'This Week' Transcript 7-26-20: White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham
This is a rush transcript and may be updated.
A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, July 26, 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: One hundred days until Election Day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: We're certainly not at the end of the game.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: The coronavirus still raging.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): Record-breaking number of people testing positive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Clashes over federal forces dispatched to Democratic cities.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: What we have seen is a significant increase in violent crime.
LORI LIGHTFOOT (D), MAYOR OF CHICAGO, ILLINOIS: We do not welcome dictatorship. We do not welcome authoritarianism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: And sinking in the polls, President Trump backtracks, canceling his convention in Jacksonville.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's quit on you and he's quit on this country.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to be careful. And we also have to set an example.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows joins us this week for his first Sunday interview. New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham responds for the Democrats, plus insight and analysis from our powerhouse roundtable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He always did that which was right from his heart.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: We celebrate the life and legacy of John Lewis, as he crosses the Edmund Pettus Bridge one last time.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week."
Here now, chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week."
On this Sunday, as we celebrate a civil rights legend and hit the homestretch toward Election Day, the country is still in the grip of the coronavirus that has transformed our society, ravaged our economy, upended our politics, and, most tragic of all, costs so many lives, at least 145,000 in the U.S.
This week, more than 1,000 Americans died on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, five days straight for the first time since May.
And as the caseloads continue to climb, the president's poll numbers continue to fall, now trailing Joe Biden by more than eight points, behind in all the key battleground states with 100 days before the final votes are cast, which means our first guest has his work cut out for him.
We want to welcome Mark Meadows for his first Sunday interview as White House chief of staff.
Mr. Meadows, thank you for joining us this morning.
You just heard that narrative right there. What's your strategy to turn this around?
MARK MEADOWS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, I think we have to focus, obviously, on trying to make sure that there's therapeutics, vaccines and a number of mitigation therapies, hopefully, for those that are suffering from the coronavirus.
I can tell you that we have been working around the clock. The president has been very clear. Whatever amount of money, whatever amount of time needs to be invested, we're doing that.
We're hopeful that, with some of the breakthrough technology on therapeutics, that we will be able to announce some new therapies in the coming days.
But this is a virus that came from China, something that's unexpected. Obviously, when you're in the political world, there are those things that you can control. There are those things that you can't.
And, as we look at this, it's trying to make sure that we have got our entire team there to provide the relief that so many Americans are looking for and the hope that so many Americans are looking for.
And I'm hopeful that, in the next couple of days, that we will have some very good news on the therapeutic and vaccine fronts, as we try to address this China virus.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We all hope for that.
You say there are some things you can't control, that this came from China. But do you acknowledge that, had the president promoted masks earlier, had the country moved towards shutting down the economy, at least in parts, earlier, we could have done a better job controlling this virus?
MEADOWS: Well, we did shut down the economy, George. You mentioned that.
We actually did -- took unprecedented steps. Not only did the president shut down travel from China and Europe long before even the medical experts were suggesting he should do so. Then we shut down the economy to try to mitigate the damage.
As you mentioned masks, obviously, we all want to do whatever we can do to stop this. And wearing masks, when there's -- there's not the ability to social distance, is one additional thing that we can do.
But even in those areas, if you take Southern Florida, Miami-Dade, Broward County, they have had mandatory mask provisions for -- for several weeks, and yet they continue to see this virus escalate.
And so we're not going to have a solution to this. It's not masks. It's not shutting down the economy. Hopefully, it is American ingenuity that will allow for therapies and vaccines to ultimately conquer this.
And that's where the president has -- had made -- has made sure that there's -- there's no amount of money that is held back for meeting those needs.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Big concerns about testing as well. It has improved since the early days. There's no question about that. But experts agree we need more comprehensive and quickly processed testing.
Your predecessor as chief of staff, Your predecessor is Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney wrote this week that the testing problem that we face is quote simply inexcusable at this point in the pandemic. What’s the plan to fix it?
MEADOWS: Well, I mean, we're testing over a million people a day. I can tell you that when you come up with additional testing, obviously, in some of those critical areas, like nursing homes and long-term care, our schools, health care providers, and, indeed, child care, if we can provide those point of consumption and point of test where literally we're looking at when somebody comes in they can get a very quick test there, that may help.
But when we look at the regime that we’ve got, we're testing more than any other country in the world and as we look at the testing environment -- here's what we have to understand is, is so much of this is asymptomatic. Other countries, all they do is test when you come to the hospital.
We're finding more cases because we're testing more, but, indeed, what we need to do is make sure that we focus on those nursing homes, long-term care so that we can bring that death count down because those are the ones that are most at risk when we look at those that are elderly or with comorbidities.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Extended unemployment benefits are expiring this week for 25 million Americans. But the Republican Party still has not landed on a proposal to counter the Democrats. Where do things stand on that right now? And will those $600 in additional unemployment benefits be extended?
MEADOWS: Well, those -- the original benefits will not. We actually -- the original unemployment benefits actually paid people to stay home and actually a lot of people got more money staying at home than they would going back to work. So the president has been very clear, our Republican Senators have been very clear, we're not going to extend that provision.
We are going to be prepared on Monday to provide unemployment insurance extension that would be 70% of whatever the wages you were prior to being unemployed, that it would reimburse you for up to 70% of those wages. Hopefully as a way to get people back on their feet. We’re prepared --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Can I stop you right there, sir?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Because --
STEPHANOPOULOS: … administrators have said that that's going to be almost impossible to administer and people are going to face real gaps before they get money.
MEADOWS: Well, we’ve actually looked at that. I've actually been on the phone with Secretary Scalia, Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin, we believe that in a combination of working with Secretary Mnuchin and Secretary Scalia, we'll be able to find a way to actually provide a threshold that will meet that guideline.
Yes, some of the state benefit computer systems are antiquated and so we’re going to have to work from a Federal Government standpoint. Secretary Mnuchin is willing to step in and help with that.
It's our goal to make sure that it's not antiquated computers that keep people from getting their benefits. But as we look at trying to make sure that we get this economy back going again -- and actually the president's done an outstanding job there. We had an estimated 40 million people that were going to be unemployed, it never got even close to that number. We're still well beyond where we would hope a healthy economy would be, but it's improving very quickly.
And so the Secretary and I have been on Capitol Hill, as you know, over the weekend, we'll be back there again today, putting the final touches on a bill that Leader McConnell plans to introduce tomorrow. But, honestly, I see us being able to provide unemployment insurance, maybe a retention credit, to keep people from being displaced or brought back into the workplace, helping with our schools.
If we can do that along with liability protection, perhaps we put that forward, get that passed as we can negotiate on the rest of the bill in the weeks to come.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to look ahead to the election. The president continues to warn that it's going to be rigged, his word, by mail-in ballots, even though there's no compelling evidence that mail-in ballots are tied to widespread voter fraud.
Here he was with Chris Wallace.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I think mail-in voting is going to rig the election. I really do.
CHRIS WALLACE, ABC ANCHOR: Are you suggesting that you might not accept the results of the election?
TRUMP: I have to see, look.
WALLACE: Can you give a direct answer you will accept the election?
TRUMP: I have to see. Look, you -- I have to see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Why does the president keep questioning the election? And why won't he say clearly, as every president has done before, that he’ll accept the results?
MEADOWS: Well, George, you talked earlier about no compelling evidence of any voter fraud as it relates to mail-in ballots. I would have to disagree with that --
STEPHANOPOULOS: I said widespread voter fraud.
MEADOWS: OK, wide spread. Well, here’s -- the thing is we haven't had widespread mail-in ballots. The Democrats see this as their panacea of being able to put a ballot in every mailbox and hope for the best.
Listen, that's not the way that -- that the voter integrity process needs to run where you send a ballot to everybody. Absentee ballots, the request for absentee ballots is certainly something that’s happened in a number of states. It’s certainly something the president supports.
But as we look at that, we want to make sure that every vote counts, but that it’s only one vote per person. You can't have vote harvesting.
We’ve seen ballot harvesting schemes in California, and I’m not suggesting that there's widespread fraud. There’s certainly is fraud. But there's certainly fraud --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me press you on that.
MEADOWS: To be intellectually honest, we need to make sure that we have that. Yes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me press you on that because not just Democrats raising the questions. Tom Ridge, former Republican governor of Pennsylvania, former homeland security under President Bush, George W. Bush, has said there's no history of widespread voter fraud.
And he wonders: When you listen to the president, you begin to wonder, is he worried about the legitimacy of the electoral process or is he worried about losing?
Your response to that --
MEADOWS: Yes, to my knowledge, Tom hasn't been involved in any voter integrity project since perhaps he left over a decade ago, And so, I don't know if that's an informed decision as much as it is an opinion. And everybody can come on TV and provide their opinion.
What we do know is a number of times as we have mail-in ballots, if there is -- is not a chain of custody that goes from the voter to the ballot box, mischief can happen. And we’ve seen that throughout our history. We also see very clearly that if you're going to cast a ballot, you want to make sure it goes in the ballot box and it’s your vote that counts, not your vote for someone else that gets decided by another person.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The intelligence community put out a stark warning this week about possible foreign interference in our election, Iran, China and Russia. Did the president bring this up with Vladimir Putin in his last phone call? And what is he doing to prevent it?
MEADOWS: Well, he’s -- he's doing a great deal to prevent it. You know, as we saw the previous administration, they talked about election interference and did very little to address it, George.
Not only have we seen hundreds of millions of dollars that have been invested but two different legislative actions that this president has signed off on to make sure that election integrity is -- is important.
We’ve got not only the Department of Homeland Security but the intel community, the Department of Justice, and others trying to make sure what we do is -- is again that foreign interference in our elections does not happen.
Now, there's a big difference between foreign interference and foreign influence. They continue to try to influence, as everyone does across the globe. But in terms of actually affecting the vote totals and interacting, I think we're in a good place. We've been willing to work with secretaries of states of every -- of all 50 states as we look at that and the territories to make sure that their systems have the needed resources for the integrity to be there and so that we can count on that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We're seeing continuing unrest in Portland and Seattle, riots overnight, where federal agents have been sent to protect federal monuments, in Portland that is. And the Justice Department announced this week that it will be sending federal agents to deal with violent crime in many cities across the country, including Albuquerque.
The New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is up next. She’s threatened to sue, and invited the administration to work together first.
Will you take her up on that offer?
MEADOWS: Well, we certainly want to work with the governor not only of New Mexico but of the other three states. There’s two different things. And so, you -- I want to separate those for a moment.
In Portland, we have federal agents there that are protecting a courthouse that actually have -- has not on been only vandalized, but they're trying to burn it down, George. I mean, we can't have this in American cities. And so, as we look at that, you’ve got people there -- in fencing (ph) there. But they're throwing Molotov cocktails and doing all kinds of rioting there in Portland around a courthouse that they desire to burn down.
That's very different than what we're doing in Chicago, in New Mexico and in Kansas and other areas, because what we're trying to do there is come in and help with gang violence and making sure that we make arrests. We’ve already done outside of Chicago.
And so, there -- Operation LeGend is -- is really designed to make sure that those moms and dads who have -- who have lost loved ones, who have lost kids and grandkids, and perhaps kids that have lost their parents because of gang violence in these cities, that we come in a very covert way to investigate and work alongside local law enforcement. Attorney General Barr has been willing to do that, is doing that now and certainly working with the governor in that fashion is what we would love to do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Meadows, thanks very much for your time this morning.
MEADOWS: Thank you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As I said, the New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is up next.
We'll be right back.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will also soon send federal law enforcement to other cities that need help. One of them is Albuquerque, New Mexico, where last fall 55-year-old Jackie Vigil was murdered as she was getting into her car.
MAYOR TIM KELLER (D), ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO: You almost know that something is up because, one, the president is talking about Albuquerque which doesn't usually happen.
That voice was explicitly articulating a sort of gaslighting strategy against immigrants and people of color and protesters in progressive Democrat cities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Federal agents will be on their way to Albuquerque and we're joined now by Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Governor, thank you for joining us this morning.
GOV. MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM (D), NEW MEXICO: You’re welcome, George. Nice to see you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, we just heard from Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, who talked about Operation LeGend, said -- he sounds like he was willing to take you up on your offer to work together to fight crime, distinguish the program of sending Operation LeGend from what's going on in Portland right now.
Are you prepared to sit down with him or will you withdraw any threats to sue the federal government?
LUJAN GRISHAM: Well, the issue about making sure that New Mexicans, that their civil rights are protected is forefront for everything that we do every day. So, that stands less of a litigation threat but a re-recognition that we are going to put New Mexicans first.
I’ve already spoken with the U.S. attorney assigned, Mr. Anderson, and made it really clear, that if we got 35 agents, they will be COVID safe, they will quarantine, they will integrate into the operations that we already have. He certainly gave me every indication that he's willing to do that.
The interesting thing here is, is that we've asked for federal agents to cooperate with us on a number of strategies. They have not provided the federal funding that was promised to Albuquerque for police and crime interventions. And earlier in this administration, they closed down border patrol check points and we had to cover those with state police. So the timing of their efforts remains to be a bit suspect.
But to your question, if we are cooperatively working to address violent crime and gun violence -- absolutely. If we’re going to try to incentivize unrest, then that's something altogether different.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It comes at a time when the Trump campaign is running a series of ads, including in New Mexico, about the issue of crime. Let’s take a look.
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TRUMP CAMPAIGN AD: You have reached the 911 police emergency line. Due to defunding of the police department, we're sorry, but no one is here to take your call. Leave your number and someone will get back to you. Our estimated wait time is currently five days. Good-bye.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: It says Joe Biden support defunding (ph), to defund police. You won't be in safe in Joe Biden's America.
LUJAN GRISHAM: Outrageous. It's really terrible that we're going to have an election a hundred days out, instead of talking about what people really want us to address, right, and want to know what we're going to do about public health and healthcare. They want to know about economic security. They want to talk about how we unify this country.
And instead, if you're looking at defunding police, again, Albuquerque is missing. I think, about $9.6 million from the Trump administration as a direct investment in both police investments so that we've got enough officers doing enough preventative work on the streets and, simultaneously, we're doing a ton of good, productive, proactive race relations work.
So, it -- it is really about stoking fear. It isn't about -- and there isn’t anything else you can point to 100 days out where you succeeded. The economy is in turmoil and in trouble. We can't do public health. We are in real crisis in terms of combating COVID-19. We are seeing a failure in leadership. So let's go to making people fearful.
So, it's disappointing, but frankly expected.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I do want to talk about that COVID crisis. I want to put up a chart right now showing what's happening in New Mexico. Your cases have been on a rise, a real spike right there. You had the highest cases of the year on Thursday, hospitalizations and deaths are going up as well.
I know you put a pause on reopening earlier this month, but is it time to do more?
LUJAN GRISHAM: Yeah, we are very serious here, you can see that. New Mexico, for weeks, was in the green in terms of being ready to reopen following CDC guidelines, one of the first states clearly to do a shutdown, to cancel schools, to mandate masks.
But here -- here's the problem -- and you're right, we are seeing record high daily averages. We are actually seeing a reduction in hospitalizations, but our death count is still way too high, and these mortality issues, these are people's loved ones, right? Every single time I have to announce that we’ve lost someone in New Mexico, it is the most painful experience.
We flattened the curve again in New Mexico, but the case count is way too high, and while we have one of the lowest positivity rates in the country, which we worked diligently at happening. What’s going on around the country affects everyone in the country.
We are moving and traveling. I have got commuters and workers and federal employees and bases. My goodness, in fact, in our corrections issues, it's been the movement of ICE detainees, without testing them, without following New Mexico's COVID safe practices, that brought COVID in to our corrections facilities.
So, we are at the mercy of what's going on around the country, no national strategy, no public health investment. It -- start with, it's a hoax that we're not going to invest, way, way too long before you talk about either pausing, suspending. You have got -- you have got the president now, we're not going to have a convention, that's not safe, but we want everyone to reopen schools immediately.
Makes no sense whatsoever.
LUJAN GRISHAM: There is no national strategy.
I still spend most of my days chasing testing supplies for our state. It is the worst abdication of a national response and responsibility to protect Americans I have ever seen in my government career.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You also heard Mr. Meadows raising those concerns about mail-in voting, echoing the president as well.
New Mexico has widespread mail-in voting enough. You don't have to give an excuse to get an absentee ballot. What are you doing to troubleshoot any potential problems with ballot security, looking ahead to November?
LUJAN GRISHAM: Well, you know, we -- our secretary of state, an incredibly professional, one of the well-known nationally, has been working on election security, including foreign interference.
Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver has built her entire career, from being a county clerk to the secretary of state, at the checks and balances for all voting systems, including our mail-in ballots.
We have made some minor adjustments in a special session, really getting at that, when you sign those inner and outer ballots, that the chain of custody is very clear and very secure.
It's the same kind of effort that we see in productive mail-in voting in other states. And we feel very confident here.
I mean, your point earlier, the bigger issue is, what are we doing about hacking systems, about the fact that we still have far too many jurisdictions that don't have a paper ballot, and that we have foreign election interference?
If you really were worried about voter integrity and election integrity, these would be the areas that we would be focused on. Here, it seems to me like this is a false diversion, because we are trying to -- we're looking at voter suppression, not voter safeguards.
Those are very different issues. And New Mexico feels incredibly confident about its current effort. And it will also prevent, to a much higher degree, the spread of COVID, which is foremost in our minds.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You have been mentioned as a possible running mate for Joe Biden.
Have you been vetted by his team? Are you prepared to serve?
LUJAN GRISHAM: I will do whatever I can to improve any number of issues in this country and in our state.
I'm lucky to be the governor of the best state in the United States. And I am flattered beyond measure that the Biden campaign understands that governing and governors are, I think, an important vehicle to look at how we make improvements in the country.
I have only been in touch with the campaign. And while it's incredibly flattering, I have got a full-time job right here, right now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor, thanks for your time this morning.
LUJAN GRISHAM: You're very welcome. Thank you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Nate Silver and our roundtable are coming up.
Stay with us.
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RONALD REAGAN, 40TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: For those who abandoned hope, we'll restore hope and we’ll welcome them into a great national crusade to make America great again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable is standing by, ready to go. We'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As we've been discussing, the COVID pandemic continues to spread here in the U.S. One big question now, does anything matter more for the president's re-election prospects.
FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver weighs in.
NATE SILVER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: We are 100 days from the election and I'm putting the finishing touches on our presidential forecasting model, but there is, of course, an extra complication this year, which is the coronavirus.
Right now the numbers on COVID are bad, both for President Trump and for the country. We're averaging around 70,000 cases per day, still near record highs, and 58 percent of Americans now disapprove of Trump's handling of COVID, a number that has been climbing since the crisis began.
But it's tough to know exactly what the world will look like in November. One COVID model, for instance, predicts a wide range of possibilities. We could plateau at (INAUDIBLE) we see today or see cases decline by as much as 80 or 90 percent. Other models forecast things getting worse with a possible second wave in the fall.
At the heart of this is a kind of a paradox. The more worried people are, the more careful they are, and that can lower future spread. Conversely, good numbers and good news can make people complacent.
And there are a lot of unknowns. It's probably too optimistic to expect major progress on a vaccine by November, but you never know. And people's behavior around issues like masks can change.
So how do you account for this in an election model? Basically you add more uncertainty. We found historically when there are lots of major news events and economic disruptions, an election becomes harder to predict.
So while he's clearly in trouble, I do not buy that Trump's fate is sealed. A lot could change in the next one hundred days. Things could get worse still for the president. But a turnaround in the COVID situation by the fall could make the election more competitive.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Nate. We're looking forward to his forecast.
And ABC news is out with a new, interactive election map where you will find projections from our political team and you can create your own map for how each side can reach the magic number of 270 electoral votes. Check it out on abcnews.com.
We'll be right back with the roundtable.
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BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Policy's important. Laws are important. Budgets are important. But you know what's important also is -- is what kind of values are you communicating?
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bingo. This guy has generated a seasons out there that people are waking up to that he ran by deliberating dividing people from the moment he came down that escalator. And I think people are now going, I don't want my kid growing up that way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Barack Obama and Joe Biden producing something of a talk show as they figure out new ways to campaign during the COVID crisis. A hundred days to go.
Let's talk about the election with our roundtable. Chris Christie joins us this morning, along with Rahm Emanuel, Yvette Simpson, the CEO of Democracy for America, and Republican strategist, Sara Fagen.
And, Rahm, let me begin with you.
We saw that series of moves by the president this week cancelling his convention in Jacksonville, bringing the coronavirus briefings back, promoting wearing a mask for the first time in months.
You told "The New York Times" the president has been mugged by reality. What did you mean by that?
RAHM EMANUEL, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the fact is, he's trying to spin himself out of a situation and he's not prepared America. He's declared (ph), that’s not -- let me get back to this point, all these flip flops you talked about.
His first flip flop, he said he was going to be a wartime president and turned out to be anything but that. If this is how America prepares for a war, we would be losing not only the battle but the whole war. And I think, in this situation, he got mugged by reality because he thought he could spin it out, keep the numbers low, don't let the boats in, this will be blowing over by spring.
And reality is, he needed to nationalize our public health response rather than what he's doing which is nationalizing our public safety response in cities. And he’s got it exactly upside down. So, he is a reality TV star, and reality is encroaching every day on his presidency and he cannot spin himself out of this problem.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris --
EMANUEL: And America's waiting for his leadership which is nowhere to be found.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris Christie, the president actually made some moves this week that you've been advocating for sometime. The question is, is it enough?
CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, listen, you know, not for Rahm, obviously, if he didn't do them, he’d be criticized for not doing them. And if he does do them, then it’s called spin.
But the fact of the matter is, the president made good, smart moves this week, which I think will improve not only conditions in the country most importantly for dealing with the coronavirus, but also will improve his electoral chances. And when we’re within a hundred days of the election, George, both are on the table.
I think the president had a good week this week, very little coverage on what he did on drug pricing through his executive orders, that’s going to have a real impact for drug costs for people going forward, especially for seniors.
But in the end, we're a hundred days away from the election. Everything will be seen through the prism of that. And as they just talked about, coronavirus is going to be -- if not the most important issue, one of two most important issues along with the economy. And so, the president is addressing that, and I think he's going to need to continue to do that in the ways that we saw this week for the country to improve and for his chances to improve.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sara Fagen, one of things we also saw this week, and I talked to Mark Meadows about the negotiations going on over the economic stimulus package and extending unemployment benefits, as the president's poll numbers drop, you’ve seen a lot of Republican senators especially start to balk a little bit at what the president has been calling for, including he had to drop his plan for a payroll tax cut.
SARA FAGEN, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I think, look, the old adage that good policy is good politics I think probably never rings more true than in this stimulus debate. The late Lee Atwater said, be for what’s going to happen.
There's going to be a stimulus package. Republicans should be for it. They should be for reasonable insurance. There's been talk about moving from $600, extra dollars, to $200, maybe it falls in between there.
But the country's got to do something. COVID is still raging. People are still out of work. And Republican senators I think and the White House are going to have to champion a package.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Yvette, one of the things you’re seeing, though, even in the face of all these, the president is tweeting this morning about how he has higher enthusiasm among his base than Joe Biden has among his base. Of course, you worked with progressives across -- across the spectrum who took on Joe Biden during the primaries.
Has he done enough to solve that problem?
YVETTE SIMPSON, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I think at this stage of the game, we really need to be talking not about polling, but about planning. And so when you're a hundred days out, talk to me about how many voters you engaged, talk to me about how many voters you talked to about their plan to vote in the midst of COVID, talk to me about the number of people who are talking to their church members, talking to their neighbors, talking to their family members about voting and making sure every single of those people are voting.
And so, yes, I think there's some optimism around polling. But we know what that looks like. We’ve seen that happen in 2016, it did not pan out ultimately on election day, and we didn't have a pandemic which, you know, Sara was talking about rent, we need to talk about how we might have displacement as a result of people not able to pay their rent and being evicted, that all affects your registration and your ability to vote, or vote by mail.
So these are all things that I would love for the Biden campaign and certainly to team up with progressives to make sure that we do the grassroots work to make sure that every single Democratic voter, including progressives, including voters who don’t traditionally vote, have the tools to vote despite the fact that I do think they don't see necessarily their issues presented in this particular candidate.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Chris Christie, one of the things we're also seeing from the president, his tweets on this this morning as well continuing, this law and order theme, saw the riots in Portland and Seattle overnight, federal agents being sent to other cities as well.
Can that work for an incumbent president?
CHRISTIE: Well, first of all, George, the answer to your question to Yvette was no. Everything she said says no.
And here's the problem for the Biden campaign right there. If progressives don't feel enthusiastic, I can tell you that the Trump base does feel enthusiastic.
And -- and, on the law and order issue. I would also say this, that Americans understand and understood the rightful peaceful protests that were going on throughout the country in the aftermath of George Floyd's murder, and you see it happening peacefully all across the country.
Baseball started this week. You saw baseball players across the nation kneeling prior to the national anthem and showing other symbols in terms of signs on the field, patches on their uniforms, to remind people about how important this issue is to be dealt with in this country and dealt with effectively.
But most Americans, George, do not believe that the riots that are happening in Portland and Seattle and in other places across the country that are causing destruction and injury and in some cases death are acceptable.
(AUDIO GAP) president is right to address these issues. And if the mayors of those towns are too politically timid to address people who are defacing and destroying their cities, then the president of the United States has to deal with it.
And so I do think it's an effective thing to do. I don't know whether it's going to make sense politically or not for him, George, but it's his responsibility, as president, if the mayors are willing to walk away from their own responsibility, not to support peaceful protests, but to stop violent riots.
FAGEN: I -- I...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Rahm Emanuel...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Hold on. Let me go to Rahm, because he was a mayor of one of those cities where the president is sending agents.
EMANUEL: Well, first of all, let me -- I want to -- I will answer that, and then I want to go back to one political point, George.
One is, you have to be very clear. The police and the superintendent of that police department are in charge, because the federal operation undermines community policing. If they're there in coordination with the local police department, and the police department is in charge, that's one aspect of how to deal with crime or, in the situation of Portland and Seattle, destruction of federal property.
Second is, I think it's a bit ironic for the administration on two points. One is, they're holding Byrne Grants for the federal -- for police departments across the United States for the last three years. And now to say all of a sudden they're for public safety and for law and order is a bit ironic.
Second is, I don't understand the Republicans. Somehow, wearing a mask is an infringement on your personal liberties and freedoms, but sending in paramilitary troops uphold American values. That will never work.
FAGEN: Calling them paramilitary...
EMANUEL: Wait a second. Hold on.
For the other thing on politics, we have two very big points here, George. One is, the president says he has enthusiasm. Joe Biden has the biggest coalition that has ever been put together in recent memory for a Democrat.
Second is, the popular their vote is no longer in doubt. Biden's going to win the popular vote. Trump has no chance at that. The question is the electoral vote. And if you look at the states where that is, Biden is also building a very broad metropolitan coalition, metropolitan majority between the suburban and urban efforts.
And what he's trying to do out West is break up that suburban-urban coalition and try to lure suburban voters away. And it's not working, because his reaction is actually pushing suburban voters into the Democratic columns.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sara Fagen.
FAGEN: I think calling them paramilitary is sort of insulting, Rahm.
I mean, these are federal agents.
EMANUEL: Well, I will show you the pictures, Sara.
FAGEN: They're federal agents protecting a courthouse that the rioters are trying to burn, in some cases, with federal officials inside.
Look, make no mistake about it. These mayors on the West Coast have abdicated their leadership. I don't think the federal government has any choice but to go protect federal property.
I do agree, though, that the election is going to hinge on COVID. So, while the president is doing his rightful responsibility, and the country supports him in this, it is very, very important for the Trump campaign to focus on the things that the president and the administration have done well relative to COVID.
And if you go back to March, when he instituted the Production Act, and General Motors is producing ventilators, and the country has come together in public-private ways to produce face masks, we aren't having conversations right now -- while, yes, cases are going up, we are not having conversations right now about no ventilators, about no face masks, about no PPE, for the most part.
In a relatively short period of time, in a global pandemic, this country has marshaled a very good response. We need better testing, but we have enough testing. We need faster testing.
And so those are the things I think the Trump administration should be talking about, because that is where Americans are going to be placing their votes, based -- based on everything we know today.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yvette, should the Trump White House be talking about their success in COVID?
SIMPSON: George, I just want to have a --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- COVID. Go ahead.
SIMPSON: George, I just wanted to jump in on the conversation about Portland. And I do agree with Rahm about the way we characterize these individuals who are unidentified largely coming in from the outside. Portland looks like a war zone. It looks like an autocracy, it looks like a regime that is not a democracy right now. It looks authoritarian.
And the idea that you're trying to protect structures by destroying bodies of people who are protesting -- you have moms on the frontline. People are showing up with bruises. This is not -- this is America.
And so, for the president to pretend like he actually cares about people -- he’s just started wearing a mask this week and he wants a round of applause. If you care about the lives of people, you should be protecting lives and you should have been wearing a mask months and months ago.
FAGEN: Yvette --
SIMPSON: And I do want to echo what both the Governor and Rahm said about resources that have been cut from cities for public safety, so to now say that he cares about public safety and is trying to bring in external forces -- which is what we don't need. We don't need people who don't know the community policing the community. People who believe that they should attack first and ask questions later policing in communities with the unrest that we’ve already seen in the way that police are engaging --
FAGEN: Well, it looks like a war zone --
SIMPSON: I think it’s --
FAGEN: -- because thousands of people --
SIMPSON: -- a fool’s errand to believe that this is --
SIMPSON: This is not about public safety. This is about scaring people into believing that our country needs this kind of intervention. We do not. What we need is to focus on people --
CHRISTIE: No, well, no --
SIMPSON: -- and not to have outside paramilitary forces in our streets throwing live grenades and other things at American people.
CHRISTIE: Sara --
FAGEN: Here's the deal --
FAGEN: Here’s the deal --
CHRISTIE: Oh, please. You know, George --
CHRISTIE: George, please, can we --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let Sara finish and then --
CHRISTIE: George. This is --
FAGEN: OK. Here's the deal, it looks like a war zone because at 1:30 in the morning, 2,000 people are throwing cases, bottles, and Molotov cocktails, there's no reason people need to be at a courthouse past midnight.
It is violent and --
SIMPSON: Those people are the very paramilitary forces --
SIMPSON: -- that you're protecting, Sara.
FAGEN: -- several --
SIMPSON: The people who are causing all the violence are the people who are supposed to be protecting people.
FAGEN: That’s --
SIMPSON: -- not the protestors.
FAGEN: -- absurd. That is --
SIMPSON: There are moms locked arm-in-arm --
FAGEN: -- false (ph) --
SIMPSON: -- who are coming back with bruises --
EMANUEL: Let’s -- we need to separate the two things. What -- there are people using this demonstration to create destruction, that can be dealt both at a local level with federal support to the local level. Not -- assuming not --
CHRISTIE: It's not being dealt with at a local level, Rahm.
EMANUEL: Wait a second -- Chris, hold on --
CHRISTIE: It’s not being dealt with.
EMANUEL: You do have a public safety concern and that's why community policing across cities and states, even when you did Camden, community policing is the core concept. A Federal Government agency has to be behind supporting local government rather than assuming (ph) the control. If they do, every premise of sustained (ph) trust between police and community gets destroyed.
Second is, there is a hypocrisy. The President of the United States is -- what he’s trying to do is entice those elements, small elements, to become the face of legitimate protests.
And what's happening is, a split screen, you have people talking about public safety, about legitimacy and then you have, what is a very good friend, John Lewis who was the conscience of the Congress, he is leaving now our lives, who woke America up to its moral responsibility and then the response as people are actually exercising their first amendment is to use paramilitary forces to crush --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris --
EMANUEL: This should wake everybody up.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris Christie --
CHRISTIE: Listen, it is insulting, George -- it’s insulting to say that what’s going on in Portland and Seattle is what America is supposed to look like. It’s further insulting to compare the peaceful protesters that were locking arms with police in Camden to protest rightfully police brutality with the people who are throwing Molotov cocktails and destroying property in Portland and Seattle.
And I agree with Rahm. If the local police would step up and do the job and control the destruction and the violence, then there would be no need for federal agents to come in. But when they show they can't, that shows the community --
SIMPSON: There is no need for them to come in.
CHRISTIE: You don't see that happening. You don't see that happening in Camden. You don't see that happening in Camden, New Jersey as we sit here today, which is a model of community policing. And you do see it happening in Portland, so we need to help to stop the destruction --
CHRISTIE: -- and the violence --
CHRISTIE: -- in those places.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We are going to have to leave it right there, because we are going to go live to Selma where John Lewis will be crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge for the final time in just a few moments. Thank you all for your time.
HENRY GRANT LEWIS, BROTHER OF CIVIL RIGHTS ICON JOHN LEWIS: I remember the day when John left home. Mother told him not to get in trouble, not to get in the way and (INAUDIBLE). But we all know that John got in trouble, got in the way. But it was a good trouble.
ROSA MAE TYNER, SISTER OF CIVIL RIGHTS ICON JOHN LEWIS: His actions showed us just that. In a time when going to jail was perceived as trouble, he reminded us that it was a good trouble. Necessary trouble.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: A memorial celebrating John Lewis kicked off at his hometown of Troy, Alabama, yesterday, with tributes from his siblings. The start of a six-day journey to honor a man whose courage propelled the struggle for civil rights.
Overnight, Lewis lay in repose at the BrownAME Church in Selma and today a lone Caisson carrying his coffin will make a final crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Rachel Scott is live in Selma right now.
And, Rachel, it has been an emotional home going for an American hero.
RACHAEL SCOTT, ABC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is, George. And some are already turning out to honor this civil rights icon.
Today, John Lewis will make his final journey across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. And decades ago, Alabama state troopers nearly took his life. Well, today, state troopers are carrying his casket across this state to honor his legacy.
It was right here in 1965, where Lewis bled for the right to vote, leading 60 peaceful demonstrators as state troopers approached. He was left bloodied and fractured. His resolve tested, but it never wavered. He returned back here year after year, bringing bipartisan delegations along with him.
After the memorial services here in Alabama, a special tribute for Lewis will be held at the U.S. Capitol, where he was known as the conscience of Congress. He will lie in state there on Monday and Tuesday before returning back to Atlanta and the district that he represented for over 30 years.
But just like his fight for justice, the memorial started in his hometown. So many turning out to honor the man who was known as the boy from Troy, a nickname given to him by Martin Luther King Jr. when they first met. But to his family, he was simply known as Robert. And they said he always believed that he had a moral obligation to stand up and fight for what is right.
You know, Lewis returned here in March, and he gave a message to the next generation. He told them to always get in way, to get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and keep their eyes on the prize.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is his mantra, that was his life.
Thank you, Rachel.
You'll be joining us for live coverage of the crossing at 11:00 Eastern. I hope all of you at home will join us as well.
Until then, have a good day.
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