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Exclusive: Former Vice President Joe Biden Sits Down with CNN. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired July 5, 2019 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:00]

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: ...on it. You were not in favor of busing. It was a different time, there were different applications. Why not just own it and say--

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (D): Well by the way, here's the thing Chris--

CUOMO: -- I was against it, but now I've changed.

BIDEN: No. I was in favor of busing that was (inaudible) busing, that is if a court ruled that there was a law passed or circumstance that a county, a city, a state did that prevented black folks from being somewhere, then that's wrong. You should bus.

I even went so far in the middle of that busing controversy was saying I'd use helicopters if that was necessary to make the point and really got in a town meeting that got very hot.

But what the issue is now is for example -- and it was then, voluntary busing, we supported it. We supported it then. And by the way, Barack and I as president and vice president, we provided money for voluntary busing if cities wanted to do it.

CUOMO: I'm not questioning any of that.

BIDEN: No, no--

CUOMO: I'm saying that when you look back in the '70s, you said I think busing doesn't work, it's an asinine concept.

BIDEN: Well by the way--

CUOMO: You tried to pass bills that weren't for it.

BIDEN: Busing did not work. You had overwhelming response from the African American community in my state. My state is the eight largest black population in the country as a percent of population. They were -- they did not support it. They did not support it.

Look, the question is how do you equalize education in every area? And I put forward the most -- the most aggressive plan to do that and I've been pushing it for a long time. For example, in title one schools, schools of disadvantage, we should -- I proposed we go from 15 billion a year to 45 billion a year.

We should bring people in; have preschool from three, four, five years old before kindergarten.

We should have -- look, every child out there, every child out there is capable but they live in circumstances that make it difficult for the time they get to school they have heard three, four million fewer words spoken, they're at a disadvantage.

CUOMO: I totally accept all that--

BIDEN: That's number one. But number two, the idea right now, 65 out of 100 jobs in the study I did for the president point out you need something beyond a high school degree.

CUOMO: It's true.

BIDEN: So what are we doing? We're sitting around here as if it's an insoluble problem.

CUOMO: I get it on the policy. I never have viewed the busing back and forth in that debate as about policy or application of how to affect civil rights.

It's about consistency and proving if you'll be better than what we're dealing with now in the White House which is people won't tell the truth about things. If busing didn't work, then it made sense that you weren't for it back then.

BIDEN: But it--

CUOMO: But why say you were for it?

BIDEN: Well, no.

CUOMO: Why not just be straight about it and move on?

BIDEN: OK. Because there's three different pieces, I was for voluntary busing. Number one, I was for busing where the court showed that in fact a legislative body took an action preventing black folks from going to a school. That is the de jure I know you know, de jure segregation.

The difficult piece is this is 50 years ago, people don't understand the context. The third one is do you have an administration through their nonelected officials, Department of Housing decide every school should be equally balanced across the board. That's a different issue.

And the way to deal with that problem is what I did from the time I was a kid. I got out of -- I got out of law school came back, had a great job, became a public defender. I fought for putting housing in the -- low income housing in suburbia.

I talked about eliminating red lining. I talked about school districts should be consolidated in ways that made sense so in fact-- CUOMO: Why didn't you fight it like this in the debate?

BIDEN: In 30 seconds?

CUOMO: Hey.

BIDEN: Come on, man.

CUOMO: What happens most in a debate, Mr. vice president? People blow their time queue. You're the only person I've ever seen on a debate stage say I'm out of time.

BIDEN: Well, we never had a place where you have 30 seconds, man. What I didn't want to do is get in that (inaudible). Do you think the American public looked at that debate, take me out of it and thought boy, I really like the way that's being conducted. They're really showing themselves to do really well. Come on, man.

CUOMO: But they're going to come after you.

BIDEN: Sure they're going to come after me.

CUOMO: We're you prepared for them to come after you?

BIDEN: I was prepared for them to after me but I wasn't prepared for the person coming at me the way she came at me. She knew Bo, she knows me. I don't -- anyway, I -- but here's the deal, what I do know, and this is good and the bad news, the American people think they know me and they know me.

Since that occurred, I had the most sought after endorsement for the mayor of Atlanta, a black woman who's a great leader, Mayor Bottoms endorsed me. I've had numerous members of the black caucus endorse me.

CUOMO: You worried about the poll slippage with African Americans after the debate?

BIDEN: No, no. These folks just came. I'm making the point to you I don't see it. People know who I am. I don't believe there's anybody out there who believes that I have anything other than a keen and consistent interest in making sure every child -- these are all our children.

CUOMO: Here's a tough -- here's the question, did you re-watch the debate?

BIDEN: No, I didn't.

CUOMO: Why not?

BIDEN: Well, I didn't have an opportunity to re-watch it and besides, my measure is how people react outside, getting on a train, getting on a plane, walking through an airport, walking in a parade, just going to the grocery store. I got no sense; I really mean it, no sense--

[08:05:00]

CUOMO: Here's the tough question for democrats, they need a warrior, OK, because not to aggrandize, not to lionize, but this president knows how to fight in the ring one on one.

Kamala Harris is friendly fire. Cory Booker is friendly fire. How can democrats have confidence that you can take on the biggest and the baddest when you're having trouble sparring in party?

BIDEN: I don't think I'm having trouble sparing; it's how you want to spar. Look, I'm the guy at the time everybody talks about things that have changed. I took on same sex marriage. I took on a whole range of issues. I took on arms control; I took on dealing with Russia with the arms control agreement.

I took on Putin in terms of Iraq -- I mean excuse me, in terms of what was going on in Ukraine. I've taken on these leaders around the world. I'm the guy that's gone in and (inaudible). I've taken on all these leaders. I mean I'm -- this is ironic, I've never been accused of being not being able to spar. I've been accused of being too aggressive.

CUOMO: But the game has changed.

BIDEN: Well--

CUOMO: And you think that what's happened with Harris is anything compared to what would happen with you and this president?

BIDEN: No, but everybody knows who this guy is. Come on, man. Come on.

CUOMO: How do you beat him?

BIDEN: I beat him by just pointing out who I am and who he is and what we're for and what he's against. This guy is a divider and chief. This guy is acting with racists policies. This guy is moving to form hate to split, that's the only way he can sustain himself.

CUOMO: Nothing about him worries you?

BIDEN: Oh, sure it worries me in the sense that I'm looking forward to this, man. You walk behind me in the debate, come here man, don't you think I -- you know me too well. I mean the idea that I'd be intimidated by Donald Trump.

He's the bully that I knew my whole life. He's the bully that I've always stood up to. He's the bully who used to make fun when I was kid (inaudible) and I smacked him in the mouth.

Look, this is not -- but I think the American people want a president who has some dignity, who has a value set, who is actually trying to restore the soul of this country. So when they turn on the television, they look up and their kids say I want to be like that guy or that woman.

CUOMO: There are domestic agenda items I want to take through. But--

BIDEN: Sure.

CUOMO: -- you have made a big point of saying the threat here with the current administration is abroad. What exactly bothers you abroad?

BIDEN: What bothers me abroad is look, the idea that we can go in alone with no alliances for the next 20 or 30 years is a disaster. How are we going to deal with stateless terrorism without doing what I've been able to do with the president? Put together coalitions of 50, 60 nations to take it on.

I come out of a generation where we were trying to be the policemen of the world. We can't go in every place, we need allies. He is absolutely dissing them. He's embracing thugs; he's embracing Kim Jong-un who is a thug.

He's embracing Putin who is a flat dictator. He's embracing people who in fact -- and he's stiff (inaudible) our friends. He's threatening NATO to pull out of NATO. I mean come on.

CUOMO: He says he's gotten NATO to give in more money--

BIDEN: Oh, give me a break.

CUOMO: -- for their defense because of his tactics.

BIDEN: Oh, come on man. And by the way, the idea that NATO think -- let me put it this way, if he wins reelection I promise you there will be no NATO in four years or five years.

CUOMO: You think there'll be no more NATO if he's reelected?

BIDEN: No more NATO. Look, I went to the conference that we have, it's called the (inaudible) conference, used to be. The first speech stood up the chancellor, the former chancellor of Germany stands up, she says we have to go in alone.

We can't count on the United States. Why did we set up NATO, Chris? So no one nation could abuse the power in the region in Europe, it would suck us in, in a way they did in World War I and World War II. It's being crushed.

Look at what's happening with Putin. While Putin is trying to undo our elections, he is undoing elections in Europe. Look what's happened in Hungary. Look what's happened in Pol. Look what's happened in (inaudible). Look what's happening.

You think that would've happened on my watch or Barack's watch? You can't answer that but I promise you it wouldn't have. And it didn't.

CUOMO: So with North Korea, the idea of reaching out, President Obama, Vice President Biden wanted to do more than that. The republicans used to whack you on the head. You can't be nice to people who are enemies. Hasn't this president done what you wanted to do by reaching out to Kim?

BIDEN: He did the exact opposite. He gave Kim everything that he wanted, legitimacy. He gave Kim -- he ended our relationship as a practical matter with South Korea and Japan and as united front and let China off the hook. He put us in a position where we say by the way, I love the man. I know what he's doing.

He hasn't done a thing. He hasn't done a thing. Kim Jong-un, and what have we done? We've suspended exercises. Look, I come out of the arms control era. Guess what, there's two ways you do this. You work or you defend.

[08:10:00]

You say hey man, don't screw with us. You move, this is what's going to happen. It's going to happen. But in the meantime, what you do is you deal with your allies. And also those who don't -- aren't with you. Do you think China wants any part of North Korea becoming a nuclear power?

CUOMO: So what do you do differently with North Korea and China?

BIDEN: With regard in North Korea with China, I make it clear that we're going to move our defenses up as we did before and we're going to make sure we have the capacity to deal with in near-term.

I'm going to let South Korea and Japan know we're there for them. We are their nuclear umbrella. We're there for them. And China understands you don't want us in your throat here; if you don't want us in your face, do something.

CUOMO: Do you stop the trade battle with China? Do you go back to TPP?

BIDEN: By the way, the idea that this trade battle makes any sense is benefiting anybody is absolutely ludicrous. And just ask the farmers here or around the world -- I mean around the United States and the manufacturers. It's killing us.

What we should do is we deal with China. I had a conversation with Xi before I -- Xi Jinping before we left. And he said well, remember they set up their no fly zone and I said we're not going to pay attention to it. He said what do you want me to do, just withdraw it?

And I said no, but just understand we're just going to fly through. We fly a B-52 through it. We are a Pacific power. We're not going anywhere. Understand.

And that's the reason why you have security, is because we've allowed stability in the region. They get it. But what they're doing now is we're not dealing with China's problem for us. China's problem is they're stealing intellectual secrets.

CUOMO: Yes.

BIDEN: There's cyber security. Deal the same way. You say you got to invest here in the United States and you want to be able to invest here, and you say we want to invest China but you got to have a 51 percent owner, no deal man. Deal for deal.

CUOMO: This administration's fighting that same fight isn't it?

BIDEN: But they're not. No, they're fighting in trade. Trump thinks it's about trade deficits and trade surpluses. It's not about that. Look, while he's tweeting, China is going to own the 5G market.

While in fact he -- they're spending billions in artificial intelligence. What are we doing? They're doing a whole lot of things that make no sense for us to stand still.

CUOMO: What would you do differently with North Korea, would you slam the door on them again?

BIDEN: With North -- yes, I'd make it real clear. Look, you want to talk, you want to deal with us, you want sanctions lifted; show me something ahead of time. Show me.

CUOMO: They haven't tested a big bad missile--

BIDEN: And the reason why they haven't tested is they have it all done. They're sitting there with missiles that are -- have capacity and nuclear capacity right now. So they're not giving up anything.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CAMEROTA: We will have much more of Chris Cuomo's exclusive interview just ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

CUOMO: Is Kamala Harris, assuming she doesn't win outright, is she still somebody you would consider as a running mate?

CAMEROTA: That answer next.

(END VIDEOCLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:15:00]

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We have more of CNN's exclusive interview with former Vice President Joe Biden. The 2020 Democratic front-runner defends his record and lays out the policy that he insists will work.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Biden also reveals what he's looking for in a running mate. So, here's part two of Chris Cuomo's exclusive interview.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: You versus the rest of the field on the economy. They're all going big, 70 percent tax rates, free college, re-architecture of the economy, forgiving debt for college, which happens to be the biggest asset on the American government's balance sheet. You do not believe in those things.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't believe in the way they're doing them. For example, I believe there should be health care for everyone. That's rational and will cost a hell of a lot less and will work.

CUOMO: Too incremental.

BIDEN: No, it's not incremental.

CUOMO: Would you bring back the individual mandate?

BIDEN: Yes, I'd bring back the individual mandate.

CUOMO: Do you think it'd be popular?

BIDEN: Yes. Now, it would be compared to what's being offered. And here's the deal, Chris, we're in a situation where if you provide an option for everybody who, in fact, wants to buy into Medicare-for-All, they can buy in. They buy in and they can do it.

But if they like their employer and base insurance, which a lot of unions broke their neck to get, a lot of people like, they shouldn't have to give it up. The flip of it is if you don't go my way, you had -- and you go their way, you have to give up all that.

And what's going to happen when you have 300 million people landing on a health care plan, how long it's not going to take it? What's it going to do? And in the meantime, a lot of people are going to be in trouble.

In terms of the economy, Chris, I've been proposing for a long time and look -- I know I'm middle class Joe, I get that part. The middle class built this country. You didn't have Wall Street build this country, how did they do that? You gave people a chance. You allow them to maintain their dignity.

And how did they do it? How can you have dignity without having health care? How can you have dignity without access in education? How can you have dignity unless you can live in a neighborhood that's not fouled by the environment and what's going on?

CUOMO: How can you convince the party that these more advanced ideas of all in for Medicare-for-All that matter to them?

BIDEN: I'm not going to call it advanced. I would call it --

CUOMO: They're popular in the party.

BIDEN: Well, by the way, watch. That's what this election is about. I'm really -- I'm happy to debate that issue and all those issues with my friends because guess what? Again, look who won the races? Look who won last time out? We had -- and by the way I think Ocasio-Cortez is a brilliant bright woman, but she won a primary. In the general election fights, who won? Mainstream Democrats who were very progressive on social issues and very strong on education, health care.

[08:20:02] Look, my North Star is the middle class. When the middle class does well, everybody does well.

CUOMO: How do you do better for them economically and not with these 70 percent tax rates?

BIDEN: Well, three things, one I do raise the tax rate to 39.5 percent. I do, in fact, eliminate the ability for them to write off capital gains the way to do it -- and I would raise the -- raise billions of dollars. Raise the corporate tax rate from 20 percent to 28 percent. It was 36 to 28 percent. I raise billions of dollars.

CUOMO: Trump will say, but that's what brought the economy up to where it is, is those tax cuts.

BIDEN: Ask the people working in a restaurant how the economy came up for them. Ask them how good they feel about them. Ask them how the stock market is really helping. Ask how driving $2 trillion greater in debt has done anything for them?

CUOMO: On healthcare, do you believe that undocumented people should have health care in this country?

BIDEN: I think undocumented people need to have a means by which they can be covered when they're sick. So the idea is that's what I think we should be doing by building more clinics around the country not just for the undocumented but other people. When they're ill, when they're sick, people need -- this is just common decency. You cannot let somebody --

CUOMO: Well over 50 percent polled say undocumented people here should not have health care on our dime.

BIDEN: Well, let me tell you something, in an emergency, they should have health care. Everybody should -- anybody here in the country. How do you say I'm undocumented and I'm going to let you die, man? What are you going to do?

I mean, the idea I hear this stuff about how they're killing Social Security, et cetera. Guess what, they've increased the life-span of Social Security by close to a dozen years. This is part of what Trump is playing on.

CUOMO: It works for him, this issue of the idea of law and order, versus a left that seems like it's open borders because it means it's lawless. You have people who are running close to you now saying decriminalize coming into the country illegally. Do you believe that should be decriminalized?

BIDEN: No, I don't. No, I don't. I think people should have to get in line, but people are coming because they're actually seeking asylum, they should have a chance to make the case.

I would be surging, as we did, and Barack and I did, surging folks to the border to make those concrete decisions. Look, the other thing, Chris, is why are they coming? The reason a vast majority of these people are coming from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador is because they're in trouble. Crime rates are high, education is terrible. In Guatemala, you can't turn on a light switch and help them out.

And so, what do we do? I've put together a $74 million program with Republicans I might add at the every end and say, we'll make a deal with you. You do the follow things to make your country better so people don't leave, and we will help you do that just like we did in Colombia. What did we do in Colombia? We went down and said, OK, and I was one of the architects of Plan Colombia.

I said, here's the deal. If you have all these crooked cops, the federal police, we're sending our FBI down, you let us put them through a lie detector test, let us tell you who you should fire and tell you the kind of people you should hire. They did and began to change. We can do so much if we're committed.

CUOMO: What do you say to the people in party right now when polled who say, yes, I like Joe Biden but I think his ideas are the old ideas, the new ideas, I see a Warren, I see a Sanders, I see a Harris?

BIDEN: I've not seen that (ph).

CUOMO: You poll lower than them on ideas for the future. What do you say to them?

BIDEN: I say to them, take a look at my ideas. Take a look at my ideas. I've been seeing those polls. I've been seeing where people say, what I've seen around the country are the vast majority of Democrats where I am on the issues, we've got to be aggressive.

And the big idea on education, on health care, on dealing with the environment, I love how, you know, all of a sudden, I wish I had been labeled as moderate when I was running in Delaware back in the days where it was --

CUOMO: Eighty percent of your party says it's center left.

BIDEN: I am center left.

CUOMO: Farther left is getting more attention. It's getting amplified. It's a disconnect.

BIDEN: Look, it's center left, that's where I am. Where it's not is way left. But, look, that's what we can find out. That's what this debate is about.

CUOMO: Do you think you need if you went the nomination, to have a female VP?

BIDEN: I think it'd be great to have a female VP. If I don't, I'd be great to have a female president. But the question is, whose issues are best prepared in their wheel house, they've demonstrated they can deal with them?

CUOMO: Would you consider not having a woman as a VP?

BIDEN: Here's the first thing about being a VP I've learned and that is in today's environment there's so much a president has on his or her plate. They need someone that they completely trust, that they're simpatico with, have the same approach, political approach and you can delegate significant authority.

[08:25:06] The president when he delegated authority to me from the moonshot to Ukraine, he gave me the authority to make this because I knew where he was, he knew that I knew something about it, and he knew we were simpatico. So, that's what I'm looking for.

CUOMO: Do you think the Democrat ticket can win without a woman in one of the two slots?

BIDEN: Yes. Well, the answer is yes, but I don't think -- I think it helps having a woman on, and I think there's a lot of really qualified women out there.

CUOMO: Is Kamala Harris, assuming she doesn't win outright, is she still someone you would consider a running mate?

BIDEN: Look, one of the things I won't get into because it got used before is when I was asked, I don't even have the nomination and I'm presuming who I might pick as vice president. That's easily flipped on me in saying Biden's being arrogant. Biden thinks I'll have him as my vice president.

So I'm not going to comment on any individual. A woman came up to me I guess it was, I don't know, a month ago, I guess, I was in New Hampshire, said --

CUOMO: All right, I'm almost done.

BIDEN: -- why shouldn't I vote for a woman? And I said you should. If you think that person is most qualified at the moment, right now, to deal -- I'm not suggesting you vote for a woman.

Look, I have spent my career from writing the act before that to say my daughters and granddaughters can do anything and I mean anything, anything that a man can do, anything. So, I don't have a doubt in my mind.

And if I started to name some of the people around the country, women who are not running for president as well, who are fully qualified to be vice president, again, there's awful presumptions, man, awful presumption. So, there's a lot of really qualified women out there.

CUOMO: In terms of the last question, in terms of what we haven't seen from Joe Biden yet --

(INAUDIBLE)

CUOMO: I remember your -- hey, Jill, last question. Last question, I promise. OK.

BIDEN: OK, I will be there in a second.

CUOMO: Last question I promise.

The last thing I remember talking about politically with you was, Beau, you know, what is the quality because he was asking me about what do you take from your father and this, what your take -- Beau Biden said to me, nobody fights like my father.

What does that mean to you, to fight harder than anybody else?

BIDEN: It means two things. One, to fight without being personal. To fight and convince.

The role of a president is to persuade, persuade. Not just go out and fight. If they want someone to clench fists, bear knuckled fight, closed hand, closed heart, they got one of those guys right now. That's not me.

I have been pretty good bringing people together. The whole idea of America is when we're together there's not a damn thing we can't do. And it's -- look, the most incredible response I always get for the last three years is when I talk about how optimistic I am about the future.

People know it, they feel it. They know it. They understand it, and we can't stay in this state.

What are we going to do? What are we going to do if we can't get along better? And part of it is persuasion.

And people looking at you say, I know what he means, he'll stay with what he says, and he'll do what he says he's going to do. And I think that's part of leading. We'll soon find out.

CUOMO: Thank you for the time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AVLON: All right. Our political reporters and analysts weigh in on this exclusive interview, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END