Will Trump change his approach to COVID after contracting virus?

This is a rush transcript from “The Story with Martha MacCallum” October 7, 2020. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MACCALLUM: But in political season, where style often trumps substance, it could be the most meaningful.

So that is the backdrop for tonight. Welcome back, everybody. This is our two of our Democracy 2020 special coverage of Martha MacCallum.

BAIER: And I’m Bret Baier, live in Salt Lake City, Utah, where in just a couple of hours, Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris will face off for the first and only time to make their case for their ticket.

MACCALLUM: They get one shot at this. And tonight’s event comes following that raucous first presidential debate. And as the president is forced off the campaign trail while he continues to recover from COVID-19 at the White House. 

BAIER: A former Capitol Hill staffer, current professor at the University of Utah, where the debate will unfold tonight says, perhaps more so than in some other recent elections, it is distinctly possible that Harris or Pence could become President of the United States in the not too distant future. 
So even more than usual, we should want to hear what they have to say. 

MACCALLUM: It’s a good point. So, the White House outbreak brings the Coronavirus front and center once again in this election, and it will be unavoidable in the debate hall itself. Tonight, of course, with precautions of distancing, plexiglass barriers and mandated masks in place. 

BAIER: And we’ll be over there in a bit. We’ll tell you all about that in a few moments. We will be joined by our panel, Karl Rove, Katie Pavlich and Donna Brazile to preview tonight’s contest. But we start with correspondent Hilary Vaughn and what to expect on that stage tonight. Good evening, Hilary.

HILARY VAUGHN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Bret, and Martha. This is a chance for both candidates to do damage control for their running mates on the top of the ticket that may have gotten too testy at the first debate and win back voters that may have been turned off but will be tuned in tonight. So, they both want the focus to be on policy, not personality.


PAM BONDI, TRUMP 2020 CAMPAIGN ADVISOR: I assume that Kamala is poring through briefing books right now to learn all this policy. He’s been living this for the past three and a half years.


VAUGHN: The stakes of this debate could not be higher for both VP nominees whose track record will be put under a microscope tonight. Whoever wins will be a heartbeat away from the presidency. Serving the oldest president in U.S. history. The Biden campaign will try to paint Mike Pence as complicit in failing to contain COVID-19. While the Trump campaign wants to showcase Kamala Harris’s progressive past. There will be nine topics covered tonight in 10-minute segments, but the Biden campaign is already spreading the narrative that what Pence says can’t be trusted.


SYMONE SANDERS, BIDEN CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISOR: It’s easy to win a debate if you don’t care about telling the truth. But tonight, it is not Senator Harris’s job to fact check Mike Pence. 


VAUGHN: And both campaigns see Coronavirus as a winning issue for them and a losing issue for their opponent. 


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): In terms of Mike Pence being the head of the task force to the Coronavirus, really, what level of success does he have to offer in that regard?

DONALD TRUMP JR., PRESIDENT TRUMP’S SON: The number one factor as it relates to COVID is that Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, they all wanted to keep our borders open between China, the epicenter of a viral outbreak.


VAUGHN: Both campaigns admit that both candidates on stage are seasoned and highly skilled debaters. Harris told donors a few weeks ago that she’s worried about disappointing because she knows Pence is a good debater. But she’s good enough that her running mate back in the primary, Joe Biden, told her on the debate stage before the debate started, go easy on me, kid. 
Bret and Martha.

BAIER: Both Hillary born outside Kingsbury Hall there, the site of the debate. Thanks.

MACCALLUM: So, let’s bring in our panel. Karl Rove, former Deputy Chief of Staff to President George W. Bush, Katie Pavlich, news editor and Donna Brazile, former interim chair of the Democratic National Committee. All are Fox News contributors. Great to have all of you with us tonight. 

Karl, let me start with you. Obviously, COVID-19 is one of the most difficult topics that they’re going to grapple with tonight. Mike Pence is going to have to sort of really give a very different take on this if he’s going to turn the narrative on how this administration has done on this.

KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, well, there are two parts to that. 
And I think he’s going to be very good on one of them, which is outlining what the administration has done when it did it and why it did it, because he’s been intimately involved in those on the task force. 

The other thing he needs to do tonight is to find a way, in my opinion, is to find a way to, if you will, call out the Biden-Harris campaign for Monday morning quarterbacking, because if you look at what Joe Biden and his advisors were saying in January, February and March, they got this all wrong.

BAIER: Donna, expectations for tonight.

DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER INTERIM DNC CHAIR: First of all, I hope this is a civil debate. I hope that the candidates adhere to the rules and so that we can have an informed conversation about many of these important issues from the Coronavirus crisis, which is impacting over 33 states. We’ve seen a huge increase to of course, talking about the economy. 

How do we bring back the jobs and those who are hurting? I hope they get an opportunity to talk about the stimulus bill that is somewhere off the table, but it needs to be put back on the table. An important debate, because these are two very important figures right now in American politics for obvious reasons. The president has COVID. And, of course, Kamala Harris is 22 years younger than her leader. And I want to see a good debate.

BAIER: We should point out that we’ve all been tested numerous times over numerous days. We go to extra-large screen. 

MACCALLUM: Bracelets. 

BAIER: Bracelets. Get into the hall. We have – we wear masks around here and we’ll wear them in transit. Just want to make sure that people might see us a little closer than six feet. And that’s where we are now.

MACCALLUM: Katie, what are you looking at tonight?

KATIE PAVLICH, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think it will be interesting to watch Vice President Mike Pence really try to drive a wedge between what Joe Biden has said about his policy positions and the policy positions that Kamala Harris articulated on the campaign trail just during the Democratic primary. 

On the issue of fracking, which, of course, Pennsylvania is a swing state. 
I’m sure he will go after her on that and on a number of other issues and try to really drive home the idea that the American people are really getting two different types of candidates here. Joe Biden, who claims that he’s a moderate, claims he’s not the Green New Deal, even though it’s on his campaign website. Who is running with a Far-Left senator? The most far left in Washington, D.C., according to the studies, have been done about voting patterns and whether she’s – is she the one who is really going to speak for the campaign in terms of policy, what those positions are. 

And also, I think a lack of transparency is what Vice President Pence will go after. Why isn’t the Biden campaign discussing court packing when Kamala Harris is someone who said she would be willing to get rid of the filibuster in the primary process to pack the court? And so, these are issues that will come up tonight. And I think really splitting the difference on – the differences between Biden and Harris tonight is what the Vice President Pence will try to do.

BAIER: Karl, we have this new poll out, likely voters. Biden increasing his lead 10 points, now 53-43. But if you ask the question, this is one of the questions in the poll, who people think their neighbors are supporting, their neighbors. 49 percent say Trump. That is up from 39 percent in August. 39 percent Biden. What does that tell you?

ROVE: Well, first of all, my caveat, I distrust polls, a single poll, even if it’s a Fox poll. But there are several other polls that show that this has widened out a little bit in the last couple of weeks. Question is, how durable is it going to be? We saw this in 2016 after the release of the Hollywood Access tape. It widened out slightly and then it closed back up. 

My gut tells me–

BAIER: I mean, do you like this question? 

ROVE: I think it’s a good question because I think look, people are increasingly suspicious of telling a stranger on the phone what their opinions are. And this is a way for you to get at their opinions without asking their opinions directly.

MACCALLUM: Donna, when you look at that jump, it went from, neighbors saying, I think everybody in my neighborhood is going to vote for Trump. In August, it was 39 percent, it went to 49 percent over the course of the month. And this poll is from October 3rd to the 6th. So why do you think so many people are now convinced that their neighbors are going to vote for Trump?

BRAZILE: I don’t know. They didn’t come to my neighborhood and I live in a very diverse neighborhood. Look, I read the Fox poll and there’s so many red signs for the Trump-Pence campaign, along with the Biden-Harris campaign. We’re nowhere closer to the finish line. This race is going to go down to the final vote. 

Are we going to win in the margins? Are we going to lose outside the margins? The bottom-line is the American people want a civil debate. They want a conversation about the issues. They’re tired of the bickering, and they want to know about how these candidates will help them. I mean, I can go through every issue that I know the Trump-Pence campaign has failed us. 
This is still a referendum on the leadership–

BAIER: Can Kamala Harris hurt her ticket significantly tonight?

BRAZILE: I don’t think so. I really don’t. Look, she is a woman of grace. 
She understands the issues. I believe that she’s going to do what Joe Biden did last week, and that is talk directly to the American people. Of course, she’s going to answer the questions. She’s a great lawyer. She’s a wonderful debater. But at the end of the day, her job tonight is to articulate the Biden-Harris vision, not to have a conversation. And I respect my friend over there. And I tell her she’s looking very colorful tonight, but she’s not going to talk about her record. She’s going to talk about the Biden-Harris record.

ROVE: Well, I hope she doesn’t do it what the leader of the ticket did last week and tell, keep yapping, man. I mean, that was a very undignified debate. I do think this so. Let’s be honest, she wasn’t a very good presidential candidate. Marianne Williamson, Andrew Yang, Julian Castro, Pete Buttigieg, and others last into the race months after she was forced out. 

Despite having a big start at the beginning of her campaign, it quickly dwindled out. And it’s going to be interesting whether we see somebody who’s got empathy, can relate to ordinary people, or if we see the prosecutor that we’ve seen show up at several committee hearings yes or no, yes or no. Count me skeptical. I’m not certain how personable she’s going to come across tonight.

PAVLICH: Yes, Bret to answer your question about whether she can significantly hurt the campaign, I think she can. I mean, this is a woman who has a track record of changing her policy positions based on what’s popular at the time and what other candidates are doing. I mean, she signed on to get government health care, Medicare for All, because Bernie Sanders was winning with that message in a Democratic primary early on. She’s likely been studying very hard to make sure she understands exactly where the Biden-Harris ticket is on these policy positions. 

But because she’s been all over the place in a number of things, fracking, the Green New Deal and other issues, the moderate side of Joe Biden is what they want the country to see that tonight. They don’t want this narrative that the Trump campaign has added on to them a Far-Left potential presidential candidate and Kamala Harris, given Joe Biden’s age to be what people focus on.

BAIER: Katie, Karl, Donna, thank you. They’ll be back later in this hour.

MACCALLUM: But first, we spoke with Utah voters about who they think will win in the November election and their neighbors maybe as well.


MACCALLUM: Raise your hand if you think that Joe Biden will win. Three, do you think President Trump will win? You’re not so sure? 





BAIER: Tonight’s vice-presidential debate provides an opportunity for Democratic nominee Kamala Harris to solidify her stance on a range of issues. 

MACCALLUM: Including whether the government should abolish private health insurance. Correspondent Peter Doocy joins us once again from here in Salt Lake City. Hi, Peter.

PETER DOOCY, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Martha and Bret, good evening again. 
Now, Kamala Harris has to adopt the Biden platform and the Biden health care plan. But remember, when she was a presidential candidate herself, she favored Medicare for All. And at one point she said she wanted to abolish private health insurance.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So how important is it to your health care plan to get rid of private insurance companies? Because there’s some confusion about that.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA) VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Yes, so I’m glad you asked. So, the bottom-line and the most important is that everyone have access to health care. That is the goal. That is the purpose for me, supporting the policy of Medicare for All.


DOOCY: Harris also supported the Green New Deal, which Biden opposes. She voted against the USMCA, which Biden recently said is better than NAFTA, and she said that she believed women accusing Biden of misconduct.


HARRIS: I believe him, and I respect them being able to tell their story and have the courage to do it.


DOOCY: She softened her John a little bit during the Veep stakes, saying this to Joe Biden, I know is somebody who really has fought for women and empowerment of women and for women’s equality and rights. Harris also joins Biden and repeatedly sidestepping a simple, straightforward question. Do you want to expand the Supreme Court and pack the new seats with liberals?


HARRIS: Let’s be focused on what is right in front of us, because there is a lot at stake in terms of the integrity of our democracy, of our election system and this process that should take place over the next 35 days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will respectfully note that you also declined to answer that question with me. 


DOOCY: And then there’s her evolution on marijuana enforced the law a lot as a prosecutor wants to legalize it now, something she has been called out for this cycle.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are too many examples to cite, but she put over
1500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana.


DOOCY: We don’t expect much laughter tonight. Bret and Martha. 

BAIER: Peter, thank you.

MACCALLUM: So here now with what to expect from Kamala Harris tonight, former presidential candidate and former mayor of South Bend Indiana, Pete Buttigieg who has been playing Vice President Pence in the mock debates to get Senator Harris ready for this. Mayor Pete, good to see you tonight. 
Thank you for being here with us. We appreciate it. 

You heard Peter Doocy’s piece there outlining a number of flip flops on Medicare for All, which Senator Harris said she was for, and then she said she was against it. The question of MeToo issues was also a flip flop there that was laid out, marijuana as well, in terms of how serious a crime that is. Did you guys work on that in the mock debate scenario?

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I’m really looking forward to tonight because I think it’s going to be a chance to focus on what the American people are most concerned about, the White House’s abject failure to protect the American people from the Coronavirus, which has destroyed lives and done such damage to our economy. The failure of the president to keep the American people safe, the refusal of the president to so much as negotiate on a relief package that’s going to benefit those who are hurting economically. 

Look, Mike Pence is a very skilled debater. I know him from the time that we were both serving him as governor, me as mayor. He was a talk show host for a long time. And he’s very comfortable delivering talking points, some of them outrageous with a straight face. But I’m also looking forward to the opportunity. Just have some clarity on the issues that Americans care about most. 

We want to talk about health care. The most important thing that’s about to happen in health care is the question of whether the Republican lawsuit to take away pre-existing condition coverage prevails in a few weeks when it gets to the Supreme Court. That’s what Americans are worried about. And that’s why I think a lot of people are going to be tuning in this evening. 

BAIER: Mr. Mayor, you mentioned the stimulus and the stopping of the negotiation and what President Trump tweeted. They say that that stopped because Nancy Pelosi would not come off the $2.2 trillion and included in there some poison pills for Republicans. And they’re saying they’ll pass – would like to pass some other single focused bills like checks, stimulus checks directly to families and other things to airlines. Why not do that?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, the House already passed a bill. It’s a good bill. And Mitch McConnell won’t even put it up for an up or down vote. If they think it’s bad, they can vote it down. But it’s really revealing that they won’t even take it that far.

BAIER: Well, there’s a legal immigrant support in there and grants protections for employers who hire undocumented immigrants. There’s other things that are not tied to the Coronavirus specifically that you know–

BUTTIGIEG: Yes, it’s true, when you have employers–


BAIER: Joe Biden said yesterday that bringing people together was it should be. 

BUTTIGIEG: Make sure that they don’t get COVID. Right. I mean, you saw the group of undocumented immigrants, for example, who worked for Donald Trump and showed that they actually paid more in taxes than he did. The workplaces that they’re in are workplaces where all different people are and customers too. And I think we would all agree that we want everybody, regardless of their immigration status, to be free of this deadly virus.

MACCALLUM: So, just going back to my original question about the things that when you run for president, you have a record on all of these issues and then we’ve seen that record and her stance on them changing over time. 
So, there’s no doubt she’s going to be asked about that tonight. Can you give us some insight into what she might say to justify why she was for Medicare for All then and is not for it now, for example?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, there’s a classic parlor game of trying to find a little bit of daylight between running mates. And if people want to play that game, we could look into why an evangelical Christian like Mike Pence wants to be on a ticket with the president caught with a porn star, how he feels about the immigration policy that he called unconstitutional before he decided to team up with Donald Trump. Folks want to play that game. We could do it all night. But I think what most Americans want to hear about is our family is going to be better protected than they have been by this president who’s failed to secure America in the face of one of the most dangerous things ever to happen to our country.

BAIER: Will the question be answered of whether this ticket is for adding justices to the Supreme Court and for ending the filibuster?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, as you know, I’ve always been a fan of bipartisan reforms that reduce the level of politicization in the Senate and on the court speaking only for myself. What I’ll also say is that the entire party, the ticket, and I think most Americans agree that the most important question concerning the court is the nomination that’s about to happen. And it’s unfortunate that Donald Trump and Mike Pence think the American people are wrong in the view that the vast majority of us have us meeting again, the American people, also Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, that the next president ought to pick the next Supreme Court justice.

MACCALLUM: All right, everybody, Pete Buttigieg, we’ll see if we get some answers to some of these questions when we watch this all play out tonight on the actual stage. Thank you very much. Good to have you here.

BUTTIGIEG: Thank you. 

BAIER: Thanks for the time. How former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has prepared Vice President Pence for tonight’s debate on the other side. 
That’s next. Keep it here.


BAIER: The first and only 2020 vice presidential debate now just about 90 minutes away. Time now for an inside look at Vice President Pence’s debate strategy against Senator Harris, former Wisconsin governor, former Republican presidential candidate as well, Scott Walker has been prepping Vice President Pence. He joins us tonight. Good evening, Governor. 

FORMER GOVERNOR SCOTT WALKER (R-WI): Good to be with you. Thank for getting me on. 

BAIER: So, is the vice president ready? What’s the behind the scenes? Lift the curtain for us. 

WALKER: He is. Yes, I was with him earlier today when it worked out for a while. He’s in good spirits and I think he’s going to be just as great as he was four years ago where he looked, I think, reassured America he was ready to stand it, if need be, in the worst case scenario for the president, but more importantly, that he was willing to be and ready to be a great partner, which he has been for the last four years.

MACCALLUM:  Governor, you said he would be emotional and aggressive. Can you expand on what to expect? 

WALKER:  Yes, I think, you know, we saw it four years ago and we see in the vice president’s interviews. He’s calm. That’s what we do in the Midwest. 
We’re very calm. We don’t get out of control. 

But I also think you’re going to see tonight the vice president leaning in, for example, in coronavirus. Many in the other media that somehow there should be a liability. I think the vice president is going to be able to point out that this administration listens to the scientist. They listen to Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx early and flattened the curb. 

At the same time Joe Biden about that same time Joe Biden was raising concerns about travel restrictions with China and Europe. And as his own former chief of staff said, he blew it when it came to H1N1. So, there will be sharp contrast on that issue. I think the vice president is going to be very clear with the American people as to where this administration has gone and where Biden/Harris would take them in the wrong direction. 

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  What Senator Harris shows up tonight in your calculations, which, I should say the one who is prosecuting in confirmation hearings and in different hearings on Capitol Hill, or someone else? 

WALKER:  Well I think it is a tight rope for her because many people are going to be watching particularly Joe Biden’s age to see who is in second in command if Biden were to be elected, but I also think no matter what happens in November 3rd, she is thinking about running for president in the future. 

So, her tendency as we’ve seen in the past even when debating Joe Biden a year ago this past summer was to be aggressive and to be the prosecutor. 
Remember when she went after Joe Biden on the issue of busing, she made it personal. She slowed down and spoke as though she was speaking to a jury like a prosecutor would and delivered a pretty dramatic below to Joe Biden in that debate. 

I think you are going to see some of those, at least attempt to see some of those, sort of, activities tonight. 

MACCALLUM:  So, you got the Plexiglas in there between the two of them. 
What has the vice president said about this whole debate environment, and how he has kind of prepared for that? 

WALKER:  Well, I mean the joke of this is no Plexiglas in front of the moderator. You guys know moderators if there was really about solely about health and safety why doesn’t Susan Page have it? 

The bottom line is the vice president is not going to be phased one way or the other about in that regard. He is going to look right to the American people. He is going to talk to them. He is going to defend not just this administration’s record on recovery and moving forward and explain how radical Joe Biden is as personified by his pick of Senator Harris who Newsweek says is the most liberal member of the United States Senate in terms of voting last year. 

But he is going to have that conversation. He is not going to get into a big fight with Harris or anyone else. He is going to tell the American people why he is defending them and why this president will always defend them going forward. 

BAIER:  You know the administration’s critics, Governor, all say that the president downplayed the virus. They point back to what he told in off camera, not the public, and what he said about downplaying the virus. You are saying that the vice president is going to attack that front head on? 

WALKER:  Well, I think he should. I mean I think actions speak louder than words. I’ve said this for some time, when they push back on this issue, they ignore the fact. We talk about science. This administration has listened to the science. It’s precisely why we are in a much better position. 

Remember, Fauci, in particular warned them in March almost seven months ago, that if they didn’t take dramatic action to flatten the curb. Remember that first 15 days then expanded to 30 days. As many as 2.2 million of our fellow Americans could perish. Thankfully, that did not happen. 

And while we mourn for any death, the fact of the matter is they took decisive action and Joe Biden was ridiculing this administration, particularly the president for trying to put restrictions on travel places like China, and Europe and elsewhere. 

And as I mentioned his own, Joe Biden’s own former chief of staff spelled out that when it came to H1N1, they rarely screwed it up. He talked about it being one of the most largest mass casualty events in global history had they not been fortunate, and thank God for the American people they locked out and didn’t have a chance to blow it even more than the 60 million who were infected. 

MACCALLUM:  Yes. Governor, short on time, but how difficult is it for the president that it is spiking so much in Wisconsin right now? Obviously, that’s a state that he really needs to win. 

WALKER:  Well, it is a challenge, although thankfully we’ve seen numbers go down in terms of hospitalization and in the worst-case scenario. So it is a concern, but again, I remind people if you look at what Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are talking about, it’s not significantly different than what this administration has done and will continue to do going forward when it comes to the science they’re listening to the science. 

The bigger question going forward is, who do you trust with the recovery? I think by a landslide, that’s going to be Donald Trump and Mike Pence. 

MACCALLUM:  Governor, thank you. 

BAIER:  Governor Walker, thanks. 

MACCALLUM:  Governor Scott Walker.

WALKER:  Thank you.

MACCALLUM:  So, coming up next, a live update and we are going to check in with Senator Ron Johnson on the release of these documents in the investigation of the Trump Russia collusion probe. 

BAIER:  But first what goes into preserving one of Salt Lake City’s most famous sites. 

You think preparing for a vice presidential debate is hard? Try renovating a historic landmark at the center of religion. The Salt Lake temple has been under renovation for six months. It’s a four-year project, and it’s very delicate. Workers have been working one by one picking apart the spires, taking out the original windows. 

The historic artwork that’s been there 128 years with the ultimate goal to catalog at all and put it back in once the big job is done, digging down to the pioneer era foundation in setting up seismic stabilization disks so the temple never crumples in the future. 

Mike Pence is the candidate visited here in 2016. Tonight, Vice President Pence is going to try to set up his own seismic stabilization of this presidential race. We’ll see if he can do it at the debate later. 

Our show continues after this. 


MACCALLUM:  Late today, the Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe revealed nearly a thousand pages of documents have been declassified to support John Durham’s probe of the Russia investigation. We already learned in notes from former CIA director John Brennan that he briefed then President Obama on reports allegedly backed by Hillary Clinton to try to tie candidate Trump to Russia in 2016. 

Let’s bring in Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson. Senator, good to have you with us. You know, your committee has been digging into this for some time as well. What do you say to people who are frustrated with the pace of this and wondering why these thousand documents are just getting to Durham’s investigation at this point? 

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI):  Nobody can out frustrate me. Hello, Martha. 
Hello, Bret. No, this is really getting beyond the pale in terms of the obstruction still on that Senator Grassley and I and others investigating this have to endure. 

And I’m glad that John Durham has seen these documents. But I’m (Inaudible). And you know, I’m very disappointed, but honestly that John Durham has not ordered indictments or provide a report supposedly because the reports, he’s afraid that it might interferes the election. 

From my standpoint, I think the greater interference with the election would be holding important information that the American people should have known years ago. The American people deserve the truth. And they need this
— they deserve it before they go to the polls. 

BAIER:  Here is what the former CIA director John Brennan when asked about this, and release of these documents. 


JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER DIRECTOR, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY:  If, in fact, what the Russians were alleging that Hillary was going to highlight, the reported connections between Trump and the Russians, if, in fact, that was accurate and that’s a big if, there is nothing at all illegal about that. 

And so, John Ratcliffe and others are trying to portray this as potentially unlawful activity that deserves a follow-up investigation by the FBI. No, it was a campaign activity. 


BAIER:  Your response, senator. 

JOHNSON:  Well, it’s stunning. But Trump campaign did nothing wrong, and yet, we had an investigation, we had a special counsel. We end up with impeachment, but we also have the intelligence committee assessment that John Brennan put together under President Obama. You know, there are rumors that he actually had information that it was really Russia that was interceding on behalf of Clinton. 

They preferred Clinton to become president and yet, he came up with intelligence committee assessment that said that, you know, all 17 intelligence isn’t saying that Russia intervened on behalf of Trump. 

No, I believe people like John Brennan have a lot to answer and have a lot of questions that they need to provide answers for. And that’s what the American people deserve. They deserve the truth on exactly what happened. 
The corruption of the transition process, the corruption investigation process, the corruption of the FBI, at the Department of Justice and intelligence community under the Obama administration and quite honestly, leading into the Trump administration. 

MACCALLUM:  Before I let you go, you have been diagnosed with COVID-19. You said you would wear a moon suit if that is what it takes to get Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination through. Quick thought on that before we let you go, sir. 

JOHNSON:  Absolutely. that’s — she is a wonderful person, a wonderful woman, mom, and a great judge. She needs to be confirmed and confirmed expeditiously. And the good news is, I’m probably one of those lucky 40 percent that are asymptomatic and I hope to stay that way. 

BAIER:  All right. Senator, good luck and thank you very much. 

We’re back with Karl Rove, Katie Pavlich, Donna Brazile, and new Fox polls after a short break as we get ready for the presidential debate here in Salt Lake City.


BAIER:  A look inside the debate hall. Tonight’s vice-presidential debate expected to cover nine issues broken down into 10-minute segments. 
Moderator Susan Page of USA Today has not released the list of topics but the economy and COVID-19 obviously expected to be front and center. 

MACCALLUM:  No doubt. And tonight, we have some new Fox poll that give a picture of where voters stand on some of these issues with 26 days to go until the big collection. 

Correspondent Jacqui Heinrich joins us from Salt Lake City tonight. Hi, Jacqui. 

JACQUI HEINRICH, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Martha. Good evening, Bret. This poll taken after the first presidential debate after President Trump tested positive for coronavirus. And Biden has doubled his lead over the president since last month, now ahead by 10 points. 

Likely voters have coronavirus and the economy tied for the top issue affecting their vote. A large majority believe coronavirus is not under control in the U.S. Among voters who placed coronavirus as the top issue, Biden is ahead by 39 points and that’s a wider margin than Trump has over Biden among those who ranked the economy as most important. People ranking the economy first favored Trump by 12 points. 

Nearly twice as many people think the government should focus on limiting the spread of the virus then want to restart the economy first. And most people say the economy is in poor shape. The third most important issue facing voters is healthcare. Twice as many want to keep Obamacare as want to repeal it, 64 to 32 percent. 

The other big issues are racism, the Supreme Court, and violent crime. The fewest voters ranked violent crime as most important but those who did favor President Trump by a single point. Nearly 6 in 10 people think the way the president speaks about racial inequality is leading to an increase in violence including nearly a third of his supporters. 

And by comparison, nearly 4 in 10 think Biden’s language incites violence including nearly a fifth of his supporters. Vice President Pence just tweeted a video of him touring the destruction in Minneapolis following the protest indicating tonight he will push law and order message. 

Now 25 percent of voters place the Supreme Court as the top issue and of those people, Biden leads President Trump by five points. At the same time about half would vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett with 90 percent of Republicans supporting, 80 percent of Democrats opposing. 

But 54 percent of voters overall don’t think the president should appoint a lifetime position this close to the election. That’s down from 2016, by the way, when a greater majority thought it was the duty of the current leaders to fill the vacancy after Justice Scalia’s death. 

And voters are divided over adding justices to the Supreme Court with about one in five people unsure and that unclear landscape is probably why both Biden and Harris have avoided giving an answer on court packing and why President Trump and Mike Pence have been pushing for an answer there. 

Bret and Martha. 

BAIER:  Jacqui Heinrich outside the debate hall, Jacqui, thanks. 

MACCALLUM:  So, we are back with our panel joining us now is Karl Rove —


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:  I think this was a blessing from God that I caught it. This was a blessing in disguise. I caught it, I heard about this drug and I said let me take it. It was my suggestion. I said let me take it, and it was incredible the way it worked. 


MACCALLUM:  So, as I said, we are back with our panel after the president put out that video earlier today. 

Karl Rove former deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, Katie Pavlich, news editor,  and Donna Brazile, former interim chair of the Democratic National Committee. 

Great to have all of you with us. 

Karl, let me start with you. When you look at these polls and you see the way that Jacqui laid this out it’s clear that post the president’s COVID he continues to have that it looks like his biggest challenge with voters. 

KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR:  Yes. It also shows his biggest advantages on the economy. So, he’s got to find a way to put most of his emphasis in the remaining 26 days, 27 days on the economy. But he’s got to do better on COVID and he’s got a chance tonight because he’s got Pence on the panel and Pence has been deeply involved in it. But the president himself in the town hall debate has got to make this argument. 

BAIER:  Donna, do you think that something has changed with the president now addressing like he did from the Rose Garden directly to the American people about his COVID diagnosis. Has it changed the dynamic since that first debate? 

DONNA BRAZILE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR:  I don’t think so. Look, first of all, I hope the president is on the road to recovery also the seven million impacted. But for the 210,000 Americans that have died, we need to make sure that we are on a path to easing the pain and making sure that we have some ability to heal those who are sick. 

The one thing I was surprised in the poll, what should happen to healthcare law? Sixty-four percent said keep the law in place, Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. This was a winning issue for Democrats in 2018, I believe it will be a winning issue for Vice President Biden and Senator Harris this year. 

One other thing that I think tonight we want to hear. We want to hear how we bring these jobs back. For 28 solid weeks we have seen job losses. 
meaning those jobs will not come back. So, what’s the plan, what’s the future. We want to hear from the candidates tonight. 

MACCALLUM:  Katie, your thoughts as you look at these polls and we get ready for tonight, Mike Pence has his work cut out for him when you look how, you know, they are in a bit of a hole on a number of fronts except for the economy. 

KATIE PAVLICH, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR:  I think it’s clear that Vice President Mike Pence has work to do tonight. And President Trump has more to do in the next debate which will be town hall style with former president or Vice President Joe Biden. 

But on the issue of coronavirus, this is something that has been difficult for the administration to message in recent weeks. I do think that it helps the president came out today to talk about the treatments that he received and then making it so talking directly to the American people how he is going to make those drugs and therapeutics s available to them at an affordable cost. 

Because Democrats I’m sure Senator Harris tonight will say healthcare is too expensive, drug prices are too expensive and people are suffering as a result of their healthcare as a result of this pandemic. 

But Mike Pence has a huge opportunity here to lay out what the administration has done and what they would say in record time as the head the Coronavirus Task Force for the White House and talk about the following the science that they have done and the differences that they — the differences they have made when it comes to progress on this issue. 

And most importantly, being able to balance the economy, bringing the economy back in a way that helps all Americans looking for a job who have maybe lost their businesses or have been out of work while also getting the issue of the virus under control and as the president said, not fearing the virus to control the economy. 

BAIER:  You know, Karl, we are waiting for this debate. And it’s the next big thing and people probably will tune in big numbers. There was also another fight and that is to keep control for Republicans of the Senate majority. You are plugged in on these races. Is it really on a razor’s edge? 

ROVE:  Sure, it is, because the president is standing in some of these states and we’re in an era if a candidate wins that state for the presidency, normally the candidate for the United States Senate wins as well. 

And that’s why Arizona, Montana, Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia, Maine, Colorado, all of which feature Senate races as well. It’s going to be important to have the president win those states win a couple of those states where we got strong candidates, Colorado, Maine run close enough that they can run ahead of them. 

But it’s going to be a knife edge and we’re going to be we will not have control of the United States Senate settled until January 5th when the Georgia runoff occurs. They have a primary in November and a runoff in January, and that may decide the control of the Senate. 

BAIER:  And thanks for that.


MACCALLUM:  Thanks — 

BAIER:  Thank you all.

MACCALLUM:  Thank you all. So, democracy 2020 special coverage on the night of the vice-presidential debate from Salt Lake continues after this short break. Stay with us. 


BAIER:  Well, that does it for our two-hour preview, we are heading over to the debate hall next. 

MACCALLUM:  Tucker Carlson is coming up with more of our pre-debate coverage and we will make our way over there. We’ll see you at the top of the hour. Stay tuned.

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