Joe Biden

Interview with Jack Tapper of CNN

October 11, 2022

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


TAPPER: So, for people at home, who don't know? This is the Map Room. During World War II, this is where -- it was basically the Situation Room for FDR. He would look at sensitive information. And now, we're at a period, where there's another high-stakes war in Europe. You recently said that this is the first time, since the Cuban Missile Crisis, that there's a legitimate possibility of someone using a nuclear weapon, which could lead to "Armageddon." That's the word you used. How realistic is it, do you think that Putin would use a tactical nuclear weapon?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't think he will. But I think it's irresponsible of him to talk about it, the idea that a world leader of one of the largest nuclear powers in the world says he may use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine. The whole point I was making was it could lead to just a horrible outcome. And not because anybody intends to turn it into a world war, or anything. But it just -- once you use a nuclear weapon, the mistakes that can be made, the, miscalculations? Who knows what would happen?

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

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

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

THE PRESIDENT: The Pentagon didn't have to be asked.

TAPPER: So, French President Macron told me that he doesn't think that Putin is acting rationally. And he said that he thinks a lot of this is because of how isolated Putin was, for two years, during the pandemic. And others, who have dealt with him, Condi Rice, and Bob Gates, and James Clapper, have used words, like "Erratic," and "Unhinged," to describe Putin's behavior, today. Do you think Putin is a rational actor?

THE PRESIDENT: I think he is a rational actor who's miscalculated significantly. I think he thought -- you may recall, I pointed out that they were going to invade that all those 100,000 or more troops there? And no one believed that he was going to invade Ukraine. You listen to what he says. If you listen to the speech, he made, after when that decision was being made? He talked about the whole idea of he was needed to be a leader of Russia that united all of a Russian speaker -- I mean, it just -- I just think it's irrational.

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

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

TAPPER: You said the speech is what --

THE PRESIDENT: I think -- I think the speech is.


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

TAPPER: So, you talked about this, a few days ago, the search for an off-ramp for him. Because, his back is against the wall, there are questions about how rational he is. He already was a brutal dictator. What is the off-ramp? Is there any acceptable way that he can leave, in his mind, without seizing territory, in a way that would not be acceptable to Ukraine?

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

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

THE PRESIDENT: Look, I have no intention of meeting with him. But, for example, if he came to me, at the G20, and said, "I want to talk about the release of Griner," I'd meet with him. I mean, it would depend. But I can't imagine -- look, we've taken a position. I just did a G7 meeting this morning. The idea, nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. So, I'm not about to, nor is anyone else prepared to negotiate with Russia, about them, staying in Ukraine, keeping any part of Ukraine et cetera. So, it would depend on specifically what he wanted to talk about. But look, he's acted brutally. He's acted brutally. He, I think, he's committed war crimes. And so, I don't -- I don't see any rationale, to meet with him now.

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


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

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

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

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

TAPPER: Let's turn to Saudi Arabia. Some of your Democratic allies, on Capitol Hill, are afraid that the U.S. got played, when you went to Saudi Arabia, and fist-bumped with the Crown Prince. Because now, obviously, a few months later, Saudi-backed OPEC, is slashing oil production, in partnership with Russia. The Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Menendez, just called for a freeze on cooperation, with Saudi Arabia, including most arms sales. Senator Durbin, the number two Democrat, in the Senate, says the Saudis sided with Russia, against the United States. Do you think it's time, for the U.S., to rethink its relationship, with Saudi Arabia?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. And, by the way, let's get straight why I went. I didn't go to one -- about oil. I went about making sure that we made sure that we weren't going to walk away, from the Middle East, and what was going on. And, by the way, today, I just got off the telephone, with the President of -- I got off the phone, with the Prime Minister of Israel, and the President of Lebanon. They've worked out a deal. They've been at war -- declared war, with one another, for a long time. They've worked out a boundary relationship, along the -- in the Eastern Mediterranean, for oil. And they're going to make an agreement that is historic. We also got overflights, for Israeli planes, over Saudi Arabia. We got movement, in terms of how we would deal in the Middle East, with aggression from Iran. But it wasn't in other -- eight other -- there are eight other parties there. It wasn't about -- it wasn't about oil.

TAPPER: OK. But you would --

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

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

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

TAPPER: The midterm elections are four weeks from today. The economy remains top of mind, for voters. JPMorgan Chase CEO said the U.S. is likely to enter a recession, in the next nine months. Bank of America says the U.S. could start losing 175,000 jobs a month. Gas prices are on the rise again. Should the American people prepare for a recession?

THE PRESIDENT: No. Look, they've been saying this now how -- every six months, they say this. Every six months, they look down the next six months, and say what's going to happen. It hadn't happened yet. It hadn't been -- there has -- there is no -- there's no guarantee that there's going to recession. I don't think there will be a recession. If it is, it'll be a very slight recession. That is, we'll move down slightly. Well, look, think about what's happened. We have done more. We're in a better position than any other major country in the world, economically and politically. We are -- we still have real problems. But look what we got done. We passed so much legislation that significantly it makes a -- makes the point about, for example, the American Rescue Plan, the legislation to deal with inflation, the Inflation Act, we moved along. I mean, there's so much has been accomplished, that the idea that there's something -- there's an automaticity to recession is just not -- is just not there. They keep -- they've been predicting this off and on, for the last 

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

THE PRESIDENT: It is possible. Look, it is possible. I don't anticipate it. But I do think -- look, we talk about the impact on families. The families are, they have reason to be concerned, about energy prices. They have reason to be concerned about a whole range of issues. But look, what we've done. We've been able to -- the Inflation Reduction Act. There's -- look, I know I always quoted my dad. But my dad used to say, "What -- is there any breathing room, for a middle- class family?" And the breathing room is after all the bills are paid, at the end of the month, they have anything left. And there's more than one way to bring down the cost, monthly cost, for people, who in fact are struggling, that to make sure they have -- the ends meet, and they have enough money. And that's what we've done with Inflation Reduction Act. Look, we've reduced drug prices. We've allowed, for the first time, we've been trying for years, to get Medicare to be able to negotiate drug prices. We pay the highest drug price of any nation in the world, any major nation. We are going to be in a situation, where no senior is going to have to pay more than $2,000 a year, for the drugs, no matter how much they cost. We've reduced the price -- we are going to make sure that nobody has to pay more than $35 a month for insulin, et cetera. So, there's so much that we've done. And the same with, on energy. We passed the -- look, what I ran on, I said we're going to deal with energy.

TAPPER: Right.

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


THE PRESIDENT: More now --

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

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I think we do. I know we do. And here's the contrast. We know it -- what's the Republican platform to run on? What are they running on? What are they for? Well, they want to put Social Security, on the chopping block. Every five years, and the other leader comes along, and says, "No, every year, it should be up for grabs." Medicare, Medicaid. I mean, these aren't negotiable items, in terms of whether you're going to have a continuum or not. They -- and they've -- the first thing they said they're going to do is get rid of the Inflation Reduction Act. And so, what's that doing? They're going to raise drug prices, raise medical costs, again, be sure that we're going to no longer be able to have the ability, to have tax credits, for weatherizing your homes, and money?

TAPPER: Right.

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

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

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I'm proud of my son. This is a kid, who got -- not a kid, he's a grown man. And he got hooked on, like many families have had happened, hooked on drugs. He's overcome that. He's established a new life. He is, I'm confident that he is -- what he says, and does, are consistent with what happens.

TAPPER: And, for example, he wrote a book about his problems, and was straightforward about it. I'm proud of him. He came along and said -- by the way, this thing about a gun? I didn't know anything about it. But turns out that when he made application, to purchase a gun, what happened was he said -- I guess, you get asked -- I don't guess.

THE PRESIDENT: You get asked the question, "Are you on drugs? You use drugs?" He said, "No." And he wrote about saying "No," in his book.

TAPPER: Right.

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

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


TAPPER: Whenever anyone raises concerns about your age, the oldest president, in the history of the United States, you always say, "Watch me." Voters have been watching you. Democratic voters approve of the job you're doing. Democratic voters, overwhelmingly, like you. But one poll shows that almost two-thirds of Democratic voters want a new nominee in 2024. And the top reason they gave was your age. So what's your message, to Democrats, who like you, who like what you've done, but are concerned about your age and the demands of the job?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, they're concerned about whether or not I'd get anything done. Look what I've gotten done. Name me a president, in recent history, who's gotten as much done, as I have, in the first two years. Not a joke. You may not like what I got done. But the vast majority of the American people do like what I got done. And so, I just, it's a matter of, can you do the job. And I believe I can do the job. I've been able to do the job. I've gotten more done. I got the Inflation Reduction. I got all these pieces of legislation passed. And I ran on that. I said, this is what I was going to do. And I'm still getting it done. We've had, dealing with, making sure that veterans get compensated for the, for --

TAPPER: The burn pits.

THE PRESIDENT: The burn pits.


THE PRESIDENT: Making sure that we're in a situation, where we finally have action on guns. And, by the way, I'm going to get the assault weapons ban. Before this is over, I'm going to get that. Again, not a joke. And watch. And so, I just think there's a, you know, it's a matter of, has anybody done more, in the first two years of their administration, for a guy, who was -- they've been saying this about my age for -- since I began to run. And so, you know?

TAPPER: You --

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

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

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

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

THE PRESIDENT: I believe I can beat Donald Trump again.

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


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

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

TAPPER: Yes. All right. Thank you, sir.


Joseph R. Biden, Interview with Jack Tapper of CNN Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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