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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
CNN Presidential Town Hall With Joe Biden. Aired 8-9:15p ET
Aired September 17, 2020 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Election Day is 47 days from now. People around the country have already started voting in some states and here in in Pennsylvania people will begin mailing in their ballot within days.
As you can see, I'm not wearing a mask tonight. I tested negative for coronavirus this morning. Still, I'll be keeping my distance as well, all of the participants in tonight's Town Hall who are here.
So let's get going. Please welcome former Vice President Joe Biden.
JOE BIDEN (D), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Hey, buddy.
COOPER: Thanks for being here.
BIDEN: I got tested.
COOPER: Oh, there you go. All right. We're good.
BIDEN: How are you?
COOPER: I'm good. I'm good. Thanks so much for being here.
BIDEN: Thanks for having me.
COOPER: Yes --
BIDEN: Good to be home.
COOPER: Yes. Have you ever been to an event like this?
BIDEN: I'm not -- yes, in Delaware. We did this on a night we got nominated.
COOPER: Oh, of course. Yes.
BIDEN: Hey, everybody.
COOPER: All right. Let's start off with -- let's start with the coronavirus in the United States. Obviously, we're approaching nearly 200,000 deaths so far more than any other country in the world. And our first question tonight is from Shawnee Adams. She's a democrat from Philadelphia -- Shani.
SHANI ADAMS, SISTER DIED FROM COVID-19: Good evening, Vice President Biden.
BIDEN: Hi, Shani.
ADAMS: How are you? And Anderson.
ADAMS: My sister Phoenicia (ph) Adams lost her life due to contracting COVID-19 on her job. No, she was not a doctor or a nurse. She worked in Environmental Services Department of a hospital.
As a result, my niece, Eunicia (ph) Hill is without a mother. My parents are without a daughter, and we are without a sister. My sister was full of life and had a smile that lit up the room.
Vice President Biden, what plan do you have in place to keep us from contracting COVID-19 virus in our workplace?
BIDEN: First of all, I feel so badly for you. You know, we talk about 200 -- almost 200,000 deaths and it's almost like background noise. But it means a lot of empty chairs, it means a lot of children without their mothers or fathers. It means a lot of people not able to see their parents so much.
So my heart goes out to you and your sister as well -- her children. It is just incredible.
Look, there's three things we should be doing. Number one, we should make sure that we have national standards laid out so how people can in fact go to work safely and have a national standard. You can't mandate it. But as President of the United States, I'd lay out the broad strokes of what has to be done to make people safe in their workplace and safe in school.
And that requires us to have rapid testing, the protective gear available from the very beginning -- like this President hasn't done -- making sure we provide for the ability for workplaces to have the wherewithal to provide for the safety that requires some Federal funding, particularly kids going back to school, making sure that we're in a position that there's testing and tracing and get testing quickly.
There's a whole range of things we should have done. I laid it out all the way back in March how we should do that. The President is totally disregarded it.
He continues to think that masks don't matter very much. He always says it and then he has these large gatherings with everybody around with no masks on, and it's extremely dangerous.
And so there's a lot of people, a lot of people hurt. A lot of people not being able to see their families. A lot of people gone, a lot of empty chairs, and it's got to stop. And it stops by eliminating him as our -- well, not eliminating, but making sure he's not reelected as President of the United States.
His next four years, not much will change.
COOPER: Mr. Vice President. President Trump has said that he downplayed the coronavirus because he didn't want to cause panic. If you were President, could you see a scenario where you downplayed critical information so as not to cause panic?
BIDEN: Not at all. The idea that you're going -- to not tell people what you've been told that this virus is incredibly contagious, seven times more contagious than the flu. You breathe the air, you get sucked into your lungs.
What has he done? Imagine and -- by the way, Columbia University Medical School pointed out, if he had just acted one month, one week earlier, he would have saved 37,000 lives, all the way back -- and I was on one of your shows -- all the way back in March, I was calling for the need for us to have masks, have the President stand and tell us what's going on.
But he knew it. He knew it and did nothing. It is close to criminal.
COOPER: We've got a question from William "Trip" O'Malley, a social studies teacher. Excuse me, over here, from Dunmore. He's a Democrat -- Trip.
BIDEN: My dad is from Dunmore.
WILLIAM "TRIP" O'MALLEY, SOCIAL STUDIES TEACHER: Mr. Vice President, the messaging on the coronavirus from the White House has been all over the place since February. It's been extremely inconsistent. It's caused so many people in this country to ignore the virus and not take the necessary precautions.
How will you get the proper messaging out to all Americans to keep them informed as to how to properly protect themselves and others from this pandemic?
BIDEN: What Presidents say matter, people listen. I will make it clear what is needed to be done. I cannot mandate people wearing masks, but we just been told if we should expect another 215,000 dead by January. But if we wore a mask, we'd save 100,000 of those lives. Doing nothing but that.
We have to make sure we lay out to the American people the truth. Tell them the truth and those -- and I would make sure that I would call every governor in the country into the White House say you should be putting mandates out if they're -- and if they don't, I'd call the mayors in their towns and their cities and say put out mandates. You can save lives.
And we should be providing for the PPE, the protective gear that is needed. Look, you know what recently happened? The President of the United States said that no longer would we in fact provide masks for schools -- for schools -- for them to have the mask in school, because it was not a national emergency. What is he talking about? It's totally irrational.
And look, this is all about one thing, the stock market. He didn't want to see anything happen. It's all about his re-election.
It should be about the American people, and they're in trouble. And if we don't do it, and by the way, his own C.D.C. Director contradicted him recently. He said, if in fact, you just wore this mask, nothing else, but this mask, you would save between now and January, another hundred thousand lives.
And so we have to be honest with the American people. They're tough. They know as Franklin Roosevelt said, things get worse and worse before they get better and better. But you've got to level with the American people, shoot from the shoulder.
There's never been a time they've not been able to step up. This President should step down.
COOPER: Mr. Vice President, you've called the President's rallies irresponsible. Yet you praised peaceful protesting this summer? What is the difference when it comes to COVID safety?
BIDEN: I think COVID safety is a problem no matter where people are wearing masks, if they're not -- if they don't have masks on. The context of praising people who protest peacefully, is -- there was a question of right to speak, not to loot, not to burn, not to do anything that causes damage.
The right to speak out makes sense, but we should be careful across the board -- across the board, in terms of -- but there is a big difference between people walking, moving along, and people sitting down cheek to jowl, shoulder to shoulder, a thousand of them breathing on one another indoors and out that causes real serious problem.
COOPER: You've said about a month ago that for the next three months, all Americans should -- you'd like to see all Americans wearing masks.
COOPER: And that you would push governors to institute mandates for mask wearing. Back in the pandemic in 1918, in some states, in some towns, they had actually outdoor courts to find people who weren't wearing masks. Is that something you would like to see happen in states?
BIDEN: I would like to see the governors enforce mask wearing. Period. I can do that on Federal property.
As President, I will do that. On Federal land, I'd have the authority. If you're on Federal land, you must wear a mask. In a Federal building, you must wear a mask and we could have a fine for them not doing it.
Look, this is about saving people's lives. There's no question that it saves people lives. COOPER: To those who say it is individual liberty not to wear a mask.
BIDEN: Well, let me tell you something, you know I -- what Bill Barr recently said is outrageous. That is like slavery. We've taken away freedom. I would tell you what takes away your freedom.
What takes away your freedom is not being able to see your kid, not being able to go to the football game or baseball ballgame, not being able to see your mom or dad sick in the hospital, not being able to do the things -- that's what costs our freedom and it's been the failure of this President to deal -- to deal with this virus and he knew about it.
He knew the detail of it. He knew it in clear term. Imagine had he at the State of the Union stood up and said, when back in January, I wrote an article for "USA Today" saying, we've got a pandemic. We've got a real problem.
Imagine if he had said something. How many more people would be alive?
COOPER: This is Joe Vadala. He's a high school teacher from Archibald. He's a Democrat. Joe, thanks for being here.
BIDEN: Hey, Joe.
JOE VADALA, HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER FROM ARCHIBALD: Thank you, Anderson. Hi, Vice President. Welcome home. I am I a school teacher who has multiple sclerosis. I am on a drug that has compromised my immune system.
My question for you is when the students come back in-person to school, will you and your administration mandate the vaccine to be taken like the MMR to enter a school when it becomes safe and available to the public because I love teaching, but I don't want to die and have my wife lose another best friend, like how she lost her mother to COVID-19.
BIDEN: Man, I'm so sorry. Joe, look, first of all, I don't trust the President on vaccines. I trust Dr. Fauci. If Fauci says the vaccine is safe, I take the vaccine. Now, we should listen to the scientists, not to the President, number one.
Number two, I think we should be requiring that you have -- it's estimated by superintendents around the country in order to make schools safe for returning, we need to spend about $200 billion to do that, to sanitize, to provide for more teachers on smaller classes and smaller mods, making sure the ventilation systems are functioning, dealing across the board to make it safer so that schools when they open, they are safer.
But with regard to you, you should be in a position where if in fact the vaccine -- there's no vaccine that's going to be guaranteed 100 percent, so you're going to have a tough decision you have to make and whether or not where you should be able to be in a position where you are behind plastic, you are in a sanitized circumstance and you are teaching.
I would not take the chance, even if everyone had been vaccinated because of your compromised immune system. And so -- and by the way, some teachers have already died. And my wife is a full time teacher. She's been teaching her whole life and she plans on teaching at least one course, if we win as the First Lady in the Community College she's taught at.
And so one of the things we have to do is make sure you are protected. The teachers are protected. But also students have access to the protection.
COOPER: Let me ask you, vaccine policy in schools is really done by states and localities. But as President, would you want to see -- would you encourage states that that they would have to guarantee that all students who went to school had taken the vaccine?
BIDEN: It depends on the state of the vaccine. It depends on the state of the vaccine. I've been briefed by seven of the leading folks in the nation as of two days ago.
And there's variations, some of them are arguing it can take care -- an increase by 40 to 50 to 60 percent that you won't get through COVID virus, but no guarantee beyond that. We have to see.
And by the way, with regard to children, I should have said this, there have been no tests on the vaccine on children yet. No child test has been done yet. So I would mandate that children have to take your vaccine until they do that and they're telling me that won't happen and be able to happen with -- by the numbers until sometime in the middle of 2021.
COOPER: You said you trust Fauci, do you trust the head of the F.D.A., the current head of the F.D.A., the current head of the C.D.C., and would you keep them in their positions?
BIDEN: Well, it's premature for me to say that. All I know is that the rank and file people, the scientists in each of those agencies are solid, and they're serious. But you've seen how the President has tried to push things through and put a lot of pressure on them.
I'm impressed by the head of the C.D.C. now standing up and saying to the Mr. President, wearing this mask -- wearing this mask is going to save more lives than the vaccine between now and the end of the year.
COOPER: Mr. Vice President, this is Sheila Schaufler, a registered nurse from Scranton. She's Republican who voted for Trump in 2016. She's also the widow of a police officer who lost his life last year to cancer caused by toxins at the site of the World Trade Center.
Sheila, I'm so sorry for your loss and I'm very happy that you're here. What's your question?
BIDEN: God bless you. If there's any angels in heaven, they're all nurses, male and female. I'm serious. I've been an overwhelming consumer of healthcare. SHEILA SCHAUFLER, A REGISTERED NURSE FROM SCRANTON: I agree.
BIDEN: Docs let you live, nurses make you want to live -- male and female. So thank you for what you do.
SCHAUFLER: Thank you. And Good evening and welcome back. There are many frontline workers who are making much less than people on unemployment, who have benefited from the extra $600.00 in stimulus payments. I have personally spoken to people who refuse to even look or apply for jobs because of the extra money. What is your plan to get Americans back to work and off the government payroll?
BIDEN: First of all, I have a plan to deal with the need for additional healthcare workers and pay them a wage that is a living wage that's real. So they don't have to live hand to mouth, for real. I won't bore you with the detail, but -- I'll get your name, we'll send you the material, number one.
Number two, you know, the fact is that there are 20 million people right now, many men in Scranton and folks there and around the region who in fact are worried whether they would be able to pay their mortgage payment next month, whether they're going to lose their house.
There are tens of thousands of people who are going to lose their apartments and be out in the street. The President says he has postponed the ability, the requirement they have to pay, but guess what? Next quarter, they have to bake up for whatever they got this quarter in terms of "free rent," quote-unquote, not having to pay.
BIDEN: And so it makes no sense to do what the President is doing. People can't make that up. We shouldn't -- as long the COVID is going on at the rapid rate it is and by the way, you know better than I do, we're talking about roughly 36,000 new cases a day and close to a thousand cases a day average, you know, and here we are.
Yesterday, 1,200 deaths in the United States. All of Canada had nine. Last Friday, we had a thousand deaths, all of Canada had zero deaths. This President is doing it all wrong.
We need to make a fundamental change in the way we're moving and by way, if you're a nurse, you're taking a shot. You're taking a chance. You really are and your husband, you know, growing up in Scranton and Claymont, Delaware, I grew up and there were three things all my friends became: a cop, a firefighter and a priest. I wouldn't qualify for any of them.
But all kidding aside, they deserve -- when they print on that shield in the morning -- they deserve to be able to go home at night safely. Period. There's no exceptions.
COOPER: Mr. Vice President, this is Joseph Farley, a Democrat from Dunmore. He works as a patient advocate at a Cancer Center here in Scranton -- Joseph. BIDEN: Thank you, Joseph.
JOSEPH FARLEY, PATIENT ADVOCATE, CANCER CENTER: Welcome home. Mr. Biden.
BIDEN: Can I call you Joseph or Joe?
FARLEY: Joe is fine. Just like you.
BIDEN: No, I just wondered when they call -- when my mother called me Joseph, I knew I was in trouble that's why it matters.
FARLEY: No, Joe is fine. But I'm Mr. President, welcome home. And right now I do work in a cancer center in the area. I make under $15.00 an hour. During these COVID times, unfortunately, I had so open a credit card with 25 percent interest just to cover my groceries. I'm barely making ends meet. I receive no hazard pay, no raise.
I'm struggling, not only mentally, but financially. I look up to you. And as a middle class healthcare worker, do you have any plans to stand up for us healthcare workers?
BIDEN: Absolutely. And the idea you're not making a minimum of $15.00 an hour is just wrong. Wrong. No one should have to work two jobs to be able to get out of poverty. You're busting your neck and what you're doing is you're saving people's lives.
You're helping them -- and you're risking your own in this moment of COVID. You know better than I do. And what happens is, there is a preexisting condition. In fact, what's happening here is a lot of people who have cancer, who are taking various drugs and statins, they in fact are more susceptible to catching COVID and dying than anyone else. So first of all, thank you.
Number two. The reason I'm running is because, look, the interesting thing for me is, I view this -- I really do view this campaign as a campaign between Scranton and Park Avenue, and I really mean it.
Because you know, the way we were raised up here in this area, awful lot of hard working people busting their necks. All they asked for is a shot, just a shot.
All that Trump could see from Park Avenue is Wall Street. All he thinks about is the stock market and telling him, we're going to do all right. Everybody who owns stock. How many of you all own stock -- now, in my neighborhood in Scranton, not a whole lot of people own stock.
And so we have to make sure that healthcare workers are paid and paid a decent wage, and 15 bucks an hour isn't enough for a healthcare worker. And so again, I won't take the time now, but Joe, if I can get your address. Let me get to you. Go to joebiden.com and you'll see what I talked about needing to be done with regard to healthcare workers.
And by the way, mental health, you know, as well as I do, and the nurse was just up here knows, we're in desperate need. There are more people who are at risk and worried today than any time in modern times and especially the youngest generation, people between the ages of seven and 17. They are more at risk in terms of mental insecurity than any generation.
And that's why we have to make sure we have more social workers and psychologists in our schools. We have -- look, we learned drug abuse doesn't cause mental illness, mental stress and mental -- mental illness cause drug abuse.
We've learned so much that we can change so much. And that's why I have to make sure that the super wealthy start paying their fair share. So we can do the things we have to do to make life better for hardworking and middle class folks.
COOPER: You referenced something that the Attorney General just said yesterday or just said last night. You haven't ruled out shutting down the country in the future if the pandemic worsens and science leads you to that.
COOPER: The Attorney General said last night that lockdowns were the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in the U.S. in U.S. history other than slavery.
BIDEN: Well look, two things. One, they've taken out of context as the President would knowledge about the lockdown. I was asked if in fact, there was a national emergency and everyone -- all the experts said lock it down.
We're not talking about locking down the whole country. What we need -- we need, Anderson -- we need a criteria from state to state within states as to what constitutes the risk in each of the regions.
You could very well have to have stay-at-home orders relative to a city or a community and another community, a rural community not have that at all, because the rate of infection is much lower, number one.
Number two, think of what he has said, look, wearing this mask is about making sure and when you wear it, it is making sure no one else gets sick. It's not to protect you so much is to make sure you don't infect someone else. I call that a patriotic requirement. I call that what we should be doing right now.
And if President had done his job -- had done his job from the beginning -- all the people would still be alive. All the people -- I'm not making this up, just look at the data. Look at the data.
And then we're now being told there's going to be no -- I pray to God, there's a vaccine tomorrow that could be available to everyone. First of all, once the vaccine is made available, and you know this well, once it's made available, it's going to take a long, long time to be able to distribute it throughout the country.
You're not going to have 325 million vials to begin with, and the way in which it is transported, there's two kinds of vaccines that they're talking about. One is -- anyway, one relates to changing your cell structure and the other relates to engaging your immune system. That require different ways they can be transported.
One is required to have -- to be transported at 70 degrees below zero. And so there's -- and taking two shots.
So the idea that there's going to be a vaccine and everything is going to be fine tomorrow is just not rational, not reasonable.
COOPER: Do you think that the comments by the Attorney General contribute to people, I mean, encourage people not to wear masks?
BIDEN: Sure, I mean, quite frankly, they're sick. Think about it. Did you ever, ever think any of you, you'd hear an Attorney General say that following the recommendations of the scientific community, to save your and other people's lives is equivalent to slavery. People being put in chains.
You lost your freedom because you didn't act. The freedom to go to that ball game, the freedom of your kid to go to school, the freedom to see your mom or dad in the hospital. The freedom just to walk around your neighborhood because of failure to act responsibly.
This is -- Anderson. I've been doing this a long time. I never ever, ever thought I would see such a thoroughly totally irresponsible administration. It's just -- it's just -- it's almost -- it's one of the reasons why if you take a look at the Pew Foundation poll, guess what? Russia, Putin, China, Xi Jinping are trusted by more of the people in the world than the President of the United States of America.
And one of the reasons they cite is COVID. The way he has handled COVID. This is not only causing us life loss here. It is causing us to lose our influence in ways that are profound.
COOPER: I want you to meet Kristen Shemanski. She works for a family owned chocolate manufacturing company in Dunmore. She's a Democratic person. Welcome.
KRISTEN SHEMANSKI, WORKS FOR A FAMILY OWNED CHOCOLATE MANUFACTURING COMPANY IN DUNMORE: Good evening. My mother was diagnosed with multiple myeloma two years ago at the age of 66. The cost of her care has been astronomical.
However, my family has been fortunate that both she and my father had long careers at good companies that afforded them the opportunity to save for retirement, which is helping to pay for her care.
Mr. Vice President, what is your plan to make healthcare affordable, so Americans don't need to drain their savings when care is necessary.
BIDEN: First of all, in the middle of this pandemic, what is the President doing? He's in Federal Court -- Federal Court trying to do away with the Affordable Care Act. A hundred million people with preexisting conditions like your mom would not have to pay more for their insurance under now, but guess what happens if in fact he wins. That's number one.
BIDEN: Number two, what I would do is make sure that we reinstate the Affordable Care Act, number one, and add a public option to that Affordable Care Act. So that nobody, nobody in the United States of America would go without being able to be covered for what they need.
With regard to COVID, for example, I don't want to get -- my son died of cancer. He came home from Iraq and I have to tell you, it really, really offended me when he volunteered to go there for a year and he came home because of stage four glioblastoma.
And the President referred to guys like my son -- he won the Bronze Star and the Conspicuous Service Medal, referred to them as losers. Losers. Talk about losers.
My point is this, the idea that healthcare is debated as whether or not it's a right or a privilege, it's an absolute right. And so we have to make sure, particularly in the moment of COVID that any cost relating to COVID are in fact free. The Federal government guarantees to be taken care of.
One of the reasons why people aren't going in and getting tested is they're afraid of the bill they're going to receive. They're afraid of what's going to happen. And with your mom, it's a different -- multiple myeloma is a difficult, difficult disease to care for, and that's why one of the things I've done and anyway, I'm going on too much about cancer, I apologize.
But one of the things that I strongly believe is we have to be in a position where we provide for all the research and all the effort to deal with cancer. And look, we can beat this disease. But we have to invest significant amounts of money, billions of dollars to do it and it can be done. It can be done.
COOPER: We're going to -- we're going to take a quick break. When we come back. We'll have more questions from our audience for former Vice President Joe Biden. Thanks.
COOPER: And welcome back, we're live from a very unique CNN drive-in town hall event tonight for the home of Scranton Wilkes-Barre Railriders at PNC field with local voters to questions for presidential candidate, Joe Biden.
I just want to start with question my own. The first debate is 12 days away. President Trump was asked this week about how he's preparing for it. And he said, quote, I sort of prepare every day by just doing what I'm doing. How are you preparing for the debate? BIDEN: About the same way, although I have gone back and talked about and looked at only the things he said, but making sure I can concisely say what I'm for. And what I'm going to do you.
COOPER: You have somebody playing President Trump and if so --
BIDEN: Not yet.
BIDEN: Not yet. I mean, they're actually a couple people. You know, they asked me questions if ever like, as if they were Trump, but I'm looking forward to it.
COOPER: Our next questionnaire is Leah Connolly, a Democrat from Philadelphia. She's a program coordinator and museum educator. Leah?
BIDEN: Philly girl. I married a Philly girl.
LEAH CONNOLLY, PROGRAM COORDINATOR & MUSEUM EDUCATOR: Whoo, Philly girls are the best. Good evening, Anderson, Vice President Biden. The dependability of our mail-in ballots and necessity for this year and potentially upcoming elections is in question for the upcoming November 3rd election. If elected, what steps would you take to ensure voters in future elections do not face the same uncertainty that their vote will be counted in time for election results?
BIDEN: Number one, I would not try to throw into question the legitimacy the election like this president, the people around him and done, number one. Number two, I would make sure that the Post Office and I would move very quickly to try to get states to agree that they would open ballots before the actual deadline that night, so that -- because people have to mail-in those mail-in. Not -- and number three, what I'm doing now and I continue to do is try very hard to get as many poll workers available who are qualified to be able to particularly because we'll still probably have some room, well, we won't, hopefully, in two more years. But to make sure that we have early voting, we have same day registration. And we're in a position where we make sure that you're automatically registered once you become 18 years of age, there are the things that I would push to do, because look, it's all about people showing up and voting. And I'm confident notwithstanding all the efforts the President's made, I think you're going to see a massive turnout.
And if you're wondering, go to iwillvote.com to figure out when you're going to vote, where you're going to vote, what your polling place is, so you're ready, plan now.
COOPER: Well, let me ask you about that. The President just this morning tweeted that the results from the November election quote, may never be accurately determined. Given everything that we've been hearing from the President. I'm wondering what you expect the days and weeks after the election to look like?
BIDEN: Look, if the President had even remote confidence there was likely to win the election. He wouldn't be doing this. Remember, I wasn't on your show. But I said some months ago, I predict the President going to try to move the election date, never said pull, we never do that. Guess what, he suggested. Maybe we should move the election date, postpone the election. And so -- he's done every single thing, including having a Postmaster General, who still doesn't know who dismantled those machines. Who ordered beam to picking up those those faces to mail your ballots. I mean, it's just it's all about trying to de legitimize the effort.
COOPER: Do you think that that I mean, President Trump has said that he's not yet said that he'd be willing to accept the results of the November election. Would you commit tonight to accepting the results of the electorate?
BIDEN: Sure. The full results, account every vote. Look, I mean, he never think -- can anybody any of you or history majors out there think of any president who said early on? I'm not sure I'm going to accept the results of the election. It depends. I mean what's happened to us in this case, it's not who we are. This is not what America is. No presidents ever said anything like that.
COOPER: I want to introduce you to Mavis Ball, a Democrat from Philadelphia who recently relocated from Texas. She served as PTA president, and as a member of the school board for her son school. Mavis?
MAVIS BALL, SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER: Hello, Vice President Biden.
BIDEN: Hi, there (ph).
BALL: Black parents across America need to know how much different will the top be with our sons and daughters, about police interaction under your administration.
BIDEN: You'll be fundamentally different. But let make it clear. One of the things people say I know I understand is my mother would say come walk in my shoes for a mile. And tell me you understand then. Very few white parents have to have to turn to say to their kid. Once they get their license, make sure if you're pulled over, put both hands on top of the wheel. Don't reach for the glove box, make sure you do whatever the police officer says. The vast majority of police are decent, honorable people. One of the things I've found is the only people don't like bad cops, more than we don't like them are police officers.
And so, what we have to do is yet to have a much more transparent means by which we provide for accountability within police departments. As President of the United States, what I will do, I will nationally bring together police chiefs, police officers, the union people, the African-American leadership, the communities, brown communities, the civil rights leaderships sit at the table and agree on basic fundamental things that are have to be done. Including much more rigorous background checks on those who apply for and become police officers. Two, teaching people how to de escalate. Three providing for a 911 calls like what happened in Lancaster, making sure that you have psychologists and psychiatrists available to go out to deal with those circumstances.
We can change -- we started that process before I'm confident it can work again and again, without vilifying. There's bad cops, there's bad police officers there. I mean, there there's bad senators, there's bad congressmen, there's bad docs, there's people who aren't meeting standards in every single solitary profession. And I'm confident, I'm confident the vast majority of the police are prepared to sit down in the White House and a commission like Barack and I started to be able to sit down and lay out with the minimum basic requirements are and what is out of bounds period. Including the ability for us to be able to go in and look at a pattern and practice with police departments so they're completely transparent.
COOPER: Mr. Vice President, Bob Woodward asked President Trump about white privilege and whether or not he benefited from it. And the President said, no, I don't feel that way at all and sort of mock Bob Woodward. Do you see ways that you've benefited from white privilege?
BIDEN: Sure, I've benefited just because I don't have to go through what my black brothers and sisters have had to go through, number one. But number two, you know, grow up parents, Scranton. We're used to guys to look down their nose at us. We're looked at people who look at us and think that we're suckers, look at us and they think that we don't, we're not equivalent to them. If you didn't have a college degree, you must be stupid. If in fact, you didn't get to go to an Ivy school. Well, I tell you, it bothered me to tell you the truth. Maybe it's my Scranton roots. I don't know. But when you guys started talking on television about Biden, if he wins, we'll be the first person without a Ivy League degree to be elected president. I think, who the hell makes you think I have to have an Ivy League degree to be president and I really mean it. I found my backup. No, I'm not joking. I'm not joking. Like, guys like me, were the first in my family to go to college. Up here, my dad busted his neck. My dad came up here, worked here, lost his job, like a lot of people did here used to be a bad joke in the '60s in Scranton, everybody's not -- no one in Scranton, everybody's from Scranton, because so many people lost their jobs.
We are as good as anybody else. And guys like Trump, who inherited everything and squandered what they inherited are the people that I've always had a problem with, not the people who are busting their neck.
COOPER: Let me ask you President Trump sign the First Step Act, which advocates for criminal justice reform, I think is a good start in reforming the criminal justice system. Why should voters believe that you are the right person to build on that legislation given that in the administration you had with President Obama, you guys weren't able to get a First Step Act?
BIDEN: Well guess what we proposed the First Step Act. And what we did was in our administration, were 38,000 fewer federal prisoners than there were -- when we start our administration. We moved to eliminate the disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine. So, a black guy getting a nickel bag, and snorting coke, when mandatory to jail, someone who has did a line and in, you know, in Park Avenue, got arrested, they got probation. And so, we've tried to change their mistakes made. We've made significant changes, and we'll make more. But look at what he's done. Look at where we are. He has refused to do the kinds of things that need to be done to fundamentally change the criminal justice system, including making sure that there's equal application of justice.
COOPER: This is Bill Barrett. He's a retired police chief of Wilkes- Barre and a member of the Wilkes Barre City Council. He's a Democrat. Bill, thanks for being with us.
BIDEN: Chief, didn't I meet you when you were chief?
BILL BARRETT, FMR CHIEF OF WILKES-BARRE POLICE DEPARTMENT: We did, sir.
BIDEN: That's my thought. Looking at you like I know, I know.
BARRETT: Good evening, Vice President Biden --
BIDEN: Good evening.
BARRETT: -- Anderson. As mentioned as retired police chief, I am very concerned about the violence taking place in our cities across this country, and especially concerned about the lack of respect shown towards law enforcement officers and military. Can you tell us what your plan is for addressing this situation? And bringing our nation back together, sir.
BIDEN: First of all, violent protesting is one thing, right to speak is one thing. Violence of any kind, no matter who it is coming from, is wrong. If people should be held accountable, burning down automobile lots, smashing windows, setting buildings on fire. But here's the deal. I've condemned every form of violence, no matter what the source is. No matter what the source is. The President is yet to condemn, as you've probably noticed, the far-right and the white supremacist, and those guys walking around with the AK-47s and not doing a damn thing about them. This is absolutely -- look, his own former press secretary Kellyanne Conway said, I'm paraphrasing, chaos and violence are good for our administration. They're good for us. President talks about in Joe Biden's America. I got to remind him, he may be really losing it. He's president. I'm not the president. This is Donald Trump's America. You feel safer and Donald Trump's America when he incites these kinds of things.
The idea is, it's wrong no matter what the source is where it comes from. I condemn it all and people should be held accountable. But folks, I'm waiting for the day when he says I condemn all those white supremacy, I condemn those militia guys as much as I do every other organizational structure. And by the way, Chief when you put that badge on and you'll walk out the door, you have a right to come home to your family safely, period. Period.
COOPER: A lot of protesters have called for defunding police. This summer murder rates in some big cities have shot up, Chicago murders are up 52% so far, New York 23%, Los Angeles up 15%. There are a lot of people who worry about a breakdown of law and order in this country. Are you one of them?
BIDEN: I am worried that as long as the administration continues to preach hate and division, talking about people in ways they talk about it, that I am worried. But here's the deal. We're in a situation in the United States where right away in our administration, violent crime went down 15%, we didn't have to worry about protecting public buildings, we were able to do without sending in our military. Do you ever think you'd see a day?
You can answer me I know. But everything could see a day when five, six, four star generals walked away from this president. Several of them said they were ashamed how he conducted himself. A president stands out there when people are peacefully protesting in front of the White House. No, no violence whatsoever. He gets the military to go in for tear gas. Both people physically move out of the way so he can walk across to a Protestant church and hold a Bible upside down. I wonder, have he ever opened it. Upside down and then go back to a bunker in the White House? What are we talking about here? Is simply wrong to engage the military, in dealing with domestic unrest as a relates to violence as a consequence of people protesting. We can take care of this. It can be taken care of we took care of in our administration. There's no need to escalate this and think of what the rest of the world is looking?
You know, I mean, I don't read the international press, but I get it delivered to me all the time through my advisors and they're all security people. They're looking at us like what in God's name is going on in the United States of America?
COOPER: We're going to take a quick break. We'll be back with more from former Vice President Joe Biden.
COOPER: And welcome back to our drive-in town hall with former Vice President Joe Biden.
Our next question is from Tom Calpin. He works as a business agent from the Ironworkers Union. He's a Democrat from Moosic. Tom, welcome.
TOM CALPIN, BUSINESS AGENT FOR IRONWORKS UNION: Good evening Mr. Vice President, Mr. Cooper. With the abundance of natural gas in northeast Pennsylvania. Do you support the continuation of fracking safely and with proper guidelines, of course, and growing the industry (INAUDIBLE) additional jobs to our region?
BIDEN: Yes, I do. I do. In addition to that, we can provide for right now as you know, for thousands of uncapped wells because a lot of companies gone out of business, whether they're gas or oil facilities, we can put to work right away 250,000 people from iron workers and other disciplines, making union wages. Capping those wells that are leaking methane and their danger to the community.
[20:50:19] And so, not only do I continue to support it. Jobs, it's an important for this community. It's important for Pennsylvania, and Ohio and other states. It's an important, it's an important business. And it's a lot of wages are involved in that. But beyond that, beyond that, we can also get people working now, capping the wells that are left uncapped right now across this region and all the way there's hundreds of thousands of them all across the nation. And that put a lot of people to work.
COOPER: Let me just follow up on that. You said you won't ban fracking but did you wanted to gradually move away from it ultimately. It sounds like to some of you're trying to have it both ways that that I mean, politically, it's understandable why you might say that but it -- if fracking contributes to climate change, and climate change is an existential threat. Why should it fracking continue at all?
BIDEN: Well, fracking has to continue because we have transition, we're going to get to net zero emissions by 2050. And we'll get to net zero power admissions by 2035. But there's no rationale to eliminate right now fracking, number one. Number two, those jobs that are out there, whether it's a IBW (ph) worker, or whether it's an iron worker, or a steel worker. What I'm proposing is that, you know, when Trump thinks about global warming, he thinks hoax. When I hear global warming, I think jobs. What I'm going to make sure we do is we could transition in a way for example. We're going to build 500 -- the reason why all these unions have endorsed me is that they know my position, that I'm going to make sure that we have 500,000 charging stations in our highways so we can all the electric car market, creating a million jobs and we can lead the world. And in Detroit, we can lead the world and making sure we move to electric vehicles
As president of United States, I'll have one of the largest fleets -- we spent $600 billion a year federal money for federal contracts, I got to make sure they're all those contracts are all products made in America, including the chain that provides for every one of those products. I'm going to do away with the tax break that the President gave people who send jobs abroad, to make sure that if you in fact, have a contract, if you with taxpayers my money, you must use American products, you must buy American products, and you must not be in a position where you're exporting. We have 25 -- we have over 50% more people moving jobs overseas as a consequence of these contracts, so it's all backwards. And this is going to provide a lot of good paying jobs for people in the trades.
COOPER: Let me introduce you to Hana Cannon, a Democrat from Allentown, where she runs a bike mentoring program for a local nonprofit. Hana, welcome.
HANA CANNON, PROGRAM MANAGER, LOCAL NON-PROFIT: Hello. Good evening. So as, you know, the entire West is on fire. Glaciers are melting and air quality's born in many areas. A climate crisis cannot be ignored. I participated in many climate actions in recent years, and I'm about to become a mother for the first time. As, you know, black, Hispanic, and communities and parties are more vulnerable to the climate crisis. Are you a firm supporter of the Green New Deal and how you will make sure our communities are protected? BIDEN: I have laid out in detail what I'll do, and I'm going to see to it that I said we get to a net zero power grid by 2035. So no president can turn around and change what we're doing. We're going to get to net zero emissions by the year 2050 before. In the meantime, there's so much we can do and still make it better for people. We're going to invest in close to a trillion dollars over time in the near time for infrastructure. We're going to build green infrastructure.
For example, I propose that we spend $100 billion on making sure our schools have the right the right ventilation. And he's your schools, in fact, are safe. Making sure schools are in a position where they are not generating the use of more energy.
COOPER: Let me --
BIDEN: We're going to build back buildings that in fact are going to provide for -- and we're going to vastly cut down on the amount of fossil fuels that we use.
COOPER: Let me let me just jump in though. She was asking me the Green New Deal. Do you back that or do you think it's too much, too goes too far?
BIDEN: Oh, I don't think it's too much. Now, I have my own deal. I've laid it out in great detail. It was the Democratic Party's adopted as a platform. It requires for us to move in a direction to fundamentally change the way in which we deal with environment.
I'm the guy that ran the Recovery Act which invested over $90 billion in bringing down the cost of renewable energy. So it's now more competitive than it is for coal, or for oil, or for gas. And so there's no reason why we can't transition in normally way making it -- and by the way, before I actually went through the whole thing. I sat down with every one of the major unions, they all endorsed me. And I said, look, this is good. This was going to mean for you. It's not only good for the environment, it's going to provide jobs and you're not going to lose your jobs. You're not going to lose your jobs. Not producing the same energy producing different kind of energy.
COOPER: We're going to take another quick break. We'll be back with more questions for presidential candidate Joe Biden, next.
COOPER: And welcome back to a special CNN drive-in town hall with former Vice President Joe Biden.
I want to bring in -- this is Dr. Kina Smallwood Butts, a Democrat from Lansdowne. She works as a mental health counselor, welcome.
KINA SMALLWOOD BUTTS, MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELOR: Hello. Good evening, Vice President Biden, good evening, Mr. Cooper. My question is a two parter. How will you handle Russia's involvement with Trump? How will we know that many ways he has compromised the United States? [21:00:06]
BIDEN: Well I made it clear that early on that in attempting to interfere with our election is a violation of our sovereignty. And if it's done again, which it appears to be being done, there will be a price to pay. There will be a price to pay.
And Putin knows, the reason he doesn't want me as president, he knows me, and he knows I mean it. I don't mean war. But they'll pay a price. They'll pay a price for it, and it'll be an economic price, number one.
Number two, one of the things we have to do is make sure that we investigate exactly what involvement there has been in our election and to protect against it.
One of the things we have to do as well is provide the states with the wherewithal to be able to upgrade their list, their machinery, and to make sure their encryption is - deal with notions that can make safe the voting reg - the voting rolls and make it more difficult to have cyber intrusions into anything that's being done.
That requires money. There is a plan that's been put together in the Senate, by the Democrats, and I would push that plan. But it requires us to help states provide for the wherewithal to change the nature of the machinery.
And I think we have to be able to be in a position where you have a paper ballot left after what happens with regard to the actual counting and the voting machine.
COOPER: Let me ask, FBI Director Chris Wray said just today that Russia has been, in his words, very active in its efforts to influence the election and "Denigrate" you.
You said that that there would be economic price to pay for Russia, if they continue with this. Can you be more specific? What do you - what do you - what is the price to pay?
BIDEN: It wouldn't be prudent for me to be more specific. But I assure you, they will pay a price.
COOPER: Do you believe Russia is an enemy?
BIDEN: I believe Russia is an opponent. I really do.
And, look, Putin's overwhelming objective is to break up NATO, to fundamentally alter the circumstance in Europe, so he doesn't have to face an entire NATO contingent, any one country he is stronger than.
And he's - look what's happening now. Look what's happening in Belarus. Look what's happening in his response. Look what's happening, though, in countries like Romania. Look what's happening in terms of the authoritarian nature of some of the regimes changing.
COOPER: Do you view China as an opponent? Because the President says you've been too cozy with China, too accepting of them in the international community.
BIDEN: I'm not the guy. Look, China, we now have a larger trade deficit with China than we've ever had with China.
And in our Administration, when the World Trade Organization, he keeps going on about, just ruled that his trade policy violated the World Trade Organization, we sued. We went to the World Trade Organization 16 times, 16 times.
COOPER: Do you view China as an opponent?
BIDEN: I view China as a competitor.
BIDEN: A serious competitor. That's why, I think, we have to strengthen our relationships and our alliances in Asia.
That's why we have to, in fact, make - I made it clear, as you may recall, that when I was in China, and Xi said to me that they're setting up an air identification zone, I said - I was with the National Security team, I said we're not going to pay attention.
It's what he expect me to do, bring it down. I said, "We're just not going to pay attention. We're going to fly right through it. We're going to abide by international norms. That's what we're going to do and insist that they do."
COOPER: This is Justin Gaval. He works in manufacturing. He's a Democrat.
JUSTIN GAVAL, WORKS IN MANUFACTURING: Thanks, Anderson. Hello, Vice President.
BIDEN: Hey, Justin.
GAVAL: I come from the small coal mine town in Mahanoy City, just down the line here.
BIDEN: I know Mahanoy City.
GAVAL: I know you do.
I'm an Army veteran, who served in Afghanistan 2013-2014. I want to know if you are elected, will you bring my brothers and sisters home, and our military involvement in these unnecessary, endless wars that don't have any end in sight?
BIDEN: Yes, I--
GAVAL: Thank you.
BIDEN: Yes, I would. It's now public knowledge. I was opposed to the significant increase in our presence, at the time, in Afghanistan, and because I thought the only presence we should have is a counterterrorism presence, not a counterinsurgency presence.
The idea that we're ever going to break up the countering (ph) network in Eastern Pakistan, Western Pakistan is just not going to happen.
But we have to be in a position where we can make it clear that if need be, we could respond to terrorist activities coming out of that region, directed toward the United States.
It does not require a large force presence. We got that presence down to lower than it is now. This President is the one that has increased the number, not reduced the number.
COOPER: This is Garry Hartman, the President of a company that makes the steel frames used to transport shipping containers. He is a Republican, who voted for President Trump in 2016.
GARRY HARTMAN, BUSINESSMAN, VOTED FOR TRUMP IN 2016: Thank you.
BIDEN: Hey, Gary.
HARTMAN: Vice President Biden, Cheetah Chassis is located in Berwick, Pennsylvania, where we produce intermodal container chassis. We're a small family-owned business that is facing unfair trade container chassis imports from, we'll call, a massive state-owned entity in China.
The products are under - currently under Section 301, but the Chinese have found a way to undermine the relief of the tariff. So, as President, how would you address China's unfair trade policies?
BIDEN: I would make it clear, just so we did in our Administration, that when they use state - state-owned enterprises, which is what they're doing, state-owned enterprises, to undercut the price that they can charge, to be able to come and compete with American manufacturing, that they in fact would be denied that opportunity.
I would also make it clear that when you, in fact, it's got to be - if any of that is being purchased by any government agency, that it will not - we will not purchase anything that is not made in America, including - including the downriver line of what has to be done, all the parts.
You can't do what he's doing now. You can't do where he's given a tax break to companies that, in fact, go overseas, bring their - and then import the product back into the United States of America, even though their headquarters is here, the chain, though, you go overseas, and they bring it back in cheaper, than you being able to produce it.
And so, I'm going to make sure that it's made in America. I believe and I mean that. We all - we've been talking about this policy for a 100 years. We've never fully done it. We can and must do it now. COOPER: This is Julie Masser Ballay from Sacramento, Pennsylvania. She is CFO for her family potato farm, member of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. She's also a Republican who voted for President Trump in 2016.
JULIE MASSER BALLAY, CFO FOR FAMILY'S POTATO FARM, MEMBER, PENNSYLVANIA FARM BUREAU, VOTED FOR TRUMP 2016: Thank you.
BIDEN: How are you feeling now, Julie?
BALLAY: I'm - good evening. Over-regulation puts an extreme burden on small- and family-owned farms, and is a contributing factor to many farms going out of business.
Policies during the Obama Administration such as the rules under the Waters of the U.S. Act threatened to increase that regulation, as does policies proposed through the Green New Deal, which your climate plan embraces.
BIDEN: No, it doesn't embrace--
BALLAY: Excuse me, if I could finish.
BIDEN: Right, I'm sorry.
BALLAY: Thank you.
BALLAY: How do you plan to decrease the regulatory burden for farmers and businesses as a whole?
BIDEN: Two ways.
Number one, we should provide for your ability to make a lot more money, as farmers, by dealing with you being able to put land in land banks, and you get paid to do that to provide for more open space and provide for the ability of you to be able to be in a position that we are going to pay you for planting certain crops that in fact absorb carbon from the air.
That's part of what the plan relates to, in terms of agriculture and the environment. But as it relates to - if you are talking about regulation that relates to fertilizer and water tables, that's a different thing.
In the United States, in my State of Delaware, we have a $4 billion industry, chickens - chicken and poultry. And all what is - all the manure, quite frankly, that is a consequence of chickens, and so it is polluting the Chesapeake Bay.
What we found out, we've invested a lot of money, we found out you can pelletize this and take out - take out the methane, so you are in a position where you can use that fertilizer without the damage that was being done before. The same way with horse manure and cow manure and pig manure.
And we can create thousands of jobs in rural America as a consequence of setting up these small industries within communities.
And so, that's the way you'll be able to continue to farm without worrying about whether or not you're polluting, and being in a position where you're able to make money by what you do in the transition as well as be able to grow more.
COOPER: Mr. Vice President, this is Susan Connors, who runs a local HVAC business. She's a Democrat.
SUSAN CONNORS, RUNS A LOCAL BUSINESS: Thank you, Anderson.
Mr. Vice President, I look out over my Biden sign in my front yard, and I see a sea of Trump flags and yard signs. And, my question is, what is your plan, to build a bridge, with voters from the opposing party, to lead us forward, towards a common future?
BIDEN: Well, you've got it exactly right. I said, when I announced, the next President of the United States is going to inherit two things, a divided nation and a world in disarray.
And remember how I was so roundly criticized during the primaries. I plan to unite the nation. I'm running as a Democrat, but I'm going to be everyone's President. I'm not going to be a Democratic President. I'm going to be America's President.
And I have made my whole career based upon bringing people together and bringing the parties together. I've been relatively good at doing that. I learned a long time ago - and I apologize, Anderson has heard me say this.
When I first got to the Senate, I was 29-years-old, when I got elected. Turns out, when I was hiring staff, my wife and daughter and three children were Christmas shopping, tractor-trailer broadsided and killed my wife and daughter, and my two boys were badly injured, and they weren't sure they were going to make it.
I didn't want to go to the Senate. A group of senators came to me, and said, including two Republicans, "Just come and stay for six months. Help us organize." I was so foolish. We had 58 Democratic senators, a Democratic Governor-elect. He would have appointed a Democrat.
But I'm the first Senator really new. I went and I agreed to do it. End result was I have to meet with the Majority Leader of the Senate, a guy named Mike Mansfield with more integrity in his little finger than most people had in their whole body.
And I'd meet with him. And it took me about five weeks to figure out he'd give me an assignment. I'd go in Tuesday at 2 o'clock and I'd get an assignment. No senators get assignments. And I knew he - I found out about five weeks later he was just taking my pulse, seeing how I was doing emotionally. It was OK.
Third week in March, I mean in May, after realizing what this was all about, I walked into Senate floor. If you ever watch C-SPAN, you'll see those - that gold letter - that gold leaf on the doors.
I walked through those doors, down to the well of the Senate, and a senator was ripping into two people, who are very good friends of mine, Bob Dole was still a good friend and very ill, and Teddy Kennedy, who has passed away.
And they introduced the precursor for the Americans with Disabilities Act, and this senator was ripping them a new ear saying it's confiscatory; no one has the right to confiscate my property, telling me I have to curb cut. It's wrong.
And I thought what an awful thing, but I was more afraid of being late for my meeting with the President - with the Leader than I was to take him on. I walked in and sat down in front of this gentleman named Mike Mansfield. He always had a pipe in his hand, mostly never lighted.
He looked at me, said "What's the matter, Joe?" And I went on for three minutes about how this senator had no social redeeming value, how could he not care about people with disabilities?
He looked at me, and he said, "Joe, what would you say if I told you, he and his wife, sitting in their living room, the night he was elected in '72, sitting in the living room in '71, reading their local paper, and there was a young man's picture in the paper with steel braces from his - under his arms, down to his ankles and two crutches, and looking out in an advertisement in the paper, saying, "All I want for Christmas is someone to love me and take me home."
He said, "What would you say if I told you they adopted that young man?" I said "I'd be embarrassed." He said, "Well they did, Joe." And then he taught me the most important lesson I learned in public life.
He said, "Joe, it's always appropriate to question another man's or a woman's judgment. It's never appropriate to question their motive because you don't know. And once you question motive, you can never get to an agreement. By the way, let's - you're in the pocket of the cement industry. Let's talk about making more highways. You can't get it done."
So, I've never done that. And I've been able to get an awful lot done because I've never questioned motive. I don't rip the cord. I'm going to be America's President, not a Democratic President.
I'm going to be a - I'm a Democrat, proud of it, but America's President.
COOPER: Do you think it's still possible to reach across the aisle?
BIDEN: Yes, I do.
COOPER: The lines are so divided. BIDEN: In case you haven't seen, a group of Republicans, they said they're prepared to work with Joe Biden if he's elected. Happen to see that? It was recently published, in "The Hill."
COOPER: You think you can--
BIDEN: I'm confident I can.
I'm confident that with President Trump out of the way, and his vitriolic attitude, and his way of just getting after people, revenge, with that gone there's going to be an awful lot of Republicans who should have spoken up already, but in fact, I think, there is going to be somewhere between six and eight Republicans who are ready to get things done from, from dealing with cancer, from dealing with healthcare, from dealing with COVID, from dealing with the infrastructure.
And I think we're going to win back the Democratic Senate.
COOPER: Mr. Vice President, thank you very much for your time tonight. We appreciate it.
BIDEN: Thank you everybody.
COOPER: We want to thank everybody who's been here.
We've also invited President Trump for a CNN Town Hall. We look forward to having the President join us before our Election Day perhaps.
BIDEN: Thank you.
COOPER: We also want to thank our drive-in audience, for being here, and for their questions, and thank you to PNC Field for hosting us.
Stay tuned for "CUOMO PRIME TIME" coming up next.
BIDEN: And can I see my family that's out there?