In an interview that aired Friday morning on NBC’s “Today” show, President Joe Biden said schools should fully reopen this fall, insisted that his administration has gained control of the surge of unaccompanied migrant children and denied having any advanced knowledge of the raid on Rudy Giuliani’s home and office.
What You Need To Know
- In an interview with NBC's "Today" show, President Joe Biden said schools "should probably" be fully reopened this fall
- The president also said his administration has gained control of the surge of unaccompanied migrant children
- Biden insisted he had no advanced knowledge of the raid on the home and apartment of Rudy Giuliani this week, saying the Justice Department acts independently
- First lady Jill Biden joined part of the interview and confirmed that the Bidens will soon get a cat
Biden also credited his COVID-19 relief package for the strength of the economy and agreed with Republican Sen. Tim Scott’s assertion that America is not a racist country. Biden and first lady Jill also announced they’re getting a new pet.
Biden had set a goal for the majority of K-8 schools to reopen to five-day-a-week, in-person classes by his 100th day in office, which was Thursday. It’s unclear if that promise was met, but the president said there is no reason virtual or hybrid learning should be employed this fall.
“Based on science in the CDC, they should probably all be open,” Biden said in the interview, which was recorded Thursday. “There's not overwhelming evidence there's much transmission among these young people.”
Arguably the challenge the Biden administration has struggled the most to address in its first 100 days was the surge of unaccompanied minors at the southwest border. Biden refused to turn children back, creating a crowding problem at jail-like Border Patrol facilities, as the administration scrambled to find more humane accommodations run by the Department of Health and Human Services and U.S.-based sponsors, most often family members.
Biden said the number of children in Border Patrol custody is down “dramatically,” but did not provide numbers.
“We've now gotten control,” the president said.
Citing a White House official, CNN reported Thursday that 954 children are in CBP facilities, down 83% from a peak of 5,767 on March 28.
Biden blamed the Trump administration’s lack of cooperation during the transition process for the problems at the border.
“The two departments that didn't give us access to virtually anything were the immigration and Defense Department,” he said. “We didn't find out they had fired a whole lot of people, that they were understaffed considerably.”
Biden added: “They didn't plan for which it comes every year, this flow. … And they didn't have beds that were available. They didn't plan for the overflow. They didn't plan for the Department of Health and Human Services to have places to take the kids from the Border Patrol and put them in beds, where there’s security and there are people that could take care of them. So there's a significant change right now, significant change in the circumstance for children coming to and at the border.”
Biden also was asked if he knew in advance that federal investigators planned to raid the Manhattan home and office of Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and personal attorney to former President Donald Trump.
Federal agents seized electronic devices from Giuliani on Wednesday. Law enforcement officials told The Associated Press the investigation into Giuliani at least partly involves his business dealings in Ukraine, where he traveled in 2019 to dig up dirt on Biden and his son, Hunter.
“I give you my word, I was not (aware of the plans to conduct the raid),” Biden said. “I made a pledge: I would not interfere in any way, order or try to stop any investigation the Justice Department had underway. I learned about that last night when the rest of the world learned about it.
“I'm not asking him to briefed,” he added. “That's the Justice Department's independent judgment. This last administration politicized the Justice Department so badly so many of them quit. The Justice Department is the people's lawyer, not the president's lawyer.”
“Today” co-host Craig Melvin questioned Biden about his big spending proposals — including $2.3 trillion on infrastructure and $1.8 trillion on education, child care and paid family leave. Melvin asked the president why he’s pushing for such spending and new taxes on the wealthy while the economy is still recovering from the pandemic recession.
“That's the reason why it's recovering — because we're investing,” Biden asserted. “Look how rapidly it's recovered since we passed the last piece of legislation. And that legislation was $1.9 trillion. If we don't invest in this country … we're going to fall behind even further.”
The president said his infrastructure proposal, also known as the American Jobs Plan, is needed because “there's certain things only the government can do.”
“We rank No. 8 in the world in terms of infrastructure, for God's sake,” Biden said. “Is the private sector going to go out and build billions of dollars worth of highways, ports, airports, bridges? Are they going to do that?”
Biden gave the NBC interview a day after he delivered his first address to a joint session of Congress. Following that speech, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina gave the Republicans’ rebuttal, in which he said “America is not a racist country” and accused Democrats of using race as a “political weapon.” Scott is the only Black Republican in the Senate.
Asked about Scott’s comments, Biden said he doesn’t believe the American people are racist, but that the country is still working to overcome its racist past.
“I think after 400 years, African Americans have been left in a position where they're so far behind the eight ball in terms of education, health, in terms of opportunity,” he said. “I don't think America is racist, but I think the the overhang from all of the Jim Crow and, before that, slavery have had a cost, and we have to deal with it.”
Biden was joined for part of the interview by his wife. When the conversation turned to pets — including dog Major’s White House biting incidents — Jill Biden confirmed the first family will soon add a cat.
The first lady said a cat is “waiting in the wings,” but provided few details. She did reveal the cat is a female and that Major underwent training in which he was exposed to cats in a shelter.
“He did fine,” she said.
The president noted that cat was not his idea.