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CNN Live Event/Special
CNN Town Hall With President Joe Biden. Aired 8-9:20p ET
Aired July 21, 2021 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone. We are live in Cincinnati, Ohio, tonight, on the Campus of Mount St. Joseph University, overlooking the Ohio River. This is a CNN Town Hall with the President of the United States, Joe Biden. I'm Don Lemon.
President Biden is six months into his presidency, a critical moment for his agenda, where half the U.S. population is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. But the pace of the vaccination is at its lowest point since January, and the highly infectious delta variant is driving new COVID surge in all 50 states.
Virtually, all COVID hospitalizations and deaths are now among the unvaccinated.
So tonight, we are here in Ohio taking questions from a live audience as the president works to keep the pandemic in check and his goal of an infrastructure deal on track. It is really a critical moment for his agenda.
We will take questions from some who voted for the president and some who did not vote for President Biden. And the president and myself and everyone here in our audience, we are all fully vaccinated.
So without further ado, everyone, let's welcome the 46th president of the United States, Joe Biden.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How you doing, pal?
LEMON: Good to see you.
BIDEN: Good to see you.
LEMON: How have you been?
LEMON: You're good.
BIDEN: Well. Thank you.
LEMON: It's good to see you.
BIDEN: It's good to be back here.
LEMON: You, as well.
So, listen, I want to get to the audience. And I know you don't want to sit down, right? You'd rather stand here and talk to these guys?
BIDEN: No, I'm going to go out into the audience.
LEMON: We're going to get to the audience questions in just a moment. But I have a couple of questions I want to ask you, because you know the pandemic is a big concern for everyone.
BIDEN: Sure is.
LEMON: Really, around the world, but especially around America. New cases are up three times since last month, right? The pandemic is a big concern. Hospitalizations, death rising. So you said last month that this -- that the virus is in retreat. Do you still feel that way? Is that still the case?
BIDEN: Well, the virus -- look, it's real simple. We have a pandemic for those who haven't gotten a vaccination. It's that basic, that simple. Ten thousand people have recently died; 9,950 of them, thereabouts, are people who hadn't been vaccinated.
This is a simple, basic proposition. If you're vaccinated, you're not going to be hospitalized, you're not going to be in an ICU unit, and you are not going to die.
So it's gigantically important that you act like -- we all act like Americans who care about our fellow Americans to get -- there's legitimate questions people can ask that they worry about getting vaccinated.
But the question should be asked, answered, and people should get vaccinated. But this is not a pandemic. We've made sure that since I got in office, we've inoculated over 160 million people, 85 percent of people over the age of 50.
Anyway, it's frustrating.
LEMON: What do you say to people who are worried about a new round of restrictions and mask mandates and so forth?
BIDEN: Well, I'm saying, look, it's a little bit like when I got elected, you know? This pandemic was out of control. You know, we've lost more people in the United States, over six hundred and thirty some thousand people, than in every major war we've ever fought in the United States of America. And that's come to a screeching halt for those who've been vaccinated. It really has. Not a joke.
This is overwhelming evidence to sustain that. And so what I say to people who are worried about a new pandemic is get vaccinated. If you're vaccinated, even if you do "catch the virus," quote, unquote, like people talk about it in normal terms, you're -- not many people do. If you do, you're not likely to get sick.
You're probably going to be symptomless. You're not going to be in a position where your life is in danger. So it's really kind of basic.
LEMON: Let's get to the questions, Mr. President.
LEMON: OK. I want to introduce you to Andrea Gianieri. She's a community resource director for a charter school. She's a Democrat currently running for her local school board. Andrea, welcome.
BIDEN: God love you. The most important, thankless job in the world, being on a school board.
QUESTION: Thank you. So here in Hamilton County, the vaccination rate remains at about 50 percent. And you talked about the virus that's spreading. Masks are seen less and less, and as you know, children under age 12 still are not eligible to be vaccinated.
Schools are working with all of this information as they think about reopening next month. As a school employee, and as a parent to children under age 12, what I -- I am really concerned. What is your message to those parents, educators, and school districts?
BIDEN: I understand your concern, I really do. My children are grown now, but my grandchildren -- and I have one that's only 1 1/2 years old. So, you know, I understand, number one.
My message is that one of the reasons -- why you remember the criticism I got initially saying teachers should get vaccinations, get in line first. The vast majority of teachers are vaccinated, number one.
Number two, the CDC is going to say that what we should do is everyone over the age -- under the age of 12 should probably be wearing a mask in school. That's probably what's going to happen.
Secondly, those over the age of 12 who are able to get vaccinated, if you're vaccinated, you shouldn't wear a mask. If you aren't vaccinated, you should be wearing a mask.
So it's going to get a little bit tight in terms of, well, are Mom or Dad being honest that, you know, Johnny did or did not get vaccinated. That's going to raise questions.
But I think what's going to happen is you're going to see this work out in ways that people are going to know in the community. Everybody knows in a community whether or not Johnny really did get the vaccination when he's 15 or 17 years old. And so it's going to -- I think it's -- it's a matter of community responsibility. And I think you're going to see it work through.
LEMON: Well, let me ask you -- let me follow up on that question and ask you, when will children under 12 be able to get vaccinated?
BIDEN: Soon, I believe. Now, look, one of the things that I committed to do when I got elected, I said I'll--
LEMON: How soon is soon, Mr. President?
BIDEN: Well, I -- let me finish the question -- the answer. Soon in the sense that I do not tell any scientist what they should do. I do not interfere.
And so they are doing -- they are doing the examinations now, the testing now, and making the decision now. When they are ready, when they've done all the scientific that needs to be done to determine -- children at ages three, four, five, six, seven, and eight, they, in fact, are -- all have different makeups.
They're developing. They're trying to figure out whether or not there's a vaccination that would affect one child at such and such an age and not another child. That's underway. Just like the other question that's logical and I've heard you speak about it, because you all -- I'm not being solicitous, but you're always straight up about what you're doing.
And the question is whether or not we should be in a position where you are -- why can't the experts say we know that this virus is, in fact -- is going to be -- or, excuse me -- we know why all the drugs approved are not temporarily approved, but permanently approved. That's underway, too. I expect that to occur quickly.
LEMON: Well, that -- you mean for the FDA?
BIDEN: For the FDA -- the Federal Drug Administration.
LEMON: You said that you're talking to scientists. But what are they telling you, Mr. President?
BIDEN: What they're telling me is let us decide based on scientific data and how we proceed. Do it the way we would ordinarily do it. Look, for example, everybody talks about how, you know, this virus came, this -- the drugs that are designed to kill the virus came along so quickly. They've been working on it for two decades. There's nothing quick about this. It's been over two decades.
So people say, "I'm not taking a drug that was approved so quickly." It's been two decades. The truth is, we haven't said it enough to people to allay their feels -- their fears. This is nothing that just happened yesterday and we said, well, let's take a shot on this.
And there's a process. Usually the process takes the better part of a year or more to get some of these things decided. But the expectation -- they're not promising me any specific date, but my expectation talking to the group of scientists we've put together, over 20 of them, plus others in the field, is that sometime maybe in the beginning of the school year, at the end of August, beginning of September, October, they'll get a final approval, saying the FDA said, no, this is it. It's good.
But, again, one last thing. We don't talk enough to you about this, I don't think. One last thing that's really important is, we're not in the position where we think that any virus, including the Delta virus, which is much more transmissible and more deadly in terms of unvaccinated people, the -- the various shots that people are getting now cover that. You're OK. You're not going to -- you're not going to get COVID if you have these vaccinations.
LEMON: Yeah. I want to stay on this subject. I want to get to Dr. Nicole Baldwin. She's a pediatrician and a Republican. Dr. Baldwin, go ahead.
BIDEN: Doc, how are you?
QUESTION: Hi. Thank you for taking my question, Mr. President. I am a pediatrician who utilizes social media to educate about health, and I'm very concerned about the rise in misinformation from the antivaccine community that is eroding trust in lifesaving vaccines.
Spread of this misinformation and declining vaccination rates could leave Americans vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases in the future. So what I want to know is, what is the White House doing to combat medical misinformation and to restore America's faith in science?
BIDEN: What we're doing is, number one, to restore America's faith in science is listen to the scientists. No, I'm not joking.
I mean, literally listen to the scientists and not interfere. Not rush anything, just make -- let the scientists proceed, because they desperately want to get this right, number one.
Number two, you may have heard -- I never get myself in trouble as you know politically -- but you may have heard that I was critical of some of the things that are on Facebook.
BIDEN: And I was attacking Facebook. I wasn't attacking Facebook. There was a report out saying that for that something like 45 percent of the overwhelming disinformation on Facebook comes from 12 individuals. I said they are killing people, those 12 individuals, that misinformation is going to kill people, not a joke, not a joke.
It's like telling your kid, I'll tell you what, you remember, four years old, when you see a red light cross the street. I mean, come on. And so what we're trying to do is use every avenue we can -- public, private government, non-government to try to get the facts out what they really are.
And one of the things, Doc, that's happening that I'm feeling better about, I'm not being a wise guy now. You know, one of those other networks, they are not a big fan of mine -- the one you talk about a lot.
BIDEN: But if you notice, as they say in the most southern part of my state, they've had an altar call, some of those guys.
BIDEN: All of us southerner are out there saying, "Let's get vaccinated. Let's get vaccinated." The very people before this, were saying -- but that -- I shouldn't make fun, but that's good. It's good. It's good.
We just have to keep telling the truth. That's why, for example, my wife just flew to Alaska today to do an event in Alaska, about making sure people understand and get vaccinated talking about COVID, et cetera.
So it's, you know -- and by the way, there's pockets. If you notice, there's about what -- four or five states that have close to 45 percent or whatever, I don't have an exact number.
LEMON: Lower than that, even in my home State of Louisiana is 36 percent. I think there are other southern states.
BIDEN: No, but I mean, of all the cases.
BIDEN: All the cases, a very overwhelming majority of those cases are in four or five states.
BIDEN: And it's just not that -- there's nothing political about this. There's no blue or red.
LEMON: Let's bring in Christian Oliver, he's a Democrat. He works for the insurance industry. Christian, what's your question?
CHRISTIAN OLIVER, WORKS IN THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY: `Well, so my wife, Stephanie and I are newlyweds, as of this past Saturday.
BIDEN: I brag about you two.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
BIDEN: As they say, when they look at me and my wife, you're married up, kid. [LAUGHTER]
OLIVER: Thank you. We required all of our guests and vendors to be vaccinated to ensure safety. We are African-American, and in many of our communities, people are against the vaccine. A reason that stood out the most in regards to our guests is that they don't see the vaccine as being as safe as the C.D.C. puts it out to be. How are you working toward convincing those in these communities that the vaccine is safe?
BIDEN: It's really an important question, because in the African- American community, there is less of an uptake of the vaccination. Number one, there's a reason for that. You know, you go back just to even World War II, African-Americans were used as experimental -- they were almost like guinea pigs in terms of exam. They were -- anyway, and your mom and dad remember that or your grandparents remember that.
And so there's a reason for people to think that, I don't know, I'm not sure I trust. I'm not sure I trust this. Plus a lot of disinformation on top of it.
One of the things though we're doing is -- what I've done -- we've done -- excuse me -- my team has done is we've provided the ability to put in African-American communities the vaccine and those who are in fact able to administer the vaccine, and people who are respected in the community in those areas, particularly in areas where you have public health community, public health centers, where you in fact, have people who are the folks who are really at the low end of the economic scale, don't have much access to anything.
So, we've taken literally mobile vans and people to the communities, to the hardest hit communities, and is beginning to have some impact. But we have to talk about it more.
For example, I was just with -- I'd get in trouble because my wife is a Philly girl and a Philly fan, an Eagles fan. I just hosted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And there is a guy, there's a quarterback there. What's his name?
BIDEN: Anyway, all kidding aside, you know, what we're doing is getting people of consequence who are respected in the community, whether they are athletes, whether or not they are entertainers, whether they're just well-respected. And by the way, one of the things I've gotten -- able to get done, I've gotten -- I have overwhelming support from the African-American clergy that I sort of come from in my show of support.
They are opening up their churches for these vaccination centers.
LEMON: Can I ask you something, Mr. President? Because, you know, by the way you've got -- I don't know if you heard
that, you got a pause when you corrected the I for we, and we're talking about we and I think that's a commendable attribute to have.
But even with my own family, I was just able to get with them -- I haven't seen my mom in a year and a half, except for two weeks ago. I didn't see my family for two years since the last time they visited me two summers ago. But even within my own family, here I am on television every night, there is ambivalence. There's misinformation and there is also mistrust in the system. How do you fix that?
BIDEN: Well, I think you're going to -- it's going to seem like a non- answer to start with.
One of the things I said when I ran for office, it is not Democrat/Republican here -- it is, we've got to restore faith in government. We have got to get people to the point where they trust government. And I made a commitment that when I made a mistake, I'd tell you and I've made mistakes.
And when I think I got it right, I'll say it, but I'll take responsibility for what I do and say, part of it is just generally --
BIDEN: No, I don't mean that -- part of it is, generally raising confidence in elected officials, raising confidence. And I know it is going to sound like a non-answer to you, but part of this is that, you know, because you're one of the most informed journalists in the country.
You know, the criticism I got by saying, I want to unite the country. They said, he can't unite the country. If we can't unite the country, we can never get some of these problems solved, and that goes to trust. Why can't you unite the country? Why isn't there a willingness to trust?
Government trust is really -- was at an incredibly low ebb, it is coming up some.
So with regard to your family, in particular, part of it is not just that they see you on television and trust you, the people who seem to have the most impact are -- you know, for that 17-year-old kid, the kid he or she plays ball with. You've got the vaccination?
BIDEN: Are you okay? I mean, you seem -- no, it works. Or you, you know, or the mom and dad, or the neighbor, or when you go to church, or when you're -- I really mean it. Trusting in our -- thanking the people, if your kid wanted to find out whether or not there were -- there's a man on the moon or whatever, you know, something, or, you know, whether those aliens are here or not, you know, who are the people they talk to beyond the kids who love talking about it?
They go to people they respect. They say, what do you think? And so they should be asking other people, the people -- everything
from their teachers, to their ministers, to the priest, to people that they trust.
LEMON: Well, part of it, is it -- don't you think part of it is that young people, especially those who are 30 -- maybe 30 or 40 and under, they feel like they're invincible. They haven't faced mortality.
BIDEN: Isn't it amazing we are saying 40 and younger.
BIDEN: It's hard to say, isn't it?
LEMON: It is, but for them, you know, at first, the virus wasn't affecting them as much.
LEMON: And so they may feel that they are invincible. And now that this delta variant is affecting them, maybe they'll have to come to Jesus of some sort.
BIDEN: Well, by the way, I think that is -- that's happening and be -- look, think about this. This is the worst health crisis in a hundred years. As I said, more people have died than in all our major wars combined. Think about that.
If I had told you that or you had told me that two years ago, I'd say, "Come on. That's not going to happen in America." But it happened. It happened. And people are unfortunately, some more slowly than others and by the way, remember, when I first got elected, the issue was when I said I was going to do a million shots a week and people said, Biden can't do that or the Biden team can't do that -- and it was two million.
We had trouble getting enough people and people who wanted to get vaccinated. We're opening up stadiums. We're getting 100,000 people coming through.
So, the vast majority of the American people said, I understand, I want to get this vaccination. But now, when it's phased off, either I'm invincible, I'm young, I'm not going to get sick, it won't happen to me, or whatever the reason. Now they're looking around. They're saying, whoa, in the community that I live in, there are very few people who have gotten the vaccination.
This COVID is much more transmissible. It's really rising. I better get some -- so I think it's gradually changing, and you've got a great dog there, kid.
LEMON: By the way, that is Danielle Lippi, she's a student here at the university, and she's a Republican. She has got a question for you. Go ahead, Danielle. BIDEN: It's your dog that's a Democrat, I can tell.
BIDEN: I'm teasing. I'm teasing. I'm a big dog person. I'm sorry.
DANIELLE LIPPI, STUDENT AT MOUNT ST. JOSEPH UNIVERSITY: Her name is Wonder. So, my question is: the economy is picking up significantly as it reopens from the pandemic. Are you concerned about the higher inflation prices, especially as we see gasoline, automotive, and food prices increase rapidly?
What is your administration doing to help prevent the economy from overheating, such as the poor and middle class are not hurt by the higher prices of goods in the long run?
BIDEN: First of all, the good news is, the economy is picking up significantly. It's rational when you think about it, the cost of an automobile is kind of back to what it was before the pandemic. We compare what the prices were for the last year in the pandemic, and they are up. They are up because in fact, there was not much call for it.
For example, automobiles. You know, you had the rental car companies selling off their entire stock. You found yourself in the same way with automobile dealers, and all of a sudden, now it's coming back. We're going to grow at seven percent as expected. We've created more jobs in the first six months in our administration than any time in American history.
No President has ever, no administration has ever created as many jobs. And all of a sudden, people are saying --
BIDEN: No, I don't say -- but it goes to the legitimate question being asked about the concern about inflation. The vast majority of the experts, including Wall Street, are suggesting that it is highly unlikely that it is going to be long term inflation that is going to get out of hand.
There will be near term inflation because everything is now trying to be picked back up. And by the way, that's one of the reasons why I also signed an Executive Order dealing with the whole idea of competition. You know, the idea that we're in a situation where there are so many companies who are keeping people out of the competition.
For example, you have over 600,000 people out there -- six million people signing -- I better check the number -- signing non-compete agreements, not because they have any secret, but because they were working for one fast food restaurant, and they're told they can't get 10 cents more going across town going to the other fast food restaurant. Why? To keep wages down. And so what's happening now is all of a sudden, people are having
choices. You know, I always thought the free market system was not only that there's competition among companies, but guess what? Companies should have to compete for workers. You know, guess what? Maybe they will pay more money.
LEMON: So you seem pretty confident that inflation is temporary, but pumping all of this money into the economy, couldn't that add to --
BIDEN: No. Look, here's the deal, Moody's today, a Wall Street firm, not some liberal think tank, said, if we pass the other two things I'm trying to get done, we will in fact reduce inflation -- reduce inflation, reduce inflation -- because they're going to be providing good opportunities and jobs for people who in fact, are going to be reinvesting that money back in all the things we're talking about, driving down prices, not raising prices.
And so, it is -- I sincerely mean this. Prices are up now, and they're up -- for example, you were in a position where you're trying to build a house, trying to find two by fours in lumber. Well, guess what? People stopped working cutting lumber. They stopped doing it because the unemployment was so down. Now, all of a sudden, there's this need, because people are coming back. And guess what? Instead of paying 10 cents, you're paying 20.
I hope you understand what I'm saying.
BIDEN: It relates to what, in fact, is now needed, because we're growing. I don't know anybody, including Larry Summers, who is a friend of mine who is worried about inflation, is suggesting that there is any long term march here if we do the things we're going to do.
For example, if we get this bill done that I've put together a long time ago. And by the way, I want to say, I'm in this territory, you know, there's a -- Portman is a good man. Portman is a Congressman from this area. I talked to him before I got -- and I really mean it. He is a decent, honorable man. And he and I are working on trying to get this infrastructure bill passed.
LEMON: But you're, you're talking about Senator Rob Portman of Ohio.
BIDEN: Yes, I'm sorry. I thought that he was --
LEMON: No, but since you mentioned that infrastructure, the bipartisan infrastructure deal failed, the procedural vote today. Right?
BIDEN: But no, it did, but that's irrelevant.
LEMON: In the Senate today. Go on, okay. And it says that -- negotiators say that they need more time.
LEMON: Okay, so then -- but they expect to vote again on Monday, but how much time do you think that they need to get this done?
BIDEN: Until Monday.
BIDEN: Look, no, I'm not being facetious. I'm not being facetious. You had up to 20 Republicans sign a letter saying we think we need this deal. We think we need this deal. So, I think there will be -- by the way, the reason we're talking this way, we need 60 votes to get something moving.
BIDEN: And what's going to happen is I believe, because I take my Republican colleagues at their word, when we shake, I come from a tradition in the Senate, you shake your hand, that's it. You keep your word.
And I found Rob Portman does that. I found that, you know, your Governor is a good man.
BIDEN: You shake his hand -- no I really mean that. I'm not being false -- nothing --
LEMON: You think it is going to move forward in the Senate on Monday.
BIDEN: I do. Here's what I think. What happens is the vote on Monday is a motion to be able to proceed to this issue, then they're going to debate the issue of the elements, the individual elements of this plan to make sure we're going to fix that damn bridge here that is going into Kentucky.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
BIDEN: No, I'm serious.
LEMON: We're going to talk about that in just a moment.
BIDEN: Anyway. But I think it's going to get done. You may find in the amendments that take place on the detail, the detail of whether or not -- and I'm the guy that wrote this bill to begin with. And so I've had to compromise to make changes in the bill.
When I say I, I campaigned on this. I mean, everybody thought I was a little nuts when I talked about there are three reasons why I was running; one, to restore the soul of this country and bring back some decency; two, to build back the middle class because they've been getting really mucked around a long time. They're the backbone to unite the country.
And one of the big issues was, dealing with infrastructure. Remember, in the last four years, we had infrastructure every week. We didn't do a thing. But it's necessary. You know, I really mean it. It's going to not only increase job opportunities, it would increase commerce. It's a good thing and I think we're going to get it done.
LEMON: There is a lot of this stuff you're going to need, but you need bipartisan support. So let's talk about that. Our next question comes from Cindy Peebles. She's a financial executive and a Democrat. Go ahead, Cindy.
CINDY PEEBLES, FINANCIAL EXECUTIVE: Hello, Mr. President. I am dismayed at how often Democratic plans for stabilizing the economy or shoring up new strains of the virus are held hostage by the utopian need to gain bipartisan support. It appears at every turn, the Democratic plan is weakened and still secure zero Republican votes.
Sometimes the opposition is just wrong, and working to get them to agree with you is fruitless. Why is the strategy to abandon the need for bipartisanship not the right answer?
BIDEN: Well, look, I may be the wrong guy to talk to because I spend a lot of time as a Senator and Vice President -- I am going to say something outrageous, I don't know you'll find any Republican I've ever worked with who says I ever broke my word, didn't do exactly what I said I would do, and keep my word.
And I was able to get an awful lot of compromises put together to do really good things, to change things. And I still believe that is possible. But the well has been so poisoned over the last four years and even now, there's still this lingering effort. A lot of my Republican friends, and I'm not talking about Portman, I'm not talking about your governor -- a lot of my Republican friends say Joe, I know you're right, but if I do this, I'll get primaried, and I'll lose my primary. I'll be in trouble.
But I think that's all beginning to move. I don't mean overnight, and don't get me wrong, I'm not playing out some fantasy here. But I think people are figuring out that if we want to -- I've always found, you get rewarded for doing what you think at the time is the right thing that people really believe you believe it's the right thing to do.
BIDEN: And so I think you're seeing it coming together. And by the way, the compromises are, you know, are real. Compromising in my own party between the far left and the center and some of the folks who are more conservative. That's coming together.
They said that would never happen. But if you notice, it has happened.
LEMON: Well, let's talk a little bit more about bipartisanship. You know, the Republicans removed all their picks today for the January 6th Committee -- Select Committee. Nancy Pelosi rejected two of them. The first thing I want to ask is, what's your reaction to that? But number two, if Republicans and Democrats can't come together, right, to investigate the biggest attack on our Capitol in 200 years, what makes you think that they can come together on anything? BIDEN: These people.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
BIDEN: Well, I mean it. I'm not being facetious. Democrats and Republicans. I don't care if you think I'm Satan reincarnated.
BIDEN: The fact is, you can't look at that television and say nothing happened on the 6th. You can't listen to people who say this was a peaceful march. No, I'm serious. Think about it. Think of the things being said.
I've been through the other end of this when the Democrats 35 years ago were way off to the other side.
Think about it.
LEMON: But what you can do, though, what they can do is try to change the narrative and say, well, why wasn't Nancy Pelosi prepared? Why weren't the Democrats prepared for that to happen?
BIDEN: Well, no, they can say that and you can make honest judgments about it. I have -- look, I sometimes get myself in trouble for what I'm about to say. Not that I get in trouble. As you've heard me say before, no one ever doubts I mean what I say. The problem is I sometimes say all that I mean.
But all kidding side, I have faith in the American people -- I really do -- to ultimately get to the right place. And, by the way, many times Republicans are in the right place. I don't mean it's always Democratic point of view. But some of the stuff -- I mean, Qanon, the idea that the Democrats or that Biden is hiding people and sucking the blood of children and -- no, I'm serious. That's -- now you may not like me, and that's your right.
Look, it's a simple thing. You can walk out and say, I just don't like the way that guy wears his tie. I'm voting against him. You have a right to do that. You have a right to do that.
But the kinds of things that are being said of late, I think you're beginning to see some of the -- and both -- and by Democrats, as well, sort of a venom get -- sort of leak out of a lot of it. We've got to get beyond this.
What do you say to your grandchildren or your children about what's happening? Do you ever remember a time like this before in the entire history, whether you're a Democrat or a Republican? This is not who we are.
And I'll say one last thing, and you're going to -- I've had a lot of experience internationally. And I mean, not good or bad, just I have. I chaired the Foreign Relations Committee. I've been deeply involved. I did national security for our last -- the administration with Barack.
But, folks, the rest of the world's wondering about us. Those of you who travel abroad, not a joke. Not a joke. You ask -- you know, when I went to this G7, all the major democracies, I walked in, and I know a lot of them because of my role in the past.
And they walk in and I said, "America's back," and they go -- I'm serious, heads of state -- I give you my word as a Biden -- they said, "Are you really back? I mean, how can I -- we believe you, Joe, but will the country ever get it together?"
I talked to Xi Jinping in China, who I know well. We don't agree on a lot of things. He's a bright and really tough guy. He truly believes that the 21st century will be determined by oligarchs, by -- not a joke -- democracies cannot function in the 21st century, the argument is, because things are moving so rapidly, so, so rapidly that you can't pull together a nation that is divided to get a consensus on acting quickly. So autocrats, autocracies.
I had a long meeting with Putin, and I continued -- I know him well. These guys actually are betting -- I'm not joking -- on autocracies. Democracy has to stand up and demonstrate that it can get something done. It's not just important that we are -- no, I really mean it.
LEMON: Well, Mr. President, we're just getting started. We got a lot to talk about.
BIDEN: I'm sorry.
LEMON: No, no, no, you're good. We're going to take a quick break and we're going to come back. More questions from the president of the United States right after this.
LEMON: Welcome back, everyone. We are live at a CNN town hall in Cincinnati, Ohio, with the president of the United States.
Straight to the audience for questions. This is John Lanni. He is the owner and co-founder of a restaurant group with 39 restaurants across the country, Mr. President. He is a Republican. John?
BIDEN: Hey, John.
QUESTION: Hey there, Mr. President. Thank you for taking my question tonight. We employ hundreds of hard-working team members throughout the state of Ohio and across the country. And we're looking to hire more every day as we try to restart our restaurant business.
The entire industry, amongst other industries, continue to struggle to find employees. How do you and the Biden administration plan to incentivize those that haven't returned to work yet? Hiring is our top priority right now.
BIDEN: Well, two things, one, if you noticed, we kept you open. We spent billions of dollars to make sure restaurants could stay open. And a lot of people who now -- who worked as waiters and waitresses decided that they don't want to do that anymore because there was other opportunities at higher wages, because there's a lot of openings now in jobs and people are beginning to move, beginning to move.
There's some evidence that maintaining the ability to continue to not -- to not have your -- have to pay your rent so you don't get thrown out and being able to provide for unemployment insurance has kept people from going back to work. There's no -- not much distinction between not going back to work in a restaurant and not going back to work at a factory. So people are looking to change opportunities, change what they're doing.
My deceased wife's father-in-law was a restauranteur up in Syracuse, New York. And, by the way, he tried to -- he had a restaurant that was in a town called Auburn, about 20,000 people, which was a flagship 24- hour-a-day restaurant that -- and he offered it to me, which I would have been making five times what I would in law school to try to keep me in Syracuse. But I spent too many times at home hearing -- in his home hearing a phone call, "The cook didn't come in? He's in a fight with his wife? What's going on?"
BIDEN: So I would -- God love you, doing what you do.
QUESTION: It's tough.
BIDEN: But all kidding aside, I think it really is a matter of people deciding now that they have opportunities to do other things and there's a shortage of employees. People are looking to make more money and to bargain. And so I think your business and the tourist business is really going to be in a bind for a little while.
And one the things -- we're ending all of those things that are things keeping people back from going back to work, et cetera. It will be interesting to see what happens. But my gut tells me, my gut tells me that part of it relates to, you know, you can make a good salary as a waiter or waitress.
One of my sister in laws is -- of five sisters makes a very good salary. She works in Atlantic City. That's where she's from. But it is -- there's a lot of people who are looking to change their occupation. I think. But I could be wrong.
LEMON: Well, let me ask you, because John is looking to hire people. He's got 39 restaurants across the country. Is there anything you can do to help him out? I mean, he's got to get people in.
BIDEN: Well, John, first of all, I -- you know, the thing we did to help John and the Johns out is provide billions of dollars to make sure they could stay open, number one. So you all contributed to making sure John could stay in business.
And we should. We should have done that, as we did for other industries. But, secondly, John, my guess is that people being $7, $8 an hour plus tips, that's -- I think, John, you're going to be finding $15 bucks an hour or more now. And -- but you may pay that already. You may pay that already.
LEMON: Well, let me ask you, because everywhere I go, there isn't a pretty much a shop in my town, a restaurant or whatever, where there isn't a for hire sign. We tried to check into the hotel. They couldn't get the rooms cleaned fast enough because they can't find staff. You mentioned something, you said we're going to end the things that may be keeping people back. Do you think that's the unemployment benefits expanded?
BIDEN: Well, that was argued it was. I don't think it did much. But the point is, it's argued that, because the extended unemployment benefits kept people -- they'd rather stay home and not work than go to work.
LEMON: You don't think it did that?
BIDEN: I see no evidence it had any serious impact on it. But you can argue it. Let's assume it did. It's coming to an end. So it's not like we're in a situation where if that was it, and it ends, then we're going to see -- John's going to have no problem.
But what I think has happened, folks, is, look, if you make less than -- and I'm not saying, John, your folks made less than $15 -- you got good restaurants, that means their tips are good, people make a lot more than just what the minimum wage -- what the wage is being paid, if you put tips on top of it.
But, folks, look, here's the deal. Think about it. You know, if you have -- for example, I want to be able to -- one of my programs is to make sure that we have four more years of school that's free, two years for 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds, because it's demonstrated that that increases significantly success.
And community college. Well, those folks are not likely to want to go and be waiters. There's nothing wrong with being a waiter or waitress. My family's been engaged in that business. But the folks is -- and, lastly, if you make less than $15 bucks an hour working 40 hours a week, you're living below the poverty level. You're living below the poverty level.
LEMON: Well, I want to continue on and talk about -- this has to do with infrastructure, because you got applause when you mentioned the bridge earlier.
BIDEN: Well, your congressman wants that bridge, too.
LEMON: Todd Michel is here. He is a union electrician and a Democrat. He has a question about something that a lot of people in Cincinnati are concerned about. Todd, take it away.
QUESTION: As Mr. Lemon said, you have already touched on the subject of my question. The two most recent presidents, past presidents have both campaigned using this region's Interstate 75 bridge, the Brent Spence bridge that crosses the Ohio River, as backdrops with a promise of an infrastructure bill that would help with the replacement.
President Biden, is it possible to bring Congress together to pass an infrastructure bill that builds a bridge that does not just benefit this region, but the entire I-75 corridor, from Michigan all the way to Florida?
BIDEN: The answer is absolutely, positively yes.
I'm not just saying that. I'm not just saying that. You take a look at Ohio and Kentucky combined, there's well over -- there's thousands of bridges that need repair. Thousands. Thousands of bridges.
And we should be looking at it this way. It increases commerce, number one, but guess what? They're good-paying union jobs. Union. Union jobs.
And by the way, can you ever think of a time -- those of you who are economists, who are -- who teach here economics, can you think of any time when the middle class did better, the wealthy didn't do really well? I'm not being facetious now. I'm being deadly earnest. Can you think of any time that's occurred when the middle class does better?
I'm tired of trickle down. I come from the corporate state of America.
And by the way, I think you should be able to go out and make a billion dollars or $100 million to do it, if you have the capacity to do it, but I ask just one thing. Pay your fair share. Just pay your fair share.
I really mean it. And if you know anything about me, check me out -- we have more corporations registered in Delaware than all the rest of America combined. Combined. Combined. I represented them for 36 years. I've never seen a time when we have the middle class growing that the wealthy didn't do very, very, very well.
So that's what we have to do, build it out and up, not just down.
LEMON: So that people like our next guest, who just graduated from law school, by the way, his name is Cory Marcum. He's a graduate from the University of Cincinnati Law School, and he has--
BIDEN: Congratulations, man.
LEMON: Excuse me. He's graduating -- he's heading to law school, I'm wrong, in the fall.
LEMON: So, Cory, good luck in law school. And what's your question?
BIDEN: Your freshman year, you'll wish you had already graduated. I know, me, too.
QUESTION: Yeah. So my question is, last week regarding the GOP's efforts to restrict voting rights, you said those efforts were, quote, "the most dangerous threat to voting in the integrity of free and fair elections in our history," end quote. While you have condemned these attacks, you and congressional members of your party have done little to actually stop these assaults.
If these efforts are really the "most dangerous in our history," isn't it logical to get rid of the filibuster so we can protect our democracy and secure the right to vote?
BIDEN: I stand by what I said. Never before has there been an attempt by state legislatures to take over the ability to determine who won -- not count the votes, determine who won.
We have election officials across the board that they're deciding to push out of the way and if, in fact, tomorrow -- let's say we're running last time, and these laws have been in effect, that are -- these changes, in Georgia, the Georgia's legislature, oh, Biden won by multiple thousand votes, they could say, "We don't think it was legit," and the state legislature votes, "We're going to send electors up to Congress to vote for Trump, not Biden." That's never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever been tried before. This is Jim Crow on steroids, what we're talking about.
And so it takes -- go to your second point. I've been saying for a long, long time, the abuse of the filibuster is pretty overwhelming. When I got to the United States Senate at a time when we had guys like Jim Eastland and Strom Thurman, and Robert F. Byrd, and a whole range of people who were very, very, very, very, very, very conservative on race, to say the least, even then if you were to filibuster, you had to stand on the floor and hold the floor.
And that's why Strom, I think, set the record at 24 straight hours or something. Don't hold me to the number, but -- you know? So you had to take -- there were significantly fewer filibusters in those days, in the middle of the civil rights movement. LEMON: Well, let me -- let me talk to you about that. Because--
BIDEN: Well, let me finish my answer, because I'd tell you what I'd do. I would go back to that, where you have to maintain the floor. You have to stand there and talk and hold the floor. You can't just say--
LEMON: I understand that. But what difference does that -- if you hold the floor for, you know, a day or a year, what difference does it make? Here's the thing for me. You talked about people -- and this is important for people who look like me.
My grandmother would sit around when I was a kid, 5th grade, had a 5th grade education. I learned that she couldn't read when I was doing my homework. And she would tell me stories about people asking her to count the number of jelly beans in the jar--
LEMON: -- or the soap in -- so why is protecting the filibuster, is that more important than protecting voting rights, especially for people who fought and died for that?
BIDEN: No. It's not. I want to see the United States Congress, the United States Senate, pass S. 1 and S. 4, the John Lewis Act, get them to my desk so I can sign it.
But here's the deal. What I also want to do, I want to make sure we bring along not just all the Democrats. We bring along Republicans who I know, know better. They know better than this.
And what I don't want to do is get wrapped up right now `in the argument whether or not this is all about the filibuster or -- look, the American public, you can't stop them from voting. You tried last time. More people voted last time than at any time in American history in the middle of the worst pandemic in American history. More people did.
And they showed up. They're going to show up again. They're going to do it again. But what I want to do is, I'm trying to bring the country together. And I don't want the debate to only be about whether or not we have a filibuster or exceptions to the filibuster or going back to the way the filibuster had to be used before.
LEMON: But isn't that the only way you're going to get it done right now?
BIDEN: No, I don't believe that. I think we can get it done.
LEMON: If you -- you agree with the former president. He has called -- as you called him, your old boss, that it's a relic of Jim Crow.
BIDEN: It is.
LEMON: If it's a relic of Jim Crow, it's been used to fight against civil rights legislation historically, why protect it?
BIDEN: There's no reason to protect it other than you're going to throw the entire Congress into chaos and nothing will get done. Nothing at all will get done. And there's a lot at stake. The most important one is the right to vote. That's the single most important one. And your vote counted and counted by someone who honestly counts it.
But it goes beyond that. For example, wouldn't my friends on the other side love to have a debate about the filibuster instead of passing the Recovery Act? Or wouldn't they love doing it instead of being in a position where we provide for -- how many of you have children under the age of 17? Raise your hand. Guess what? You're getting a lot of money in a monthly check now, aren't you? No, you deserve -- no, no, no, I really mean it.
Republicans used to fight for it, as well. It's called the child tax credit. If you have a child under the age of 7, you get $300 bucks a month, $350 bucks a month. If you have a child under -- between 7 and 17, you get a total of $200 bucks a month. And guess what? It's cutting child poverty in half. In half.
LEMON: Mr. President, I want to talk about something else that affects people a lot, and children, as well. The next question -- and it's about gun violence. This is from a paralegal. She's an advocate. Her name is Andrea Solis Canto. She's a Democrat. Andrea, go ahead.
BIDEN: I see a public defender, kiddo. Thanks for what you're doing.
QUESTION: Thank you. So gun violence has been on the rise across the country. And as a recent student and young professional living in Over-the-Rhine, I've seen this first-hand. Gun violence has taken the lives of so many young students and young people. I'm tired. And I want to see change that's going to make our cities like Cincinnati safer. So how will you address gun violence from a federal point of view to actually bring about change and make our local cities safer?
BIDEN: Now, I'm not being a wise guy. There's no reason you should. Have you seen my gun violence legislation I've introduced? As you know, because you're so involved, actually crime is down, gun violence and murder rates are up. Guns.
I'm the only guy that ever got passed legislation, when I was a senator, to make sure we eliminated assault weapons. The idea you need a weapon that can have the ability to fire 20, 30, 40, 50, 120 shots from that weapon, whether -- whether it's a .9 millimeter pistol or whether it's a rifle, is ridiculous.
I'm continuing to push to eliminate the sale of those things. But I'm not likely to get that done in the near term. So here's what I've done. The people who, in fact, are using those weapons are acquiring them illegally. Illegally.
And so what happens is, I've gotten ATF out, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. I have them increase their budget and increase their capacity, along with the Justice Department, to go after the gun shops that are not abiding by the law of doing background checks.
For real, that's number one. Number two -- number two, we're in a position where you -- most of the cities -- and I don't know enough. I think you've had a lot of gun violence here in Cincinnati, I think -- or it was up to what -- how many dead, 500 over a period -- don't hold me to the number, whatever it was. But my point is, all across the country.
And it's not because the gun shops in the cities are selling these guns. They are either shadow gun dealers and/or gun shops that are not abiding by the law. So we're going to do major investigations and shut those guys down and put some of them in jail for what they're doing, selling these weapons.
There's also a thing called ghost guns that are being sold now and being used. And so -- but in addition to that, what we have to do is we have to deal with the larger problem of the whole issue of law enforcement generally. We're in a situation where, as much as we need to pass -- you know, the Floyd Act and all that, but here's the deal. Cops are having real trouble. They're not all bad guys. There are a lot of good guys.
We need more policemen, not fewer policemen. But we need them involved in community policing. Community policing.
And when we did that, violent crime went down. All the criticism about the original crime bill, guess what? Crime went down, until we stopped doing community policing. So it's about getting -- we have availability now of over a billion -- lots of money for cops to be able to hire psychologists, psychiatrists, as well as social workers, to be engaged in the process.
LEMON: Mr. President, we're going to put a period -- maybe a comma right here, because we have more to come.
BIDEN: I'm sorry.
LEMON: We've got to take a quick break. We'll be right back, more from President Joe Biden right after this.
LEMON: Welcome back to our CNN Town Hall with the President of the United States, Joe Biden.
I just want - I said we were going to put a comma on it, because I want to continue this conversation. You said that you need - we need more police, right? Your words. So then, how do you respond to Republicans who try to paint you, and your party, as anti-police?
BIDEN: They're lying.
(AUDIENCE LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
BIDEN: No. Look, never once. We have to change police conduct. We have to have rules, where things are open.
BIDEN: We have to have rules where you can be able to determine what the background, how many times a cop has violated the rules, and be able to have access to what's going on, in police departments, so the Justice Department can get involved in whether or not they have to change the pattern and practices. I've always said that.
LEMON: What about defunding the police though, because there was the--
BIDEN: No, I've never.
LEMON: --defund the police.
BIDEN: Never, never said, defunding the police.
Look, I don't know any community, particularly the communities that are in the most need, and the poorest, and the most at risk that don't want police. They want police though, to look at them as equals. They want police to treat them in a way.
BIDEN: They don't want police abuses. And what happened was we got in the position where we - we used to have community policing, where the cop - my deceased son was the Attorney General of the State of Delaware.
And what we did when that original bill got passed was he would go down in the tough neighborhoods, in my - in my state, in my city of Wilmington, which is overwhelming minority city.
And he'd go where the bet - everybody can tell me where the best basketball is played in a playground here in this city. You know where it is. You know who the best ballplayers are. You know where they are.
He'd go down, and sit there on the bench, with his son, my grandson, who's now 16, when he was 5- and 6-years-old, and let them know he was there. He'd go over, and knock on the window, of the local cop, who was sitting there by himself, in his squad car, and say, "Get out of the car. Meet people."
Because what used to happen was cops used to, when in first community policing came about, they'd go in, they knew who the minister was, in the church, they knew who owned the local liquor store, the local drugstore, the local grocery store.
And they'd walk in and say, "Look, I'm Joe Biden. I'm going to be in this beat. Here's my cell number. You have a problem? Call me."
LEMON: But you--
BIDEN: "Here's my cell number."
LEMON: You said it's tough right now. You said police are up against - well, they're up against the narrative that the country's anti-police. Democrats are anti-police. Joe Biden is anti-police. And then you had--
BIDEN: They aren't saying "Joe Biden is anti-police." Cops are not saying that about Joe Biden. They know me. Period!
LEMON: Go on!
BIDEN: They're not saying. Republicans are saying it on the far - I'm not going to - anyway. Doesn't--
LEMON: No. I want you to talk about this because--
BIDEN: No. Look?
LEMON: --I mean it's an important narrative. There is no more important issue, I think, right now, than safety. You can - you can rebuild a home. You can get a lot of things back. But Mr. President, you cannot get back a life. And it--
BIDEN: That's exactly right.
LEMON: Yes. And if police--
BIDEN: That's exactly right.
LEMON: --aren't doing their jobs, that increases.
BIDEN: OK. No, if police aren't doing their job, they should be held accountable. They should be fired for not doing their job. They should--
BIDEN: I have no - I make no excuses for that - that we should have, for example, the George Floyd Act, where chokeholds are against the law, where a whole lot of things that are laid out in that legislation.
And, by the way, I grew up in a neighborhood, where you became a cop, a firefighter, or a priest. I wasn't qualified for any one of them. So here I am. But all kidding aside, I'm not joking. The guys that grew up in the Scranton and Claymont, Delaware, a steel town, that's what we did. That's what they did. That's what my friends did.
And here's the point. The point is that they - it doesn't justify maltreating the public. You have no right to do that, none.
But now what's happening is because they've become - it's become so tough, across the spectrum, we've actually cut down on a number of police, unrelated to anybody asking for it.
The towns and cities aren't spending as much money on it. There's not as much federal money to hire police. And now, what's happening is police are not wanting to be a cop.
Raise your hand if you want to be a cop now? What do you think, huh?
So, what we got to do is we've got to give them the help, they need, to be better at their job.
The idea that you have someone sitting on a ledge saying, they're going to jump off a ledge, and you call the cop, and sending a guy or a woman, who's a law enforcement officer, has a criminal justice degree, when you could send with him, or her, you could send with them, a psychologist, or a social worker, or somebody can talk to them. No, I mean it, I'm serious.
LEMON: Mr. President? I want to get some more questions. And I want to bring in Lynne Miller. She's an attorney and a Democrat.
Lynne, what's your question?
LYNNE MILLER, LOST HER SON TO ILLEGAL OPIATES: Mr. President, the opioid crisis continues. And, in this part of the country, it remains a huge problem.
While the over-prescription of opiates is part of that problem, the drugs available in the black market are a growing issue, as many of these contain Fentanyl. That took the life of our son.
How can your administration combat the issue of illegal opiates, many of which our young people buy online? Someone should bear responsibility for delivering death through the mail.
BIDEN: They should bear responsibility. You may, or may not, be aware, even in the period, when I was out of office, I was railing against the fact that drug companies were selling on the open market.
There was one case, which really got me - was you had two drugstores in a small town, in West Virginia, having something like this prescription for 4,000 pills. And it was obviously, drug trafficking. That's what's going on.
So, what we did - what they did was, they went after - they just settled with Johnson - some of the drug companies, who make opioids, for $26 billion - was it $26 billion or $27 billion, today, if I'm not mistaken, the settlement took place.
But here's the deal. In addition to that, you have the Chinese sending Fentanyl to Mexico, in large part, that's being mixed with opioids and/or heroin, and other drugs, which is a dead-set killer of people.
And so, what we have to do, I've had this encounter with China. We're going to continue it. But we've also increased the number of DEA agents, what we're doing at the border, and how we're going to deal with intercepting that drug trade.
In addition to that, the Justice Department is moving on dealing with the whole opioid issue, by increasing significantly the number, the number of people in Justice Department, working on this issue.
And so, there's much more to say about it. But it is incredibly, incredibly dangerous.
LEMON: Mr. President, I believe there's no better way than, to speak about this, than from experience.
BIDEN: I'm sorry.
LEMON: I don't think there's probably a family in this room, who hasn't been affected by addiction. You've been very open about your son Hunter's problems with addiction. This is personal for you. At least I've dealt with it in my own family. Every family deals with it. But this is personal for you.
BIDEN: Yes. And I'm so damn proud of my son. My son just wrote a book about how he overcame being addicted. And he did it, and he's doing it, and he is in good shape, thank God.
Here's the thing. We don't have nearly enough people involved in mental health and drug addiction services, number one.
BIDEN: Number one.
Number two, number two, we shouldn't be sending people to jail for use. We should be sending to mandatory rehabilitation. Mandatory rehabilitation.
BIDEN: Number three, when people are in fact, in jail, they should be getting, if that's not the main crime, but they're also that - they should be getting treatment, while they are in jail. Fourth, when people get out of jail, whether it's for drug addiction, or any other crime, if they've served their time, they should have full access to everything, from Pell Grants, to public housing, to the like.
BIDEN: And, by the way?
BIDEN: By the way, folks?
BIDEN: It's not just the right thing to do. It's the smart thing for us to do. Because what happens, years ago, there was a guy named Arlen Specter from Pennsylvania. He and I introduced legislation that was the Second Chance Act.
What meant that right now, when you get out of jail, on most prisons in the states, around the country, what happens? You get a bus ticket and 25 bucks. You end up under the bridge, just like you did before. You're almost - almost guaranteed to get back in, in whatever - whatever your problem was before.
So, they should have access to the drug treatment. They should have access to housing. They should have access to whatever they qualify, based on their income. And we should, in prisons as well, be training people differently.
But the mind - the big thing here is we have to deal with the idea of addiction, by providing for we all know, it's a disease of the brain.
BIDEN: It's a disease of the brain, and has to be treated as such.
LEMON: I think it's - I think addiction and mental health issues have to be dealt with, just as if you break your arm, and go to the doctor, we should be able to talk to. There should be--
BIDEN: I agree.
LEMON: There shouldn't be a stigma about it.
I want to bring in now Madeena Nolan. Madeena Nolan is a writer and editor. She's a Democrat.
Madeena, what's your question?
BIDEN: Hi, Madeena.
MADEENA NOLAN, WRITER AND EDITOR: Good evening, Mr. President.
Vice President Harris said to Guatemalans, "Don't come." Recently you have indicated you are in favor of refugees coming to this country. Could you please explain your administration's basic stance on immigration?
BIDEN: Yes, they should not come.
What we're trying to set up is in the countries like, in particularly Northern Triangle, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, et cetera, we are setting up, in those countries, if you seek asylum, in the United States, you can seek it from the country, from your, in place.
You can seek it from an American embassy. You can go in and seek and see whether or not you qualify. We've significantly increased the number of officers, who can hear cases, as to whether or not you qualify, under the law, for being here as a refugee. That is - that's what we've done.
Thirdly, we have enabled a move significantly, to change the number. There were thousands of people, in custody with the Border Patrol. It's now cut by 90 percent, where that's considerably down.
What I - what I do say is the one place you may heard that I'm talking about more immigrants coming in, are those folks from Afghanistan, who helped the American soldiers, who will be - they and their family will be victimized very badly, as a consequence of what happens, if they're left behind.
And so, we're providing for them to be able to see whether they qualify to meet this special requirement, to be able to come to the United States, as a refugee and, as ultimately earning citizenship here. It seems to me, it's the only decent thing that we can do.
In the meantime, we're going to send people to American bases, where they're not going to be able to leave the base, while their cases are being determined, whether they qualify.
BIDEN: And also other bases.
LEMON: I want to talk to you about DACA. I got two questions on immigration, the quick questions I want to ask you about, because just last week, there was a federal judge, he ruled the program unlawful, blocked it from accepting new applications.
What do you say to DREAMers, who are really worried about their futures, here in the United States?
BIDEN: I'm not letting this go. Look, guys, let's just put it--
BIDEN: Let's just put this--
(AUDIENCE APPLAUSE) BIDEN: We talk about DREAMers sort of generically. Let's think about it now, what it really means.
You're 5-years-old. You're 9-years-old. Your mommy or dad says, "I'm going to take you across the Rio Grande, and we're illegally going to go into the United States." What he's supposed to say? "Not me! That's against the law."
I'm - no, no, I'm being - I'm being deadly earnest. What could a kid say? What could they do? They come here, with really no choice. And they're here. And they're good, good people. They've done well.
BIDEN: 10,000 of them were first-line workers.
BIDEN: These are kids who have done well. And so, what we're going to do is, first of all, appeal the case, number one, but number two, we're going to make sure that as number of my Republican colleagues say they support the right of DREAMers to come.
Let's call the question. They should be able to stay in the United States of America.
BIDEN: When a child comes out here (ph).
LEMON: Mr. President?
LEMON: You've been the big guy for six months now, in the White House. Can you take us behind-the-scenes, something that was extraordinary or unusual that happened that stands out to you?
BIDEN: "Yes, Mr. President, you didn't close the door." "Mr. President, what the hell are you going out this time for," you know?
It's a - it's a wonderful honor. As you can tell, I hope I have very good manners. But I'm not very hung up on protocol.
BIDEN: And I - and the Secret Service is wonderful. And because things are so--
BIDEN: --and because things are so crazy out there, it is very hard to get comfortable, like I would ordinary be. For example, I think all of the - all of the help that's there, providing meals, and all the rest, I think they love us. You're saying "Don't come in for breakfast. We can get our own breakfast," because I like to walk out in my robe and go in.
BIDEN: No, no, my - you think I'm joking? I'm not. You know what I mean?
And so, it's just a, you know, the only place I have felt like what the Office connotes is when I went to Europe, and watched the rest of the heads of state react to me, not me, because I'm the President of the United States of America, the United States of America.
And here's what happened. It's the first time, I ever felt like, you always hear say "Leader of the Free World." Well, I realized, when I'm sitting across from Putin, who I know, he knows who I am. I know who he is. He knows I mean what I say and can do what I say. He understands that me will do it or not do it.
But to be honest (ph), it's the first time I've ever felt the notion that I am in the office that as the Leader of the Free World, and we must be the Leader of the Free World. If we don't do it, nobody good is likely to do it, has the capacity to do it. I really mean it. I genuinely mean it.
So, it's the thing, Don, that is the only time and, by the way, the first time I walked downstairs, and they played "Hail to the Chief," I wonder where is he? You know, where?
BIDEN: No, you think I'm kidding? I'm not kidding. You know what I mean?
LEMON: It's a great tune, isn't it?
BIDEN: That's a great tune! But I, you know, you feel a little self- conscious.
BIDEN: But - you think I'm kidding. I'm not!
But I am not at all self-conscious about the power that goes with the office, as it relates to resolving issues. These are issues I've dealt with my whole life. Whether I'm good or bad, I have more experience, coming into the office, than anyone who's ever held that office.
I have done, I've been deeply steeped in foreign policy, the justice system, the economic. Not that I'm right. I don't mean that. But nothing has come before me, where I've gone, "Oh, my God! I never - I never thought." What the difference is, I used to kid Barack, who's a good friend, President Obama, and, at one point, I'd always be - I was always the last guy in the room, for real. On every important decision, I got to give my advice. Well I gave it all the way. But I'd be the last guy before I walked out.
And one day, he thanked me. And I said, "Mr. President? Here's the deal. I should be paying you, not you, me, because I get to give you the advice. And then I get to leave."
BIDEN: No, I'm serious. Think about it. The one thing that is real, that is different, I don't - and I feel comfortable with it, but it is you're the last guy in the room.
BIDEN: You decide, "Is the decision I'm about to make, will that cause war, will that cause conflict? The decision I'm about to make, is that going to hurt people, is it going to help people?"
That's the part that is different. But the living conditions, I mean, it's such a great, great honor to live in the White House.
But quite frankly, I kid the Vice President - like one day, Barack came over to NavOps, called Naval Operations, the Vice President's residence, which is on about I guess, 80 acres, 90 acres, and it's a beautiful, beautiful spot, and there's a fence around the whole property.
LEMON: I bet you miss that, don't you?
BIDEN: I do. And Barack came over. And he said, "This is great!" And I said, "OK," I said "Trade you, only if the power goes with it."
But the point is that there it was totally different. You can walk out in your shorts with a short sleeve shirt on. And you can walk around, and there wasn't anybody there. You can't walk out anywhere now.
BIDEN: But I'm not complaining. I'm trying to answer your question as honestly as I can.
BIDEN: I just - it's the greatest honor, I think, could ever be bestowed on an American, that a majority of the American citizens said, "I want you to lead the country."
And it's a great honor, a great honor, when you have presidents and prime ministers, and the rest of the world saying, "What does the United States think? You're the Leader of the Free World."
I was able to go to the G7, and change their mind about a whole range of things. They never once had included China in any criticism, what was going on? They're very reluctant, to be able to be in a position, you and I've talked about this, about whether or not they're going to do business with China, in a way that pushes America aside.
All of a sudden, if you notice, we're getting a great deal, not because of me, but because of the administration I put together, and America's back. Traditional America is more back, and they're willing to follow us, I think.
LEMON: Well, Mr. President?
LEMON: Mr. President? Here's the deal. Mr. President, here's the deal. I'm the last guy that gets to ask you questions tonight.
LEMON: Yes, and then I get to leave.
LEMON: So, thank you.
BIDEN: Thanks, man.
LEMON: I appreciate it.
BIDEN: Appreciate it.
LEMON: Thank you. We're so glad that you guys are here that you got to ask questions with the President of the United States.
LEMON: Thank you so much. Thank you to our audience, for everyone, for being here taking questions. Of course, thank you to the President of the United States.
And we want to thank Mount St. Joseph University, right here in Cincinnati, Ohio, right?
LEMON: For housing us.
LEMON: AC360 starts right now. Good night.
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