Key Senate races begin to tighten two weeks out from election

This is a rush transcript from “Special Report” October 20, 2020. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Hi, Jesse, thank you. Good evening, welcome to Fox News headquarters in New York. I’m Bret Baier.

Breaking tonight, there is renewed optimism that the Trump administration and House Democrats may agree on a last-minute coronavirus relief package before the election.

Today’s negotiations ended about an hour ago without conclusion, but a promise of another round tomorrow on specifics.

Right now, President Trump is on his way to a campaign stop in the crucial battleground state of Pennsylvania. The event in Erie begins at the top of the hour.

Earlier today, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continued their narrowed differences, they narrowed them further just on how much to spend, how to do it. The question is can the president get Senate Republicans to go along with the big plan that may be agreed to.

Wall Street reacting favorably so far even on the prospect of a deal. The Dow ending up 113, it was up 350 early in the day. The S&P 500 finished ahead 16, the NASDAQ was up 37-1/2.

Now, to the nitty-gritty of the talks, chief White House correspondent John Roberts standing by with the very latest on the North Lawn. Good evening, John.

JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS CHANNEL CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Bret, good evening to you. And we may be hearing from President Trump in just a few minutes, he has not yet left the White House to board Marine One for that trip up to Erie, Pennsylvania.

But as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin burning the midnight oil on his trip to the Middle East, speaking with Nancy Pelosi about the possible outlines of a coronavirus relief bill, no deal done yet, but still, room for optimism after the president dropped a fiscal bombshell this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: President Trump with a surprising new appeal to voters today, saying he’d support a coronavirus relief package even bigger than the $2.2 trillion Nancy Pelosi has insisted on.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She’s at 2.2.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

TRUMP: And I would like to go — I would be willing to go more because I think that, number one, I view it differently. We get the money back, the government, it gets the money back ultimately anyway.

ROBERTS: The White House is still against a bailout for blue states who suffered financial problems long before the pandemic hit. The president would agree to a higher numbers if the relief package included items that would provide a return on investment.

MARK MEADOWS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: If there were areas that we could invest in that would provide growth opportunities for the economy. For example, moneys in infrastructure, money in bringing back manufacturing from China to America. Those are dollar amounts that actually are a cost but they are also a stimulus to our economy to hopefully provide a return.

ROBERTS: Nancy Pelosi had imposed a deadline of midnight tonight to get a relief bill done, but now sees enough movement to walk back from that timeline.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I’m optimistic because I do think we have a shared value, not many, but a shared value that, finally, is they want to crush the virus. And that’s been a change from even over the weekend when they put forth language that wasn’t respectful of what we needed to do.

ROBERTS: President Trump also ramping up the attacks on Joe Biden today, telling “FOX AND FRIENDS” this morning that a special prosecutor should be appointed to look into Hunter Biden’s business deals and what if anything his father knew about them.

TRUMP: We’ve got to get the Attorney General to act. He’s got to act. And he’s got to act fast. He’s got to appoint somebody. This is a major corruption, and this has to be known about before the election.

ROBERTS: The president also lashing out against the Commission on Presidential Debates after the Commission issued last-minute rules that it will mute the opposing candidate’s microphone while the other is giving his initial two-minute answer.

TRUMP: I think the whole thing is crazy. This Commission, I had problems with them four years ago, where they stifled out my mic during my conversation with crooked Hillary, and you know, they muted my mic. They did all — they did this to me already.

ROBERTS: President Trump also furious that Thursday’s debate will be all about foreign policy even though the topics were up to the discretion of the moderators.

TRUMP: I will, but there’s a lot to talk about in a few minutes. And this was supposed to be a foreign policy debate, and now all of a sudden, we’re talking about things that are not foreign policy. And frankly, it was a change that they made that was far bigger than the mute button.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: President Trump expected to leave the White House in just the next few minutes. If the president does pursue this bigger than $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill, it’s likely that he will get an earful from Republicans.

But last week, the president saying, if he comes up with a deal that he likes, he’ll make sure his Republican colleagues like it too, Bret.

BAIER: John Roberts live at the White House. John, thanks.

Also breaking tonight, the Justice Department is picking on someone its own size, the Trump administration’s legal arm is suing Google for antitrust violations.

The government says Google abuses its dominance in online search and advertising to stifle competition and harm consumers. Google calls the lawsuit deeply flawed.

Correspondent Gillian Turner has our story tonight from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GILLIAN TURNER, FOX NEWS CHANNEL CORRESPONDENT: This suit has been over a year in the making, with Attorney General Bill Barr directly involved in planning according to Justice Department sources.

Now, DOJ and 11 states or accusing Google of violating antitrust laws.

Writing, Google no longer competes only on the merits but instead uses its monopoly power and billions in monopoly profits to lock up key pathways to search on mobile phones, browsers, and next-generation devices. The end result is no one can feasibly challenge Google’s dominance in search and search advertising.

Barr adds this is a monumental case for the Department of Justice and, more importantly, for the American consumer.

Fox News has learned the litigation is the result of a broad investigation into Google’s business practices. Officials quickly lasered in on the company’s alleged anti-competitive practices.

90 percent of all web searches in America are done through Google search engine, that’s because Google allows companies like Apple to include its search engine in its products for free. In return, Google demands its search engine be used exclusively.

Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley says there’s only one path forward.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA): Monopolies under our laws have to be question, and if they’re anti-competitive, violating antitrust laws, they had to be prosecuted.

TURNER: DOJ argues Google’s financial power leads to less choices, poor quality, and higher ad prices which in turn, hurt Google’s users, advertisers, and millions of small businesses. But some experts caution DOJ suit could ultimately hurt consumers more than help.

JESSICA MELUGIN, COMPETITIVE ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Consumers enjoy Google products. They are often free, and they choose them when given a choice, they — these are products that innovate rapidly.

TURLEY: Google agrees, calling the lawsuit deeply flawed.

ADAM COHEN, ECONOMIC POLICY DIRECTOR, GOOGLE: If this case is correct, it will make it harder for consumers potentially to access Google, to access a search service that they love and they choose to use.

TURNER: And tonight, Fox News obtains a memo from CEO Sundar Pichai to employees, telling them to ignore the noise and stay deeply focused on their mission.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TURNER: Tonight, Tech Insiders are telling us the future of this lawsuit does not hinge on the outcome of the presidential election, it is going forward full steam ahead regardless of who’s in the Oval Office come January 20th.

Now, it is true that reining in big tech has become a truly bipartisan issue here in Washington over the last couple of years. So, it seems Bret, Google is finally facing a reckoning, Bret.

BAIER: Gillian Turner live outside DOJ. Gillian, thanks.

Also breaking tonight, the third story in a row, there are new developments in the Hunter Biden e-mail story. Here’s senior political correspondent Mike Emanuel in Washington. Good evening, Mike.

MIKE EMANUEL, FOX NEWS CHANNEL SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Bret, good evening. One senior federal official tells Fox News the FBI and DOJ concur with DNI John Ratcliffe’s assessment that Hunter Biden’s laptop and e-mails were not part of a Russian disinformation campaign. And the senior federal official says the FBI is in possession of the Hunter Biden laptop in question that breaking moments ago.

Also, late today, a new photo has emerged in the New York Post showing former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter and purported Kozak officials, it is undated. We’re checking with our sources to get as much information as we can about it and the proper context as we are with all the new revelations in this Hunter Biden story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EMANUEL: Big tech about to be under the spotlight. Negotiations continue with Senate Judiciary which is threatening subpoenas for the CEOs of Facebook and Twitter on Thursday.

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): We should have no more foot-dragging. We should have proactive action here to address the concentration, to address the power, to address the censorship.

EMANUEL: Some Republicans charging censorship even election interference as the social media platforms blocked distribution of the initial Hunter Biden e-mail story.

TRUMP: You look at all the corruption in his family. It’s tremendous corruption, nobody’s ever seen. I mean, that laptop, nobody’s ever seen anything like that. He’s gone into hiding.

EMANUEL: President Trump accusing Joe Biden of staying away from reporters ahead of Thursday night’s debate to avoid answering questions about his son Hunter’s purported laptop and e-mails.

The president also jumped on this May 2017 e-mail with Chinese energy executives verified by a source on the e-mail chain which discusses payment for six people. It includes a reference to 10 percent of the equity in the deal being held by H, assumed to be Hunter for the big guy which sources say is Joe Biden.

TRUMP: The vice president got a kickback, and everybody knows it and they’ve known it for a long time.

EMANUEL: Fox News has obtained images including what appears to be a receipt from the Wilmington, Delaware computer repair shop signed by Hunter Biden. It also listed an e-mail and cellphone number for him.

And documentation from the FBI’s interaction with shop owner John Paul Mac Isaac. It shows the bureau took possession of an alleged Hunter Biden laptop and external hard drive last December.

Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson wants answers about the FBI’s actions since then.

RON JOHNSON, CHAIRMAN, SENATE HOMELAND SECURITY: The FBI also so defensive reading if this shop owner is fraudulently peddling information to the Congress, that’s a crime. The FBI ought to brief us on that as well.

EMANUEL: Investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald notes the Biden campaign silence on the authenticity of what’s been reported.

GLENN GREENWALD, EDITOR, THE INTERCEPT: No one in the Biden camp. Not Hunter Biden, Joe Biden, not anyone with the Biden campaign that’s even insinuated let alone stated that the e-mails are anything other than authentic.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

EMANUEL: The FBI has made every effort to stay out of the 2020 election after it was front and center in 2016 with Hillary Clinton’s e-mails and her private server. But tonight, some breaking news we are told by a senior federal official that the FBI is in possession of a laptop and that the FBI and DOJ concur with the director of National Intelligence that this is not part of a Russian disinformation campaign, Bret.

BAIER: Well, that’s significant, Mike. We’ll stay on that, more on this with the panel.

A major poll suggests the presidential race is tightening in a swing state, a key swing state. The ABC News Washington Post survey has Joe Biden with a very slim one-point lead over the president among likely voters.

Again, a key battleground state, but within the margin of error, if you add the margin of error could also mean President Trump is up three. Bottom line, it’s tight.

Correspondent Peter Doocy reports from Wilmington, Delaware.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETER DOOCY, FOX NEWS CHANNEL CORRESPONDENT: Joe Biden was down today in Delaware. No public events since Sunday in Durham.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: North Carolina matters.

DOOCY: And it’s tight in the Tar Heel State, 49 Biden, 48 Trump among likely voters surveyed in an ABC News Washington Post poll. The Democratic nominee has two days left to practice lines for the final debate where mics will be controlled by the Commission to cut down on cross-talk like last time.

BIDEN: Well, it’s hard to get any word in with this clown. Excuse me.

DOOCY: The Biden campaign and the moderator of 2016’s last debate and 2020’s first one, Chris Wallace says this final debate was never supposed to be fully foreign policy-driven as their Trump counterparts claim.

Telling Fox in a statement, the Trump campaign is lying about that now because Donald Trump is afraid to face more questions about his disastrous COVID response.

While Biden’s been home, his running mate has been on the road including a soggy stop in Jacksonville.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want you to get off the rain.

DOOCY: The Biden-Harris tax plan has a famous rapper trying to get out the vote for the president, aghast at a news graphic showing a 62 percent combined tax rate for some New Yorkers. 50 Cent tweeted, what the expletive. Vote for Trump.

Biden picked up an endorsement today too. The man who commanded the Navy SEAL raid to kill Osama bin Laden, retired Admiral William McRaven writes in the Wall Street Journal, now, the world no longer looks up to America.

Biden used to tell a story that he told President Obama he was against the McRaven lead bin Laden raid.

BIDEN: Mr. President, my suggestion is don’t go. We have to do two more things to see if he’s there.

DOOCY: Eight years later, he tells that story different.

Did you tell President Obama not to go after bin Laden that day?

BIDEN: No, I didn’t — I didn’t.

DOOCY: The Biden campaign is putting a ton of weight on Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes. Tomorrow, they’re sending Barack Obama there. And Sunday, they’re sending someone whose plans Joe Biden used to blast as impossibly expensive. Someone will also considers himself a Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, Bret.

BAIER: Peter Doocy in Delaware. Peter, thanks.

Up next, the crucial and complicated task of verifying signatures for millions of mail-in ballots, bringing that story.

First, here’s what some of our Fox affiliates around the country are covering tonight. Q13 Fox in Seattle as King County is on track to see a record-breaking number of fentanyl-related overdoses with two months still left obviously before the end of the year.

Officials are sounding the alarm over the spike in overdoses and warning communities to be aware of counterfeit pills making their way into Western Washington.

This is a live look at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas from Fox for the big story there (AUDIO GAP) and of course, game one of the World Series begins in about two hours. The Los Angeles Dodgers take on the Tampa Bay Rays on a neutral field because of the coronavirus precautions. You can see it all on the Big Fox.

Fox broadcast network starting with the pregame show at 7:30. Such a DVR, you can watch it on DVR, whatever. Watch one of us.

That’s tonight’s live look outside the Beltway from SPECIAL REPORT. We’ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BAIER: The CDC says there have been almost 300,000 deaths from late January to early October in the U.S. Excess deaths, those are the number of people who died during a certain time compared to the average in recent years. The agency says 66 percent of those are being attributed to COVID-19.

Researchers in the United Kingdom are preparing to infect healthy young volunteers with the virus that causes COVID-19. It’s the first known use of the controversial technique to study this particular disease, and potentially, speed up the development of the vaccine.

All this occurs as European authorities battle infection spikes with new lockdowns and other measures. The director of National Institutes of Health tells NPR that he is guardingly optimistic, one of the vaccine options will pass safety and efficacy standards by the end of the year, but it’s very unlikely to happen before the election.

The Justice Department is putting up to 3 million toward the creation of a national training center for law enforcement agencies to prevent the use of excessive force.

Officials say they hope the Minneapolis police force will be the first to take advantage of the resource. Police there have been under pressure to reform since the May 25th death of George Floyd, which touched-off mass demonstrations against police brutality around the nation.

With so many more people voting by mail this election cycle, there is increasing scrutiny on how those signatures are verified and which ballots are rejected. We learn about the process tonight from national correspondent William La Jeunesse in California.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NEAL KELLEY, REGISTRAR OF VOTERS, ORANGE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: This one, you know, that’s pretty clear, right? I mean, just in terms of the name comparison.

WILLIAM LA JEUNESSE, FOX NEWS CHANNEL NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Verifying a voter’s signature.

KELLEY: You’re looking at a couple of things where the pen or pencil lays down, where it lifts up, the stroke in the signature.

LA JEUNESSE: With mail-in ballots, it’s the only way most states know who’s voting.

LAURA VETERANO, VOTER, CALIFORNIA: I did sign it.

LA JEUNESSE: What signature did you use?

VETERANO: I used my circle-k signature.

LA JEUNESSE: In 2016, states rejected more than 300,000 votes of those 27 percent of signatures did not match, 23 percent of ballots arrived late, 20 percent had no signature at all.

Verifying a ballot by signature is entirely subjective. Does it match or not? It’s a judgment. Some states use computer software, here in Orange County, California, it is done by staff.

KELLEY: What an operator would see is four signatures at a time.

LA JEUNESSE: Yes.

KELLEY: And then, it’s comparing the signature that we capture on that envelope to the original record.

Here is the challenge, right? In California now, 70 percent of new registrations are online. So, I no longer have that printed document.

LA JEUNESSE: Oh.

KELLEY: So, it’s good for voters that have been around a while.

LA JEUNESSE: Yes.

KELLEY: But it’s not good for new voters.

LA JEUNESSE: These states require an I.D., witness, or notary, along with the mail-in ballot. But most require just a signature. 19 states now including Michigan allow a voter to correct a mistake.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): The bill ensures that clerks will notify voters of any reason that their vote won’t be counted within 48 hours.

KELLEY: We send out a letter to the voter and they have an opportunity to cure that issue. If it’s a missing signature, it’s very easy, they sign that, comes back, we open the envelope. If it is a mismatched signature, they have to sign an affidavit that says, I am that person and they have to send that back to us.

LA JEUNESSE: Mail-in ballot rejection rates vary from one to three percent.

In 2016, eight states were decided by a margin of less than three percent.

In Santa Ana, California, William La Jeunesse, Fox News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BAIER: Tonight, NASA really has gone where no American spacecraft has gone before. A short time ago, the space agency successfully landed a probe momentarily on the boulder-packed surface of an asteroid. Hundreds of millions of miles from earth. That spacecraft tweeted a few moments ago that it has moved to a safe distance away from the asteroid. Yes, the spacecraft tweeted.

The goal of the mission is to scoop up rubble on the surface and return it to earth. That is cool.

Up next, we will go to the big board to look at some of the big races for election night just two weeks away from tonight.

First, “BEYOND OUR BORDERS” tonight. Russia says it is ready to accept a U.S. proposal to freeze the number of nuclear warheads and extend the two nations’ last arms control pact for one year.

The Trump administration is welcoming the Russian offer and says the U.S.

is ready to quickly reach an agreement.

The widow of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is suing the Saudi crown prince and more than 20 accused co-conspirators over the murder of her husband. The plaintiff’s lawyers say they will seek information from American officials to help prove Khashoggi’s death was ordered by the top of the Saudi leadership hierarchy.

A Danish man convicted of torturing and murdering a Swedish journalist on his homemade submarine makes a dramatic, but brief escape from a suburban Copenhagen prison.

Peter Madsen was quickly apprehended near the facility where he is serving a life sentence.

Just some of the other stories “BEYOND OUR BORDERS” tonight, we’ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BAIER: It is hard to believe we are 14 days from the election, seems like a long time. Let’s take a look at some what-if scenarios for the Electoral College, the presidential race. The blue states, the red states, these are all states that we kind of know how they’re going to go based on the polls, where they’ve gone before, the gray states are the battleground states where this race will be won or lost.

Now, take the average of polls tonight, 14 days from the election. And factor in how Donald Trump performed in the average of polls 14 days from the election in 2016. A number of these states he outperformed those averages. Understand that Joe Biden is not Hillary Clinton, but let’s put that caveat in there and give him that, that bump depending on how he performed then.

If that is the factor that we’re looking at, he wins tonight in Florida, in Georgia. He outperformed by three points in North Carolina, he would win by one there. He’d win overwhelmingly actually in Ohio, in Iowa, in Texas.

In 2016, Donald Trump outperformed the average of polls by almost seven points — a little bit more than seven points, actually in Wisconsin. May not be that way this time, let’s just say it is based on the polls.

Also tonight, based on the average of polls right now, Joe Biden would win in Nevada, in Arizona, and Minnesota. He would win Michigan and New Hampshire. Based on the average of polls tonight, considering that Donald Trump did outperform slightly in Pennsylvania, Joe Biden still would win Pennsylvania by one point, and that would mean he’d be the 46th president of the United States.

That’s one what-if scenario. A lot can change in 14 days. Obviously, the other thing we’re watching is control of the Senate, and it is hanging on a knife’s edge. Right now, the balance of power in the Senate: 53 Republicans to 47 Democrats. There’s two Independents, who caucus with the Democrats.

But control could flip based on a number of key races that Republicans are behind in right now.

Let’s take first a look at Iowa, and there is the incumbent Joni Ernst, trailing the Democrat in the recent polls by, you know, almost five points there.

You’ve got in the state of Arizona, another key race. You saw Martha McSally out there with the president yesterday, but she’s trailing Kelly, the Democratic opponent. And they’ve been fierce on the issue of COVID.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MARTHA MCSALLY (R-AZ): President Trump took action in January, and that was highly criticized. Mark, do you agree with the president’s decision to ban travel from China?

MARK KELLY, (D) ARIZONA SENATE CANDIDATE:  Yes, but Senator, you would understand this as a pilot. You guys did step one of the emergency procedure, and then you didn’t do anything else, and that is a colossal failure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER:  McSally’s chances really do depend on how Donald Trump does in Arizona. Mark Kelly is getting a lot of support from outside the state, but also Democrats fired up in Arizona, so that is one to watch with an incumbent.

Another one with an incumbent that he is barely hanging on, at least according to the average of polls, is in Georgia. And this, a little bit of a controversy in a rally just recently, again with President Trump in an intro position, the incumbent senator saying this in reaction from his opponent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DAVID PERDUE, (R-GA) SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE:  The most insidious thing that Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden are trying to perpetrate, and Bernie and Elizabeth, and Kamala, or Kamala, or Kamala, Kamala-mala- mala, I don’t know.

JON OSSOFF, (D) GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE:  He’s belittling his political opponents by mocking their heritage. It’s wrong, it’s not what this state stands for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER:  If this state, Georgia, tracks to where it usually is, Donald Trump is going to win in Georgia and the incumbent is going to hold on, but it is a close race.

Finally, let’s take a look at this race, and this is quite something.

Tonight, we’re going to take a closer look at the Senate race in Michigan where the Republican, John James, really does seem to be gaining ground in the final days on the incumbent, Gary Peters. Here’s correspondent Mark Meredith.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN JAMES, (R) MICHIGAN SENATE CANDIDATE:  It’s a beautiful day in Michigan.

MARK MEREDITH, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  John James is the Republican running to be Michigan’s next senator. The Iraq War veteran and businessman has tried before. He lost his Senate race in 2018 by six-and-a-half points, and he admits some people are skeptical he’ll win this time.

JAMES:  Folks ask me all the time, John, what are you doing to win the vote in Detroit, which is code for how are you going to win the black vote? I say you let me worry about that.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We are going to win the state of Michigan.

MEREDITH:  But James is hopeful this year. With President Trump’s name back on the ballot, he’ll appeal to a wide range of voters and defeat first-term incumbent Democratic Senator Gary Peters. Jonathan Hanson is a political scientist and the University of Michigan.

JONATHAN HANSON, FORD SCHOOL OF PUBLIC POLICY:  I think that the presidential race is really dominating what’s going to happen in this Senate race in Michigan. The coattail effects will be very strong.

MEREDITH:  The Real Clear Politics average shows Peters ahead by more than four points, but his lead has shrunk considerably in recent months.

SEN. GARY PETERS (D-MI):  I’m being bombarded by negative, false ads trying to move this race at the very end. But we are confident, we’re going to fight until the end, but clearly it’s going to be a battle right to the end.

MEREDITH:  Today Peters released a new ad of his own featuring former president Barack Obama.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  The progress we made together is under attack. But Gary Peters is someone I trust to protect it.

MEREDITH:  While the polls are tightening, the outcome will likely depend on who wins the top of the ticket.

HANSON:  If Trump were to have a really strong performance in Michigan, I think that could bring James over the top.

MEREDITH:  Both parties are pouring millions of dollars into the race as some political observers believe if Republicans flip the seat, it could determine who controls the Senate next year.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MEREDITH:  This campaign is not only competitive, it’s expensive. It’s estimated both candidates and outside groups are spending around $100 million on this race alone. Bret?

BAIER:  Mark, thank you.

Up next, we are exactly two weeks from Election Day. We’ll talk about that, the rest of the day’s news, the breaking news on the FBI and Hunter Biden’s emails when the panel joins me after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I think he’s imploding.

You look at all the corruption in his family, it’s tremendous corruption.

Got to get the attorney general to act, he’s got to act, and he’s got to act fast. He’s got to appoint somebody. This is major corruption, and this has to be known about before the election.

JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  I have no response. It’s another smear campaign. It’s right up your alley.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER:  The Hunter Biden email story, where we are tonight. The breaking news from Mike Emanuel, Jake Gibson at the DOJ and others, two senior administration officials now say that the FBI does in fact have this laptop in question. One senior administration official telling us that the FBI and DOJ do concur with the Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe’s assessment that Hunter Biden’s laptop and the emails in question are not a part of a Russian disinformation campaign. Also one official telling us that the FBI is not investigating this as Russian disinformation. Those are little new developments that we’re getting in this story that continues to evolve and we try to get to the authenticity of all of it.

Let’s bring in our panel, Bill Bennett, former Education Secretary, host of “The Bill Bennett Show” podcast, Amy Walter, national editor of the “Cook Political Report,” and Matthew Continetti, founding editor of the “Washington Free Beacon.” Matthew, I want to start with you. We’ve seen, obviously we’ve been covering, going through each one of these emails, we have got authenticity on a couple of them from people in the email chain who said they got it at the time. The confirmed that. We are going piece by piece in this, but now this information about the FBI and what is and is not happening, how do you take it?

MATTHEW CONTINETTI, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “WASHINGTON FREE BEACON”:  I think the FBI news is particularly important, because the FBI, as we know, is not stocked full of Trump flaks, right. It’s an independent agency, and there’s a lot of tension between the FBI and the White House. For the FBI to say that this is not Russian disinformation I think is important.

And when you have the FBI, DOJ, and other agencies, DNI, saying that it’s not disinformation, you would think that the mainstream media would then at least take some interest in the story. But you see how intimidated they are, Bret, by Joe Biden’s snappish response to the CBS reporter who asked about it. They’re refusing to take of any story that might damage Joe Biden’s chances in the final two weeks of this election.

BAIER:  So what about that, Bill? Obviously it’s not getting covered a ton at other places, and I assume it’s going to be a bigger part of the debate because of President Trump, likely not because of questions about it.

BILL BENNETT, FORMER EDUCATION SECRETARY:  Whatever the DOJ or FBI or DNI say, what’s most important to me is what the Biden campaign has said. As Glenn Greenwald, a fiercely independent journalist, has pointed out, they haven’t denied it. They have not denied these emails, they have not denied the truth of these emails. And this stuff is explosive and it is ugly. It may be the president will refer to Joe Biden as “the big guy,” which is how he’s identified in one of these emails during the debates.

But attention has to be paid to this kind of thing because Joe Biden and Hunter Biden — maybe criminal conspiracy, maybe not, but this really stinks to high heavens, and the media has to pay attention to it if it’s not too late.

BAIER:  Amy, we are learning more, the story is developing, and we’ll see who picks it up or doesn’t pick it up, and how it’s dealt with in the debate. But the politics of this, as you’re in a closing argument 14 days before an election, how do you think that plays?

AMY WALTER, NATIONAL EDITOR, “COOK POLITICAL REPORT”:  We know there are a couple of things. First of all, we’ve had almost 30 million people already vote, and so as the pool of voters continues to shrink, last-minute issues don’t have the same sort of resonance.

The other issue, of course, is that Ukraine and the question of Hunter Biden’s relationship with Ukraine and his father were obviously vetted pretty heavily by a Republican Senate, and they found that there maybe were some questions there, but found nothing to suggest that this was — what we’re hearing about right now is credible. No one else has been able to authenticate this. We’re not seeing that those emails are being shared widely among other news sources. So to just take this story and a couple of folks and run with it, I don’t think you’re going to see that.

The other issue is, too, is this just feels like we are just back in 2016 redux, the president wanting to make the race once again a case about change versus corruption. But Joe Biden is not Hillary Clinton, and the last few months here of the campaign, Joe Biden’s overall favorable rating have been actually, or the last few weeks, have actually been ticking up.

He’s seen in a much more favorable light than Hillary Clinton, who had to defend her relationship with that email server and the Clinton Foundation for almost the entire campaign.

BAIER:  Yes, just to be clear, two of the emails, Mike Emanuel and John Roberts, others, talk to people who were on the chain back in May of 2017.

So they believe those to be authentic.

Bill, just a response to that. I want to move on.

BENNETT:  Yes, well, a good response from the media establishment there from Amy, but supposing the show was on the other foot, supposing this was about Donald Trump, you think that they’d be running with these stories?

You think they’d be ignoring them? I don’t think so. Let’s look into it.

Your job is to put sunlight on things that are ugly, and they are not doing it.

BAIER:  OK, let’s talk about campaign events that are happening or not happening. If you take a look at the schedule here, the president is on this barnstorming tour, obviously the debate is Thursday night, but you look at the calendar of what’s happening day-to-day and these different rallies. There was a Biden event in North Carolina, but then there was what’s called a lid, in other words, the press is told that’s it for the rest of the week. You’re not going to see Joe Biden or hear from him until the debate on Thursday.

Today in a fundraising email, the Biden campaign put out this email, and one of the lines of struck me. It said, quote, “We don’t want to look back on this moment and wish we had done more.” Matthew, you look at that schedule, there’s a lot to do more with.

(LAUGHTER)

CONTINETTI:  Right, or at least to have the candidate present. I’ve never heard of a candidate taking this amount of time off in the final two weeks of a campaign.

But from Biden’s perspective, of course, he doesn’t need to be present because he’s winning. But I wonder if there’s a little overconfidence there. I think it’s very interesting, Bret, that Barack Obama is going to Philadelphia to try to enthuse voters, particularly in the cities, to go out for Joe Biden, because you do see, I think, a certain lack of enthusiasm among many voters for Joe Biden the person. And I think the worry from Democrats is that might lead to similar turnout from 2016 among key groups.

BAIER:  We should point out, Amy, that Senator Kamala Harris is out and about doing different events, but it is pretty unique. Debates, they pull candidates off the trail, but this close to Election Day.

WALTER:  There’s been nothing about this election that has been even close to normal. And it is true that, look, the Biden campaign is not counting on rallies to turn out the voters. What they are counting on is Donald Trump, and he turns out their voters, and he motivates them. And so the president at every one of these rallies does help to motivate his folks, keep them enthused, keep them interested in going out to the polls. But in this case every action doesn’t have an equal and opposite reaction. We’ve seen in polling throughout the president’s time in office that it also really engages the other side exponentially. And so for Joe Biden and the campaign, going out and doing a couple of small events is not going to garner the kind of intensity that the antipathy to President Trump will do.

BAIER:  And Bill, finally, I want to add on these COVID stimulus negotiations, and quote “Dumb and Dumber.” You’re saying I have one in a million chance maybe, and he said, so you’re saying there’s a chance? Is that where we are, that this possibly could get done before Election Day with Nancy Pelosi and a Steve Mnuchin and Senate Republicans, most importantly?

BENNETT:  It’s possible but unlikely.

If I can just say a word, Hamilton, not the star of the show on Broadway but the real one, said the most important thing in the executive is energy, energy in the executive. Is it really prudent, does it really make sense to take off the last week before the election like a kindergarten kid with your sippy cup lying down taking a nap? One thing that Donald Trump has is energy, and those crowds are enormous. And I think it’s a pretty good predictor. Joe Biden is not taking advantage of the situation. People are worried in his campaign how much prep does he need to say come on, man.

He’s already good at that line down.

BAIER:  All right, panel, stand by, we are going to have some Senate races that you’ve chosen right after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I think they are very untied. A lot of people think, oh, are they tied with Trump, meaning tied together. I think that’s highly overrated.

I probably helped some. I don’t think I heard anybody. But I don’t view them as being tied together, I never did. I think that you can have very separate. I could do fantastically well in a state, and we could have a Senate candidate that does unbelievably badly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER:  President Trump talking about the Senate races, obviously control of the United States Senate is hanging in the balance in this election.

We’re back with our panel. We asked each panelist to choose one Senate race they’re watching. Matthew, let’s start with you.

CONTINETTI:  Bret, I’m watching the Senate race in Colorado between Cory Gardner, the Republican, and John Hickenlooper, the former governor now running as the Democrat. I think this race is exemplary of where we are on a nationwide scale. Gardner is a great campaigner. If this is were a personality contest he would win in a landslide. He’s just a better candidate than Hickenlooper is. But because of population change in Colorado and the suburbs swing away from the Republican Party, it looks like he’s in trouble in November.

BAIER:  Let’s take a listen to something from the Colorado Senate race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  You’re going to help us get Cory Gardner across that line because he’s been with us 100 percent.

There was no waiver.

JOHN HICKENLOOPER, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  What’s going on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Just something about Trump and Cory.

HICKENLOOPER:  I don’t need any of this. Trump made the entire point for me.

SEN. CORY GARDNER, (R-CO):  What I continue to do and I have done it for the last four years where I agree with the president and work together. We are going to be able to do great things for Colorado, and we have. Where I disagree, I’m going to be clear about that, and I have been.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER:  So Matthew, there’s not a lot of polling out there. Colorado is definitely purplish-blue. Do you think Gardner can hang in there?

CONTINETTI:  He’s been able to pull together coalitions before. Maybe in this case it means that he needs to separate himself a little bit from President Trump, but I think in a blue nation on election night, Gardner would probably be in trouble.

BAIER:  Amy, what’s your race?

WALTER:  I’m sticking with the theme that Matthew brought up, which there used to be an all politics is local theme to Senate races and House races, but now all politics is national. I’m looking at the North Carolina Senate race between Republican incumbent Thom Tillis. Like Cory Gardner, he’s a freshman who came in in 2014. He’s up against Cal Cunningham now, the Democrat. Cal Cunningham got into a bit of hot water about a week or so ago. Texts came out that he was sharing with a woman who is not his wife.

But here’s what’s really interesting — and there was talk that was going to hurt his chances in the Senate race. But what’s really interesting, we had a poll come out today from ABC/”Washington Post” in North Carolina when they asked voters in North Carolina whether Cunningham’s scandal, his affair, was very important to them or important to them at all, 26 percent said yes. But when asked if Tillis’s support for Trump important to you, more than half of voters, 56 percent, said yes. Is control of the Senate most important issue for you, 81 percent said yes. So this is one of those races where the nationalist going to trump the local.

BAIER:  We should point out, there is also a poll out today that has that race tied, also the presidential race tied there. We were looking at the Real Clear Politics average of polls over recent weeks. Bill?

BENNETT:  Yes, since I’m sitting in North Carolina, just a word, one other thing about Cunningham. He wasn’t just sleeping with another man’s wife.

That man served in the military with Cunningham, and the code of military justice applies here. He may be court-martialed for his behavior. In North Carolina, they remember a guy named John Edwards, that duplicity, I don’t think they want to do that again.

BAIER:  Your race?

BENNETT:  Amy beat me to the punch in North Carolina. Michigan is the one I’m looking at, and that’s going to be very interesting. John James is in a challenging position. He’s the young, black Republican, and Gary Peters is the establishment Democrat, and James is closing the gap and the enthusiasm is great.

The thing I would say there is you remember the Republican convention, there was a real effort to reach out to black America. And if there’s any increase in the polls of support for Donald Trump among black American, black men, it looks like they may support him more, three, four point, it could make a huge difference in the final result. This could be a game changer, we could have a new star, too.

BAIER:  All right, panel, thank you. Nicely done. We’ll keep doing that.

When we come back, going to great lengths and great heights.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BAIER:  — Long distances, Joseph and Eve Loreth have been married for 60 years. The pandemic kept them apart for seven months while Joseph was in rehab after surgery. Eve recently moved into the same assisted living facility in Brandon, Florida. Their emotional reunion brought them both to tears. Great shot.

And 102-year-old Vivian Bailey had crossed off a bucket list item, skydiving. After seeing former president George H. W. Bush take the leap at 90, the World War II veteran felt she could do it too. It took a few years, but family and friends watched as Bailey took the plunge, landing with a huge smile.

Thanks for inviting us into your home tonight. That is it for the “SPECIAL REPORT.” Fair, balanced, and unafraid. “THE STORY” hosted by Martha MacCallum starts right now. We’re off to Nashville after the show.

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