Full transcript of “Face the Nation” on September 27, 2020

On this “Face the Nation” broadcast moderated by Margaret Brennan:

  • Mark Meadows, White House Chief of Staff
  • Don McGahn, Former White House Counsel  
  • Jeh Johnson, Former Homeland Security Secretary
  • Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware
  • Doug Parker, American Airlines CEO
  • Scott Gottlieb, Former FDA Commissioner 

Click here to browse full transcripts of “Face the Nation.”

MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m Margaret Brennan in Washington. And this week on FACE THE NATION, the countdown to Election Day continues and a political fight over President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee begins.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials, and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution, Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Late Saturday, President Trump introduced his pick to succeed RBG. Meet ACB, a conservative federal appeals court judge, who is also a working mother of seven.

AMY CONEY BARRETT: While I am a judge, I’m better known back home as a room parent, carpool driver and birthday party planner.

MARGARET BRENNAN: If confirmed, the Supreme Court would shift even further to the right, the prospect of which is making the final days of an already bitter and brutal presidential campaign even more divisive.

AMY CONEY BARRETT: I have no illusions that the road ahead of me will be easy. I assure you that I will meet the challenge with both humility and courage.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll talk with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former White House counsel Don McGahn about Judge Barrett’s confirmation, as well as the President’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses in November.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: That’s the only way we’re going to lose is if there’s mischief, mischief. And it will have to be on a big scale. So be careful.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Delaware Democrat Chris Coons sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, he’ll weigh in, as will former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Plus, we’ll check in with former FDA commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb and talk with Doug Parker, the CEO of American Airlines. Their voice to layoff nineteen thousand workers this week as a result of a COVID economy.

It’s all just ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning. And welcome to FACE THE NATION. With just over a month until Election Day, Capitol Hill has become the new battleground in a fierce dispute over the makeup of the Supreme Court. Last night, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham said he expected to start Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings in just two weeks. President Trump told Fox News that he thinks she’ll be confirmed before, and probably long before Election Day.

We begin this morning with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who joins us from Washington. Good morning to you.

MARK MEADOWS (White House Chief of Staff/@MarkMeadows): Good morning. Great to be with you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Have Republican leaders assured you they can deliver on that timeline?

MARK MEADOWS: Well, obviously, I’ve– we’ve been in conversations with Leader McConnell, with Chairman Graham, he is going to put forth a pretty aggressive schedule for hearings and markups that we believe will happen in the middle part of October. And if all goes well, then certainly a– a– a vote on the floor sometime before the election. But that’s going to be up to Leader McConnell and– and the team and making sure that all the senators are well informed of the judge’s credentials, which are impeccable. But we’re– we’re optimistic that we’ll be prepared. We’ll start delivering the information to the senators tomorrow and then we’ll be on Capitol Hill as early as Tuesday.

MARGARET BRENNAN: As early as Tuesday. Sir, when I look at some of the data right now in terms of where the country is with the coronavirus, there are four U.S. states, including Wisconsin, that have had record one-day increases. We’re going into cold weather. We’re headed towards Election Day. Where’s the infection rate going to be?

MARK MEADOWS: Well, it’s hard to tell where the infection rate is going to be. But what I can tell you is the progress with vaccines has just been remarkable. We’ve had a– a number of conversations with not only the FDA and those that are involved in making sure that any vaccine is– is fully vetted and safe. But additionally, some of the clinical trials are in the– the very late stages of development.


MARK MEADOWS: And so we’re optimistic that what we’ll be able to do is hopefully start taking sign up for those vaccines. And so even as we face this unknown virus that came to us from China, we’re trying to make sure that we’re prepared to do all we can to mitigate the– the difficult circumstances that a lot of Americans are facing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But the predictions are not that you could have a vaccine by Election Day, and it is relevant in terms of the infection rate because people have to have confidence to be able to go out and go to the polls. If you look at data from AEI, hospitalizations are no longer declining. In fact, they may be increasing. It doesn’t look like this is under control.

MARK MEADOWS: Well, the hospitalization rate is– if you’ll look at that data, whether it’s from AEI or anywhere else, the hospitalization rate actually has been a– a good news story over the last several months. To suggest that it is spiking up is– is not accurate.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I said increasing.

MARK MEADOWS: But I can– but– but– but I can tell you that, well, you know, one or two increases in certain states, certainly we’re going to continue to fight this as those embers pop up in– in areas. But we’re having ongoing discussions with our governors in mitigation risk. There will be an announcement on Monday as it looks at additional testing that the federal government will be providing to all the governors. And so, as the President makes that announcement, I think that will be an encouragement so that everybody can go back to school or back to work and feel like they can do that in a safe manner.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You talked about a vaccine. The FDA is supposed to be issuing these stricter guidelines. We’ve been told to expect that.




MARGARET BRENNAN: –reportedly called the FDA commissioner and really challenged him on trying to justify doing that.


MARGARET BRENNAN: You’re not a doctor. Why insert yourself politically into this which–


MARGARET BRENNAN: –which feeds these concerns–

MARK MEADOWS: So, Margaret–

MARGARET BRENNAN: –about interference?

MARK MEADOWS: So, Margaret, obviously your producer didn’t do a good job of informing you of exactly what I’ve done. What we actually have is new guidance that’s coming out. My question is, why would that new guidance come out after we’ve already spent thirty billion dollars in doing that? And my challenge to the FDA is just make sure it’s based on science– science and real numbers. And so as we look at that, we’re making very good progress–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why would the FDA not be basing it on science and real numbers? Why would you think that they’re doing that?

MARK MEADOWS: Well, why would you think that we would need new guidance after we’ve developed vaccines and drugs for– for decades and then all of a sudden we’re–

MARGARET BRENNAN: The FDA said they were going to.

MARK MEADOWS: –going to change something in the– in the last two weeks? The question is why, Margaret. I mean, why would we do that? I’d also look at this. And as we got into that discussion, here’s one of the great things that we’re looking at. If we’re looking at tens of thousands of people that are in these clinical trials, we want to make sure that it’s safe. The phase one, phase two indicated that– that these vaccines that are going through are safe. We’re trying to make sure that the guidance we give is not a– a– a inhibitor to getting things out fast–


MARK MEADOWS: –but it also doesn’t detract from it. So I’m optimistic that that guidance will come out based on good science– science and ultimately our FDA guidelines to make sure that all people who take a vaccine can do that with some kind of assurance that the process is meted out properly.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You were on another show on this network earlier this week, and– and you raised questions about the competence of the current FBI Director Chris Wray after he testified that there was no evidence of voter fraud in a major election by mail or otherwise. Is the President confident in Director Wray’s leadership?

MARK MEADOWS: Well, I think my– my reference to that particular point said that he couldn’t find e-mails at the FBI. And so to opine on whether we have wide scale fraud or not, is– is not him that’s with boots on the ground. You know and I know that there’s actually an investigation that the Department of Justice have– has initiated–


MARK MEADOWS: –with some ballots being thrown at a wastepaper basket. What we want to make sure of is that every vote counts.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Nine ballots in Pennsylvania.

MARK MEADOWS: But– but– nine ballots, but that’s what we found.


MARK MEADOWS: And so we need to make sure that we investigate it. But it’s not just the nine ballots in Pennsylvania. It’s duplicate ballots in other states.


MARK MEADOWS: And so to suggest that– that there is a process that is full of integrity is– is trying to make a verdict before you’ve actually heard the case. And that’s my– my problem with Director Wray. They need to investigate it and make sure that– that the voting populace makes sure that their–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you confident in him?

MARK MEADOWS: –vote counts and no one else’s does.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is the President confident in him?

MARK MEADOWS: I beg your pardon?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is the President confident in him?

MARK MEADOWS: Well, I mean, as we look at this, we want to make sure he’s doing his job. There are different degrees of confidence in different cabinet members. And certainly he’s still there. The– the minute that the President loses confidence in–


MARK MEADOWS: –any of his Cabinet members, he’ll– they serve at his pleasure, and he will certainly look at replacing them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: CBS estimates that at least eighty million Americans are going to vote by mail. That’s what they plan to do. But the President said last night the whole ballot scam is going to cause a lot of problems for this country.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Why is he publicly undermining confidence in that?

MARK MEADOWS: Well, I don’t know that he’s publicly undermining confidence as much as he’s stating the facts. We’ve got states that are–

MARGARET BRENNAN: He said it’s a scam.

MARK MEADOWS: Well– well, we’ve got states that actually are doing things that you would qualify as a scam when you start to look at allowing mail-in ballots to come in seven, nine days after November 3rd, changing the laws through judges that actually are not legislators. I– I think that that’s a real problem. And so you can call it what you will–


MARK MEADOWS: –but what you can call it is unusual and unique. And– and we need to make sure that what we do is– is protect the ballot process–


MARK MEADOWS: –to make sure that we’re not creating a situation that is ripe with fraud. And he’s right to– to highlight it. The very fact that we’re talking about it this morning–


MARK MEADOWS: –is a good thing that hopefully all states will look at making sure that they make sure that–


MARK MEADOWS: –that ballot is sacred.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes. And it is up to the states to determine those. We’ll talk about that ahead on the program. Thank you, Chief.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to go now to Delaware Democratic Senator Chris Coons. He’s in Wilmington. Good morning to you, Senator.

SENATOR CHRIS COONS (D-Delaware/@ChrisCoons): Good morning, Margaret, great to be on with you again.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You heard Mark Meadows’ confidence and the timeline in the confirmation of– of Judge Barrett. You’re laughing. It doesn’t seem, though, that the Democrats can do much to stop it. Will Democrats do anything to slow it down? Will they boycott hearings? How serious are you about trying to throw sand in the gears?

SENATOR CHRIS COONS: Margaret, what I was shaking my head about was having just heard Mark Meadows breathlessly trying to support President Trump’s desperate efforts to cast doubt on the legitimacy of this election. We should not be barreling forward with this partisan nomination. There’s only thirty-seven days until the election. There is no precedent in American history for a president filling a vacancy this close to an election, where I’ll remind you, more than half of the American states are already voting. We should be waiting until after the election. We should honor–


SENATOR CHRIS COONS: –Justice Ginsburg’s dying wish that the people should choose the next president, the next president choose her successor.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Eisenhower recess-appointed Brennan twenty-two days before the election, but I understand that was without Senate consent. So I hear your point. But the question was, are Democrats going to do anything to slow this down? Some of your colleagues are saying they won’t even meet with the nominee. What will you ask her when you meet with her?

SENATOR CHRIS COONS: Well, I’m either going to meet with her in person or by phone, just another way this pandemic has upended the lives of millions of Americans. I’ll press her on her previous statements about the Affordable Care Act. President Trump said he would only choose a nominee he was confident would overturn the Affordable Care Act. And as you know, Margaret, that’s on the Supreme Court’s docket just one week after the election. It defies comprehension why President Trump would continue in his efforts to strip away from the American people pre-existing discrimination protection. There’s more than a hundred million Americans who have a pre-existing condition–


SENATOR CHRIS COONS: –seven million more because they’ve been infected in this pandemic. And I’ll remind you, Margaret, Justice Ginsburg’s life’s work was protecting us against gender discrimination. And before the ACA, insurance companies could and did discriminate against women just for being women by treating pregnancy as a pre-existing condition, charging women more for access to health insurance. It’s amazing to me that Judge Barrett has publicly criticized the decision by Chief Justice Roberts–


SENATOR CHRIS COONS: –that upheld the constitutionality of the ACA and that President Trump is making it clear–


SENATOR CHRIS COONS: –a vote for Judge Barrett to be on the Supreme Court is a vote to repeal the ACA and take away health care protection from a majority of Americans during a pandemic.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I understand that. Judge Barrett introduced herself to the American public as a mother of seven, as sort of a class mom–


MARGARET BREANNAN: –a very warm presentation in– in the public space.


MARGARET BRENNAN: How do you fight that?

SENATOR CHRIS COONS: Well, we don’t need to fight that, I can respect the fact that she has a beautiful family, that her clerks and students say she’s a very talented professor and judge, that’s not what’s at issue here. What’s at issue is both this rushed and partisan confirmation in which President Trump has told us he’s choosing someone who will overturn Roe versus Wade, he’s choosing someone who will overturn the ACA, and he’s choosing someone who President Trump himself says–


SENATOR CHRIS COONS: –he will need to put their thumb on the scale so that he can win the next election. He’s not confident he’ll win it fair and square at the ballot box. He says we have to rush through this nominee so that there’s nine justices and one he handpicks to, according to President Trump, support him in his reelection effort.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, he said he want– he believes it’ll go to the court and be decided. I understand your points. As you know, with individual cases, judges sometimes are hard to predict, even though you can kind of guess where they stand ideologically. But on the question for her confirmation hearing, Judge Barrett has been before your committee before because she– she was confirmed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. And at the time, Senator Feinstein said to her, and, you know what I’m going to say to you, because it’s gone viral, “the dogma lives loudly within you, and that is of concern.” To many people that sounded like anti-Catholic bigotry. You are a man of faith. How did that comment land with you?

SENATOR CHRIS COONS: Well, Margaret, as you know, millions of Americans rely on our faith to guide us, to give us a framework in which we raise our children and live our lives, a community of meaning and of depth and religious faith should not be at issue here. There isn’t a religious test for service in the government, whether it’s in the Senate or on the Supreme Court. And if Judge Barrett is confirmed I know that justice–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Should it– is that a legitimate question? Should that be raised as a factor?

SENATOR CHRIS COONS: What should be raised is her opinions, her speeches, her public statements as a professor and a judge, and whether or not she will uphold precedent, as you well know Margaret, Roe versus Wade, Griswold versus Connecticut, these are settled cases that for decades have allowed Americans to have confidence about the role of the state in terms of their private decisions about health care. And the Affordable Care Act is settled law. The Supreme Court has upheld it as being constitutional. That’s on the docket a week after this election.


SENATOR CHRIS COONS: That’s on the ballot, and that’s something Judge Barrett has spoken directly about. It is appropriate for us to question her statements, her opinions, her actions as a professor and judge, but not to go into questions of doctrine or faith personally. That’s where I’ll be focusing my questions on the Affordable Care Act and on what she has said publicly about her views on its constitutionality.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Very quickly, first, presidential debate is this week. You support Joe Biden. What should we expect? Is this going to be the main argument?

SENATOR CHRIS COONS: You should expect that President Trump, who is a very successful reality TV star, is a master of spectacle. He will say whatever it takes in order to distract us from Joe Biden, who will again show us his heart, his compassion, his character. Joe Biden has laid out a clear and strong plan for how to get us out of this pandemic, for how to bring us back together, for how to revive our economy.


SENATOR CHRIS COONS: Joe’s going to focus on that, and Donald Trump’s going to try and distract us however he can.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Coons, thank you.

We’ll be back in a minute. Stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Part of his job in that role was combating election interference. He’s in Montclair, New Jersey. Good morning to you.

JEH JOHNSON (Former Homeland Security Secretary): Good morning, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It is ultimately up to the states to administer elections. What are your concerns about the integrity and the security of this race?

JEH JOHNSON: Well, first, Margaret, it’s– it’s disconcerting to see the president and his chief of staff cast doubt on the integrity of our– our democracy. In fact, mail-in voting is almost as old as– as the nation. There are states now where the predominant way to vote is by mail. And we– we managed to have a peaceful election in 1944 during World War II. We managed to have a relatively calm, peaceful election in 1864 when the nation was literally at war with it– with itself. And so my concern is that the President himself seems to be the one casting doubt on– on mail-in votes in particular. The documented cases of fraud around mail-in voting is a small fraction of something like one percent. Now, having said that, I think all Americans should plan how they are going to vote. What is unusual about this election is that we’re going to have to move something like one hundred million mail-in ballots. And so I would encourage Americans to plan their vote. Vote early, whether it’s in person or by mail. I got mine yesterday in the mail, and I plan to return it as soon as possible.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You are in New Jersey, which is allowing mail-in this year on a large scale. You know, the President said that he thinks this will end up in the Supreme Court. I understand what you’re saying about undermining the overall integrity, but many people would say we’ve never done this before. It is going to be messy. So is that not a fair question to ask is– is how can we actually do this?

JEH JOHNSON: Well, the reality is, Margaret, that our demo– one of the special things about our democracy is that whatever power President Trump has evaporates on January 20th at noon. And whoever has two hundred and seventy electoral votes at that moment, and we can talk about the wisdom of the Electoral College, becomes the president and at that moment becomes commander-in-chief, becomes the director of the executive branch, and the– the other candidate walks off as a private citizen. That’s how we’ve been doing things for almost two hundred and fifty years. And I’m confident that we will continue to do it in that way.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You’re saying at noon– 12:01, on January 20th, the Secret Service would escort out President Trump if he loses, that a peaceful transition of power you are confident will happen?

JEH JOHNSON: It’s the way our democracy works, Margaret. The President doesn’t get to stay in power simply by surrounding himself with the tools and the vestiges of power. Whatever power this President has evaporates at noon on January 20, 2021. And whoever has the requisite number of Electoral–


JEH JOHNSON: –College votes is the next president.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, it may be messy getting to that point. The– the Senate was briefed on election security this week. Senator Mark Warner said, “…the period immediately before and after the election could be uniquely volatile.” What does that suggest to you?

JEH JOHNSON: Well, the– in terms of the– the external threat, the threat from the Russians and others, I– I agree with what the FBI director said this past week, that we have to be on guard, in particular for disinformation, pushing out extremist views, fake news, which is why I think all Americans should take the trouble to inform themselves about how they’re going to exercise their vote and– and look past the noise. Without a doubt, this election will be unusual because of the number of mail-in ballots, but we’ve done this before. We’ve done this since almost the beginning of our democracy. The other unusual thing about this is you have a President who, frankly, is trying to ratchet up the anxiety–


JEH JOHNSON: –and the concern about our democracy. I think all Americans have to have history in mind and know that we have a strong constitutional system.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But, as you know, conservatives have seized on a comment by former Secretary Hillary Clinton when she said, Joe Biden should not concede under any circumstances because I think this is going to drag out. Since that time, her aides have said that was just specific to election night. But other Democrats have said she shouldn’t have said that at all. You think that’s damaging?

JEH JOHNSON: The way I would put it is this, Margaret, whoever does not win the election should have more respect for the constitution and our democracy rather than his own political fortunes. And we’ve seen that time and again. For example, the very eloquent concession speech by John McCain–


JEH JOHNSON: –in 2008. The– the candidate has to care more about the democracy than whether or not he or she wins. That’s the way I’d put it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Very quickly, you’re a former prosecutor. The Breonna Taylor decision in Louisville is continuing to lead to protests. What do you make of that case?

JEH JOHNSON: Well, I hesitate to sit in judgment if I’m not privy to all the evidence. The charge that has been brought up against this particular officer, I think it’s wanton endangerment. It’s– it’s as if you’re acting in a mode of self-defense, but you’re firing into a crowded theater indiscriminately. It’s hard for me to distinguish that and that charge against that officer and those who fired directly at Breonna Taylor. But we’ll know more soon is my hope.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Secretary Johnson, thank you for your insight.

And we will be back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: CBS News estimates this year that at least eighty million people will vote early in person or by mail. That’s a big increase from 2016. Make sure you have a plan on how you will vote and where. Go to cbsnews.com/vote.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION. Up next is former White House counsel Don McGahn. Stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. I want to go now to former White House counsel Don McGahn. He joins us from Owings Mills, Maryland. Thank you for joining us.

DON MCGAHN (Former White House Counsel): Thanks for having me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sure. You know Amy Coney Barrett. You vetted her. You put her on the list of judges in the first place that was considered by President Trump, but he passed her over last time and went with Brett Kavanaugh. What gave you pause then? And are you certain she will be confirmed this time?

DON MCGAHN: I think– I think the President has made an outstanding choice in nominating her. He promised justices in the mold of Antonin Scalia, a great justice. She clerked for Scalia, became a protege of his and I think she’s a fantastic judge. There’s no reason why the Senate shouldn’t confirm her. And I think she’s already had a distinguished career on the bench and it will continue on in the Supreme Court.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But what gave pause last time? I mean, some– sometimes it’s hard to predict how judges will actually rule on individual cases. But is there something that we should be scrutinizing here in terms of her stance? I mean Democrats are assuming she’s against Affordable Care and against Roe versus Wade? Are those fair assumptions?

DON MCGAHN: I don’t think they’re fair assumptions one way or the other. We’ve heard this for decades in Washington, DC. I remember being a– a very young law student and hearing this about Robert Bork and hearing this about Clarence Thomas and hearing this about virtually every justice that’s been nominated by a Republican. You cannot guarantee results with judges. What you can guarantee is that they are going to approach the task of judging as a judge. They’re not going to substitute their own policy views for the will of the people. They’re going to try to play it straight and read the law as passed by Congress and as found in the Constitution, not based upon what they think it ought to be, but what it is. I disagree that there is any hesitancy or pause last time. She was a relatively new federal judge. She was placed on a short list. The public found out about the short list because it was publicly announced. So the process has really been transparent. Recall the President, even as a candidate, put out not one, but two lists of judges–


DON MCGAHN: –who could be on the Supreme Court; he’s updated it a few times since. So I think that at the time, Brett Kavanaugh was the right person at the right time. And I think Amy– Judge Amy Barrett is the right person at the right time now.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why is Senator McConnell rushing this through now? Some people are speculating it’s because he thinks Trump might lose or that Republicans want her vote there as the debate over Obamacare begins. Why rush it?

DON MCGAHN: I– I disagree that it’s being rushed. I think it actually– if you look at historical precedent is following regular order. One goes back into history, one goes close to–

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s a pretty short timeline.

DON MCGAHN: Most– well, Frankfurter went through twelve days start to finish. You can say, well, that’s ancient history. What about modern times? John Paul Stevens who has become a hero of the left, went through sixteen days, start to finish. Sandra Day O’Connor went through in thirty-three days, start to finish and Ruth Bader Ginsburg went from forty-two days, start to finish. So there is time to do it. It is not outside of the norm.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You don’t think it’s about the election?

DON MCGAHN: Well, I certainly think that there’s an imminent election and obviously everyone’s talking about the election, but I think when the President makes a nomination, he’s obligated to do so under the Constitution. This has happened twenty-nine times in our history where there’s been an election year–


DON MCGAHN: –nomination, and it’s happened before. It’ll probably happen again. And even Justice Kennedy, who many hold up as a– as a model justice was, was confirmed and appointed in an election year in 1988 when President Reagan wasn’t even on the ballot.


DON MCGAHN: So this idea that somehow this is out of the norm simply doesn’t ring true.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So when you were at the White House, this was your project. And looking at Pew Research–

DON MCGAHN: One of many, but yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: One of many. Fair. But President Trump– we’ll get to that, President Trump has appointed more federal appeals court judges to date than any recent President. He’s not sitting around reading legal briefs. As you talked about, there’s a list that was put in front of him of possible choices. You’ve been working with Mitch McConnell to really have this be a conveyor belt that has helped to confirm these in– in a high number. But, do you worry that that kind of churn in this process can– can undermine faith that– that the court is above the political fray?

DON MCGAHN: Well, the court ought to be above the political fray. That’s the point of the court. We have three coequal branches and the court is supposed to be removed from it. It’s done in a variety of ways. One is life tenure. Two is the confirmation process itself. And the President can’t simply pick. It has to do with the advice and consent of the Senate. But I think if you look at the judges President Trump’s put on the bench, it’s going to go down in history as a– as a monumental achievement of his presidency. He has put a number of– of judges on who are immediately qualified, went to top schools, did well in the schools. They went to the clerk at the Supreme Court themselves, they’re A list circuit judges, had a stellar careers–

MARGARET BRENNAN: It’s your list. I know you like it. But–


MARGARET BRENNAN: I said it’s your list. I know you like it. But– but–


MARGARET BRENNAN: –so– so bigger picture, though–

DON MCGAHN: Doesn’t change the credentials, though. I mean, just because I like–

MARGARET BRENNAN: I– I’m not saying that. No.

DON MCGAHN: Great. But if you look at the facts–


DON MCGAHN: –it’s fantastic judges. There’s really no arguing with the– with the merit of the– of these nominees.

MARGARET BRENNAN Your name appears in the Mueller report five hundred and twenty-nine times.

DON MCGAHN: And Amy Barrett’s name appears nowhere in the Mueller report.


DON MCGAHN: And she just got nominated for the Supreme Court.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I understand, but we’re talking about justice and judges. Given the President’s challenges with the law and his obligation under the Constitution to– to take care that the law be faithfully executed, do you think there’s a contradiction here? Do you think he deserves four more years in office?

DON MCGAHN: I think if you look at his record, he does. He had the economy going wonderfully, he made a number of promises on the campaign trail that he kept.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You will vote for him?

DON MCGAHN: One is his judicial selection, which he’s done. He’s set a record number of judges on there– on the circuit courts and this really matters. And look, there’s been– since the ’16 election, he has made this a– a– a critical issue.


DON MCGAHN: He was very transparent on it. It really helped in the 2016 election. And there’s been an intervening election and two Supreme Court nominees and confirmations and those who supported Trump’s judicial nominations did pretty well–


DON MCGAHN: –on re-election. Those who opposed did not.


DON MCGAHN: So the people have spoken not once but twice.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And I’m going to take that as a yes for you, from you that you’re voting for him again. All right. Don McGahn, thank you this morning for your insight.

We’ll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And we are back with former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb, who joins us from Westport, Connecticut. Good morning to you.

SCOTT GOTTLIEB, MD (Former FDA Commissioner/@ScottGottliebMD): Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Last Sunday, you said there are thirty states where there’s an expanding epidemic. We spoke to the White House chief of staff this morning and pointed out to him that– that hospitalizations are no longer declining. What do we need to be prepared for? What does this trend indicate?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, I think there’s still a question whether or not this is the beginning of an upsurge heading into the fall and the winter or we’re seeing sort of a post Labor Day bounce. Clearly, we’ve seen a rise in cases across the country right now, hospitalizations, as you said, they were declining, they’re no longer declining. There’s some indication it’s starting to rise again, which would be expected now that cases are going up. Whether this is the start of a persistent trend heading into the fall, in the winter, or it’s just a temporary upsurge and we level off again, is unclear. I think that there’s a lot of concern that we could start to see a real upsurge and this is a continuation of a broader trend underway as we head into the colder months. We were always facing heightened risk of increased spread of coronavirus as we headed into the fall and winter. Now we’re there. We’re starting to see that increase, and we’re taking a lot of infection into a very dangerous season for this virus.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The– the chief of staff talked about his conversation with the FDA and drawing into question their revision to guidance, but he said it will be forthcoming on the vaccine. What did you interpret his comments to mean?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, look, I– I don’t think that this guidance represented a revision in the agency standards or any– any kind of high– higher bar. What this was, was an articulation of the principles and standards that the FDA has been using for a long time and, frankly, been communicating to the companies that are developing vaccines. So a lot of these principles have already been communicated to the companies are– and are, in fact, being followed. And as you know, I’m on the board of Pfizer, but I also talked to a lot of the other clinical development leads and the other companies working on vaccines. And I think that there was widespread agreement that these principles, as they were discussed in the press, were mostly in line with everyone’s expectations. And so whether or not the agency issues the guidance, I think this is going to be the basis for which they make decisions. Now, I would prefer that they’re able to issue the guidance in its entirety in the way that they envision it because that would provide more transparency around the basis that they’re using to judge these vaccines. But whether they release it or they don’t, I think these are going to be the principles that govern that process.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And what should we expect from a vaccine? Doctor Fauci said this week that it won’t be one hundred percent effective. What can Americans expect?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, look, we don’t know yet. We don’t have the data. There’s major trials underway with more than thirty thousand patients in each trial. Pfizer enrolled forty-four thousand, Moderna thirty thousand, J&J just announced a trial with sixty thousand patients. These are major outcomes trials. So we should wait and see what the data ultimately shows. But the expectation is that this vaccine is going to be partially protective, a lot like the flu vaccine, where for certain people it will provide full immunity, but for other people it’s not going to provide as much protection. Maybe it will lessen the severity of COVID if they contract the infection. But it’s not going to provide what we call sterile immunity, which– which means you’re not going to be able to get infected with COVID. There will be some people who still get infected with COVID. That’s the expectation. Now, it could be that the vaccines prove to be much more effective than we expect.


SCOTT GOTTLIEB: It could be that the vaccines prove to be a lot less effective than we expect. But I think that should be the base case, the– the basic expectation of individuals.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you agree with the CDC director that ninety percent of Americans remain susceptible to this virus?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: That’s what the data shows, I mean, CDC has some data that they’ve developed looking at antibodies across the country, basically layering tests onto normal blood draws being done by LabCorp and Quest to look at how many Americans have antibodies to coronavirus. And so they’re deriving some of that information from that very large project that they’ve undertaken. But other studies seem to indicate about the same thing. About ten percent of Americans have been exposed to this virus. The best modeling that I’ve seen that suggests that there could be a higher–


SCOTT GOTTLIEB: –rate of exposure suggests that maybe it’s as high as fifteen percent. But most of the models project around ten percent. So it means a lot of the country is still very susceptible to this virus. There’s a lot of room for it to run.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. And– and, you know, I ask you that because one of the members of the task force, Doctor Scott Atlas, directly refuted the CDC director. So I just wanted to be on the record clarifying that. There have been a lot of reports out there that even if you get COVID and you survive, that you have related health problems afterwards. What do we know at this point, what the impact of the virus is?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: We don’t know the full impact on the virus. What we’re seeing in– in various studies is that there is some long-term sequelae related to the virus, so we don’t really understand what their relationship is to the virus itself. The virus does seem to trigger in– in certain people rarely, but in certain people some kind of autoimmune type of phenomena where you get some persistent symptoms from the virus. And when you’re infecting so many people with the virus, as we are–


SCOTT GOTTLIEB: –even a small percentage of patients having some persistent symptoms ends up being a lot of people. And so there’s more and more evidence of this. This syndrome hasn’t been fully characterized, but there is– I think there is enough evidence right now to suggest that there are people who are having long-term sequelae from the infection.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Doctor Gottlieb, thank you, as always, for your insight.

The airline industry is one of the hardest hit this year due to the coronavirus, and we want to go now to the CEO of American Airlines, Doug Parker, who joins us from Fort Worth, Texas. Good morning to you.

DOUG PARKER (American Airlines CEO): Good morning, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You announced Friday that you came to terms with the U.S. Treasury for a five and a half billion dollar loan. You could get another two billion if you need it. How long will this money last? And does it mean you won’t have to carry out the nineteen thousand furloughs and job cuts you predict will happen this week?

DOUG PARKER: Oh, yeah. Look, there’s– we have plenty of liquidity. This– this– that loan is part of the CARES Act from back in March. Some really important legislation, I think, for our country, certainly for our business, for the airline industry. It provided twenty-five billion dollars of loans to airlines. And that loan you’re talking about is just the closing of our prorated share of that loan. But it also provided twenty-five billion dollars of payroll support, essentially a pass through– a pass through to the airlines to pay our people, even though we didn’t have full work for them to keep airlines moving, to keep the country moving. That’s– both of those things are really important. The loan program is complete. The payroll support program, unfortunately, expires on October 1st. Back in March, we all thought demand would be back. We wouldn’t need support beyond this– beyond this time.


DOUG PARKER: Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. So on October 1st, that program, absent being extended, is going to expire. And indeed, they’re going to be hundred thousand aviation professionals who are out of work, who wouldn’t be otherwise. That is why we’re fighting so hard to get that payroll support extended.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So to be clear, your plan is still this week to lay off, or furlough, nineteen thousand people.

DOUG PARKER: Our plan actually is to get Congress and the administration to come together and get the COVID relief package passed that in– that will include support and an extension of payroll support program–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you have any reason to believe that is going to happen?

DOUG PARKER: We do. There’s enormous bipartisan support for it. We have Republicans, Democrats, the administration all saying– but– knowing that this is the right program, that it makes sense. That indeed it should be extended because airline employees provide critical infrastructure. And once we furlough those employees, it’s really hard, for example, to get pilots back in training. So once– once– once we’ve furloughed–


DOUG PARKER: –and shrunk airlines, our ability to continue to provide services needed to pull the economy back out of this–


DOUG PARKER: –is going to be severely hampered. So, yeah, there’s enormous support for it. You know, we have everyone putting us in every bill they have. We just need the bills to be laws. We need– we need laws not bills. And that’s–

MARGARET BRENNAN: But that’s– that’s–

DOUG PARKER: –that’s what we’re trying to– that’s what we’re going to do. I’m– I’m actually confident we can get it done.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m glad you’re confident because hopes and as– as– as you’re laying out there, I mean, Congress is just completely stalled on this. Did the White House give you an assurance that they will step in and give some kind of emergency aid to you if Congress can’t deliver by September 30th?

DOUG PARKER: The President said he’s interested in– in doing an executive order if it makes sense. We think the better plan is to get legislation passed between now and then. We really do believe it can happen. We’re certainly– there’s certainly not much time left, but there’s enough time. And again, in some– oftentimes a deadline like this is what is needed to get action. We’re hoping that’s the case. We’re letting everyone know that this is a real deadline.


DOUG PARKER: Indeed, a hundred thousand aviation professionals are going to be out of work come October 1st. If we don’t get people to come together, we’re really hopeful they can. Again, we’ve been told by all sides that they are supportive of this, that it makes complete sense that they’re on our side. We just need them to work– to come together and do what’s best for America and for our country and certainly for the airline business.

MARGARET BRENNAN: As you laid out, it was taxpayers back in the spring that gave the twenty-five billion to help you make payroll. The bet at the time was that the– our health professionals would have everything under control by September 30th. And that is just clearly not the case. So–


MARGARET BRENNAN: What’s– I mean, how much money and for how long becomes the follow up question here, right? I mean, how do you get customers to fly again before there’s a vaccine?

DOUG PARKER: Well, we’re seeing some increase in– in as– as customers begin to return to the skies, understanding that indeed it is safe to fly. We’re seeing gradual improvement. The biggest thing– so a vaccine certainly would be really helpful. But, you know, in between there, having quarantines go away, having, you know, having companies bring people back into the office, returning to work. Those types of things have a huge impact on the need for air travel.


DOUG PARKER: We’ve– we saw, you know, at American we had our– revenues were down some eighty-five percent in the second quarter.


DOUG PARKER: They’re going to be down about seventy-five percent in the third quarter.


DOUG PARKER: They’re going to be down at about sixty-five percent in the fourth quarter. And that’s better than most companies.


DOUG PARKER: But it’s still down sixty-five percent.


DOUG PARKER: So it’s gradual return, but having–


DOUG PARKER: –revenues down sixty-five percent nine months later is a big problem.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. I’m sorry. I’m out of time. I got to leave it there. Good luck to you, sir.

We’ll be back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Georgia has gone Republican in the last seven elections. But this is 2020. CBS national correspondent Mark Strassmann reports.

(Begin VT)

MARK STRASSMANN: Make Georgia vote Trump again, that’s the President’s struggle in a state reliably Republican no more. This Trump stump on Friday pitched Black voters.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Racial justice begins with Joe Biden’s retirement from public life.

What the hell do you have to lose?

MARK STRASSMANN: Nothing, Steven Stalker (ph) says.

STEVEN STALKER: Democrats have never, ever done anything for us as a Black people.

MARK STRASSMANN: Some Republicans strategists admit to win an election night, the President needs Georgia to wear a MAGA hat. Not this Georgia tech student.

MAN #1: Biden at least appears to be making some effort to unite people.

MARK STRASSMANN: According to our CBS News Battleground Tracker, Georgia is a toss-up, President Trump just one point ahead. The big issues in a state with a roughly even split among voters in both parties: COVID, the COVID economy, the Supreme Court, and a summer of unrest.

WOMAN #1: We’re not Democrats that are burning down cities.

MARK STRASSMANN: For decades here, the late John Lewis thundered about the importance of voting. Turnout is critical for Joe Biden. On the front lines of Atlanta’s suburbs and among the thirty percent of Georgia’s registered voters, who are Black.

MAN #2 (Biden Campaign Ad): Joe and Kamala uniquely understand.

MARK STRASSMANN: This Biden campaign ad targets Black turnout. But in this Atlanta neighborhood, the motivation to get out to vote may be more about President Trump.

WOMAN #2: I feel like–

WOMAN #3: I have to vote for Biden–

WOMAN #2: I feel like–

WOMAN #3: –just because we have to.


WOMAN #3: To get Trump out.

MARK STRASSMANN: Voters are only somewhat confident their votes will be counted correctly. More so Republicans than Democrats.

WOMAN #2: In person, I didn’t trust in the mail stuff.

MARK STRASSMANN: A new lawsuit this weekend alleged security issues with voting machines. The third-party vendor is trying to fix it. In toss-up Georgia, this election is the most unsettled debate since sweet tea versus unsweet, in a state where a Democrat for president last won in 1992.

Mark Strassmann, CBS News, Atlanta.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mark Strassmann, thank you.

The race is also close in nearby North Carolina, which has gone to Republicans the last two elections. Former Vice President Biden is currently up two points there, with forty-eight percent support. President Trump is at forty-six percent. Just how much of a factor is that Supreme Court battle becoming? CBS News elections and surveys director Anthony Salvanto is in Westchester County, New York, with more on his findings. Anthony, what have you found?

ANTHONY SALVANTO (CBS News Elections and Surveys Director/@SalvantoCBS): Good morning, Margaret. Voters tell us they feel like it’s raised the stakes in what was already a high-stakes election. One where many in these states tell us they feel like their culture and way of life is at stake. Let me show you this: A majority of voters in both these states feel like it’s made the election even more important, especially Democrats feeling that way, but now both parties tell us that they are motivated to vote. Very high levels there. That’s critical in an election that will probably all come down to turnout. But, let me remind everybody: Don’t forget about the economy. It still outranks the court in many other issues in both of these states. Coronavirus also really important. And the reason that this is so critical, Margaret, is that the President has a lead on who would be better at handling the economy in both of these states, and in many others we’ve polled. In fact, across the board lately, we have seen a tightening of this race in state after state.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Anthony, we know Republicans also want to hold on to their Senate majority. Do we have any indication on whether the fates of these Republican senators in southern states are directly tied to the President’s fortunes?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, some of it is, Margaret. Let me start in South Carolina, Republican, reliably Republican state, but here we find that incumbent Senator Lindsey Graham is in a very tight race with Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison. One reason is that while Republicans like the fact that he is close to the President, moderates and independents especially feeling like he agrees with Donald Trump too much. And it’s a similar story in North Carolina, where incumbent Thom Tillis is down to Democrat Ta– Cal Cunningham. Same story.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Anthony, given a record number of people are expected to vote by mail, will we know how this race is headed before November 3rd?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Some of it will be in the bank, as they say, because so much– in fact, a majority of the votes will be cast before Election Day. If you look at two states here, starting with North Carolina, look at how many Democrats over Republicans say that they want to vote by mail or absentee, and then a sizeable number also are going to vote in person early. I suspect that when we get to Election Day, we’ll be looking at whether or not Republicans can turn out in large numbers on Election Day maybe to make up that deficit. The fact is that they’ve done it before in the past, and they say they’re going to do it again. But one other wrinkle in this, Margaret, is that Republicans say that they find navigating the voting process very easy in higher numbers than Democrats do, in a race where you’re going to have different kinds of voting, that’s going to be really important to what those turnout numbers ultimately become. Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And I know, Anthony, you’ll keep us honest on this complicated process this election year. Thank you very much.

We’ll be right back.



MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s it for us today. For FACE THE NATION, I’m Margaret Brennan.

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