A rush transcript of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” airing on Sunday, August 2, 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: Deepening crisis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: We are the global hot spot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: america struggling to get the coronavirus under control.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: We can’t afford yet again another surge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Progress, but still no deal, as much-needed benefits expire, 30 million losing a financial lifeline.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The urgency is so great.
STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: There’s still a lot of work to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Amid a contentious debate over how to get back in the classroom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It’s in the best interest of our children to be back in the classroom.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The risk of bringing back 50,000 students is far too great.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: The president defending unproven claims, sowing doubt about the election, as he slips in the polls.
This morning, the top negotiators join us exclusively, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. How close is a deal? How long will Americans have to wait?
Plus, the latest on COVID crisis with Tom Bossert and Dr. Jennifer Ashton and our powerhouse roundtable.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s “This Week.”
Here now, co-anchor Martha Raddatz.
RADDATZ: Good morning, and welcome to “This Week.”
The country remains deep in the throes of a pandemic, closing out the worst month for cases and hospitalizations so far and marking a grim milestone, more than 154,000 lives lost, the CDC warning it will likely only get worse in the coming weeks.
This devastating reality compounded by economic uncertainty, after enhanced unemployment benefits expired Friday. Some 30 years million Americans are facing a perilous financial cliff. That $600 means money for rent, to put food on the table, to make ends meet.
Democratic leaders and senior trump administration officials met Saturday, calling it a productive meeting, but each side says there’s still work to be done, Americans caught in the middle, waiting for a resolution.
We will dive into all of that this morning. Top negotiators House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin join us exclusive.
And we begin with Speaker Pelosi.
Speaker, both sides say yesterday’s meeting was the longest, most productive one you have had, including Secretary Mnuchin, who will join us shortly.
So, tell us what progress was made and broadly what sticking points remain.
PELOSI: Well, thank you so much for focusing your opening on the actual virus, because, in our negotiations, we’re talking about dealing with some of the consequences of this pandemic, but the fact is, we must — we must defeat this virus.
And that’s one of the points that we still have not come to any agreement on.
In our legislation the HEROES Act, we have a strategic plan for defeating the virus, testing, tracing, treatment, isolation, masks, sanitation, and the rest.
And we just still haven’t come to agreement. We started this March 4. Our first bill was testing, testing, testing. Our most recent big bill, with the expansion of the PPE, was about testing, testing. But it still has not been implemented by the administration.
If we can — if we’re going to open our economy and have our children be in schools, we have to defeat the virus. And that’s one of the contentious issues that we have to deal with yet.
RADDATZ: And, Madam Speaker, Democrats did turn down offers of a short-term extension.
This is what Secretary Mnuchin said about that yesterday:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: There’s clearly a desire on their part to do an entire package. We’re willing to do a short-term package.
We’re willing to deal with the short-term issues and pass something quickly and come back to the larger issues. So, they’re — we’re — we’re at an impasse on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: So, what do you say to those 30 million Americans who are now without federal unemployment help?
We have been for the $600. They have a $200 proposal, which does not meet the needs of america’s working families.
And it’s a condescension, quite frankly, because they’re saying, really don’t need it; they’re just staying home because they make more money at $600.
So, the idea that they made a proposal is really not actually factual.
RADDATZ: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer was asked this week if you might be willing to settle for a smaller amount than the $600 in federal aid to the unemployed. And he said to say that it’s $600 or nothing, no that is not what we are. So, anything less than $600 is not a deal-breaker?
PELOSI: No, the fact is, the amount of money that’s given as an enhancement for unemployment insurance should relate to the rate of unemployment. So, as that goes down then you can consider something less than the $600, but in this agreement it’s $600. And, again, they’re subjecting somebody who might be — oh, they say, oh, people are staying home, the data doesn’t support that. Yes, they might anecdotally have examples, but the fact is, is that they’re subjecting somebody who gets $600 to scrutiny they won’t subject some of the people that are getting millions of dollars in the PPP.
So, this is about putting workers first. And the fact is, if we’re going to succeed we must defeat the virus. So..
RADDATZ: I want to go back to that $600 and people staying home. Hoyer also said there’s an argument to be made that the additional $600 in federal assistance is, as some Republicans have argued, an disincentive for some to go back to work. Do you think there is any validity to that?
PELOSI: No. I have the statistics. Since then, we have seen the statistics from Yale University and the rest. Overwhelmingly this is making a difference, it’s keeping people out of poverty. And actually, with all due to respect, you are talking about statements that leader Hoyer has made that he has elaborated on since then.
But the $600 is essential. It’s essential for america’s working families. And, again, to condescend, to disrespect their motivation is so amazing how insistent the Republicans are about working family and their $600 and how cavalier they are about other money that is going out.
But the fact is, we have to get back to strategic plan. And in the Heroes Act we have three pillars that address this concern — first, honor our heroes, state and local government, health care workers, et cetera, who are risking their lives to save lives and now may lose their jobs. When they lose their jobs they go on unemployment. So, we really need to support state and local governments to cover the expenses they have from the coronavirus, but also the fact that it’s going to add to the unemployment ranks and that costs money as well. And we don’t want that to happen.
RADDATZ: Speaker Pelosi, I know you’re not going to give us an exact time line, but can you tell those workers out there anything about when this could possibly be settled? It doesn’t sound like you’re close to a deal.
PELOSI: Well the fact is, is it will be close to an agreement when we have an agreement. And it isn’t — I mean, the fact is they put on the floor the end of this week in Senate, $200. So, when you say, well, you end up doing the $600 — they have no support for that in their party.
We are unified in our support for the $600. They’re in disarray on many of their members in the senate, Republican members don’t want any addition. And we’re saying three things — support our state and local heroes, strategic big plan to end the virus, and third put money in the pockets of america’s working families and we do that. And we have other issues that relate to food that are contentious.
RADDATZ: Speaker Pelosi, one of the things you talk about is getting rid of COVID. Your home state, California, is the first state to surpass a half a million positive cases, a record high number. What did your fellow Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom do wrong? And what should he do in the future?
PELOSI: Well, I don’t think he did anything wrong. We are the largest state in the union, so numerically it isn’t shocking to say we have the most cases. But we’re very proud of our governor, Governor Newsom, he contained and controlled how this spread in the beginning. Some people in the state wanted to open up. And we’re a large state, we have great diversity of opinion on what should happen in different regions, and when that — when the opening up took place, we have more cases. And that should be instructive to others the virus is vicious and you have to have shelter in place as long as you need it. And when you do and you reduce the spread then you can open up the schools when you reduce the rate of infection in a community, but until you do that, you have to be very careful.
RADDATZ: Madam Speaker, I want to ask you — we just have a couple of more minutes HERE — Politico reported that in a closed meeting on Friday, you accused Dr. Deborah Birx of the Coronavirus Task Force of spreading disinformation about the pandemic.
Is that true? And do you have confidence in her?
PELOSI: I — I think the president is spending — spreading disinformation about the virus and she is his — she is his appointee. So, I don’t have confidence there, no.
RADDATZ: And I want to ask you quickly about election security.
PELOSI: Well, I’m a former chair of the California Democratic Party, and I know that Republicans know how to do mail-in voting. They always would prevail when the mail-in votes came in.
But I think it’s important for you to know, Martha, that in the most recent election we had in California, spring special election, that the president’s son, donald trump Jr., and his daughter in law both did robos and ads saying, Republicans, mail in your ballots. It’s important for you to mail in your ballots.
So they were talking about mail-in voting at this most recent election. I think that the president — I don’t think it benefits one party or another. But I think it is essential from a health reason because we want to keep people at home to vote without having them all collect on Election Day.
But if they do want to vote in person, that we have sufficient spacing and all the rest so that it’s not a risk to their health.
People should not have to choose between their health and their vote.
RADDATZ: OK, I want to —
PELOSI: I think that’s very important.
RADDATZ: Thank you very much for joining us this morning.
PELOSI: Thank you, Martha. Wonderful to be with you always. Thank you.
RADDATZ: Thank you.
Let’s get the trump administration response from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Secretary Mnuchin, you agreed that the meetings were constructive yesterday. Your reaction to what you just heard Pelosi say, and are you any closer to an actual deal? It sure doesn’t sound like it.
STEVEN MNUCHIN, SECRETARY OF TREASURY: Well, first, let me say, I was surprised to hear the speaker we don’t agree on the need to kill the virus. We absolutely agree on the need to kill the virus.
And let me just say, the president acted very aggressively when this virus first came from China to shut down all travel. And since then, we have aggressively funded over seven different vaccines into production. We’re very optimistic that we will have results out of these vaccine and we’ll have a vaccine available by the end of the year.
So, we absolutely agree on the need to kill this.
And let me also just say the president is very concerned about the expiration of the unemployment insurance. We proposed a one-week extension at $600 so that while we negotiate a longer-term solution, at least all those people don’t lose their money, and I’m surprised that the Democrats won’t agree to that. They are insistent on having this as part of a larger deal.
RADDATZ: I just want to say, I’m not sure that the president shut down all travel at that point. But let’s move on.
The Democrats passed their plan to extend those benefits through January more than two months ago. Why did Republicans wait so long to start negotiating?
MNUCHIN: Well, at the time, let me just say, we had enormous bipartisan support on the last two deals, passed 96-0 and 100-0. And as a result of that, we’ve authorized over $3 trillion into the U.S. economy. This has never been done in the history of time.
We have put about half of that into the economy. We wanted to wait and see how the money was going to work.
And we have to balance. There’s obviously a need to support workers and support the economy. People through no fault of their own are shut down because of this terrible disease. On the other hand, we have to be careful about not piling on enormous amount of debts for future generation.
So, the president is determined to spend what we need to spend and we’re acting very quickly now.
RADDATZ: The president has been highly critical of the Democrats, saying this on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD trump, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the Democrats don’t care about the people of our country. I really don’t. I told my people, the — the Democrats do not care about the people of our country. They want to do what you should be doing for the people of our country, whether it’s unemployment or anything else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: He also tweeted that he was very disappointed in Senator Schumer for blocking the temporary extension of the $600 unemployment benefits. The do-nothing Democrats, he said, are more interested in playing politics than in helping our deserving people.
And yet, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell himself acknowledges that between 15 to 20 of his members — that’s about one-third — saying, think that we have already done enough are not going to vote for anything.
MNUCHIN: Well, let me first say that Mark Meadows and I have been updating the president regularly and he is concerned because he is most focused on, we’ve got to get kids back to school, we’ve got to deal with unemployment issue, we have to deal with renters who are now at risk of — of being evicted. And the president wants us to get a deal done quickly because this is important to the American people.
Now, I would just say, across both parties, there are different things that are very contentious. The Democrats, right now, are insisting on over a trillion dollar to that state and local governments. That’s something that we’re not going to do to bail out those states that had financial issues. But there’s definitely areas of agreement. Things like the PPP, I think there’s enormous bipartisan support. Things about checks in the mail, I think there’s enormous bipartisan results.
So Mark Meadows and I will be back there every day until we reach an agreement. We understand there’s a need to compromise. But, on the other hand, there’s also a big need to get kids into schools, get people back to jobs and keep the economy open and keep people safe.
RADDATZ: You know, Speaker Pelosi said the Republican offer was $200 not the $600 people have been receiving. That’s a huge cut for people with mortgages and rent payments and trying to feed their families.
MNUCHIN: Well, there was a $600 offer for one week. I’m not going to make public comments, but Mark Meadows and I have made three or four different offers that deal with the enhanced unemployment. I think as you said, Steny Hoyer and others understand that unemployment is supposed to be wage replacement, so it should be tied to some percentage of wages. The fact that we had a flat number was only an issue of an emergency where we had 30-year-old computer systems.
So I think on the concept, we absolutely agree on enhanced unemployment. We want to fix the issue where in some cases people are overpaid and we want to make sure there’s the right incentives.
But, again, let me just emphasize, we put on a table a proposal. Let’s extend it for one week at the same rate white we negotiate so we don’t hurt the American public.
RADDATZ: So — so you do think it is a disincentive to find a job if you have that extra $600?
MNUCHIN: There’s no question in certain cases where we’re paying people more to work — stay home than to work. That’s created issues in the entire economy.
But let me just say, you have to look at all these things —
RADDATZ: I want to — I want to interrupt you there for just one second. You — it’s not all the evidence. A Yale study from this month refutes that, saying many economists who have studied the benefits said that so far they don’t see any evidence in labor market data that the payments are affecting at which people are returning to work during the pandemic.
MNUCHIN: Well, let me just say, I went to Yale.
RADDATZ: I know that.
MNUCHIN: I agree on certain things. I don’t always agree. There’s a Chicago study that goes through all the people that are overpaid.
But — but let’s just face it, we know factually, OK, there are cases where people are overpaid, there are cases where people are underpaid. The issue is, we need to come up with an agreement to extend this. We need to get kids into school. And we’re going to work every day until we reach a reasonable agreement that’s good for the American public.
RADDATZ: The GDP saw its largest contraction in modern history this week wiping out the past five years of economic growth. What do you think our economy will look like in the coming months and after the pandemic hopefully is over? I see all these boarded up buildings, people unemployed. Just give us a vision of what you think it will look like.
MNUCHIN: Well, let me just say, this virus has devastated our economy and it’s no fault of individuals. This virus came from China. They should have been more forthright early on.
And I’ve said before, the — the second quarter was going to be horrible. We’ve never had a scenario in the history of time where we shut down the entire U.S. economy. It’s like turning off the water faucets. So, of course, GDP is going to be down. As we open up the water faucets, and many parts of the economy can safely operate, certain parts of the economy can’t, and we’ve got to deal with that. I think you’re going to see a very big bounce back off of a very low number this quarter assuming we continue on the right policies.
But we have a lot of work to do and we all agree we’ve got to kill this virus and we couldn’t be more pleased with the scientific improvements that we’re making on testing, that we’re making on — on — on the vaccine. And I think when we have a vaccine and life gets back to normal, you’re going to see a great economy again next year.
RADDATZ: And — and we have just a few seconds HERE, but I want to ask you about TikTok. The president says he plans to ban the Chinese video application through executive order.
Is that something you recommended?
MNUCHIN: Well, let me just make a couple of brief comment. I — I do chair CFIUS, which is the Committee on Foreign Investment on the United States. I’ve said publicly that it’s under review. I will say publicly that the entire committee agrees that TikTok cannot stay in the current format because it risks sending back information on 100 million Americans.
I’ve spoken to Senators Cotton and Rubio. I spoke to the speaker and Senator Schumer. We all agree there has to be a change.
The president can either force a sale or the president can block the app using IEEPA [International Emergency Economic Powers Act]. And I’m not going to comment on my specific discussions with the president.
But everybody agrees it can’t exist as it does.
RADDATZ: OK, thanks so much for joining us this morning, Mr. Secretary.
Much more on the coronavirus crisis ahead, including FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver with his take on mail-in voting. Could it delay November’s presidential election results?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD trump, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mail-in ballots will lead to the greatest fraud.
I want to have the election, but I also don’t want to have to wait for three months, and then find out that the ballots are all missing and the election doesn’t mean anything.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are those in power who are doing their darndest to discourage people from voting, even undermining the Postal Service in the run-up to an election that’s going to be dependent on mail-in ballots, so people don’t get sick.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: President Obama eulogizing John Lewis on Thursday, speaking out against voter suppression, as president trump continues to cast doubt over mail-in voting, even suggesting that the November election be postponed.
There’s no evidence that mail-in voting leads to widespread voter fraud. But with an expected increase in absentee voting this November, could we see a delay in the results?
We asked FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver to weigh in:
NATE SILVER, EDITOR IN CHIEF, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT.COM: Races tend to tighten the closer you get to election night.
If it does come down to individual states in November, we could be looking at a very long election week or even longer.
The first reason is mail ballots. Right now, 29 states allow for no-excuse absentee balloting. And that number could grow over concerns about in-person voting with coronavirus.
And there are another five states that conduct elections entirely by mail.
The thing about mail ballots, that not all of them are counted at once. In some states, in fact, votes only have to be postmarked, not actually received, by Election Day.
Typically, ballots that come in later are more Democratic, since Democratic voters tend to be younger. And younger people — no judgment HERE — tend to procrastinate.
Consider what happened in the Arizona Senate race in 2018. At midnight on election night, Republican Martha McSally led by about a percentage point. But Democrat Kyrsten Sinema eventually won by 2.5 points once late-arriving mail ballots were counted. That’s a pretty big swing.
The second issue could be problems at voting locations, like the long lines we saw in states like Georgia and Kentucky during their primaries, which could reflect some combination of social distancing, plus fewer poll workers, plus voters not receiving their absentee ballots in time.
All of that could lead to poll hours being extended and the possibility of litigation over absentee ballots.
Look, nobody wants a replay of Bush vs. Gore, but when you have an election in the middle of a global pandemic, with a second wave, in fact, possible in the fall, anything can happen.
RADDATZ: Anything is possible.
Our thanks to Nate for that.
Coming up, we will try to make sense of some of the most pressing questions facing Americans as they prepare for the fall. Dr. Jen Ashton and Tom Bossert are next, plus our powerhouse roundtable.
We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We cannot test our way out of this or any other pandemic. Testing does not replace personal responsibility.
DR. ROBERT REDFIELD ,DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: This is the most complex public health response this nation has undertaken in more than a century
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It’s such a highly transmissible virus. It is unlikely that it’s going to disappear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Some of the nation’s top health officials on Capitol Hill Friday testifying about why COVID is still surging in the United States. For more let’s bring in our chief medical correspondent Dr. Jen Ashton and ABC News contributor and former Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert.
And Tom, let me start with you, the director of the Harvard Global Health Initiative told ABC this week that the reason the United States is the global hotspot is that we just haven’t taken this seriously.
So what do we do now when people have corona fatigue, when there is still mixed messaging? Is it time for a reset?
TOM BOSSERT, FORMER trump HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISOR, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: It’s time for a reset not just with our public health officials who need to develop better plans for testing allocation, who need more resources. So that’s a joint responsibility of all of our federal, state and local officials.
But as he said, it’s a responsibility of each of us for the people who want to send their kids back to school this fall, how are they going to change their behaviors now to earn that right? And I don’t believe I’m seeing a lot of evidence in most of the country that people understand that what they do now matters to what the country looks like in the future.
RADDATZ: And, Jen, the push to wear masks has intensified in recent weeks. Thirty-three states and D.C. now mandating wearing masks. But like it or not, there are those in the country who are still not convinced. So are there studies showing they do fight the disease? And can you explain why the masks don’t protect the wearer as much as they protect those they come in contact with?
DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC NEWS CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Martha, first of all, we have to remember that this area of aerosol science and transmission dynamics of this virus is literally evolving in real time. You know, we’ve only known about this virus for seven months and in that time we have seen data that shows that masks dramatically reduce transmission or spread to someone else and there’s new and emerging data that it may, underscore may, protect the wearer.
So, again, we have to merge HERE and hybridize science, medicine and public health and personal behavior just as Tom Bossert just mentioned.
RADDATZ: And, Jen, I watched your terrific interview with Dr. Fauci this week, the country’s top infectious disease specialist. What — what was your biggest take away from that?
ASHTON: Well, the biggest takeaway, Martha, is that, you know, he’s using commonsense and integrated science and medical data. And he told me that, you know, mucous membranes are how this virus gains entry into the body. Those are our eyes, nose, and mouth. And he talked about why eye protection in the form of goggles, regular glasses or even a face shield is, quote, probably a good idea, even though it’s not yet a universal recommendation. So I think as we hear someone like Dr. Fauci say things like that, we have to understand that, you know, these things are unpleasant, they’re not familiar to us, but right now it has to be a fill the boat, all hands on deck approach if we want to slow and control this virus, because it is not going anywhere. So we have to learn how to manage it so it’s not managing us.
RADDATZ: And, Tom, testing still faces really serious backlogs, 55 percent of the tests over the last month took more than three days to complete. And then there is contract tracing, which you are solidly behind as a way to help open up the economy. But is that even possible to do effectively now when so many people are waiting days or sometimes weeks for their test results?
BOSSERT: Well, you know, two things about those test results. First, there’s a clinical need for them. So if you’re too long and to late in getting the test results, they’re clinically useless. And then for contact tracing, think of it this way. My answer is, if you know you’re sick on day one and you can tell all those you’ve been in contact with, you’ve got a smaller number of people to communicate that information to. But if you don’t know until day four, you not only have more people with whom you’ve come into contact in the last four days, but you’ve then got more people that each of them have come into contact with. And you’ve essentially increased everyone’s odds by a four-fold factor of getting other people sick. So if you don’t contact trace quickly, you’re running out of your chance to having any successful contact tracing and isolation.
RADDATZ: And that looks like that is happening. You just can’t do it now.
BOSSERT: Well, that’s right. You know, this is a really troubling thing. The evidence now is pretty clear from overseas and from the first wave HERE in the spring that the total number of deaths — eventual deaths from any wave is about six to seven times that of the peak deaths from any peak of any wave. And so if we assume even 33,000 deaths associated with this summer wave, multiply that by six or seven and we’re talking about adding another 200,000 or 230,000 deaths to the existing count, which stood at about 119,000 when we started this summer wave.
RADDATZ: And, Jen, with those terrible statistics, I want to turn back to schools. Tom mentioned the schools. We learned this week about a YMCA overnight camp in Georgia where 260 of the 597 at the camp tested positive. They had only been there four days in June. That does not seem to bode well for going back to school in certain places.
ASHTON: It doesn’t bode well, Martha. And I think that we need to change our mindset HERE with a new paradigm that really has to do with not being surprised about when we hear of cases but how we will manage those cases, how we will mitigate the risk. You can never drop the risk to zero.
But what I’m concerned about is a rush on a timeline that really — you know, we’re on the virus’ timeline. We’re not on an academic school year timeline, and if steps aren’t place in to mitigate risk and to protect the health of students, their families, staff and faculty. We’re not in a clinical or medical or scientific or educational position to move forward.
So, this has to be worked out in real time with flexibility and the ability to integrate new information and data as we get it and adapt and respond to it in a health, scientific and medical way.
RADDATZ: Thanks to you both. And you’ll be back with us, I hope, many times in the coming months.
All that, plus, the roundtable, coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. JILL BIDEN, JOE BIDEN’S WIFE: From what I’ve seen, a lot of Republicans are going to vote for Joe. Maybe they’re not saying it publicly, but when I was out there on the trail, a lot of people came up to me and said, Jill, I’m a Republican but I’m going to vote for your husband because he’s moderate and he’s a steady leader and we believe in Joe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Dr. Jill Biden making the case that Republican voters are going to be crossing the aisle to vote for her husband this November. Several Republican groups are hoping for the same, waging war against the president of their own party.
Here’s senior congressional correspondent Mary Bruce.
MARY BRUCE, ABC NEWS SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Blistering ads targeting president trump, not by Democrats but from a group of Republicans intent on taking down the leader of their party. Many using the president’s own words against him.
DONALD trump, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And, again, when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.
POLITICAL AD ANNOUNCER: Close to zero, close to zero.
BRUCE: It’s called the Lincoln Project and co-founder Reed Galen tells us many of the ads which are running heavily on Fox News are intended for an audience of one.
GALEN: What we see strategically is that he throws him and his campaign off his game.
POLITICAL AD: Hey, Donald, your campaign manager told you a million fans wanted to come out to your first big rally. Turnout in Tulsa, a dud.
BRUCE: trump is not amused but he is taking the bait.
TRUMP: They shouldn’t call it the Lincoln Project. It’s not fair to Abraham Lincoln, a great president. They should call it the losers’ project.
BRUCE: trump’s response to the pandemic is taking a toll. A new ABC News/Ipsos poll out Friday found that 66 percent of Americans disapprove of trump’s handling of coronavirus. The president now trailing Biden by double digits and down in the key battle ground states that delivered him the White House.
The group of Republican Voters Against trump is hoping to amplify the voices of frustrated Republicans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is an anti-masker. He’s a conspiracy theorist.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has mismanaged — zero leadership when it comes to the coronavirus.
BRUCE: The goal: to sway trump voters to back Biden.
TIM MILLER, REPUBLICAN VOTERS AGAINST trump: We can help nudge them over to Joe Biden’s camp using these messengers from people in their community rather than kind of wagging our finger at them.
BRUCE: Its founder Tim Miller, tells us, the coronavirus has been a tipping point.
MILLER: About two — about a month ago, when we were doing focus groups with these — with these sort of soft trump supporters, a lot of them were making excuses for him on the coronavirus response.
In the last month, you have seen people really start to get frustrated with him.
BRUCE: Former Bush administration officials are now piling on.
ROSARIO MARIN, FORMER U.S. TREASURER: What do we have HERE? The greatest nation in the world on its knees because of failed leadership. We can’t have four more years of this.
BRUCE: Galen is more blunt about his long-term goal, wiping out Trumpism.
GALEN: I do believe that a philosophically-driven center-right party is healthy for the United States. We do not have that right now.
BRUCE: The Lincoln Project now broadening their scope.
NARRATOR: They chose trump.
BRUCE: Targeting Republican senators who have sided with the president.
BRUCE (on camera): Well, you would be gutting your own party.
GALEN: Well, it’s not our party anymore.
BRUCE: And I guess that’s what it comes down to, then?
GALEN: It’s — for us, it’s not even about the party. It’s about the country.
RADDATZ: And, with that, let’s bring in our senior congressional correspondent, Mary Bruce, who is joined on the roundtable by Axios national political reporter Jonathan Swan, ABC News White House correspondent Rachel Scott, and FiveThirtyEight senior writer Perry Bacon.
Welcome to you all.
And I want to go back to you, Mary.
BRUCE: Well, Martha, I think they certainly welcome any help that they can get in this department.
They are quick to point out that these groups, especially The Lincoln Project and some of these others, are not just now anti-Trump groups, but have really become pro-Biden. And they see that as yet another problem for president trump.
I think what strikes me HERE, especially in watching some of these ads, is that these groups are able to do what Joe Biden politically simply can’t, right? Joe Biden is trying in many ways to maintain this squeaky clean image. And now you have these groups who are doing anything but.
These ads are not subtle. They are brutal. They are hitting trump where it hurts, trying to beat him at his own game. These are ads that Biden simply could not run.
And the question, though, is whether they’re just needling the president, or are they actually going to sway voters?
RADDATZ: Something we will watch in the coming months.
And, Rachel, let’s turn to the president’s suggestion to delay the election, a move I have, frankly, seen in authoritarian countries, but not so much HERE.
It seems like a signal he recognizes his reelection chances at this moment have diminished. So, is this just a distraction, what he’s saying, or is there really more to it?
RACHEL SCOTT, ABC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right, Martha.
And I think the president is aware that he cannot move the date of the election, but what he can do is try and cast doubt on the process.
But, look, the reality HERE is that the president is down in the polls. The economy, which many of his supporters have told me is a sticking point for them, is suffering. And less than 100 days out from the election, his campaign has said that it is now reviewing its strategy.
They pressed pause on TV advertising, something that they have spent millions of dollars on in the past several months, not to mention that the president’s new campaign manager has only been in that position for just over two weeks.
So, this is a campaign that is also dealing with a few shakeups in the final stretch leading up to Election Day. They are trying to refine what they believe is going to be their winning strategy, trying to define Joe Biden.
And, all the while, the president is trying to cast doubt on an election that right now poll shows he is at the risk of losing.
RADDATZ: And, Jonathan, as his polling outlook worsens, the president’s attempts to undermine faith in the election do seem to increase.
I know you spoke to the president about this a few days ago. What did he tell you? What can you tell us more about that interview?
SWAN, AXIOS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, it’s a puzzling effort.
It’s puzzling, in the sense that it’s self-defeating, in the view of many top Republican officials. And the reason it’s potentially self-defeating is because, who are the people — and this is a conversation I had recently with a top Republican lawmaker who is tearing his hair out about this and has tried to persuade the president to stop doing this.
Who do you think are the people who are going to be persuaded by the president saying that mail-in voting is a fraud, it’s completely illegitimate?
It’s not going to be Democratic voters. They don’t listen to him. They tune him out. They believe everything he says is false. It’s Republican voters.
And the Republican Party is famous for its well-funded, sophisticated, incredibly effective mail-in voting program. And you have the Republican National Committee, you have trump’s own campaign putting out drives to get people to vote by mail.
So, it’s the — it’s the citizens — because they overwhelmingly like to vote by mail — who are sitting at home in Florida who are worried about going to the polls during a pandemic and are then hearing this president, who they hang on every word he says, in some cases, telling them that this is fraudulent.
So, the Republican Party better hope for nice weather on election day or a diminished virus. They could see this really backfire.
I suspect, based on not only my conversation with the president this week, but just by reporting from people around him, that this is more a personal thing rather than broader strategic. This is donald trump, in my estimation, trying to set down a marker for him basically claiming after the results come in on election day that it’s a stolen election. And that I think for democracy one of the most concerning scenarios is you could see a vote on election day in which donald trump is doing very well, because his people have gone to the polls and Democrats have overwhelmingly voted by mail, and then as the results start coming in with the mail vote, you know, in the next couple of days, donald trump will say, see, I told you so, it’s fraudulent and then try and launch various forms of litigation. I think that’s where this is heading.
RADDATZ: And Perry, to Jonathan’s point, not a single prominent Republican voiced support for the president’s suggestion to delay the election. And mail-in voters as well, that’s a real issue for the elderly. But you don’t often see the entire party push back against him.
PERRY BACON, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT SENIOR WRITER: Right. I thought it was important this week. Like we know that trump is likely to lie, and so some extent try to cheat any election, because we saw that in the Ukraine scandal involving Joe Biden, so we know that about president trump. What struck me this week was the Republicans in general, and almost all of them, as you said, Martha, rebuke this idea of changing the election days, which is important because it tells me they might rebuke other ideas that trump has to undermine the Democratic process and the electoral process.
RADDATZ: And Mary, I have to ask you, I keep having people come to me and say do you think if he lost he’d actually leave the White House? Is there real concern ab out that?
BRUCE: Well, the president certainly has floated that idea. There is some concern about that. The Biden campaign is quick to point out that they do have ways to get an illegal tenant, so to say, out of the building.
What strike me this week is that the president, you are seeing him repeatedly it seems try to undercut and question the legitimacy of an election. You don’t do that if you think you are going to win. And of course it’s not just him questioning, you know, the potentially moving the date of the election, but of course we also saw him questioning the postal service in and of itself, which is of course a favorite target of the president. He has an issue with the postal service. He has gone after them many times.
But now there are questions about whether the president is trying to undermine the postal service, perhaps his postmaster general, who is a trump donor, trying to create some delays in the postal service just to further try and complicate this system.
Of course, we saw Barack Obama earlier this week raising that same question about whether this may be another political move in essence to try and erode trust and faith in the postal service and trust and faith, then, in this election as a whole.
RADDATZ: And Rachel, overall this is a blunt strategy to appeal to suburban voters, also warning of urban violence, is that a strategy that would work?
SCOTT: Right, and rolling back that Obama-era housing regulation that has overwhelmingly helped minority, low-income Americans. So the president HERE is trying to pitch white suburban voters that he won over in 2016, but this time around it does not appear that that same message is sticking. More and more polls are showing that more and more suburban voters are disapproving the president’s handling on the job and also his handling of race relations in this country.
And not to mention that they aren’t the only ones that are going to be heading to the polls in November. So what message does that send to minority, low-income residents in affordable housing who are looking at the president’s Twitter feed to learn that according to him they are no longer welcome in majority white suburbans of this country.
RADDATZ: And Jonathan, I want to turn to the veepstakes. Joe Biden says he’ll make his VP pick in the coming week, or possibly a little longer, what do you know about the late-stage deliberations?
SWAN: So I’m told by a source familiar with the discussions that it’s unlikely to happen this week. They’ve kicked it a little bit down the road.
You’ve seen a late effort by a number of Biden allies to kill the candidacy of Kamala Harris. You’ve seen that panic rise to the surface in various news articles. And from the way it’s been described to me by several people, Biden wants somebody who can be a partner, who he can work with, who can be the same role that he served for Barack Obama. But probably the most obvious person who fits that description is Susan Rice, and she has real political liabilities and certainly would be more energizing to the Republican base.
Kamala Harris, on the other hand, is well vetted, has a long career in politics and, obviously, has been wanting to be president for a very long time, which has shaped her behavior in a more cautious way in the last decade. But people don’t have a great deal of affection for her in Biden’s inner circle and they haven’t forgotten the fact that she effectively called him a racist on the debate stage. So, again, it’s a — it’s a tug and a pull and a — and I don’t portend to have any, you know, perfect wisdom of where they’re going to land because it’s been very tightly held within a tiny group around the vice president.
RADDATZ: And — and, Perry, we — Jonathan mentioned Kamala Harris. We saw the close-up pictures of Biden’s notes with Kamala Harris’ name at the top, followed by “do not hold grudges,” which comes as some of Biden’s advisers are concerned about how tough she was on him during those debates. What are you hearing?
BACON: Just to be clear, I do not believe she called him a racist. I believe that she criticized his (INAUDIBLE) views. So I want to emphasize, I don’t think that characterization was correct.
That said, what I think is going on HERE is Kamala Harris is probably the most logical candidate because she has a national profile. She’s a sitting senator and she’s black in this era, you know, where we’re having these protests about racial inequality. So I think she is the most logical candidate in a lot of ways.
That said, lot of Democrats are worried, if you pick Kamala Harris, you, in some ways, have — have, you know, put her ahead in the 2024 conversation because, you know, Joe Biden may not run for a second term. So if you pick Kamala Harris where you may, in some ways, be anointing the next person forward. And that’s something people are nervous about. They’re not sure they want to pick Kamala Harris and have her as their candidate for the future. I think that’s what’s going on.
But if you look at someone like Karen Bass, the House member from California, she just — has not run before. It’s not clear if she’d run (ph) for president if she was the vice president. The same thing of (ph) Susan Rice. So I think that’s the question is like, Harris makes the most sense on a lot of levels, but do you want her as your nominee for the future?
RADDATZ: And — and, Mary, I just want to close, we have about 30 seconds. Let’s quickly talk about what you heard from Speaker Pelosi and Secretary Mnuchin. It really doesn’t say — sound like they’re very close to a deal at all.
BRUCE: Yes, Martha, I think if you are one of the 30 million Americans who have now lost this lifeline, that $600 weekly unemployment benefit, you would be hard pressed to listen to those interviews this morning and think that help is on the way.
Look, it’s good to hear them use words like “constructive” and “productive,” but we are still very far away from a deal. There isn’t one in sight. Democrats are insisting those $600 payments continue. Republicans who have struggled to come up with a plan, or are trying to come up with a short-term fix.
Bottom line, you have millions of Americans who are really struggling to make ends meet now without this payment and there simply is no deal in sight. This could take weeks, Martha.
RADDATZ: And 30 million Americans without that paycheck.
Thanks to all of you on this Sunday morning.
Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us.
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