CNN town hall with President Biden

By Melissa Macaya and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 1423 GMT (2223 HKT) July 22, 2021
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10:21 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Key takeaways from tonight's CNN town hall with President Biden

(Maddie McGarvey for CNN)
(Maddie McGarvey for CNN)

President Biden took questions tonight at CNN's town hall in Ohio on a number of key issues affecting Americans today.

He talked about infrastructure, voting rights, the economy and the Covid-19 pandemic. Biden also blasted critics who continue to downplay the Jan. 6 insurrection.

In case you missed tonight's town hall, here are some of the key takeaways:

  • Infrastructure: Biden said he believes that the current infrastructure bill will move forward after Monday's procedural vote. He went on to say that he still believes bipartisanship can produce results in Congress, but conceded that the Trump-era did severe damage to working across the aisle.
  • Voting rights and the filibuster: Biden also said that he wants to sign federal voting rights with GOP support. Biden acknowledged that the rule is a relic of the Jim Crow era, but added, "There's no reason to protect it other than you're going to throw the entire Congress into chaos and nothing will get done, nothing at all will get done. And there's a lot at stake."
  • The economy: He said fears about inflation are legitimate but added that he believes the chances of long-term inflation are slim. "The vast majority of the experts, including Wall Street, are suggesting that it's highly unlikely that it's going to be long-term inflation that's going to get out of hand," Biden said. "There will be near-term inflation because everything is now trying to be picked back up," he added. The President also said certain hospitality industries may continue to struggle. "I think your business and the tourist business is really going to be in a bind for a little while," Biden told the owner and co-founder of a restaurant group.
  • The Jan. 6 insurrection: Biden continued to call for an investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection, saying, “I don’t care if you think I’m Satan reincarnate, the fact is you can’t look at that television and say, nothing happened on the 6th."
  • Immigration: Biden once again pledged to fight for DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, telling CNN's Don Lemon that he's "not letting this go." While speaking about Dreamers, Biden sternly said: "They come here with really no choice and they're good, good people."

Read more takeaways from tonight's town hall here.

10:16 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Biden "led people astray" with Covid-19 answer, CNN medical analyst says

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

President Biden's answers on Covid-19 during tonight's CNN town hall were "disappointing," and did not meet the changing "realities of what is happening on the ground," CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen said.

"I was actually disappointed by President Biden's... answers tonight," she said. "I actually thought he was answering questions as if it were a month ago."

In particular, Wen took issue with Biden's incorrect claims that you cannot contract Covid-19 or the Delta variant if you are vaccinated. 

"We're not in a position where we think that any virus including the Delta virus which is much more transmissible and more deadly in terms of non-vaccinated people — the various shots that people are getting now, cover that. You're okay. You're not going to — you're not going to get Covid if you have these vaccinations," Biden said during the town hall.

Wen told CNN's Anderson Cooper that many unknown answers remain related to Covid-19, and that it is still not known how well protected vaccinated individuals are from mild illness.

"We actually don't know the answers to a lot of questions. He was talking about how if you get the vaccine, you're well-protected from having severe disease. That's true. But we actually don't know how well you're protected from mild illness, and whether with the Delta variant, if you're vaccinated, could you still be contagious to other people. We do not know the answer to that, and I actually thought it was irresponsible," Wen said.

"We know the vaccine reduces your likelihood of carrying the virus and the amount of virus that you would carry. But with the Delta variant, a person infected with the Delta variant, carries 1,000 times the amount of virus compared to previous variants. And so that's the problem. We don't actually know about this transmission question," she continued.

Wen went on to say Biden had actually "led people astray when he said 'if you are vaccinated you can take off your mask,'" she said.

"We don't know that," she said. "I think he let go of a very important opportunity tonight."

9:58 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Biden describes what it felt like to hear "Hail to the Chief" for the first time as President

From CNN's Jason Kurtz

Six months into his term, President Biden admits that there are some aspects of the job he's still getting accustomed to.

"The first time I walked downstairs and they played 'Hail to the Chief,' I went, 'Where is he?'" Biden shared during tonight's town hall, a nod to the eight years he spent in the White House as vice president while the famous commander-in-chief theme was played for then-President Barack Obama.

"It's a great tune but you feel a little self-conscious. You think I'm kidding. I'm not," Biden said. "I am not at all self-conscious about the power that goes with the office as it relates to resolving issues," The President continued.

At 78, Biden is the oldest President in American history. However, he says, his robust political resume has him more prepared for the job than any leader that preceded him.

"These are issues I've dealt with my whole life. Whether I'm good or bad I have more experience coming into office than anyone who's ever held that office," Biden said.

On a lighter note, Biden revealed that he often gives the White House food service staff the mornings off so he can kickstart his day in a more casual wardrobe.

"I think they love us," Biden said, explaining that he often advises the team to not come in for breakfast.

"We can get our own breakfast. I like to walk out in my robe and go in," the President said.

Watch the moment:

11:58 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Biden on Dreamers: They should be able to stay in the United States

From CNN's Allie Malloy and Maureen Chowdhury

President Biden addressed the immigration status of Dreamers during tonight's town hall and said, "They should be able to stay in the United States of America."

Biden once again pledged to fight for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), telling CNN's Don Lemon that he's "not letting this go." 

Biden was the most animated at the CNN town hall while speaking about Dreamers and DACA, saying, "They come here with really no choice and they're good, good people."

"We're going to make sure that a number of my Republican colleagues say they support the right of Dreamers to come. ... They should be able to stay in the United States of America," the President said.

On Friday, a federal judge in Texas ruled that DACA, the Obama-era program shielding certain undocumented immigrants from deportation, is illegal and blocked new applicants.

The ruling from Judge Andrew Hanen would bar future applications. It does not immediately cancel current permits for hundreds of thousands of people — though it once again leaves them in devastating legal limbo and is a reminder of the uncertainty they face.

DACA, created in 2012, was intended to provide temporary reprieve to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children — a group often described as "Dreamers" — many of whom are now adults.

But almost a decade since the program was established, DACA is still one of the only signs of potential relief for undocumented immigrants looking to remain and work in the US.

Congress remains the only body that can provide a permanent solution for DACA recipients through legislation, but immigration legislation has been stalled for years and Democrats immediately called for action given Friday's order.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez, Tierney Sneed and Rachel Janfaza contributed reporting to this post. 

Watch the moment:

11:54 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Biden: Immigrants seeking asylum in the US should start process from their home countries 

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

(Maddie McGarvey for CNN)
(Maddie McGarvey for CNN)

President Biden explained his administration's stance on immigration and its policy for asylum seekers, saying that people should not come to the US to seek refugee status, but instead to do so from their home countries.

"They should not come. What we're trying to set up in the countries like, and in particular the northern triangle, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, et cetera. We are setting up in those countries, if you seek asylum in the United States you can seek it from the country, from ... in place. You can seek it from an American embassy. You can go in and seek and see whether or not you qualify," Biden explained.

Biden said that his administration has significantly increased the number of officers who can hear immigration cases to see whether or not asylum seekers qualify under the law to come to the US as a refugee.

"That's what we've done," Biden said.

Biden noted that his administration is looking to bring in more immigrants from Afghanistan by providing visas to those Afghans tho assisted US military during the war and are now in danger from the Taliban.

"So, we're providing for them to be able to see whether they qualify to meet this special requirement to be able to come to the United States as a refugee and as ultimately earning citizenship here," the President said.

9:30 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Biden opens up about his son's recovery from drug addiction as he calls for more resources

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

(Maddie McGarvey for CNN)
(Maddie McGarvey for CNN)

President Biden tonight cited his own son's recovery from drug addiction in calling for more federal resources to be dedicated for Americans who find themselves with their own addictions. 

"I am damn proud of my son who overcame being addicted and he did it and he's doing it and he's in good shape, thank God," said Biden of his son Hunter. 

"We don't have nearly enough people involved in mental health and drug addiction services," continued Biden. "...We shouldn't be sending people to jail for use. We should be sending them to mandatory rehabilitation... they should be getting treatment while they are in jail."

"We have to deal with the idea of addiction by providing for what we all know: it's a disease of the brain... and has to be treated as such," he said.

Drug overdose deaths rose by close to 30% in the United States in 2020, hitting the highest number ever recorded, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week.

More than 93,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2020, according to provisional data released by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. That's a 29.4% increase from the 72,151 deaths projected for 2019.

9:30 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Biden says efforts by GOP legislators to curb voting rights are "Jim Crow on steroids"

From CNN's DJ Judd

(Maddie McGarvey for CNN)
(Maddie McGarvey for CNN)

President Biden blasted efforts by Republican legislators to curb voting rights during a CNN town hall Wednesday, calling it “Jim Crow on steroids,” while still maintaining his support for the legislative filibuster which stands in the way of Democrats passing federal legislation on a party-line basis. 

“I stand by what I said — never before has there been an attempt by state legislatures to take over the ability to determine who won — not count the votes, determine who won,” Biden warned.

“With election officials across the board that they're deciding to push out of the way, and if in fact tomorrow, as they say, we're running last time and these laws had been in effect, that are these changes, in Georgia, the Georgia legislature says, ‘Oh, Biden won by multiple thousand votes,’ they could say, ‘We don't think it was legit,’ and the state legislature votes, ‘We're gonna send electors up to Congress to vote for Trump, not Biden’ — That’s never ever ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever been tried before. This is Jim Crow on steroids, what we're talking about,” Biden said. 

The President pointed to what he described as “the abuse of the filibuster,” calling the use of the filibuster “pretty overwhelming."

Pressed by CNN’s Don Lemon, the President maintained that, despite the severity of the threat to voting rights, he would not support nuking the legislative filibuster. 

“I want to make sure we bring along, not just all the Democrats, we bring along Republicans who I know know better, they know better than this,” Biden said. “And what I don't want to do is get wrapped up right now, and the argument was that this is all about the filibuster, or look, the American public, you can't stop them from voting.”

“There's no reason to protect [the filibuster], other than you're going to throw the entire Congress into chaos, nothing will get done, right? Nothing at all will get done, and there’s a lot at stake,” Biden added.

Some more context: State lawmakers have enacted nearly 30 laws since the 2020 election that restrict ballot access, according to a new tally as of June 21 by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.

The 28 total laws in 17 states mark a new record for restrictive voting laws since 2011, when the Brennan Center recorded 19 laws enacted in 14 state legislatures.

9:20 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Biden was just asked about the latest legal blow to DACA. Here are key things to know.

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez, Tierney Sneed and Rachel Janfaza

(CNN)
(CNN)

President Biden is being asked about the latest legal blow to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy (DACA), the Obama-era program shielding certain undocumented immigrants from deportation.

A federal judge in Texas on Friday ruled that DACA is illegal and blocked new applicants.

The ruling from Judge Andrew Hanen would bar future applications. It does not immediately cancel current permits for hundreds of thousands of people — though it once again leaves them in devastating legal limbo and is a reminder of the uncertainty they face.

DACA, created in 2012, was intended to provide temporary reprieve to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children — a group often described as "Dreamers" — many of whom are now adults.

But almost a decade since the program was established, DACA is still one of the only signs of potential relief for undocumented immigrants looking to remain and work in the US.

Hanen, an appointee of President George W. Bush, ruled that Congress had not granted the Department of Homeland Security the authority to create DACA and that it prevented immigration officials from enforcing removal provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

But he noted that DACA is part of the current American fabric.

"Hundreds of thousands of individual DACA recipients, along with their employers, states, and loved ones, have come to rely on the DACA program," Hanen wrote in a separate ruling Friday night. "Given those interests, it is not equitable for a government program that has engendered such a significant reliance to terminate suddenly."

President Biden on Saturday called the ruling "deeply disappointing" and said the US Department of Justice intends to appeal the decision.

Congress remains the only body that can provide a permanent solution for DACA recipients through legislation, but immigration legislation has been stalled for years and Democrats immediately called for action given Friday's order.

Read more about the ruling here.

9:37 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Biden: There's no reason to protect the filibuster except that it would throw Congress into chaos

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

(CNN)
(CNN)

President Biden said that he doesn't believe the filibuster has to be completely removed for voting rights legislation to move forward.

Biden acknowledged that abuse of the filibuster has been "pretty overwhelming" recently and that he would like to revert back to the rule of where lawmakers had to "maintain the floor" in order to use it.

Pressed by CNN's Don Lemon on how the filibuster has been historically used to disenfranchise people of color and if the filibuster is more important than protecting people's voting rights, Biden said, "No, it's not."

Biden acknowledged that the rule is a relic of the Jim Crow era, but added, "There's no reason to protect it other than you're going to throw the entire Congress into chaos and nothing will get done, nothing at all will get done. And there's a lot at stake."

Biden also said that he wants to sign federal voting rights with GOP support.

"What I also want to do, I want to make sure we bring along not just all the Democrats, we bring along Republicans who I know, know better. They know better than this. What I don't want to do is get wrapped up ... in the argument whether or not this is all about the filibuster," Biden said.

Biden added, "The American public, you can't stop them from voting. More people voted last time than any time in American history in the middle of the worst pandemic in history, more people did. And they showed up. They're going to show up again. They're going to do it again. But what I want to do is I'm trying to bring the country together. And I don't want the debate to only be about whether or not we have a filibuster or exceptions to the filibuster or going back to the way the filibuster had to be used before."

Watch the moment: