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State of the Union
Interview with Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Trump's Supreme Court Nominee; Joe Biden Responds to Trump's Supreme Court Pick; Interview with Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) about Trump's Supreme Court Nominee; One-on-One with Former Second Lady Jill Biden. Aired 12-1p ET
Aired September 27, 2020 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
STELTER: You can a copy at BuyHoax.com, you know, in the book we mentioned Tucker Carlson possibly a 2024 candidate. So check it out, BuyHoax.com.
Well, we thank you so much. We will see you all this time next week for more of RELIABLE SOURCES.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: 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 Supreme Court. Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a respective legal scholar, favorite of conservatives, and a former law clerk for the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials, and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: The nomination, which could ensure the most conservative Supreme 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 October 12th and a full Senate vote on the nomination just days before the presidential election on November 3rd.
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 Democrat say could help overturn the Affordable Care Act and "Roe v. Wade."
Just this minute -- just this morning the president said Judge Barrett's past actions and ruling suggest she may be in the category from his previous pledge to put justices on the court who will automatically overturn "Roe v. Wade." But it is unclear how Democrats could prevent a Republican Senate majority from confirming Judge Barrett to the court.
Now Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will respond this hour to the president's court nomination and we will bring that to you live. But let's begin with the response from Congress.
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)
JUDGE AMY CONEY BARRETT, SUPREME COURT 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 someone in place for the oral arguments which begin November 10th.
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'll be back to a time where being a woman is a preexisting medical condition. If your children are on your policy, say, your adult children 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 think it's -- I don't know -- whoever he appointed was going to be there to overturn the affordable care.
But be hopeful. People have to be hopeful. This is unfortunate that the president would be so disrespectful and rush into this, but nonetheless, it's what it is. 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 the 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?
PELOSI: Yes. February. This is now September. So the timeframe is quite different that this court would go that long a time without a justice. So I don't see any equivalence in what you're presenting.
But let me just say about Justice Ginsburg because she said something that it's important for people to know. We honored her, and when we honored the women members of the court for history month a few years ago, we honored all of them, she spoke to women, met women members, and she talked about someone called Beverly Lockwood who tried to -- in 1876 who tried to 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 the bar of 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 --
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.
PELOSI: And we have to win the White House.
TAPPER: So you've 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: Right now what is on the table is a court case that Republicans have -- they advocate for overturn of the Affordable Care Act. That is the case that is on the table in the Supreme Court, so that is where our concern is.
PELOSI: But let me also say the election is, what, 37 days from now?
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 the 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 --
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.
TAPPER: Here's Joe Biden speaking live in Wilmington, Delaware, reacting to the president's pick of Amy Coney Barrett to be on the Supreme Court. Let's listen in.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: -- to Justice Ginsburg and her family. The first woman, first woman in history of our nation to lie in state in the U.S. capitol. And though it should not have taken nearly this long to bestow that honor on a woman, it nevertheless speaks to the unique and powerful impact Justice Ginsburg has made on our society and her enduring legacy of equal rights and equal justice under the law.
Sure before Justice Ginsburg passed, she told her granddaughter, and I quote, "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed," end of quote. It wasn't a personal request. It wasn't a favor being asked for. It was the last act of a long, unflinching career of standing up for American democracy.
Never before in our nation's history has a Supreme Court justice been nominated and installed while a presidential election is already underway. It defies every precedent, every expectation of a nation where the people, the people are sovereign, and the rule of law reins.
But yesterday, before Justice Ginsburg could be laid to rest and after a hundred thousands of Americans had already cast their ballots, the president nominated a successor to her seat. There's no mystery about what's happening here. President Trump who's trying to throw out the Affordable Care Act. He's been trying to do it for the last four years. The Republican Party has been trying to eliminate it for a decade.
Twice already the Supreme Court has upheld that law, the Affordable Care Act. And the Congress, expressing the popular will of the American people, has rejected President Trump's efforts as well. Now, all of a sudden, this administration believes they found a loophole in the tragedy of Justice Ginsburg's death. It doesn't matter to them Republicans set the precedent just four years ago when they denied even the courtesy of a hearing for President Obama's nominee after Justice Scalia passed, after he had only passed away nine months prior to election day.
It didn't matter to them. But millions of Americans already voting on a new president and a new Congress had begun. All that does matter is that they see an opportunity to overturn the Affordable Care Act on their way out the door. And as I speak, we are still in the midst of the worst global health crisis in the century, a crisis that's already taken over 200,000 lives, between 750 and a thousand lives a day and counting.
And yet the Trump administration is asking the Supreme Court right now, as I speak, to eliminate the entire Affordable Care Act. The administration filed a brief in the Supreme Court that concludes, and I quote, "The entire ACA thus must fall. The entire ACA thus must fall."
President Trump can claim all he wants. He's going to protect people with preexisting conditions. But the fact is he's already fighting to take those protections away as we speak. If he has his way, more than 100 million with preexisting conditions like asthma, diabetes and cancer could once again be denied coverage. Complications from COVID- 19 like lung scarring and heart damage could become the next flood of preexisting conditions used as an excuse to deny coverage to millions of people.
Women could once again be charged higher premiums just because they are women. Pregnancy becoming a preexisting condition again. Seniors would see their prescription drug prices go up. And the funding for Medicare go down. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what the American people want. If President Trump sees a chance to fulfill his explicit mission, steal away the vital protections of the ACA for countless families who have come to rely on them for their health, their financial security, the lives of those they love.
President Trump just tweeted an hour ago on my way here, and I quote, "Obamacare will be replaced with a much better and far cheaper alternative. If it is terminated in the Supreme Court, it would be a big win for the USA."
It would come as no surprise that on Saturday, President Trump would nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett, and on Sunday lay out clearly what his objective is, to terminate Obamacare. The judge has a written track record, written track record of disagreeing adamantly with the Supreme Court's decisions on two occasions upholding the ACA. In fact not as a judge, but prior to going on the bench, she publicly criticized Chief Justice Roberts' opinion upholding the law eight years ago.
The American people understand the urgency of this moment. They're already voting in droves because they know their health care hangs in the balance.
They understand that if Donald Trump gets his way, they could lose their right to vote, their right to clean air and water, their right to equal pay for equal work. Workers could lose their collective bargaining rights. Dreamers could be thrown out of the only country they've ever known. And women could lose the bedrock rights enshrined in "Roe v. Wade" for 50 years.
People are voting right now because they know the very soul of this country is at stake. Because they know that the decisions of the Supreme Court affect their everyday lives. Their voices may not matter to Donald Trump. They may not matter to Mitch McConnell. But there are Senate Republicans out there who know in their hearts that if they shut out the voices of those during a voting period, during an election, they're closing the door on American democracy thereafter.
This is where the power of the nation resides, in the people, in the rule of law, in precedence we abide by. So subvert both openly and needlessly, even as Americans cast their vote, would be an irreversible step toward the brink. And a betrayal of the single quality that America is born and built on the people to decide.
The Senate has to stand strong for our democracy. They must not act on this nomination until the American people finish the process they've already begun, of selecting their president and their Congress. As I said before, if the people choose Donald Trump, then the Senate should give his nominee a hearing and a vote.
If people do not choose Trump and choose me, President Trump's nomination should be withdrawn, I should nominate, chosen by a president who has just been elected by the people to get a fair hearing, which would not even occur until early February. A confirmation vote. The U.S. Constitution provides one chance, one, for Americans to have their voices heard on who serves a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court, who makes those big decisions about their health care, their civil rights and health.
That chance is now. That moment is now. And the voters, in my view, are not going to stand for this abuse of power, and if we're to call ourselves a democracy, their voices must be heard.
I urge the American people to keep voting, to let your current senators know that you want to be heard before a vote on confirmation of a new justice. And I urge every senator to take a step back from the brink, take off the blinders to politics for just one critical moment, and stand up for the Constitution you swore to uphold. This is a time to de-escalate, to put an end to the shattering of precedents that's thrown our nation into chaos under this president.
Just because you have the power to do something doesn't absolve you of your responsibility to do right by the American people. Uphold your constitutional duty. Summon your conscience. Stand up for the people, stand up for our cherry system of checks and balances. Americans are watching, Americans are voting. We must listen to them now. We must allow them to exercise this sacred power. So, please, listen.
Thank you and God bless America. And may God protect our troops. And I'll take a few questions. Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) adding seats to the U.S. Supreme Court. But what could be the consequences for the Republicans if they force Judge Barrett's nomination through and confirm her?
JOE BIDEN: They should see to it that the American public will vote on the Senate races in this election and they'll vote Republicans out of office. That's the consequence. That's the focus. That's why I want to make it clear and stay on message here. The clear focus is, this is about your health care. This is about whether or not the ACA will exist. This is about whether or not preexisting conditions will be continued to be covered.
This is about whether or not a woman could be charged more for the same procedure as a man. This is about people's health care in the middle of a pandemic. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE).
JOE BIDEN: You ask me one question. Fire away.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Have you talked with Senate Republican that you've worked with to urge them not to vote? (INAUDIBLE).
JOE BIDEN: No, I have not. I concluded that that would put them in a position if they were to vote the right way or they'd be compromised because I called them. And so -- but I know and I have great respect for a number of my Republican colleagues, my former Republican colleagues, and I'm hoping that they will do the right thing.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)
BIDEN: He's almost -- no, I have no comment. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) Have you ruled out extending the court as president under any circumstances whatsoever?
JOE BIDEN: I am not -- and I know you're going to be upset with my answer, but what I'm not going to do is play the Trump game, which is a good game he plays. Take your eye off the issue before us. If I were to say yes or no to that, that becomes a big issue. That's the headline here. I am focused on one thing right now, and I really mean it. I'm focused on making sure the American people understand that they're being cut out of this process they're entitled to be a part of, and they're cut out of a design in order to take away the ACA and your health care in the midst of a pandemic. That's the focus, that's what it's on and that's the deal.
Thank you all so very, very much. Thank you.
TAPPER: That was Democratic nominee and former vice president Joe Biden in Wilmington, Delaware, talking about the new Supreme Court pick and why he thinks Republicans in the Senate should hold off before a confirmation hearing.
Joining us now to discuss, CNN's Joan Biskupic and Jeff Zeleny in Washington. We also have MJ Lee in Wilmington, Delaware.
And Jeff, let's start with you. The former vice president there making the fate of Obamacare the focus. It really wasn't about Judge Amy Coney Barrett other than the fact that it is anticipated she would not vote to support or uphold Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act. This is a clear strategy of not just Vice President Biden but Democratic leaders in Washington.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jake, it absolutely is, and these were the strongest remarks we have heard from the former vice president about the Supreme Court fight. And you're right, he is making it about the future of the Affordable Care Act, making it about the future of Obamacare. He believes that that is an issue that voters can actually care about, can actually rally behind much more so than the process of filling a Supreme Court vacancy.
The Biden campaign and the former vice president himself has been certainly opposed to this process. He called it here an abuse of power, but focusing almost entirely, the weight of his argument, behind what it would mean to have Judge Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court, but talking about Obamacare. He believes that that is something in the middle of coronavirus pandemic that can do both arguments, if you will.
He's been criticized by some on the left for not speaking more forcefully about this rushed process. I mean, they're view. But again you heard him begin to frame that argument. It's certainly something we are going to hear at the debate this week in Cleveland and certainly something we're going to hear for the next 37 days of this election season. But the former vice president also saying that voting already underway here.
So he's urging people to consider this as one way to save Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. But, Jake, it's an open question if their votes indeed would do anything of the kind because as we do know that Republicans here on Capitol Hill and the Supreme Court do have the upper hand here in terms of numbers on confirming Justice Amy Coney Barrett should that process go forward here. So this is about Obamacare but we should certainly point out that even this argument, even the election of Joe Biden may not be able to stop that fight, Jake.
TAPPER: Yes. And that's right, and the former vice president said something along the lines of just because you have the power to do something doesn't mean you don't also have the responsibility to do right by the American people. I'm paraphrasing, but something along those lines.
And Joan, his argument there is that it's never happened. We've talked a lot about precedent in the last few weeks -- or in the last week, I guess, since Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. Has there ever been a time that there has been a Supreme Court confirmation battle while absentee ballots are coming in, while people are voting? Because that is truly the situation we're in. You can talk all you want about election years and this and that, but people are voting right now.
And the only open -- the only vacancy in the court that I know of that occurred so close to a presidential election, if I have my history right here, and you'll tell me if I'm wrong, Joan, was Abraham Lincoln, when Chief Justice Taney died and he ultimately just delayed the process until after he was reelected.
JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Yes, Jake. You have to go back really far for anything that's even close. But it's still not equal because we're essentially in an election right now, and I thought that that was a very powerful point of the vice president to say, you know, you're already casting ballots. This is -- the election is underway. And I thought the other very powerful line that he had was just because you can do it, just because you have the power, think of the Constitution.
Former Vice President Biden really does not have a lot of leverage here. He's got to sort of take the moral argument to the senators and to the public, point up the very real possibility that a week after the election, when a new Supreme Court considers whether the Affordable Care Act is constitutional, that this new Supreme Court with a Justice Amy Coney Barrett would strike down a key portion of it that would include preexisting conditions coverage for people with diabetes, cancer, because the administration is saying that's exactly what it wants.
The administration wants to whole thing down but a key portion that lower courts have already struck down beyond what the administration wants would, in fact, jeopardize the preexisting conditions element of the Affordable Care Act. So on one hand making a very practical argument to the public. It's like the only thing he can do at this point, Jake, but to his fellow senators saying try, in this very polarized time, to think about the Constitution and taking the high ground.
TAPPER: Yes, I mean, the facts are on his side. The Trump administration has been trying to get rid of Obamacare, and they have for years. They do not have a replacement that they have presented to the public at all, ever, even though the president has been promising one in two weeks since last summer.
MJ, what was your response to the former vice president's address? And just comment if you would a little bit, MJ, on the fact that their argument here is so discreet. It's so focused on this Judge Barrett will vote to overturn Obamacare and the votes that are already started. It's not about her judicial record, it's not about anything from her past or her qualifications, it's about she will do this and people are voting so we need to delay it.
MJ LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, and correct me if I'm wrong, but by my count, listening to that speech, I believe Joe Biden only said the words Amy Coney Barrett one time. He mostly stayed away from her particular record as a legal scholar and with her long legal background and almost immediately sort of pivoted to the issue of the ACA as you've been talking about.
I also just found the way that he talked about the process and the timing in all of this really striking. First off, he said it was Ruth Bader Ginsburg's wish that her wish, as she was sick and as she was dying that her vacancy not be put in place before the next president was put in place. So making -- you know, drawing attention to sort of that personal wish that the late justice herself had, and then pointing back, of course, to 2016 when former President Obama, and of course Joe Biden was vice president at the time, when he nominated Merrick Garland.
And this was, you know, many more months before the election compared to what we're facing right now, and that was at a moment when Senate Republicans said, look, we're in an election year, we don't want politics to be involved. We are not even going to consider this nomination. And what was so fascinating was that at one point Joe Biden said, I really hope that my Senate Republican colleagues will do the right thing.
You know, a lot of these people, as you know, Jake, are folks that Joe Biden has worked with in the past. They are people that he knows very well from Washington, people he considers his friends, and just keep in mind, Biden is very much an institutionalist, right? He is not somebody who likes to see norms changing in Washington quickly, and I think that's why, when he got asked the question at the end by a reporter on the issue of court packing, he again demurred and said, this is not something that I'm going to address right now because I know very well if I say yes or if I say no, that is going to become the news, so I'm going to stay clear of that topic for right now. But we know very well that if Joe Biden is elected in November, and he
ends up becoming the next president, and Donald Trump is successful in filling this vacancy, the issue of court packing is going to be a huge one.
He is already facing a lot of pressure from folks who say, you know what? If Donald Trump is going to go down this route, then a future President Biden better pack the courts and better put some liberal justices on the Supreme Court. And he knows very well how hugely consequential that potentially would be.
TAPPER: All right, MJ, Joan, and Jeff, thank you so much.
Democrats are hoping to convince Senate Republicans not to move forward on the president's Supreme Court nomination. Is there any chance of that? Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
I'm Jake Tapper live in Washington. Senate Republicans are wanting to act quickly on Judge Barrett's nomination. It is not yet clear whether Senate Democrats can do anything to try to slow down the process, much less stop it.
Well, our next guest believes Judge Barrett will be confirmed before election day.
TAPPER: And 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?
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 month. 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, no 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 have 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 other Republicans 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 the Democrats threw everything but the kitchen sink at him. They didn't just reelect a Republican majority, they expanded the Republican majority. That includes defeating four Democratic senators who voted against Justice Kavanaugh and 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: It 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 a philosophically liberal justice? The implications for the rights of Americans and the direction of our nation would be profound because the law of the land may take such a dramatic turn. The members of this chamber must first give 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 Judge 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 is elected November 3rd 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 judicial 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 re-elect a Republican majority, they expanded the Republican majority, and they defeated those Democratic senators who had 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've long believed that "Roe v. Wade" was wrongly decided, in part because it took away a vital question from the American people to decide on their own through their elected representatives, be they in 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 involved 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. 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've 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 the candid 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 for the Supreme Court, did not either.
Now one way we could have as conservation 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 would reveal just how radical the Democrats have become on this question.
TAPPER: As I've 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)
BRIAN KAREM, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PLAYBOY: Will you commit to making sure that there is a peaceful transferal of power after the election?
TRUMP: We're going to have to see what happens. You know that.
KAREM: Do you commit to making sure that there is a peaceful transferal of power --
TRUMP: We'll want to have -- get rid of the ballots and you'll 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 swore an oath to the Constitution, we will uphold that oath."
Do you agree with Congresswoman Cheney?
COTTON: Yes, Jake. We've been transferring the office of the presidency from one person to the next since 1976. 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 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's 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 said that if there is a clear winner, if this court settled contested election, that of course he will, but the premise of the question that you just played me, Jake, is the president is 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 on the Donald Trump. It wasn't Donald Trump who seek the FBI on his opponent, that was President 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 succeed from the union to change the result.
TAPPER: All right.
COTTON: The Democrats are the ones 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'll 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.
Democrats are expecting President Trump to bring lies and personal attacks to this week's debate. How will Democratic nominee Joe Biden react? My exclusive interview with Jill Biden is next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
We're just two days away from the very first presidential debate of 2020. Democratic nominee Joe Biden is taking a break from campaigning to prepare to take on a famously unpredictable president who cannot be counted on to adhere to facts or even basic decency in a 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 from that first debate and how supporting military families will continue to be her issue if she moves into the White House.
TAPPER: So you just met with a bunch of military families here in Norfolk.
JILL BIDEN, JOE BIDEN'S WIFE: Yes.
TAPPER: And more than 43,000 servicemembers have contracted the coronavirus. At least 3300 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?
JILL BIDEN: Well, I can tell you this. When Joe is elected on November 3rd, 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, you know, doing more for veterans' hospitals. I mean, there is so much more we need to do to help our military, and like you said, it's affecting our military because they're, you know, on bases and on ships, and -- so there's 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?
JILL BIDEN: Well, we would continue -- you know, 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 servicemembers. And, I mean, across the board. I mean, with ACA, the Affordable Care Act.
I mean, we need to increase mental health support. And this is -- I see it 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, you know, 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, Republican, endorsed your husband this week.
JILL BIDEN: Yes.
TAPPER: Even though she was running at one point to be first lady, Republican first lady.
JILL 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, you know, that's the way, Jake, things used to be. I mean, Joe and John would argue about the 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 servicemembers, American servicemembers 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?
JILL BIDEN: Well, if it is true, I mean, it's pretty heartbreaking. You know, this should not be made into, you know, 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.
JILL BIDEN: I am.
TAPPER: And you want to continue teaching.
JILL BIDEN: Yes.
TAPPER: Even as first lady, theoretically. 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, do we need to rethink how education is done? 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?
JILL BIDEN: Well, you know, Jake, as an educator, the way I look at it 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've seen all the inequities that are in the system, you know, 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, you know, 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 allies 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 the neighborhood bully in the face. 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. JILL BIDEN: OK.
TAPPER: That's how you describe yourself. I have it on paper. 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?
JILL 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?
JILL BIDEN: Well, you know, what you said is, you know, these false accusations. And --
TAPPER: Well, they're smears. They're disgusting smears.
JILL BIDEN: And so, you know, this is a distraction -- I mean, what else does Trump have? I mean, he's trying to get everybody off of Joe because I think Joe is just -- you know, 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, you know, like there's my competition, what can I think of to distract people? That's all he's trying to do. But Joe's tough.
TAPPER: I'm not asking about Joe.
JILL BIDEN: Joe's stuff.
TAPPER: I'm asking about Jill. How do you deal with it? Because it must be very, very difficult.
JILL BIDEN: I expected it -- you know, we know who Donald Trump is. We've 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.
JILL BIDEN: Yes.
TAPPER: I've seen him lose his cool, especially when his family is invoked. I mean, I've covered him since the late '90s. So he's lost his cool a couple times in there. I think you would --
JILL BIDEN: I don't recall that, Jake.
(LAUGHTER) TAPPER: He protects his family very passionately, yes?
JILL BIDEN: As he should.
TAPPER: Is he ready?
JILL BIDEN: Oh, my gosh, yes, he's ready. You know, one of the things I'm 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. You know, 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.
JILL BIDEN: Oh, you can't even go there. You can't -- 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?
JILL BIDEN: No. No.
TAPPER: But you --
JILL BIDEN: No. Done. It's gone.
TAPPER: The gaffe issue is over because --
JILL 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 3rd?
JILL BIDEN: Well, we'll have to -- you know, I mean, I hope it is, and Joe intends on an orderly transition of power. Right now Donald Trump is, you know, trying to -- this is Donald Trump's America. This is the chaos and, you know, 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.
JILL BIDEN: But do you see how it matters? Look at all the Republicans that came out for Joe.
JILL BIDEN: You know, and are supporting him. 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?
JILL BIDEN: I don't know. I have to have faith in, you know, the American people.
TAPPER: Tune in Tuesday evening to CNN's coverage of the first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Thank you for spending your Sunday morning and afternoon with us.