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STATE OF THE UNION

Interview With Stacey Abrams; Interview With White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx; Interview With Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR); Interview With Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC). Aired 9-10a ET

Aired August 2, 2020 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:00]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): New hot spots. Troubling signs in more states, as coronavirus cases rise in the Midwest, and new data raise alarm bells about how children are affected.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Give back by wearing a mask, by socially distancing.

BASH: What should Americans expect this fall?

I'll speak to the White House coronavirus response coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson next.

And pay cut. The unemployment benefit helping millions stay afloat expires. Is Congress any closer to a deal?

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): This virus is no respecter of a blue state or a red state.

BASH: House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn joins me to discuss.

Plus: sowing doubt. Republicans balk as President Trump floats a delay to the election, but will his efforts undermine the public trust? One of Joe Biden's potential running mates, voting rights leader Stacey Abrams, joins us in moments.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash, in for Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is desperate and frustrated.

Today, there are more than 4.6 million coronavirus cases in the U.S. and more than 154,000 Americans dead. Despite months of previously unimaginable deaths, job losses, and restrictions to daily life, it is clear that America still does not have COVID-19 under control, and there is no apparent path to get there.

July marked the highest month of new COVID-19 cases. And the CDC now is projecting that 20,000 more Americans could die from COVID-19 in the next 21 days. Officials now are warning about a dangerous resurgence of cases in states across the Midwest that had gotten the virus under control.

As some public health officials are now calling for another lockdown, President Trump continues to promote false information, blaming tests for the nation's severe outbreak.

All this as millions of Americans are facing a dire new economic reality, now that an extra $600 unemployment benefit has run out, and leaders in Washington have been unable to make a deal to restore any of it.

I want to begin, though, with the White House coronavirus response coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx.

Dr. Birx, thank you for joining me this morning.

The U.S. recorded nearly two million new cases in July, the most cases of any month yet. So, the United States is still averaging more than 60,000 cases and 1,000 deaths per day.

And we are going to show our viewers the curve. America is not even close to controlling this, like other places, South Korea and the European Union, for example.

So, Dr. Birx, why has the U.S. failed so badly at this?

BIRX: I think there's three parts to this epidemic.

First, I think the viewers are well aware of what happened in March and April. And a series of metros went down in what we call in series, so what started in Seattle and then New York, Louisiana, and then an eruption of increased cases in Boston and Detroit and Chicago, and then moving to Philadelphia and Washington, Houston, and Dallas.

And those series of outbreaks created that curve with multiple peaks, as you show it. Each one of those individual curves looks very much like the European country curves independently.

But this was a series of metros. Throughout May, then, as cases were coming down in the metros, then a series of outbreaks across the country in long-term -- as you describe, in the Midwest, long-term care facilities, meatpacking plants, prisons. And each of those were contained by those local officials or local public health officials with testing and contact tracing into the community.

BASH: Yes.

BIRX: And so, coming into May, it was those series.

BASH: Right.

BIRX: And then, after Memorial Day, that is when we saw this explosion across the South and the West.

BASH: So, Dr. Birx, you're explaining what happened. The question that everybody out there has is, why? Why did this happen? Why was the government, particularly -- I mean, you're the coordinator

for the federal response. Why weren't you able to -- to stop this from spreading and continuing to spread uncontrollably, as it is now?

BIRX: So, what I have learned in working with epidemics around the globe is, you have to really get down to the level of where the epidemic is.

That's why I have been on the road for the last three weeks to 14 states, because just talking about the gating criteria and saying that test positivity is increasing has to be joined with the reality on the ground of what people are -- experience.

I can tell you, across America right now, people are on the move. And so all of our discussions about social distancing and decreasing gatherings to under 10, as I traveled around the country, I saw all of America moving.

[09:05:06]

BASH: Mm-hmm.

BIRX: And I think it's our job, as public health officials, to be able to get a message to each American that says, if you have chosen to go on vacation into a hot spot, you really need to come back and protect those with comorbidities and assume you're infected.

We have been trying to get out the clarion call about the asymptomatic spread, which I think still Americans and public health officials really -- hard to get their hands around that, because the number of people who are spreading virus without symptoms, by the time you wait for someone to come forward to the emergency room, you have widespread community spread.

And so I think that is what we are trying to do community by community, county by county, is adapting the federal recommendations to the realities on the ground.

BASH: But -- right, Dr. Birx, and I hear you.

But it's clearly not working. I mean, we have been talking about outbreaks across the Sunbelt. You're warning now about a resurgence in states across the Midwest. In recent days, you have named 20 -- we are putting them on the screen -- 20 of the 50 states as places you're watching.

So, are we in a new phase of the pandemic? And, if so, what are you going to do to change course?

BIRX: I think those are two very critical questions, because we are in a new phase. And that is why I really wanted to make it clear to the American people.

It's why we started putting out governor reports directly to the health officials and the governors in every single state, because we could see that each thing had to be tailored. So, each state has a tailored set of recommendations, based on what we are seeing at the community level, what we are seeing relevant to the hospitals.

And each of these responses have to be dramatically tailored. We are beginning to see an impact from the mitigation procedures that many of the state and local officials have put into place.

But I want to be very clear. What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread. It's into the rural as equal urban areas.

And to everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus. And that is why we keep saying, no matter where you live in America, you need to wear a mask and socially distance, do the personal hygiene pieces.

But, more importantly, if you're in multigenerational households, and there's an outbreak in your rural area or in your city, you need to really consider wearing a mask at home, assuming that you're positive, if you have individuals in your households with comorbidities.

This epidemic right now is different, and it's wide -- it's more widespread.

BASH: Doctor -- Doctor...

BIRX: And it's both rural and urban.

BASH: Dr. Birx, before we move on to some specifics, I just want to really try to get a handle on this, because what I'm trying to express to you, which is something that I know that you're hearing, people are panicked. People are worried. People don't understand why this is seeming to be completely out of control.

Johns Hopkins University said -- quote -- this week: "The United States is not currently on course to get control of the epidemic. It's time to reset."

A couple of other medical agencies, associations said similar.

So, is it time for the federal government to reset?

BIRX: Well, I think the federal government reset about five to six weeks ago, when we saw this starting to happen across the South. And that is why we have done these very -- rather than generic federal framework, we have gone to very specific state and local, city by city, county by county, showing out which counties and which cities are under a particular threat and what mitigation has to be done.

And what we are starting to see across the West and across the South, which the American people should find a little bit reassuring, is, these mitigation efforts are beginning to work. And we can see it in Arizona with decreasing test positivity, decreasing cases, decreasing hospitalization.

And we hope that decreasing deaths will follow. That is the sequence of events.

BASH: So...

BIRX: That is why we have alerted the yellow states as soon as we saw a small increase in test positivity.

That is why I have named those states and named those cities, because, when it first starts to happen, it seems so innocuous.

BASH: So, Dr. Birx...

BIRX: But people really need to take it seriously. When they see those first positivity go up in cases, you need to respond with significant mitigation efforts.

BASH: So, Dr. Birx, you mentioned deaths.

The former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said, the U.S. coronavirus death toll could double to 300,000 deaths by the end of the year.

Do you think that is possible?

BIRX: Anything is possible if we don't have all -- you know, public health is called public health because it has a public component.

And we need all of the public to help us get control of this virus. If we still are going to parties at home, even though the bars are closed, if we are creating interactions where we know it's not safe, because there's multiple people there, and you don't have masks on, and you're not socially distanced, you can assume...

[09:10:11]

BASH: You...

BIRX: It's not super-spreading individuals. It's super-spreading events. And we need to stop those.

BASH: So, you have...

BIRX: We definitely need to take more precautions.

BASH: So, you have models and projections. What is your projection when it comes to deaths by the end of the year, on the course we are on now?

BIRX: It -- it depends completely, completely on the red states, those states across the South and the West, maintaining and accelerating their mitigation efforts.

It depends on the yellow states accelerating theirs. And, frankly, the green states, like areas of Illinois, where we're -- and Philadelphia, we are starting to see this tick up.

Take these seriously. Put on more mitigation controls and stop it before you see these increased cases in hospitals.

BASH: So, one of the questions about mitigation or not is schools, as you know.

And the CDC director, Robert Redfield, suggested schools in some of those hot spots you're talking about, those with a 5 percent positivity rate or higher, need to use distance learning.

As you know, many counties in the U.S. are there right now. So, should schools in areas with a positivity rate of 5 percent or more remain closed and have distance learning only?

BIRX: So, as you described at the beginning, I am the coordinator. So, I work with Dr. Redfield, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Hahn, Dr. Giroir, Dr. Adams every single day. We go over the data together.

And I certainly would endorse what Dr. Redfield is saying in the areas where we have this widespread case increases. We need to stop the cases. And then we can talk about...

BASH: So, schools there should stay closed?

BIRX: ... safely reopening.

BASH: So, schools there should stay closed?

BIRX: I'm going to do -- I'm going to do what the CDC guidelines have recommended, and certainly the director.

If you have high caseload and active community spread, just like we are asking people not to go to bars, not to have household parties, not to create large spreading events, we are asking people to distance learn at this moment, so we can get this epidemic under control.

BASH: I want to quickly ask about a vaccine.

How long after it's approved do you think Americans could actually benefit from it, actually get it?

BIRX: Well, you ask a very important question, Dana.

And I think there's a -- obviously, we want safe and efficacious vaccines. And those are the studies that opened last week. And we're excited about that. And we are excited about the American people volunteering to enroll in these studies. And we need all races, all ethnicities, and all ages to participate, so that we can show that the vaccine works across all races, ethnicities and all ages.

And so that is really critically important. Because manufacturing is starting now, for the most at risk, there should be vaccine doses available for those who need it as the trials prove to be -- a vaccine product to be safe and efficacious.

BASH: I just have to ask you before we go, the House speaker, on another network, just said that she does not have confidence in either the president or you, Dr. Birx.

Do you want to respond?

BIRX: I have tremendous respect for the speaker. And I have tremendous respect for her long dedication to the American people.

And I think it was unfortunate that "New York Times" wrote this article without speaking to me. I could have brought forth the data. I provide data every single day with an analysis. The day that they are talking about that I was -- quote -- "Pollyannish," it said there was improvement in the New York metro, but ongoing cases in Boston and Chicago, a new outbreak in Houston and full logarithmic spread, and new concerning outbreaks in Baltimore, New Haven, and Washington, D.C.

This was not a Pollyannish view. I have never been called Pollyannish or non-scientific or non-data-driven.

And I will stake my 40-year career on those fundamental principles of utilizing data to really implement better programs to save more lives.

BASH: Dr. Birx, thank you so much for joining me this morning. I appreciate it.

BIRX: Thank you.

BASH: Thank you.

And you just heard a top member of the Coronavirus Task Force on schools. I will ask a Southern governor what families should expect ahead.

Plus: Americans on unemployment are losing a key lifeline this week. And the question is whether Congress can replace that $600 benefit.

Democratic Whip Congressman Jim Clyburn on the latest next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:18:55]

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

Unemployed Americans who have been depending on the extra $600 unemployment benefit are going to find it harder to put food on the table this week.

And despite talks over the weekend, Congress and the administration still have not come up with a plan to help.

Joining me now for the latest on virus relief negotiations is the House majority whip, Congressman Jim Clyburn.

Mr. Whip, thank you so much for joining me.

Federal unemployment aid has run out. People are no longer protected from evictions, if they can't pay their rent. Negotiators met all day yesterday. So, how close do you think you are to a deal?

CLYBURN: Well, thank you very much for having me.

I don't know how close we are up to a deal. I have been keeping up with it. I understand that they are in a better place today than they were the day before. So, we will see where we go.

But, you know, I know where we were when we went into the room. And the big problem to me was that people are trying to put food on the table, people who are unemployed, people who are having their unemployment compensation, who are supplemented by the 600 bucks. They want to cut it down to $200.

[09:20:13]

At the same time, they want to give 100 percent tax deductions to business lunches. What kind of priority is that, business people who need a tax deduction for their lunch? And we cannot give a $600 supplement to unemployed people, many of them trying to take care of their children, trying to provide child care?

There is something out of whack here. That's why so many people are saying the country is on the wrong track.

BASH: Well, let me ask...

CLYBURN: They don't want to increase...

BASH: Go ahead. I'm sorry.

CLYBURN: Yes, ma'am.

I said, they don't want to increase food stamps. Why not increase food stamps, when we know there are people in need to have their nutrition supplemented?

So, this is the kind of priority that it seems to me cries out for leadership. We need national leadership. And we are not getting it.

BASH: Senate Republicans did try this past week to pass a one-week extension of the additional $600-a-week unemployment benefits. Democrats blocked it.

So, why not, if it's so needed -- and it certainly seems to be -- agree to the short-term fix while you're negotiating a longer deal?

CLYBURN: Because we need to have a well-coordinated activity here.

We passed the HEROES Act in the House. Why won't they then bring the HEROES Act or whatever part of it they would like to the table? They won't do it.

They pass out the so-called HEALS Act. I don't remember exactly what it stood for, but not even anything for state and local governments, nothing for unemployed people. That's why we won't do it.

BASH: Right.

CLYBURN: Let's do it...

BASH: Well, that is understandable, but that is what you're negotiating about, right? So, isn't it just, frankly, a political play to not allow the at least

one-week extension while you're trying to maximize your leverage?

CLYBURN: Well, Dana, we are always trying to maximize leverage. They are trying to maximize leverage.

How many long ago did we send them this law that we passed in the House? We had it for weeks. They had it for over a month.

So, they are the ones that are playing games with this. We don't want to jerk the American people around. Let's just lay it out. And ours went all the way into January.

I don't know that there's an honest negotiation when you want to leave town and not sit around the table and do what needs to be done for the American people to have some security and some safety in trying to live their lives.

And that is what we are trying to do. This every week, one more week, two more days, that's not the way you do things.

BASH: I want to ask up about what is going on in the House right now with COVID-19.

The speaker did impose a mask mandate on the House floor this week. Another member of Congress, Louie Gohmert, tested positive. Since then, your Democratic colleague Raul Grijalva said that he was positive.

There's currently no rapid testing at all in the Capitol, even though members of Congress are constantly traveling back and forth between their districts and the capital, and many are high-risk.

So, is it long past time for rapid testing to be done on members of Congress?

CLYBURN: Well, I don't know.

We all follow the attending physician's advice. I'm not a medical expert. I'm not a doctor. We have a few in the House. But we have a cadre of physicians that is giving guidance in writing, and we do it over the phone.

I have been in constant contact with the attending physician's office. And in running the Select Committee, I follow their advice. And I think that the speaker is following the advice of the attending physician.

So I'm not going to tell them how to do their jobs. I'm going to follow their advice. And I think the speaker is doing that.

BASH: I want to ask you about something you said on Friday night in an interview with PBS.

You said that you don't think President Trump would be willing to give up his office and that -- quote -- "He thinks that the American people will be duped by him, like the people of Germany were duped by Adolf Hitler."

Do you really think Donald Trump is comparable to Adolf Hitler?

CLYBURN: What I said, starting about two-and-a-half, maybe three years ago, after one of his State of the Unions, that I feel very strongly that this man has taken on strong-arm tactics.

[09:25:04]

And I feel very strongly that he is Mussolini, Putin, is Hitler. I said that back then, and I believe that.

I believe very strongly that this guy never had any idea about being -- want to peacefully transfer power. I don't think he plans to leave the White House. He doesn't plan to have fair and unfettered elections.

I believe that he plans to install himself in some kind of emergency way to continue hold onto office.

And that is why the American people had better wake up. I know a little bit about history, and I know how countries find their demise. It is when we fail to let democracy, and the fundamentals of which is a fair, unfettered election.

And that's why he is trying to put a cloud over this election, floating the idea of postponing the elections. He does not -- and I saw, was that Steve Miller within the last few hours? That is some of the worst stuff I have ever heard in my life.

This is not a perfect democracy, but it's better than any other that exists. And I really feel that the fundamentals are being frayed. And if we are not careful, this country, it will be lost for our next generation, our children and our grandchildren.

BASH: Mr. Clyburn, before I let you go, as you know, the former vice president is finalizing his pick for his running mate this week.

You were among the first, if not the first, to float Karen Bass' name. Do you think she should be the pick?

CLYBURN: Well, I think that he has about 12 people. He said that there are four African-Americans in his finalists.

What I have said is this. He should let the vetting and the polling inform him. And then he should let his head and his heart direct his actions.

He calls it simpatico. I call it, let your head and your heart take a look.

All of the people I have seen out there, about 12 I have counted, I know all of them, and I said, except one -- and I won't say it here, because it's been reported that that one is Susan Rice. That is not true. I know Susan Rice very well. I knew her father, who was, if my memory serves, from Florence, South Carolina. So, that is not who I'm talking about.

But of the 12 people I have seen, 11 of them, I know very well. One of them, I have not met.

BASH: All right, Mr. Clyburn, thank you so much. Appreciate you joining me this morning.

CLYBURN: Thank you very much for having me.

BASH: Thank you.

And President Trump is railing against the use of mail-in ballots, but are Republican governors worried? I will ask one next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:32:28]

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

With just weeks before schools are set to reopen, potentially, more states across the U.S. are now confronting coronavirus outbreaks.

And, in Arkansas, the governor paused reopening plans, as he tells residents, we have a lot of work to do to combat the pandemic.

And that governor, Republican Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, is joining me now.

Governor, thank you so much for coming on this morning.

When you were on this show back in April, you defended your decision not to issue a stay-at-home order, saying -- quote -- "We can take this targeted approach, which has proven to be effective."

Now, that was almost four months ago. Since then, Arkansas' daily case count has risen steadily, more than 750 new cases on Friday, record high hospitalizations and deaths just this past week.

So, could some of those cases, in retrospect, have been -- and deaths have been prevented, if you had imposed that statewide action earlier?

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): Well, it was absolutely the right decision, for the reason that, if we would have shut down four months ago, we would still be in a position of having to shut down, and no one could survive that long.

And so you look at Louisiana. And I have such a regard for my neighbor in the South, Governor John Bel Edwards. But they had a shutdown. They peaked. And then they came back. And now they're -- now it's going to be peak again even at a higher level.

The economy and people cannot be shut down for that long. So it was the right decision. And we are dealing with what every other state is dealing with, which is, this virus that is almost unpredictable. It spreads in unique ways.

And while we know that we need to have masks, that we need to socially distance, we are going to be dealing with this for some time. And so you can't shut down the economy. I did put in a mask mandate. And, of course, most important about that is that people comply with it. And we are trying to make sure everybody does.

But that is a challenge, in and of itself. But we have got to take on two emergencies here. One is the virus and our public health emergency. The other one is the economy.

BASH: So, real quick, does that mean you won't...

HUTCHINSON: And you have got to move. You have got to go back to school.

BASH: Real quick, that means you won't shut down bars and restaurants?

HUTCHINSON: No, our bars and restaurants are at a limited capacity.

And so restaurants are at two-thirds capacity. Bars are similar. We are doing a lot of enforcement there. And if we need to take more -- put in more restrictions, we will.

[09:35:10]

BASH: OK.

HUTCHINSON: But, so far, we have not seen any correlation between an increase in cases and lifting of restrictions.

BASH: OK.

I want to ask you about something that President Trump tweeted on Thursday. He put out there, without any evidence, that increased mail- in voting will make 2020 -- quote -- "the most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history. Delay the election until people can properly securely and safely vote?"

Now, to be clear, he has no authority to do that. But are you, as a governor, concerned that the president is undermining the election with tweets like this?

HUTCHINSON: Well, it's not helpful for the president to think out loud in a public fashion and express some frustration.

And it's got to be through a process. And, obviously, as everyone has indicated, there shouldn't be any change in the date of the election. That is historic. It is constitutional. It is required. And it's up to the states to conduct fair elections with integrity.

We are going to do that in Arkansas. We are going to have expanded absentee ballot access. But we want to do it with proper controls and to minimize any fraudulent activity. I know it's frustrating for the president. I identify with that, in terms of risky voting procedures that's not carefully controlled and manipulation.

But one thing the United States is known for is smooth elections.

BASH: So...

HUTCHINSON: It's known for having a process that people feel comfortable participating in and accepting those results. And that is what should happen this year.

BASH: So, the president should accept the results, no matter what?

HUTCHINSON: Well, the president should accept the results, just like presidents in the past have accepted the results.

I mean, you remember Bush vs. Gore. It went to the United States Supreme Court. There's always issues that happen that are appropriate to reserve for Seeing what the situation is. But we shouldn't be fretting about it in advance. Let's work hard to make sure it's a safe and secure election.

And let's do our job. And we hope and have confidence that will be the case.

BASH: So, Governor, I want to ask you about a new video released this week in the death of Lionel Morris, who is a 39-year-old -- was a 39- year-old black man who died in police custody in your state of Arkansas earlier this year.

When officers tried to arrest him for shoplifting, he resisted. He attempted to run. During the struggle, after authorities alleged Morris reached for a pocket knife, police repeatedly used a Taser and pressed him to the ground with their feet.

I want to play a portion of the video, and warn our viewers that they will likely find it disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put it back there. I got it.

LIONEL MORRIS, DIED IN POLICE CUSTODY: You got me!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're about to get it again.

(SCREAMING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey!

(SCREAMING)

MORRIS: Oh, my God. Oh, my God.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Give him your hands now!

MORRIS: My heart!

I can't breathe. I can't breathe, I swear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can talk, you can breathe. Chill out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Well, Lionel Morris later died on the way to the hospital, despite the fact that he was complaining about his heart and repeatedly saying, "I can't breathe."

The prosecutors cleared the officers involved in -- of any wrongdoing because Morris was -- quote -- "actively refusing arrest" and being combative.

So, Governor, my question is, are you confident that justice was done here?

HUTCHINSON: Well, I'm confident that the review by the Arkansas State Police was thorough and the prosecuting attorney's office.

Any death like that in custody is a tragedy. But, in this case, one thing you didn't mention was that he was very high on methamphetamine that was in his system. And that was a large part of the reason that he died in custody, because of that, as well as other contributing factors.

So, you have got -- I have confidence in the review that was done.

In addition, one thing that we are doing as a result of the George Floyd protests and the tragedy that was there, we do have an ongoing task force to review the advancement of law enforcement and what controls, changes need to be made there. We have a broad, diverse participation in it.

And we expect those to make recommendations in terms of issues that law enforcement face when they are trying to bring somebody in custody or to control a crowd, to make sure it's done in the right way.

BASH: OK.

Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, thank you so much for joining me this morning. I appreciate it.

HUTCHINSON: Thank you. Good to be with you.

BASH: Thank you.

And presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is making his final decisions about his V.P. pick.

One woman who has strongly advocated for the job, Stacey Abrams, joins me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:44:17]

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

President Trump spent this week working to undermine public trust in the upcoming presidential election, suggesting in a tweet that the election could be delayed, as polls continue to show him falling behind presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Joining me now, a contender to be Joe Biden's running mate and founder of the voting rights organization Fair Fight, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.

And, Leader Abrams, President Trump suggested delaying the election this week. We should underscore and underline he doesn't have the power to do that.

But he is saying it's because mail-in voting would lead to -- quote -- "the most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history."

What is your response?

STACEY ABRAMS, FOUNDER, FAIR FIGHT: First of all, he is trying to distract us from his oversight and leadership, or failed leadership, of an economy that shrank by one-third this last quarter.

[09:45:08]

You have got 43 million people who are now going to be subject to evictions because of the inaction of the Republican-led Senate. We have millions of people who've been infected and are out of work.

We have, unfortunately, 150,000 dead. And he's attempting to distract us from his failed leadership.

But by -- invoking the notion that we cannot hold an election cuts against hundreds of years of history. We had elections during the Civil War, during the Spanish Flu. And we can have an election this time.

Absentee ballots work, as he admits. And it's the exact same thing as mail-in ballots, vote by mail. It's all the same job.

And the job that he has is to make certain that we have a Postal Service that can actually deliver the votes to our elections officials. But, unfortunately, his partisan leader that he's put in charge of the post office is doing his best to undermine one of the core pillars of our society, which is our ability to communicate.

And so, rather than tweeting out erroneous information, I wish he would focus on actually doing his job for the last few days that he has in this office.

BASH: Are you worried that he won't accept the results in November?

ABRAMS: I'm not worried about that. What I'm worried about is that we will not be able to effectively count the votes of every eligible American, because he's doing his best to undermine our confidence in the process. But, worse, he's doing his best to actually steal the vote by

undermining the Postal Service knowing that, at this point, more than 40 percent of Americans are likely to use some form of early voting, including vote by mail.

And, as we know, we're not yet in the second wave of the pandemic. That means we have to be prepared, and that means we have to have a Postal Service that's working, but we also need the HEROES Act passed, so that cash-strapped states like Arkansas, like Georgia, like North Carolina, like Wisconsin can scale up an deliver an election that is worthy of America.

BASH: Former Vice President Joe Biden will announce his running mate in the coming week or two.

Are you still in the running?

ABRAMS: I leave it to the Biden vetting team to answer questions about who's in the running.

But we know that whomever Joe Biden picks will be a good partner to help us turn this country around, restore the soul of America, and build back better. That's what we need.

We're watching an economy in freefall. And our only pathway to recovery is to have a leader like Joe Biden, who's actually done this job before, who understands the public health crisis and the economic crisis that we face. And that's what I look forward to having Joe Biden do for us in January.

BASH: If he doesn't pick you, would you be disappointed if he does not choose another African-American woman?

ABRAMS: I have said time and again I believe that Joe Biden is going to pick the right partner for himself, because he's the only person who's done this job.

And while I believe that diversity is incredibly important, and I think it is an absolute good to see a continued changing of the face of what leadership looks like in America, I look to Joe Biden to pick the right partner for himself in the moment that we have before us, which is one of an economic crisis, a public health crisis, and a crisis of justice.

And I think he's the person who will not take anyone for granted. And I look forward to working with him to make sure he's elected.

BASH: So, this week, the country mourned the loss of civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis. You attended his funeral in Atlanta and heard former President Obama call Lewis a founding father of that fuller, fairer, better America.

Is that how you see America right now?

ABRAMS: I do. And I was so privileged to be in that space. One of the issues that I was working with Congressman Lewis on and a

number of members of Congress is the 2020 census. We can't look past the fact that we have to tell the story of what America is.

And as one of these modern founding fathers, John Lewis understood that what Donald Trump is doing to the census is wrong. He is doing his best to artificially truncate the census, because he understands that, as much as this year's election matters, the count of America matters.

It deploys $1.5 trillion. But it also governs how we pick our leaders for the next 10 years. And his memo, which is patently unconstitutional, is yet another distraction from what he's attempting to do, which is to craft a way to artificially in the census, so that the hardest-to-count communities, communities of color, do not get counted this year, because he understands that gerrymandering, which has been, unfortunately, accepted as a partisan article of faith, that racial gerrymandering is illegal.

And we need people to step up and demand that the census count be accurate and be complete, and not end until October.

BASH: Stacey Abrams, thank you so much for joining me this morning. I appreciate it.

ABRAMS: Thank you.

BASH: Thanks. And sometimes -- sometime in the next few weeks Joe Biden will name a woman to be his running mate, a reminder of how far women have come and how far women still have to go, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:54:40]

BASH: Soon we will learn not if Joe Biden will pick a female running mate but which woman. And he has many qualified women to chose from. And women have, by no means, reached equal status in this country. But we are making long overdue progress, in politics and in my field of journalism.

A generation ago my own mother wanted to do exactly what I am doing now. She even got a job anchoring one of the early cable networks that she -- you could only see in a hotel room and then she met my dad, who was also in this business. And being married, working together in the 60s was not allowed, so she quit. She says that's just the way it was.

Now we women still have our challenges but thankfully things have changed. And a new documentary premiering this week on HBO Max chronicles CNN female political reporters, including yours truly, on the trail.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: When I got my job on air I was 31. And that still felt young to me. I went on the road. I worked my butt off. By the time I got to really focusing on having a family, it was so hard.

The idea of having kids late just kind of happens to a lot of women at my business. It's not intentional. I know how hard it is to be a woman in this business. You can have it all but not always at the same time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: "On The Trail: Inside The 2020 Primaries" premiers Thursday on HBO Max and thanks mom and dad. I love you both.

The news continues next.