Politics

Joe Biden speaks to Trump on Monday about US coronavirus response

Key Points
  • Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden on Monday spoke to President Donald Trump, his likely rival in November, about his response to the coronavirus outbreak, his campaign confirmed to CNBC.
  • In an interview that will air on NBC's 3rd Hour of the TODAY show Tuesday, Biden said that the White House had offered a call with Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president.Trump tore into Biden earlier Monday for proposing a phone call to discuss the U.S. response to the virus, suggesting the former vice president never followed up on it.
Former US Vice President and Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden speaks about COVID-19, known as the Coronavirus, during a press event in Wilmington, Delaware on March 12, 2020.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden on Monday spoke to President Donald Trump, his likely rival in November, about his response to the coronavirus outbreak, his campaign confirmed to CNBC.

The call came hours after Trump teased the Democratic front-runner on Twitter about his offer to provide advice on how to handle the response to the pandemic ravaging the nation. 

In an interview that will air on NBC's 3rd Hour of the TODAY show Tuesday, Biden said that the White House had offered a call with Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president.

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President Trump on his conversation with Democratic candidate Joe Biden

The call was set to happen days after Biden first offered to have a conversation with Trump. 

"Well, I - we contacted - we got back to the White House indicating that we were prepared to talk if he would like that, and as recently as 5 minutes before I got on your show, I got a call from the White house asking if I could speak with Miss Conway at 3:15 or thereabouts, so I hope it means we're going to talk," Biden said in the interview.

"And all I can do is offer the President the things that we prepared, not the same exact thing, but give him my view of what the lessons learned and what I think we should be doing. And I'm not here to criticize him, I'm here to try to promote more rapid response to the things that have to be acted on. But I'm ready to do that."

But the call went forward with the president himself.  

Trump tore into Biden earlier Monday for proposing a phone call to discuss the U.S. response to the virus, suggesting the former vice president never followed up on it. The president also came down on Biden for suggesting that the Democratic National Convention which has been delayed, could be virtual. 

"Joe Biden wanted the date for the Democrat National Convention moved to a later time period," Trump tweeted. "Now he wants a 'Virtual' Convention, one where he doesn't have to show up. Gee, I wonder why? Also, what ever happened to that phone call he told the Fake News he wanted to make to me?"

Biden offered a direct response, tweeting at Trump with a link-out to his proposal for addressing the outbreak on his 2020 campaign website. "Happy to discuss anytime," Biden said.

Trump, when asked if he'd be receptive to a phone call with Biden about the response to the outbreak, said he'd "absolutely" be open it. "I'd love to speak with him," he said. 

When asked about the details of the call between Biden and Trump, Biden's campaign sent this statement to CNBC: "Vice President Biden and President Trump had a good call. VP Biden shared several suggestions for actions the Administration can take now to address the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and expressed his appreciation for the spirit of the American people in meeting the challenges facing the nation."

Their discussion comes days after the decision to postpone the Democratic National Convention, which was originally set for July, to August because of the spread of the coronavirus.

"In our current climate of uncertainty, we believe the smartest approach is to take additional time to monitor how this situation unfolds so we can best position our party for a safe and successful convention," said DNC Convention Committee CEO Joe Solmonese in a press release.

Biden raised the idea in an interview of having a virtual convention last week. 

More than a dozen states and U.S. territories have adjusted their nominating contests due to the coronavirus, with some opting for a mail-in system to replace in-person voting and others delaying the primaries entirely. 

The moves have upended the Democratic primary between Biden and his Democratic rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Both campaigns no longer do in-person events or rallies and have been relying on digital outreach to connect with voters. The upcoming discussion with the White House could be seen as a way to generate talk about the campaign and keep its gears in motion as nominating contests are delayed.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment. But Trump during the daily coronavirus task force briefing on Monday also confirmed the discussion between him and Biden, saying, "We had a really wonderful warm conversation. It was a very nice conversation. We talked about pretty much this," referring to the coronavirus outbreak. "He gave me his point of view, and I fully understood that and we just had a very friendly conversation. Lasted probably 15 minutes. And it was really good. ... I appreciate his calling."

The coronavirus, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China, has spread to dozens of countries globally, with more than 1.3 million confirmed cases worldwide and over 72,638 deaths so far, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. There are at least 347,003 cases in the United States and at least 10,335 deaths, according to the latest tallies.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct timing of when the interview will be aired.