation does every four years and has for – for many, many decades now.

That being said, it’s a series of recommendations. But I think it’s taken very seriously, because, number one, last time Trump came into office, he didn’t have a lot of plans formulated. And so the effort is to give him something that he can implement immediately, should he so choose, and – and, number two, that there is going to be a much more focused effort if Trump is elected again because of the – the fact that eight years ago he was not very focused.

So I think all of these plans are getting a lot of scrutiny for that reason. We know that the Republicans didn’t even have a platform four years ago. This year, they’re going to have one, but we are hearing it may be quite vague. It’s going to be formulated behind closed doors.

And – but not to turn everything back to the situation with President Biden, but a lot of the – the angst that Democrats feel is that they look at the plans that the Republicans are formulating, they look at a Donald Trump who may be unfettered by the – by the rule of law or by any kind of criminal prosecution, and – and that is what’s driving their angst about the president.

Because they would like to have someone on top of the ticket who can prosecute that argument consistently, who can make the stakes clear to the American people. And they felt that he had the chance to do that in the debate, and he blew it. And they wonder, how much better might we be doing if we had someone on top of the ticket who was capable of really making that choice clear to people?

ROBERT COSTA: And, very quickly, any thoughts on V.P.? Any latest reporting? Very quickly.

NANCY CORDES: Well, you would have to look at governors from – from battleground states, right, that could help her, ostensibly Kamala Harris, pick up votes in the presidential election.

We’re talking about Roy Cooper, possibly Andy Beshear.

ROBERT COSTA: Oh, in case President Biden…

NANCY CORDES: If it goes that way.

ROBERT COSTA: If – if it goes that way.

For now, though, the Biden White House insists that’s not happening.


ROBERT COSTA: That’s not happening.


ROBERT COSTA: Carl, any quick thoughts?

CARL HULSE: I do think that the one…


CARL HULSE: … comment that the president made that he will be happy if he does well and still loses did not go over.

ROBERT COSTA: We will be right back.


ROBERT COSTA: That’s it for us today.

Margaret will be back next week.

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