A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, July 12, 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.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR: Out of control.
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DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: It's a serious situation.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: Coronavirus cases soar to new records.
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ERIC GARCETTI (D), MAYOR OF LOS ANGELES: This threat is growing.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: The death toll rising in new hot spots.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It feels as though that we're headed for a disaster.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: Hospitals straining under the surge.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hospital is full. E.R. is full. We don't have the beds to move them.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: As more governors reconsider reopening...
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GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): If we do not slow the spread of COVID-19, the next step would have to be a lockdown.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: ... President Trump pushes back to school.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We want the schools to be open and going in the fall.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): School reopenings are a state decision, period.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: Tough questions this morning for Admiral Brett Giroir from the White House Task Force.
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ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I had a very gracious call from the president United States.
TRUMP: I'm very happy with what I did.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: Trump saves Roger Stone from prison, rewarding a longtime friend convicted of lying to protect the president, defying the attorney general.
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WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I felt it was an appropriate prosecution.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: The fallout this morning with the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Chairman Adam Schiff, and our powerhouse roundtable.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week."
Here now, chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week."
It was not supposed to be this way. Early in the pandemic, President Trump predicted the coronavirus would disappear in days. Back in April, his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, said: "A lot of the country should be back to normal by June. The hope is that, by July, the country's really rocking again."
Twelve days into July, it's the virus that's rocking. The U.S. leads the world in cases, with more than 60,000 new cases yesterday alone. More than 30 states saw their caseloads increase this week.
Hospitalizations topped 50,000 this week, the highest number since May, and the death toll, which had been falling for months, now rising again. Seven states reported record highs this week, Saturday's national toll more than double last Saturday's.
In El Centro, California, you see those refrigerator containers that have become makeshift morgues.
And on Saturday, 99 days after the CDC first called on Americans to wear masks, another striking image: President Trump on his visit to Walter Reed wearing a mask in public for the first time.
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TRUMP: I think it's a great thing to wear a mask. I have never been against masks, but I do believe they have a time and a place.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are joined now by Admiral Brett Giroir from the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Admiral, thank you for joining us again this morning.
You know, the president also said this week that we're in a good place with the virus. But the U.S. has set a single-day record for new cases seven out of the last 12 days, and the death toll is rising.
Can you say we're in a good place?
ADM. BRETT GIROIR, U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: So, thank you for having me on, George.
We are all very concerned about what the virus is doing right now. We are in a much better place than we were in April because of a lot of things. The testing could allow us to identify a hot spot.
We have surge team, CDC teams, response teams all going to places. We're in a much better place for our PPE across the board. We have new -- new treatments.
So, look, we are all very concerned about the rise in cases, no doubt about that. And that's why we're meeting regularly. We're surging in assistance. But we are in a much better place.
This -- this is not out of control, but it requires a lot of effort. And everybody's going to have to do their part. And you know what you're going to ask me. And that is, you really got to stop the bars. You have got to decrease restaurant capacity. You have got to physically distance.
We have to have people wearing a mask in public. It's absolutely essential. And you have got to use good hand hygiene.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, let's talk about that mask mandate.
We saw the president wear that mask in public for the first time. You're seeing more governors come out and say, you must wear masks in our state. The governor of Louisiana did that yesterday.
Is it time for a national mandate?
GIROIR: So, you know, I'm not the person who can say who could nationally mandate things.
But let me tell you, it's very important that, unless you're in a state that is really cold and the percent positives are very low and the cases are decreasing, it is really essential to wear a mask in public.
We know that this will decrease your spread of particles to other people. It probably doesn't protect you so much, but it protects everyone around you. And the more data we get about potentially some aerosol spread, particularly in very closed spaces with poor ventilation, it's really essential to wear masks.
And for this to work, we have to have like 90 percent of people wearing a mask in public in the hot spot areas. If we don't have that, we will not get control of the virus.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president said a couple weeks back that wearing a mask is a double-edged sword. He suggested there could be some harm from wearing masks as well. Is there any downside to wearing a mask?
GIROIR: To the data we have right now, there's no downside to wearing a mask. I'm a pediatric ICU physician. I wore a mask 10 hours a day for many, many years, so we don't believe there's downside to it.
Now, there are a very selected people who feel uncomfortable with it. But again, you don't have to wear it 24/7, it's really when you're not around your -- within your home, when you're out in a public space and you can't physically distance.
If you're outside taking a walk and you're not close to someone, you don't need to wear a mask, so there is no medical reason, except for maybe one in a million, that people can't wear a mask according to the guidelines we have.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're in charge of testing for the task force. An average of about 650,000 people a day were tested over the last week, that's far below 1.7 million a day it would take to mitigate this virus. So -- and we've seen those long lines in the hardest-hit states this week, 13 hours in Phoenix. Why are we still seeing bottlenecks like this so deep into the crisis?
GIROIR: Well, there are about five questions in there. We're now -- we have days that we test over 800,000 people, and I would predict in the next couple of weeks we're going to hit over a million people, particularly with pooling. The types of test are getting better. We're having many, many point of care.
And, you know, just because someone says we need 1.7 million tests a day, doesn't mean that that's true. We think we have enough tests today to identify where the hot spots are. We know that very clearly, because when the percent positive goes up we know that's a hotspot and we need to jump on that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Right, but in those hot spots we're seeing those long lines.
GIROIR: Well, yes and no. In some places we are, in some places we aren't.
In Phoenix, for example, where everyone talks about it, we have 44 federal sites that are there that can be used in addition to those long lines. We are surging testing there at the request of the governor.
And we really have to work with some of the local partners. If you say anybody who just wants a test who wakes up and has it, do not have any appointment schedule or any hourly schedule, they're going to be lines.
We want to support them with logistics, that's why we've sent teams out to 10 localities last week, nine more this week, and we have CDC personnel in every town.
I'm talking to people on a regular basis multiple times a day. But our testing is up. You're going to see a lot more improvements in testing with point of care and pooling over the next week or so. We expect turnaround times to go down as we lessen the burden of nursing homes, because we have alternate strategies for them to get tested.
So, again, we need to have as many tests as possible. We have enough right now to identify where the hot spots are. But once you identify it, you've got to do something. And the do something are the measures we just talked about -- wear a face mask, physically distance, wash your hands, et cetera.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that's what I want to get to next, because in those hotspots now are places that reopened early. I want to show a graph from The New York Times showing the astronomical increase in places like Florida, South Carolina, Arizona, Texas, and Georgia since they reopened. You mentioned masks, you mentioned physical distancing, but is it time to consider more stringent lockdowns in those states?
GIROIR: You know, everything should be on the table. What we model are the most important interactions, are closing bars. If you're in a red state, I mean like a red state -- red meaning you have a lot of transmission, closing bars is an important thing, limiting the capacity of restaurants is an important thing, these are two measures that really do need to be done. They really do need to be done.
Mask wearing in public. In order for us to reverse this problem, we need about 90 percent of people in those really hot areas to wear masks when they're in public.
Now, let me just we, we're not out of this at all. We're all very concerned. But we have seen this week the leveling of what we call the percent positive. That's our sort of first indicator that if that levels we're going to start seeing emergency rooms drop, hospitalizations drop. I'm not saying that's going to happen, but I'm saying the measures that we have right now indicate that we're in -- we have a lot of cases right now, but the measures we're doing may be putting the lid on that.
Hospitalizations, very concerning -- yeah.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But I was just going to say, those positivity levels in the hot states are leveling off at a very high level, a significantly high level. That means we're likely to see the death rate increase even more over the next few weeks, doesn't it?
GIROIR: So, look, that's a leading indicator. We expect hospitalizations to continue to go up. What I mean a leading indicator, that's the first thing you see. And when it levels off, it's got to level off before it goes down.We do expect, and are planning for, and are surging people and everything else, but we do expect hospitalizations to go up. At the peak in April, we’re about 85,000. Right, now, we’re at 63,000. But we do expect those to go up.
And unfortunately, even though the mortality rate, your chances of dying if you get COVID are way reduce than they were before because we know how to care for you better, we have remdesivir, we have steroids, even though the death rate if you get it is going down, your chances of surviving are much better, we do expect deaths to go up. If you have more cases, more hospitalizations, we do expect to see that over the next two or three weeks before this turns around. It's starting to turn now, but we won't reap the benefits for that a few weeks.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Everyone wants to see kids back in school in the fall, but the big question out there right now is how to do it safely. President said this week that he thinks the CDC guidelines are too tough and too expensive.
Do you share that concern?
GIROIR: I think the CDC guidelines are really right on target and we all, you know, they are, quote, CDC guidelines, but we all work on it together, all the docs on the task force, the interagency, and we feel they're pretty strong.
I want to emphasize, I’m a pediatrician. We have to do this safely but kids not being in school risk their social and emotional health, risk many people with nutrition, the recognition of child abuse, child sexual abuse, it's really important to get kids physically back in school.
But we do have to do that safely. And the first thing we need to do is we need to get the virus under control. When we get the virus more under control, then we can really think about how we put children back in the classroom.
We know from other countries that particularly young children do not seem to spread the virus. We know they don't get sick. So, we're learning a lot from looking at Sweden, and Finland and Japan, about how to do this safely.
So, it is -- it is a health reason to get them back in school, but it's got to be done carefully. The CDC guidelines are good. And the guidelines aren’t changing this week. These are more guidelines that are amenable to school districts actually implementing them.
School -- the CDC guidelines tend to be a little bit academic and long, these are going to be much more concise so people can really follow them and understand them.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, sir, I was struck by something William Haseltine, a biomedical executive, former professor at Harvard Medical School, said this week, and I want to put on the screen.
All people who study these viruses think that the summer is the quiet time. Think about that. If this is the quiet time, I hate to think what winter is going to be like this year.
Should we be braced for a stronger second wave, and what can we do now to soften the blow?
GIROIR: So, we had no data to suggest that this would go away. And we know 90 percent of our population is still at risk for the coronavirus. So, we were hopeful that it would diminish in the summer, but we didn’t count on it.
And yes, there's possibility it could be worse in the fall and we are all continuing to increase everything we do.
I do think in the fall, we're going to need tens of millions of more tests a month and we're planning for that, because we have a lot of respiratory viruses like flu circulating. Very critical that people their flu vaccines because we don’t want flu circulating with COVID. And, yes, there are some data that you can get both at the same time. And that's not really good.
We're continuing to work with our commercial partners. The commercial labs have done a great job. They’ve done over half the testing in this country. They’re working on strategies with us around polling.
And, finally, we're doubling down on protecting the nursing homes. You’ll see a lot of actions in the next couple of weeks of getting point of care testing into the nursing homes at risk that will decrease the burden on the commercial labs but also give people turnaround times of 15 minutes so we can control that.
So, it is all hands on deck. It's been all hands on deck since the middle of March. Unfortunately, it’s still hands on deck during the summer, but we are preparing for the fall.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Admiral, thanks very much for your time this morning and thank you for being so straight with us this morning.
Up next, the fallout from President Trump's Friday reprieve for Roger Stone. House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff joins us live.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Roger Stone was treated very unfairly. Roger Stone was brought into this witch hunt, this whole political witch hunt, and the Mueller scam. I's a scam, because it's been proven false. And he was treated very unfairly, just like General Flynn is treated unfairly, just like Papadopoulos was treated unfairly. They've all been treated unfairly. And what I did -- what I did, I will tell you this, people are extremely happy because in this country they want justice. And Roger Stone was not treated properly. So I'm very happy with what I did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump on commuting Roger Stone's sentence. The president's late Friday move to reward his longtime friend is drawing plenty of fire as well, including the first public statement from Robert Mueller in more than a year. In a "Washington Post" essay, Muller defended his Russia investigation and Stone's prosecution.
Quote, when a subject lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of the government's efforts to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable. Because his sentence has been commuted, he will not go to prison, but his conviction stands.
And we are joined now by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff.
Chairman Schiff, thank you for joining us this morning.
Stone was convicted in part for false statements he made to your committee. What's your response to the president?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I think anyone who cares about the rule of law in this country is nauseated by the fact that the president has commuted the sentence of someone who willfully lied to Congress, covered up for the president, intimidated witnesses, obstructed the investigation.
It shouldn't matter whether you're a Democrat or Republican. This should be offensive to you if you care about the rule of law and you care about justice.
And let’s remember, George, that Roger Stone was the intermediary, he was the link between Donald Trump and Trump campaign and Russian intelligence, the same Russian intelligence unit that hacked Donald Trump's opponent’s emails. He was the link with their cutout WikiLeaks as well, to which they published these.
Donald Trump was desperate to get his hands on these e-mails. He urged the Russians to hack Hillary's e-mails. He touted them when they did, over a hundred times in the campaign trail.
He thought they were central to his victory, and this -- this effort to get and use foreign assistance is what Roger Stone had information on and he lied to cover up and protect the president.
And the president through this commutation is basically saying, if you lie for me, if you cover up for me, if you have my back, then I will make sure that you get a get-out-of-jail-free card. Other Americans, different standards. Friends of the president’s, accomplices of this president, they get off scot-free.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What if anything, though -- if anything, though, can you do about it? I know Speaker Pelosi has said the House will move legislation to ensure that no president can pardon or commute the sentence of someone who’s trying to shield the person. But even if the House passes it, it’s not going in the Senate, anywhere in the Senate right now.
And wouldn't it likely be found unconstitutional if it became law?
SCHIFF: Well, there are things that we can do to discourage the abuse of the pardon power, the commutation power, I introduced a bill months ago, for example, that would say if the president pardons someone in which they're a witness, subject, or target, the complete investigative files on that case will be provided to Congress, so that Congress can evaluate whether this is yet another act of obstruction of justice. So, that we can do.
But you point out a very important problem, George, which is responsible in part for the commutation of this sentence and that is Republicans won't stand up for the rule of law, won't stand up for the independence of the Justice Department. It shouldn’t matter, but this was a Republican-led investigation that Roger Stone lied to, the committee was then chaired by a Republican.
And here you have no more than a couple of Republicans willing to say a single word about someone who came before Congress and lied to them, intimidated witnesses and obstructed them. And why? Because he did it to cover for a president of their party.
This is distinction between now and Watergate. The Republicans at that time would not have stood for this, and Nixon understood that. But Donald Trump understands that he has these Republicans cowed, they won't stand up to him, they won't defend the rule of law.
And that means we will have to wait until next year to pass this legislation to discourage further abuses of the pardon or commutation powers.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Of course, the other possible remedy is impeachment. I want to actually bring up a quote from James Madison, 1778, constitutional convention, talking about the president's pardon power.
He said: If the president be connected in any suspicious manner with any person and there be grounds to believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him. They can remove him if found guilty.
Now, you said (ph) the same issue, the Republicans now being opposed to impeachment.
But is this an impeachable offense?
SCHIFF: It's an impeachable offense if you abuse the pardon power to protect yourself from criminal liability. But again, George, if the Republicans won't say a word, of course, they're not going to vote to impeach and convict.
We already presented a case with overwhelming evidence and they refused to convict them. And, indeed, of course, during that impeachment, we warned that if they left him in office, knowing that he committed impeachable offenses, that the damage he could do between now and Election Day could be severe.
And here we are now, 130,000 Americans dead, we had no idea just how bad the damage would be. But nonetheless we knew the damage would be grave.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Your colleague Hakeem Jeffries said that president and Stone can still be indicted once Donald Trump leaves office.
Should Joe Biden ask his attorney general take that step if he indeed does become president?
SCHIFF: You know, that will be a decision I think that Joe Biden will have to make, considering the circumstances in the country at that time. I don't envy the difficulty of that decision.
But, you know, for example, if you just look at the campaign fraud scheme the president was involved, the Southern District of New York U.S. attorney's office indicted Michael Cohen for being directed and coordinated to commit this fraud scheme -- well, the individual number one who did the directing and coordinating was the president of the United States.
The Justice Department thought that Michael Cohen should go to jail for that, what's the argument not to have the person who did the directing and coordinating go to jail? But that will be a decision Joe Biden will have to make.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, I do want to talk about this COVID crisis.
You're from Los Angeles, one of the hot spots right now in the country. And there's more talk about a possible 'nother stimulus package coming in the House later this month.
Are you confident you can get something done before the House goes on recess? And what more do we need to do to get this virus under control?
SCHIFF: We have to get something done.
We need to ramp up our testing and our tracing. We need the ability to treat those who get sick and to isolate those who carry the virus. And we need to help Americans who are really suffering and hanging on right now by a thin financial thread.
That is likely to get worse. Unemployment compensation, in terms of the federal extended benefits, are going to be cut off. The aid to businesses, small businesses, may be cut off, if the Republicans still refuse to act.
Now, will they continue, in the face of such misery and disease and death, refuse to act? I certainly hope not. I think they will be compelled to.
But I think they're going to do far too little, given the economic circumstances and given this dire health threat to the American people. So, I'm desperately concerned, as concerned as you hear from the health experts.
I'm concerned that the Republicans in Congress will not rise to the challenge of this virus, and we will have more economic suffering and more death than -- than necessary.
It didn't have to be this way. But both the combination of the president's incompetent response and the Republican unwillingness to step up to the plate and provide the resources for a fulsome answer to that virus has left us where we are.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chairman Schiff, thanks very much for your time this morning.
Nate Silver and our roundtable coming up. Stay with us.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable is standing by ready to go. We'll be right back.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't care about getting wet, you just wash off.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, I know they're calling it a tropical storm, but we would have stayed here. I know, everyone would have stayed. No one would have left.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody that was showing up today is going to be coming back. Everybody I've talked to said they'll be back.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm glad they're still having it, and I can't wait until the new date comes out in a couple of weeks, they're saying hopefully, and then I'll be back up here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Some of President Trump's New Hampshire supporters not all that happy with the news that his Saturday night rally in Portsmouth was canceled. And the Trump campaign is counting on the loyalty of his hard-core base to carry the day come November, arguing that Joe Biden doesn't inspire that kind of fervent support.
But is the enthusiasm gap wide enough to make a difference on election day? We asked Nate Silver from FiveThirtyEight.
NATE SILVER, FOUNDER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: Despite polls showing him trailing Biden, Trump's advisors have argued the president will benefit from an enthusiasm advantage. In theory, this could make sense, but in practice I'm not sure it'll be enough to save him. Here's why.
64 percent of Trump voters said they're very enthusiastic about voting Trump in the last ABC News poll, versus just 31 percent of Biden voters saying the same about their candidate.
But Biden pitched himself as a safe alternative to Trump, and so far that seems to have worked. Two-thirds of Biden voters say their vote is mostly a vote against Trump.
And November isn't just about the White House. Democrats are pouring a ton of money into the Senate and raising unprecedented amounts in key races. In South Carolina, for example, Lindsey Graham's relatively unheard of challenger, Democrat Jaime Harrison, raised almost $14 million last year. And Democrats in states like Montana, Iowa and even Kansas, none of which were originally thought to be top tier races, have raised money in the mid seven figures.
The other problem for Trump is that enthusiasm for a candidate is not necessarily the only reason that people will turn out to vote. Instead, elections with an incumbent can sometimes be a referendum on how the country is doing.
Sixty-seven percent of voters now disapprove of the president's handling of race relations and it's estimated around 20 million Americans have participated in the Black Lives Matter protests, which would make them the largest in the country's history.
And both Trump and Biden have now received more than 17 million votes in their respective primaries. And with some states still left to vote, will probably wind up with the most votes of any primary candidates in history.
So, do I buy that there's plenty of enthusiasm for the president? Well, absolutely. The problem is there might be just as much enthusiasm against him, too.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Nate for that.
The roundtable's up next.
We'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's bring in our roundtable right now.
Joined by Chris Christie, Rahm Emanuel, Amanda Carpenter, former top staffer for Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Jim DeMint, now a political columnist at "The Bulwark," and Zerlina Maxwell ---
We have a technical problem. Sorry, we're going to go to break.
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BIDEN: Let's use this opportunity to take bold investments in American industry and innovation so the future is made in America, all in America. When the federal government spends taxpayers' money, we should use it to buy American products and support American jobs.
TRUMP: It's a plan that is very radical left, so he said the right things because he's copying what I've done. But the difference is he can't do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump, Joe Biden sparring on the economy, one of the areas where President Trump still holds an advantage over Joe Biden.
Let's talk about the race now on our roundtable. I'm joined by Chris Christie, Rahm Emanuel, Amanda Carpenter, former top staffer for Republican Senator Ted Cruz and Jim DeMint now political columnist at This Bulwark, and Zerlina Maxwell, senior director for progressive programming at SiriusXM, author of the End of White Politics. Welcome to all of you.
And Rahm, let me begin with you, Joe Biden has about a nine point lead in national polls right now, leading in all of the battleground states. And there are some Democrats now talking about going into Georgia, going into Texas. Is that overconfidence?
RAHM EMANUEL, FORMER CHICAGO MAYOR AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes and no. I think on the straight point I would think of what you have right now don't get confused with the national polls. They are very, very good. But while he is -- the vice president is up in the battleground states, I would right now number one go secure those top battleground states before you expand the field. Keep your eye on those opportunities that approach.
And I think right now, I wouldn't spike the ball on the 20 yard line. We know what happened in 2016. Focus, right now, on securing Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina, that's what I would do. And then look strategically about which of those opportunities -- right now you have an election, George, where the American people want a president who solves problems and not be the source of problems, and that's the opportunity Democrats have right now.
And Donald Trump, until he changes that scenario, is he is seen as the source of problems, and Joe Biden is a secure, smooth choice. And nothing has changed that dynamic. If it doesn't change, Joe Biden is in a good position and the Democrats are in a very good position.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris Christie, the big problem for the president right now -- we just did a poll with Ipsos on Friday showing the two big crises the country is facing right now, the COVID crisis and the crisis in race relations, 67 percent of the public disapproves with how the president is handling those. Until he turns that around, he can't be in this race.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I don't know if that's necessarily true, George, but I will tell you that it's never good as an incumbent to have crises going on during the time you're running for reelection. And so that's a pretty simple understanding, and anybody who has been involved in national politics.
But I think what the president needs to do, and he started to do it a bit this week, is to start to talk about what he wants to do with the next four years. Right now, Joe Biden is laying out an agenda that's being unchallenged. I think if the president challenges that agenda with a right of center agenda for the next four years, then you turn this into a binary reelection rather than a referendum on the president, and then this becomes a very competitive race.
Because Rahm pointed out, the vice president is ahead in many of the battleground states, but he's not ahead by nearly as much as the national polls are showing. And I think what the president needs to do is to lay out his vision for the next four years. You don't need to look backwards, we need to look look forwards. And I think if you start to do that, you can change the tenor of the debate in the country, and that's what the president needs to do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Zerlina Maxwell, one of the things we did see from Vice President Biden this week is that his first real major economic speech of the general election campaign where he tried to take it to President Trump.
Go ahead, Zerlina.
ZERLINA MAXWELL, SIRIUSXM SENIOR DIRECTOR OF PROGRESSIVE PROGRAMMING: Yes. Yes, George. Vice President Biden put out a robust economic plan, and that plan demonstrates that he does have a vision to help the most marginalized people.
I think that the contrast that Mayor Rahm was -- Mayor Emanuel was talking about is important to highlight, because Joe Biden needs to set forth a vision. He's going to be coming in potentially in the middle of this COVID crisis, and also with voters concerned about how that vaccine, potentially, be distributed.
And so my Signal Boost co-host on SirusXM always says we're voting for a vaccine delivery system. And I think that paints a very visual picture for people about what is at stake in this election. And so I don't think we should look back or forward, I think we should be very present in this moment and deal with the public health crisis, which is intrinsically linked with the economic crisis.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Amanda Carpenter, that is the big hope for the president and his supporters right now, that a vaccine is developed relatively quickly before the end of this year, that we continue to see an improvement in the economic situation so you have real growth in the third quarter. Will that be enough?
AMANDA CARPENTER, THIS BULWARK POLITICAL COLUMNIST: That's the hope.
I mean where this race really started to get away from Trump was last spring with the three events that happened. You had the protests in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, you had the pandemic, and then you had the nomination of Joe Biden, who a lot of Republican and independent voters said, you know what, maybe I could live with that.
And so they can jockey over, you know, who is the economic populist. That seems like some consultant driven, you know, stuff that doesn't matter. What matters is whether America is open again or not. And you look at the coronavirus crisis, families have been dealing with this since this past March, April, months and months. And you look at this administration, and it's like they woke up in July and said, oh yeah, what about schools?
Families are worried about this. And the plan coming from them is essentially, we're going to mandate that you open up. We don't know how you do it, but figure it out or we're going to take away your funding.
Do you know who that's going to hurt him with? Women, who he's already suffering with. Suburban women ran to the arms of Democrats in the mid-term elections, and Donald Trump's last stronghold is non-college educated, mostly white, rural women. And the last ABC News poll that looked at that in June, he had an 11 point slide.
If he loses them even further, he has no chance of winning the election.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris Christie pick up -- Rahm and then Chris on this point.
EMANUEL: I just think there should be two points added here. One is, you have the situation, Biden -- the vice president laid out an agenda that was economic that kept both wings of the party together and actually also provided an uneasy target for the president. The president called it both stupid and copying him, only Trump could say that about another plan.
Number two, right now if you look at all the polling and focus groups, the country feels that we're driving 70 miles an hour around the turn at the dark of night on wet pavement and the person at the steering wheel has a driving permit. And unless -- and that the president, there is nothing that says at this moment let's do four more years of this. Elections are either change or stay the course. And right now, change is beating stay the course by 15 points.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me bring that to Chris. I mean, one of the things -- you talk about the president having to lay out a second term agenda. He started to do that a little bit with Sean Hannity this week. But pick up on the points made by both Amanda and Rahm right there.
Before he even gets to that, doesn't he have to do more to reach out, particularly to these suburban women who seem to have been turned off by how the whole coronavirus crisis has been managed?
CHRISTIE: Well, George, laying out a vision for the next four years is what will do that.
Whether you're a suburban woman, an urban man, whether you're someone who has children who wonder whether they're going to go back to school this fall, whether you're someone who is still unemployed, what you want to know is what's going to happen next.
I disagree with Zerlina on this, we don't need to focus on the here and now, we do have to look at the horizon and focus on the future and lay out a plan.
And here's the problem with Vice President Biden on this point, he still refuses, with the exception of one speech this week, to get out there and really start to talk about things. This is a strategy by his campaign and by the Democratic Party. They don't want him out there, because as we've seen also, there have been some really concerning videos that have been put out recently of the vice president struggling with articulating his vision, struggling with answering direct questions.
And that gives us a preview for what I think will be the most important presidential debates since 1980, because there's real uncertainty, you'll remember, about Ronald Reagan in 1980. Was he up to the job? Was he ready for the job against an incumbent who was having difficulties.
That was a very close race until that debate in 1980 when Ronald Reagan assured people, reassured them, that he was going to be as president of the United States. That race turned into a blowout. Joe Biden is going to have the same opportunity, but the same risk. If Reagan hadn't performed well in 1980, that race probably would have gone to Carter.
And so I think the debates are going to be something, because Biden has hidden so much, that are going to be even more important this time than they were at any time in recent memory.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Zerlina, does Biden have to get out more right now? His campaign seems to think what's going -- the way he's campaigning now is working for them.
MAXWELL: I certainly think that they are being cautious in this particular moment, and only strategically putting the vice president into spaces where he can be effective.
What I do think they're strategy -- would help their strategy in this particular moment is if they used a robust list of surrogates and influencers in social media spaces to get the message out about the vice president's plan. He's not the only messenger for the message, George, and I think it's really important to understand that we are presently in the middle of a crisis.
So just to push back on the point that we shouldn't talk about the here and now, there are 136,000 Americans dead right now, and that number is only rising at a moment where it seem the administration is not on the same page with all the governors in terms of the one federal policy that dictates what everybody should be doing to keep everyone safe, because, George, this is a country where we all are a part of maintaining the health and security of all Americans, and that's something to keep in mind.
And Joe Biden is a good messenger for that, but there are other folks, surrogates and influencers, who can go out and directly speak to those younger and more diverse communities that he definitely needs to turn out in November.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Amanda Carpenter, the vice president chief surrogate...
CHRISTIE: Hey, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Go ahead, Chris, and then let me go to Amanda.
CHRISTIE: George, I just want to say, that's not what I said. I don't think -- I do not say we shouldn't talk about the here and now, what I said was if you're going to be an effective candidate for reelection you must lay out a vision for the future.
And the president is talking every day, as is the administration, about the current crisis. You had Admiral Giroir on just earlier in the show laying out their strategy on testing and what they continue to do.
And I would say one other thing in response to what Zerlina said, putting the vice president in places where he can be most effective, let me tell you something that's not the way the presidency works, George, you know it and I know it and Rahm knows it, you get put into the presidency, you can't be put into some place where you're most effective, you have to show during the campaign you can deal with the stress and the strain and the difficulty of the job.
And that's what I'll talk about, that they have to show the American people, because I think that's where they're going to be concerned when their vote comes in November.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Amanda, everyone will be scrutinizing the vice president's choice for a running mate as well. A lot of talk this week about Rahm's fellow senator from Illinois, Tammy Duckworth. What do you make of that?
CARPENTER: Well, it's sort of interesting. It seems like the strategy from the Republicans is to sort of force Biden out of hiding. And I think Chris Christie would agree with that from what he said.
But all they're trying to do -- all Trump is trying to do is force people back into this petty, political fights. And I think a lot of Americans have had enough of that. And what makes Tammy Duckworth appealing to a lot of people right now is that she got poked. She got poked by Tucker Carlson and she said, you know what, I'm not going to take this and I can put him back in his place.
EMANUEL: George -- George, can I make --
CARPENTER: And so, you know, how much are we going to get into that kind of fight? I don't think people want to see that. People are out of work. Their kids can't go to school. And Donald Trump, we don't need to see the future because we have a past to judge on. So if this is going to be a referendum, which it should be because it has to do with leadership and we have a record that we can look to with Donald Trump, let it be that.
EMANUEL: Yes, I was going to say two things. Put aside the fact that the attack on Tammy Duckworth, the senator from Illinois, and the governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, both reinforce the president's biggest problem right now, which is he's pushing away suburban college educated women. In 19 -- in 2012, P)resident Obama got 46 percent of that vote. Today, George, Vice President Biden is north of 60. In 2018, Democrats for Congress got 60 percent.
This trend -- so attacking women governors, women senators, all I can say to the Trump campaign, keep going, don't stop, just be yourself because it's not going to work individually to the candidates.
Vice President Biden has to do four things in the next four months, pick the right running mate, perform in all three debates, lay out an agenda to the future that the American people can see themselves in and make sure that he draws a stark contrast. And the reason Chris is acting the way he is, both times in the last couple weeks, is because Biden is executing his campaign perfectly. He's laying out an agenda for the future, letting the vice -- the president stand out there in the arena by himself, fully exposing himself to the American people, that reality TV is not up to reality. And that is what's hurting President Trump because he cannot administer himself out of these three crises.
Everything with Congress, going. What he has to do on his own, administer both the virus, police reform, economic recovery, he cannot organize himself out of a wet paper bag and he is being exposed for what he is, which is a fraud.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris, he called you out, so you respond.
CHRISTIE: Listen, you know, Rahm puts so many different phrases in there, I don't even know, organize out of a wet paper bag.
EMANUEL: Too complicated for you, Chris.
CHRISTIE: I don't even know what that means.
But -- but, you know -- I -- yes, definitely, Rahm, you're definitely too complicated for me, and probably for the American people too.
Here's the -- here's the problem. The -- the problem for Rahm is he said there's four things they have to do and Biden's executing perfectly. Well, you know, he's come out of the basement once in the last few weeks and -- and I would disagree with Amanda, I'm not advocating that we get into some petty, political fights with Joe Biden. What I'm advocating is that the president lay out his vision for the next four years, let Joe Biden lay his vision out for the next four years, let the American people choose.
And the only way that the president can do that is to actually lay that vision out. And so I -- Amanda says she wants it to be a referendum. There's always an element of referenda when you're dealing with an incumbent. But if the incumbent wants to win, the incumbent has to lay out the agenda for the next four years, contract that with the challenger, and then counter punch when the challenger goes too far left, which is what I think Joe Biden will do here.
But, you know, we still have, you know, about 115 days or so to go. We're going to see whether the president can execute on that or not. I don't know the answer to that question, but I'm going to be sure interested to watch.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is -- that is one of the big questions, certainly. And one of the things we've been seeing, though, from the president is the focus on other issues. Of course, that Friday night commutation of Roger Stone's sentence.
Any sense from you that that could work for him politically?
MAXWELL: Commuting a sentence of somebody who was convicted of a crime, looking into the president's conduct, no, I don't think that's going to be beneficial to the president. I think it reminds the American people that this president has been impeached.
You had a Republican senator, Mitt Romney, the only senator to vote for conviction, come out saying that this is unprecedented, historic corruption. That's a quotable. That's something the American people understand.
And to the point about the vision for the future, the current situation is going to dictate what the future looks like. If we don’t get the virus under control in the states currently that are experiencing spikes -- I'm the daughter of a biologist, George.
If we don't get that under control, then we are not going to be able to have much of a robust future and economic growth going forward because, again, all of these crisis are interconnected and the president has been incompetent in dealing with them. He stood up in front of a podium and told people to inject disinfectant, talking about putting the president in spaces where he can or cannot because effective, to the governor's point.
But I just want to say that when we're talking about voters and how Joe Biden can reach out and speak to that Democratic base, we're forgetting about the fact that the Democratic base, in this current moment, in 2020, is women of color. Black women vote 6 points higher than the national average. We turn out at nearly 70 percent of the time in each election. And that's something that Joe Biden can focus on that Democrats don't traditionally focus on this early in the election cycle. So invest early, message directly to communities that can turn out and tip the election in your favor, particularly in these critical battleground states, like North Carolina, but don't forget Georgia, which is on the list as a state where the black vote can have a major impact.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris Christie, there's no question the president has the right to commute Roger Stone's sentence, but was it the right thing to do?
CHRISTIE: Well, I wouldn't have done it, George, because I don't think that the facts that surround the Stone prosecution support the idea of any type of clemency. So I wouldn't have done it. But, you're right in your question, the president has the right to do it. But I wouldn't have done it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Amanda Carpenter, the question is, and you saw Adam Schiff making this point when he was on earlier in the program, Mitt Romney aside, and Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania aside, the Republican Party has -- has basically said, we're OK with this. And maybe one of the reasons is, the president was on Twitter this morning attacking Pat Toomey and Mitt Romney.
CARPENTER,: Yes, this is -- I mean this is the scariest subject. And it's not just about Roger Stone. This is a page in a whole book about how Donald Trump is replacing the rule of law with the rule of Trump.
You look at serious things that have been happening. He is purging Attorneys General in important districts, the Eastern District of New York, the Southern District of New York, Washington, D.C., ousting inspectors general, who try to exercise a modicum of accountability over this administration.
And so where are we going to go? He's putting his lackeys, political allies, into important positions while he threatens Obama with treason and wants to go -- continue to go Joe Biden. And so what happens when he turns justice inside out and he not only obstructs justice, but wields it against his political enemies.
That's what I'm worried about going into November, the lack of Republicans who are willing to stand up for the rule of law, are paving the way for worse things to come. And I am very worried about the time that we're going into November when Donald Trump gets desperate to preserve his power.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Rahm, it's pretty clear the Democrats are now saying everything is about the election, there's nothing more they can do to stop these kinds of actions from the president.
EMANUEL: Well, I actually -- I have a view on this. First of all, the Republicans are going to pay a price, George for -- 100 percent blind loyalty, not finding any room or degree of differences with the president, so they're tied to him over the last three and a half years and the next four months, in November, they're going to pay a price for that blind 100 percent loyalty.
I actually thought, when I saw the Roger Stone clemency, given everybody that disagreed with it, I actually thought it was the first indication that the president knows he's going to lose and he's settling up right now. It was the first time that you could see an action taken, not to actually enhance his chances of winning, because it's another controversy. He doesn't need more controversies around his candidacy and his presidency. He needs to clear them out and give people some calm and comfort. And every day he's -- his modus operandi, going back to Roy Cohn, is fight, fight, fight. And right now he's made -- picking the wrong fights.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that --
EMANUEL: And I actually think this is the first time you see that he knows he is not going not win.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's going to have to be the last word. Thanks to all of you. Thanks to all of you for watching.
Have a good afternoon.