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Biden highlights U.S. role in fighting global pandemic during overseas trip

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During his first overseas trip, President Biden outlined a plan to donate 500 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to lower-income nations to help end the global pandemic. CBS News senior White House and political correspondent Ed O'Keefe, Washington Post deputy Washington editor Natalie Jennings, and Axios politics reporter Sarah Mucha join "Red and Blue" anchor Elaine Quijano with more on that, plus the new Atlantic Charter agreement and progress on a bipartisan infrastructure deal.

Video Transcript


ELAINE QUIJANO: Hi, everyone. I'm Elaine Equiano. It's good to be with you. Thanks for joining us. During his first trip overseas, President Biden is focused on the role the US can play in helping to end the global pandemic. Speaking in the UK on Thursday, he outlined plans to purchase half a billion doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to share with low and middle income countries. The president said it will be the largest single purchase of vaccines by any country. He insisted there are, quote, "no strings attached."

JOSEPH BIDEN: America will be the arsenal of vaccines in our fight against COVID-19. Just as America was the arsenal of democracy during World War II. This is a monumental commitment by the American people. As I said, we're a nation full of people who step up at times of need to help our fellow human beings, both at home and abroad. We're not perfect, but we step up.

ELAINE QUIJANO: President Biden said the G7 nations will announce the full scope of their commitment to global vaccine efforts during the summit on Friday. Earlier in the day, he met with Prime Minister Boris Johnson to reaffirm ties between the US and the UK. Together, they signed a revamped version of the 1941 Atlantic Charter, outlining eight key areas that countries plan to collaborate on.

Back in Washington a bipartisan group of senators say they've struck a deal on infrastructure. It does not include any tax increases, which could be a tough sell for Democrats. The group of 10 senators still needs to share the proposal with their respective caucuses in the White House to see if there is broader support.

For more on all of this, let's bring in Ed O'Keefe, Natalie Jennings, and Sarah Mucha. Ed is CBS News Sr. White House and political correspondent. Natalie is Deputy Washington Editor at The Washington Post. And Sarah is a politics reporter for Axios. Welcome to you all. Sarah, let me start with you. How much will it cost the US to purchase these 500 million vaccine doses and who will be receiving them?

SARAH MUCHA: Well, as you mentioned, President Biden is clearly making this commitment, showcasing just how important combating the pandemic is. This is going to go to about 100 lower and middle class countries. And by committing to these doses, President Biden said that he is focused on expanding over the next two years, growing the global economy, and making sure that the United States is a leader in that effort.

That is a general broad theme that we've seen across the board, across this trip for the president. And he wants to make sure that the world knows that America is back. And that's something that we saw right when he assumed office as well. So by taking the lead and by distributing or promising these vaccine doses, that's one way that he's showing or exemplifying this goal of his.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Well, Ed, before this trip, President Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson did not have the friendliest relationship. President Biden once called Johnson the, quote, "physical and emotional clone" of former President Trump. So what is it they don't see eye to eye on? And where have we been seeing some agreement between them?

ED O'KEEFE: Yeah, perhaps the biggest, most obvious disagreement was on Brexit. Johnson, of course, was a supporter of it. Biden was actively advocating against it. And remember, Brexit, once it was approved, was kind of an early signal of what was perhaps to come in the United States given the sort of populist wave that overtook the United Kingdom as well.

But today, they seem to get along just fine. They talked about COVID relief and the things that the countries-- the two countries will do to provide the rest of the developing world with more vaccine. They took a sharpie, and a highlighter, and a razor to the Atlantic Charter, which is the document that governs the relationship between the two. And as one of our producers here in Washington put it, they renewed their wedding vows, so to speak, between the United States and the UK, added a few lines about climate change, and fighting extremism and whatnot around the world.

And you know, they'll go into tomorrow's G7 meetings pretty much on the same page when it comes to all the issues that face the biggest democracies and economies in the world, and what needs to be done to combat, not only the pandemic, but extremism around the world, and to preserve and bolster democracies across the globe as well.

ELAINE QUIJANO: All right. Well, Natalie, the president will attend the G7 summit on Friday. Next week, he'll finish his first foreign trip with a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Here is what White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on CBS this morning about Mr. Biden's goals for that meeting. Let's listen.

JEN PSAKI: The president's focus is on delivering messages that are important to the American people. And using this meeting as an opportunity to move our interests forward. So it's not about friendship. They have known each other for a long time. They have a lot of disagreements. But this is going to be a candid conversation. It's going to be a straightforward conversation. The president's going to raise areas where he has concern, whether it's the ransomware attacks, or the aggression on the border of Ukraine, or human rights abuses.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Natalie, I wonder in what areas does the Biden administration think the US and Russia can actually work together?

NATALIE JENNINGS: I think there are several issues. And I think they want to come together to prevent some of the bad things that Biden sees happening. He is someone who knows Putin, who has had a relationship before, unlike his predecessors maybe, who came in not as familiar with how he operates. But they want to get on the same page about some infrastructure and energy things. They don't want to see any union with China.

And overall, I think it's a big moment. That meeting is coming at the end of this trip. Biden's going to be with allies, friendly countries, but hanging over it all is this meeting that's going to come next Wednesday with the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Someone who really hung over the entire presidency of President Trump. And this is going to be a really big moment for Biden on the world stage.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Yeah, all eyes are going to be on what it is that they say when they appear before reporters. But Ed, let me ask you. You were just back from Guatemala where you covered, of course, Vice President Harris's overseas trip earlier this week. What has the reaction been like since her return? And did the vice president accomplished her own goals?

ED O'KEEFE: I think if you ask people in her office, if you ask her, they did. And that she was able to go toe to toe with two world leaders and lay out what exactly the Biden administration is planning to do to try to curb illegal immigration at the border by announcing a bunch of new projects and initiatives for the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and state, specifically, to go after transnational crimes like, drug trafficking and human trafficking. And to promote legal immigration from Mexico and Central America.

But if you talk to critics of hers in both parties, and they'll sort of no doubt will point out that she said a few things that perhaps cause headaches or headlines that the White House wasn't looking for. For one thing, this very stern pledge while in Guatemala to, quote, "do not come if you're somebody who's thinking about it" rubbed some in her own party the wrong way because they point out-- look, there are people that need to be able to seek asylum. And there are people who are fleeing for their lives in some instances, whether because of drug cartel fueled violence, or domestic violence, which are two of the leading reasons why people leave the region.

And also because they going to seek-- again, they can seek asylum. However, if she hadn't said something like that, they'd be getting a lot of criticism from Republicans and more hard liners in her own party for not doing so. The other issue was this odd inability over a day and a half to answer questions about when she might go to the US border. And that is an aspect of the immigration debate, it is not the primary focus of what she's been up to. And the White House has made that clear for several months.

But it is an element of this. And one that inevitably, she or the president, is going to have to take on by showing up. But they don't want to allow Republican critics or Republican media outlets, conservative media outlets to dictate their travel schedule. And yet, she sort of struggled to answer definitively when or if she might go. Finally, saying, and this is a perfectly, I suppose, acceptable answer even if you disagree with her that she wanted to go see the places from which these people come to better understand why they leave in the first place before ever considering going to the border, a place she'd been to before. Had that been the answer on Monday when the trip began, this probably wouldn't have snowballed in the way it has in the days since.

I noticed today, again, Republicans making light of it and trying to tie vulnerable Democratic congressional candidates to the work and the words that she had done this week. And we'll see what the effects of it are ultimately. But on the bottom line, argument of can she go on the world stage and engage world leaders, yes. She passed that test. But remember, she's got a boss who's been at it for 40 years too, so any comparison really probably isn't entirely fair.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Yeah. Well, finally, Natalie, the entire Democratic leadership team condemned comments made by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar this week. What is the back story behind this? And how notable is it that all of leadership released a statement?

NATALIE JENNINGS: It is notable and it is not the first or even the second time something like this has happened. Representative Omar, who is on the Foreign Relations Committee, tweeted a video of herself questioning the Secretary of State. And in it she seemed to group together Hamas, the terrorist group in Palestine, with the United States and Israel in a way that her Democratic Jewish colleagues later sent and note, saying that this was a false equivalency, that her language there was harmful, and rebuking her.

She got in trouble a few years ago, very early in her tenure in Congress, for some prior tweets she had made seeming to engage in Jewish stereotypes. And so I think this is something that people are a little on guard for. House Democratic leadership, they, I would say, condemned her, but they also said they were very receptive to her. Later coming back and saying she did not mean to equate these groups but saying that they also deserve--

ELAINE QUIJANO: Absolutely. All right, Ed O'Keefe, Natalie Jennings, and Sarah Mucha, thanks to you all, really appreciate it.