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STATE OF THE UNION

Interview With Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR); Interview With Biden Deputy Campaign Manager Kate Bedingfield; Interview With National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow; Interview With Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI). Aired 9-10 ET

Aired October 11, 2020 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:12]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Round two. Fourteen days after hosting a super-spreader event at the White House, the president is back on stage.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm feeling great. I don't know about you. How is everyone feeling?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: But, as his party frets over his campaign, he is swinging, from wild accusations to unfounded promises. Can President Trump turn things around?

Top White House adviser Larry Kudlow and Biden deputy campaign chair Kate Bedingfield join me.

And Supreme showdown. With senators set to begin hearings for the president's High Court pick, Democrats are promising a fight.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We will use every tool in the toolbox.

TAPPER: But might that backfire? Judiciary Committee Democrat Senator Mazie Hirono is next.

Plus: hunker down. COVID cases rising, as the U.S. enters a key period. Can we avoid a wave of more deaths?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: I'd like to say that everything is going to be great by Thanksgiving, but, honestly, I'm not so sure it is.

TAPPER: I will ask Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson ahead.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is stunned at the recklessness.

Late Saturday, President Trump's doctors released a new letter, clearing the president to return to a public schedule, saying he has met the CDC criteria to leave isolation and is -- quote -- "no longer considered a transmission risk to others" -- unquote.

The doctor said the president is 10 days from the onset of symptoms and has been fever-free for more than 24 hours. The doctor did not disclose critical information, such as whether the president is off all fever-reducing medication, whether he has any remaining symptoms, and whether the president has tested negative for the virus.

Now, that's not part of the CDC criteria to leave isolation, but it's still important information.

And, on that subject, we still do not know when the president last tested negative before catching the virus and potentially spreading it.

The doctor's letter came hours after the president delivered a speech to a crowd of supporters on the White House South Lawn, largely wearing masks, thankfully, though they were packed together.

The president, after possibly spreading the virus, continues to spread lies about it, telling the crowd that the virus is -- quote -- "disappearing," which is, tragically, far from the truth. Infections, in fact, are increasing.

With only 23 days until the election, and a lot of ground to make up, the president seems to be scrambling. He's returning to campaign rallies tomorrow, despite the recent outbreak in his campaign and his White House, and sending Capitol Hill and markets reeling over confusing messages on a potential new coronavirus stimulus package.

Joining me now to talk about that package, the president's top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow.

Larry, good to see you, as always.

So, let's talk about the stimulus.

To counter the Democrats' $2.2 trillion proposal, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin offered a $1.8 trillion proposal. But more than 20 Republican senators privately blasted that as a betrayal, a death knell.

We're 23 days from Election Day. Is a stimulus deal dead?

LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Well, no, I don't think it's dead at all. I spoke to Secretary Mnuchin last evening.

Look, don't forget, the Republicans in the Senate put up their own bill a few weeks ago and got 53 votes, I think it was. So, they united. I think, if an agreement can be reached, they will go along with it.

Look, the issue here -- and I don't understand this -- my Democratic friends, Speaker Pelosi and so forth, we're asking for some targeted areas of assistance that would help this recovery. It is a V-shaped recovery, but there are key areas that could help. One, let's add on to unemployment assistance. The president's executive order is not going to go forever. Two, everybody, I mean, everybody in the world wants additional loans to small business. They will be forgivable loans, the so-called PPP program. Those are things that everybody absolutely wants.

Number three, the president is in favor of direct mail checks to provide, again, some more temporary economic assistance. We are in a very strong rebound. I hope we get to that later. But the fact is, these are simple things. They have bipartisan support.

We could do it as stand-alone bills, or an omnibus bill, or whatever. But I don't understand the intransigence from my Democratic friends.

TAPPER: Well, I'm not talking about your Democratic friends. I'm talking about 20 Senate Republicans who were mad at Secretary Mnuchin and saying that the proposal of $1.8 trillion was way too much. They called it a death knell. I think that was Senator Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee, called it a death knell.

I guess the big question is, going forward, you have to get something through the House and the Senate. Are you willing to pass a relief bill without a support -- without support from a majority of Senate Republicans? In other words, you get the majority of Democrats in the House, you get Democrats in the Senate, and maybe 10 or 20 Republicans in the Senate, and then it goes to the president's desk?

[09:05:01]

Would he be willing to sign that?

KUDLOW: Well, look, I don't want to get into the specific legislative strategy, Jake.

But I will say, from the president's remarks late last week, he's happy on the key targeted areas that I mentioned, small business loans, unemployment, and so forth. He would actually go beyond what some of the Democratic numbers are. He may not do it for the entire package, but for those key targeted areas that would truly help the recovery, by the way, get kids back to school and reopen businesses.

I think, if we could get this thing settled on the Democrat side, we will get it settled on the Republican side. There will still be further efforts at negotiation, perhaps today, but certainly this coming week.

So, I don't think we really -- the D's are holding this thing up. Look, it's just a question of this. It's not so much the election, per se. I know this is a political season. I get that. It's just getting Americans through a difficult period of time.

We have seen a flood of blockbuster improvement numbers across the board on the economy. But there's really no reason why we can't add to that...

TAPPER: Right. KUDLOW: ... some additional assistance in the next three months.

And I think you can get a deal. I'm not saying it's easy. Secretary Mnuchin, very dear friend of mine, as you know, he's a very good negotiator. Let's see what he and Speaker Pelosi come up with.

TAPPER: But you agree that a stimulus package needs to pass, there needs to be one, right, and you're hoping to do it in the next three weeks?

KUDLOW: I don't think, Jake -- I mean, I don't want to parse, but I don't think the recovery is dependent on it.

TAPPER: That's not what the Fed chair says.

KUDLOW: Look, we have had 11 million job increases.

Well, the Fed chair is, essentially, I think, saying the same thing. Targeted assistance would be a good idea.

But, look, we have seen numbers across the board just in the past week, booming housing starts, supply managers for manufacturing and for services. We have seen automobiles surging. We have seen manufacturing.

TAPPER: Right.

KUDLOW: We think we have created a new 700,000 jobs in manufacturing.

These are really strong numbers. Inventories have to be rebuilt. You got...

(CROSSTALK)

KUDLOW: ... talking about 30...

TAPPER: Mark Zandi says -- Mark Zandi of Moody's says that, if a stimulus bill isn't passed soon, the administration -- I mean -- I'm sorry -- the country is going to start shedding jobs again.

KUDLOW: Well, Mark is a friend of mine, but he's always a naysayer when it comes to Republican policies.

I will say this. The Atlanta Fed's GDPNow model is showing 35 percent. That's a -- for the third quarter. That's a big number. The blue-chip consensus, private blue chip forecasters, I think, moved up to 29 percent.

We would be thrilled with plus-20 percent in the second half of the year. My point is this. We are in a strong rebound.

TAPPER: Yes.

KUDLOW: Lower taxes and lower regulations going way back are still in place, and businesses are reopening.

We are learning to deal with the virus in a targeted, safe, prevented way.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: No, we're not.

KUDLOW: So, it's not dependent -- all I'm saying is, a little -- some targeted assistance would go a long way right now.

TAPPER: We're not -- we're not learning to live with the virus, Larry. The -- we just had four days in a row of more than 50,000 infections. The death rate is the highest in the world.

But let's focus on the economic aspect, because that's your area of expertise.

I guess one...

KUDLOW: I just want to say...

TAPPER: Yes.

KUDLOW: Just, Jake, one -- Jake, just one second.

I want to clarify. Living with the virus. Look, 5,000 experts just signed a petition, led by people from Harvard, Stanford, Oxford University. These are scientists, these are doctors, these are health care workers, who say, we can deal with this virus going on while we're getting new therapies, we're getting new vaccines. They are coming around.

It's not just living with the virus. As long as we protect the most vulnerable...

TAPPER: Yes.

KUDLOW: ... as long as we preserve the key guidelines, yes, we can get through this.

We are not going to shut down the whole economy again.

TAPPER: No, and nobody...

KUDLOW: There is no reason for that. We will take care of the vulnerable. That's the key point.

TAPPER: Well, there's so much that you just said.

But, again, I had you on to talk about the economy, not health care matters.

(LAUGHTER)

KUDLOW: OK. OK.

TAPPER: In terms of obeying by the key guidelines, I mean, you might want to tell the guy in the building behind you, but that's a separate issue.

Let's talk about President Trump and the stimulus package, OK, because President Trump, frankly, has been all over the map on his position. He halted talks completely.

But then I want you to take a listen to what the president said on Friday about the size of this stimulus bill.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

TRUMP: I would like to see a bigger stimulus package, frankly, than either the Democrats or the Republicans are offering.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, that's the president's saying he wants a bigger package.

Speaker Pelosi is currently offering a $2.2 trillion deal. The president wants a bigger package than that.

So, is Secretary Mnuchin now going to try to offer a bigger deal than a $2.2 trillion proposal?

[09:10:02]

KUDLOW: He may. He may. Secretary Mnuchin is up to $1.8 trillion. So, the bid and the offer is narrowing somewhat between the two sides.

President Trump actually has always said -- I mean, I have heard him say it in the Oval -- as far as the key elements are concerned, the checks, the unemployment assistance, the small business assistance -- we have got to help airlines out -- he would go further.

He's always said that. He knows that we need as much power for economic recovery as possible. It's not just recovery in three weeks. It's recovery to the end of the year and beyond in a possible second term.

So, I think Secretary Mnuchin, who is a very good negotiator, will be carrying the president's message.

TAPPER: So -- but, Larry, I mean, a consultant to an adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told "The Washington Post" that he thinks any deal that's in the range of $2 trillion -- Mnuchin is at $1.8 trillion, Pelosi is at $2.2 trillion, and you just said it's possible that Mnuchin and Trump will have a proposal of more than $2.2 trillion.

But McConnell's aide says that they think there will only be 10 Republican votes in the Senate for anything in the neighborhood of $2 trillion.

So, how do you get it passed? That's the question. You have already lost most of the Republicans in the Senate.

KUDLOW: Well, I don't know who we have lost. There are a lot of permutations and combinations. And there's a lot of commentary. I get that, Jake.

I'm not going to sit here and negotiate or say, this is OK, that's not OK. That's Mr. Mnuchin's role, as well as Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who is also an excellent negotiator.

I'm just saying, we are putting our best foot forward on the table. We have been offering compromise after compromise. We have already passed a Republican bill in the Senate. Now we have raised the ante on some just key targeted points, not everything else.

We're not talking about giveaways to state and locals, fixing pension funds, harvesting mail ballots, assistance to illegal immigrants that have nothing to do with COVID or the economy.

TAPPER: Yes.

KUDLOW: Let's see what happens. I'm not going to negotiate today. Let's see what happens.

TAPPER: Let's turn to the event at the White House with hundreds of people not social distancing on the White House lawn, though they were wearing masks, thankfully.

I want you to take a listen to what Dr. Fauci said this week about that Rose Garden event for Judge Barrett on September 26.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

FAUCI: The data speak for themselves. We had a super-spreader event in the White House. And it was in a situation where people were crowded together and were not wearing masks. So the data speak for themselves.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: President Trump himself has said he may have contracted the virus at -- quote -- "big events" at the White House.

But now the president's hitting the campaign trail, Florida tomorrow, Pennsylvania, Iowa.

How is this not a risk to the health, if not lives of your own supporters?

KUDLOW: Well, lookit, on that big do on the White House lawn, the operations people signed off on it.

I have great respect for Dr. Tony Fauci, who is a longtime friend of mine. I'm not the medical scientist.

Here's what I know. As you said at the top today, Dr. Sean Conley -- or last night -- released a document that said the president is healthy, he's abided by the CDC, he is no longer contagious. I think that fits the bill.

I have not seen the president in the last few days. I have spoken to him on the phone. A lot of people who have been with him said he's fine, he's peppy, he's been smart, again, and he really is in healthy condition.

So, it seems like the conditions are being met. And he will -- he will go on ahead. This election needs to be fought out...

TAPPER: I'm expressing concern about his supporters' health, his supporters' health.

KUDLOW: I understand. I understand.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: You're in Connecticut. And let me say, Larry, as somebody who likes you and wants you to live a long, long life, I hope that you stay safe.

I don't know that the people at the White House are as concerned about people who work at the White House and Trump's own supporters as I am. It's not safe to have big rallies.

KUDLOW: Well, I appreciate it, Jake, what you said earlier. It's very kind.

Lookit, there will be masks at these rallies. There will be social distancing at these rallies. There will be appropriate testing.

A lot of these places, you get tested on the way in. Most of all, we have to stick to the hygiene issues, washing your hands and face and so forth. These things can be done. We can do that. And that's what the experts have said.

That's why I wanted to raise that Great Barrington compromise document. It needs to see the light of day.

TAPPER: OK.

KUDLOW: It's like 5,000 people that are saying basically what I'm saying.

TAPPER: Yes.

KUDLOW: So, I think he can go through with it. I think his message Jake, look, you know what.

TAPPER: Yes. We got to -- we got to go, Larry.

KUDLOW: Growth, prosperity, abundance, optimism.

TAPPER: OK.

KUDLOW: Low taxes and low regulations...

TAPPER: I get it.

KUDLOW: ... will revive this economy. He did it once. He will do it a second time. Thank you.

TAPPER: Larry, stay safe and stay healthy. Good to see you again.

KUDLOW: Thank you. Thank you.

TAPPER: Hearings for the president's Supreme Court nominee start tomorrow.

I will ask what to expect from a Democratic senator who refused to meet with Judge Amy Coney Barrett coming up.

[09:15:03]

Plus, the question that Democratic nominee Joe Biden is repeatedly -- repeatedly refusing to answer, can he keep that up through Election Day?

A top member of his campaign team is here next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

As people in dozens of states show up to vote early, there are some encouraging signs for Democratic nominee Joe Biden's campaign, including a decision by President Trump this week to skip the second debate, one of his few remaining chances to shake up the race.

Joining us now to discuss this and much more, Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield.

Kate, thanks for joining us.

KATE BEDINGFIELD, BIDEN DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Thanks for having me.

TAPPER: The second presidential debate was officially -- was officially canceled after the Trump campaign refused to participate in a town hall, where the candidates would participate remotely.

[09:20:04]

The Trump team instead proposed pushing back both debates a week, so that they could be held in-person. But your campaign rejected that.

Now, look, I get that President Trump is being erratic, but shouldn't Vice President Biden bend over backwards to give the American people every opportunity to see the two candidates go head to head?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, look, we agreed to three debates back in June, our campaign and Donald Trump's campaign.

We have said that Joe Biden will show up on those dates that we agree to. We are not going to let Donald Trump whipsaw around at the last second, trying to rewrite the rules. We had every intention of showing up on the 15th. He, Donald Trump,

refused to participate in a virtual town hall. So, we instead scheduled a national network televised town hall, so that Joe Biden can take questions from voters.

And we have every intention and every expectation that we will be there on the 22nd as well. But we're not going to let Donald Trump write the rules. He doesn't get to set the calendar. The Debate Commission sets the calendar. We all agreed to these dates back in June. And we're not going to let him try to rewrite the rules at the last second.

TAPPER: So...

BEDINGFIELD: He pulled out of the debate on the 15th. It's understandable. He doesn't want to have to answer questions from voters about his handling of COVID and the economy.

Joe Biden would have been there.

TAPPER: Yes.

BEDINGFIELD: He's going to be there taking questions from voters that night. He will be there on the 22nd.

TAPPER: So, October 22, as you note, it would be the third debate -- I guess now it would be the second -- in Nashville.

You told me the other day that you are trusting the Cleveland Clinic and the Commission on Presidential Debates to ensure that everyone at the next debate test negative before entering the arena.

To be candid, they had that responsibility at the last debate too, and we still don't know if the president was tested at all that day or in the previous week.

So, just to be clear here, you're not going to demand, personally, the campaign, the Biden campaign, to see proof of a negative test from President Trump before Vice President Biden goes on stage with him, you trust the commission, you trust the Cleveland Clinic?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, we demand that the Cleveland Clinic and that the commission work that out.

Obviously, it is extremely troubling, what happened at the first debate. And our expectation, our demand of the Cleveland Clinic and of the commission is that the Trump campaign and everybody that they're bringing to the debate shows proof that they're negative.

Now, we will let the Cleveland Clinic and the commission work out exactly how that works. But, obviously, we are not interested in creating another moment where there's the potential for the spread of this virus.

I mean, we have seen, unfortunately -- look at the event at the White House on September 26. We have seen what happens when the appropriate precautions are not put in place. And it's tragic.

So, we -- given how opaque this White House has been about health information related to the president and everybody around him, we are -- we are demanding, unequivocally, of the Cleveland Clinic and of the Debate Commission that they work out protocols to ensure that everybody who is at that debate is safe, because we don't want to spread the virus further.

TAPPER: Yes.

BEDINGFIELD: It's not just about the health of the people at the debate. It's about the health of everyone else they come into contact with.

TAPPER: Sure.

BEDINGFIELD: And you have the White House refusing to commit to contact tracing from that event on the 26th.

TAPPER: Yes.

BEDINGFIELD: It's deeply troubling. They don't seem to be taking it seriously.

Our demand is that the Cleveland Clinic and the Debate Commission ensure that debate is safe on the 22nd.

TAPPER: So, Kate, Vice President Biden yesterday again refused to say where he stands on this question of adding justices to the Supreme Court.

I want to play what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's not constitutional what they're doing. We should be focused on what's happening right now.

This court is being packed now by the Republicans, after the vote has already begun. I'm going to stay focused on it, so we don't take our eyes off the ball here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: I want to get to the idea of adding justices to the court in a second. But he said it's not constitutional, what they're doing.

How is it not constitutional what they're doing?

BEDINGFIELD: His point is that the people have an opportunity to weigh in on this constitutional process through their vote.

And we are now in the midst of the election. Millions of people have already cast their votes. And you see that the vast majority of people say that they want the person who wins the election on November 3 to nominate the justice to take this seat.

TAPPER: That's a poll. That's not the Constitution.

BEDINGFIELD: So, by trying to -- by trying to -- that is their constitutional -- there's the constitutional process of advise and consent.

The American people get to have their say by voting for president, by voting for senators.

We are now 23 days from the election.

TAPPER: Right, but it's not unconstitutional.

BEDINGFIELD: Again, millions of -- millions of votes, millions of votes, they're being -- voters are being denied their constitutional right to have a say in this process.

TAPPER: They elected the Senate.

BEDINGFIELD: The Republicans are trying to ram through -- are trying to ram through a nominee, who, by the way, is going to change the makeup of the court.

And we see time and time again, poll after poll shows that most Americans vehemently disagree with this. They believe...

TAPPER: Again, Kate, that's a poll.

BEDINGFIELD: ... that the vote should happen on November 3.

[09:25:00]

TAPPER: That's not what the word constitutional means.

BEDINGFIELD: That's the...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Constitutional doesn't mean, I like it or I don't like it. It means it's according to the U.S. Constitution.

There's nothing unconstitutional about what the U.S. Senate is doing.

BEDINGFIELD: They are being denied -- the American people are being denied their opportunity to have a say in who gets this lifetime appointment to the court.

The intention of the process here is for the American people to have a say in who gets -- in who makes the nomination, and then who ultimately consents to the nomination.

TAPPER: OK. So...

BEDINGFIELD: And what the Republicans are trying to do is ram this through because they don't believe they have the electoral support. That's -- that is a problem. And they are going to try to change the

makeup of the court in an effort to do that.

TAPPER: Again, it's not unconstitutional. I get you don't like it, but it's not unconstitutional.

But let me talk about the idea of adding justices to the court, which -- which Vice President Biden refuses to give his answer on.

What's bizarre about it to me is that Biden has already answered this question on whether he supports expanding the court. Take a listen to him in 1983, and then again just a year ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: President Roosevelt clearly had the right to send to the United States Senate and the United States Congress a proposal to pack the court, but it was a bonehead idea.

It was a terrible, terrible mistake to make.

I would not get into court packing. We add three justices, next time around, we lose control, they add three justices. We begin to lose any credibility the court has it all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Biden opposes adding justices to the court. He has for decades. So, why is he refusing to weigh in on it now?

BEDINGFIELD: Because Donald Trump and the Republicans don't get to set the terms of this debate.

I mean, this is a distraction that they want to throw out. This is a hypothetical that they want to throw out right now to distract from the fact that they are trying to ram through a nominee who, as I said, is going to change the makeup of the court, against the will of the American people.

They don't want to talk about that, so they are trying to create a distraction and send folks down a rabbit hole talking about this, when what we should be focused on and what Joe Biden is focused on is the vote on November 3, and making sure that they don't have the opportunity to ram through a nominee...

TAPPER: Kate, it's not the Biden...

BEDINGFIELD: ... who is going to be the deciding vote.

TAPPER: It's not the Trump people who invented this question.

BEDINGFIELD: But, look, at one...

TAPPER: Right? The idea of adding justices to the Supreme Court came from the progressive side of the Democratic Party. It's just a simple question. He has long been against adding justices

to the court. Has he changed his mind, or does he have the same position he's had since at least 1983?

BEDINGFIELD: But, look, see, I think you only have to look at how hard, for example, Vice President Pence wanted to go at this in the debate last week, rather than answer a question about what his administration would do to protect preexisting conditions.

That -- to me, that tells you everything you need to know about what the Republicans are trying to do here. They would rather have this conversation than talk about the fact that they are pushing through a justice who is going to be part of a court that could potentially overturn the Affordable Care Act, that could strip away protections for preexisting conditions...

TAPPER: Yes.

BEDINGFIELD: ... that could rule on a woman's right to choose, that could rule on equal pay issues.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Yes, we ask Republicans...

BEDINGFIELD: They don't want to defend that.

TAPPER: I get it. And we ask Republicans those questions.

But we get to ask Democrats questions, too. And this is a simple -- it's a simple question. And it's one, frankly, that Trump did not invent. It came from the progressives in the Democratic Party.

And I thought it was odd when Vice President Biden said the other day, in response to a reporter's question, that voters do not deserve an answer on this. Of course voters deserve an answer on his position on every issue.

BEDINGFIELD: Well, we're not going to play their game.

He's given an answer. He's answered the question. I mean, he has probably answered this question 15 times over the course of the last week.

The answer is: I am not going to play Donald Trump's game.

TAPPER: Right.

BEDINGFIELD: I am not going to allow the terms of this debate to shift to a hypothetical that assumes, by the way, that we, the Democrats, are going to lose here.

I mean, that's really -- that's what's at the core of this argument they're making. It assumes that we're going to lose. Vice President Biden doesn't accept that. He does not accept that. He's focused on turning people out to vote, making sure their voice is heard, and making sure that they have a say in who the next Supreme Court justice is.

TAPPER: All right, well, I think a serious policy question is not a game, and I don't think it's Trump's game.

But, Kate Bedingfield, we always appreciate you coming on the show and answering the questions or deftly sidestepping them.

Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

BEDINGFIELD: Thanks for having me, Jake. I appreciate it.

TAPPER: A coronavirus outbreak is not stopping Senate Republicans from their push to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Will it work? Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono is on the committee. She weighs in next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:34:02]

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

If this is even possible, Capitol Hill may feel more partisan this week, more nasty.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the hearings on the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. But can Democrats put up a fight without damaging their own political interests?

Joining me now, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii.

Senator Hirono, always good to have you on. Thank you.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): Good morning.

TAPPER: So, Republicans, they are moving full steam ahead with tomorrow's hearing.

You have said -- quote -- "The fact of the matter is that Mitch McConnell has the votes" -- unquote.

What are you going to ask Judge Barrett. And is there any way Democrats can stop her confirmation?

HIRONO: We are going to be very focused on her state of views on the Affordable Care Act.

And the reason that the Republicans are so bound and determined to push her through, with only about two weeks left before the election and millions of people already voting, they want her on that court to hear the Affordable Care Act case on November 10, one week after the election, so that she can strike it down.

[09:35:04]

That is her view on the Affordable Care Act.

Then we will also be focused, I will be focused on her state of views on a woman's right to choose, abortion. So, those are the things that I will be focused on.

This nominee poses a clear and present danger. The immediate danger is to the health care of over 20 million Americans who have health care thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the over 100 million Americans who are protected under the Affordable Care Act because they have preexisting conditions, not to mention the seven million who have tested positive for COVID, who will be put into the category of those with preexisting conditions.

TAPPER: But there's nothing Democrats can do to stop it, is the question.

HIRONO: Well, if we can get two more brave Republicans to face up to the fact that they are going to be voting on -- for somebody who's going to take away the health care of hundreds of thousands of their constituents, if we can get two more Republicans to have that courage, we can stop her.

TAPPER: So, Judge Barrett has ties to a conservative Christian organization called People of Praise.

You have said that her religious beliefs should not be off-limits. And you questioned whether her -- quote -- "closely held views can be separated from her ability to make objective, fair decisions" -- unquote.

Do you plan to raise her faith tomorrow? And how can you do that without approaching religious bigotry?

HIRONO: Her religion is immaterial, irrelevant. That is what I said. And so that is my position.

I am totally focused on what this nominee sitting there as a justice is going to do in striking down the Affordable Care Act. That's what I'm focused on. I'm not going to be asking her questions about her religious views. They're irrelevant.

TAPPER: So, no one -- do you think any Democrats are going to bring up her faith or religious views?

HIRONO: I think that it's the Republicans who are going to be bringing up that particular issue.

Why? Because they don't want to face up to the fact, they don't want to tell the American people that they're about to vote -- about to vote for a person who's going to take away their health care.

TAPPER: Well, just to be fair, in 2017, it was Democrats, when she was up for a different judicial post, Democrats who brought it up, including Senators Durbin and Feinstein. But you're saying Democrats aren't going to do it this time. OK.

HIRONO: Well, actually, Jake...

TAPPER: Yes.

HIRONO: ... back then, the -- Chuck Grassley and Ted Cruz also asked about her writing.

So, the writing of a nominee, that -- you get asked. So we asked. I ask. And that's it.

TAPPER: OK.

The number of lawmakers infected with coronavirus continues to grow, regrettably. Several Republicans are either infected right now or in quarantine. There is no -- astoundingly, there is no mandatory testing protocol on Capitol Hill.

You have been open about your cancer diagnosis. And we're glad -- we're glad you're recovering. Do you feel safe going into the Senate? Do you feel safe walking onto the Senate floor?

HIRONO: Well, the fact that Mitch McConnell and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee have not put in place appropriate protocols, that tells you the seriousness with which they regard this virus and its spread.

So, for my own protection and that of everyone that I come in contact with, I will get a test after I do this interview with you.

TAPPER: One last question, Senator.

President Trump called Senator Kamala Harris a monster on FOX this week. He used the term twice.

You and Senator Harris are two of only four women of color in the United States Senate. I have heard some people say that they thought that term was racist, dehumanizing, sexist. What was your reaction to it?

HIRONO: It's typical Trump that he will attack anybody. He calls people names.

So, when he can't come up with anything more substantive, he will just call somebody a name. And he's called me names. So, that's the president.

And then -- and there's a clear choice, by the way, in this election. Are we going to vote for this unhinged person of -- who is running around in super-spreader events, by the way?

The irony of a president who's going to spread the virus, and Republicans who want to put on the court a person who is going to knock out the Affordable Care Act in the middle of a pandemic, and Joe Biden, who actually wants to get control over the virus and move us forward, the -- people are already voting. I hope they made the right choice, based on the fact that this nominee is a threat to their health care, which is, by the way, the number one concern of Americans right now.

TAPPER: All right, Senator Mazie Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii, thank you so much for your time today.

HIRONO: Sure.

TAPPER: Good luck at the hearing. Stay safe.

HIRONO: You too.

TAPPER: As coronavirus cases rise across the U.S., Dr. Fauci says he's skipping Thanksgiving with his family. What does that say about how he thinks the next few months are going to be?

We will talk to a Republican governor about his state next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:44:16]

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

Dr. Anthony Fauci is warning Americans we could be in for a tough winter, unless we all commit to following strict guidelines on mask- wearing and social distancing, which it appears may not be happening, if you look at rising infection rates in places such as Arkansas, which recorded a jump in cases this week.

Joining us now, the Republican governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson.

Governor Hutchinson, good to see you, as always.

You said new cases in Arkansas -- quote -- "continue to be too high." Hospitalizations are at record levels. Health experts say things are only going to get worse as people spend more indoors' time during the fall and winter.

Why do you think the numbers in Arkansas are going in the wrong direction, and how worried are you about what's coming?

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): Well, a large part of it is simply the nature the virus and that, if you don't take the right protections, it's going to spread.

[09:45:05]

Secondly, we are doing a record amount of testing, which is the good part of the story. But what you have to watch is the hospitalizations. It concerns me that you see those rise. We still have capacity.

But with the onset of flu season, you not only have to follow the guidelines in reference to COVID. Everybody needs to get their flu shot. So, we're continuing to do everything that we can. The main thing is, you take it seriously. And, right now, we do have capacity. But we're watching it very carefully and taking it seriously every, every day.

TAPPER: When you see your citizens participating in day-to-day life, are they -- are enough of them following the guidelines? Are enough of them distancing, wearing masks, abiding by the protocols that you have been pushing?

HUTCHINSON: Well, what you said is very important, and that they are going about their life activities, whether it is school, whether it is work, or whether it is some other activity.

We want that to continue. And one thing that we see, not just the United States, but across the globe, is that people cannot be shut up for seven months. They have got to live life.

But we have to do that with the social distancing, sure, absolutely. We have a football game, but we have a 70,000-capacity stadium with 14,000 people because we can do the social distancing.

TAPPER: OK.

HUTCHINSON: Are they doing it enough?

I will say that, after the White House challenge that we saw, and the cases that arose from that event with the president, people are taking it very seriously, even more so than ever, wearing the masks. It is getting better. And we want it to continue to.

TAPPER: So, Dr. Anthony Fauci called the Rose Garden event you just referred to two weeks ago which infected more than two dozen people, he called it a super-spreader.

Minnesota health officials say that at least nine people were infected at a Trump rally in September. The president, however, is hitting the campaign trail tomorrow, Florida, Pennsylvania, Iowa, holding rallies.

If he wanted to hold a rally in Arkansas the way that he has been doing them, no social distancing, no masks required, would you want your family members to go?

HUTCHINSON: Well, they offer masks. They do screening whenever they come to the rallies.

Certainly, we want to have an engagement in the presidential campaign this year. It is the topic, as it should be. But, yes, there should not be any mass gathering without social distancing.

The social distancing is so important, or wear a mask. If you're going to sit next to somebody, wear a mask. And it's important that we have seen, by illustration, the challenge of the virus in a spreader event when you don't socially distance.

We also can utilize this as an example, in other words, a teaching moment. And that's what I hope that we see in the next few weeks from both campaigns, an example that we can set for the winter, because that is the one tool that we have to keep the virus down.

TAPPER: Yes, the thing is, they offer masks at those rallies, but they don't require them. And most people don't wear them. And the president has obviously been setting an example of not wearing one.

But let's move on to a different topic, because 13 people have been charged in connection with a plot to kidnap one of your gubernatorial colleagues, Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan.

This comes after President Trump repeatedly targeted Governor Whitmer, called on people to liberate Michigan. Governor Whitmer says she considers the president -- quote -- "complicit" in the plot.

You're the vice chair of the bipartisan -- or nonpartisan National Governors Association. Has the president's rhetoric against one of your fellow governors, has it gone too far?

HUTCHINSON: Well, first, Governor Cuomo and myself issued a statement just supporting Governor Whitmer, that, in terms of this attack, this plan, has no place in civilized society. And we, in the strongest terms, condemn that.

There should not be any connection with the president. Governor Whitmer should not be making politics out of this. It is a law enforcement issue. It -- in the '80s, I prosecuted, as a U.S. attorney, a white supremacist group, the radical right.

Whether it's anarchists or whether it's the radical right, you stand against it. You enforce the law. You don't make politics out of it.

TAPPER: All right, Governor Asa Hutchinson of the great state of Arkansas, thank you so much.

Sorry about the game yesterday. Hope to see you soon.

HUTCHINSON: All right, thanks, Jake.

[09:50:00]

TAPPER: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox on Friday that, believe it or not, he is going to follow the president's order and release some of Hillary Clinton's e-mails. That's right. Hillary Clinton e-mails before the election.

It's just the latest example of Trump cabinet secretaries bending to the president's will to take nakedly political steps to appease him and apparently to try to aid his re-election.

Attorney General Bill Barr is deviating from a 40-year policy that had previously deterred federal prosecutors from, as we approach Election Day, announcing the launch of investigations after allegations of voter fraud are made.

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe has been releasing information sporadically about the Obama administration, about the Clinton campaign, lacking context, seemingly to try to influence voters.

Way behind in the polls, President Trump and his team are using all of the tools of government to try to win over voters in these last few days using your tax dollars to do so.

Politico reports that the White House is pushing health officials to send out a letter to 39 million Medicare recipients to let them know that Trump is working to get them drug discount cards. The Agriculture Department is shipping surplus food packages along with mandated self- promoting letters from President Trump expressing his concern for the recipients.

The letters also push voters to wear masks and practice social distancing, which is another clue as to its nakedly political nature because President Trump, who tested positive for the coronavirus recently, has been out there since June holding rallies with no masks or distancing requirements. None. His need to hold these rallies apparently exceeding his concern for those attending them.

He is going back on the campaign trail again tomorrow. He originally returned to the campaign trail on June 20th in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Here in the audience is 2012 Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain at that very rally. You see there is no masks, no distancing. Eleven days later Herman Cain checked into the hospital with coronavirus.

The Tulsa Health Authority says the rally, quote, "likely contributed" to a dramatic surge in new cases in that county.

On July 30th Herman Cain died of coronavirus. It's a timeline that health officials tell me is completely consistent with Herman Cain contracting the virus at the Tulsa Trump rally, though of course there is no definitive link.

Tulsa was hardly the only possible super-spreader event that President Trump has hosted.

On September 18th, recently, Trump held a rally in Bemidji, Minnesota. Nine folks in attendance have tested positive, two hospitalized, one in the Intensive Care Unit according to health authorities in Minnesota.

And this was before Trump himself contracted the virus, we believe. Theoretically he got it at the September 26th Supreme Court event at the White House that Dr. Fauci now calls a super-spreader event.

Though we do not know for sure that's where Trump got the disease because the White House continues to deny the public basic information about when he last tested negative.

One of President Trump's skills during this era has been to behave with so little regard to basic decency, those who try to uphold these standards get accused of being partisan, as if don't behave in a way that's reckless and displays a wanton disregard for human life is somehow now a partisan issue. It isn't.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell just admitted this week he hasn't gone to the White House in months because of how the president and his team there behave with so little regard for basic safety and health guidelines.

President Trump has been a spreader of misinformation about the virus. He has been a leader when it comes to recklessness and reckless behavior about the virus. And now he is determined, apparently, to risk spreading the virus literally.

It's no longer just his failure to do everything he can to respect health standards. It's no longer that that has caused the loss of life in a tacit way through failure to act. Trump has likely become personally a vector of the disease.

We do not know if after he theoretically contracted the virus on September 26 if he spread it to Ohio September 29, Minnesota September 30, New Jersey October 1.

The president's doctor, who has been evasive and has admitted to having previously put a positive spin on the president's condition, released a letter about his health last night that, frankly, raised more questions than it answered. It neglected to say what symptoms the president may still have, whether he is still on medication.

Even if President Trump is not spreading the virus anymore, as the doctor says, he is increasing the likelihood that other Americans will contract it through holding these reckless rallies as a matter of public health.

The president is taking actions that could result in loss of life. And for what? To hear the crowd cheering him on? The president is seemingly indulging ego at the risk of prolonging the pandemic and at the expense of human lives, American lives. The citizens he swore an oath to protect.

It needs to stop. History is not going to be kind to the people around the president who are enabling any of this. It is, frankly, immoral.

Thank you for spending your Sunday morning with us. The news is next.