Politics Chat: Biden's Balancing Act
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
A month after a former staffer accused Senator Joe Biden of sexual assault, the Democratic front-runner is now speaking out publicly about the charges, and he's firmly denying them. President Trump, who dozens of women have charged with assault and harassment, seems to have come to Biden's defense. Speaking with conservative radio host Dan Bongino on Friday, Trump told Biden to just go out and fight it.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You know, it's his problem, but I like to get in front of it. And I just deny it. If it's not true, you deny it.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Biden's accuser, Tara Reade, has backed out of an interview with Fox News today, saying she has received death threats. Joining us now is national political correspondent Mara Liasson.
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MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And good morning to your dog. More seriously, though, Reade last month accused Biden of assaulting her 27 years ago when she was a Senate staffer. It was only on Friday that Biden finally addressed the charges. Your assessment.
LIASSON: Biden was trying to walk a very careful line on Friday. He emphatically denied the charges. But he also had to maintain his position as a Democrat who's a strong supporter of the #MeToo movement who believes women's voices should be heard, not dismissed. So he gave an interview to the MSNBC show "Morning Joe." He insisted that the claims had to be taken seriously and properly vetted. Here's what he said.
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JOE BIDEN: Women have a right to be heard, and the press should rigorously investigate claims they make. I'll always uphold that principle. But in the end, in every case, the truth is what matters. And in this case, the truth is the claims are false.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mara, one things supporters of Biden note is that, unlike President Trump, with Joe Biden, there's no pattern of women charging sexual assault or saying that he raped them. We still don't know, though, what's in the complaint that Reade said she filed. What do we know, Mara?
LIASSON: What we do know is that Reade has told several news organizations that she doesn't have a copy of the complaint she says she filed. She says that even if she did, the complaint would not include the charge of sexual assault or harassment that she is now describing. She did recently file a report with the D.C. police. We haven't seen that report yet.
But the missing piece is this earlier complaint from 27 years ago. Joe Biden says the complaint, if it exists, would be in the National Archives because that's where all the documents from this former Senate office where you would go to complain about things like that are held. And he is calling for the Archives to release any report that she might have filed. But he says he and his staff have no recollection of any complaint like it.
Now, as for how it's affecting the campaign, as you heard, Donald Trump's reaction was pretty interesting, telling Biden he should just deny it. He did not jump on this and say that Biden is a senile socialist predator. He's also said it could be a false accusation. He says he knows about false accusations because he's been falsely accused. So he - Trump is not weaponizing this claim. Instead, it sounds like he's identifying with Biden's situation.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Let's take a look at another big story in Washington - Congress. Are they actually coming back? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is planning to start a Senate session on Monday. But some senators are still worried - and quite rightly so - about convening during a pandemic.
LIASSON: Yes, and one of the reasons is that the Capitol attending physician, Brian Monahan, has said that he cannot test all 100 senators. He doesn't have the resources. That's a striking comment, given the White House's repeated assurances the tests are available to anyone who needs one.
Then the White House offered some COVID tests to Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell. But in a rare show of unity, both of them declined in a joint statement, saying they didn't want to take resources away from others who needed tests. The president didn't like that at all, and he responded in a tweet, saying, maybe they need a new doctor over there. Crazy Nancy will use this as an excuse to not show up - even though it was a statement from both of them.
So as of now, the Republican Senate will meet tomorrow. The Democratic House is not back, just like the red-blue divide about opening up all across the country. And we don't know yet exactly how Congress is going to function.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: With a lot on their plate, including a lot of money that's supposed to be disbursed.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Mara Liasson, NPR's national political correspondent.
LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.