'This Week' Transcript 5-3-20: Mike Pompeo, Gov. Mike DeWine, Ronna McDaniel, Tom Perez
This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, May 3.
A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, May 3, 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.
MARTHA RADDATZ, "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR: Testing the limits.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): When you pull back too quickly, you literally put people's lives at risk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Dozens of states taking steps to relax restrictions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I like the states opening. They're going to opening safely and quickly, I hope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Amid devastating unemployment, growing unrest, and continued protests.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what freedom looks like.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: States are slowly opening, but the fight is far from over.
As the death toll continues to rise, are we moving too fast, too soon?
Those questions ahead for Ohio's governor, as his state begins to reopen.
Plus: As President Trump suggests the virus originated in a Chinese lab, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joins us exclusively.
And six months out from Election Day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I hope that we're going to be able to do some good old-fashioned 25,000-person rallies.
JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wish we were doing this in person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: How is the coronavirus transforming the race for the White House? Will there be conventions and campaign rallies? Will Americans be able to safely vote?
Exclusive interviews with the Republican and Democratic Committee party chairs.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week."
Here now, co-anchor Martha Raddatz.
RADDATZ: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week" on this first Sunday in May.
It's the third month the coronavirus pandemic has been upending life in the United States. This morning, more than a million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed. On Thursday and Friday alone, the U.S. suffered its deadliest 48 hours yet.
That coincided with a lapse of federal guidelines for social distancing, each state now on a different path for getting back to business, six states set to loosen restrictions tomorrow, after 17 others did on Friday.
The country is beginning to reopen, but there is no consensus on the right way to do it. More and more frustrated Americans taking to the streets to protest, while others remain deeply concerned that moving too fast will result in a sudden spike of cases or a second wave of this deadly pandemic.
This morning, we will explore the challenge leaders across the country face balancing health and safety and the desire to get back to work.
But we begin with a snapshot of what's happening across the country, starting with ABC's Clayton Sandell in Colorado.
CLAYTON SANDELL, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: You can see just how busy this shopping center parking lot is here behind me, but when it comes to reopening, Colorado has a patchwork of guidelines that change depending on where you live.
Here in Douglas County, south of Denver, places like this hair salon are open and busy. And even though some state restrictions have been lifted, some of Colorado's biggest counties and cities say the governor's plan to reopen is too rushed. Denver has extended its stay-at-home order until May 8.
Now, health officials say all of this mixed messaging is confusing, but everyone seems to agree that social distancing and wearing a mask must continue.
KAYNA WHITWORTH, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kayna Whitworth at Seal Beach in Orange County.
Now, this beach remains closed, and there was a small group of protesters. It dissipated quite quickly. Authorities say, from time to time, people will walk out onto the beach, and they have to encourage them to come back off. They haven't had to issue any citations yet.
And in the meantime, they really encourage their residents to utilize green spaces like this. And you can see that people are doing that and practicing social distancing.
VICTOR OQUENDO, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I'm Victor Oquendo on Miami Beach.
Florida is slowly starting to reopen. This park, for example, it's back open. You just have to wear a mask when you're inside. Nearby, though, the beaches, they're still closed.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced a three-phase plan for reopening the state. It starts May 4, but it does not include Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties.
For the countless people we have spoken with down here who have been unemployed for more than a month now and have been dealing with Florida's unreliable unemployment system, that is the last news that they want to hear.
But the governor says he wants to be smart, he wants to be safe, and he wants to take this step by step.
RADDATZ: A step-by-step approach seems to be exactly what Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has prescribed for his state.
And he joins us now.
Governor, you were on the early side of closures, and have now taken a phased approach at reopening, with manufacturing and construction opening tomorrow, and then retail the next week.
You have had more than 19,000 cases of COVID, over 1,000 deaths, and have been in the downward curve, it looks like, for only about four or five days.
But you have also had one million Ohioans file for unemployment. So, tell me how you decided to reopen, how you balance that health risk vs. economic risk.
GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): Well, we're trying to do it very carefully.
And we're trying to do two things at once. I told Ohioans Friday, I said we can do two things at once. We can remain very, very careful; keep the social distancing, wear masks when out in public. And what we had did is we put a business group together -- actually a number of different business groups to look at every business sector and to come back with best practices.
So when we open tomorrow in regard to a lot of businesses as well as office, it’s going to be based upon really best practices that were laid out by people in those businesses who do that. We’re going to move forward on that with restaurants, you know, in a week or so and that’s going to be by a group that -- of restaurant folks big and small who have kind of laid out this is the way to do it.
So we’re balancing it. We’re going to keep our eye on the numbers. We’ve had a fairly flat -- really for about two weeks with hospitalizations and that we’ll certainly going to continue to keep an eye on that.
So it is a balancing thing. We got to bring the economy back but we also have to continue to protect people. And one of the things I emphasize with Ohioans is it’s not so much my orders or the health director’s orders, it is what we all do in our individual lives and how careful we are. And we can continue to do that and...
RADDATZ: Governor, let’s talk about that. You did something that not too many politicians do, you did an about-face. You first announced that everyone would be required to wear face masks when retail opened, and then you reversed yourself when some of your citizens said it was offensive. Talk me through the thinking on that because you were just talking about face masks.
DEWINE: Face masks are very important and our business group came back and said every employee, for example, should wear a face mask. So we’re continuing that, whether it’s retail or wholesale, whatever it is, manufacturing, every employee’s going to have the face mask. But it became very clear to me after we put out the order that everyone in retail who walked into a store as a customer would have to do that, it became clear to me that that was just a bridge too far that people were not going to accept the government telling them what to do. And so we put out dozens and dozens of orders, that was one that it just went too far.
But at the same time we pulled that back, I said look this is -- this is, for most people, it’s -- unless you have a physical reason you can’t wear the mask, and we understand that, but when you go into a retail store, that is the kind thing to do because I worry and we should all worry about the folks who are stocking shelves in grocery stores, the people who are -- the check-out line who work there all day, and we got to try to protect them.
So, again, it’s what individual Ohioans do. They’ve been great going through this. We flattened the curve. People have stayed home. They’ve kept their social distance. And we just got to continue to do that.
So my ability to communicate to the people of Ohio, frankly, I thought was going to be really impeded and we would get hung up on the mandatory masks for someone going in as a customer and it just wasn’t going to work. And so you got to know what you can do and what you can’t do.
RADDATZ: And Governor the reaction to the Coronavirus has really created a kind of partisan divide. A new ABC News/Ipsos poll post shows that Democrats are more concerned about contracting the virus while Republicans respondents would be more likely to get out if and when the rules change. Republicans are twice as likely to eat a restaurant, work-out at a gym, and get a haircut, and they were three times as likely to attend a sporting event, and four times as likely to stay in a hotel. Why do you think we have that partisan divide?
DEWINE: I’m not really sure. I’m not sure -- you know, you’ve got those figures, I’ve not heard those figures before. But I think generally Republicans are less inclined to have the government tell them what to do. And that’s generally how I am. I’m a conservative Republican. I think we’re better off not having the government tell us what to do. But we are in a health crisis and -- but what we are trying to do in Ohio is to move from orders that we put out where we say we have to close this, we are now in a phase where yeah we’ve got a few orders out there but we’re starting really pretty aggressively to phase business back in.
And what it’s going to depend on now is how individual Ohioans react to this. And if they continue, which I believe they will, to keep the social distancing...
RADDATZ: I just want to ask you, if you see cases begin to spike, will you go back to closing things down?
DEWINE: We’re going to watch numbers every single day. And we’re going to communicate those numbers to the people of Ohio. That’s one of the things we’ve done. We do a press conference virtually everyday and we try to give them the data that we’re looking at.
So if we’re starting to see those numbers, the people of the state are going to see those numbers and, you know, we’ll have to take action.
RADDATZ: Thanks so much for joining us this morning, Governor DeWine.
DEWINE: Thank you.
RADDATZ: And best health to all of you.
Up next, we'll speak to the chairs of the Republican and Democratic National Committees exclusively, what will Election Day look like six months from now in the age coronavirus? Can the parties really hold their conventions?
Those questions and so many more, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Eight months from now, we're going to defeat the radical socialist. We're going to win the great state of North Carolina in a landslide.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president and the pundits had declared this campaign dead. Then South Carolina spoke. Then Super Tuesday spoke.
We're going to unite Democrats, Republicans and independents of every stripe, that's what the nation needs. We've got to bring the country together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC ANCHOR: President Trump and Joe Biden during their last in-person campaign rallies back in early March.
While the coronavirus brought an end to campaigning as we knew it, the campaign hasn't stopped. But the next six months will look very different. Questions about whether there can be rallies, conventions and whether it will be safe to vote come November. We'll bring those questions to the two party chairs.
But, first, the glimpse at how the virus is impacting some voters' views of the 2020 race from battleground Pennsylvania.
CHARLIE BURNSIDE, OWNER, MAPLE DONUTS: The coronavirus has cut our business in half.
RADDATZ (voice over): Charlie Burnside is the owner of Maple Donuts, open for takeout only under Pennsylvania's state wide stay at home order, and he's taking a hit.
RADDATZ (on camera): You said you think the country has really gone too far?
BURNSIDE: Absolutely it's gone too far. This is a virus, this isn't the plague.
RADDATZ (voice over): Just 42 percent of Americans approve of how President Trump is handling the response to the coronavirus. Burnside remains among his staunch supporters.
RADDATZ (on camera): When you hear President Trump, in the very beginning, say it's -- you know, it's not a problem, we've got it under control, does any of that bother you?
BURNSIDE: Will it bother me? He does have it under control. I mean he -- he can't control the governors and the governors are what controls the start and the closing of different states. So, it's -- it's not up to him.
RADDATZ (voice over): In hard-hit Pennsylvania, there are now more than 50,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 2,600 deaths, a constant source of fear for many essential workers.
WENDELL YOUNG, PRESIDENT, UFCW LOCAL 1776: A lot of people under one roof often working shoulder to shoulder, elbow to elbow.
RADDATZ: A Biden supporter, Wendell Young, says he's seen support for Trump among fellow union members decrease over time.
YOUNG: And clearly COVID-19, I think, is going to impact that even more.
When it comes to protecting workers, when it comes to having their back in items of what's happening to them economically right now, he hasn't done anything to help them.
RADDATZ: Just a few months ago, the economy could have catapulted Trump to a second term. Now, with more than 30 million filing for unemployment in the last six weeks, it could prove to be his greatest challenge.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We built the greatest economy in the world and I want to get that back as soon as possible.
RADDATZ: With both candidates forced off the trail, the traditional 2020 campaign has come to a screeching halt. Trump using his free-wheeling briefings to tout his handling of this crisis.
TRUMP: I think we've made a lot of really good decisions.
RADDATZ: Joe Biden weighing in on the issues during virtual town halls from his home.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You deserve a government, a government that provides useful access to affordable, high-quality health care, which this guy's not doing at all.
RADDATZ: As he faces challenges of his own.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Did you sexually assault Tara Reade?
BIDEN: No, it is not true. I'm saying it unequivocally, it never, never happened.
RADDATZ: Denying allegations he sexually assaulted Tara Reade, a staff assistant in Biden's Senate office in 1993. Reade says she filed a complaint with the Senate personnel office that Biden made her feel uncomfortable but did not mention assault.
Aside from the issues, the virus could also impact the voting process itself. A recent poll finding roughly two-thirds of Americans believe the virus is likely to significant disrupt their ability to vote. Experts explain that systems aren't in place to handle a surge in voting by mail.
RICK HASEN, PROFESSOR, UC IRVINE SCHOOL OF LAW: That's something that's going to be hard to ramp up in time of November. It's expensive. You have to get more machinery. You have to train workers.
Ballots need to be printed in time. They need to be mailed in time.
RADDATZ: So many uncertainties with just six months to go.
RADDATZ: A lot of questions.
And joining me now exclusively are Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel and Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez.
And, Chairwoman McDaniel, I want to start with you.
We are now six months from the election. The president recently predicted he would win in a landslide. You were reportedly on a call where the president was presented with worrisome polling data based on his handling of the coronavirus and the economic crisis. Two polls last week found the president trailing Biden in Pennsylvania and Florida.
Are you concerned that the pandemic threatens the president's re-election message?
RONNA MCDANIEL, CHAIR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: You know, I don't really rely on polling this far out. As you know, Martha, the polling's going to fluctuate and we all know the polling today is not going to be what we see on November 3rd.
And you know who knows that better than anybody, Hillary Clinton. The polling was historically inaccurate in the 2016 race.
What we have seen consistently, though, is voters approve of the president's handling of the economy heading into this pandemic, and they recognize that he's going to be the leader to restore the economy coming out of this. He did it once with 7 million new jobs, record low unemployment, and they trust him as the leader who's going to get these jobs back and get our economy humming again as we come out of this crisis which he's leading us through.
MARTHA RADDATZ, "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR: You have all these states starting to open up for the possibility that the infection rate could increase. Obviously, the health of Americans is concerning, but what would that do to President Trump's reelection chances?
MCDANIEL: I think everyone in this country right now is rooting for the president and our leaders, our governors across the country, to be successful in fighting this virus. We want to make sure that the health and safety of the American people is first and foremost, but we also want to see our economy start opening up again and it's that balancing act. And you've seen this unprecedented partnership with the president and governors across the country.
And that's what we're focused on, and I think the American people recognize what a strong leader he has been through this unprecedented crisis.
RADDATZ: Let me ask you. Was President Trump upset about those polling numbers that were presented to him?
MCDANIEL: The president is always optimistic. He feels very good about where he stands. He's had record approval with the Republican Party, you just saw the Gallup Poll that's incredibly high, and you're seeing these strong economic numbers.
And we've seen Joe Biden hiding. He hasn't been vetted. People haven't seen the 2020 version of Joe Biden who hasn't -- who's shifted so far left on many of his policies, and then this week we've seen him really be challenged for the first time in five weeks on allegations that many in the media have ignored, and finally, those are coming to light.
RADDATZ: Well, I know we here at ABC have not ignored and many in the media have not ignored it, but I want to turn to those accusations. You put out an ad -- an attack ad -- against Joe Biden, but the president has also been accused of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, sexual assault, by more than a dozen women.
And in a radio interview on Thursday, President Trump said, while Tara Reade, the accuser, sounds credible, I would just say to Joe Biden, just go out and fight it, adding, I guess in a way, you could say I'm sticking up for him.
Is he sticking up for Joe Biden and how far will you go with these attack ads?
MCDANIEL: I'm going to take issue -- I'm going to take issue with the media ignoring this. It has been appalling, the hypocrisy, as to how Brett Kavanaugh was treated versus Joe Biden.
Brett Kavanaugh, every accuser was put on TV. It was wall-to-wall coverage. They went into his high school yearbook. They said he needed an FBI investigation.
Michael Avenatti was on TV accusing him of gang rape from an accuser who'd never even met Brett Kavanaugh.
And then you go to Joe Biden. Five weeks of silence, 19 interviews without a single question. He won't let people go into his records in the University of Delaware. They're calling on the DNC to do the investigation.
It went from #MeToo, #MeToo, #MeToo, to Move on, Move on, Move on in a nanosecond because he's a Democrat, and the hypocrisy is appalling, and it's not just from the Democrats, it's from the media.
And I'll tell you, I think any outlet that conducted those 19 interviews and didn't ask a single question should be disqualified from conducting any part of a presidential debate.
RADDATZ: So why did the president say he was, in a way, sticking up for him?
MCDANIEL: Because due process and the presumption of innocence has no longer been the standard in this country when it comes to Republicans, and now, Democrats are suddenly embracing those legal standards that we made the cornerstone of our country when it comes to Joe Biden, but they threw it out the window when it came to Brett Kavanaugh, and so did the media.
And the hypocrisy has been appalling, and we need to do some self-reflection as to how Kavanaugh was treated versus how Biden is being treated right now.
RADDATZ: OK. Thank you very much for joining us.
So, let's bring in Tom Perez, and I want to start with Joe Biden did have days to prepare for his interview about Tara Reade. He denied the allegations and urged the National Archives to release any alleged complaints from Tara Reade. The archives said they are not responsible for records like that. Biden now says in a formal letter that he was mistaken, that it was at the archives, and asked the secretary of the Senate for help.
TOM PEREZ, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Uh-huh. Joe Biden has been very clear, Martha, that this did not happen. He was forceful in that, and he's been equally clear that when women come forward with complaints of this nature, they should be taken seriously, their complaints should be investigated, they should be treated with dignity, and he's done exactly that.
He called for the Senate to release any documents they have, she indicated that she filed a complaint. Joe Biden wants that complaint released. He is an open book. He understands that it's important for the information to get out.
He would like for that information –
RADDATZ: But, Mr. Perez, I want to -- I want to stop you right there. Biden also says he will not release documents from his years in the Senate, now the University of Delaware because they don't contain personnel matters, and kind of brushed aside suggestions that a search be done of just Tara Reade's name in those documents.
"The New York Times" editorial board called for the DNC to convene an unbiased, apolitical panel to review portions of Biden's papers, saying his word is insufficient to dispel the cloud.
Your communications director has called that idea absurd. Why?
PEREZ: Well, listen, there's been so many investigations this -- of the vice president.
The most -- the most comprehensive investigation of the vice president was when he was vetted by Barack Obama in 2008.
I'm very familiar with vice presidential vetting process. They look at everything about you. They looked at the entire history of Joe Biden, his entire career. And I will tell you, if Barack Obama had any indication that this -- there was an issue, Barack Obama would not have had him as his vice president.
Barack Obama trusted Joe Biden. I trust Joe Biden. And those investigations have been done.
Now let's talk about Delaware for a moment. The University of Delaware and any university that takes somebody's documents, they're taking their policy documents. They're taking their speeches. They're not taking their personnel records. And, in fact ..
RADDATZ: But why not just search Tara Reade in those documents?
PEREZ: This is like the Hillary e-mails, because there was nothing there.
And the reason is, if I'm going -- I worked on the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1995. The ranking member was Joe Biden. If you want -- I wasn't working for Joe Biden. I was working for Senator Kennedy.
If you want to see my personnel records, you don't go to the Kennedy Institute. That's not where they go. And so, when you ask the University of Delaware to take a look at something, you're asking them to look for something that doesn't exist.
And the fact of the matter is that the president of the United States, the former President Barack Obama, conducted an exhaustive search. Joe Biden has an open book.
RADDATZ: And that was 2008.
PEREZ: That's right. And...
RADDATZ: I want to move on. And I want to move on to the campaign and how you campaign. President Trump has said he wants to go out and do some massive rallies over the next few months.
Will Joe Biden go out on the campaign trail again?
PEREZ: We're going to make sure we do everything in a safe and intelligent manner. We have changed our tactics. We have been out in the field digitally.
We have our digital clipboards out. We won a very important race recently in Wisconsin because we outhustled the other side. We have been texting millions of people. We've been out there digitally organizing. We've trained 7,000 digital organizers at the DNC in the last six weeks.
When the situation clears, we will be out, but we are not going to put voters in harm's way. We won't do that until it is appropriate to do so.
But, in the meantime, we are actively hiring. Our battleground buildup continues. I am so excited about this vice president. This election, Martha, is about trust. Who can you trust to dig us out of this mess?
This president has been chronically inept at handling this coronavirus. We have less than 5 percent of the world's population. We have one-third of the world's coronavirus cases, and 25 percent of the world's deaths from coronavirus.
His inattention, his ineptitude -- he needs to be the commander in chief, not the tweeter in chief.
PEREZ: He needs to understand that the buck stops with him. And that's what we're going to talk about in this campaign, accountability. We're going to talk about leadership.
RADDATZ: Mr. Perez, just quickly, do you still expect to hold an in-person convention?
PEREZ: We do. And we're not going to put our public health head in the sane, but I'm optimistic that we can do so, because we've put it off for five weeks.
We're working with all of the public health experts, state, federal, local. And I'm excited about Milwaukee. I'm excited about Wisconsin. I'm excited about this election. And I'm excited about making sure that Joe Biden has an opportunity to show what he's fighting for.
This is an election about trust. Who can you trust to dig us out of this horrible economic mess, thirty million people losing their jobs in the last six weeks, in no small measure because of the ineptitude of this president?
This is about trust.
RADDATZ: OK, Mr. Perez, I'm going to have to stop you there.
PEREZ: I think the American people trust Joe Biden.
Thank you very much for joining us this morning, Mr. Perez and Ms. McDaniel.
PEREZ: Thank you so much.
RADDATZ: Coming up: the latest on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who seems to have resurfaced after weeks of speculation about his health; and the Trump administration's intensifying efforts to blame China for the coronavirus pandemic.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joins us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you suggesting that maybe you have some evidence that this was not a naturally occurring virus?
TRUMP: You know -- look, you know every theory, whether you had the theory from the lab; you had the theory from many different -- the bats and the type of bat. We have -- there's a lot of theories. But, yeah, we have people looking at it very, very strongly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: President Trump discussing an unsubstantiated theory that the Coronavirus outbreak began in a laboratory in Wuhan, China. This comes amid new reports that U.S. intelligence now believes the Chinese government concealed the severity of COVID-19 from the international community in early January.
For more, let's bring in the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.
Good morning, Mr. Secretary.
There are reports this morning -- I want to talk about North Korea first, before we get to China -- that shots were fired from North Korea into a South Korean guard tower on the DMZ and that the South fired back after a warning. What can you tell us about that?
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, Martha, thanks for having me on this morning.
I've seen that reporting, too. I've seen some of our internal information as well. We can confirm at least the initial reports are that you've described are just about right, a handful of shots that came across from the North.
We think those were accidental. South Koreans did return fire. So far as we can tell, there was no loss of life on either side.
RADDATZ: And we saw images of Kim Jong-un for the first time in three weeks. The president tweeting he was glad to see him "back and well." But before those images emerged, President Trump said that he had a very good idea about Kim's condition but could not talk about it at the time.
What do you think Kim had been doing during this period, even missing that major celebration for his late grandfather?
POMPEO: Martha, there's not much that I can share with you about what we knew about Chairman Kim's activities during that time. We don't know why he chose to miss that moment. We know there have been other extended periods of time where Chairman Kim's been out of public view as well, so it's not unprecedented.
So there's not much I can share with you other than we've seen the same images from yesterday that the world saw. It looks like Chairman Kim is alive and well.
Regardless of any of that, our mission has remained the same, to convince the North Koreans to give up their nuclear weapons, to verify the same, and to then create a brighter future for the North Korean people. That's been something President Trump's been focused on since the beginning of his time in office and something we'll continue to work on.
RADDATZ: And -- and I know you can't share much information about Chairman Kim, but was he ever, in your opinion, gravely ill during this period?
POMPEO: Martha, I just can't say anything about that.
RADDATZ: Can -- can you rule out that it was COVID or that there was a cardiovascular problem?
POMPEO: Martha, I appreciate you continuing to try. I just can't offer you anything further here this morning.
RADDATZ: OK. Thanks, on that.
I want to turn to China, with intelligence officials, as we mentioned, saying that the Chinese government intentionally concealed the severity of COVID-19 from the international community in early January, while it stockpiled medical supplies.
In terms of international concealing, I assume you think they did that intentionally to keep as many masks for themselves as possible. Will there be some sort of retaliation?
POMPEO: Martha, you've got the facts just about right. We can confirm that the Chinese Communist Party did all that it could to make sure that the world didn't learn in a timely fashion about what was taking place.
There's lots of evidence of that. Some of it you can see in public, right?
We've seen announcements. We've seen the fact that they kicked the journalists out. We saw the fact that those who were trying to report on this, medical professionals inside of China, were silenced. They shut down reporting -- all the kind of things that authoritarian regimes do, the way Communist parties operate. This is a classic Communist disinformation effort.
That created enormous risk, and now you can see hundreds of thousands of people around the world, tens of thousands in the United States, have been harmed.
President Trump is very clear, we're going to hold those responsible accountable, and we'll do so on a timeline that is our own.
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: And -- and as for the origins of COVID-19, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement this week saying the virus did originate in China, but concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified. The statement going on to say that they will continue to examine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident in a laboratory in Wuhan.
Later, the president was asked if he had seen anything that gave him high confidence that the Wuhan lab was the origin of the virus. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Have you seen anything at this point that gives you a high degree of confidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the origin of this virus?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I have. Yes, I have.
QUESTION: What gives you a high degree of confidence that this originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology?
TRUMP: I can't tell you that. I'm not allowed to tell you that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: And, Mr. Secretary, have you seen anything that gives you high confidence that it originated in that Wuhan lab?
POMPEO: Martha, there's enormous evidence that that's where this began. We've said from the beginning that this was a virus that originated in Wuhan, China. We took a lot of grief for that from the outset, but I think the whole world can see now.
Remember, China has a history of infecting the world, and they have a history of running substandard laboratories. These are not the first times that we've had a world exposed to viruses as a result of failures in a Chinese lab.
And so, while the intelligence community continues to do its work, they should continue to do that and verify so that we are certain. I can tell you that there is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan.
RADDATZ: Do you believe it was manmade or genetically modified?
POMPEO: Look, the best experts so far seem to think it was manmade. I have no reason to disbelieve that at this point.
RADDATZ: Your -- your Office of the DNI says the consensus, the scientific consensus was not manmade or genetically modified.
POMPEO: That's right. I -- I -- I agree with that. Yes. I've -- I've seen their analysis. I've seen the summary that you saw that was released publicly. I have no reason to doubt that that is accurate at this point.
RADDATZ: OK, so just to be clear, you do not think it was manmade or genetically modified?
POMPEO: I've seen what the intelligence community has said. I have no reason to believe that they've got it wrong.
RADDATZ: And --
POMPEO: Martha, you have to put this in context. Here's -- here's what's -- here's what's important, Martha. Here's what's important. The Chinese communist party had the opportunity to prevent all of the calamity that has befallen the world. And here we find ourselves today -- you and I were talking about it. We haven't seen each other physically for a long time. That's true of people all across the world.
This is -- this is an enormous crisis created by the fact that the Chinese communist party reverted to form, reverted to the kinds of disinformation, the kinds of concealment that authoritarian regimes do. Had those scientists been operating in America, they would have put this out. There would have been an exchange of ideas and we would have quickly identified the kinds of things that needed to be done in response.
Instead, China behaved like authoritarian regimes do, attempted to conceal and hide and confuse. It employed the World Health Organization as a tool to do the same. These are the kind of things that have now presented this enormous crisis, an enormous loss of life and tremendous economic cost all across the globe.
The Australians agree with that. You hear the Europeans beginning to say the same thing. I think the whole world is united in understanding that China brought this virus to the world.
RADDATZ: And -- and, just very quickly if we can, Mr. Secretary, we're running out of time, do you think they intentionally released that virus or it was an accident in the lab?
POMPEO: You know, I don't have anything to say about that. I think there's a lot to know. But I can say this. we've done our best to try and answer all of those questions. We tried to get a team in there, the World Health Organization tried to get a team in there, and they have failed. No one's been allowed to go to this lab or any of the other laboratories. There are many labs inside of China, Martha. This risk remains. This is an ongoing challenge.
We still need to get in there. We still don't have the virus samples we need. This is an ongoing threat, an ongoing pandemic and the Chinese communist party continues to block access to the western world, the world's best scientists, to figure out exactly what happened.
So I can't answer your question about that because the Chinese communist party has refused to cooperate with world health experts.
RADDATZ: Thanks very much for joining us, Mr. Secretary. We appreciate your time this morning.
POMPEO: Thank you, Martha. You have a great day.
POMPEO: Thank you, ma'am.
RADDATZ: The roundtable is up next, plus FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver looks at the battle for control of the Senate in this year's election.
We'll be right back.
RADDATZ: Eighteen months ago, Senate Republicans expanded their majority over Democrats to 53-47.
Now, six months to Election Day, they face a more daunting task, defending 23 seats, compared to just 12 for Democrats. So, can Democrats flip the chamber this time?
We asked FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver, do you buy that?
NATE SILVER, EDITOR IN CHIEF, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT.COM: As we're easing back into politics, this is a pretty easy question, at least for me.
Yes, I totally buy that the Senate is in play and that Democrats have a chance at winning it.
But let's start with the basic math. Democrats currently control 47 seats. That means they will need at least three or four pickups, depending on whether Joe Biden or Donald Trump is president in January.
But they have to defend Doug Jones's Senate seat in Alabama, maybe the reddest state in the country, and Jones trails his potential Republican opponents, Jeff Sessions and Tommy Tuberville, in recent polls.
So let's say Democrats need four seats. Are there enough possible opportunities there? The short answer is, yes, there are.
In fact, The Cook Political Report already rates for GOP-held seats as tossups. Those are Susan Collins in Maine, Cory Gardner in Colorado, Thom Tillis in North Carolina, and Martha McSally in Arizona.
And that's not all Democrats have to choose from. There are possible opportunities in Iowa, maybe in Montana, where popular Governor Steve Bullock is running. There are two seats in play in Georgia. There are even some longer-shot possibilities like Texas, Kansas and Kentucky.
Now, some of those are big stretches, but keep in mind that these things do tend to come in waves. And, right now, Democrats lead Republicans by eight points on who voters want to see in control of Congress. That's about the same margin they led by during their wave election in 2018.
Look, there are a lot of things that could go wrong for Democrats. They could lose their seat in Michigan. Who knows what fund-raising will be like in the time of coronavirus?
I'm not even saying I would bet on Democrats at even money, but in play is a pretty low hurdle, and Democrats easily clear it.
RADDATZ: OK. Our thanks to Nate.
And now let's bring in the roundtable, our senior congressional correspondent, Mary Bruce, senior White House correspondent Cecilia Vega, chief political analyst Matthew Dowd, and political director Rick Klein.
Good morning to all of you.
And, Rick, I want to start with you.
With the sexual assault allegation against Joe Biden, in that interview on Friday morning, he denied the allegation, said it never happened, but, as we said, bungled the idea of a document search.
So what happens with this going forward? You heard Ronna McDaniel.
RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, Martha, this is a delicate time for the Biden campaign.
So the search is going to proceed in the Senate archives for any documentation about Tara Reade's allegation. But, already, you're seeing some progressive groups, some women organizations saying, we want access to those full records that are at the University of Delaware.
As you saw, Tom Perez said, Democrats feel like that is a red herring. They feel like it's a trap, that they have bad memories about 2016 and Hillary's e-mails around that.
But Joe Biden has to handle this, perhaps as no candidate has ever had to handle something like this in a presidential race. He's got to not just deny these allegations, but show that he understands the right of Tara Reade's and other women to come forward, that he's being fully and totally transparent.
And, of course, it's a very sensitive time in the party. Yes, he's got the nomination, but he does not have party unity. And, technically, he doesn't actually have that nomination yet. He's the presumptive nominee, but he's got to be careful exactly what he's presuming here.
RADDATZ: And, Matt, President Trump's campaign, as you heard, says there's a double standard here, that Biden and other Democrats said that -- during the Justice Kavanaugh hearings, that women who came forward should be believed, as Rick was talking about.
Do they have a point? Are Democrats not holding themselves to standards they set?
MATTHEW DOWD, ABC NEWS CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm amazed that the -- the Trump campaign and the Republicans are talking about a double standard in this.
And you would think that the Republicans and the president, who has various -- up to 20 allegations related to this, would want to engage on this topic. It's a little bit like the Houston Astros accusing somebody else of cheating in baseball.
There's a point to a degree with some people. I thought the vice president handled this well, a little bit late, but well on Friday. He gave credibility, and he gave some space for Tara Reade, said she should be heard from, but oh, by the way, it's not true, and I'm going to go ahead and find out if there's anything that was ever filed on this.
So, I would be shocked if the president wants to talk about moral fitness or affairs come this fall. I would be shocked if that's what he wants to talk about.
RADDATZ: And, Cecilia, but the president, as we said, has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than a dozen women.
He's also somewhat defended Biden, saying he would tell the vice president to just go out and fight it.
Why not go all in defending Tara Reade, like he did with the Clinton accusers during the 2016 campaign?
CECILIA VEGA, ABC NEWS SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he's in a really tough spot here, Martha. There's no way around this.
And you saw the strategy on how they're going to attack this with Ronna McDaniel, with you, just a few moments ago. They're really going to focus on what they see as hypocrisy, hypocrisy by Biden, hypocrisy by the democrats, particularly how it relates to the Brett Kavanaugh's hearings.
One source put it like this, when Biden gets accused of something like this, the first automatic response is to flip it and turn it back on -- the accusations against President Trump and they really feel like this is something that Biden -- Joe Biden needs to stand on his own footing and address these allegations.
And the hope behind the scenes, anyway, is you know what you get with President Trump. These accusations against him are longstanding. There's no surprise there. And they say, you know, essentially when you surprise the electorate that's when you get into problems.
So, I don't think you're going to see them take this on as a moral issue as you are so much as a hypocrisy issue.
RADDATZ: And Mary, the same week those accusations took center change, Biden announced his vice presidential vetting committee. He's pledged to pick a woman as his running mate. Is his choice even more crucial now to pick that woman? And how difficult will this be for that running mate given these accusations?
BRUCE: Yeah, this has been really interesting to watch outplay out, because while Joe Biden remained silent on these accusations for weeks, you had many of his female supporters, many prominent Democratic women, speaking out for him, including many of the women who are now auditioning to be his vice president, like Stacey Abrams, like Senators Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar, they all came out and spoke up and supported Joe Biden.
But it puts them in this incredibly tricking position, because the Democratic Party has set a really high bar here. So you see all of these women coming out supporting Joe Biden, saying, though, and insisting women have to be heard, that they have to be heard respectively. They don't want it to appear as if they're trying at all to silence Tara Reade and her claims, yet you have Biden and his campaign emphatically denying that this incident ever occurred.
And so they're going to have to continue to try and navigate this, whoever he picks to his vice president, because you know from your interview this morning it's very clear that Republicans simply are not going to drop this issue.
RADDATZ: Very, very clear. She made that very clear.
Mary, I want to talk to you a bit more here, just generally about the election coming up. President Trump says he wants to go out and hold these massive rallies. What do you see going forward, if he does it, does Biden have to do it?
BRUCE: Yeah, I think you are likely to see a real split here, because the president it's clear, is eager to get back out there, eager to get things back to normal, and likely eager to try and change the subject here alittle bit. We know that he's going to be in Arizona this week. He's eying possibly a visit to Ohio. These, of course, are battleground states. And the president's campaign is considering, you know, holding some sort of campaign events in states that they consider to be of lower risk with some appropriate social distancing. The president, no surprise, here says he doesn't like the optics of that.
Look, he wants those massive rallies, all of his supporters elbow to elbow, and those packed arenas don't seem realistic right now.
But on the other hand, you know, while you're going to see the president trying to get back out there on the trail, you're likely to see Democrats being far more cautious. Joe Biden continuing to work the virtual campaign trail for now from his basement in Delaware. We just simply don't know what this campaign is going to look like, how this is going to unfold over the coming month. The only thing, Martha, that seems clear is that state of the economy and the president's handling of this is sure to define this election.
RADDATZ: It sure it. And Cecilia, one thing about this week, we didn't see those daily Coronavirus task force briefings with the president. We did see his press secretary give a briefing for the first time. And we know that he was at Camp David this weekend, coming back today. What is his strategy here? What is he thinking about?
VEGA: Well, and I'm told the president was pretty happy with the new press secretary's performance. Look, there is a clear shift happening, it was happening behind the scenes, we're now seeing it play out very publicly from this day-to-day focus on addressing the handling of the pandemic to addressing the reopening of the economy. And Mary just said it, that is exactly where the president's team wants the focus to be, that is what they're banking on for a re-election, their hope for a re-election in November.
You saw the president's declining polls, though, as it related to those briefings. And we know for a fact that he was outraged behind the scenes over those. We know that Republicans have been frustrated by his performance in those briefings, thinking that they were doing more harm than good to him. So, it's no surprise that there was a scaling back there.
But really it's going to be about the focus on this reopening of the country. We know that the president is in Camp David this weekend focusing on that and meetings with staffers, people with close to him, outside the campaign as well. And we're also going to be expecting more appearances by the president's economic teams in the coming days and weeks, fewer from the health experts like Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci, Martha.
RADDATZ: And, Matt, how does he talk about the economy when so many people are unemployed and there is such a crisis?
MATT DOWD, ABC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's the -- that's the big problem he has. And even in -- when the economy pre-corona in January and February, the president's job approval rating was 43 or 44 percent, which put him in a very dicey situation, even in a great economy, for his re-election effort.
I think this is -- this election is fundamentally not going to be about style and how big of rallies you have and all of that's going to be about substance. It's going to be about two things, as -- as Cecilia said, it's going to be about, how did you handle this crisis and what's going on in the economy in this place. And saying that you're going to switch over and talk about the economy, without also knowing you're going to have to talk about the competency related to the virus is a fool's errand in the midst of this.
And so I think the president -- the idea that all of a sudden we'll get the economy going again, and he'll get back to where he was before, well, back to where he was before was a problematic place anyway.
RADDATZ: And -- and, Rick, I -- we're also seeing the president and his campaign hone in on China, obviously talked with Secretary Pompeo about that. Trump repeatedly blaming China for the spread of the virus. So they are also taking out adds against Joe Biden saying he was soft on communist China. Will -- will this really resonate with people?
RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: People close to the president believe that this is a key part of his messaging against Joe Biden, but they don't necessarily have the president's buy-in for this messaging and they've got comments that the president has continued to make praising Chinese leaders along the way, in part because he recognizes the importance of China in an economic recovery.
So, so far, at least, you don't see consensus inside Trump world about how to cast Joe Biden as a candidate. There were a lot of competing messages. And at least so far we've heard more about this strategy than we have the actual messaging. We haven't seen that big ad buy yet. We haven't seen a big, concerted effort to try to try -- to tie Joe Biden to China and, of course, it's a problematic piece of messaging from the start. So we'll have to see how the white House handles this, how's the -- how the Trump campaign handles this. And, of course, the Biden campaign is going to have a lot to say in response.
RADDATZ: And no matter what it's going to be an election year like no other.
Thanks to all of you for joining us this morning.
We'll be right back.
RADDATZ: That's all for us today.
We leave you with a look at the Navy Blue Angels and Air Force Thunderbirds flying over the nation's capital yesterday to pay tribute to front line workers.
Have a good Sunday.