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CNN Live Event/Special
Interview with President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President- Elect Kamala Harris. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired December 03, 2020 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to this CNN special event, the first joint interview with president-elect Joe Biden and vice president- elect Kamala Harris.
I'm Jake Tapper live in Washington, D.C.
In 48 days, this building behind me will be under new management. After taking the oath of office, President Biden and Vice President Harris will take charge of a nation truly in crisis.
There has never been a worse time in the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. than right now. And it is only expected to get worse.
The nation just recorded the highest number of coronavirus deaths in one day ever, in total, more than 276,000 Americans lost so far.
We have a record number of hospitalizations, millions more out of work. And the U.S. is facing other threats from abroad and deep political divisions here, and a reckoning on race.
Biden and Harris will soon be partners in trying to lead the nation, tasked with steering the United States of America during this unprecedented time.
And now, for the first time since they won, they sat down together to answer some of our questions.
TAPPER: Thank you so much for doing this. I appreciate it.
What an honor to get the first joint interview.
Madam Vice President-Elect, congratulations.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: Thank you.
TAPPER: Mr. President-elect, congratulations.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Thank you.
TAPPER: Before we get started, you're not wearing your big boot anymore, but you have your...
BIDEN: Well, I wear the big boot most of the time, but when I'm coming out here, it's just kind of clumsy. So, they gave me this little thing to work.
TAPPER: How is your foot and what happened?
BIDEN: What happened was...
BIDEN: ... I got out of the shower. I got a dog.
And anybody who's been around my house knows, dropped -- the little pup dropped the ball in front of me, and for me to grab the ball. And I'm walking through this little alleyway to get to the bedroom.
And I grabbed the ball like this, and he ran, and I was joking, running after him to grab his tail. And what happened was that he slid on a throw rug, and I tripped on the rug he slid on. That's what happened.
TAPPER: Oh, man.
BIDEN: Not a very exciting story.
But let's turn to a much more serious health matter, which is obviously the worsening pandemic. The U.S. is entering the dark winter that you warned about, with the highest death rate. We just reached a new horrible milestone of new cases.
On a policy level, what's going to be different starting on January 20, when you take office, when it comes to dealing with the pandemic?
BIDEN: Well, there's going to be a couple things.
Number one, it's going to be important we set out national standards and let the -- look, we met with governors, Democrat and Republican, as well as 50 Democrat and Republican mayors.
And they said they need guidance. They need guidance. And they're going to need a fair amount of money.
It's one thing for us to talk about being able to get help out there, but it's not getting there. We're having -- these hospital stays are overwhelming hospitals right now. There's a need for more financial assistance. There's more financial assistance needed as well when the vaccine comes forward.
There's need for planning. And so, now, the administration's been cooperating with us of late, letting them know what their plans are for the COVID virus, for how they're going to deliver on the vaccine.
But there's not any help getting out there. And look at all the businesses that are being hurt so badly. No money to help them. Come Christmastime, there's going to be millions of people see their unemployment run out.
So, there's a whole range of things that have to be done. And we have to ante up. I'm hoping -- and we've talked about this -- I'm hoping the Senate, in this lame-duck session, will come up with some help to make sure we can keep people moving, keep people in their -- even if their jobs -- even if their -- they have to close restaurants and bars, they're able to be able to maintain their business while they're out.
And, so, there's a whole lot of things that have to be done quickly.
TAPPER: All right. I will get to the legislative part of this in a second.
But, before I do, Madam Vice President-Elect, Pfizer and Moderna have applied for emergency use authorization for the vaccines.
Are you confident that, if and when the FDA does give that approval, it will be safe and effective, and will you take it?
HARRIS: Of course I will.
And -- but we also want to make sure that the American people know that we are committed -- the president-elect and I talk about this all the time -- that the people who need it most are going to be a priority.
We've talked a lot about the need to take care of our front-line workers, as the president-elect was talking about. He and I, over the Thanksgiving holiday, for example, made a number of calls to nurses, who are describing horrendous conditions in terms of the risks to their own safety to do the work of saving the lives of others.
So, we want to make sure that the people who need to get it first are going to be there, but of course -- of course we'll take it, and I will take it.
TAPPER: Obviously, those front-line workers are important, but you are, too, sir. And you will be the oldest president ever inaugurated.
Do you plan to get vaccinated before Inauguration Day, and will you do it in public, the way that Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton have suggested they're willing to do?
BIDEN: I'd be happy to do that.
When Dr. Fauci says, we have a vaccine that is safe, that's the moment in which I will stand before the public and see that -- look, part of what has to happen, Jake -- and you know as well as I do, people have lost faith in the ability of the vaccine to work.
Already, the numbers are really staggeringly low. And it matters what a president and a vice president do. And so I think that my three predecessors have set the model as to what should be done, saying, once it's declared to be safe -- and I think Barack said, once Fauci says it's -- that's my measure -- then, obviously, we take it.
And it's important to communicate to the American people it's safe; it's safe to do this.
TAPPER: Speaking of Fauci, have you spoken with him yet?
If so, have you asked him to stay on?
BIDEN: Yes, and yes.
TAPPER: Yes, and yes?
Well, tell me about the conversation.
TAPPER: Has he said what more needs to be done, from his point of view?
BIDEN: Well, look, my chief of staff has worked with him in the last crisis. He has been talking to him all the time, Ron Klain. I talked to him today. We spoke today at 3:00.
My COVID team met with him. I asked him to stay on in the exact same role he's had for the past several presidents. And I asked him to be a chief medical adviser for me as well and to be part of the COVID team.
And, so, what has to be done is, we have to make it clear to the American people that the vaccine is safe when it occur -- when that is determined.
And, number two, you have to make sure, as he points out, you don't have to close down the economy, like a lot of folks are talking about now, if, in fact, you have clear guidance, and you're able to say to businesses, OK, for example, bars and restaurants are going to close, but we're going to provide you the wherewithal to not lose your business, like we -- like the House had passed, and we're going to be able to reopen. We're going to be able to reopen in time, and not to close down for long periods of time.
We talked about masking. It is important that we, in fact, the president and the vice president, we set the pattern by wearing masks.
BIDEN: But, beyond that, where the federal government has authority, I'm going to issue a standing order that, in federal buildings, you have to be masked, and, in transportation, interstate transportation, you must be masked in airplanes and buses, et cetera.
And, so, it's a matter of -- and I think my inclination, Jake, is, on the first day I'm inaugurated, is to say, I'm going to ask the public for 100 days to mask, just 100 days to mask, not forever, 100 days.
And I think we'll see a significant reduction if we incur that -- if that occurs, with vaccinations and masking, to drive down the numbers considerably, considerably.
TAPPER: Operation Warp Speed seems to have been a big success to get the vaccine going.
I know there's a lot to criticize about how President Trump handled the crisis and the pandemic, but do you give him credit for Operation Warp Speed?
BIDEN: Well, yes, I -- look, the fact we got the vaccine's a good idea, but -- I mean, it's important, critically important.
But, as you know, Jake, one of the vaccines requires two shots, one, one shot. And the fact is that it's one thing to get the vaccine delivered in cases, some frozen, some not, and another thing to get the vaccine to move from the case to a vaccination in someone's arm. That's the really complicated piece.
When I met with the Republican and Democratic governors and mayors, they said, we need help on how to do that. One was certain they would be able to do it in their state: Just get me the vaccine. I can do it.
But it's an incredibly expensive proposition, incredibly expensive proposition. That's why we're continuing to hope that the Senate does something and responds to the immediate need to provide dollars.
But we're going to need a lot more. It's going to cost literally billions of dollars to get this done. We can keep schools open. We can keep businesses open. But you have to be able to get the vaccine distributed.
And, Jake, the last thing, I think they started off with a -- based on my team that's met with them, with focusing on first responders, meaning doctors, nurses, focusing on nursing homes and nursing personnel.
But we also have to make sure that, when the vaccine is distributed, it's accessible to people who have been hurt the most, the brown and black communities, which is -- are not likely to be able to access, for example, Walmarts, or access -- I mean, we have to get to their neighborhoods.
So, it's a really difficult, but doable project, but it has to be well-planned, and that's what we're in the process of beginning to do now.
TAPPER: And I know you just appointed -- or it was just reported that you're appointing somebody in the White House to be in charge of inequities in the health care system...
BIDEN: Yes. TAPPER: ... which I assume this will be one of the first focuses.
BIDEN: That's one of the primary responsibilities, to make -- look, folks who are African-Americans and Latinos are the first ones hurt when something happens, the last ones to recover.
And you saw the statistics. You know, they're somewhere, depending on which report you get and where you're talking about, from four to five times more likely -- three to four times more likely to die if they get COVID.
So, they need the help, and they need to get it in immediately.
TAPPER: Madam Vice President-Elect, most health experts, including Dr. Fauci, agree that elementary schools should be the last thing to close. Bars should close, restaurants should close, but elementary schools should be the very last ones, because the risk is minimal, but what's happening in terms of what's happening to kids -- and I know you've talked about this earlier -- has been disastrous, in terms of education, in terms of psychology.
TAPPER: But there are many teachers and teachers unions who are advocating for remote-only education to stick around, because they are afraid, understandably, of getting the virus.
Will the Biden/Harris administration defer to the health experts or to the teachers unions when it comes to elementary schools?
HARRIS: Look, honestly, Jake, I think it's a false choice. Both. Both.
The public health experts, of course, must be leaders in this conversation, because we're having the conversation because of a public health epidemic, a pandemic.
So, they must help inform the decisions, but our educators are our educators. They are on the front line. They are most knowledgeable about the educational needs of our children. So, both have to be participating in that conversation.
But let's start from this place. Everyone wants our kids to go back to school. Every parent wants their kids to go back to school. Every teacher wants to educate those children. Every community benefits from those children getting an education.
So, there is wide consensus about the priority and the goal. And then we have to bring everyone together around how we achieve that in a way that is smart. And smart is about being -- prioritizing the safety of our children and their teachers and their families and their communities and prioritizing the education of our children.
BIDEN: Jake, I would argue that -- I agree with everything the vice president said.
But I've spoken with the leaders of the unions, and I've -- there is a clear plan that's been laid out. We can safely open those elementary schools where -- the highest risk of people transmitting the disease, number one.
Number two, we can make it safe for teachers if we invest in what needs to be done, number one, sanitizing the schools, number two, making sure that they have ventilation, number three, making sure there are smaller pods of children, meaning you need more teachers. You've got to pay for this stuff.
It was estimated that we could open those schools for somewhere around $100 billion nationwide. That would be the cost for a year. We know how to do this.
But the fact is, there's no money to do it. And you know better than anyone, because you've been reporting on it, the states are running out of money. They cannot continue to deficit-spend. They can't deficit-spend. And that's a federal government responsibility short- term, which will have long-term positive impact on growth and on the mental health and the educational capacity of our children.
TAPPER: Well, let's talk about this expense, because there is a lot of desire out there -- I don't need to tell you -- among the American people, who are hurting, who are facing evictions, who are not able to put food on the table.
The unemployment number still remains very high, and there's a desire for a relief package, another relief package, not just a desire, a need, a desperate need.
TAPPER: And yet there's been gridlock in Washington.
This week, a bipartisan group of senators unveiled a compromised bill that is more than Mitch McConnell wants, but less than Nancy Pelosi wants.
Do you support that bill? Do you think that should go to the floor of the Senate?
BIDEN: I think, if they can get the 900 -- what they're talking about, the number. I think it was $900 billion.
TAPPER: Yes, $900 billion.
BIDEN: That that would be a good start. It's not enough. It's needed. And they should focus on the things that are immediately needed.
And what's immediately needed is relief for people in their unemployment checks, relief for people who are going to get thrown out of their apartments after Christmas because they can't afford to pay the rent anymore, relief on mortgage payments, relief on all the things that are in the original bill the House passed.
But it may have changed again today. I don't know.
Maybe you know, Senator.
But, in fact, the president said he wouldn't sign any such legislation. And then I'm told -- I may be mistaken, because I'm not there, not only every day, ever in the Senate anymore -- but I'm told that there's somewhere between 20 and 22 Republican senators who say they won't even -- they won't vote for anything.
BIDEN: But here's the deal.
If Mitch McConnell just brought the bill up, just put it on the floor, I believe, the senator believes, or former senator -- soon-to-be former senator believes, that it would pass.
But it's a start. But, look, people are really hurting. They're scared to death. And what's happening to -- and teachers are prepared to go back if they know that there's something that where there's masking, testing there available to them. They're able to be in smaller pods. They need more help. And -- but it's just not coming forward.
And we know the answer.
TAPPER: When you say -- when you say, it's a start, the bill, the compromise bill, do you mean it's a start for negotiations?
It's just an...
BIDEN: Oh, no, no, no. I think -- I...
TAPPER: You think they should pass it?
BIDEN: I think it should be passed.
And I think that, in fact, that we're going to need more. I'm going to have to ask for more help...
TAPPER: Right, when you get there. OK.
BIDEN: ... when we get there to get things done.
Now, again, I have faith in Chuck and Nancy. I'm not doing the detailed negotiation. Matter of fact, one of the people deeply involved is my -- the guy who took my spot in the United States Senate, Chris Coons, who is a brilliant guy.
So, I'm relying on their judgment as to what the most basic things that are needed now.
TAPPER: Yes. BIDEN: And...
TAPPER: Coons supports the compromise legislation.
TAPPER: Madam Vice President, Vice President Pence right now is leading the COVID-19 Task Force.
Are you going to continue that position? What will your specific portfolio be? And how do you plan on working with your new boss? Will you have weekly lunches? Will you be the last one he speaks to before he makes a decision, as then Vice President Biden did with then President Obama?
How do you see your role?
TAPPER: Yes to all of that? So, COVID Task Force, weekly lunches.
HARRIS: I will take the last point first...
HARRIS: ... which is, if the future is determined in any way based on what has been happening, we are full partners in this process.
And I will tell you that the president-elect has been -- since the first day he asked me to join him on the ticket, been very clear with me that he wants me to be the first and the last in the room.
And so, on every issue that impacts the American people, I will be a full partner to the president-elect and the president. And whatever our priorities are, I will be there to support him and support the American people.
TAPPER: Do you have a portfolio that you see yourself taking?
Like, he was in charge of the Recovery Act during the last -- the Great Recession. Is there -- will you head up the COVID Task Force? Is there an issue that you really want to focus on?
BIDEN: Jake, let me take a shot at that.
HARRIS: Sure. Sure.
BIDEN: I headed the Recovery Act not because I said, that's what I wanted to do.
The deal the president and I made is the same thing I'm asking the vice president to do. And that is, that there are so many things that are going to land on this president's desk, me in this case, every -- as I said about Barack, everything but locusts is going to land on this. We have significant problems.
Whatever the most urgent need is that I'm not able to attend to, I have confidence in being -- turning to her, just as it wasn't that Barack said, well, Joe, we're going to have a stimulus, and I want you to handle it. This was, we've got to get this stimulus passed, I'm working on this. Look, Joe, you take it, OK? This is what I want you to do.
So, unlike the previous portfolio, where Al -- Al Gore said, look, let me take care -- let me do environment, let me do -- when I was asked the question, when I asked her the question, no, I will do whatever the urgent need is at the moment.
And that's how it's going to work. And that's how -- look, there's not a single decision I have made yet about personnel or about how to proceed that I haven't discussed it with Kamala first.
HARRIS: That's true.
TAPPER: What has been -- she was one of your fiercest competitors in the early days of the primary. And now she and Doug Emhoff -- which, by the way, is he the second gentleman? Is he the second dude?
What should we -- what should we be calling him?
HARRIS: Well, I think that the term has evolved into the second gentleman.
TAPPER: The second gentleman, OK.
HARRIS: Yes, yes, yes.
TAPPER: I like second dude, but I will defer. I...
HARRIS: Yes, I think some of his friends are inclined to say that.
TAPPER: But you'll call him the second gentleman?
HARRIS: No, I will call him honey.
TAPPER: You'll call him honey, OK.
HARRIS: But now they're part of the team.
TAPPER: They're no longer competitors. What has been the biggest surprise about working with her?
I know you knew her before through Beau, but -- but...
BIDEN: Well, look, there hasn't been any surprise, because we had the discussion about this beforehand, beforehand.
BIDEN: First of all, I understand how campaigns can sometimes get a little out of whack a little bit.
And, as I told her, because you asked the question, I don't hold grudges. It's -- I mean, that's why Richard Ben Cramer questioned whether I was really Irish, you know, I mean -- but all kidding aside...
TAPPER: The first-lady-to-be told me she holds them for you.
BIDEN: Yes, she does, but not with -- she's -- she and Kamala have become friends.
BIDEN: But, all kidding aside, it's a matter of, the thing, we are simpatico on our philosophy of government and simpatico on how we want to attach -- approach these issues that we're facing.
And so I don't have -- and when we disagree, it will be just like -- so far, it has been just like when Barack and I did.
It's in private. She'll say, I think we should do A, B, C, or D, and I will say, I like A, don't like B and C. And let's go, OK.
But -- and like I told Barack, if I reach something where there's a fundamental disagreement we have based on a moral principle, I will develop some disease and say I have to resign.
We don't have that -- I'm -- we haven't -- and we discussed at length our views on foreign policy, on domestic policy, on intelligence. And the great thing is, she has a background in the Senate on intelligence, on the Intelligence Committee. She has a background in the Senate on a whole range of things that are going to be pertinent to what we have to do.
But it's going to be -- I think so much is going to be incoming, Jake.
BIDEN: It's a matter about who takes what when. HARRIS: Yes.
TAPPER: I don't need to tell you, Mr. President-Elect, that the NAACP is suggesting that they are disappointed so far that there haven't been more black Americans named to high-profile positions, present company excepted, and that Jim Clyburn said he's watching your Cabinet picks and, -- quote -- "I can think of at least 10 black folks that qualify for every single one."
One position you have yet to announce is attorney general. Do you think, given George Floyd, Black Lives Matter, the social justice issues, the justice -- criminal justice reform issues that a black attorney general would be the right direction?
BIDEN: Look, I'm going to be announcing the remaining 15 members of the Cabinet.
The first eight members are the most diverse Cabinet anyone in American history has ever announced. There are three white men. There are -- excuse me -- there are three men. There are five women. There are five people of color, three white people.
I mean, this is going to be an incredibly diverse -- I'm going to keep my commitment that the administration, both in the White House and outside in the Cabinet, is going to look like the country.
I'm going to be meeting with the NAACP board, I guess, in -- they told me...
HARRIS: Tuesday, I think.
BIDEN: And so, look, my job -- their job is to push me.
Every -- every special interest -- and I don't say that in a negative way. Every advocacy group out there is pushing for more and more and more of what they want. That's their job.
My job is to keep my commitment, to make the decisions. And when it's all over, people will take a look and say, I promise you, you'll see the most diverse Cabinet, representative of all folks, Asian- Americans, African-Americans, Latinos, LGBTQ, across the board.
And so I think -- and they are forthcoming in the next month or so.
TAPPER: Last month, Senator Bernie Sanders told the Associated Press it would be -- quote -- "enormously insulting" if your Cabinet, the Biden/Harris Cabinet, ignored progressive voices.
Who would you point to now as a leading progressive voice in the Cabinet?
HARRIS: Well, we're not done yet, Jake. So, we're not even halfway there. So, I think that we should have this conversation when we're done. But...
TAPPER: Is that another interview offer you're making? Because I will take it.
HARRIS: Do you consider yourself a progressive?
BIDEN: Department of Homeland Security.
TAPPER: Homeland Security?
BIDEN: ... progressive. Yes. No, I'm serious.
TAPPER: He's a progressive?
And there's a number of progressives that are -- what I think people are saying is, a lot of people are saying, am I going to pick some very, very prominent and well-known progressive who sits in the House or the Senate right now?
As close as everything is in terms of the House and the Senate, they are tough decisions to make, to pull somebody I'm going to badly need out of the Senate, and we not -- don't reelect or have an appointment of somebody who is a Democrat.
And so it is -- I think people are going to see not only at the Cabinet level, but the sub-Cabinet level, there is already people we've appointed, and we will appoint many more.
But it is not -- again, I understand the push. I truly understand the push.
TAPPER: When you take office, the Senate will either be 50/50 -- that's best case for you -- or controlled by Republicans.
Many Republican senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have not even yet called you to congratulate you or said publicly that you are the president-elect, just acknowledged basic reality.
You have retained and remained optimistic about your ability to work with McConnell. Why have you not yet spoken with McConnell? And how can you be optimistic about working with a group of individuals who have not even yet acknowledged that you're the president-elect?
BIDEN: I want to say this tactfully.
TAPPER: You don't have to be tactful.
BIDEN: No, I do, because I don't want to -- there have been more than several sitting Republican senators who have privately called me and congratulated me.
And I understand the situation they find themselves in. And until the election is clearly decided in the minds, when the Electoral College votes, they get put in a very tough position.
And so that's number one. Number two...
TAPPER: So, you think the fever on that will break after the Electoral College meets?
BIDEN: With at least a significant portion of the leadership.
I don't know that it's going to break across the board. I'm not saying that. It's not same Senate -- I don't mean -- I don't mean in terms of their philosophy. It's not the same Senate personnel that I knew when I left the Senate. There are only about 35 -- or 30 percent, 40 percent that are there when I was in the Senate.
But I'm confident, I'm confident that we're going to -- there's a number of things I have already spoken to several about. For example, there's an overwhelming consensus we have to do some -- the things to work on to deal with infrastructure, cancer, the things like -- remember, at the end of the last -- our last -- our last two months in office.
You know, you heard Senator Alexander on the floor saying that -- referencing me in his farewell speech, saying, I felt like a butler standing outside the White House with a tray that would do a lot on dealing with cancer, and then along came Joe, we worked it out, we got something done.
We only had, I think, something like 43 Democratic senators for the Biden Moonshot and this -- and approach. We ended it up with 96 or 95, 94. We ended -- we started off with about 100 and few members of the House; 385 ended up -- or 95 -- voted for it.
TAPPER: You -- you're still confident?
BIDEN: Yes. No, look, it's going to be hard. I'm not suggesting it's going to be easy. It's going to be hard.
But I'm confident that, on the things that affect the national security and the fundamental economic necessity to keep people employed, to get people employed, to bring the economy back, there is plenty of room we can work.
TAPPER: Vice President-Elect Harris, you too have proposed an ambitious climate agenda.
HARRIS: Mm-hmm. TAPPER: You've named John Kerry as your climate envoy.
Realistically, any significant change is going to be an uphill battle with such a closely divided House and Senate, no matter how the Georgia run-offs go.
What can you do that will both genuinely address the issue and won't just get reversed by the next Republican president, will actually be legislative?
HARRIS: No, I agree with you. Our agenda is pretty progressive.
And some might call it ambitious. But we, the American people and, frankly, the world, can't afford anything less. The clock is ticking rapidly on this issue. And the president-elect has made it very clear that we are going to approach this in a way that we know the vast majority have so much more in common than what separates us.
We have brought together, through the policy, but also in practice, convened everyone from labor groups to Fortune 500 folks, who there is a consensus among on what needs to happen. The president-elect was talking with the head GM, and days later we see that they're going to drop their resistance to California's rules on electric vehicles.
So, we have reason to be optimistic about what is possible. It will not be easy. It will require a convening. But, as the president-elect always says, look, this -- as much as anything, it's also about jobs. It's about investing in research and development. It's about investing in the American worker with jobs that are well-paying jobs, good union well-paying jobs.
And I think that there is more consensus than one might think toward...
BIDEN: Jake, if I can give you an example, the irony is, we have four crises. The first crisis is COVID.
Second is the economic, close to recession, and maybe worse. The third crisis is the inequity that exists -- the racial inequity that exists. And the fourth crisis is climate.
Ironically, they all work for one another.
The first time the American people looked out there and said, my lord, I guess all those things I heard about -- and even though I don't live in neighborhoods that have large black populations, I didn't realize police actually do those kind of things like I saw with George Floyd, or say that I met with -- before I announced my climate plan, I knew what it would be.
I went to all the major unions, said, guys, here's what I'm going to do, but let me tell you why it's in your interests. So what happens? We have labor and CEOs on the big board up here in a
Zoom. And I said, we're going to build 550,000 charging stations. And what happens? You have General Motors saying, we want to own that market.
And it's going to reduce greenhouse gases gigantically. We're going to be in that position. And you hear labor saying, yes, OK, we're all for that. We're going to have jobs. We're going to be able to -- we're going to make money making the country green.
And so, it's not so much -- people, when they stop -- and everybody told me, even my own team told me 10 months ago, you're not going to get unions to go along with you.
Well, yes, they are, because they now realize they're not going to be left out. And they are the way to grow the economy.
And you had like Moody's on Wall Street saying my plan I put together will create 18.6 million jobs, and a trillion dollars, a trillion dollars additional growth in the GDP.
So, I mean, I have always argued that, if you help the people -- like a $15 minimum wage nationally, it raises everybody. It raises the entire community. The wealthy do better, the middle class do better, and the poor have a way up.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Up next, our exclusive conversation continues.
I asked the president-elect whether he wants outgoing President Trump at his inauguration.
His response and much more -- after this quick break.
TAPPER: Welcome back to this CNN special event, "The First Joint Interview."
The incoming Biden-Harris administration is not only confronting a deadly pandemic, but also divided government and a gridlocked Congress here in Washington, not to mention an outgoing president who will not acknowledge reality and concede.
But I continued our conversation first with just a couple of the threats the U.S. is facing from abroad.
TAPPER: You're set to inherit a very complicated situation with Iran. Iran's top nuclear scientist was just assassinated in an attack that a senior U.S. official told CNN that is being attributed to Israel. How does that assassination complicate your efforts to have the
nuclear deal be rejoined?
BIDEN: Quite frankly, Jake, it's hard to tell how much it's complicated.
The first thing that I will attempt to do -- and I've spoken with now over 20 heads of state -- I've made it clear to our friends in NATO on the first calls that came in that we have a rule of one president at a time, so I can't make policy.
But I want to reestablish a close -- close, close alliance relationships we had both in Europe and in the Pacific.
And part of that relates to the ability to get Europe back in -- on our side. Europe now has basically stiff-armed the United States, based on the president's embrace of autocrats and stick -- poking his finger in their eyes.
And, so, I think it's going to depend a lot on what will change the circumstance, if Europe comes along with the United States. But it's going to be a hard, hard negotiation. I have no -- I have no illusions about that.
And the bottom line is that we can't allow Iran to get nuclear weapons. And look how damaging this policy the president has gone for. He has pulled out to get something tougher. And what have they done? They've increased the ability for them to have nuclear material. They're moving closer to the ability to be able to have enough material for a nuclear weapon. There's the missile issues.
All those things, I think, are going to be very difficult. But I know one thing. We cannot do this alone. And that's why we have to be part of a larger group, dealing not only with Iran, but with Russia, with China, and a whole range of other issues.
TAPPER: Let me ask you about China, if I can, Madam Vice President- Elect.
The president-elect has said he would -- he will not immediately remove the Trump tariffs on China. Should the Chinese government, in your view, be further punished for mishandling and hiding the truth about the novel coronavirus that began there?
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: Well, as the president-elect said, there's one president at a time. And we are not in the position of stating policy about our relationship with any of these countries at this moment.
And, frankly, we are early in the process, sadly, of getting information that is classified information. Our intelligence briefings just started. So, we're not in a position to respond to that specifically.
But, certainly, one of the things that are very clear is that this is going to be an administration that puts the public health professionals first, and not politics first, in the discussion about the cause, the reason, and the effect of COVID-19.
BIDEN: ... the president's approach to China has been backwards.
My concern from the beginning -- I've spoke about it, and I met with Xi more times than anybody had up until the time we left office that I'm aware of -- is to make it real clear to China there are international rules that, if you want to play by, we'll play with you. If you don't, we're not going to play, number one.
Number two, it's not about punishing them for COVID virus. It's about insisting that there be international norms that are established that they play by.
For example, the idea that we make up about 15 -- 20 percent of the world's economy, 25 percent, and they are -- and we're not going along with the rest of our allies to make sure that, in Europe and in Asia, we insist that, for example, stopping the stealing of national secrets, stopping the secret -- stealing of artificial intelligence capacity.
We have to make it clear that we will respond. For example, when you're in a situation where, if you want to do business in China and you're a high-tech firm, you've got to have a 51 percent Chinese partner, so they have access to -- that's not going to happen in our administration. That's not going to happen.
TAPPER: President Trump is reportedly considering a wave of preemptive pardons for his adult children and for Rudy Giuliani.
He's also floated the idea in private conversations, according to our reporting, of possibly pardoning himself, which he insists he has the power to do, though that has never been litigated.
Does this concern you, all these preemptive pardons?
BIDEN: Well, it's -- it concerns me, in terms of what kind of precedent it sets and how the rest of the world looks at us as a nation of laws and justice.
But, look, our Justice Department is going to operate independently on those issues, that -- how to respond to any of that. I'm not going to be telling them what they have to do and don't have to do. I'm not going to be saying, go prosecute A, B, or C. I'm not going to be telling them.
That's not the role -- it's not my Justice Department. It's the people's Justice Department.
So, the person or persons I pick to run that department are going to be people who are going to have the independent capacity to decide who gets prosecuted and who doesn't.
Now, in terms of the pardons, you're not going to see, in our administration, that kind of approach to pardons, nor are you going to see in our administration the approach to making policy by tweets.
It's just going to be a totally different way in which we approach the justice system.
TAPPER: During the primary last year, Madam Vice President-Elect, you told NPR that the Justice Department -- quote -- "would have no choice" but to prosecute President Trump and that -- quote -- "There has to be accountability."
How does that square with what the president-elect has said about not telling the Justice Department to go after individuals?
HARRIS: We will not tell the Justice Department how to do its job.
And we are going to assume -- and I say this as a former attorney general elected in California -- and I ran the second largest Department of Justice in the United States -- that any decision coming out of a justice department, in particular, the United States Department of Justice, should be based on facts, it should be based on the law, it should not be influenced by politics, period.
BIDEN: I guarantee you, that's how it will be run.
TAPPER: The second gentleman-to-be resigned from his law firm to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
When your son Hunter came under scrutiny during the campaign, you vowed: "No one in my family or associated with me will be involved in any foreign operation whatsoever, period, end of story" -- unquote.
Will your brothers, will your son take leave from any business interests, not just foreign, but any business interests that might create any even appearance of impropriety?
BIDEN: My son, my family will not be involved in any business, any enterprise that is in conflict with or appears to be in conflict, where there's appropriate distance from the presidency and government.
TAPPER: President Trump has not said if he's going to attend your inauguration yet.
Do you think it's important that he's there?
BIDEN: I think it would -- important only in one sense, not in a personal sense, important in the sense that we are able to demonstrate, at the end of this chaos that he's created, that there is peaceful transfer of power, with the competing parties standing there, shaking hands, and moving on.
I think that's an important -- what I worry about, Jake, more than the impact on the domestic politics, I really worry about the image we're presenting to the rest of the world.
The rest of the world has looked at us -- and you've heard me say this a number of times, and I apologize for repeating it -- they followed us not just because the power -- the example of our power, the power of our example.
And look where we are now in the world. Look how we're viewed. They're wondering, my lord, these things happen in tinhorn dictatorships.
This is not -- it's not the United States. So, in that sense, the protocol of the transfer of power, I think, is important.
But it is totally his decision, and it's -- it's of no personal consequence to me. But I do think it is for the country.
TAPPER: You've been in public life for more than half-a-century.
This was your third....
BIDEN: Since I was a kid, yes.
TAPPER: ... your third run for president. And you made it. You made it.
What does it feel like, especially at this moment, when this nation is in any number of crises, including the COVID crisis? What does it feel like?
Are you -- are you daunted? Are you worried? Are you fearful? Are you exhilarated? What's the emotion that goes through you?
BIDEN: I'm determined.
And I'm confident that what I've said from the outset -- and I've never changed my view this whole campaign for over going on 600 days -- exactly what had to be done. We have to restore the soul of this country, meaning honor and decency, honesty, basic, basic fundamental decency.
The second thing, we have to rebuild the backbone in this country, the middle class, that -- and this time bring everybody along.
And, thirdly, we have to unite the country.
They're all going to be difficult to do, but I have never -- I've never veered from those three principles. And so I look at it as an opportunity to make an incredible contribution to the country.
But I am not -- as I said to you on other interviews, I will take responsibility. When I fail, I will acknowledge it, and I will not deny that I made a mistake, and I move on.
This is a little bit not unlike what happened in 1932. There was a fundamental change, not only taking place here in the United States, but around the world. We're in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution, where there's a real question of whether or not what -- all the changes in technology.
Will there be middle class? What will people be doing? How do they -- and there's genuine, genuine anxiety.
That's why you're going to see me reaching out, continuing to reach out, not just to the communities that supported me. I'm going to reach out to those who didn't support me, I mean for real, because I think a lot of people are just scared and think they've been left behind and forgotten.
We're not going to forget anybody in this effort.
TAPPER: What goes through your mind as he prepares to take on the most important job in the world, and the outgoing president is lying about fraud, spreading -- spending his time really focused entirely on trying to undermine him?
Whether that's the result of what he's doing or the purpose, I don't know.
When he says that it's possible -- when it's reported that it's possible he'll announce that he's running for office to run in 2024 on Inauguration Day, what goes through your mind?
HARRIS: I -- I believe that we are all very fortunate that Joe Biden is going to be the next president of the United States.
The American people deserve, in their president, to be -- have someone who is truly patriotic, who loves our country, who puts the people of the country first, not themselves. That's Joe Biden. Joe Biden is truly a kind human being.
Joe Biden is someone who has endured real struggle and sacrifice and pain. He also is someone who knows love. He is someone who has dedicated his life to public service. And there couldn't be a more extreme exercise in stark contrast between the current occupant of the White House and the next occupant of the White House.
And I do believe our country is going to be the better for the outcome of this election and the election of Joe Biden as president.
TAPPER: Madam Vice President-Elect, Mr. President-Elect, thank you so much for this interview and this opportunity.
BIDEN: Thank you Jake.
TAPPER: Obviously I'm sure everybody watching wishes you the best of luck in terms of beating back COVID, getting the economy back on track.
So, best of luck to both of you and thanks again.
BIDEN: Thank you.
HARRIS: Thank you.
BIDEN: I'm sure we're going to see a lot of one another.
TAPPER: Our CNN special event continues.
What happened after our interview?
Stay with us.
TAPPER: And welcome back to the CNN special event, "The First Joint Interview."
We covered a lot of ground in our exclusive interview with president- elect Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris.
Let me bring in Don Lemon, who's going to pick up our coverage now.
Don, what stood out to you the most from the interview?
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: There was a lot, Jake.
But I think -- and you can relate to this, I'm sure -- it feels like we are watching interviews or a president-elect and a president who are on Earth 1 and Earth 2.
And this particular Earth that is in reality was very normal, very staid, very sedate. And it was welcoming news. It was good to watch. It was good to actually get content. We heard no fake news. We heard no conspiracy theories. We heard no personal grievances.
We heard a president-elect and a vice president who want to work with the other side.
And when you asked them -- I thought this was a very important question and a great answer from him. When you said, is it important that the current president is at your inauguration, and he laughed -- and everyone knew what he was thinking -- and then he went on to give, I thought, was a great answer.
He said, it's important to the country that the country sees a smooth transition.
That is what we need, Jake.
TAPPER: Yes, I mean, there certainly was a lot of the right answers, in terms of, the Justice Department is not mine, it's the people's Justice Department, and I'm not going to do this, I'm not going to do that. And, obviously, we will see. The proof will be in the pudding.
But, yes, it was also -- I just have to say, interviewing him, like, it's different. You don't have to really steel yourself for the potential reaction when you bring up uncomfortable subjects, such as when I asked vice president-elect Harris about something she had said that contradicted president-elect Biden, when I president-elect about his brothers and his son.
LEMON: You asked about his family. Was Beau going to be...
LEMON: Any of his family members going to be on any boards or any jobs that may be in conflict?
TAPPER: Yes, Hunter. Yes.
LEMON: Yes, Hunter Biden. You brought Hunter -- Hunter up.
And -- excuse me -- Hunter, not Beau.
TAPPER: And -- yes.
LEMON: But you brought him up. And there was no cringe-worthy moment. He answered it very plainly and distinctly.
TAPPER: He answered the question, yes. Nobody's going to do anything to -- in terms of business deals that's going to create even the appearance of impropriety.
Again, we will see what happens, but there just wasn't the attack that we in the fourth estate have been used to. So, that was unusual.
Look, he has a lot of ambitions and hopes, and he's very optimistic. He acknowledges it's going to be tough, but he's optimistic about being able to get something done with the Senate. He did acknowledge -- I said, do you think the fever -- he said, it will be different after the electors vote. I said, do you think the fever is going to break, in terms of the fact that so many Republican senators haven't acknowledged the basic reality that he is the president-elect?
And he said, it will with the Republican leadership. I don't know about everybody. So, that was an acknowledgement of reality.
LEMON: And even some had called and congratulated him, but they -- many won't do it in public, which we have seen over the last four years. They just won't say anything they think this president may be opposed to.
LEMON: I want to ask you, though, Jake, because you get a sense.
You -- when you're sitting down, we get a sense of who people are. But I thought their interaction and their relationship with each other -- he seemed to -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- rely on her a lot to sometimes complete a sentence or to get information from her.
So, that would indicate to me that he will be relying on her during the presidency, during his administration.
TAPPER: It was interesting.
For instance, when I noted that the NAACP has been disappointed with some of his picks for the Cabinet and that they want to meet with him, and he said, I am sitting down with them. And vice president-elect Harris, as you know, was like, yes, Tuesday.
TAPPER: She knew -- she knew that.
And, obviously, her role is not her -- his scheduler. She's going to be a partner with him, as she says. But it was interesting, and it does suggest that they are in the room together discussing these things.
It was also -- there was an interesting moment after the interview. And I know you know what it's like, Don. You prepare all these questions and you hope to get to as many of them as you can. But, obviously, you don't to get to all the ones you want to.
And there were a number of things I wanted to ask about that I just didn't get to, but one of them, obviously, about veterans issues, because I care about them deeply and I know the president-elect cares about them deeply. His son Beau was a veteran. And, obviously, he and his soon-to-be-first lady Jill, his wife, worked on these veterans issues.
And we talked a lot about that after the interview. And he said to me that who they pick to be the secretary of veterans affairs is going to be important. It's such a difficult job. These men and women go away, and they really need an advocate. And it's such a difficult job, VA secretary.
And then the vice president-elect, Kamala Harris, said, and their families too. She just joined the conversation, pick -- their families too. A lot of spouses and kids, they don't know what to expect when their loved one gets home from war, from the theater.
And, I mean, we just had a nice conversation about those issues. And it was, as you noted, normal, a normal conversation. But then, also, it was interesting watching them interplay in that respect.
Don, thank you so much.
I throw it now over to you.
LEMON: All right, Jake.
Great interview Jake. Thank you so much.
We will be seeing more -- as they said. He said he's going to be spending more time with you and seeing a lot of you. And I hope that's all of us here. Everyone wanted that interview. You got it.
TAPPER: No, just me.
TAPPER: Just me.
LEMON: Congratulations, though, Jake. It was a great interview.
I'll see you.
TAPPER: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: And, by the way, what -- is that music? Are you at a party? What is going on?
TAPPER: There is a music thing going on here outside the White House.
TAPPER: They're blasting a lot of hip-hop and rap.
Thankfully, the song that they're playing right now -- these are protesters against President Trump -- thankfully, the song they're playing right now is G-rated. They haven't all been.
LEMON: They did it just for us.
Jake, thank you. Congratulations. Nice interview.
TAPPER: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: I'll see you soon.