Biden on ’60 Minutes’: ‘The pandemic is over’
Biden’s insistence Sunday night on ending the pandemic surprised many of his own health officials. The statement was not part of his planned remarks ahead of the “60 Minutes” interview, two administration officials familiar with the matter told POLITICO.
Later in the interview, Biden made it clear that he does not take the overall impact of the pandemic lightly.
“The impact on the psyche of the American people as a result of the pandemic is profound,” he said. “Think about how that changed everything. You know, people’s attitudes about themselves, their families, about the state of the nation, about the state of their communities. And so there’s a lot of uncertainty there, a lot of uncertainty, and we lost a million people.
Biden’s statement was the most specific he has made on the pandemic since he took the presidency in January 2021. He was less definitive when asked if he plans to seek re-election.
“Is it a firm decision that I run again? That remains to be seen,” Biden said, saying he would make his decision after the November midterms.
He qualified his remarks by saying it had always been his “intention” to seek another term and explained that “election laws” would come into play if he were to announce his candidacy at this stage.
In the interview, parts of which were recorded at the White House before Biden flew to Britain to attend Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, the president also said he was surprised to see photographing top-secret documents on the floor of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, calling Trump “totally irresponsible.”
The president said his first thought was, “How could this happen” and added, “I thought: What data was there that could compromise sources and methods?”
Biden said he avoided trying to work out the specifics of what was in the documents Trump had, leaving it up to the Justice Department to sort out the matter. Biden said he was unaware the FBI planned to search Mar-a-Lago for classified documents, a search that has led to an ongoing legal battle between Trump and the Justice Department.
“I didn’t ask for the details of those documents,” Biden told Pelley, “because I don’t want to get in the middle of whether or not the Justice Department should act on certain actions he might take.”
The interview was Biden’s first as president on “60 Minutes,” which launched its 55th season Sunday night. Biden also touched on a range of other topics, including inflation (“I tell the American people we’re going to get inflation under control”), his mental acumen, his approval ratings, and international hot spots including the Ukraine and Taiwan.
Biden claimed US forces would defend Taiwan if China were to launch an invasion. US policy towards Taiwan has been much less specific on this point since the 1970s, when the US recognized China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory.
“Would US forces defend the island? Pelley asked.
“Yes, if in fact there was an unprecedented attack,” Biden said.
Biden has in the past made similar comments about Taiwan, which have upset Beijing. This comment was his least ambiguous to date. They follow a visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan last month, which led to China suspending several dialogues with the United States and conducting military exercises around the island.
The White House has repeatedly backtracked on these Biden comments, saying that US policy has not changed.
Nahal Toosi contributed to this report.