'This Week' Transcript 10-25-20

This is a rush transcript of "This Week," airing Sunday, October 25.

ByABC News
October 25, 2020, 12:09 PM

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, October 25, 2020 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.

ANNOUNCER: "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are the voice of a great country.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE: Everybody knows who Donald Trump is. Let's show him who we are.

RADDATZ: As the country reaches a record daily high of COVID-19 cases, president Trump barn storming the battle grounds. Downplaying the surge.

TRUMP: We’re rounding the corner.

RADDATZ: Drawing a sharp contrast with Joe Biden.

BIDEN: The president still doesn't have a plan. He's given up. He's quit on you.

RADDATZ: Barack Obama backing his former VP on the trail.

BARACK OBAMA, 44TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is not a reality show. This is reality.

RADDATZ: The candidates clashing in a final face off.

TRUMP: We're learning to live with it.

BIDEN: He says that we're learning to live with it. People are learning to die with it.

RADDATZ: Nine days to go. Millions of ballots already cast. What might change the trajectory of the race?

BIDEN: It may come down to Pennsylvania.

TRUMP: If we win Pennsylvania, we win the whole thing.

RADDATZ: This morning we're reporting from the critical battle ground state, Pennsylvania.

Who are you voting for in 2020?

UNKNOWN: Joe Biden.

UNKNOWN: I decided that character means something.

RADDATZ: Is there anything that has given you pause about Donald Trump?

UNKNOWN: I would say no at this point.

RADDATZ: The state of play with Rahm Emanuel, Chris Christie and our powerhouse political team. And Pierre Thomas on that alarming election interference warning and protecting your vote.


ANNOUNCER: From ABC News it's "This Week" live from Philadelphia. Here now co-anchor Martha Raddatz.

RADDATZ: Good morning and welcome to "This Week." We join you this morning from the NationalConstitution Center in Philadelphia.

Battleground Pennsylvania once again set to play a key role in this consequential and contentious election.

Around this point four years ago, Trump behind in the polls by four points, ultimately winning the state in 2016 by less than one point. Today he's down by six percentage points according to FiveThirtyEight. And while 52% of suburban Pennsylvania voters went for Trump in 2016, helping to put him over the edge, according to one recent poll nearly 60% of likely voters in the Pennsylvania suburbs are now backing Biden.

Our partners at FiveThirtyEight say Pennsylvania is the state most likely to be the tipping point in 2020, potentially putting either candidate over the top. And with just one week and two days to go until the final votes, COVID cases are surging across America. More cases reported on Friday than any other day since the pandemic began. Now, more than 8.5 million cases nationwide.

And overnight we learned the vice president's chief of staff has tested positive, despite being considered a close contact to the top aid, Pence is set to stick with his current schedule, continuing to campaign. It's against this back drop that both candidates are making their final pitches. And with few days left in this cycle, every moment counts. Both campaigns barn storming Pennsylvania this week, but so many voters have already made up their minds. At least 57 million Americans have cast their ballots.

This morning we begin with the voices of voters, where they stand at this critical juncture in a race where anything can happen. The last installment of our series “Six for the Win.”


RADDATZ: Driving through Pennsylvania, it's easy to see the intensity of election fever. From the cities to the suburbs stretching to the rural areas, campaign signs compete with the fall foliage for top billing.

TANYA SILETSKY, PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: I would say everything. All his policies I agree with 100%.


RADDATZ: About 10 miles west of Philadelphia, 60-year-old Tanya Siletsky is the kind of enthusiastic supporter the Trump campaign hopes will prevail in this must-win state.


RADDATZ: Is there anything over the last four years that has given you pause about Donald Trump?

SILETSKY: I would say no at this point because when I’m researching what he does say, there's facts backing it up. (INAUDIBLE) social media -- I’m very active on social media so I do my research. Things he brings up are exactly what me and my friends talk about in our kitchen. When we're sitting around having drinks and talking about politics and government, he is exactly spot on.


RADDATZ: In 2016, results from the keystone state were one of the big shockers. Trump winning the long-time Democratic stronghold by a slim 44,000 votes out of nearly 6 million cast.


RADDATZ: Who did you vote for in 2016?


KATIE HARRIS: Donald Trump.

RADDATZ: Who are you voting for in 2020?

M. HARRIS: Biden.

K. HARRIS: Joe Biden.


RADDATZ: There are worrisome signs for Trump. Some who voted for him four years ago have soured on the president.

For 30 somethings Morgan (ph) and Katey Harris (ph), parents to two children, it has all been just too much.


M. HARRIS: I think it's the noise of everything. I kind of feel like my voice some days is lost in just the noise and the polarization.

K. HARRIS: With the race relations, with George Floyd’s death, with COVID, he had many opportunities, again, to come together and say like let's figure this out together. Let’s be a unifier. And I mean time and time again he's given these opportunities to act presidential and he doesn't.

M. HARRIS: I’m hoping that Joe can maybe tone the noise down if nothing else and maybe just at least bring some professionalism back, some calm. Don’t tweet. Just the basics.



RADDATZ: Judy (ph), you're registered Republican?


RADDATZ: Obama, Trump and now --

ORTOLA: Now Joe Biden.


RADDATZ: Retiree Judy Ortola (ph) says it was the pandemic that changed her mind. Pennsylvania was one of the states to get hit hard early. Almost 9,000 have died here.


ORTOLA: When the virus initially hit, neighbors, friends here in my community, we made over 1,000 masks for the hospitals, nursing homes, and friends. And it was a lot of work. Then he had the disrespect to not even wear a mask.


RADDATZ: Judy (ph) is a member of highly coveted demographic, suburban women who voted for Trump in 2016 but who switched to support Democrats in 2018. Her town bans campaign signs which she thinks helps keep the temperature down.


RADDATZ: Are you friends with Trump supporters?

ORTOLA: Very few people talk about it unless you’re in close quarters.

RADDATZ: Do you have a sense that others feel the same way you do who may have voted for Trump?

ORTOLA: No, I don't --


ORTOLA: -- which is what bothers me. Yes. I don't know how you can support him anymore. You just don't treat people the way he treats people.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have 10 days left. It may come down to Pennsylvania.

RADDATZ: Miguel Rivera (ph) doesn't like what he hears from the Democrat.

MIGUEL RIVERA, PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: So you would be surprised that there’s a lot of people in Florida, in Philadelphia voting for the Republican Party. That doesn't mean necessarily that they are Republican, but that the candidate that is there is the one that promises a brighter future for them. That’s all.

RADDATZ: Born in Puerto Rico, Rivera (ph) has lived in Pennsylvania for more than 25 years. And he thinks it’s Trump who promises the brighter future.

RIVERA: He’s done a lot for the Hispanic and Black communities in terms of creating employment.

RADDATZ: So he’ll become a second time Trump voter on Election Day.

Early voting here has been as wildly popular as across the rest of the country with nearly a million and a half ballots returned by mail already in Pennsylvania. They don't start counting them until Election Day which pretty much guarantees the nation's focus will remain intense for days.

So much at stake. So much to dig into this morning in this critical battle ground state. So let’s bring in our powerhouse players, ABC News contributors Chris Christie and Rahm Emanuel.

Good morning, gentlemen. And Chris, I have to start with you and the news about Vice President Pence's Chief of Staff contracting COVID, possibly others on the staff as well.

I think what’s extraordinary about this is the vice president's office says he will maintain his schedule in accordance with essential personnel. We’re talking about campaigning here, he’s going campaigning tonight, not his duties as vice president.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff quarantined when they were exposed to coronavirus. Does the White House still just not get it?

CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think that you -- the whole getting of COVID to begin with and the not wearing of masks has been a problem. And I’ve talked about that over the last couple of weeks. And so I think everybody’s got to put the health of the people they're going to be in touch with first.

When I found out that I got COVID that Friday morning, I immediately quarantined myself. And ultimately wound up in the hospital. But you got to keep yourself away from everybody and I’m a little bit surprised.

RADDATZ: I do want to move to the election. We got nine days until the election. The president does seem energized. He talks about not being worried about being re-elected. But he's trailing in national polls, most key states including Pennsylvania where he's down about 6 points.

You heard those former Trump most key states including Pennsylvania where he's down about six points. You heard those former Trump voters saying they're turning to Biden.

Should the president be worried?

CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, of course he should and he is. I mean, when he says he's not, that's what you do when you're running for office. You don't say you're worried.

But there’s no question, when you hear him talking at some of these rallies about what if I were to lose Iowa, what if I were to lose North Carolina, would I have to move out of the country? You know, that's him musing about the possibility of him losing.

But I also think that we are seeing some tightening in some of the state by state polls. I think you will continue to see that over the next nine days.

The real question is going to be -- when Joe Biden made the comment about the oil and gas industry as we sit in Pennsylvania at that debate, is that going to be a difference maker here in Pennsylvania?

He’s now said. He challenged the president to put up video that he wanted to get rid of fracking. The president put up about four clips on that.

So, you know, we’re going to have an interesting last nine days. But certainly the president is the underdog as we sit here this morning. And if he weren’t worried about that, then he wouldn’t be -- he wouldn't be thinking.

RADDATZ: And, Rahm, I know that Vice President Biden says those clips were taken out of context, that he says he will not ban fracking. He's been pretty fired up this week too, Biden. But President Trump is doing those huge rallies. That helps with momentum.

So, what does Biden have to watch out for in these next nine days?

RAHM EMANUEL, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, I mean, I think this election is set up in my view perfectly for Joe Biden in the sense that in 2016, this election was seen as one of about anger and rage. The emotion or the zeitgeist of this election is about empathy and compassion. And that's Joe Biden's strength.

And if you see in that video where the woman is talking about bringing people together, everybody sees Donald Trump as the source of the problem. They do not attribute to him or see him in any way as a source of the solution to the challenges of America. And she talks about bringing people together.

To me, that's the ultimate thing. There's another piece of this. Not only is it compassion, not only is it empathy, it's authentic about Joe Biden's decency.

So, I would at this point, you stay on message, Just like he did in close in that debate. Now, I want to say one thing about what Chris brought up as it relates --

RADDATZ: And the oil and the fracking.

EMANUEL: I want to bring that -- look, first of all, everybody is talking about this as tax subsidy (ph). It's corporate welfare.

He's talked about it for the all time, eliminate corporate welfare over 30 years and make sure we invest it for the same $5 billion Exxon and Chevron and all these big oil companies get, 5 million kids can go to community college for free, 5 million.

Now, you tell me, over 30 years, your grandchildren are going to be driving an electric car, mine as well. It actually is talking about the future. He said it all the time.

He's pro-fracking, but he's not going to subsidize Exxon and Chevron anymore, and he’s going to do it over a period of time, phase it out.

Donald Trump said I’m going to be bring back --

RADDATZ: Did you cringe a little bit when he said that in the debate or not?

EMANUEL: Oh, I think he's actually been authentic to his view which is -- which is true. We cannot continue to subsidize Exxon, Chevron, big oil, when you can send 5 million kids for the same amount of money you give them every year free to community college. Those kids are worth investing in.

CHRISTIE: Another example as to I’m glad Rahm is not the candidate, and Joe Biden is. Because if Joe Biden has said that, that might have made some sense.

But here’s what he said, though, he said he’s going to phase out oil and gas and he said he's going to do -- have zero carbon --

EMANUEL: No, he said --

CHRISTIE: No, hold on, Rahm.

EMANUEL: Go ahead.

CHRISTIE: He said he’s going to have zero carbon by 2025, five years from now. That’s not a slow pace.

And also, he didn’t say I’m going to end subsidies and spend on community college. He’s going to spend that on the Green New Deal, which I would tell you the people in Pennsylvania don't want.

EMANUEL: No, here’s the -- here's the thing, it's very clear. It's a 30-year phase out. And it should be phased out, in the same way you should be subsidizing big oil, big gas.

You know, welcome to the free market. Make it on your own. In my view use those dollars to either invest in free community college. And I’m for wind, and solar, et cetera.

CHRISTIE: Will you subsidize that?

RADDATZ: OK, you're going to do the debate over right here, guys. I want --- I want to move on.


CHRISTIE: And get the free market buy to the Green New Deal --

EMANUEL: Get the industry set up --

CHRISTIE: Whoa, whoa, oh, no, OK.

RADDATZ: OK, OK. We settled that one.

Chris, I want to move on --


CHRISTIE: Sure, exactly right.

RADDATZ: I want to move on to the ballots already cast, 57 million people have already cast their ballot. That's a staggering 42 percent of 2016's total turnout. Obviously that's because of COVID. The Democrats hold a strong lead in ballots returned.

Do you think that's going to be balanced out on Election Day?

CHRISTIE: Well, I think you see, though, in places like Pennsylvania and Florida since the last election voter registration by Republicans in those key states is two to three times as great as it was with Democrats. And we also know that because some of the things the president has said about mail-in voting that Republicans have been slower in returning those ballots. I've seen it in my own county in New Jersey, which is a Republican County, that we have Democrats ahead of us right now in that. I don't believe that will last through the election. Never has.

So I think everyone's adjusting to this new way of going. I’m not sure how crazy the turnout's going to be. It's going to be more than 2016. But I don't know if it's going to be geometrically more than 2016. And so it's going to be interesting to see. I think that, again, Republicans tend to vote late. They usually vote late when they go to the ballot box. Their vote -- they're after work voters most of the time and -- and so I'll be interested to see, because this is a whole new dynamic. None of us know.


RADDATZ: Well, no, Rahm, how worried are you about the election?

EMANUEL: I'm Jewish. I'm worried.

RADDATZ: You're worried all the time. No question you're worried. We all know you. you're worried all the time.


CHRISTIE: I worry for you.


EMANUEL: I got enough worry for the three of us, OK.

RADDATZ: He won't worry.

EMANUEL: Go ahead.

RADDATZ: How worried are you about the election results coming in later and later and later? What do you see?

EMANUEL: Well, here's one -- what I would say is, on election night, I bet you what we learned is that the path -- the path for Trump -- the president is either -- the door has closed. About a week later we'll be able to say x, I think, Vice President Joe Biden has been elected president. I don't think you're going to be able to declare that.

But I do think, by the time we get to Election Day, almost two third of the American people are going to have voted. And I think you're going to -- you are going to get about 20 million more people in 2020 than 2016. And I think that what has always been the case is that Donald Trump is a centrifugal force. Those who care about him are going to show up. Those Democrats who have been angry over the last four years, they're going to show up. And that the other voters that Joe Biden needed to win have been exhausted by these three and a half, four years. They are tired. They don't want Donald Trump in their lives. Everywhere they go, it's a constant conflict. And what they're looking for is a little calm, a little compassion versus the chaos and the conflict.

RADDATZ: And -- and -- and, Chris, I want to give you the last word, but, quickly, and I want to return to COVID. With the vice president again being exposed to that, with COVID surging across America, how damaging is that to Donald Trump's campaign?

CHRISTIE: Well, of course it is. Any president whose in the midst of a crisis like this and the crisis does not seem to be abating as you get close to Election Day, but, in fact, may be increasing right now, that's a problem.

It's the same way they say all the time, Martha, if they --

EMANUEL: Your ability to state the obvious is really good (ph)


CHRISTIE: Thank you. Well -- well, that's what we get paid for here. What are you talking about? Well, you know, it's what we get paid for here. Don't you criticize that.

EMANUEL: Yes, a crisis on your watch is not good.

CHRISTIE: You're going to -- you're going to talk us out of work for God's stakes. He -- in the end, I think, if you're there when the economy's going up, you get the credit. If when it's going down, you get the blame no matter what happens.

And the same thing in the handling of the crisis. If it looks like it's going well and it's diminishing, you're going to get the credit. And, otherwise, you're going to get the blame. And I think it's been the single toughest issue for Donald Trump to deal with in four years and maybe determinative for the election. We'll see.

EMANUEL: You never --


EMANUEL: You never allow a good crisis to go to waste.

CHRISTIE: Yes, there you go.


RADDATZ: Exactly, or -- or not try to get the last word.

CHRISTIE: Some really smart guy said that at one point. I don't remember who it was.

RADDATZ: Thanks to both of you for joining us.

RADDATZ: Thank you.

CHRISTIE: Thank you, Martha.

RADDATZ: Thanks.

As the election enters its final days, the coronavirus continues to rage. This week 42 states reporting an increase in cases. Eighteen of those states plus Puerto Rico hitting record highs. Daily deaths surpassing 1,000 multiple times. And according to an internal HHS memo obtained by ABC News, almost 25 percent of hospitals across the country have more than 80 percent of their ICU beds filled.

Here with what we can expect in the coming months, ABC News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton and ABC News contributor and former Trump homeland security and counterterrorism adviser Tom Bossert.

Good morning to you both.

And, Jen, I want to start with you.

Those statistics are really alarming. How did we get here and what are your biggest concerns these next few weeks and months? Are we headed for that dark winter we've heard about?

DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC NEWS CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Martha, first of all, in medicine, in the middle of the largest health crisis the world has seen in our lifetime, I think looking backwards has a purpose. It's important to try to look forward and prepare as much as possible. But we have a crisis right now in the present that is requiring an all hands on deck approach.

So I think that when people say, you know, we're testing more. That's responsible for the surge in cases. It is true that in medicine, when you look for something, you have a bigger chance of finding it. But at the last tally by Johns Hopkins, there are 224,113,000 (ph) American lives lost. That's not creative data analytics, that's COVID-19 doing its damage.

RADDATZ: And -- and -- and so talking about that dark winter ahead, we really have to hunker down?

ASHTON: Oh, I think there's no question about that. I mean, we're seeing an uncontrolled, you know, damage by this virus and we're going into colder months, where the majority of the country will be indoors. And this virus has shown that it spreads readily in that environment.

So, yeah, we need to turn this trend around because we are in the third peak, and it's less than a year.

RADDATZ: And, Tom, I want to turn to you. We know the administration is working hard on getting a vaccine. But until that happens, how do you see the virus progressing -- if Donald Trump remains in office and there is no change from the present strategy?

And compare that to what you've heard Joe Biden talking about...

BOSSERT: Yeah, Martha...

RADDATZ: What difference would we see if he was elected?

BOSSERT: Yeah, as Dr. Jen just said, this virus will keep spreading and these numbers will keep growing unless people do something about it. It's really that simple.

It would be nice if our leadership would be -- would be on the same page. It would be nice if both candidates were on the same page, for that matter, but they're not. And this is a team sport.

At this point, what happens in the next four weeks or -- or 10 weeks is going to be up to, you know, 300-plus million people, and they have to change their behavior.

We're now seeing not a summer repeat, but we're seeing a wave, as you pointed out, not with four states being the epicenter but with over 36.

So how would I phrase that? I would say, if you really want to get together with your family and friends for Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas or Hanukkah, you have to change your behavior today. It's not about waiting until that morning.

RADDATZ: The president has also said he wouldn't change much about his early response. And I know we don't really want to go backwards. But I was struck by a Columbia University report that found that potentially hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved if there had been more aggressive action from the federal government earlier on. Your -- your thoughts on that report?

BOSSERT: Yeah, that was a very interesting study and really useful in a lot of ways. What it did, although a little bit of a crude comparison, was compare six different countries and their proportional mortality rate. Unfortunately, the United States is the ninth highest proportional mortality rate, 66 out of every 100,000 people have died in the United States. That's not a good track record.

And so the report's not clear about what degree of leadership, versus implementation or policy or testing capacity, was responsible. But one thing is very clear. We could have saved more lives with a different, faster approach.

And what's important about looking forward is the same advice about targeted, layered intervention -- early, targeted, layered intervention, in addition to masks, is that we know it saves lives and we have a chance to do it again if we can get all of our counties and communities on a coordinated same page.

RADDATZ: And, Jen, I did a 6,000-mile road trip last month and have been traveling around Pennsylvania today. I am so surprised at how few people wear masks across the country and do not socially distance, and there really does seem to be pandemic fatigue.

What do you do about that?

ASHTON: Well, Martha, you're right. And I think that that weariness and frustration with this goes across the country and it goes across party lines, actually. You know, we heard the World Health Organization estimate that half of the European population is suffering from pandemic fatigue. We've seen so far in this pandemic that what occurs in Europe tends to be a harbinger for what comes to the United States.

And psychologists are saying that the fear that enveloped so much of our response earlier this year has now been replaced by fatigue. And, you know, if you think of this as there are two variables, how the virus behaves and we behave, only one of those variables is under our control. So our behavior and our psychology becomes critically important.

RADDATZ: Thanks so much, Jen. And thanks so much to you, Tom. We always love hearing from you.

Up next, as we enter the final stretch, Nate Silver circles back to all the states that will decide this race and whether we might know a winner on election night. Stay with us.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Eleven days from now, we are going to win my home state of Florida, and we are going to win four more years in the White House, four more great years.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have 10 days left. And it may come down to Pennsylvania.

And I believe in you. I believe in my state. The choice has never been clearer and the stakes have never been higher.


RADDATZ: President Trump and Joe Biden delivering their closing messages this week in two major swing states.

Over the last two months, we've taken a closer look at the key battleground areas that will likely decide the election outcome. But once all the ballots are cast, each state will tally the votes a little differently.

We asked FiveThiryEight's Nate Silver what that means for declaring a winner on election night.


NATE SILVER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: To manage expectations here, many states will not have a complete count of their vote by election night, and, in fact, it may take days or even weeks to know who has won.

With that said, there are some paths where Joe Biden could be in a very strong position.

ABC News has been highlighting six key states in our “Six for the Win” series. You've got the Sun Belt states, Florida, Arizona and North Carolina, and three Midwestern ones, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Apart from nicer weather, those Sun Belt states have something in common, they'll likely to count their votes fairly quickly. In Florida and Arizona, mail-in ballots must be received by Election Day.

In North Carolina, there’s a ton of early voting, and it's expected as much as 80 percent of the vote there could be announced shortly after polls close. And all three of those states are pretty close to being must-wins for Trump.

We have a new choice your own adventure tool at FiveThiryEight that lets you see how the probabilities change in our model depending on who wins key states.

Biden is approximately a 99 percent favorite to win the Electoral College if he wins Florida or North Carolina, and 98 percent if he wins Arizona.

But let's say President Trump wins Florida instead, then the election is much closer to a toss up.

Losing Florida means Biden would have only a 58 percent chance of winning. And in that case, we could be waiting for results for a long time. That's because if Trump secures the Sun Belt, Biden needs to win all three Midwestern states.

But Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin are slower to count their ballots, and ballots accepted after Election Day as long as they’re postmarked by November 3rd.

So, I buy that we're going to know quite a bit on election night if Biden's narrow polling leads in states like Florida translate into wins for him there. We could even get an election night call.

Still, I would advise caution. If it does come down to the Midwest, we could be waiting for a long time.


RADDATZ: Our thanks to Nate.

The roundtable is ahead. And up next the very latest on those efforts by Russia and Iran to penetrate election-related systems here in the U.S.

Pierre Thomas joins us with what you need to know to keep your vote safe.


ON SCREEN TEXT: Who was the last presidential election winner to accept the party's nomination in Philadelphia?

George W. Bush.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Delegates and my fellow citizens, I proudly accept your nomination.


RADDATZ: Just nine days from now tune in to ABC's special election night coverage. I'll be there alongside George Stephanopoulos and the entire powerhouse political team starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, 4:00 p.m. Pacific.

We'll be right back with more on THIS WEEK live from Philadelphia.



WRAY: We've been working for years as a community to build resilience in our election infrastructure. And today that infrastructure remains resilient. You should be confident that your vote counts. The men and women of the FBI remain committed to protecting the American people, our democracy and the integrity of our elections. We are not going to let our guard down.


RADDATZ: That dramatic announcement from the directors of national intelligence and the FBI less than two weeks from Election Day revealing that foreign actors are again interfering in the U.S. presidential race, the latest obstacle for voters in a campaign cycle already beset by litigation and misinformation.

Our chief justice correspondent Pierre Thomas has more.


THOMAS (voice over): As we head toward the final stretch of the election, intelligence and law enforcement officials are seeing ominous actions from Russia. ABC News has learned the Kremlin has secretly been infiltrating and probing government computer networks at the state and local level.

JOHN COHEN, FORMER DHS COUNTERTERROR COORDINATOR: Four years ago Russia conducted cyber attacks and spread disinformation. Those efforts not only have not stopped but they have continued and potentially threaten the 2020 presidential election.

THOMAS: According to a new FBI homeland security alert, "Since at least September, a Russian state-sponsored actor has conducted a campaign against a wide variety of U.S. targets."

In some cases, sources say, the Russians sought election-related information. And sources tell ABC News that systems tied to two counties in two separate states were successfully hacked by the Russian intelligence operation.

WRAY: We are not going to tolerate foreign interference in our elections or any criminal activity that threatens the sanctity of your vote.

THOMAS: According to sources, while no election information was altered or changed and none of the moves compromises Americans' ability to vote, the efforts allowed Russians to obtain information about voter registration which could be used in disinformation campaigns.

And in a hastily arranged and highly unusual press conference, authorities warned that Iran is actively plotting as well, secretly obtaining voter registration information and weaponizing it to target Democratic voters in Florida through a series of threatening e-mails.

(UNKNOWN): When you first read that somebody has your address and that they would like to come after you, my first thought was, like, "Oh, my God, am I safe?"

THOMAS: And, nine days before the election, tensions running incredibly high, unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud creating the potential for real conflict...

PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP: I'm urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully because that's what has to happen.

THOMAS: ... and unnecessary tensions on Election Day.

MYRNA PEREZ, BRENNAN CENTER VOTING RIGHTS AND ELECTIONS DIRECTOR: Americans are protected by law to be able to cast their ballot free from intimidation and free from discrimination.


RADDATZ: Pierre joins us now, along with Kate Shaw, professor of constitutional law at Cardozo Law School, both of whom will be part of our election night team reporting on election integrity concerns.

And, Pierre, let me start with you. These fake, threatening e-mails sent to voters were first divulged on Tuesday, and by Wednesday evening officials were publicly blaming Iran. We know the Russians are trying to interfere as well, right?

THOMAS: That's right. Martha, they're deeply concerned. While there's no evidence that this activity will impact someone's ability to cast their vote and have it recorded, the worry is that Russia is searching for weaknesses in the election databases, with the goal of possibly waging a disinformation campaign.

They appear to be seeking direct access to voters to sow division and unrest possibly before the election and maybe just afterwards, if we don't quickly know a result.

Iran, aware of Russia's successes in 2016, is aggressively pursuing the same goal as they saw the Russians do. The Russians, though, are seen as a bigger sophisticated threat.

RADDATZ: And, Pierre, is U.S. intelligence better prepared now than in 2016?

And what about concerns the director of national intelligence may be politicizing the intelligence?

THOMAS: They are better prepared, Martha, but they're under incredible pressure to be transparent, to give American voters information in real time, to let them know what the bad guys are up to.

The bottom line is only get your information from trusted, credible sources. And if you have any questions about where and how to vote, call your local officials directly to get the information yourself. They should consider all this disinformation things to ignore. The bad guys can't stop them from voting.

And as far as Director Ratcliffe, a number of my sources have expressed significant frustration because he's so tied to the president and viewed by critics as political. They point to the fact that, in describing Iran's recent alleged attacks, he portrayed President Trump as the victim and did not mention one word about the Democratic voters who were also targeted.

RADDATZ: And, Kate, do these breaches pose a risk to the integrity of the election itself, or does the specter of foreign interference do more to sow doubts about the integrity of the election?

KATE SHAW, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Martha, I think it is, of course, concerning that foreign actors are seeking to interfere in the election. And we all do need to be skeptical of the political messages we encounter on social media in these critical final days. But I don't think anything we have learned so far calls into question the integrity of our election itself.

I think much more concerning is the prospect that Americans, hearing about these efforts, will come to question the integrity of the election in a way that is out of proportion to the magnitude of the actual threat, and that this could cause them to disengage, which would, of course, be exactly the opposite of the right reaction.

I think one other possible concern is that the losing candidate in the election could use this information to essentially advance a narrative that calls into question the results of the election.

But as to the integrity of the election itself, I don't think we have any cause for concern right now.

RADDATZ: And, Kate, what about the ballots all being counted in the days after the election? How concerned are you about that?

SHAW: So, some states, including, of course, Pennsylvania, don't allow election officials to begin counting ballots until Election Day.

And it's unfortunate that those rules haven't been changed, but that is the legal system we have right now. And so I think that ballots being counted after Election Day will be counted consistent with state law.

And so I think that, insofar as delay is concerned, it just -- this is a different election cycle than any previous election cycle. Nothing in 2020 is normal. And so I think there's not going to be cause for concern or reason to doubt the integrity of the process.

If there is delay, it, in fact, just may be the system working as designed.

RADDATZ: OK, thanks to you, Kate. And thanks to you, Pierre. We will see you on election night.

The roundtable is up next. We will be right back.



RADDATZ: Would you say you lean Trump or lean Biden?


RADDATZ: And what is -- and it's agriculture?

HASELWOOD: We know what we got.

And he -- the administration has treated us, agriculture, well, in spite of the fact that there were embargoes in place in the mess we got into with China. We have been compensated in other respects.


RADDATZ: That was Bob Haselwood, Kansas farmer, an undecided voter who I met on our cross-country trip this summer.

Bob texted me Friday to say: "I have made a decision, and have already voted. It was a tough choice. This is the first time I checked the box for a Democrat in a presidential election. I feel that we will become more divided if we have four more years of President Trump."

So, let's talk about that and break down the roundtable with our political director, Rick Klein, Tamala Edwards, morning news anchor at ABC affiliate WPVI here in Philadelphia and a former colleague at our ABC News Washington bureau, and ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd.

Welcome to all of you.

And great to see you, Tam.

Rick -- Rick, I want to go back to Bob Haselwood, and talk about that for a minute.

He was undecided. He really was leaning Trump. But he has watched and watched and just decided to vote for Joe Biden.

And you have this new ABC News/Ipsos poll about Trump and Biden's favorability, which kind of leans into that.

RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, there are fewer Bob Haselwoods out there. The undecided voters are disappearing.

And it's in part because people know these candidates, and their perceptions just aren't changing.

Go back to August, before the conventions, before the debates. Donald Trump was viewed more unfavorably than he was favorably by 23 points. That has barely changed. And Joe Biden was minus-three on that same measure, more unfavorable than favorable. Now, he’s plus one.

So, people have a real sense of who they are. And unlike 2016 when both candidates were broadly disliked, Joe Biden has maintained that fundamental understanding. People understand who he is. They know who he is and they're relative comfortable with him. That’s a huge difference that tells me that 2020 is 2016.

RADDATZ: And, Tam, of course, Pennsylvania is huge this year. It's unlikely that either one could win without winning Pennsylvania.

Four years ago Donald Trump carried the state by just 44,000 votes. With COVID, of course, the early voting has already begun.

TAMALA EDWARDS, 6 ABC PHILADELPHIA ANCHOR: And our early voting tells a lot of story -- 2.5 million people asked for an early ballot, 1.5 are already back in, a million of those are Democrats.

And what's interesting is some of the conversation about will your vote be counted has motivated Democrats to get those votes back in early.

One thing to keep in mind, 80 percent of Republicans say they intend to vote on election day. So, if the president can turn out his base, we might see some of that come back.

RADDATZ: And we talked about that a bit with Chris Christie. It really could be the Democrats would have voted anyway and have already voted and it won't be a bigger turnout.

And, Matt, to you in Texas, besides early voting there are more signs that many minds have already been made up, certainly the people we have been talking to.

The latest Quinnipiac University poll shows more than two third of likely voters decided who they'll vote for, more than six months ago.

So, what do they do in the coming days of this campaign?

MATTHEW DOWD, ABC NEWS POLITCAL ANALYST: Well, in every campaign, and as you know, I did Bush’s two races in 2000 and 2004, the last five or six or seven days of voting -- and keep in mind, that November 3rd is not Election Day. It's just the end of voting when two-thirds of people were already have voted, 7 million people in Texas have already voted in this election. Three quarters of the voters in Texas will have voted by the time we get to Friday, next Friday in this race.

And so, there's not much you can do to change the fundamental dynamics as Rick was talking about. They haven't changed much in this race. You can't really break through a new message in the last few days.

The only things you remain to do is motivating people and persuasion is really basically done at this point in presidential campaigns and do tactically to figure out who your voters are, and how you turn them out.

One thing I want to say about this race that I don’t think has been covered up and as of today, Joe Biden has a better chance of winning Texas today than Donald Trump has of winning Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Think about that. Joe Biden has a better chance of winning Texas than Donald Trump has of winning Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. That is a fundamental difference in this race.

RADDATZ: Yeah, those are pretty extraordinary numbers and pretty extraordinary thing to think about. But I want to go back to campaigning and what you do in these final days. And certainly, it's about enthusiasm.

But 60 million people watched the debate this week. Did that make a difference with anybody? You've seen ads off those debates. The oil comments that Joe Biden made.

KLEIN: Yeah, look, so much of this race is set. And that's a huge audience. There are a lot of people as Tam mentioned that will vote on Election Day itself.

But I think most of them had their minds made up already. So, there's a limit what you can do.

The comment about the oil industry, that's to me was an unforced error by Joe Biden. It cuts against so much of the messaging that he's tried to portray of himself as a moderate.

But there’s another side to it, too, which is there are a lot of voters, younger voters, maybe some suburban voters who want to see climate change elevated as an issue. And maybe that gave them some extra motivation in the end. So, I think there's a limit to what anything can mean this late in the campaign, again, with candidates this well did he defined -- we're used to talking about October surprises. But the real surprise is that huge numbers of people are voting. The lines are enormous and just people are engaged and enthusiastic about this -- about this campaign.

EDWARDS: One thing I want to --

RADDATZ: Yeah, Tamala, talk about in Pennsylvania especially. Those are pretty important issues.

EDWARDS: They are. I think with Rick it solidified. Some leaning to Trump, that oil comment pushed them further in that column. That wine mom, that’s what they’re calling the suburban mom, who likes climate change, she was pushed more probably for Joe Biden.

But look at the ground game in the counties. I call it grasp versus grip. Biden is going to places that should be for Trump, but he thinks they're in his grasp. Cambria, Erie, Westmoreland, we see Trump in some of those places as well, he should have that in his grip, he should be looking to expand.

One number that jumped out at me Northampton County, went for Trump by four points last time. It's up for Biden by 12.

So, look at the ground game and that tells you why Republicans in this state are nervous.

RADDATZ: And, Matt, I want to turn back to you. And we, of course, reported this morning that Vice President Pence's chief of staff has contracted the coronavirus. Coronavirus has been such a big issue in this campaign. No matter what President Trump says, people are thinking about this issue.

Do you think this damages the president with -- with this chief of staff getting it and possibly more staffers on Pence's staff and him still going out and campaigning?

MATTHEW DOWD, ABC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's a huge problem. I mean I think COVID and coronavirus and the inability and the incompetence in handling it has been a problem from day one in this race. I think this only complicates Donald Trump's messaging in the final five, six, seven days of this. I think it's less about a big impact on the race and more of an effect on Donald Trump's ability to try to drive through another message that he has an advantage on.

Keep in mind, Joe Biden has a 20-point advantage on who can handle -- better handle coronavirus. And so this is a -- a -- a fundamental problem for Donald Trump in the waning days.

Let me say one thing about oil and gas. I think many people are looking this as an issue that it's like it was 10 or 15 or 20 years ago. Let me give you a stat, more people work in renewable energy industry in Texas than work in the oil and gas industry in Texas. So I don't think that this is as near of a problem that many people think it is for Joe Biden's campaign. The world has changed. It's fundamentally changed on energy and it's changed in places like Texas, Pennsylvania. More voters are with Joe Biden on this than are opposed to Joe Biden on this.

RADDATZ: And, Rick, I want to -- some final thoughts here from -- from the two of you. What will you be watching for as the early voting comes in? Let's -- let's fast forward nine days. Where we'll be, what people should really be paying attention to on that night?

RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, that's when you start to see real votes on Election Day. And we know that Democrats are out voting right now in large numbers. We know that there's some places where Republicans are voting as well. I'm keeping an eye on white non-college educated voters because some of them are actually returning ballots at slightly higher clips.

But once those real votes come in, taking a look at the Florida and the North Carolinas, the Georgia, even the Texas, as -- as Matt Dowd said, that -- that really will give a sense of whether that Trump base shows up. We know the Biden voters are almost certify out in force, but if -- if Trump is going to win, he's going to need that vote on Election Day.

EDWARDS: I think I'll going to be looking at the lines and exhaustion. Are the lawyers getting involved and does it look as though we now have to elongate this election season, or did enough Democrats already get in? The main place that they can challenge will be votes that come in, in those three days perhaps after Election Day. If not a lot of them are coming in, if most people in line are Republicans, who's to challenge? And I think that will tell us a story on Election Day.

RADDATZ: And -- and we know that -- that your secretary has said that they probably will get all the votes counted by November 6th. Let's hope so and let's hope it's even earlier than that.

Thanks -- thanks to all of you and great to see you, Tam.

That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us.

And our thanks to the NationalConstitution Center in Philadelphia for hosting us this morning.

Have a great day.