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Biden says border wall construction will stop if he’s elected president

Joe Biden. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden doesn’t want to tear down the wall, but he does want to cease all construction of fencing along the border.

Biden took direct aim at President Donald J.Trump’s signature promise to wall off the U.S. from Mexico in a wide ranging interview with journalists representing the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists, including The Dallas Morning News.

Biden said he wouldn’t dismantle the existing fence along the border, but will stop future construction and pursue a high-tech ‘virtual wall’ to ensure border security.

“There will not be another foot of wall construction in my administration,” Biden said. “I’m going to make sure that we have border protection, but it’s going to be based on making sure that we use high-tech capacity to deal with it. And at the ports of entry — that’s where all the bad stuff is happening.”

The full interview with the former vice president, which includes a number of other topics, is set to be released Thursday during the NABJ-NAHJ August 5-6 joint virtual convention. The journalists approached both Biden and Trump for interviews but only Biden accepted the invitation.

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During the nearly hour-long interview, Biden said he would also end land confiscations for the wall along the border, taking a more blunt position than when President Barack Obama did when he took office after President George W. Bush signed the Secure Fence Act in 2006.

“End. Stop. Done. Over. Not going to do it. Withdraw the lawsuits. We’re out. We’re not going to confiscate the land,” Biden said.

The Tuesday interview came a day after the first anniversary of the August 3, 2019, mass shooting that left 23 dead in El Paso. Biden was asked about the largest attack on Latinos in U.S.history and about how he would convince white supremacists that people of color are “vital to restoring the soul of America.”

“I don’t convince white supremacists,” Biden said. “They’re not going to be convinced. They have to be put in jail when they do things that are inappropriate.

“The reason I’m running is because of Donald Trump’s (and) what he said when those folks came out of the fields in Charlottesville,” he added. “I realize hate doesn’t go away, it just hides. And when a president breathes oxygen under the rocks, he pulls them out. He legitimizes them.”

On China, Biden said he would not keep Trump’s tariffs, and rejected the suggestion that Trump administration’s aggressive tactics toward China have worked.

“Manufacturing’s gone in recession. Agriculture lost billions of dollars that taxpayers had to pay. We’re going after China in the wrong way,” he said.

“China is stealing intellectual property. China’s conditioning, being able to do business in China, based on whether or not you have 51% Chinese ownership, that’s got to end.”

For months, Trump has poked at Biden’s verbal gaffes, nicknaming him “Sleepy Joe”

Last month, Trump tried pumping up his own mental fitness for office by pointing out some of the specifics of a cognitive test he said he had taken.

“Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV,” said Trump, parodying his answers and igniting a firestorm on social media, with TV hosts and comedians soon mocking him on late night shows.

In the interview, Biden clarified that he has not taken a cognitive test, arguing against his need for one. Questions about the mental fitness of Trump, 74, and Biden, 77, have been testy at times as both men disparage each other while defending their own prowess.

“No, I haven’t taken a test. Why the hell would I take a test?” said Biden. Biden appeared to liken a cognitive test to taking a drug test for a job or even before his interviewers sat down with him. “Come on, man. That’s like saying you, before you got on this program, you take a test where you’re taking cocaine or not. What do you think? Huh? Are you a junkie?”

Biden said American voters will make the ultimate decision on who’s mentally and physically fit to serve as president.

Biden said he looks forward to debating Trump. The November 3 election is about 90 days away. Biden leads in nationwide polls and in some polls in traditionally GOP Texas, the race between Biden and Trump is now a toss up.

“I’m so forward-looking to have an opportunity to sit with the president or stand with the president and debates,” Biden said.

“I am very willing to let the American public judge my physical, mental… My physical, as well as my mental fitness and … you know, to make a judgment about who I am.”

Reporters at the interview included journalists from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, CBS News and National Public Radio.

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© 2020 The Dallas Morning News