‘Hopeful’ for good news on therapeutics, vaccine: Mark Meadows in ABC News exclusive

George Stephanopoulos speaks with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in an exclusive interview on “This Week.”
13:57 | 07/26/20

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Transcript for ‘Hopeful’ for good news on therapeutics, vaccine: Mark Meadows in ABC News exclusive
On this Sunday, as we celebrate a civil rights legend, 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, cost so many lives, at least 145,000 in the U.S. This week, more an a thousand 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 with hundred days before the final votes are cast. Our first guest has his work cut out. We want to welcome mark meadows. 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 now, what's your strategy to turn this around? We have focus obviously on trying to make sure that there's therapeutics, vaccines and a number of mitigation therapies hopefully for those who are suffering from the coronavirus. I can tell that you we've 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'll 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 in the political world, there are those things that you can control and there are those things that you can't. As we look at this, it's trying to make sure we 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'll have some very good news on the therapeutic and vaccine fronts as we try to address this China virus. We all hope for that. Some things that you can't control, this came from China, but do you acknowledge that had the president prompted masks earlier, the country move towards shutting the economy at least in parts earlier we could have done a better job controlling this virus? We did shut down the economy, George, you mentioned that. We 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, and then we shut down the economy to try to mitigate the damage, you know as you mentioned, masks, obviously we all want to do whatever we can do to stop this, and wearing masks when there's not the ability to social distance is one additional thing we can do. But even in those areas, if you take southern Florida, miami-dade, Broward county, they've had mandatory mask provisions 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 ingeneral youty that will allow for therapies and vaccines to ultimately conquer this. That's where the president has made sure there's no amount of money that's held back for meeting those needs. Big concerns about testing as well. It's improved since the early days, there's no question about that, but experts agree that we need quick testing. Our predecessor chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney said, the testing we face right now is simply inexcusable at this point in the pandemic. What's the plan to fix it? Well, we're testing over a million people a day. I can tell that you when you come up with additional testing, obviously in some of those critical areas like nursing homes and long-term care, our schools, healthcare 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 we 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 focus on those nursing homes, long-term care, so we can bring that death count down because those are the ones that are most at risk when we look at those are elderly or with comorbidities. Unextended unemployment are expiring, the Republicans haven't landed on a proposal to counter Democrats. Where does that stand right now? Will those $600 benefits be extended? 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 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 earned prior to being unemployed that it would reimburse you to up 70% of those wages. Hopefully as a way to get people back on their feet -- Can I stop you right there, sir? They say that's going to be almost impossible to administer, people will face real gaps before they get money. We actually looked at that. I've been on the phone with secretary Scalia and treasury secretary mnuchin, we believe in a combination working with secretary mnuchin and secretary Scalia, we'll be able to find a way to provide a threshold to meet that guideline. Some of the state benefit computer systems are antiquated and we'll have to work from a federal government standpoint. Secretary mnuchin is willing to step in and deal 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 were going to be unemployed, it never got close to that number, we're still well beyond where we would hope a healthy economy would be, but it's improving very quickly. 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 and get that passed as we can negotiate on the rest of the bill in the weeks to come. I want to look ahead to election, the president continues to warn that it's going to rigged, his words, by mail-in ballots, even though there's no compelling evidence that mail-in ballots are tied to fraud. Here he is with Chris Wallace. I think mail-in balloting is going to rig the election. Are you suggesting that you might not accept the results of the election? I have to see, look. Can you give me a direct answer? I have to see, look, I have to see. Why does the president keep questioning the election? Why won't he say clearly as every president has done before that he'll accept the results? 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 -- I said widespread voter fraud. Okay, widespread voter -- we haven't had widespread mail-in ballots. Democrats see this as being able a ballot in every mailbox and hope for the best. Listen, that's not the way 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 happens in a number of states. Certainly something that the president supports. As we look at that, we want to make sure that every vote counts, only one vote per person. You can't have ballot harvesting. We've seen ballot harvesting schemes in California. I'm not suggesting that there's widespread fraud there -- but there's certainly fraud. Let me press you on that. We need to make sure that we have that. Not just Democrats raising the questions, Tom ridge, former Republican governor of Pennsylvania, former homeland security under president bush, has said there's no history of widespread voter fraud, and he wonders, when you listen to the president, is he worried about the legitimacy of the election process or is he worried about losing? To my knowledge, Tom hasn't been involved in any voter integrity project perhaps since he left over a decade ago, and so I don't know if that's an informed decision as much as an opinion. Everybody can come on TV and provide their opinion. What we do know, a number of times as we have mail-in ballots if there's not a chain of custody that goes from the voter to the ballot box mischief can happen. 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 and not your vote for someone else that gets decided by another person. The intelligence community also 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? Well, he's doing a great deal to prevent it. 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 be invested but two different legislative actions that this president has signed off on to make sure that election integrity is important, we got not only the department of homeland security but the Intel community, the department of justice, and others trying to make sure that what we do 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 the secretaries of state 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. We're seeing continuing unrest in Portland and Seattle, riots overnight. In Portland. The justice department announced it's going to be sending federal agents to deal with violent crimes, including Albuquerque, the New Mexico governor is up next, she'd threatened to sue, invited the administration to work together first, will you take her up on that offer? We certainly want to work with the governor of not only New Mexico but the other three states. I want to separate those for a moment. In Portland, we have federal agents there that are protecting a courthouse that actually has not only been vandalized they're trying to burn it down, we can't have this in American cities so as we look at that, you got people there -- 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, new Mexico and Kansas and in other areas, because what we're trying to do there is come in and help with gang violence and making sure we make arrests. We've already done so outside of Chicago. So "Operation legend" is really designed to make sure those moms and dads 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. Our 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. Mr. Meadows, thanks very much for your time this morning. Thank you, George.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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