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STATE OF THE UNION

Interview With Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn; Interview With Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA); Interview With Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL); Interview With Austin, Texas, Mayor Steve Adler. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired July 5, 2020 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:00:31]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Summer of solitude? Coronavirus cases surge, and hospitals struggle to keep up. But, as local officials scramble to stem the tide, are American over it?

FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn and Austin Mayor Steve Adler join me next.

And American carnage. President Trump brushes off the spike in cases and offers a dark vision.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is a new far left fascism that demands absolute allegiance.

BASH: Will the message that worked in 2016 convince voters in 2020? Iowa Republican Senator, Joni Ernst, up for reelection this fall, will join me.

Plus: being vetted. She's taking a tough line against the administration on the Armed Services Committee.

SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D-IL): How dare he still call himself the commander in chief?

BASH: And picking up buzz as a potential V.P. choice. With months to go before America picks a president, Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth joins me coming up.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash, in for Jake Tapper, in Washington, where the state of our union is honoring freedom even in strange times.

Happy Fourth of July weekend.

As Americans celebrated the country's birthday, President Trump did nothing to try to unify a nation still crippled by the coronavirus pandemic and deep cultural unrest. Instead, he used the occasion to deliver two divisive speeches. At an event in front of Mount Rushmore Friday night, the president outlined an us-vs.-them reelection message, framing mostly peaceful protests as a radical assault on American life.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We will never allow an angry mob to tear down our statues, erase our history, indoctrinate our children, or trample on our freedoms.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: And, on Saturday, in front of the White House, the president repeated his argument, this time comparing his fight against the -- quote -- "radical left" to America's defeat of the Nazis.

The events were both held with little to no social distancing or masks, ignoring his own administration's health guidelines.

And as coronavirus cases continue to break records in multiple states across the country, and the death toll approaches 130,000, I want to bring in our guest, a member of the president's Coronavirus Task Force, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn.

Dr. Hahn, thank you so much for joining me this morning.

I want to start with something the president said last night I want you to listen to.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Now we have tested almost 40 million people. By so doing, we show cases, 99 percent of which are totally harmless.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Doctor, 99 percent of coronavirus cases are -- quote -- "completely harmless."

No health expert that we have found can back that up. Can you?

DR. STEPHEN HAHN, COMMISSIONER, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION: So, we know that cases are surging in the country. We have all seen the graphs associated with that.

And it's just too early, and I'm not going to speculate on what the causation is there. What I can tell you is, the way out of this, Dana, the way out of this for all Americans is to follow the CDC and the White House task force guidelines.

Social distance. Wear a mask if you find yourself in a situation where you can't social distance, good hand hygiene, all the things that I would tell my patients. And if you're near someone who is vulnerable, and you think you have been exposed, please take care and avoid exposing that person who is vulnerable.

BASH: Well, Dr. Hahn, I think it's really important to stick to the question about the 99 percent that the president threw out there.

I can tell you, it's not true, and I'm -- that's obviously not my opinion. It is fact, based on the CDC estimates. Only about a third of coronavirus cases are asymptomatic. The WHO says -- the World Health Organization says about 20 percent of people diagnosed with coronavirus are sick enough to need oxygen or hospital care.

And this is really important, probably one of the most important misclaims or, frankly, lies that the president has put out there, because it really affects people's health. If they hear the president saying, 99 percent of people are fine, they're going to change their behavior, potentially get sick, infect other people.

How does that make you feel, as a member of his own task force?

[09:05:00]

HAHN: I totally support the CDC and the information that they're putting out with respect to this pandemic.

I think it's, again, really important, the guidelines that we have emphasized, the -- the data that we have. Again, it's a rapidly evolving situation, and we're going to have more data.

But we absolutely must take this seriously. We must institute these public health measures. We cannot back off from those. It's critically important for Americans to follow those guidelines and to protect the most vulnerable.

BASH: And, Dr. Hahn, I realize this is not easy for you. You are doing -- working really hard to try to protect Americans.

So, I just have to ask you flatly, to that end, to protect Americans, is the president wrong?

HAHN: So, I'm not going to get into who is right and who is wrong.

What I have going to say, Dana, is what I have said before, which is that it's a serious problem that we have. We have seen the surge in cases. We must do something to stem the tide. And we have this in our power to do it by following the guidance from the White House task force and the CDC.

BASH: So, you won't say whether 99 percent of coronavirus cases are -- quote -- "completely harmless" is true or false, what the president said at the White House last night?

HAHN: Dana, what I will say is that we have data in the White House task force. Those data show us that this is a serious problem. People need to take it seriously.

BASH: OK.

I want to move on to something else that the president said and did at the Fourth of July event that he had the week -- the night before, Mount Rushmore. And I'm not sure if you can see, but I'm sure you have seen photos

we're -- and video we're showing on the air right now. Thousands of people were crowded together. They were sitting shoulder to shoulder, many of them without masks.

We saw a similar situation at the White House last night. Are those people putting themselves at risk, Dr. Hahn?

HAHN: So, if you don't follow local and state guidelines about what to do, if you're not following the CDC and White House task force guidelines, you are putting yourselves and you're putting your loved ones at risk.

And so it's -- again, I keep going back to this point, but it's really important, that, in all circumstances, that guidance be followed. So, yes, people who don't follow the guidance are putting themselves at risk.

BASH: Does it make you uncomfortable that the president is holding events that you, as a member of his task force, are saying is putting Americans at risk?

HAHN: Well, I think, in terms of that specific instance at the White House, it's important for everyone to remember that it's a different set of circumstances.

People are tested regularly. The president is tested regularly. That is a different set of circumstances. But, in general, following those guidelines, particularly if you find yourself in events where there's more than 10, 25 people, is very important.

BASH: Right. OK.

What about Mount Rushmore? I don't think that everybody there was getting tested.

HAHN: My understanding is that they followed local and state guidelines at that event.

BASH: OK.

Dr. Hahn, I want you to look -- I think you have seen it -- and our viewers can look at this chart, which compares U.S. cases to those in the European Union and Canada and South Korea. It is just so stark and stunning. The only tread line -- trend line going up is the one in green. That's the U.S.

So, you look at that, and you think about what the president said again this week, that coronavirus would -- quote -- "sort of just disappear, I hope."

Can you give the American people clarity on the timeline of when they should expect the coronavirus to just disappear? Because, again, you look at that -- at that chart, at that green line, it doesn't look like it's disappearing.

HAHN: No, we're seeing the surge in cases, particularly across the Sunbelt.

And so this virus is still with us, which is why the public health message about how to protect yourself and others is so important. We are, however, Dana, in a very fundamentally different place than we were back in March and April.

We have new therapeutics that we didn't have at the time, so treatments, remdesivir, steroids, and this plasma program, where over 28,000 people have been treated.

And just to pitch for that, if you don't mind. Dana, I'd love to tell the American people, those who've been exposed to COVID-19 and recovered to consider donating for plasma. It could save a life, while we're trying to figure out if it is beneficial.

So, those are the sort of things that are -- that are different, more testing capacity, more therapeutics and those things are, so fundamentally different, but still a concerning trend.

And, really, we can stop this by following the guidelines.

BASH: You mentioned remdesivir. So, I want to ask you about that.

The government's last scheduled shipments of remdesivir went out this week. Several hospitals in hot spots like Midland, Texas, Miami, Florida, are either running low or completely out of the drug.

And it's the only known drug to work against COVID-19, as you mentioned. How is it possible that the U.S. has run out? And when can these hospitals expect more shipments?

[09:10:00]

HAHN: There is remdesivir available. That's being run out of Health and Human Services.

And we have been in touch with the states and the localities to surge remdesivir to the areas that most need it. As you probably know, the vice president and I and others were in Florida, and this issue came up.

And we are receiving that feedback and then shipping remdesivir, so that it's available for people who need it.

BASH: OK.

Let's talk about the search for a coronavirus vaccine. You have said you're optimistic about having a vaccine by the end of the year or early next year. But there's obviously, you know better than I, a big difference between discovering a vaccine and having 300 million doses ready at local doctor's offices across the country.

How likely do you think it is that Americans will be able to get to their doctor's office, get a vaccine in January?

HAHN: Well, that's one of the core responsibilities of the government, is to actually develop a plan for making sure that people can get access to the vaccine when it's available.

I can't speculate when a vaccine would be available, although I think amazing work has been done by the NIID, the National Institutes of Health, and others in terms of the development.

But in terms of FDA's role, I just want to make one thing clear, Dana. We put out guidance this week to provide clarity about the data we would need to assess the safety and efficacy of a vaccine. That is so important for people to have confidence in.

We have world-class experts on this. They will look at those data when they're available, and they will make the best judgment possible. Our solemn promise to the American people is that we will look at data to adjudicate the safety and efficacy of that vaccine.

And then, when it becomes available, the U.S. government and others will have a plan for distributing that vaccine to all Americans.

BASH: One quick follow-up.

The president said that the vaccine could happen long before the end of the year. Are you willing to support those odds?

HAHN: Well, I'm optimistic, given what we have seen so far, but I really can't speculate on that.

Our job at FDA is to look at the data when it's available. We're not actually the developers of those, although we provided assistance to developers of vaccines, so that they have clarity about what data they need to bring to us.

BASH: And, finally, the Republican National Convention is now seven weeks away. The president is planning to have a really big crowd in Jacksonville, Florida.

Coronavirus cases in Florida just reached a new high yesterday. So, just a quick yes or no. Do you think it's safe to hold that event in Florida?

HAHN: I think it's too early to tell. We will have to see how this unfolds in Florida and elsewhere around the country.

BASH: Dr. Hahn, thank you so much.

We really appreciate all of the work you are doing day and night and everybody at the FDA and, more broadly, on the Coronavirus Task Force to try to help Americans with this pandemic. And I hope you have a nice holiday weekend.

HAHN: Thank you. Thank you, Dana. You as well, and to your viewers.

BASH: Thank you.

And, as cases surge in Texas, hospitals in some large cities are nearing capacity. The mayor of Austin, Texas, on the dire situation in his city, that's next. And President Trump is stoking America's culture war. Is his stance

hurting Republican lawmakers up for reelection? I will ask one.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:17:21]

BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

Texas was one of the first states to lift coronavirus guidelines this spring.

But now, with one of the biggest spikes of any state, they're heading in the other direction. The governor mandated masks in all counties with 20 or more cases, and local officials are adding back more restrictions, as hospitals in Houston and Austin are nearing capacity.

Joining me now is the mayor of Austin, Texas, Steve Adler.

And, Mr. Mayor, President Trump said this week that the virus is going to -- quote -- "just disappear," the crisis is being handled.

You just heard, I know, my interview with the FDA commissioner, Dr. Hahn, about what the president said last night, that 99 percent of cases are totally harmless.

As a mayor of one of the biggest hot spot cities in the country, when you hear this from the federal government, top officials, how do you react?

STEVE ADLER (D), MAYOR OF AUSTIN, TEXAS: It makes me angry.

You know, I understand he has a tough job, but it is dangerous not to be sending a clear message to Americans, to folks in my town. We have the July 4 weekend, and we need everybody wearing masks.

And when they start hearing that kind of ambiguous message coming out of Washington, there are more and more people that won't wear masks, that won't social distance, that won't do what it takes to keep a community safe. And that's wrong, and it's dangerous.

I just have to hope that people aren't going to listen to that, and they will stay focused on what they're hearing here more locally.

BASH: Well, on that note, one of your county's top health officials warned of -- quote -- "dire consequence" if there are missteps this holiday weekend and said he may have to recommend another stay-at-home order if the virus isn't contained soon.

So, does your city of Austin need another stay-at-home order now?

ADLER: Well, as our health director said, we're -- it's a quiver -- it's an arrow in our quiver that we're -- it's standing ready, because we may. We're on a trajectory right now that we could be inundating our intensive care units here within the next week to 10 days. We're watching the numbers on a daily basis. We may have to take more drastic action.

And we have laid that out. And it's something that we're discussing publicly in the community right now.

BASH: A study found that, if the state of New York had shut down just a week earlier, over 22,000 lives could have been saved.

And, this week, Texas, as you well know, saw a single-day record high of new cases reported. So, should the governor do this more broadly to make it clear to people in your city and all over the state of Texas, particularly given the very recent experience that we have in New York?

[09:20:15]

ADLER: I think it's something that has to be considered.

You know, even if we had the physical ICU beds, what I'm being told is that there is not the staffing to go along with the surge. And if this is happening in Austin and Dallas and Houston and San Antonio all at the same time, we're in trouble, because there's just not going to be the staffing to support what we're going to see.

I appreciate that my governor last week went to a statewide masking ordinance. I wish it had happened sooner. It's the messaging. It's not that it has to be there, so we can enforce it by giving people fines. It's the message, that -- the singular voice from leadership from both parties saying to our community, this is important, you have to do it, it works.

I just hope this message hasn't come too late.

BASH: So, just to be clear, do you want the governor to issue a statewide stay-at-home order?

ADLER: You know, we're -- I don't know that the governor needs to do a statewide order at this point.

But I want him to give us locally the ability to be able to do it, so that -- so that I would have the ability to do that on Wednesday in my city. That's when we're going to get our next round of numbers. Or Houston could do it or San Antonio could do it.

I think that that is perhaps more in the world of possible here, the ability to have that local control. You know, we had that local control back in March, and we exercised it. Cities did that. And by just cities acting, we brought in about 60 percent of the population in the state.

I want that local control now.

BASH: And before I let you go, I want to ask about the hospitals in your Austin area.

They could hit capacity in the next few weeks, if the upward trend in cases doesn't slow. How close are hospitals in Austin to reaching capacity right now?

ADLER: I think that we're probably -- depending on whether or not we have impacted the trajectory -- and we won't know that, but the conduct in our city started changing about two weeks ago.

But if we don't change the trajectory, then I am within two weeks of having our hospitals overrun. And in our ICUs, I could be 10 days away from that.

BASH: Ten days away. Oh, my goodness.

Well, we wish you luck. Thank you so much for joining us. We know that this is anything but a typical holiday weekend for you there. And the whole country is looking and sending our good thoughts towards you.

ADLER: I appreciate it.

And if anybody in Austin is watching, put on your mask.

BASH: Amen.

Thank you so much.

And some concerning signs for the president's reelection campaign, how will that affect Republican lawmakers up for reelection themselves?

Republican Senator Joni Ernst is one of them. And she joins me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:27:31]

BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Dana Bash.

With only four months until Election Day, several warning signs for President Trump.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden outraised him for the second month in a row, and the president is trailing Biden by double digits in some recent polls.

Are other Republicans on the ballot this fall concerned?

Well, joining me now is Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, a retired lieutenant colonel in the National Guard who served in Iraq, a member of the Senate Republican leadership, and the author of a new book, "Daughter of the Heartland."

And, Senator, we will talk about the book in a minute, but first want to talk about some things at the top of the news, including President Trump at Mount Rushmore on Friday night, and how he characterized what's happening in this country. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children.

No movement that seeks to dismantle these treasured American legacies can possibly have a love of America at its heart.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Senator, as somebody who is going to be on the ballot with the president in November, are you comfortable with that?

SEN. JONI ERNST (R-IA): Well, I think that there is a great level of frustration across the United States all the way around.

And, as a combat veteran, as you stated, someone who has served this great nation, I truly believe that we do live in the greatest nation on the face of the planet, and we do have blemishes in our history. And we need to come together and have some very hard discussions about our past.

But the great thing about this nation is that we can learn from those blemishes, learn from those hard times in the past, and continue to evolve as a continually blessed nation. And, again, just we do live in the greatest nation on the face of the planet.

BASH: And...

ERNST: And I hope that others understand that.

BASH: And, Senator, as somebody who did fight in combat to protect the freedoms that you just talked about, would you agree, seeing what's happening out there, the protests, that the majority are actually peaceful, and not the way the president described them?

ERNST: Yes, I do think that there are so many peaceful protests.

And that's exactly the kind of discussion and exhibition that we want to see, peaceful protests. And I support those peaceful protesters.

[09:30:00]

But what we can't allow is -- is violence and that type of disruption and destruction of whether it's personal or private property, public property. We can't allow that to happen.

But, again, we all need to come together, we need to sit down, and we need to have some very real, very hard discussions. If we want to improve our country, we all need to come together.

BASH: Well, one of the ways, I believe, that you and your fellow senators on both sides of the aisle attempted to start those discussions is with a must-pass military spending bill that the president is now threatening to veto because it would rename U.S. bases named after Confederate officers.

You sit on the Armed Services Committee. You support renaming those bases. Should the president sign the bill?

ERNST: Well, I absolutely believe that we need to have a discussion on this.

And, again, sometimes, those discussions are very hard. But I do believe that we should talk about these military bases that were named for generals that took up arms against the United States.

So, I welcome that discussion. I think we all should. And, again, we want to focus on the meaningful things that will move our country forward, but I don't believe in the destruction, again, of property.

If we're talking about statues that belong to other jurisdictions, those decisions should be made at that local level, not by those that are out there vandalizing that property.

So, again, hard discussions all the way around, but we need to have a little bit of peace across the nation. And we can only do that if we're all sitting down in discussions.

BASH: So, just to be clear, that's basically what the bill says, is to start the process.

Given that, should the president sign the bill?

ERNST: Well, I would love that he would sign the bill and move forward.

But, absolutely, we have to have the discussions. We have to do that. And if that's what will help, if we can all get together as stakeholders, then I think it's the right thing to do.

BASH: OK, Senator, let's turn to the coronavirus crisis.

Cases in your home state of Iowa have steadily risen for the last two weeks. You criticized President Obama in 2014 for his handling of the Ebola outbreak, saying that he showed -- quote -- "failed leadership."

Only two people in the U.S. died from Ebola. Right now, there are almost 130,000 Americans dead from coronavirus. So, if President Obama showed failed leadership then, do you think President Trump is showing failed leadership now?

ERNST: Well, I think we all have responsibility in stopping the spread.

And, certainly, I have heard some of the discussions earlier. Wearing a mask is entirely appropriate. Social distancing is entirely appropriate.

We have seen, I think, one additional death in the last 24 hours here in Iowa. So, it is something that we absolutely should be paying attention to. And we all should do our part to make sure that we are protecting others as well.

So, this is a virus that is not going to go away soon. We want to make sure that we are watching this and doing everything that we can as a federal government, including the research and development of therapeutics and vaccinations, to make sure that we are doing the right thing as a nation.

BASH: So, given the fact that one person died there, that's only half the number that died during Ebola, which you have said was failed leadership, is the president right now exhibiting failed leadership?

ERNST: Well, I -- no, I think that the president is stepping forward.

And we have Vice President Mike Pence that is spearheading the task force efforts on the coronavirus, and so understanding where this came from, how it developed.

Of course, the pushback that we got from the Democrats when the president did try to shut down travel from some of those hot spots, it was an extremely difficult environment to operate.

And, you know, we know different today than we did at the beginning of the spread of the virus, and we should continually learn from those efforts and make sure that we are doing the right thing by moving our nation forward, simple things, wearing a mask, making sure that we're washing our hands, but then, as federal government officials, making sure we're moving at warp speed to get to that vaccination.

BASH: Senator, I want to ask about domestic violence.

Experts say that it is likely becoming more frequent and severe because of the pandemic. I was really struck by how candid you were in your book about your abusive now ex-husband.

You wrote that: "I never meant for anybody to find out about the abuse." You thought the details would be locked away in the past.

As a survivor of domestic abuse yourself, what is your message to Americans at home dealing with this right now?

ERNST: Yes.

Certainly, we need to make sure that the resources are available for anyone who is in an abusive situation, to leave that abusive situation, if that's the right course of action for them.

[09:35:00]

We know, during the pandemic, being locked away at home, whether it's a spousal or partner abuse situation, or even child abuse, that this becomes a great concern for communities, for states and for the federal government, so, making sure that we are bolstering those resources, very important. But I say to anyone in an abusive situation, know the way to get out.

Know who you can turn to for support and making sure that you stay safe. You are the concern. Make sure you're safe.

BASH: That is important advice.

You say that the reason you wrote the book was to -- quote -- "share what is meant to be a woman running to have a place at the table," saying that women are the place where you see bipartisanship in Washington.

Election Day is four months away. You're tied with your -- you tied with your opponent in 2014 with women. Now you're down by 20 percentage points with women today.

What do you think the Republican Party is getting wrong with women right now?

ERNST: Well, one, don't pay attention to the polls. I think that's really important.

And the thing that I stay focused on is fighting for Iowa. Every day, I get up early and fight for Iowa. And there are certain things that I think are very important. And even before the pandemic, long ago, I started working on issues like child care and making sure that we are closing the gap in our child care deserts, especially our rules areas.

When you have moms that are out there working, especially our single moms, they have to know that they have safe child care for their kiddos, working on things like paid family leave. I have been working on this for a number of years, collaborating with others in the Senate to find a path forward.

All of those things are very, very important to women. But I would say as well, other things are important to women, too, as we have wonderful women out there serving in our work force, making sure that they have jobs to go to, as we are safely reopening the economy.

That will be a very important factor moving forward and many other things. And, as a woman, I'm also concerned about our national defense, I mean, their -- the economy. Those are all things that are important to women.

So, as long as we are focusing on those, we should be OK.

BASH: Senator, before I let you go, I just want to say that, at the end of your book, you really open up, and you're pretty raw about your feelings during your divorce, failure, how hurt you were.

And these are some things that we don't normally hear from politicians, especially female politicians. Real quick, what made you decide to open up and be as vulnerable as you are in your book?

ERNST: Well, I think it's important to understand that so many other women and men will go through these types of situations. And after the information about the abuse became public through the

divorce, I had so many folks that reached out to me and said: "Joni, I can't believe that you have been through this and you went on to become a battalion commander. You went on to become a United States senator."

And it gave these women hope that there was a better future. And I want others to understand that, too, that we don't have to be defined by those tough challenges in our life, and we can drive on and find joy in our lives.

BASH: Senator, thank you. Thank you for your service, and hope you have a meaningful holiday weekend.

ERNST: Yes, thank you, Dana, so much.

BASH: Thank you.

And presumptive nominee Joe Biden is deep in his search for a running mate. Senator Tammy Duckworth is on his list. And she joins me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:43:10]

BASH: Tammy Duckworth is blocking more than 1,000 military promotions to try to protect impeachment witness Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, and that as the senator is picking up buzz as a potential running mate for Vice President Joe Biden.

One column this week calling her -- quote -- "the anti-Trump, the anti-ugliness he revels in and the cynicism he stokes."

So, joining me now is Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth, a former Army lieutenant colonel who served as a helicopter pilot in Iraq.

Senator, thank you so much for joining me.

President Trump gave a speech at Mount Rushmore Friday night. He talked about the importance of preserving historical monuments. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Senator, I know that you support change in the name of military bases named after Confederate leaders.

But there are leaders like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson who were slave owners, and some people are demanding that their monuments come down, too. So, in your view, where does it end? Should statues, for example, of

George Washington come down?

SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D-IL): Well, let me just say that we should start off by having a national dialogue on it at some point.

But, right now, we're in the middle of a global pandemic. And our -- one of our ally -- one of our -- countries that are opposed to us, Russia, has put a bounty on American troops' head.

What really struck me about this speech that the president gave at Mount Rushmore was that he spent more time worried about honoring dead Confederates than he did talking about the lives of our American -- 130,000 Americans who lost their lives to COVID-19, or by warning Russia off of the bounty they're putting on Americans' heads.

[09:45:03]

I mean, his priorities are all wrong here. He should be talking about what we're going to do to overcome this pandemic. What are we going to do to push Russia back? And, instead, he had no time for that. He spent all his time talking about dead traitors.

BASH: So, that might be -- be true, but George Washington, I don't think anybody would call him a traitor. And there are...

DUCKWORTH: No.

BASH: ... moves by some to remove statues of him. Is that a good idea?

DUCKWORTH: I think we should listen to everybody. I think we should listen to the argument there.

But remember that the president at Mount Rushmore was standing on ground that was stolen from Native Americans who had actually been given that land during a treaty.

And, again, let's talk about the greater context of where we are in our country right now. We should be talking about the fact that COVID- 19 is experiencing a resurgence, and both this president and the man he put in charge of the pandemic response team, the vice president, have both failed miserably at their jobs.

I'm more worried about the 130,000 who have lost their lives recently and the thousands and thousands more Americans who are currently sick than I am about the -- our historical past.

We need to talk about what we're doing now to bring this country off of the brink of chaos that it's in.

BASH: So, I'm going to ask about that, for sure, in a minute.

I want to ask also about the fact that you announced that you would block Senate confirmations of over 1,000 military officers until the Defense Department confirms that Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who is a key impeachment witness -- he was -- against President Trump, to make sure that he gets his promotion.

Have you heard from the Defense Department?

DUCKWORTH: I have not heard from the Defense Department.

Let me just make it clear. If Lieutenant Colonel Vindman is on that list, he made his way on it through his own job performance. And you can't get on the promotion list unless you were recommended to be on it by your rater, your intermediate rater and your senior rater. So, three superior officers have to agree to put you on the promotion list.

And all I'm saying is, I will not support the promotion of anybody to the rank of colonel or general unless the Defense Department certify to me that, if he is on the list, they won't take him off.

The reports that I heard was that he was on the list, but that the White House had directed the secretary of defense to take his name off, a list that he earned his way onto himself.

And I'm not blocking the promotions of anybody below the rank of lieutenant colonel, so just colonels and generals.

BASH: So, let's talk about the coronavirus and the way that leaders are or are not responding.

We spoke around Mother's Day about the difficulties of being a mother while also working from home. And there was a recent "New York Times" op-ed entitled "The COVID-19 Economy: You Can Have a Kid or a Job. You Can't Have Both."

And the author wrote the following, wrote: "Why isn't anyone talking about this? We -- why are we not hearing a primal scream so deafening that no plodding policy can be implemented without addressing the people buried by it?"

You're the first senator to give birth in office. You have two small children. How are you and other leaders dealing with this? And are you doing enough to address this problem?

DUCKWORTH: Well, child care is part of the Democrats' proposal for the next COVID-19 relief bill. So, it is part of what our platform is.

And I will tell you, I'm living this on a firsthand basis. I just found out from my daughter's public school that we have a choice come fall of her either being full-time homeschooling. And how do I do that and be a full-time united state senator?

And the other choice is that two days a week in school and three days a week at home. I can figure out how to make things work. But what about the single mom who's got to go and work at McDonald's or the grocery store? How are they going to put this together?

This is very much something that I'm talking with the Democratic leadership on. And it is part of the Democratic position that we should have child care for all Americans. BASH: Senator, hundreds of female black leaders across the country signed a letter urging Joe Biden to pick a black woman as his running mate.

And here's what they wrote. They wrote -- quote -- "It is a fact that the road to the White House is powered by black women, and black women are the key to a Democratic victory in 2020."

So, what do you think? Should he pick a black woman as his running mate?

DUCKWORTH: Well, I do think black women are a key to the victory for Democrats. Look at how Doug Jones was elected and will be reelected to the United States Senate.

Listen, the Biden campaign have their own process that they're going through. And I'm sure Vice President Biden will pick the right person to be next to him as he digs this country out of the mess that Donald Trump has put us in.

Remember that we need a leader who's going to bind us back together, someone whose resilience -- who has empathy, who has seen so many of the ups and downs through his own life and can connect with the American people.

And Joe Biden is that person. And I believe so strongly that we need to get him into the White House.

BASH: So...

DUCKWORTH: I will do whatever I need to do. I will do whatever I need to do to support him.

[09:50:03]

And it's one team, one fight. And I -- if that means I have to go sweep floors in a VA hospital, and that's the best thing I can do to help him win, then that's what I will do.

BASH: So, real quick, you do not think that his running mate has to be an African-American woman?

DUCKWORTH: I think that Joe Biden needs to make his own mind and will make his own mind.

I don't think it's on any of us to dictate to him. He knows best who he needs as a vice president who can help him connect with the American people, who can help him overcome the crises that we're -- that we're operating under right now, everything from rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic, making sure we can face off the next pandemic, making sure our economy gets turned around, and making sure we push back our folks like the Russians, who are putting bounties on Americans' heads.

BASH: Senator...

DUCKWORTH: There's a lot of problems that Donald Trump is leading and Joe Biden is going to have to clean up.

And he will pick the right person to help him do that.

BASH: Senator, thank you so much.

Thank you for your service. We really appreciate it, again, especially on this holiday weekend.

DUCKWORTH: Thank you.

BASH: Thank you, Senator.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:57:00]

BASH: Before we go, we know the Fourth of July looked very different this year but America has been through a lot since the nation declared independence 240 years ago and we can do this too.

Thanks so much for watching this morning. Fareed Zakaria GPS starts next.