Return to Transcripts main page

STATE OF THE UNION

Interview With Interview With Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Jon Stewart; Interview With Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); Interview With Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR); Interview With Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV); Interview With Jill Biden. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired September 27, 2020 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:20]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Filling the seat. President Trump makes his Supreme Court pick official.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is my honor to nominate judge Amy Coney Barrett.

TAPPER: Setting off a major battle in the Senate over Judge Barrett's record. But with a Republican majority, is she all but confirmed?

I will speak to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Republican Senator Tom Cotton, and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin.

And one-on-one. With two days until the first presidential debate, Democratic nominee Joe Biden prepares for an unpredictable opponent. Biden's wife and closest adviser tells me how he's getting ready to face Trump.

JILL BIDEN, WIFE OF JOE BIDEN: They're going to see what a president looks like.

TAPPER: My exclusive interview with former second lady Jill Biden next.

Plus: fighting for power -- an extraordinary threat weeks before the vote. President Trump refuses to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.

TRUMP: There won't be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation.

TAPPER: Is the U.S. headed for a constitutional crisis?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is bracing ourselves.

Yesterday evening, just 38 days before Election Day, President Trump announced his pick to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a respected legal scholar, favorite of conservatives, and a former law clerk for the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials, and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: The nomination of Judge Barrett, which could ensure the most conservative court in decades, came just over one week after the death of Justice Ginsburg.

But Republicans say they have no time to waste, as they plan to hold confirmation hearings beginning on October 12, and a full Senate vote on the nomination just days before the presidential election on November 3.

Democrats immediately expressed their opposition to both that rapid push to confirm a justice so close to the election, as well as opposition to the potential justice herself, who Democrats say could help overturn the Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade.

Just this morning, the president said that Judge Barrett's past actions and rulings suggest that she may be in the category from his previous pledge to put justices on the court who will -- quote -- "automatically overturn Roe v. Wade."

But it is unclear how Democrats could stop a Republican Senate majority from confirming Judge Barrett to the court.

Joining me now to discuss, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Speaker Pelosi, thanks so much for joining us.

Take a listen to Judge Barrett yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMY CONEY BARRETT, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: If the Senate does me the honor of confirming me, I pledge to discharge the responsibilities of this job to the very best of my ability.

I never imagined that I would find myself in this position, but now that I am, I assure you that I will meet the challenge with both humility and courage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Judge Barrett graduated first in her class. She clerked at the Supreme Court. She earned unanimous endorsements from her fellow law clerks and law professors in 2017.

Now, I understand you disagree with her views, but isn't Judge Barrett qualified to be on the Supreme Court?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Well, that will be up to the Senate to decide when they go through the hearings and the meetings. I'm not into that process. That's a Senate function.

What I am concerned about is anyone that President Trump would have appointed was there to undo the Affordable Care Act. That is why he was in such a hurry, so he could have been in place for the oral arguments which begin November 10.

And it doesn't matter what the process is here. What matters is what it means personally to the American people.

If you have a preexisting medical condition, that benefit will be gone. If you are a woman, we will be back to a time where being a women is a preexisting medical condition. If your children are on your policy, say, your adult children are on your policy, no longer will they be, and that in a time of a pandemic.

And if you have seniors in your family who are having long-term care paid for by Medicaid, they're going to be pretty soon moving back home and living with you. That may be a wonderful experience, but it isn't -- you should have a choice. And that's not what this is about.

So, I'm not -- it's up to the Senate to make that judgment and to have those -- that process. I don't -- I think it's -- I don't know -- whoever he appointed was going to be there to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

But be hopeful. People have to be hopeful. This is unfortunate that the president would be so disrespectful and rush into this. But, nonetheless, that's what it is.

[09:05:00]

TAPPER: So...

PELOSI: But vote. The antidote to his -- whatever he does is to vote, vote, vote.

Vote for affordable care, vote for your preexisting condition, vote for your safety, and vote for your health.

TAPPER: So, you just criticized the president for rushing this.

In 2016, you said that Republicans were showing -- quote -- "a disrespect for the Constitution." You said that Judge Garland was -- quote -- "owed" a vote in the Senate.

If Judge Garland was owed a vote, then isn't Judge Barrett owed one as well?

PELOSI: Well, wait a second. When did Justice Scalia pass away?

TAPPER: February.

PELOSI: Yes, February. This is now September.

So, the time frame is quite -- is quite different, that this court would go that long a time without a justice. So, I don't see any equivalence in that -- in what you are presenting.

But let me just say about Justice Ginsburg, because she said something that is important for people to know. We honored her. And when we were honoring the women members of the court for Women's History Month a few years ago -- we honored all of them -- she spoke to the women, met women members.

And she talked about someone called Belva Lockwood, who tried to -- 100 -- in 1876, who tried to be -- argue before the court, to be a member of the Supreme Court bar. She was turned down. There were nine justices then, 6-3, because she was a woman.

She didn't take it sitting down. She lobbied Congress, and then Congress passed a law that said women who possess the necessary qualifications must be admitted to bar at the Supreme Court.

Now, here's the point. This is what Justice Ginsburg said next: "It is my favorite example of how sometimes the Congress is more in tune with changing times and the expansion of the idea of equality than the court is."

Well, the same thing applies when it comes to the Affordable Care Act.

Vote, vote, vote.

TAPPER: So...

(CROSSTALK)

PELOSI: Whatever they do, and rush in to overturn the Affordable Care Act -- and that is their purpose -- vote, vote, vote. Congress can come back.

We have to win the House, we have to win the Senate, and we have to win the White House.

TAPPER: Right.

So, you have noted that you think a 6-3 conservative court could hear and overturn Obamacare. There is that case one week after the election.

Are you concerned about Judge or Justice Barrett voting to overturn Roe v. Wade? Is that something that you think is seriously on the table?

PELOSI: What I -- right now, what is on the table is a court case that Republicans have advocated for -- overturn Roe -- the Affordable Care Act. That is the case that is on the table in the Supreme Court.

So, that is where our concern is.

TAPPER: OK.

PELOSI: But let me also say, the election is, what, 37 days from now?

TAPPER: Yes.

PELOSI: The next election -- and the senators have to remember this -- the next election is 38 days from now.

So, many of the senators who are up now may not be worried about what this vote overturning Affordable Care Act means to their constituents.

But in that next round -- so, I tell you this. They overturn the preexisting condition benefit, which they have been trying to do over and over again, and now -- in the Congress and now in the courts, they overturn that, they overturn the Affordable Care Act, they will be seeing elections that look exactly like 2018 over and over again.

And, again, the power -- the public sentiment is everything. Lincoln said that. Public sentiment is weighing in on this in a very substantial way...

TAPPER: Right. So, in 2000...

PELOSI: ... because nothing matters more to people. It's not what it means in the court or in the Congress. It's what it means at the kitchen table of the American people.

TAPPER: Right.

In 2017, Democrats were criticized for questioning how Judge Barrett's Catholic faith influences her views from the bench. California Senator Dianne Feinstein told Barrett at the time, "The dogma lives loudly within you."

You're a Catholic. Do you think it's appropriate for Democratic senators to ask Judge Barrett about her Catholic faith?

PELOSI: I think it's appropriate for people -- them to ask her about how faithful she would be to the Constitution of the United States, whatever her faith.

It doesn't matter what her faith is or what religion she believes in. What matters is, does she believe in the Constitution of the United States? Does she believe in the precedent on the Supreme Court that has upheld the Affordable Care Act?

This is, again, directly related to a major concern of the American people, as it was in 2018, health care, health care, health care...

TAPPER: Right.

PELOSI: ... the three most important issues in this election, even more so than in '18, because of the pandemic, which the president has failed to address and caused over -- some of the over 200,000 deaths, nearly seven million infected. I think it's over seven million now infected. TAPPER: Yes.

[09:10:00]

PELOSI: So, understand the power of people and their connection to their health care, to their children's health care, to their senior's health care, and the rest.

We have a -- Republicans in Congress don't believe in a public role.

TAPPER: Right.

PELOSI: They think Medicare should wither on the vine. That is their statement.

TAPPER: So...

PELOSI: Medicare should wither on the vine.

TAPPER: So, Speaker Pelosi, it sounds as though you're almost resigned to the fact that Judge Barrett will become Justice Barrett.

And you're saying very clearly that your message to viewers right now is vote, vote, vote, vote November 3, or early voting or whatever.

That would seem to suggest that you are no -- are not on the program when it comes to individuals like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez, who this week did not rule out this long-shot effort to try to stall the confirmation of Judge Barrett by impeaching Attorney General Bill Barr.

Now, you haven't ruled it out.

PELOSI: Well, I'm not familiar with what suggestion that the distinguished congresswoman made.

However, the fact is, the more the public is aware of what this appointment -- and, by the way, it's not about this justice. It's about any justice he would appoint right now, because they were ready. Within an hour or two of Justice Ginsburg's passing...

TAPPER: Right.

PELOSI: ... they said, we're going to have a vote on this, within like two hours of that.

TAPPER: But, yes or no, you're not going to...

PELOSI: So, whoever it is, it's to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

TAPPER: Right, but, yes or no, you're not going to -- you're not planning on bringing an impeachment of Attorney General Barr?

PELOSI: Well, I -- the -- what is the use of talking about that?

What we're talking about is the price the Republican senators will pay if they vote to overturn the preexisting medical condition...

TAPPER: OK.

PELOSI: ... which they have been out to get, as well as the president, have been out to overturn, no matter what they say.

TAPPER: Yes.

PELOSI: Now, I'm not into the process. I'm into the policy.

But I do want to point out that they have totally misrepresented their position on this. In fact, you could say they are lying.

TAPPER: So, before you go, you and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin have been talking about a COVID relief bill.

The clock is obviously ticking before everything gets even more partisan around the Supreme Court hearings.

PELOSI: Yes.

TAPPER: What is the status of your negotiations with Mnuchin? And, theoretically, would you be willing now to go below $2.2 trillion in order to get a deal?

And if you don't get a deal, will you offer that as legislation?

PELOSI: This -- look, I have been willing to come below $3.4 trillion.

We have come all the way down. So, I don't know why the press decides that it's equivalent for me to come down further, while they're not going up any further.

So, we are having our conversations. And when I have a conversation with the administration, it is in good faith. I trust Secretary Mnuchin to represent something that can reach a solution. And I believe we can come to an agreement.

However, at some point, the public is going to have to see why 2.2 or now 2.4, perhaps, trillion dollars is necessary, because -- because the president's denial of the virus and just resistance to doing anything to crush it has made matters worse in so many ways for restaurants, for small stages around the country, for, again, more money needed for PPP, more money for the airlines and the rest.

So, we may need more money than that. And we will reveal what that is in a short period of time.

TAPPER: And if you don't get a deal, you will offer it as legislation, as a lot of your members...

PELOSI: That is definitely a possibility.

TAPPER: Definitely a possibility.

PELOSI: But I'm hoping for a deal. I'd rather have a deal which puts money in people's pockets than to have a rhetorical argument.

But if they do not want to go to that place, if they're not going to meet the needs of the American people, if they're not ready to do what is necessary to crush, to crush the virus, to honor our heroes, our health care workers, our teachers, our transportation, sanitation, first responders, police and fire, if they don't want to recognize that these people are risking their lives to save lives, and now they will lose their jobs, to the tune of millions of people...

TAPPER: Yes.

PELOSI: ... and then go on unemployment insurance, is that smart? I don't think so.

TAPPER: Right.

PELOSI: But I think we -- we have a chance to get something done, and we want to -- what we will be putting forth is a proffer to say, now let us negotiate within a time frame and a dollar amount to get the job done...

TAPPER: OK.

PELOSI: ... to put money in people's pockets, to honor our heroes, and to crush the virus.

TAPPER: Right.

OK. Well, best of luck with the negotiations, Speaker Pelosi.

PELOSI: Thank you.

TAPPER: Thank you so much for joining us this morning. We really appreciate it.

PELOSI: Thank you.

TAPPER: This summer, President Trump included my next guest on a list of his potential Supreme Court nominees.

Joining me now, Republican Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

So, Democrats are vowing a fight. Senate Democrats are vowing a fight. How confident are you that Democrats are not going to be able to derail this confirmation before Election Day?

[09:15:05]

SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): Good morning, Jake. It's good to be back on with you.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett is an outstanding jurist, one of the finest legal minds of her generation. So, I commend the president for yet another excellent nomination to the federal courts. I look forward to voting for Judge Barrett. The Senate will confirm

her to the highest court in the land next month.

TAPPER: Next, so in October.

In 2016 you opposed President Obama's efforts to fill Justice Scalia's seat. I want to play our viewers some of what you said back then.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COTTON: In a few short months, we will have a new president, and new senators who can consider the next justice, with the full faith of the American people.

Why would we deny the voters a chance to weigh in on the makeup of the Supreme Court? There is absolutely no reason to do so, or at least a principled reason to do so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, that clip from the Senate floor in March 2016 was eight months before the 2016 election.

Right now, we're five weeks out from the election. Why was it so important back then to let the voters have a chance to weigh in on the makeup of the Supreme Court, but, today, it's not?

COTTON: Yes, Jake, it's not so much about the timing, but how the voters had spoken.

They had delivered a split decision to the president and the Senate at the time. They elected Barack Obama in 2012. They elected me and a lot of others in 2014 as a break on the Obama agenda, most notably on his far left judicial nominees.

That's not the case now. In 2018, we had about as clear a national referendum as we could. Just one month after the Justice Kavanaugh confirmation, in which Democrats threw everything but the kitchen sink at him, they didn't just reelect a Republican majority. They expanded a Republican majority.

That includes defeating four Democratic senators who voted against Justice Kavanaugh, reelecting the one Democratic senator who voted for him. So, it was a clear mandate for a Republican Senate to continue confirming this president's outstanding judicial nominees.

And that's what we're going to do with Judge Barrett next month.

TAPPER: That is true that that's what happened in the Senate, but, in the House, the American people gave it to the Democrats by a fairly overwhelming margin.

But, moving on, in that same speech from March 2016, you argued that the dramatic ideological differences between Justice Scalia and President Obama's nominee made it all the more necessary to get input from voters. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COTTON: Should Justice Scalia be replaced by philosophically liberal justice, the implications for the rights of Americans and the direction of our nation will be profound.

Because the law of the land may take such a dramatic turn, the members of this chamber must first get the input of the American people on what the direction of our country should be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Again, that ideological difference certainly exists between the late Justice Ginsburg and Judge Barrett. It's perhaps even more of a stark difference, frankly, considering Merrick Garland was center- left.

So, again, to apply your 2016 principles, which I'm not sure are any longer operative, shouldn't the American people get the chance to weigh in? Polls indicate that that's what the public thinks, that whoever's elected November 3 should pick the Supreme Court justice.

COTTON: Jake, again, we go back to the split decision they had delivered.

In 2014, they elected a Republican majority to help put the brakes on the Obama agenda, including his traditional nominees. Now, though, we are operating under the clear mandate we received in 2018.

And, Jake, you know the old political line about the only poll that matters is the one that happens on Election Day. We had an election on this very issue in 2018. And the voters didn't just reelect a Republican majority. They expanded a Republican majority, and they defeated those Democratic senators who voted against Brett Kavanaugh.

I don't think it could be any clearer than that.

TAPPER: Earlier this month, after President Trump listed you among his potential Supreme Court candidates, you tweeted -- quote -- "It's time for Roe v. Wade to go," clearly indicating how you would vote on that key issue.

Now, President Trump said this morning that he has not discussed Roe with Judge Barrett, but he signaled that he thought the court could overturn it with her on the court.

Do you think Judge Barrett should follow your example and be similarly forthright and candid with the American people about how she would vote on Roe v. Wade?

COTTON: Well, Jake, I'm pro-life, and I have long believed that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, in part because it took away a vital question for the American people to vote through their elected representatives, be they Congress or their state legislatures.

Now, that said, I mean, I can't speculate about hypothetical cases that may happen years from now, probably not even filed yet.

But I am heartened that the president nominated Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court, and that Judge Barrett explained yesterday that the late, great Justice Scalia's judicial philosophy was hers as well.

[09:20:01]

She understands the judge's role is not to impose her own preferences, not to cast her wishes as the law of the land, but, rather, to uphold the Constitution and the law as it is written. That's exactly what I expect her to do.

TAPPER: I know, but I guess the question is, like, you were honest about your position on this.

It's kind of this weird part of American judicial Kabuki that justices come before the Senate and pretend that they have never talked about or thought about Roe v. Wade, which is obviously a very significant piece of legislation, whether you're for it or against it.

Don't you think she should just be as honest as you were and just say: I oppose Roe v. Wade?

COTTON: Well, Jake, the big difference between me and most of the people on the president's list is that I'm not a judge. I'm not a sitting judge. I'm not bound by canon of judicial ethics. So, I can speak my mind on the great public questions of the day.

Judges obviously cannot, just like Justice Kagan and Justice Sotomayor, President Obama's picks to the Supreme Court, did not either.

Now, one way we could have this conversation is if Joe Biden would release his list of potential nominees. He hasn't done that, I suspect, because they would be radical left-wing activists that obviously wouldn't just uphold the right to abortion, but uphold a right to taxpayer-funded abortion up to the last moment before birth or even after it.

Joe Biden ought to put his names for the Supreme Court out for the public to assess them. I suspect he won't because it will reveal just how radical the Democrats have become on this question.

TAPPER: As I have said before, in the name of transparency, I think Biden should put out a list. I think Donald Trump should release his tax returns.

Let's turn to another topic.

President Trump repeatedly declined this week to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he should lose in November. I want to play our viewers what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Will you commit to making sure that there's a peaceful transferal of power after the election?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we're going to have to see what happens. You know that.

QUESTION: Will you commit to making sure that there's a peaceful transferal of power?

TRUMP: We want to have -- we have to have -- get rid of the ballots, and you will have a very -- we'll have a very peaceful -- there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, that alarmed a lot of Republicans, as you know, and Democrats too.

The number three Republican in the House, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, with whom you agree on a lot of issues, she called the peaceful transfer of power -- quote -- "fundamental to the survival of our republic" and said -- quote -- "America's leaders swear an oath to the Constitution. We will uphold that oath."

Do you agree with Congresswoman Cheney?

COTTON: Yes, Jake, we have been transferring the office of the presidency from one person to the next since 1796.

I'm confident it's going to happen again in January 2025, after President Trump finishes his second term.

TAPPER: But you are not at all disturbed by what he's saying about, if the ballots aren't counted, then I will -- I mean, it's really quite alarming to a lot of Republicans his refusal to say, of course, if I lose, I will abide by a peaceful transfer of power.

COTTON: Well, Jake, what the president was saying is that he is not going to concede in advance, especially when you have so many states changing the rules at the very last minute for mail-in balloting.

He's since said that, if there is a clear winner, if the court settles the contested election, that, of course, he will.

But the premise of the question that you just played me is the president's going to lose. I don't think the president is going to lose. The president is going to win.

This is just another case where the Democrats are projecting some of their own intentions onto Donald Trump. It wasn't Donald Trump who sicced the FBI on his opponent. That was Barack Obama and Joe Biden in 2016.

Hillary Clinton is the one that said Joe Biden should concede under no conditions. And it was Hillary Clinton's former campaign chairman who projected that, if Joe Biden loses, he would recommend that California and Oregon and Washington threaten to secede from the union to change the results. TAPPER: All right.

COTTON: The Democrats are the one who should be pressed on whether or not they will accept a loss in November, because it doesn't sound to me like they will.

TAPPER: There's a lot to fact-check in what you just said.

I will just say, on the first item, that the FBI investigation began because of George Papadopoulos talking to an Australian diplomat. It had nothing to do with Biden or Obama.

But, Senator Tom Cotton from the great state of Arkansas, we thank you for joining us today.

Joining us now, West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin.

Senator Manchin, you have said you will vote against Judge Barrett's nomination.

But you voted to confirm her to the circuit court back in 2017. You clearly viewed her as qualified then. Why is she not qualified now?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Well, the ABA has her qualified. And that was the premise. I looked at everybody that was coming before, whether it be district or circuit.

But, Jake, what we're dealing with is a precedent that had never been set before. We have never in the history of the United States of America confirmed a judge that's -- when a Supreme Court vacancy appeared from July 1 to November. It's never happened before.

You were talking. I heard Tom talking. And I heard Nancy Pelosi and before that.

But Tom was saying the different things of, well, 10 months out, eight months out or whenever. But eight months ago, in 2016, they took the position that two people should have the right to vote because there was going to be election in a few months. That was eight months out.

[09:25:06]

We're talking one month out. This has never happened. If they want to set a precedent, this is basically just adding more flames, fanning the flames of division in a country that's already divided.

It's something that I would think and hope that we would all come to our senses and say, hey, can't we wait until after the election? And if what Tom has just said, that the people spoke overwhelmingly, what would they be afraid of? Then he shouldn't have any concerns at all about waiting until after the election.

TAPPER: Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appears to have the votes to push the nomination through.

Republicans have made it clear they intend to act before the election. You just heard Tom Cotton, Senator Cotton, say that she will be confirmed before Election Day, in October.

Isn't this basically a done deal?

MANCHIN: Well, you would like to hope that now -- I mean, there's a certain amount of decency and decorum that we have always adhered to. That's a part of our democracy and the fabric of who we are.

When the president outright said that, I'm not sure about, that we will have to wait and see if the election, whether he will concede or not, and a basically peaceful, orderly transfer of power, you're not hearing any of my colleagues speak up at all, and really give you a direct answer, that they should be absolutely horrified that even the thought of resisting what -- the people's will.

There's a process we go through, that Election Day will be, and elections will be counted, as far as the votes will be counted. And then that's the last that any mail-in votes or absentee ballots have to be postmarked by.

Then you have that certification by all states. And then you have the Electoral College. We're going to meet -- which will meet the second week of December to confirm. So, there's a process there.

What the president is saying, that there could be basically upheaval at not election night or the morning after the election, when we usually have had gratification of knowing who was going to be that winner. That might not happen because of COVID-19.

TAPPER: Right.

MANCHIN: We're all in unusual times. Our lives are different than what they have been.

So, we have to expect we have got to count many more ballots than has ever been done before, because of this horrible pandemic. But he might not let that happen.

And once he sows the seeds of distrust, then we have got a problem.

TAPPER: Well, what do you think he's going to do?

MANCHIN: And you can tell by the way people are getting...

TAPPER: When you say he might not...

MANCHIN: Well...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: When you say he might not let it happen, obviously, we have just been -- just so viewers are aware, because there are so many vote-by-mail ballots this year, for instance, in the state I'm from, commonwealth I'm from, Pennsylvania, I think they have something like three million.

They're probably not going to be able to count them all by election night, maybe not even until Wednesday or Thursday.

MANCHIN: Correct.

TAPPER: So, we might not have any idea of a clear winner.

What do you think President Trump is going to do? You think he's going to send in the Army and stop the counting of those ballots?

(CROSSTALK)

MANCHIN: No, I do not think that will happen. I hope that doesn't happen.

But, basically, his words do have meaning, especially to his ardent followers, to where if they think that, hey, they're trying to steal the election -- not trying to steal election. We're trying to count the votes. We're trying to figure out, who is the winner?

And under a pandemic that we have right now, they should understand. But he's making everyone believe that, hey, don't worry, there's going to be -- if we lose this election, it will be stolen from him.

No, if you lose the election, it's because the people want a change, they want civility, they want decency back in their lives. We don't want turmoil. We don't want hatred.

This is what we're talking about. And this is what the vote will be on November the 3rd.

TAPPER: Many of your Senate Democratic colleagues have floated the idea of expanding the size of the Supreme Court should this nomination go through with Justice -- Judge Barrett, soon to be Justice Barrett, like -- in all likelihood.

Senator Chuck Schumer says, no options are off the table next year.

Now, I know you have expressed concern over the idea of expanding the court. Just to be clear, if Democrats win back the Senate, would you vote against any effort to expand the U.S. Supreme Court?

MANCHIN: Jake, the thing about the Senate that is so much different, our intentions and how the Senate came about with our founding fathers was supposed to be the cooling sauce, if you will, the saucer that cooled off the hot tea.

We were supposed to work in a bipartisan -- and we have done that.

We have set, basically, over the course of history, how the Senate basically would be the most deliberative body, looking and thinking and bringing people together, letting things calm down, and we could have sensible, reasonable decisions.

Now, with that, I'm not going to vote for anything that would cause basically not to be able to work in a bipartisan way.

TAPPER: So, you would vote against that, then? MANCHIN: And that means I was against in 20 -- that is not something that I would support. I can't support that.

The whole premise of this Senate and this democracy experiment of ours is just certain decency and social order that basically has been expected from us, and especially from the Senate, from the beginning of our government.

Now, all of a sudden, they're going to say, oh, you don't have to talk anymore. You just have to have 51 votes, and forget about the minority.

[09:30:05]

Well, the minority has always played an important part in the Senate's proceedings, because it was supposed to basically take our consideration. If you're in the minority, you still have input, you're still representing, and you're still being deliberative enough to bring common sense together, to make sure that we have looked at every angle we can for American justice.

So, I am saying that any of that type of talk -- there needs to be a cooling-off period. Can't we wait and at least -- and just get through the election year, making sure that it's certified, all the votes are counted, the Electoral College has their final vote second week in December, and we either have a new president, or we have our current president, and that orderly transfer?

TAPPER: Right. Senator...

MANCHIN: But -- go ahead. I'm sorry.

TAPPER: Well, let me just ask you.

There are some Senate Democrats that want to try to gum up the works and slow the process of the confirmation for Judge Barrett.

Would you oppose those moves? And even though you oppose this nomination and how it's going forward, would you meet with Judge Barrett?

MANCHIN: Oh, I have never refused a meeting with anybody. I think that's the greatest responsibility, as a United States senator you have, is to hear all sides of whatever the debate might be or what anybody is going to be confirmed.

How can you confirm? It says basically that we meet and confirm. How do you confirm without meeting or not confirm? So, I have never denied that.

My state of West Virginia is right in the crosshairs right now when you look about the Affordable Care Act and, basically, the writings that Judge Barrett has done over the past. So, that would be a very interesting meeting.

How do I explain to 800,000 people that their preexisting condition is not going to be covered, that they're not going to have the ability to even buy insurance? And how do I explain to 84,000 West Virginians that got health care for the first time?

TAPPER: Yes.

MANCHIN: I mean, we have been fighting it here every day.

And then, November the 10th, there's going to be a hearing.

TAPPER: Yes.

MANCHIN: So, that is something -- that conversation will be a welcome conversation.

TAPPER: OK.

MANCHIN: But I'm against this process and setting a precedent that we have never done.

TAPPER: Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, we always enjoy having you on. Thank you so much for being with us.

Democrats are expecting President Trump to bring lies and personal attacks to this week's presidential debate. How will Democratic nominee Joe Biden react? How will he perform? My exclusive interview with Jill Biden is next.

Plus: Ever wonder what comedian Jon Stewart would make of today's politics? The answer and his new mission -- coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:36:55]

TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

We're just two days away from the first presidential debate.

And Democratic nominee Joe Biden is taking a break from campaigning to prepare to take on a famously unpredictable president, one who cannot be counted on to adhere to facts or even basic decency in the debate.

I got the chance to sit down for an exclusive interview with former second lady Jill Biden this week to talk about what she expects at that first debate and how supporting military families will continue to be her issue if she moves into the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: So, you just met with a bunch of military families here in Norfolk.

BIDEN: Yes.

TAPPER: And more than 43,000 service members have contracted the coronavirus. At least 3,300 veterans have died in VA facilities across the country from this.

Veterans and their families already have so much to deal with. Is the government doing enough to help them through this, through the coronavirus pandemic?

BIDEN: Well, I can tell you this.

When Joe is elected on November 3, the government will do more. I mean, Joe intends to build on the Affordable Care Act. As you know, we need to help our military by doing more for veterans hospitals.

I mean, there's so much more we need to do to help our military. And, like you said, it's affecting our military, because they're on bases and in -- and on ships. And so there is so much more that can be done.

And Joe -- as you know, we're a military family, and we will continue to support our military families, the veterans, survivors, caregivers.

TAPPER: When Beau got back from his tour in Iraq, he told you about the needs -- it's really a dire need among veterans and service members for better mental health care.

Both the Obama administration and the Trump administration have done a lot, both of them, to expand health care options for veterans. What more would you do as first lady?

BIDEN: Well, we would continue -- like I said, I would relaunch Joining Forces.

And you're right. One of the things that Beau said to me -- I said: "Beau, what should we work on? What should Michelle and I be working on?"

He said: "Mom, mental health."

And so we need to expand mental health services for service members and across the board, with ACA, the Affordable Care Act. I mean, we need to increase mental health support.

And this is -- I see it. I -- earlier today, I was talking to educators. And they said to me: "Jill, what we need is more mental health support in our schools?"

So, this pandemic has created so much anxiety and uncertainty, not only for members of the military and their families, but for all American families.

So, I think we have -- this is something that we have to pick up and support our American families.

TAPPER: Cindy McCain, the widow of the late Senator John McCain, a Republican, endorsed your husband this week...

BIDEN: Yes.

TAPPER: ... even though she was running at one point to be first lady, a Republican first lady.

[09:40:02]

BIDEN: That's right.

I think it took a lot of courage for her to come out and support Joe, being that she is a Republican. But that's the way, Jake, things used to be.

I mean, Joe and John would argue about issues, and they would see things totally differently. But, at the end of the day, there we would be together having dinner or going on a trip together or whatever it was. I mean, there was true civility in government. And that's what I think we should return to.

TAPPER: She said that a tipping point came -- or I guess the way she put it is, it didn't help when "The Atlantic" magazine published the story about President Trump allegedly referring to dead American soldiers as losers and service members, American service members as suckers.

President Trump has denied saying that, but there are plenty of sources who say he did say it.

How did you react, as a military mom, to that?

BIDEN: Well, if it is true, I mean, it's pretty heartbreaking.

This should not be made into a political issue. I mean, we should have a commander in chief who supports our military family. I mean, as Joe says, it's our one sacred obligation, to take care of our military and their families.

TAPPER: So, you're an educator.

BIDEN: I am.

TAPPER: And you want to continue teaching, even as first lady, theoretically.

BIDEN: Yes. Mm-hmm.

TAPPER: If we're going to be dealing with this pandemic for more than a few more weeks, which seems obvious we are, maybe months, maybe years...

BIDEN: Yes.

TAPPER: ... do we need to rethink how education is done?

BIDEN: Yes.

TAPPER: In other words, are we trying to jam in-person education into the remote model, when, instead, we should be trying to reinvent what education is, if we're doing it remotely? BIDEN: Well, you know, Jake, the way -- as an educator, the way I

look at is, we have to look at this as an opportunity to change what didn't work in the education system and now make it better.

So, we have seen all the inequities that are in the system. So many people don't have broadband. So many kids, students don't have laptops. I mean, so many people are in different places. School districts get different amounts of money. There is so much we need to do.

But now we see it.

TAPPER (voice-over): I asked Biden about the smears the president and his allied have leveled, such as the disgusting and completely false suggestion Joe Biden is a pedophile, perhaps the ugliest false slur a candidate has ever leveled against an opponent in the history of the United States.

(on camera): You note in your autobiography that, at age 13, you punched a neighborhood bully in the face.

BIDEN: Mm-hmm.

TAPPER: You don't like bullies.

You also note that, whereas your husband tends to forgive people and forget really quickly, you are the family keeper of grudges. That's how you describe yourself.

BIDEN: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: That's how you described yourself. I have it on paper.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: What is it like for you, given the fact that President Trump and his campaign and some of his relatives are not just waging a tough campaign against your husband, which we all expect...

BIDEN: Yes.

TAPPER: ... and that's part of the American process, but actually legitimately smearing your husband with the vilest of false accusations?

As somebody who, in public, portrays herself as demure in some ways, but, in reality, wants to punch the bully in the face and is the family keeper of grudges, what is this like?

BIDEN: Well, you know, what you said -- what you said is these false accusations.

And...

TAPPER: Well, they're smears. They're disgusting smears.

BIDEN: And so this is a distraction.

I mean, what else does Trump have? He's trying to get everybody off of Joe, because I think Joe is just -- he has the integrity and he has -- he's strong and resilient, and he has that steadiness, that calm, empathy, things that people are looking for right now.

And Donald Trump looks at Joe and says: Oh, my God, like, there is my competition. What can I think of to distract people?

And that's all he's trying to do. But Joe's tough.

TAPPER: I'm not asking about Joe.

BIDEN: Joe's tough.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: I'm asking about Jill.

How do you deal with it? Because it must be very, very difficult.

BIDEN: I expected it.

You know, we know who Donald Trump is. We have known for four years. And I expected it. So, we're a tough family.

TAPPER: Your husband is an experienced debater. He's faced tough opponents in the past, but none quite like Donald Trump, none who are willing to accuse him of vile crimes that he's completely innocent of.

BIDEN: Yes.

TAPPER: I have seen him lose his cool, especially when his family is invoked.

[09:45:03]

I mean, I have covered him since the late '90s. So, he's lost his cool a couple times in there, I think you would...

BIDEN: I don't recall that, Jake.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: He protects his family very passionately, yes?

BIDEN: As he should.

TAPPER: So, is he ready?

BIDEN: Oh, my gosh, yes, he's ready.

You know, one of the things I am excited for is, when the American people see Joe Biden up there on that stage, they're going to see what a president looks like, someone who is, like I'm saying, calm, steady, strong, resilient.

It's like night and day between the two candidates. And so I can't wait for the American people to see Joe, to see that statesman up there in front of the American public.

TAPPER: Your husband has been known to make the occasional gaffe.

BIDEN: Oh, you can't even go there. You can -- after Donald Trump, you cannot even say the word gaffe.

TAPPER: Well, that's what I want -- I can't even say the word gaffe?

BIDEN: It is -- nope.

TAPPER: But you...

(CROSSTALK)

BIDEN: Nope. Done. It's gone.

TAPPER: The gaffe issue is over because...

BIDEN: Over, so over.

TAPPER: What do you think about the fact that President Trump is hemming and hawing when it comes to the issue of an orderly transition of power, should he lose on November 3?

BIDEN: Well, we will have to -- I'm hoping that it is -- and Joe intends on an orderly transition of power.

Right now, Donald Trump is supposed -- trying to -- this is Donald Trump's America. This is the chaos, and just going off the cuff with this comment or that comment.

No, we go back to Joe Biden. We have calm. We have steady leadership. We don't have all this chaos in America.

TAPPER (voice-over): For Jill Biden, her husband's candidacy is already bringing back a different kind of leadership.

BIDEN: But do you see how it matters? Look at all the Republicans that came out for Joe and are supporting him.

TAPPER (on camera): Right.

BIDEN: It's relationships. And so it doesn't matter if you're a Republican or a Democrat. You can argue it out.

But, in the end, we're families. We're American families. We care about the same things, about making a difference.

TAPPER: Yes, although I have to say, I think, if your husband were running against Marco Rubio, you wouldn't have this -- all these Republicans endorsing him, even though the relationships are good.

It's something else having to do with President Trump. Don't you think?

BIDEN: I don't know. I have to have faith in the American people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Jon Stewart wants to get Republicans and Democrats to actually agree on something.

The issue he thinks could bring the nation together -- that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:51:41]

TAPPER: A serious story now that you may not have heard about.

The U.S. military has long used burn pits to destroy all sorts of waste, from chemicals, to metals, to human waste, setting fires that churned out black smoke near military bases.

Service members have reported symptoms as serious a cancer which they blame on their expose exposure to the burn pits. But the Department of Veterans Affairs have denied about 78 percent of disability claims stemming from the pits, according to "Stars and Stripes."

As he did for 9/11 first responders, comedian Jon Stewart has now taken up this cause, joining with legislators and activists to push a bill to expand health care options for these suffering service members.

And the organization Burn Pits 360 has just asked President Trump and Joe Biden to publicly back the legislation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: And joining me now, former "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, and the co-founder and executive director of Burn Pits 360, Rosie Torres, whose husband, LeRoy, is an Army veteran and a survivor.

Jon, let me start with you.

We all know your amazing work for 9/11 first responders. You said, when it was done, we thought it was done.

But now you're back. What made you come back and take up this cause?

JON STEWART, FORMER HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": Rosie. Rosie and LeRoy.

Rosie contacted John Feal of the FealGood Foundation and myself, when she was watching the 9/11 proceedings, because there were so many analogous illnesses and exposures with the burn pits.

And so she contacted us. Senator Gillibrand was kind enough to lend us her expertise and literally her office. And so we would meet there every six weeks or so. And the idea was to draw up a burn pit bill, a toxic exposure bill, that would truly address, finally, the veterans' concerns.

So, we really made a big point of including this really broad coalition of veterans dating all the way back to the '60s, who are still fighting for toxic exposure benefits. And that's the bill, ultimately, that was drawn up and was announced last week.

TAPPER: I do want to go to Rosie, who enlisted you in this.

And, Rosie, this is personal for you. Your husband developed a lung disease during his deployment to Iraq. Tell us how things have been for your family since he came home from his deployment.

ROSIE TORRES, CO-FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BURN PITS 360: It's been -- it's been such a hardship for us.

We have gone everywhere, from the point of him being forced out of his job with the state police, and us having to file a suit that's now going before SCOTUS, foreclosure letters, repossessed -- car repossession notices.

I had to retire, take an early retirement from the VA. I worked for them for 23 years. So there's been a lot of loss and a lot of hardship. But, out of that hardship, we have formed Burn Pits 360.

And that's why we're here today.

TAPPER: And, Senator Gillibrand, you have introduced this legislation to help the estimated 3.5 million veterans who may have been exposed to burn pits.

[09:55:05]

How has the response been? Obviously, Republicans control the Senate. Any positive reaction, any assurances from Senate Republicans that they will get on board?

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): So, I have had several conversations with my Republican colleagues. And many of them are looking at the bill right now.

I believe this will be a bipartisan bill, because, frankly, this issue is nonpartisan. These are men and women who served. They got sick. And they should be covered.

STEWART: This is an issue that we should have addressed in 1990, in 1991, in 1980, and 1970.

The way this country has gone to war, we have always had endless funds to wage war, and no funds for the consequences of war to the war fighter when they come home. And that has to change. We have to change the paradigm that we operate in.

Look, ultimately, in theory, everyone is supportive of this, the idea that America's war fighters have gone over there and been exposed to things, and now they're sick. But the reality of it is, it's money. There is no perfect science, but we know that these toxic exposures

cause the illnesses that are listed as presumptive in the bill, right? So, this is purely money.

And that's an untenable argument, in my eyes, for this country. We can't sweep this under the rug. And that's what -- Rosie enlisted John and I to be relentless and to not allow this to happen in the dark. And that's what we plan to do.

We're going to bring everyone there and force the government to witness this situation.

TAPPER: And, Senator Gillibrand, the Pentagon says that nine open burn pits are still currently in use as of last year.

Why hasn't the Pentagon shut down these sites, given that they're so harmful?

GILLIBRAND: Because it's about money, just as Jon said.

And this is nothing new. The VA and the Department of Defense have denied covering service members for a long time. What they're throwing into these pits are the same things that burned on 9/11, electronics, computers, clothing. They use jet fuel to light them on fire.

They emit some of the worst toxins known to man. All those toxins are known to cause horrible cancers. The Defense Department and the VA say over and over again that we're not paying for it because there's no science.

Well, that's total B.S., because the truth is, there's lots of science. And, also, this is the cost of war. If you're going to send our troops into harm's way, this is what war costs. And it should be covered, and there should be no debate about it.

TAPPER: And, Rosie, what do you say to lawmakers or Pentagon officials who may say, as Senator Gillibrand just suggested, there isn't enough evidence, there isn't enough scientific evidence to prove a link between burn pits and long-term health effects?

What what's your message to them?

TORRES: The message is, the greatest disservice to those who serve is to become invisible.

So, it's time that they do their jobs and acknowledge these deaths and these illnesses as an instrumentality of war.

TAPPER: Jon, before we go, I know we all hope...

STEWART: Right.

TAPPER: ... supporting veterans is an issue that can unite the country, especially at a time when it's so divided.

When you look at the state of politics today in America, do you have hope?

STEWART: Always.

Listen, systems become so corrupt, and that's what leads to change. When the rot becomes untenable, from the ground up, people awaken and arise.

And, in this situation in particular, it's egregious because of how venerated, politically, we make our veterans. We are patriots in the most symbolic of ways. We support the troops, until, apparently, the troops need support.

The smoking gun in this case is literally smoking guns. They put weaponry in there and lit them with jet fuel.

And the tragedy here is, the VA shouldn't be the inquisitor. They shouldn't be putting veterans individually on trial to have to be their own doctors and scientists and lawyers.

The VA should be the advocate. The VA should be the one fighting Congress to get the appropriations for these illnesses.

We have this backwards.

TAPPER: Jon Stewart, Rosie, Senator Gillibrand, thank you so much for your time today. And best of luck with this mission.

I am here to help in any way I can.

GILLIBRAND: Thanks, Jake.

STEWART: Thanks so much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: And thank you for spending your Sunday morning with us.

"FAREED ZAKARIA" starts right now.