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Democratic Presidential Presumptive Candidate, Joe Biden, Holds a Press Conference. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired June 30, 2020 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: And may God protect our troops, and I'm happy to take questions if you have any. He gave me a list how to recognize. Is Alex AP out there? I couldn't tell with a mask, Alex.
QUESTION: I will work with that. All right, so we reported yesterday that President Trump was briefed as early as March of 2019 that Russia had ordered or offered bounties to the Taliban for the killing of U.S. soldiers. You called his inaction on this issue a betrayal, so broadly what consequences do you think the president should face for that betrayal, and specifically what do you think Congress should do?
BIDEN: Well look, first of all Congress and the intelligence committees in the Congress, both parties should demand the facts. This seems to be a moving story. As I was leaving, I had the television on as I put on my shirt, and I understand there's even some more information that's comes out today by what was known.
One of two things. This president is - talks about cognitive capability. He doesn't seem to be cognitively aware of what's going on. He either reads and/or gets briefed on important issues and he forgets it or he doesn't think it's necessary that he need to know it, but the fact is that at a minimum - at a minimum the discrepancy allegedly between - within the intelligence community as reported, some thought it was more certain and others thought it was less certain. That should be resolved. The president should have on day one said I want you to come before me in the situation room and lay out the differences and discretion. What - who is saying what? Let's get to the bottom of this, number one.
Number two, it's clear to me that - and I don't know whether he did. He should have immediately contacted our joint chiefs of staff, gotten them all in one room, and sat and said, OK, what are we doing to prevent this? What are we doing to prepare to deal with this if this is happening? How are we doing this? What are we doing?
Thirdly, he should at a minimum picked up the phone and said, Vladimir, old buddy, if any of this is true and it doesn't cease to me that you've got a big problem - a big problem, and make it clear get to the bottom of this. It appears at though from what I have - and I don't have access to classified information anymore, but if what I have heard over the last week and the recent reporting that it was in the PDB, the presidential daily brief, the presidential daily brief is something I read every single day as vice president. The president read it every day. I was briefed every morning before I got to the White House and then again.
So the idea that somehow he didn't know or isn't being briefed, it is a dereliction of duty if that's the case. And if he was briefed and nothing was done about this, that's a dereliction of duty. I guess the best way for me to end this is I was talking to Jill - my wife, Jill, and I don't see her get outraged very often. She started asking. She said, "Joe, what would you have done if Beau was still in harms was and this information came out?" And the president - Beau is my son who is - I'm sorry. I apologize - who served in Iraq for a year. He was in the Army, but if had been in Afghanistan, what would you do, Joe? What are those parents thinking out there? What are those sons and daughters, husbands and wives? It's an absolute dereliction of duty if even any of this is even remotely true. So I think the president has a lot to answer for and should get the answers quickly - quickly.
QUESTION: What consequences should he face if these allegations are true or these reports are true?
BIDEN: If they're - if these allegations are true and he did nothing about any of this, then in fact I think the public should, unrelated to my running, conclude that this man isn't fit to be President of the United States of America.
QUESTION: Do you think he (inaudible)?
BIDEN: I was told NBC, Mike (ph)? Mike (ph), great relief. He doesn't have to follow me every day around the country.
QUESTION: Well last time, Mr. Vice President, a lot of us saw you on the campaign trail, you were still locked in a very difficult nomination battle. The polls, though, today show you with a sizeable national lead, a lead in a lot the states that are critical in the electoral college. I wonder where do you think the race stands at this moment?
What keeps you up at night as you look as you look ahead, and can you maintain this advantage without campaigning in a traditional way, especially this fall when voters begin to really tune in?
BIDEN: Well, you know, I - this is the most unusual campaign I think in modern history in that - but I start off with a premise, Mike (ph), that I'm going to follow the docs orders not just for me, but for the country. And that means that I am not going to be holding rallies. I am not going to be - for example, you all are here, but thank the school has put those circles around so we keep the social distancing. Everybody has masks on. As soon as I finish this, I'll put my mask back on.
And so, it's all been - almost all been virtual although I have gone to Houston, I have gone into Pennsylvania, I have gone to - I have traveled, but when I do I get in, make my case, and leave - take questions and leave. And so - but you know me. I'd much rather be out there with people because that's where I get the greatest feel. I can get a sense of what - by the look in their eyes, by the plain (ph) of voices that they have and what they're concerned about.
But notwithstanding that, I have been surprised. The irony is we probably reach more people directly on one-on-one. You all, particularly those of you who are with the - with television stations, you all know that when you're on you're having a one-to-one conversation with someone out there because there's one person on the TV looking at you. I never quite thought of it that way before, but they tell me 200 million people have watched what I have done from home and the half a dozen things we've gone out and done.
And so, the irony is I think we're probably communicating directly in detail with more detail than we would have otherwise, but I'd much rather be doing it in person. So far it remains to be seen. I don't want to jinx myself. I know the polling data is very good, but it think it's really early. It's much too early to make any judgment. I think we got a whole lot more work to do. I plan on laying out in detail my economic plan as to how we recover from this, plan on dealing with foreign - working out in detail what I'm going to do if I am elected president so people know what's coming. So I don't know if that answered your question, Mike (ph), but -
QUESTION: Quick follow up to Alex's question first. Have you requested a classified briefing as you would be entitled to as a nominee? Has the administration offered you a classified briefing? And then -
BIDEN: They have not offered a classified briefing, and as this proceeds I may very well do that. I've been talking to - I have a significant foreign policy staff as you know that, as a matter of fact dozens of them. I saw I had a long meeting with my former national securities advisors, former secretaries of state, et cetera and got in their read (ph) what they've heard so far. But if this - if it doesn't get cleared up quickly, then I will seek and ask if I can be briefed
QUESTION: Lastly, have you begin to prepare for debates against President Trump?
BIDEN: I can hardly wait. What (ph)?
QUESTION: Thank you. Over the weekend, Princeton decided to remove Woodrow Wilson's name from their school and buildings due to his racist thinking. President Trump yesterday called that decision incredible stupidity. What do you think about Princeton's decision and the president's comments? And then more broadly as the nation is in this moment of reckoning when it comes to race, we're seeing the removal of statues, also the removal of names from institutions and schools. Do you think that this is the right approach to come to terms with our nation's history and its leaders? What do you think when you see the removal of some of these statues?
BIDEN: Well, I think there's sort of three categories (inaudible). One, any institution that chose a name and wants to now genocine (ph) that name, that's a decision for them to make for whatever reason they make it. So I'm assuming the board of trustees at Princeton University made the judgment about the Woodrow Wilson school. I don't know, but it was made within the context of a institution that chose that name and now no longer wants to be associated with that name. And I think the president's - well, secondly I think there are - there's a distinction between the - as the former Mayor of New Orleans said, the difference between reminders and remembrances of history and recover from history.
And so the idea of comparing whether or not George Washington owned slaves or Thomas Jefferson owned slaves and somebody who was in rebellion - committing treason, running - trying to take a Union to keep slavery - I think there is a distinction there.
And so I think the idea of bringing down - I think all those Confederate monuments to Confederate soldiers and generals etcetera. Who strongly supported succession and maintenance of slavery and going to war to do it.
I think those statues belong in museums. They don't belong in public places. And I think with regard to those statues that are - and monuments - like the Jefferson Memorial.
I think there's an obligation that the government protect those monuments because they're different - that's a remembrance.
It is not a - dealing with a - revering somebody that had that view. They had much broader views. They may have things in their past that are now and then distasteful. But that's a judgment for the (inaudible).
So for example, taking down Top Wing Christopher Columbus statue, or George Washington statue etcetera, I think that is something that the government has an opportunity and responsibility to protect from happening.
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And on a different subject, you have been doing these public events for the past month which has put you in contact with more people. Have you been tested for corona virus? And if so, how frequently are you doing that?
BIDEN: No I have not been protected. I have not been tested for the corona virus for two reasons. One, I've had no symptoms - as my mother would say, knock on wood. And number two, I have wanted to take any body else's place in the process.
But the secret service, they all get tested. They're around my home and anyone who comes into my home - including staff that comes in there - is tested to determine if they have the virus.
I expect what I am going to do, so it doesn't look like I'm moving to the front of the line here - is be tested relatively soon. My daughter has been tested. She was in Florida.
She's a social worker working with the Boys and Girls Club. She came home and before she could come home, she's been tested twice.
So to make sure she's clear and quarantined - she lives in Philadelphia. But, so but I haven't yet. I have not been tested yet.
BIDEN: Yes. I'm sorry who was I suppose to go to next? Anybody? I got to make sure I get to the Wilmington Newspaper here before I (inaudible).
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Vice President. It's good to see you. I know that we all hope you continue to do this through November as often as possible.
BIDEN: We will. The more I have an opportunity, I will do it.
QUESTION: Two quick questions. One to follow up on Russia, you talked about what our president has done. But yesterday you said at a fundraiser regarding Vladimir Putin quote 'I'll confront Putin.
I'll strengthen NATO. I'll make clear to Putin that he'll have a price to pay for interference in our democratic processes.' Specifically can you tell us what you would do to Putin? If this is true and general for what's happened in the past.
BIDEN: I can, but I will not. But I will tell him. Here's the deal, the idea that Putin or any other foreign leader can engage in and attempting to manipulate a presidential election.
The idea that he continues his activities in Central and Eastern Europe that he's doing. The idea that it can be done without any consequences is not going to happen if I'm president of my administration.
That ranges from everything to making sure we go to the United Nations Security Council all the way to imposing sanctions that would be (inaudible) with the action that he has taken that is inappropriate.
But I have had some very blunt, straightforward conversations with President Putin when I was Vice President before that. And I think one of the reasons why it appears as though he doesn't want me to be President - he knows we'll have more blunt conversations.
QUESTION: And on another issue that's been in the news last week, this week, probably next week, the Supreme Court. The President says he's going to issue an updated list of potential nominees to the Court.
You have said you would put a black woman on the court - should a spot a open up. But there are groups calling for you to release a list of specific names you'd put on the court. Are you going to do that? Would (inaudible).
BIDEN: One thing I hesitate to do is follow anything the President does at all. Because he usually does it all wrong. I have - we are putting together a list of - a group of African American women who are qualified and have the experience to be in the Court.
I am not going to release that until we go further down the line of (inaudible) them as well. And just like logical questions about Vice President. I'm not releasing the names of all the Vice Presidential potential nominees.
There are a number of women of color. There are Latino women. There are Asian - across the board.
And we're just underway now in the hard vet of going in the deep background checks that take anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks to be done. The committees have been informed and that's underway.
QUESTION: And August 1 is still the target announcement day?
BIDEN: Well early August. I can't guarantee you August 1. But it will be in early August before - several weeks before the convention, I believe.
QUESTION: Sir, your next question.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Vice President. This is a two parter just to follow up again on Russia. Do you believe that if those reports are true that Trump is guilty of violating his oath of office? And on your VP choice.
You've said that you want your running mate to be ready on day one to do the job. Do you think that someone who does not have National Security or Foreign policy experience can be ready on day one?
BIDEN: Yes. And that depends. Look, one of the things you try to do - I've talked at length over the years with Barack - with President Obama about this. You try to find people who have a background and an expertise that you may not have.
And so one of the reasons President Obama picked me is because I had considerable experience in getting things done in the Congress. And secondly, I had considerable experience in foreign policy and National Security.
And although he had clear views of what in fact he wanted to do and what his strategy was in terms of America's role in the world. He was looking for someone who had day to day experience and knew a lot of those world leaders.
And so I think that although that's a helpful thing to have - it's not necessary because I start off with the two places I still have some expertise are in both those places.
And uniting the country in the Congress and foreign policy. And so it is almost all of the women I'm considering have had some exposure to foreign policy and National Defense issues - security issues. But that is not a minimum requirement. The requirement is that they
have intellectual capacity as well the temperament, as well as the leadership qualities that lend -- led everyone to believe that they would be ready on day one to be President of the United States of America.
With regard to whether or not the President, it depends on exactly what he did and what he knew but at a minimum - at a minimum. He either doesn't understand his job and is having difficulty sitting down and being able to read a report.
Because a lot of those reports come across that he says I didn't read, or I didn't see it, or I didn't know it. I don't know how he could not read and not see and not know so many different things that have come up over the last three years.
And so, but it is clearly a dereliction [ph] of duty. And it is clearly something that I think everyone including my republican friends and my republican opponents in the House and Senate are worried about as well. Thank you.
QUESTION: (inaudible) Vice President.
BIDEN: All right. Where's the Wilmington - the Delaware State News. I mean Delaware News Journal I should say. That's my hometown team. I better call on them.
QUESTION: How are you, Mr. Vice President?
BIDEN: How are you?
QUESTION: So like other states, Delaware - your home state - is seeing an increase in corona virus cases. Do you have a message for Delaware officials; state and local governments for how they've handle the pandemic so far? How they need to handle it going forward?
BIDEN: Well I think they've handled pretty well so far. But now, I think you're seeing the governor make some adjustments because there has been an uptick - not tremendous. But there's been an uptick. It was one of the states that was - I get briefed every day by a group of leading docs around the world -
BIDEN: around the country of Vivek Murthy and Dr. Ben anyway. And so, everyday I get a -- a -- a printout, I have in the book here, of the states that are doing better and doing worse.
Up till now there has been a decline, and now it's opening up slightly. And I don't -- I have not spoken to the governor today, but my guess is -- I don't want to guess, is that he's going to be looking very closely what happens on the Delaware beaches now, how that has (ph) occurred and restaurants and bars. I don't know enough to know that though.
The good news is that it's flattened out. The bad news is there's a slight uptick. And I have not gone into the details with the governor nor as I -- as I have I -- I speak to him not infrequently, but couple -- a couple times a months, three, four times a month. And so, I don't have any advice him, because I don't know where it's popping up.
QUESTION: Thank you.
BIDEN: Thank you.
BIDEN: And I'm going to get in trouble. Fire away. I know. I know. I'm -- tell them I'll be late just a little bit, OK? All right?
QUESTION: Thank you Mr. Vice President.
BIDEN: I always get on trouble on the last question, but go ahead.
QUESTION: We appreciate it. The response to this pandemic has become very politicized, even wearing a mask has become political. If elected, how are you going to get Americans on the same page? And can your plan be successful if they aren't?
BIDEN: Well, I think the way to get it on the same page is to -- I'm going to try to say this politely, is to lower the rhetoric based on division. Stop appealing to the less healthy side of society. Instead of, for example, when a golf cart goes by yelling white supremacy and the president tweets it out, don't do things like that. Bring the country together.
We're giving a portion of the population who has responded to the -- the sort of race baiting the president has engaged in a sort of free pass and it generates divisions. I'm also talking about it in terms of the president talks about, you know, manhood, and you know, and being strong and you don't need the masks.
I think we have to start appealing to the better side of human nature by pointing out that that mask is not so much to protect me, it's if I have an undiagnosed -- I have it, it's to protect you against me. It's to protect other people. And it's called patriotism. It's called responsibility. It's called making sure you look out for the other person.
And we have spent too much time -- if you notice, the president puts everything in terms of him, and I'm not being facetious, everything is him. It's I don't think or I don't take responsibility, or I didn't do that, or I believe that. I mean, it's -- it's -- it's not about I, it's about us.
And I think changing the tone of an administration across the board, allowing scientists to speak, making sure that people understand the facts, good, bad and indifferent. And when a mistake is made, just say, I made a mistake. I was wrong, shouldn't have done it that way, we should do it this way.
I think all those things change the atmosphere. Let me conclude it by saying this, and I'm apologizing if you heard me say this before, the words of a president matter, no matter who the president is, no matter how responsible or irresponsible the president is.
A president, whomever he or she is, can take us to war or bring peace, can have markets rise or fall, appeal to the senior side of humanity or to our better angels. It matters, it really matters. And so, I think it's about the tone. And I think it goes across the board.
I know -- I'll conclude with this, I know that I was criticized, legitimately criticized during the primary -- during the primaries by saying that I plan on uniting the country, brining Democrats and Republicans together. We have to do that. If we can't do that we can't function. We have to bring the country together.
And I think on this piece, if in fact we stand up -- and by the way, you have a -- don't hold me to numbers, please, on -- you can correct on this, but I think something like 70 or 74 or 75 percent of the American people think you should wear a mask. The overwhelming number of people think you should take these precautions and so on.
I think we did -- should open more slowly. Well, I think that, you know, we should be talking to our better angels and actually making people indirectly feel guilty for not doing the right thing. Appeal to their better nature. I know that sounds almost idealistic, but it's not.
Remind people, you don't wear this mask, you end up hurting someone or you get infected, you take it home to your child, you could take it home to your mother, your father, your husband, your wife, you have a moral obligation, because it really is, it really is.
Thank you. Guys, I really do have to go. I apologize. I'm going to get in real trouble. I'm probably already in trouble, but thank you.
Go ahead. What's the last? I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Good to see you out and about Mr. Vice President. I'm a little confused about the delineation about the destruction of monuments. You talk about the fathers of this country, Washington, Jefferson, is we're their preservation.
Are Confederate monuments worthy of presentation? Should they be torn down in the manner that they are being torn down, without -- without the vote of local elected officials?
BIDEN: Well, I think it's very different. I think it's better if they're taken down like they took the Confederate flag off the Mississippi flag. That's the better way of doing it.
But, I can understand -- I can understand the anger and anguish that people feel by having for years and years, then under the statue of Robert E. Lee, who if you're an African-American.
So, it's a different -- it's always better to do it peacefully, but there's a distinction between -- and those -- those monuments, and I -- I -- I -- I shift responsibility and I'm not -- I think the elected officials where those statues are have a responsibility to move. Put them in museums. Get them down, but don't expect, if you have sitting in front of you
after all these years and they finally -- finally are going through another phase of maybe responding to the systemic racism in America, and what we've seen happen, is don't be surprised if someone pulls down the statue of Jefferson Davis.
It's better that they do not, but it's fundamentally different than pulling down the statue or going to the Lincoln Memorial and trying not pull -- you know -- not Lincoln Memorial -- I -- that -- that's a bad example. The Jefferson Memorial and grabbing Jefferson off his chair.
QUESTION: Two -- two quickies. Will you commit to three debates?
BIDEN: Oh yes.
BIDEN: Three. Yes. I -- I -- I commit to it. Look, I am committed to following the debate -- the -- the national debate group that sets up these debates, who the pick as the moderators, three of the, it's been for -- this way for a long time.
The first one is a one-on-one debate with a moderator. The next one is a town meeting, setting. And the third one is a -- a normal debate again. I commit to those. I'm looking forward to it.
QUESTION: Last -- last question real quick. Some have speculated --
BIDEN: You're a lying dog.
QUESTION: -- that you -- that you are subject to some degree of cognitive decline. I'm 65, I don't have the world recollection that I used to have. I forget my train of though from time to time. You've got 12 years on me, sir. Are -- have you been tested for some degree of cognitive decline?
BIDEN: I've been tested and I'm constantly tested. Look, all you -- all I've got do and watch me and I can hardly wait to compare my cognitive capability to the cognitive capability of the man I'm running against. Thank you so much.
QUESTION: Thank you guys.
BALDWIN: OK, he took many a question. Let's -- let's talk all through everything we just heard from the vice president, there he is, Wilmington, putting that mask back on. I mean talk about drawing such a sharp contrast between the Vice President Joe Biden and how he would handle COVID as a president, what he would call for versus how this current president has done that.
And, of course, also drawing such a contrast in all the questions about the intel and what's come out in terms of Russia bribing the Taliban militants on killing coalition forces and his thoughts on that. He did make a little bit of news saying he hadn't been tested for coronavirus, but he's been A OK health wise so far. He talked about the Veep states, who they're now in the hard vet process of black women, Latino women, Asian women should have an answer for -- for -- for everyone as far as who -- who they select sometime early August and may even put out a short list of potential supreme court justices.