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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Joe Biden Holds Press Conference. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 28, 2020 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:00:06]

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

You just said that you believe that the president is intentionally provoking some of these violent clashes we're seeing, particularly in Portland.

But, as you might know, the president...

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Can you turn your mic down a little bit, so I can hear you better? I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Helps to be a little taller, I suppose.

BIDEN: No, no, I didn't mean that.

QUESTION: You just said that you believe the president is intentionally provoking some of the violence we have seen in these clashes in Portland specifically.

But, as you might know, the president, in his tweets and his campaign and the television ads they're running, is warning that, if you're president, we would see similar scenes throughout the country.

I wonder how you would respond to that. And if you were president right now, what specifically would you be doing to strike the balance between the right to peaceably assemble, but mitigating the kinds of violence and the damage to public property that we're seeing?

BIDEN: I'd be using local police, as we did when we were in office.

When there were riots and there were federal property at stake, We were able to take care of that. And we were able to take care of it by the use of, not -- it wasn't as wide as this, obviously -- the use of local police.

And the fact is that arsonists should be held accountable. People carrying guns, shooting them, should be held accountable. People who engage in criminal activity should and must be held accountable and taken to trial.

But what's happened here is, this has just caused such enormous political division. And it's all about being able to -- you see some of the ads. You see cities burning, call 911, Biden is -- and they have my picture in the background. And if it's a rape, dial one. If it's anything else, it's going to take seven days.

I mean, come on. That is all about trying to come up with a bizarre law and order 2020 campaign thing to try to scare the devil out of the American people.

And what's happened is it, it has -- look, when the president decided he had to walk across from the White House to a group of peaceful demonstrators to an Episcopal church to hold a Bible upside down, which I don't know how often he reads, and he used the military to do that, did you ever think you would see a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff apologizing to the nation for participating in that?

Did you ever see -- think you would see four former chiefs of staff talk about how that thing is about dividing the country? That wasn't about being able to walk across and hold up the Bible. That wasn't about the church burning or being burned.

It was about -- as his own people say, his own commander, it was about dividing the country, preying on.

When you have a president who, and almost the same day, the state of Mississippi takes the Confederate flag off of their flag, and he's defending the Confederate Flag, and it's just a matter of heritage? And why is it still being flown or something to that effect at NASCAR, and why things are down?

This is about division. This is about trying to split the country. And so far, thank God, the American people aren't having any of it, over 70 percent of the people in the country thinking the protesters that -- did you ever think you would 70 percent of the people saying black lives matter? Because they see what happens.

And they're not buying onto this racial division. That's what he's done from the very beginning, as you have heard me say, coming down that escalator the day he announced, saying he's going to be rid of those Mexican rapists and judges.

This is -- so, like, I don't think you need to do. But I think we do need to hold those who violate the law accountable. You should never let what's done in a march for equal rights overcome what the reason for the march is.

And that's what these folks are doing. And they should be arrested -- found, arrested and tried.

QUESTION: And, sir, if I can, as you finish the rollout of your economic plan, during the course of your primaries, you were critical of some of your Democratic opponents for putting forward plans that you thought were too expensive and not realistic in terms of getting passed.

I wonder if you can -- you're now proposing nearly $3 trillion as part of this -- in spending as part of this economic plan. Can you describe your evolution in terms of what you view as achievable if you're elected and sworn in as president? BIDEN: I think there's a big difference between saying, figuratively

speaking, no one can a millionaire, it's a bad thing, saying that we are going to provide a medical plan that costs $30 trillion and $32 trillion, and being able to think you can get it passed, and being able to pass in this environment legislation that the circumstances have demonstrated is needed to solve real problems.

[16:05:27]

For example, the idea that we can continue to be in a circumstance where we reward companies for -- government contractors for going overseas to make their products, that we can continue to provide tax breaks for that effort, when we find we come up short with everything from reagents or nasal swabs to not being able to provide for the kinds of steel we need to do certain things in American ships and the like, is totally different than that.

What we're going to -- what we're talking about is using federal dollars that have already been appropriated to focus them on building things that make us increase our independence, so we don't have to rely on anyone else for whether it's cybersecurity and cyber- information, or whether or not it is steel to make the banisters on our destroyers.

We, in fact, should be able to do that, those things that are necessary. And if we have to capacity to do at home, do them at home. It's not industrial planning. It's the things that only the United States government can do.

For example, the same thing with regard to the whole -- my whole plan relative to the environment. We, in fact, can -- are the only outfit -- companies aren't going to come along and go spend $1 trillion on infrastructure, rebuild highways, bridges that are causing people to die when they collapse, and are still unsafe, making sure ports are accessible and ships can get in and out and unload their cargo.

It's -- the government does that. And when the government does that, the government should be, in fact, insisting that, using that taxpayer dollars, we are buying the product from an American manufacturer made in America, employing American workers getting a decent wage.

And that's not industrial policy. It's the things the government does anyway. Just like you have heard me say before, the president of the United States, if I'm president, I'm going inherit the largest auto and truck fleet in the world, owned by the taxpayers.

Well, what do you think we should do? Well, I think we should be doing is making sure we end up owning the electrical vehicle market.

So, what I'm going to do is move to make sure all those vehicles become carbon-neutral, building 555,000 charging stations up and down federally built highways and controlled highways, generating the kind of growth, union wages that can provide good jobs for people and bring everybody along.

So, it is very different than saying, we're going to go out and find another $38 trillion and get that passed in a Congress where you didn't have the support to get it. I predict you will find that I get significant support, particularly if I think is going to happen, I think we're going to take back the United States Senate.

And, again, we're just spending the dollars that are already appropriated in many cases and how we spend them.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

BIDEN: OK, Ed O'Keefe, CBS.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. I will take this off.

You alluded to this in your remarks, and I bring it up because polling is bearing this out a little bit, but are you running against President Trump or for president and for Joe Biden?

In other words, you alluded to this, but a lot of voters seem to think or are saying that their support hinges on the fact that you're not the president. So, why perhaps should they be voting for you, and not just against the president?

BIDEN: That's why I'm laying out these detailed plans.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: Look, I'm running because Trump is the president, and I think our democracy is at stake for real.

And what seems to be the case is, many Americans, those who don't like me and those who do, view me as the antithesis of Trump. And I believe that I am.

[16:10:10]

And I -- when I announced, I said I was running because I thought it was essential to restore basic decency, the soul of America. But I really meant it. It wasn't a -- remember, I got criticized early on for saying that?

Now everybody is talking about the soul of America, decency, honor, respect.

The second reason I said I was running is because, even back when people were talking about how well the economy was moving, I thought the middle class was still getting crushed, and working-class folks were hurting badly.

All this talk about how happy they were, I didn't see any numbers showing they were so happy, because people were getting paid badly. They were being -- corporate America was overreaching in terms of who they felt they had an obligation to deal with at all.

And, thirdly, the thing I got most criticized for, and understandably, was, I said we have to unite America. And they said, well, that's just a pipe dream. You used to be able to do that, Joe, but everything's changed.

Well, if we can't unite America, we're gone. We're dead. Democracy is dead. It requires consensus. I'm not -- that's not hyperbole. It requires consensus.

And that's why I used to be sometimes critical when people standing in debates, they say, I'm going to, by executive order, do the following.

Well, that's Trump. He doesn't have the authority to do half of what he's doing by executive order. That is not democracy.

And so what I hope the good news, I think, is the bad news, based on all the million polls that have been done by your network and everybody else, is, the good news is the bad news. People know me. They know me, warts and all.

And the reason why I'm running is because I think I have two qualities at this moment that aren't always the most relevant qualities needed in a president. It changes. Everything is -- every election is different.

One is that I know a fair amount about American foreign policy, and I have relations all over the world. And those who don't like me respect me, and those that do like me respect me. I know how to get things done internationally.

It doesn't mean I can solve every problem, but I am -- I understand the national security and intelligence issues. That's what I have done my whole life.

Trump has no notion of it, none. Think of how he talks about Putin. My God. And he talks to him privately and says he's not -- he didn't -- he's not going tell you whether he raised the fact that Putin is paying the Taliban? Number one.

Number two, I have been relatively good at bringing people together in the United States Congress and politically. It's going to be a lot harder. Things have changed. A lot harder.

But, depending on the outcome of the election, in terms of the Senate and House races, it could become very much within reach, because -- and I will say it again -- I have never questioned anybody's motive. I have never lied to a political opponent and misled them, even when I was in the Senate and I'd say, I need your vote on this, but I got to tell you, you vote for it, this part of your constituency is going to be mad at you.

I have never misled anybody. I don't expect anybody to voluntarily agree to be in the second editions of "Profiles of Courage." I try to recognize the limits of where they can go and still find a principled compromise.

And so they are the two things that I think we very badly need now.

And, lastly, I think that, notwithstanding the fact I think I have laid out the most detailed plans on the economy and on issues relating to health care and the rest of any president in modern history, I mean, it's awful detailed.

If I'm elected, and this passes, I'm going to be -- going to go down as one of the most progressive presidents in American history.

But none of the things that I'm talking about are inconsistent with a free market. They're not inconsistent with capitalism. But they require certain safeguards, just like, you know, that old thing. You know, it took a capitalist to save capitalism.

Well, you know, I think there's a lot that we can get done and will get done. And that's why -- last thing I will say.

Remember, I was criticized by saying, I'm going to campaign in states for senators and House members who are states that I'm not likely to be able to win, because what everything shows -- and you know this inside out and backwards, all of you do -- that, when the national party doesn't invest in areas where there's a tight race, it hurts the local officials up and down the list.

[16:15:10]

And so this is -- we got to build a bench here. And that's what this is about as well. So, I'm hoping that people will a bench here. And that's what this is about as a bench here. And that's what this is about as well.

So, I'm hoping that people will take a look at what I've done, what I am proposing, why it's in their interest that they move in the direction I've suggested. And I think that is what we're seeing some response to.

REPORTER: I have a quick COVID question in this regard. The Florida Marlins today announced they had to suspend their season. Are you curious -- because I know you get briefings on how COVID should be dealt with and how society should be comporting itself in the midst of all this -- what do you make of how sports leagues are starting to play again?

And, frankly, for that matter, what do you make of how schools are considering all this? The president's considering or has said he would withhold federal funding from states or school districts that don't reopen or that -- yeah, don't reopen. I mean, you must have thoughts on all this.

BIDEN: I do. I've laid out (INAUDIBLE) -- I've laid out -- I'll get you a copy of it, my school re-opening plan, what I think is required in order to do that. There are some circumstances you can do that, but you have to make significant investments to do that in order to provide for protective gear, in order to provide for social distancing, in order to have testing and tracing and all those things.

It's possible. But it's a significant investment, and it requires the certainty that teachers as well as students are going to be protected. And where you're in a high intensity area where there's a lot of COVID, it is not a good idea. Evidence to the fact that do you -- rhetorical question, I'm not expecting you to answer -- do you think the president, all of a sudden, decided not to go to Tallahassee because he no longer he thought it was in the interest of the public?

(CROSSTALK)

REPORTER: Jacksonville.

BIDEN: I mean, Jacksonville, Florida. I was thinking of the capital. To go to Florida, and to Jacksonville? Well, because even the Republicans down there said, we don't want you doing this, we don't want you doing this. They're just -- it's a mistake.

And so, I think that it -- there are guidelines that have to be much -- made much more specific by the CDC. They should let the scientists speak, let the scientists speak.

I'm happy the president is back holding his -- his conferences on COVID every day. I don't know what the hell he's adding to it except it's good he's wearing a mask and saying the right things, mostly.

But this is about science. This is about science. This is about expertise. This is about transparency.

And we've got to make it available to the American people, because what everybody's finding out, I'll end with, is that the circumstance is such that even when -- even when the businesses opened, people aren't showing up because they don't think it's safe (INAUDIBLE). And so, there ought to be a system whereby, and which I had proposed, that you can lay out the details of what you're doing in your business and be able to put a sign out that says it's safe, I've met all the standards.

But the idea that we're just going to say open up and people are going to show up, they're not, they're not.

REPORTER: Should there be sports right now though? Should Major League Baseball go out? The NFL --

(CROSSTALK)

BIDEN: Well, it seems to me that it's probably not going to be able to happen based on -- based on what the leagues themselves are saying. I mean, you have the Marlins saying we can't do it. So many people -- so I think they should just follow the science.

The one thing that seems to work a little bit, I don't know, is basketball where no one's traveling, they're all sequestered in one place. It's like, look, many of you have -- all of you have families, moms, dads, et cetera. If they come from another state to see you, you go from -- from wherever you are to their state, well, you should be quarantining before you go see them, up to 12 days.

Think about it. The United States of America, you can't travel to a whole hell of a lot of European countries, you can't get to a plane and go there, don't come, you're a danger to us, it's because we're not following the science. And there's very little transparency on what's going on.

[16:20:01]

But I have confidence at the end of the day, out of -- you know, when you have a lot of football players turning down 8, 10 million bucks a year and saying, I'm not going to take the risk in playing, you got lot to listen, you got to listen.

So, I'm not going to opine on every sport. But it seems to me that when you have to travel, when you have to be in hotel rooms or places that are different than you've been the day before, when you are in a position where you're going into an area where there is a high concentration of the spread of COVID, all those things add up to a real problem. And I don't -- and we're not going to really overcome that until we follow science and get a vaccine.

But I want to say it again. I'm going to keep saying it, the president, as we speak, should be starting and should've started three months ago to put someone in charge of how specifically, like waging a war, how are you going to distribute the vaccine when it arrives? When it arrives? When it's there?

And the question of whether it's real when it's there, that requires enormous transparency. You got to make all of it available to other experts across the nation so they can look and see, so there's consensus, this is a safe vaccine. Because already you have -- what percentage of the American people saying the vaccine were there tomorrow, they wouldn't take it?

And it's not the usual anti-vaccine crowd. It's beyond that, because people are losing faith in what the president says. Think about it.

What -- the words of a president matter significantly. They can, as I said before, take us to war. They can bring peace. They can rise -- cause a market to rise. They can do good thing.

But people listen to what a president says. And if a president repeatedly says things to you that are not true and then comes a time when they say I have something that I think can cure you, but it could really hurt you, you're not going to listen to the guy who says --been lying to you along the way (ph).

Anyway, thank you so much. I appreciate the time. And I'm getting out of here. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

You've been listening to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden taking questions in Wilmington, Delaware, from reporters on his traveling press corps. The former V.P. was asked why people should vote for him and if he was just running as an alternative to Trump as opposed to presenting his own strong vision. Biden says some see him as the anti-thesis to Trump, he wants to restore democracy both on the world stage and between political parties.

I want to bring in CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Abby Phillip and Dana Bash to talk about what we just saw.

Dana, the message that Joe Biden was trying to convey there at one point is really what the Biden campaign is about, restoring a sense of normalcy.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Uh-huh.

TAPPER: But the truth of the matter is any election involving an incumbent president is truly about the incumbent president.

BASH: It is. And what the incumbent president, no matter which party he has been, has tried to do, as soon as they could, is to define in a negative way, obviously, the person who wants the job. In this case, it is Joe Biden. And what the Trump campaign has not been able to do is just that in a way that is politically beneficial enough for one main reason, which is the coronavirus, because it is totally a referendum on President Trump for lots of reasons. The main reason is the way he has handled or mishandled the leadership during this unprecedented crisis.

And so what Joe Biden said there is very true. We all heard him when he announced that he wants to run to restore dignity and leadership and all the things he mentioned to the presidency. He was aided in a big way by the president in making that argument because of how the president has handled this.

So, the way that Joe Biden answered that question is pretty much the only way he could or should, which is the answer is both. He wants to be the replacement for and the antidote to Donald Trump but also somebody who can offer some new ideas, which is at the beginning of the speech, which we played, what he was trying to do.

TAPPER: And, Kaitlan Collins at the White House, it does occur to me watching Joe Biden take questions from the press corps that there are some clear risks in how President Trump and his campaign team are approaching and attacking Joe Biden.

[16:25:01]

They portray him as a doddering fool. They essentially accused him of being senile.

And, look, those of us who have covered Joe Biden know that he's not the Joe Biden that, for instance, I covered 25 years ago. But he was fine in that press conference and answered questions coherently and intelligently. It seems like it's a real risk for them to set the bar that low for Joe Biden because he's very easily able to hop over it.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, one thing they pointed out lately though is that he has not taken a lot of questions from reporters. I believe this was the first in several speeches where he has taken questions. But that is the risk. And that's something that some of the allies of the campaign have warned about, because one thing they talked about what would happen in the debates where it's Donald Trump and Joe Biden one on one. And the Trump campaign has essentially used this message that he would crush him. And some people worry they are setting the bar too high because if there's not this resounding victory for the president, then they're not going to be able to walk away with what they have been predicting for the last several weeks.

I do think one interesting thing that Joe Biden was asked about there, Jake, is this framing from the Trump campaign basically saying that Joe Biden is going to go easy on crime that, they are going to defund the police. You've seen those ads where it's someone trying to call the police and they don't answer the phone because they say they have been defunded.

And Joe Biden pushed back on that characterization saying that he does believe those who violate the law should be prosecuted. He tried to draw a distinction between those who were rioting and those who were protesting. And I think it's interesting because that doesn't seem to be a message that has gained a lot of traction with voters, because what we've seen from poll after poll is that their number one issue is not crime, it's actually the coronavirus, it's a big one for a lot of people. The economy of course.

And so, I think that is going to be an interesting question of how the Trump campaign tackles that in the months going forward since we are so close to the election and they've had trouble defining Joe Biden in the way that they did with Hillary Clinton.

TAPPER: And, Abby, on that subject, Joe Biden was giving a speech about how the economy he wants to rebuild were he to be elected, would be one that is more racially just.

People know Joe Biden and they don't necessarily think of him as a bomb-throwing Marxist. What's interesting and also contradictory about the Trump campaign approach to this is they accuse him of being completely soft on crime and completely weak and he wants the Portland riots to be going on everywhere. And at the same time, they are attacking Joe Biden for authoring the 1994 crime bill, which was very tough and was a very difficult thing for him to try to explain during the Democratic primaries. He was portrayed as too conservative.

Again, there is really no coherent argument here going on. You can attack him for either one, I suppose. But both doesn't really make any sense.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake. I do think that's called throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. I think that's where the Trump campaign is right now with Joe Biden. They're not exactly sure what's going to work to particularly pull suburban women away from Joe Biden. This is what this is all about. Even the messaging that is about the crime bill is also about trying to signal to a certain kind of suburban voter that Joe Biden is sort of the wrong messenger for kind of a racial unity message.

The Trump campaign started there wanting to use that against Biden but realized during this summer that that was not a message that was really -- it was not one that worked well for president Trump. So they've shifted to this tough on crime message instead. And so as a result I think voters are left wondering which one is it.

And what you're seeing Biden doing in this speech is trying to deal with his biggest weakness in this race, which is the economy. The polls do show that President Trump does pull better than Joe Biden largely on this issue of the economy. At this stage in the race, it's virtually the only issue that Trump still has an advantage on over Biden.

And so that's so much of what this messaging is about is a dual message. One is going to be who can unify the country and who can restore the economy? And I do think that the fact that race is so embedded in all of this is not just about black voters. Yes, it is about black voters, but it's also about signaling to white voters that you're a president who's interested in stitching the country back together.

That's why you're seeing Biden focusing on this, in part. It's also why initially Trump tried to focus on race but has later abandoned that because it's just not -- it doesn't gel with the rest of his campaign's messaging, which is standing by law enforcement and being tough on crime.

TAPPER: CNN's Jessica Dean was inside the room in Wilmington, Delaware, during that Biden speech. And, Jessica, you asked Joe Biden some news. He made some news about his pending vice presidential pick.

Tell us what he had to say about a possible time line and who your reporting indicates are the frontrunners.

[16:30:00]