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Biden: Putin A "Rational Actor Who's Miscalculated Significantly"; President Biden On Federal Prosecutors Weighing Charges On Two Fronts In Hunter Biden Investigation; The Rock Talks "Black Adam" & Joining The Superhero Universe. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired October 11, 2022 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Angela Lansbury was 96-years-old. She died, just five days, before her 97th birthday.

The news continues. Want to hand it over, and give a warm welcome, to Jake Tapper, and his debut program.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to CNN TONIGHT. I am Jake Tapper.

Is Vladimir Putin a rational actor? Or has Vladimir Putin lost his mind? That's really the subtext, of all the conversations, about whether the Russian President, is actually willing to drive humanity to the brink of a nuclear disaster. I bet it's keeping President Biden up, at night.

How about you? How are you sleeping ever since President Biden used the word "Armageddon?" In just a moment, I'll ask President Biden, outright, how close he thinks, we really are, to the brink, and what options are on the table, in our exclusive interview.

Because, as Biden noted, in Ukraine, Putin's choices, his options, are narrowing.


PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): We will defend our land by all means at our disposal. We will do everything, to ensure the security of our people.


TAPPER: So breaking out our Putin-to-English, English-to-Putin dictionary here, when he says, "We will defend our land?" What he means by "Our land" is the 18 percent of Ukraine that he just declared part of Russia. And by "Our people," he means the Ukrainians, who have taken up arms, to stop him.

And when he says, "By all means at our disposal," "All means?" That's rhetoric that's gone nuclear.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PUTIN (through translator): The U.S. is the only country in the world to have used nuclear weapons, on two occasions, resulting in the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which reminds me, they have created a precedent.


TAPPER: A friendly reminder!

So, how serious is Putin, about using a nuclear weapon? Well, President Biden, he sure seems to be taking it seriously.

Quote, Putin is "Not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons because his military is, you might say, significantly underperforming," Biden said, a few days ago. Quote, "I don't think there's any such thing as the ability to easily (use) a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon," unquote.

And look, if Putin talking about nukes sounds scary to us? Imagine how it sounds to the Ukrainians.

Here's President Zelenskyy.


PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE: They begin to prepare their society that is very dangerous.

I think it is dangerous even to speak about it.


TAPPER: But Putin is speaking about it. And it's even more troubling, given three aspects, of where Putin currently finds himself.

Number one, his back is against the wall. Look at the territory that the Ukrainian military has gained, in the past couple of weeks. See all that light blue? Those are Ukrainian forces taking their own land back, pushing back on Putin's forces.

And as Putin loses territories, he's oddly gaining swagger, one source telling CNN, quote, "Defeat is not an option for Putin."

So, what are some of the worst-case scenarios here?

Nightmare scenario, one, some experts think it could be a Russian military strike, on one of the largest nuclear power plants, in the world, in Ukraine, which Ukrainian officials think, could result in a disaster 10 times worse, than Chernobyl in 1986.

Nightmare scenario two? An attack by Russia, inside a NATO country. And while that might sound far-fetched, that is what's worrying Senator Marco Rubio, of Florida. And Rubio probably knows a little bit about this. He's the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): I think the thing I worry most about is a Russian attack, inside NATO territory, for example, aiming at the airport, in Poland, or some other distribution point.

There certainly would be an attack on one. And so, therefore, certainly NATO will have to respond to it.


TAPPER: Nightmare scenario three? A nuclear bomb, dropped by Russia, onto the innocent people of Ukraine, a situation that former CIA Director and retired four-star General, David Petraeus, says would require a U.S. response.




H. PETRAEUS: We would respond by leading a NATO, a collective effort that would take out every Russian conventional force that we can see, and identify, on the battlefield, in Ukraine, and also in Crimea, and every ship on the - in the Black Sea.


TAPPER: Which sounds an awful lot like World War III! So, this is where we're at right now. The U.S. and Russia, on the brink of a full- on war, with a bloodthirsty dictator, threatening the U.S., to call his bluff, on using a nuke.

And President Biden said, for the first time, since the Cuban Missile Crisis, we have the threat of a nuclear weapon, if in fact, things continue down the path they're going.

So, let's go back to that moment. Let's go back to the time that another Democratic President made this announcement, not so dissimilar, 60 years ago this very month.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On October 22nd, 1962, President John F. Kennedy broadcast a special message to the nation from his office in the White House.

JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nuclear weapons are so destructive, and ballistic missiles are so swift that any substantially increased possibility, of their use, or any sudden change, in their deployment, may well be regarded as a definite threat to peace. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: A similar concern, expressed by John F. Kennedy, decades ago, inside the same White House. Another American president, telling the public, the nuclear threat from Russia, and the Soviet Union, was very real.

Now, the threat to peace, during the Cuban Missile Crisis was the Soviet's plan, to move nuclear missiles, to Cuba, in the Caribbean. And those 13 days, on the brink of mutually-assured destruction? That was the culmination of a Nuclear Age, no one wants to go back to.

Fallout shelters, air raid drills, our government putting out insipid cartoons, to reassure kids that ducking under their desks would save them, from the Nuclear Holocaust!



He did what we all must learn to do. You. And you. And you. And you. Duck and cover!


TAPPER: That's a great plan! It's exactly like a monkey with a stick of dynamite!

So, how did we find ourselves back here again, 60 years later? Well, you can blame Mr. April, and Mr. July and, of course, Mr. September!

That's right. Vladimir Putin is a man, who actually releases an annual calendar, featuring himself, as the pin-up, every month. He's 70! So, it might be easy to take Putin as a joke. And some world leaders do, on occasion.

A couple of them even got caught on camera, at the G7, mocking those shirtless pics. Canada's Justin Trudeau, and the United Kingdom's Boris Johnson, suggesting they too needed to go shirtless, to prove they were tougher than Putin.

Unamused, Putin responded, saying, quote, "I don't know if they wanted to strip down to the waist or below the waist, but I think it would have been a disgusting sight either way."

"Below the waist." OK. But - but that little snippet raises an important question. And that's our second point, about where Putin finds himself.

Has the West failed to take Putin seriously enough? I mean, the evidence suggests that we have, and that one American president after another, has tried to appease him, to avoid this very moment, in which we find ourselves, today, passing Neville Chamberlain's umbrella, like a relay baton.

In 2000, as President Bill Clinton was wrapping up, his time, at the White House, and Putin was just stepping into office? Putin leveled the Chechen capital city, of Grozny. Thousands of civilians were killed.

And Clinton's attitude was this.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that the United States can - can do business with this man.

What I have seen of him so far, indicates to me that he's capable of being a very strong and effective and straightforward leader.


TAPPER: Since then, president after president has hoped for the best, and watched the worst happen.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward, and trustworthy. We had a very good dialog. I was able to get a sense of his soul. He's a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.


TAPPER: Bush might have gotten a sense of Putin's soul. He didn't get a sense that Putin was about to seize part of neighboring Georgia.

And Obama? President Obama conveyed he also wanted to work with the guy.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.

DMITRY MEDVEDEV, FORMER PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA: I understand you. I transmit this information to Vladimir, and I stand with you.


TAPPER: Lost in the transmission, I suppose, was that Putin had his eyes on Crimea, which he invaded, and seized, shortly thereafter, while also sending in fighters, to the eastern part of Ukraine, the part he just declared part of Russia. This is back in 2014.

Of course, the last president, I mean, he even sided with Putin, over U.S. Intelligence findings that Russia has intervened in the 2016 election.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Putin, he just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be.


TAPPER: I do. Meanwhile, Trump is now siding openly, with Putin, suggesting that NATO, and the United States, all but forced Putin, to attack Ukraine, and start killing civilians.



TRUMP: They actually taunted him, if you really look at it. Our country and our so-called leadership taunted Putin. And I would listen.


TRUMP: I said, "You know, they're almost forcing him to go in with what they're saying," their rhetoric was so dumb.


TAPPER: Trump is even lauding Putin's goal, of re-conquering the former Soviet Union.


TRUMP: They wanted to rebuild the Soviet Union.

They had a country. You could see it was a country where there was a lot of love.


TAPPER: "A lot of love." I guess, if your love language is gulags!

Now look, Putin's always been a paranoid brutal dictator, whose critics constantly find themselves, in jail, or curiously suddenly inclined to jump out the nearest window. Putin has ordered assassinations, not only in Russia, but in Western countries. And he holds some truly deranged views of the West.

In Peter Baker's book, "Days of Fire," Putin and Bush meet, in 2002, to discuss a tariff war. Quote, "Putin asserted that the Americans deliberately sent bad poultry to Russia. 'I know you have separate plants for chickens for America and chickens for Russia,' Putin told Bush. Bush was astonished. 'Vladimir, you're wrong.' Putin refused to believe him. 'My people have told me this is true.'"

His people told him that nonsense about the U.S. having special chicken plants, so we can send Russia defective drumsticks! What do you think they're telling him about how the war in Ukraine is going today?

And that brings me to my third and final point, I want to make, about where Putin finds himself today. What would happen, if you took a brutal megalomaniacal dictator, and then injected in him, an extra dose of crazy?

I ask, because a few weeks ago, French President, Emmanuel Macron, one of the few world leaders, who's been directly talking to Putin, he told me he does not think Putin is acting rationally.


PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON, FRANCE: Now, it's clear for everybody that the leader, who decided to go to war, the leader, who decided to escalate, is President Putin. And I have no rational explanation.

And I would say this is a post COVID-19 consequence, isolation.

TAPPER: Because he's been so isolated?

MACRON: I think so.


TAPPER: And others, who have spent time with Putin in the past are sounding the alarm of the Putin of the present, such as former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: He was always calculating and cold. But this is different. He seems erratic.


TAPPER: Former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.



I really worry about his acuity, and balance, right now.


TAPPER: Former Secretary of Defense, Bob Gates.



This behavior is different, and it's very worrisome.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: So, a brutal dictator, arguably too appeased, for too long, currently losing both his war, and also perhaps his touch, with reality.

And so, what does President Biden do? Is there a red line that Putin cannot cross? And what happens, if he does cross it?


TAPPER: How realistic is it, do you think that Putin would use a tactical nuclear weapon?


TAPPER: My exclusive interview, with President Joe Biden, is next.



TAPPER: The Russian military, currently raining fear, and devastation, not on soldiers, in a distant battlefield, but in neighborhoods, and cities, across Ukraine.




TAPPER: The ferocity of Russia's attacks, on civilian targets, underscores a stark reality. It could get worse, much worse.

President Biden, met virtually, with G7 leaders, and Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, today. We're told that 93-minute meeting, focused on, reassuring Ukraine, of continued international support, amidst serious fears that Putin could deploy a tactical nuclear weapon.

And that's exactly where I began my conversation, with the President of the United States.


TAPPER: Thank you so much for doing this, sir. Appreciate it.


TAPPER: So, for people at home, who don't know? This is the Map Room. During World War II, this is where - it was basically the Situation Room for FDR. He would look at sensitive information.

And now, we're at a period, where there's another high-stakes war in Europe.

You recently said that this is the first time, since the Cuban Missile Crisis, that there's a legitimate possibility of someone using a nuclear weapon, which could lead to "Armageddon." That's the word you used.

How realistic is it, do you think that Putin would use a tactical nuclear weapon?

BIDEN: Well, I don't think he will. But I think it's irresponsible of him to talk about it, the idea that a world leader of one of the largest nuclear powers in the world says he may use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine.

The whole point I was making was it could lead to just a horrible outcome. And not because anybody intends to turn it into a world war, or anything. But it just - once you use a nuclear weapon, the mistakes that can be made, the, miscalculations? Who knows what would happen?

TAPPER: What is the red line, for the United States and NATO? And have you directed the Pentagon, and other agencies, to game-out, what a response would be, if he did use a tactical nuclear weapon, or if he bombed the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, in Ukraine, or anything along those lines?

BIDEN: There's been discussions on that. But I'm not going to get into that. It'd be irresponsible of me, just to talk about what we would or wouldn't do.


TAPPER: Have you asked the Pentagon to game it out, though? I mean, just in case?

BIDEN: The Pentagon didn't have to be asked.

TAPPER: So, French President Macron told me that he doesn't think that Putin is acting rationally. And he said that he thinks a lot of this is because of how isolated Putin was, for two years, during the pandemic.

And others, who have dealt with him, Condi Rice, and Bob Gates, and James Clapper, have used words, like "Erratic," and "Unhinged," to describe Putin's behavior, today.

Do you think Putin is a rational actor?

BIDEN: I think he is a rational actor who's miscalculated significantly. I think he thought - you may recall, I pointed out that they were going to invade that all those 100,000 or more troops there? And no one believed that he was going to invade Ukraine.

You listen to what he says. If you listen to the speech, he made, after when that decision was being made? He talked about the whole idea of he was needed to be a leader of Russia that united all of a Russian speaker - I mean, it just - I just think it's irrational.

TAPPER: So, if he's not rational? And--

BIDEN: No, I didn't say he's not rational.

TAPPER: You said the speech is what--

BIDEN: I think - I think the speech is.


BIDEN: His objectives were not. I think he thought, Jake, I think he thought he's going to be welcomed with open arms, that this was, this has been the home of Mother Russia, and Kyiv, and they were - he was going to be welcomed. And I think he just totally miscalculated.

TAPPER: So, you talked about this, a few days ago, the search for an off-ramp for him. Because, his back is against the wall, there are questions about how rational he is. He already was a brutal dictator.

What is the off-ramp? Is there any acceptable way that he can leave, in his mind, without seizing territory, in a way that would not be acceptable to Ukraine?

BIDEN: I don't know what's in his mind. But clearly, he could leave. He could just flat leave, and still probably hold his position together in Russia, the idea that he's been able to convince the significant Russian - of the Russian people that this is something that he thought made sense, but now he's accomplished what he wanted to do, and it's time to bring Russians home.

TAPPER: Would you be willing to meet with him at the G20?

BIDEN: Look, I have no intention of meeting with him. But, for example, if he came to me, at the G20, and said, "I want to talk about the release of Griner," I'd meet with him. I mean, it would depend.

But I can't imagine - look, we've taken a position. I just did a G7 meeting this morning. The idea, nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. So, I'm not about to, nor is anyone else prepared to negotiate with Russia, about them, staying in Ukraine, keeping any part of Ukraine et cetera. So, it would depend on specifically what he wanted to talk about.

But look, he's acted brutally. He's acted brutally. He, I think, he's committed war crimes. And so, I don't - I don't see any rationale, to meet with him now.

TAPPER: When people hear the word, "Armageddon," they get scared. From - used by a U.S. President? They get scared.


TAPPER: Do you think in any way, discussing this type of thing, publicly, openly, Putin's possible use of nuclear weapons, might have the opposite effect of what you want? It might make some of our wobblier European allies be even more scared of confronting Putin?

BIDEN: Well, no, I don't think so at all. I think, look, it was directed - when I'm talking about, I'm talking to Putin. He in fact, cannot continue with impunity, to talk about the use of a tactical nuclear weapon, as if that's a rational thing to do. The mistakes get made. And given them - and the miscalculation could occur. No one can be sure what would happen, and it could end in Armageddon.

TAPPER: And you still are afraid of that, though, that it could?

BIDEN: Well, no, I don't think anyone, any rational person is saying the initial use of tactical - of a nuclear weapon, killing thousands of people, does not have the prospect of leading to something that can be way out of control.

TAPPER: Let's turn to Saudi Arabia. Some of your Democratic allies, on Capitol Hill, are afraid that the U.S. got played, when you went to Saudi Arabia, and fist-bumped with the Crown Prince. Because now, obviously, a few months later, Saudi-backed OPEC, is slashing oil production, in partnership with Russia.

The Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Menendez, just called for a freeze on cooperation, with Saudi Arabia, including most arms sales. Senator Durbin, the number two Democrat, in the Senate, says the Saudis sided with Russia, against the United States.

Do you think it's time, for the U.S., to rethink its relationship, with Saudi Arabia?



And, by the way, let's get straight why I went. I didn't go to one - about oil. I went about making sure that we made sure that we weren't going to walk away, from the Middle East, and what was going on.

And, by the way, today, I just got off the telephone, with the President of - I got off the phone, with the Prime Minister of Israel, and the President of Lebanon. They've worked out a deal. They've been at war - declared war, with one another, for a long time. They've worked out a boundary relationship, along the - in the Eastern Mediterranean, for oil. And they're going to make an agreement that is historic.

We also got overflights, for Israeli planes, over Saudi Arabia. We got movement, in terms of how we would deal in the Middle East, with aggression from Iran. But it wasn't in other - eight other - there are eight other parties there. It wasn't about - it wasn't about oil.

TAPPER: OK. But you would--

BIDEN: But we should, we should, and I am, in the process, when the - this House and Senate gets back, they're going to have to - there's going to be some consequences, for what they've done, with Russia.

TAPPER: What kind of consequences? Menendez says, suspend all arms sales. Is that something you'd consider?

BIDEN: I'm not going to get into what I'd consider and what I'm having in mind. But there will be - there will be consequences.

TAPPER: The midterm elections are four weeks from today. The economy remains top of mind, for voters.

JPMorgan Chase CEO said the U.S. is likely to enter a recession, in the next nine months. Bank of America says the U.S. could start losing 175,000 jobs a month. Gas prices are on the rise again.

Should the American people prepare for a recession?

BIDEN: No. Look, they've been saying this now how - every six months, they say this. Every six months, they look down the next six months, and say what's going to happen.

It hadn't happened yet. It hadn't been - there has - there is no - there's no guarantee that there's going to recession. I don't think there will be a recession. If it is, it'll be a very slight recession. That is, we'll move down slightly.

Well, look, think about what's happened. We have done more. We're in a better position than any other major country in the world, economically and politically. We are - we still have real problems. But look what we got done.

We passed so much legislation that significantly it makes a - makes the point about, for example, the American Rescue Plan, the legislation to deal with inflation, the Inflation Act, we moved along. I mean, there's so much has been accomplished, that the idea that there's something - there's an automaticity to recession is just not - is just not there. They keep - they've been predicting this off and on, for the last--

TAPPER: But you just said that a slight recession is possible?

BIDEN: It is possible. Look, it is possible. I don't anticipate it.

But I do think - look, we talk about the impact on families. The families are, they have reason to be concerned, about energy prices. They have reason to be concerned about a whole range of issues.

But look, what we've done. We've been able to - the Inflation Reduction Act. There's - look, I know I always quoted my dad. But my dad used to say, "What - is there any breathing room, for a middle- class family?" And the breathing room is after all the bills are paid, at the end of the month, they have anything left.

And there's more than one way to bring down the cost, monthly cost, for people, who in fact are struggling, that to make sure they have - the ends meet, and they have enough money. And that's what we've done with Inflation Reduction Act.

Look, we've reduced drug prices. We've allowed, for the first time, we've been trying for years, to get Medicare to be able to negotiate drug prices. We pay the highest drug price of any nation in the world, any major nation.

We are going to be in a situation, where no senior is going to have to pay more than $2,000 a year, for the drugs, no matter how much they cost. We've reduced the price - we are going to make sure that nobody has to pay more than $35 a month for insulin, et cetera. So, there's so much that we've done.

And the same with, on energy. We passed the - look, what I ran on, I said we're going to deal with energy.

TAPPER: Right.

BIDEN: And the energy problem, we're going to deal with the whole notion of global warming. We passed $368 billion worth of help, which, as the same banker is talking about, is going to bring a $1.7 trillion (ph) million dollar billion dollars off the sidelines, in investment. Look what's happened - look at the investment that's going on, in America, right now.


BIDEN: More now--

TAPPER: So, you think Democrats have something to run on?

BIDEN: Oh, I think we do. I know we do.

And here's the contrast. We know it - what's the Republican platform to run on? What are they running on? What are they for?

Well, they want to put Social Security, on the chopping block. Every five years, and the other leader comes along, and says, "No, every year, it should be up for grabs." Medicare, Medicaid. I mean, these aren't negotiable items, in terms of whether you're going to have a continuum or not.


They - and they've - the first thing they said they're going to do is get rid of the Inflation Reduction Act. And so, what's that doing? They're going to raise drug prices, raise medical costs, again, be sure that we're going to no longer be able to have the ability, to have tax credits, for weatherizing your homes, and money?

TAPPER: Right.

BIDEN: I mean, I don't know what they're for.

TAPPER: Our reporting, CNN's reporting, and "The Washington Post" reporting suggests that prosecutors think they could - they have enough, to charge your son, Hunter, for tax crimes, and a false statement about a gun purchase. Personally and politically, how do you react to that?

BIDEN: Well, first of all, I'm proud of my son. This is a kid, who got - not a kid, he's a grown man. And he got hooked on, like many families have had happened, hooked on drugs. He's overcome that. He's established a new life.

He is, I'm confident that he is - what he says, and does, are consistent with what happens. And, for example, he wrote a book about his problems, and was straightforward about it. I'm proud of him. He came along and said - by the way, this thing about a gun? I didn't know anything about it. But turns out that when he made application, to purchase a gun, what happened was he said - I guess, you get asked - I don't guess. You get asked the question, "Are you on drugs? You use drugs?" He said, "No." And he wrote about saying "No," in his book.

TAPPER: Right.

BIDEN: So, I have great confidence in my son. I love him. And he's on the straight and narrow, and he has been, for a couple years now. And I'm just so proud of him.

TAPPER: You're about to turn 80, next month. Happy birthday, ahead of time!


TAPPER: Whenever anyone raises concerns about your age, the oldest president, in the history of the United States, you always say, "Watch me."

Voters have been watching you. Democratic voters approve of the job you're doing. Democratic voters, overwhelmingly, like you. But one poll shows that almost two-thirds of Democratic voters want a new nominee in 2024. And the top reason they gave was your age.

So what's your message, to Democrats, who like you, who like what you've done, but are concerned about your age and the demands of the job?

BIDEN: Well, they're concerned about whether or not I'd get anything done. Look what I've gotten done. Name me a president, in recent history, who's gotten as much done, as I have, in the first two years. Not a joke. You may not like what I got done. But the vast majority of the American people do like what I got done.

And so, I just, it's a matter of, can you do the job. And I believe I can do the job. I've been able to do the job. I've gotten more done. I got the Inflation Reduction. I got all these pieces of legislation passed. And I ran on that. I said, this is what I was going to do. And I'm still getting it done.

We've had, dealing with, making sure that veterans get compensated for the, for--

TAPPER: The burn pits.

BIDEN: The burn pits.


BIDEN: Making sure that we're in a situation, where we finally have action on guns.

And, by the way, I'm going to get the assault weapons ban. Before this is over, I'm going to get that. Again, not a joke. And watch.

And so, I just think there's a, you know, it's a matter of, has anybody done more, in the first two years of their administration, for a guy, who was - they've been saying this about my age for - since I began to run. And so, you know?


BIDEN: Will you come work out with me in the morning?

TAPPER: Anytime! Anytime!

The big question, of course, is when you're going to make an official announcement, about whether or not you're going to run for 2024, for re-election. Do you think you'll make a decision before the end of the year?

BIDEN: Well, look, I'm not going to make this about my decision. I'm going to make this off-year election. After that's done, in November, and then I'm going to be in the process of deciding.

TAPPER: Is one of the calculations that you think you're the only one who can beat Donald Trump?

BIDEN: I believe I can beat Donald Trump again.

TAPPER: All right, Mr. President, thank you so much for your time today. We really appreciate it.

BIDEN: Thank you.

TAPPER: And I know you're rooting for the Phillies!

BIDEN: That's a fact! If I weren't, I'd be sleeping alone. I married a Philly girl!


All right. Thank you, sir.

BIDEN: Thank you.


TAPPER: We have another special one-on-one, for you. My new interview with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson ahead. Did the superstar enjoy playing a superhero, in his big return, to the big screen? What about his possible presidential ambitions? We sat down to chat.


TAPPER: It's good to see you. Is it OK if I call you Dwayne? I'm told that you prefer Dwayne or DJ.

DWAYNE JOHNSON, AMERICAN ACTOR, PRODUCER, BUSINESSMAN, & FORMER PROFESSIONAL WRESTLER: Oh, whatever comes out. I told your producer, "Daddy works too!"

TAPPER: That would be very, very weird! That would be very strange!


TAPPER: We'll be right back.



TAPPER: Do you know who Black Adam is? Because if you don't? You will!

In just a few days' time, none other than Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is going to bring this DC Comics antihero to life, on the big screen. The movie is from Warner Brothers, which, full disclosure, is owned by CNN's parent company, Warner Brothers Discovery.

And the film touches on the origin story, of the DC Comics character, and his transformation, from a slave, in the fictitious kingdom of Kahndaq, into an all-powerful metahuman, who has fewer obvious compunctions, about killing people than, say, Wonder Woman.

Here's a sneak peek.




HAWKMAN: Because I saved them!

BLACK ADAM: Well, that's why I waited until you were there. I got the information I needed. No one died. I did it your way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He does have a point!

HAWKMAN: I know it got lost in all the confusion. But we still have some issues to settle here. There are only heroes and there are villains.

BLACK ADAM: You think yourself a hero. But you would let these criminals go free?

HAWKMAN: Heroes don't kill people!

BLACK ADAM: Well, I do!



TAPPER: And joining us now, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Dwayne, thank you so much for joining us. Really exciting to have you. I'm a big fan of yours.

I have to say, this cannot be the first time that you were ever asked, to join a superhero universe. What appealed to you about the Black Adam character? His story is so different from the traditional superhero stories that I've seen.


JOHNSON: Sure. Well, I have been lucky and fortunate enough, to have been asked to play, a few superheroes, in the past. Those projects, I passed on. And they went on to other actors, who played them, I think, brilliantly.

What was also - what was also very intriguing to me, about Black Adam, was that there was a challenge in that a lot of the world didn't know who Black Adam was. Black Adam is not a sequel. It wasn't an already existing IP that people were familiar with.

So, when you look at the DC Bible, the pantheon of these DC superheroes, Black Adam was sitting right there. And I always felt - years ago - so Jake, this has been a 10-year passion project that I've been pushing and fighting for this thing.

And when you look at Black Adam, as a character, all these characteristics, backstory, starts off as a slave. His family's enslaved, 5,000 years ago. His family is wiped away, in the mythology. And he is born from rage. And he's blessed with these powers, these superpowers that rival Superman. That in of itself, I mean, I raised my hand, I said, "I'm in."

So, it was creating an opportunity, to deliver a character that had never been seen before, a pretty cool character that could be interpreted as a superhero, or a supervillain, or even an antihero or protector, and also continue to build out the DC Universe, by introducing the Justice Society of America.

And I know you know this, because we're talking about our comics, and superhero movies. But a lot of the world they don't know that the JSA that we introduce in our movie, predated the Justice League. So, the JSA, they were the actual first superhero group ever.

TAPPER: There's a very interesting theme in this film about how the more traditional American quote-unquote superheroes, the Justice Society, have not helped people, in other countries, other nationalities, other races, such as this fictitious country of Kahndaq.

And there's also this theme about how Westerners have no right to impose their views or decisions on Kahndaq. There isn't an anti- imperialism anti-colonialism theme that I've never seen before in a superhero movie.

JOHNSON: Well, thank you for pointing that out. Thematically, I feel like we tried to add as many layers as possible, without the film being convoluted.

We wanted to make sure that we were taking care of all of our audiences, the action audience, the superhero genre audience. But also, if you were to go a little bit deeper, a little bit more philosophically, deeper, and possibly challenge? That's there for you too, within Black Adam.

And I'd like to think that the movie we've made with Black Adam, regardless of what race or color or culture that you're from, around the world, there's relatable qualities to the character of Black Adam, and the philosophies that he and many on that side of the world have.

There's a great moment, in our movie, which I really like. Because, I like to start a little bit of trouble!

But I'm sure you found this, just a great moment, is when, when the Justice Society finally comes to this place, called Kahndaq, it's posted them, "Well Superman doesn't come to Kahndaq. And Batman has ignored Kahndaq. Where have you guys been all this time? And now, all of a sudden you show up? We're good. We have one protector, and one champion. And his name is Black Adam!" It's cool scene. I might have given a little bit of the movie away. But it's all right.

TAPPER: No. No. I don't think so.

JOHNSON: This is a cool scene.

TAPPER: But it's right. I mean, like Superman's, like rescuing cats from trees, in Metropolis. But meanwhile, there's an entire - there's entire nations, being enslaved. I mean, it's a really - I never thought about it before. I mean, it's really interesting.

And also, not to give anything away, but there are some scenes where CGI was used to make you look less muscular, which I think also was - is kind of new for the DC Universe.

JOHNSON: Well, they had to actually use all the CGI, the VFX talents, to make my head not look as large on screen. I've got a pretty big melon, Jake, especially on-screen.

I will tell you this. I think your - I think your audience will appreciate this story. In superhero movies, as we know, they are - the costumes are padded with muscle-padding.

So, when our costumers came to my house, and they gave me the very first iteration, of the Black Adam costume, with muscle-padding? So, Jake, you and your viewers can imagine what my body with muscle- padding looked like. I mean, it was most ridiculous thing, like I belonged on a "Saturday Night Live" skit.

But I finally, I had them remove the muscle-padding. And I put in some work. And so, the final iteration of the costume is what you see in the movie, no muscle-padding, just a lot of hard work and some tequila!

[21:45:00] TAPPER: There were a number of characters, from the larger DC Universe that were in this film. The Emilia Harcourt character, from the Peacemaker TV show, with your fellow, former professional wrestler, John Cena. There's Amanda Waller, played by Viola Davis, from the Suicide Squad films.


TAPPER: So there - he really fits in, Black Adam, into the DC Universe. Should we expect more Black Adam movies and even Black Adam cameos?

JOHNSON: I think so, Jake. That's the intention, and the whole goal here, and the strategy of our Seven Bucks Productions, with Warner Brothers and DC as well. To me, all the characters of the J - I'm sorry, all the characters of the DC Universe should cross paths.

And I try my best, to think 10 steps ahead, on what fans might like. And so, we're in the process now, of creatively figuring out, what the next best step is, should we be lucky enough, to make a sequel, and inviting some other DC characters, in our movie.

But also, as you know, and a lot of people out there know, when you look at the DC Bible? Man! There are so many cool characters that have yet to be introduced to the world. So, I look forward to that too.


TAPPER: So, what about all the talk, and even some polling, about The Rock making a run for the White House? I'll ask him, when we come back, after this quick break.



TAPPER: Over the past few years, Dwayne Johnson fans, have called on the professional wrestler turned movie star, to run for President of the United States. So, what does he have to say about that?

Here's the rest of my conversation with The Rock.


TAPPER: Well, I have to talk about the love, you've been getting on your Black Adam tour. We're going to show some video that you shared on Instagram, of a man, crying, after you signed his WWE belt. And then, at one point, during the tour, someone handed you their baby. You're very popular.

Last year, there were a lot of articles about you, maybe running for president. But I understand you are ruling that out?

JOHNSON: Yes. So, I just want to acknowledge the tour. We kicked off the tour, in Mexico. And that trip was incredible. There was so much love, very powerful, and quite emotional. You saw the gentleman crying. There were a lot of tears. Someone handed me an infant, which I thought was beautiful moment, which you got to be very careful. So, I'm glad that went over OK.

But in terms of the presidency, I got to tell you - I'll tell you this, Jake. I have - it all is a, I think, a convergence of things that are surreal and inspiring.

And what I mean by that is, as we get into the midterms, and even a couple of years ago, this idea, and the question continues to pop up, on whether or not I would run for president, would I seriously consider it? And I have seriously considered it. You have to.

When you start looking at some of these polls, and these numbers creep up, into the 46 percent, 50 percent, of the country would vote for me, should I run. And I have been - I've been really moved by that. I mean, truly, it sat me down.

Going into the midterms, I have heard now, from both sides of the aisle, of the most influential people in politics, asking if I would run, hoping that I would run. And again, it's so moving, man, and surreal.

I don't know anything about politics. And I will say that I absolutely, I'm a patriot. And I love our country. And I love everybody in it, regardless of color, or culture, don't care what your bank account says, what kind of car you drive.

But the most important job that I have is Daddy. And my two whys, why I have to take that off the table, of running for president? One is six, and the other one is four. And I've worked really hard, man, over the years, the past decade, to be honest with you, to try and create a life, for my family, and my little girls, where we have stability.

And those drop-offs in the morning that I love to do to school, and those pickups, and nighttime routines, and just being able to create that stability for them? Because, I really never had that when I was a kid growing up. And I do know what it's like.

I've said this before, I know what it's like, in my - when I was a professional wrestler, I was wrestling on average, 250 days, out of the year, a different city, every night. It's what I did. I love what I did. But it's what I did to provide for my family.

So Jake, I also know what it's like, to not be there, at a critical time, in my little girl's life. And that was my first daughter. So, I know the - I know the pains of that of working hard, because you want to protect your family, but still not being able to be there.

So, the reason why I bring that up is because I've experienced that, before in the past? I don't want to experience that now, when my daughters are this little. I want daddy - I want them to have their daddy, in their life.

So, it's a very long answer, to say I'm just really grounded and humbled by the interest, on both sides. But the number one job and my number one title that I love right now is "Daddy."

TAPPER: I totally respect it. It's beautiful. But kids do age. That's not closing the door, for, in 2040, they'll be - or even before then, 2036, they'll be in college. What about then? You're not closing the door forever is what I'm asking?


JOHNSON: No, not at all. I wouldn't do that. I - like, thank you for asking that, and for clarifying that. No, right now, for my daughters, it's important that I'm home. And that stability is important for me to be there. And that's the most important thing, to me.

And, by the way, that's a tough thing, I think, to reconcile. And I'm blown away by that. The fact that I'm even having this conversation with you? The fact that I've been approached, by the most influential, in the world of politics, which I think you know, very well, probably better than I do? It was really moving.

But, right now, the most important job that I have is to be their father, and to be there.

TAPPER: Well, God bless.

The movie is very enjoyable, and pretty unique for a superhero movie. It is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. The film is Black Adam.

Thanks so much. It's so great to have you on.

JOHNSON: Thank you, man. I really appreciate it. We'll do it again, down the road.

TAPPER: All right, sounds good.


TAPPER: And Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's new film, Black Adam, premieres in theaters, a week from Friday. That's on Friday, October 21st.

We'll be right back.


TAPPER: Thanks so much for joining us tonight.

I'll be back, tomorrow night, with Anna Sorokin. Or, is it Anna Delvey? You know, the fake heiress, from "Inventing Anna" fame? She's out of jail. She's in house arrest. She'll show us her apartment, maybe even her ankle bracelet! Tomorrow night, 9 PM, Eastern.

Until then, you can follow me, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the TikTok, @jaketapper.

Our coverage now continues, with the wonderful Laura Coates, and the splendiferous Alisyn Camerota. Coates? Camerota? What up?