When we spoke with Joe Biden this past week in Wilmington, Delaware, the former vice president was ahead in the polls, but confronting a withering final assault from President Trump. As the presidential campaign enters its final full week, we also had questions for his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris. In our conversation, Joe Biden discussed how much he’d be influenced by progressives within his own party, whether his proposed tax increases would hurt the economy, and how he views the current state of the race.
Norah O’Donnell: With less than two weeks to go before Election Day, you have held a steady lead in the national and state polls, but so did Hillary Clinton four years ago. Could Donald Trump still win this?
Former Vice President Joe Biden: Sure. I’m one of those folks, or competitors, it’s not over till the bell rings. And– I feel superstitious when I predict anything other than gonna be a hard fight. We feel good about where we are. But, you know, I– I don’t underestimate– how he plays.
Norah O’Donnell: What do you mean, you don’t underestimate how he plays?
Former Vice President Joe Biden: Well, you know, there’s an awful lot of talk out there about that– tryin’ to sorta delegitimize the election, all I think designed to make people wonder whether or not they should, whether it’s worth going to vote. Just the intimidation factor. But what really has pleased me is the overwhelming turnout in the states that have early voting.
Norah O’Donnell: Do you think there are a lot of people who are gonna vote for you simply because you’re not Donald Trump?
Former Vice President Joe Biden: Well, I hope there’s gonna be a lotta people who vote for me because of who I am. But I think the contrast between Donald Trump and me is about as stark as it can get in terms of our value set and– how we view the world.
Norah O’Donnell: I was listening to one of your podcasts and you said we need some revolutionary, institutional changes. Like what?
Former Vice President Joe Biden: Well, for example, I think we have to fundamentally change the way in which we deal with– institutional racism. For example– one of the hardest things, beyond police issues, there’s the issue of accumulation of wealth. There’s an awful lot of Black Americans who are equally as– they’re as qualified as white Americans based on the same status they’re in in terms of economic opportunity but they don’t get a chance. So, for example, if we just made every corporation pay minimum 15% tax; you got 91 pay no tax. That raises over $400 billion. I can send every single qualified person to a four-year college in their state for $150 billion. I can make sure every single person who qualifies community college can go and we still have a lotta money left over. That’s what I mean by significant institutional changes.
The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center and others have questioned whether Joe Biden’s corporate minimum tax plan would raise as much money as he estimates. After our interview, Mr. Biden’s staff told us he misspoke and that the cost of free public college could be twice as much as he said.
Norah O’Donnell: The president made the case at the Republican Convention that your administration would be a Trojan horse for liberals. That AOC, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren would actually be controlling policy, that this would become the most liberal administration in U.S. history.
Former Vice President Joe Biden: He’d love to run against them, wouldn’t he? Mr. President, you’re running against Joe Biden. Joe Biden has a deep, steep, and successful record over a long, long time.
But Joe Biden’s running mate’s record is less widely known. Kamala Harris has represented California in the U.S. Senate for almost four years.
Norah O’Donnell: You’re very different in the policies that you’ve supported in the past. You’re considered the most liberal United States senator.
Senator Kamala Harris: I– somebody said that and it actually was Mike Pence on the debate stage. (LAUGH) But–
Norah O’Donnell: Yeah. Well, actually, the nonpartisan GovTrack has rated you as the most liberal senator. You supported the Green New Deal, you supported Medicare for All. You’ve supported legalizing marijuana. Joe Biden doesn’t support those things. So are you gonna bring the policies, those progressive policies that you supported as senator, into a Biden administration?
Senator Kamala Harris: What I will do, and I promise you this, and this is what Joe wants me to do, this was part of our deal, I will always share with him my lived experience as it relates to any issue that we confront. And I promised Joe that I will give him that perspective and always be honest with him.
Norah O’Donnell: And is that a socialist or progressive perspective?
Senator Kamala Harris: (LAUGH) No. No. It is the perspective of– of a woman who grew up– a Black child in America, who was also a prosecutor, who also has a mother who arrived here at the age of 19 from India. Who also, you know, l– likes hip hop. (LAUGH) Like, what do you wanna know? (LAUGH)
Norah O’Donnell: Well, I wanna give you– I wanna give you the opportunity to address this because, at the Republican National Convention, President Trump made the case that Joe Biden is gonna be nothing more than a Trojan Horse for socialist policies, for the left wing of the Democratic party. Are you going to push those policies when you’re vice president of–
Senator Kamala Harris: I am not–
Norah O’Donnell: –of the United States?
Senator Kamala Harris: –gonna be confined to Donald Trump’s definition of who I or anybody else is. And I think America has learned that that would be a mistake.
Norah O’Donnell: So just– just to button that up, because you have fought for Medicare for All. That’s not something that Joe Biden supports. If you become vice president, would you say to a President Biden, “You know what? Let’s– we should really be pushing for Medicare for All, not a public option. That’s just not gonna do it. That’s not my value”?
Senator Kamala Harris: I would not have joined the ticket if I didn’t support what Joe was proposing. And so our plan includes expanding on everything that Joe together with President Obama created with the Affordable Care Act. By contrast, you have Donald Trump, who’s in Court right now trying to get rid of a policy that brought health care to over 20 million people, including protecting people with preexisting conditions. And he’s doing it in the middle of a pandemic that has killed over 215,000 Americans.
Norah O’Donnell: What do you think is the biggest domestic issue America faces?
Former Vice President Joe Biden: Right now, the biggest domestic issue is our health. Right now, COVID. COVID, the way he’s handling COVID is just absolutely totally irresponsible. He’s telling people that we’ve turned the bend, in one of his recent rallies. Well, he’s gone– as my grandpop would say, he’s gone ’round the bend. I mean, we are in real trouble.
Mr. Biden says he would spend up to $200 billion to make sure schools have the equipment and staff they need to re-open safely. He also says he’d make greater use of the Defense Production Act to manufacture and distribute millions of testing kits for COVID-19.
Former Vice President Joe Biden: We should be investigating a great deal more money in testing and tracing. A woman can go in and– to a drugstore and buy a pregnancy test, and find out at home whether or not she’s pregnant. We should be doing the same kind of investment to see whether we’re gonna have testing kits for people to know. It’s not enough to know in seven days or five days or three days whether or not you have COVID.
Norah O’Donnell: But Congress did approve that money for the NIH.
Former Vice President Joe Biden: No, that’s my–
Norah O’Donnell: You’re saying it’s–
Former Vice President Joe Biden: –point, but it’s not there. But they haven’t done it. They haven’t done it.
Norah O’Donnell: People are worried about a national lockdown, and worried about jobs. The president’s advisor now is Dr. Scott Atlas. He is advocating young people go about their business and older people sequester.
Former Vice President Joe Biden: Nobody thinks he makes any sense. Nobody, no serious doc around the world.
Norah O’Donnell: But how do you not lock down the economy?
Former Vice President Joe Biden: You don’t have to lock down the economy. It depends on the community. It depends on where it’s real– in real trouble. And you have to do things that make sense, that make it easier for people to avoid being exposed. Freedom is about making sure that you care about the people you’re around, that they be free too. It’s a patriotism to put this mask on.
Norah O’Donnell: Let’s talk about the economy.
Former Vice President Joe Biden: Yes.
Norah O’Donnell: You are proposing several trillion dollars in new spending over the next decade for economic relief, education, health care. How are you gonna pay for that?
Former Vice President Joe Biden: By righting the tax code. You got billionaires in this country making $700 billion during this crisis. $700 billion.
The former vice president has pledged to undo the Trump tax cuts for corporations and wealthy Americans. He’d raise the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%. He’d also raise taxes on people making more than $400,000 a year, and the top rate would be 39.6%.
Former Vice President Joe Biden: nobody making less than $400,000 will pay a penny more in tax under my proposal.
Norah O’Donnell: That’s a promise?
Former Vice President Joe Biden: That’s a guarantee, a promise. I give you my word as a Biden. That’s an absolute guarantee.
Norah O’Donnell: You think it’s a good idea to raise taxes when the economy’s in dire straits?
Former Vice President Joe Biden: Depending who you’re raising them on. Look, if you’re raising ’em on somebody who’s makin’ $1 billion a year, it’s not a problem that they pay 39.6%, which everybody should pay, raise another $90 billion.
Norah O’Donnell: The president says that’s gonna end up sending jobs overseas.
Former Vice President Joe Biden: He’s sending ’em overseas already. Take a look at what’s happened. We have a trade deficit that’s larger with China than when we were there.
Actually, that depends on how you calculate it. The overall trade deficit with China was slightly lower in 2019 than it was during the last three years of the Obama administration. The Biden and Trump campaigns have been engaged in a running battle over who will be tougher on China.
Norah O’Donnell: Let’s turn to foreign policy. What do you think is the biggest foreign threat that America faces?
Former Vice President Joe Biden: Our lack of standing in the world. Look what he does. He embraces every dictator in sight, and he pokes his finger in the eye of all of our friends. And so what’s happening now is you have– you have the situation in Korea where they have more lethal missiles and they have more capacity than they had before.
Norah O’Donnell: North Korea?
Former Vice President Joe Biden: North Korea. You have a situation in the Gulf where you have Iran closer to a nu– having enough fissile material to get a nuclear weapon than they had before. You have our NATO allies backing away from us because they say, “We can’t count on,” us. So he’s moving away from what has allowed us to bring the world together.
Norah O’Donnell: Which country is the biggest threat to America?
Former Vice President Joe Biden: Well, I think the biggest threat to America right now in terms of breaking up our– our security and our alliances is Russia. Secondly, I think that the biggest competitor is China. And depending on how we handle that will determine whether we’re competitors or we end up being in a more serious competition relating to force.
Domestically, Democrats have lost the competition to control the U.S. Supreme Court.
Mr. Biden is under pressure from his own party to consider increasing the number of justices if elected. It’s called court-packing, and while he’s said he’s no fan of the idea, he’s never completely ruled it out.
Norah O’Donnell: Judge Amy Coney Barrett is on track to become the ninth U.S. Supreme Court justice. That would give the conservatives a six-three majority. If elected, would you move to add more justices to the Supreme Court?
Former Vice President Joe Biden: If elected, what I will do is I’ll put together a national commission of, bipartisan commission of scholars, constitutional scholars, Democrats, Republicans, liberal, conservative. And I will– ask them to over– 180 days come back to me with recommendations as to how to– reform the court system because it’s getting out of whack– the way in which it’s being handled and it’s not about court packing. There’s a number of other things that our constitutional scholars have debated and I’d look to see what recommendations that commission might make.
Norah O’Donnell: This is a live ball?
Former Vice President Joe Biden: Oh, it is a live ball. No, it is a live ball. We’re gonna have to do that. And you’re gonna find there’s a lotta conservative constitutional scholars who are saying it as well. The last thing we need to do is turn the Supreme Court into just a political football, whoever has the most votes gets whatever they want. Presidents come and go. Supreme Court justices stay for generations.
In the closing days of the campaign, Joe Biden has been forced to address new and unverified claims that he was involved in his son Hunter’s foreign business dealings. The president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, says he came into possession of emails allegedly belonging to Hunter Biden and turned them over to the tabloid New York Post.
Mr. Trump and his allies have called for an investigation but the FBI would neither confirm nor deny to 60 Minutes that one was taking place.
Norah O’Donnell: Do you believe the recent leak of material allegedly from Hunter’s computer is part of a Russian disinformation campaign?
Former Vice President Joe Biden: From what I’ve read and know the intelligence community warned the president that Giuliani was being fed disinformation from the Russians. And we also know that Putin is trying very hard to spread disinformation about Joe Biden. And so when you put the combination of Russia, Giuliani– the president, together– it’s just what it is. It’s a smear campaign because he has nothing he wants to talk about. What is he running on? What is he running on?
On the campaign trail, President Donald Trump paints former Vice President Joe Biden as an aging career politician and questions his mental acuity. This past Monday, in our conversation, Mr. Biden frankly discussed his age, his health, and why he believes Kamala Harris stands ready to become president if necessary.
Norah O’Donnell: If elected, you would be the oldest president in American history.
Former Vice President Joe Biden: I’m in good shape.
Norah O’Donnell: 78 years old. 82 after four years. Donald Trump says you have dementia and it’s getting worse.
Former Vice President Joe Biden: Hey, the same guy who thought that the 9/11 attack was a 7-Eleven attack. He’s talkin’ about dementia? All I can say to the American people is watch me, is see what I’ve done, is see what I’m gonna do. Look at me. Compare our physical and mental acuity. I’m happy to have that comparison.
Norah O’Donnell: Your age makes the choice of your vice president all the more important. Why do you think Senator Harris would be ready to step in and become commander-in-chief if something were to happen to you?
Former Vice President Joe Biden: Number one: her values. Number two: She is smart as a devil. Number three: She has a backbone like a ramrod. Number four: She is really principled. And number five: She is– has had significant experience in the largest state in the union, running a Justice Department that’s only second in size to the United States Justice Department. And– you know obviously I– I hope that never becomes a question.
Kamala Harris was the first woman and first Black person to be district attorney of San Francisco, And attorney general of California. And she’s only the second Black woman to serve in the United States Senate.
Norah O’Donnell: Do you think having the first woman of color, the first woman, as vice president may change things?
Senator Kamala Harris: I do. It helps change the perception of who can do what because that is still part of the battle after all. And you imagine some young person then seeing, “Oh, things can be different. I don’t have to conform to whatever I’m– you know, supposed to do or relegated to do. I can imagine what can be and be unburdened by what has been,” you know?
Norah O’Donnell: What kinda role do you think you would play in a Biden administration?
Senator Kamala Harris: Joe Biden’s partner. One of the first things he said was, “I want you to be the first person in the room and the last person in the room.”
Norah O’Donnell: How often do you and Joe Biden speak?
Senator Kamala Harris: Almost every day.
From the moment Joe Biden selected her as his running-mate, Senator Harris has become one of President Trump’s favorite targets.
Norah O’Donnell: On the campaign trail, President Trump has attacked you frequently. He’s called you a monster. He’s said you’re nasty and it would be an insult to our country if you became the first female president. Do you see this as just the rough and tumble of politics, or do you view those attacks against you as racist?
Senator Kamala Harris: Well, this is not the first time in my life I’ve been called names and it– you know, it was predictable, sadly.
Norah O’Donnell: Do you think the president is racist?
Senator Kamala Harris: Yes, I do. (LAUGH) Yeah. I do. You can look at a pattern that goes back to him questioning the identity of the first Black president of the United States. You can look at Charlottesville, when there were peaceful protesters, And on the other side, Neo-Nazis and he talks about fine people on either side. Calling Mexicans rapists and criminals. His first order of business was to institute a Muslim ban. It all speaks for itself.
President Trump has said he denounces racism and white supremacy. After the Black Lives Matter protests that began this summer, the president tried to frame the election as a choice between law and order and Biden and Harris.
Norah O’Donnell: There’s a sense that there’s a divide out there, that in order to address systemic racism that it’s anti-police, that you would not be a law and order president.
Former Vice President Joe Biden: Well, let me put it this way. Number one: I’ve never, ever supported defunding police. Matter of fact, we need to give more funding for police for different reasons. Number two: Any use of violence, burning down stores, smashing windows, that is a crime. People should be arrested. No justification for it. There’s never been a conflict with me between law and order and dignity; they’re one and the same.
Norah O’Donnell: The president said on the stump, “I saved the suburbs. You should– you should thank me.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden: He wouldn’t know a suburb unless he took a wrong turn. Go out in the suburbs now. It’s not 1950. There are Black and white families living next door to one another, drivin’ each other’s kids to soccer practice. this is a different world than he lives in. Look, there’s a lotta reasons people are upset. A lotta good reasons. All he wants to do is take that sort of subliminal fear out there and say, “It’s because– ’cause of that guy, or because of that woman.” That’s not who we are as a country. I w– I mean, this is not who we are. It’s not our value system. You know, “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” We’ve never met it. We’ve never met the standard, but we’ve always gone further and further and further towards– inclusion. This is the first president who’s trying to shut it down. We cannot sustain this democracy that way. We’re so much better than this.
Produced by Andy Court and Keith Sharman. Associate producers, Evie Salomon and Sheena Samu. Broadcast associate, Margaret Hynds. Edited by Michael Mongulla.