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Interview: Lester Holt of NBC News Interviews Joe Biden in Culpeper, Virginia - February 10, 2022

  • Joe Biden
    Person
  • Lester Holt
    Person
Unknown

Note

Unknown
00:00:00-00:00:00 ( sec)
[The following interview was recorded in Culpeper, Virginia on February 10, 2022 and aired in segments on the NBC Nightly News, The Today Show, and prior to the Super Bowl between February 10 and February 13, 2022. NBC News did not release a full transcript, nor did they indicate edits. The following is a transcript pieced together from more than a half-dozen clips and segments that aired from the interview.] 1

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[Where noted, a video edit was present. An edit does not indicate anything has been removed, but in the absence of the full interview, we are flagging each out of an abundance of caution.] 2

Lester Holt

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00:00:00-00:00:16 (17 sec)
Mr. President, in recent days, we've seen numerous governors from blue states roll back indoor mask requirements, essentially getting ahead of the federal government, the CDC. Are those governors wrong? 3

Joe Biden

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00:00:16-00:00:33 (17 sec)
Well, it's hard to say whether they're wrong. Here's -- the science is saying now that masks work, masks make a difference, and there's a relationship. I think there's only one governor drawing back immediately, and most of them are somewhere in February -- I mean, the end of February, March, April, they're set a time limit. 4

Joe Biden

Unknown
00:00:33-00:00:47 (14 sec)
And I assume it has something to do with whether the omicron variant continues to dive fewer and fewer cases and because there is a relationship between the number of cases you have in your community and the need for wear masks. 5

Lester Holt

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00:00:47-00:00:52 (5 sec)
You acknowledge, though, a restlessness and -- and leaders bowing to the political winds. 6

Joe Biden

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00:00:52-00:01:12 (20 sec)
Oh, I do. Omicron and the variants -- all the variants have had a profound impact on the psyche of the American people. I mean, they have -- they've had a profound impact. For example, think of all the kids who didn't get to go to a prom, all those graduations that didn't occur, all the things that -- I mean, it's had a real psychological impact. 7

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00:01:12-00:01:15 (3 sec)
[Edit in Video Interview] 8

Lester Holt

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00:01:15-00:01:19 (4 sec)
Should children be required to wear masks in schools? 9

Joe Biden

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00:01:19-00:01:38 (20 sec)
Well, look, when I got into the office, only 46% of the schools were open. Now, 98% of them are open, and they're wearing masks. What's happening is every day that goes by, children are more protected. We're now on -- on the verge of being able to have shots for children under the age of seven and young children. 10

Joe Biden

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00:01:38-00:01:45 (7 sec)
And -- and so, the more protection they have, probably you're going to see less and less requirement to have the masks. 11

Lester Holt

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00:01:45-00:02:02 (17 sec)
But the CDC hasn't changed its guidance on that. And the question is, with these governors making these moves, does it begin to make the government, the CDC, irrelevant, that -- that people will gravitate toward, you know, the advice that really fits their worldview, that this thing feels like it's over? 12

Joe Biden

Unknown
00:02:02-00:02:29 (27 sec)
Well, look, I think it's one thing to say -- to talk about masks other than to talk about shots and boosters and the like. And -- but it's -- you know, look, it is confusing. It's worrisome to people. They're trying to figure out. But what I've tried to do, I've tried to make sure we have all the vaccines needed, all the boosters needed, all the masks we needed, all the protection that's needed. 13

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00:02:29-00:02:29 ( sec)
[Edit in Video Interview] 14

Lester Holt

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00:02:29-00:02:36 (7 sec)
Are you afraid, though, that some states and -- and cities are moving too quickly to loosen indoor mask mandates? 15

Joe Biden

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00:02:36-00:02:51 (16 sec)
Well, you know, it's -- I've -- I committed that I would follow the science, the science as put forward by the CDC and the -- and the -- and the federal people. And I think it's probably premature, but it's -- you know, it's -- it's a tough call. 16

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00:02:51-00:02:54 (3 sec)
[Edit in Video Interview] 17

Lester Holt

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00:02:54-00:03:02 (8 sec)
Given the --the size of this buildup, has the inertia reached a point where it's inevitable, that they have no choice but to invade? 18

Joe Biden

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00:03:02-00:03:24 (22 sec)
Well, look, I've spoken with Putin. I've spoken with every NATO leader. I brought them together like, I think, they've never been as coordinated in modern history, NATO leaders, about what to do if Putin moves. The question is he knows -- he has to know that if he does, the entire circumstance for Russia changes worldwide, changes overnight. 19

Joe Biden

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00:03:24-00:03:33 (9 sec)
The cost to Russia, both in terms of reputational cost and economic cost, would be profound. 20

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00:03:33-00:03:33 ( sec)
[Edit in Video Interview] 21

Lester Holt

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00:03:33-00:03:45 (11 sec)
What are your plans toward American citizens who are in Ukraine and might be there during an invasion? What scenarios would you put American troops to rescue and get Americans out there? 22

Joe Biden

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00:03:45-00:03:52 (8 sec)
There's not. That's a world war when Americans and Russians start shooting at one another. We're in a very different world than we've ever been in. 23

Lester Holt

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00:03:52-00:03:55 (2 sec)
Not even on behalf of simply evacuating Americans. 24

Joe Biden

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00:03:55-00:04:08 (13 sec)
No. How do you do that? How do you even find them? This is not like -- I'm hoping that if, in fact, he's foolish enough to go in, he's smart enough not to, in fact, do anything that would negatively impact on American citizens. 25

Lester Holt

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00:04:08-00:04:09 (2 sec)
Have you told him that? 26

Joe Biden

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00:04:09-00:04:11 (2 sec)
Yes. 27

Lester Holt

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00:04:11-00:04:18 (7 sec)
You've told him to -- that -- that Americans will be a line that they can't cross. 28

Joe Biden

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00:04:18-00:04:39 (20 sec)
Well, I -- I didn't have to tell him that. He -- I've -- I've spoken about that. He knows that. And, you know, it's a little bit -- look, that's what -- what I've asked is American citizens should leave, should leave now. We're dealing with one of the largest armies in the world. This is a very different situation, and things could go crazy quickly. 29

Lester Holt

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00:04:39-00:05:05 (27 sec)
On the subject of American citizens, I have to draw your attention to that Army report and investigative report that's come out about the lead-up to the withdrawal from Afghanistan. It interviewed many military officials and officers who said the administration ignored the handwriting on the wall. Another described trying to get folks in the embassy ready to evacuate, encountering, you know, people who are essentially in denial of -- of the situation. 30

Lester Holt

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00:05:05-00:05:07 (2 sec)
Does any of that ring true to you? 31

Joe Biden

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00:05:07-00:05:14 (7 sec)
No. No, that's not what I was told. 32

Lester Holt

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00:05:14-00:05:21 (7 sec)
That you were told that the US administration officials were prepared. They knew it was time to get out? 33

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00:05:21-00:05:21 ( sec)
[Edit in Video Interview] 34

Joe Biden

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00:05:21-00:05:41 (20 sec)
No, what I was told -- no one told me that -- look, there was no good time to get out. But if we had not gotten out, they acknowledged that we would have had to put a hell of a lot more troops back in. It wasn't just 2,000, 4,000. We would have to significantly increase the number of troops. And we're back in this -- this war of attrition. 35

Joe Biden

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00:05:41-00:05:58 (17 sec)
And -- and -- and there was no way we were ever going to unite Ukraine. I mean, it's going to be -- or Iraq -- Afghanistan. No way that was going to happen. And so, this is a much wiser thing to do. 36

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00:05:58-00:05:58 ( sec)
[Edit in Video Interview] 37

Lester Holt

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00:05:58-00:06:03 (5 sec)
I just want to clarify, are you rejecting the conclusions or the -- the accounts that are in this Army report? 38

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[Edit in Video Interview] 39

Joe Biden

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00:06:03-00:06:04 (1 sec)
Yes, I am. 40

Lester Holt

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00:06:04-00:06:06 (1 sec)
So, they're not -- not true. 41

Joe Biden

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00:06:06-00:06:10 (4 sec)
I'm rejecting them. 42

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00:06:10-00:06:10 ( sec)
[Edit in Video Interview] 43

Lester Holt

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00:06:10-00:06:26 (16 sec)
We've going to turn to the economy this morning. You woke up to some more negative numbers when it comes to inflation, 7.5%. I think it was back in July, you said inflation was going to be temporary. I think a lot of Americans are wondering what your definition of temporary is. 44

Joe Biden

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00:06:26-00:06:51 (25 sec)
Well, you're being a wise guy with me a little bit, and I understand that's your job. But look, at the time, what happened was the -- let's look at the reason for the inflations. The reason for the inflation is the supply chains were cut off, meaning that the products, for example, automobiles, the lack of computer chips to be able to build those automobiles so they could function. 45

Joe Biden

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00:06:51-00:07:07 (16 sec)
They need those computer chips. They were not available. So, what happens? The number of cars were reduced, the new cars reduced. It made up, at one point, one-third the cost of inflation because the price of automobiles were up. So, what I did when I went out, I made sure we started to make those domestically. 46

Joe Biden

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00:07:07-00:07:17 (10 sec)
We got Intel to come in and provide $20 billion to build a new facility. A number of organizations are doing the same kinds of things. 47

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00:07:17-00:07:17 ( sec)
[Edit in Video Interview] 48

Lester Holt

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00:07:17-00:07:20 (3 sec)
When can Americans expect some relief from this soaring inflation? 49

Joe Biden

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00:07:20-00:07:41 (21 sec)
According to Nobel laureates, 14 of them that contacted me, and a number of corporate leaders, it's ought to be able to start to taper off as we go through this year. In the meantime, I'm going to do everything in my power to deal with the big points that are -- are impacting most people in their homes. 50

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00:07:41-00:07:41 ( sec)
[Edit in Video Interview] 51

Lester Holt

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00:07:41-00:07:56 (15 sec)
You -- you came here to Virginia, a swing district, to talk about prescription drug prices, Build Back Better. What do you see in -- in Build Back Better that gives you confidence it can still happen? What -- what has changed, if anything? 52

Joe Biden

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00:07:56-00:08:15 (19 sec)
Well, I don't think anything has changed, it's that people are now realizing what is in Build Back Better. You know, for example, there's cancer drugs that we have here in the United States that cost 14 bucks -- $14,000 a month. In France, the same exact manufacturer, the same exact drug cost $7,000. 53

Lester Holt

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00:08:15-00:08:22 (6 sec)
When you said people didn't know what was in the -- the bill, is that a messaging problem on -- on your behalf? 54

Joe Biden

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00:08:22-00:08:23 (2 sec)
Yes. Yeah, I think it was. 55

Lester Holt

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00:08:23-00:08:24 (1 sec)
You -- you haven't sold it well, you think? 56

Joe Biden

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00:08:24-00:08:33 (8 sec)
No, I -- I think I haven't sold it well. I like the way you phrase things. I haven't sold it well, but the point is we've moved the economy more than it's ever been moved. 57

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00:08:33-00:08:36 (3 sec)
[Edit in Video Interview] 58

Lester Holt

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00:08:36-00:08:51 (15 sec)
You -- you came here to Virginia, a swing district, to talk about prescription drug prices, Build Back Better. What do you see in -- in Build Back Better that gives you confidence it can still happen? What -- what has changed, if anything? 59

Joe Biden

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00:08:51-00:09:10 (19 sec)
Well, I don't think anything has changed, it's that people are now realizing what is in Build Back Better. You know, for example, there's cancer drugs that we have here in the United States that cost 14 bucks -- $14,000 a month. In France, the same exact manufacturer, the same exact drug cost $7,000. 60

Lester Holt

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00:09:10-00:09:17 (6 sec)
When you said people didn't know what was in the -- the bill, is that a messaging problem on -- on your behalf? 61

Joe Biden

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00:09:17-00:09:18 (2 sec)
Yes. Yeah, I think it was. 62

Lester Holt

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00:09:18-00:09:19 (1 sec)
You -- you haven't sold it well, you think? 63

Joe Biden

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00:09:19-00:09:28 (9 sec)
No, I -- I think I haven't sold it well. I like the way you phrase things. I haven't sold it well, but the point is we've moved the economy more than it's ever been moved. 64

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00:09:28-00:09:28 ( sec)
[Edit in Video Interview] 65

Lester Holt

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00:09:28-00:09:42 (14 sec)
Can I ask you where you stand right now in your nomination process for Supreme Court? What your shortlist looks like, or if you want to name the nominee right here, we'd -- we'd be happy to hear you. 66

Joe Biden

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00:09:42-00:09:48 (6 sec)
Well, first of all, the shortlist are nominees who are incredibly well qualified and documented. 67

Lester Holt

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00:09:48-00:09:52 (4 sec)
What's the number you're at, four, five, six? 68

Joe Biden

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00:09:52-00:10:04 (12 sec)
Well, what I've done is I've taken about four people and done the deep dive on them, meaning this thorough background checks, and see if there's anything in the background that would make them not qualified. 69

Lester Holt

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00:10:04-00:10:08 (4 sec)
Is it important that you believe they'll get a vote from the Republican side? 70

Joe Biden

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00:10:08-00:10:31 (23 sec)
Well, I -- I think whomever I think will get a vote from the Republican side for the following reason. I'm not looking to make an ideological choice. I'm looking for someone to replace Judge Breyer with the same kind of capacity Judge Breyer have, with an open mind, who understands the Constitution, interprets it in a way that is consistent with the mainstream interpretation of the Constitution. 71

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00:10:31-00:10:34 (3 sec)
[Edit in Video Interview] 72

Lester Holt

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00:10:34-00:10:58 (23 sec)
You were interviewed a year ago about the Super Bowl, and you expressed hope that, come this year, that they'd be able to fill the stands again with people. And that apparently is going to be the case. However, many of those people won't be wearing masks despite the -- the local law in Los Angeles. What is your message to people who want desperately for this to be over and to be able to resume the lives that they remember? 73

Joe Biden

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00:10:58-00:11:26 (29 sec)
Well, look, I love how people talk about personal freedom. If you're exercising personal freedom -- freedom, put someone else in jeopardy, their health in jeopardy, I don't consider that being very -- dealing with freedom. It's about moving in a direction you know is likely to diminish the prospects that this virus continues to spread. 74

Joe Biden

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00:11:26-00:11:48 (22 sec)
And so, I -- I think people should get the shots. We know the shots work. We know they work for the kind -- for the -- the variants that are available or that we are dealing with now. We know we have so many more tools at our disposal to prevent death and prevent serious illness. And I -- I just think they should be careful. 75

Joe Biden

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00:11:48-00:11:53 (5 sec)
And if they're not careful for themselves, at least think of their children, think of their, you know, their families. 76

Lester Holt

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00:11:53-00:12:07 (14 sec)
Once again, Super Bowl, another controversy over the NFL. This is about alleged racial hiring practices. Do you think the NFL, because of its -- its broad influence, should be held to a higher standard when it comes to issues like this? 77

Joe Biden

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00:12:07-00:12:30 (23 sec)
Well, I think it should be held to a reasonable standard. And, you know, the commissioner pointed out, they haven't lived up to what they committed to and lived up to being open about hiring more minorities to run teams. And whether or not -- you know, Goodell says they're going to take a look at what -- whether they can meet the standard. 78

Joe Biden

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00:12:30-00:13:02 (31 sec)
And the standard was set by, you know, someone who said this is something we should do. Think about it. It's -- I think it's -- the whole idea that a league that is made up of so many athletes of color, as well as so diverse, that there's not enough African American qualified coaches to "to manage" these NFL teams, it just seems to me that it's a standard that -- that they want to live up to. 79

Joe Biden

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00:13:02-00:13:08 (6 sec)
I don't know. It's not a requirement of law, but it is a requirement, I think, of some just generic decency. 80

Lester Holt

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00:13:08-00:13:14 (6 sec)
You can't wrap up an interview like this without asking, Cincinnati or Los Angeles? 81

Joe Biden

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00:13:14-00:13:30 (16 sec)
Well, my teams are out. And I -- I love this young quarterback from Cincinnati. He's an Ohio boy, can make everybody happy. But we also have some -- you know, I think Los Angeles is going to be hard to beat. 82

Lester Holt

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00:13:30-00:13:33 (3 sec)
Mr. President, you've been generous with your time. Thank you so much for sitting down with us. 83

Joe Biden

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00:13:33-00:13:34 (1 sec)
Thank you. 84