Transcript: Mark Meadows on “Face the Nation,” August 2, 2020

The following is a transcript of an interview with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that aired Sunday, August 2, 2020, on “Face the Nation.”


JOHN DICKERSON: We want to go now to White House Chief of staff Mark Meadows, who is in Washington. Good morning, Mr. Meadows.

WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF MARK MEADOWS: Good morning, JOHN. Great to be with you.

JOHN DICKERSON: Well, thank you for being here. I want to start with the state of discussions on that aid package. Yesterday, Senator Schumer, the Democratic leader, said it was the best discussions we’ve had so far. Would you put it that way?

MEADOWS: Well, I would characterize it that way, but we still have a long ways to go. I- I can tell you that we spent the last three days, actually last four days, trying to get to some kind of consensus, at least to start negotiating. Yesterday was a step in the right direction. Our staffs are actually working today. We’ll be meeting again tomorrow. But I’m not optimistic that there will be a solution in the very near term. And- and that’s why I think the effort that Senator Martha McSally led on the Senate floor to extend the enhanced unemployment was the right move. And yet Senator Schumer and his Democratic colleagues blocked that.

JOHN DICKERSON: Well, there’s also, of course, been some heartburn among Republicans who see an extension of a larger number being a strain on the deficit, so my question to you is–

MEADOWS: Yeah, but- but I would, JOHN, I would recommend when that came to the Senate floor, there was not a single Republican that voted against that. It was only the Democrats that voted against that. So I think it’s important for your viewers to understand that if- if you have unemployed people that have lost their enhanced unemployment, they need to call their Democrat senators and House members because they’re the ones that are standing in the way of having those extended right now.

JOHN DICKERSON: But there was also obviously considerable debate among Republicans on the size of that benefit that made some people think the Republicans couldn’t even get a majority of their own votes. But let’s talk about the sticking points now. What are they? And is there any chance to get an extension on those important unemployment benefits and then deal with the bigger set of issues later?

MEADOWS: Well, I think the Republicans are ready, and I know the president is ready to do exactly what you’re talking about. If we want to extend some of the enhanced unemployment benefits while we negotiate a broader package, I know that Secretary Mnuchin and myself have communicated that to our Democratic colleagues. I know the president has been very clear in making sure that not only we’re willing to address that, but there is enough money to make sure that we address the needs that are out there. And yet we continue to see really a stonewalling of any piecemeal type of legislation that happens on Capitol Hill. Hopefully that will change in the coming days.

JOHN DICKERSON: We have Congressman Clyburn, leader of the Democrats, or in the leadership of the Democrats in the House on later in the show. What would you ask him if you were to ask him a question?

MEADOWS: Well, I would- I would ask him, I think the proper question is, is are you willing to encourage Speaker Pelosi to look at doing a standalone bill for enhanced unemployment and bringing that to the floor and encouraging her Senate colleagues to do the same? Because I can tell you, it’s the only thing that we’ve run out of money. We actually have 1.4 trillion dollars. That’s trillion with a “t” of money left still to invest. We have over $100 billion available for state and local. We have over $100 billion for small businesses to tap into still today. And we have over nine billion dollars still available for testing. The one area where we don’t have the money is for an enhanced unemployment benefits. 

JOHN DICKERSON: Alright.

MEADOWS: And so I would ask him that question or will he encourage the speaker to- to address that?

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about the COVID numbers. This week we’re seven months into this pandemic. The numbers reached 150,000 deaths. When- when we look at what the president says this week, he seems to be rowing in the opposite direction of his health experts. He’s criticizing and contradicting Dr. Fauci on Twitter. The president is talking about hydroxychloroquine. None of his public health officials are talking about that issue, and yet they’re trying to get a message out into the country. Who has a better megaphone than the president? Why is his message on this so different than what- his public health officials? Shouldn’t they be in line?

MEADOWS: Well, I don’t think that they’re different than the public health officials, and I’ll address the thing with Dr. Fauci here in just a second. But I can tell you, the president has been very serious. He’s gone back to daily briefings to try to keep the American people informed. I think, in fact, it was his words, not mine, that suggested that, you know, there are some critical days ahead, some very concerning days ahead as we continue to test more and more. But when you mentioned Dr. Fauci, I think his- his pushback on that was where Dr. Fauci talked about 50% shut down versus 95. There is no data that would suggest that- that’s correct. In fact, I would say there’s data just the opposite of that–

JOHN DICKERSON: Well– 

MEADOWS: When we shut down- when we shut down, we actually shut down more than 50% of- of the country to try to contain that– 

JOHN DICKERSON: But Mr.–

MEADOWS: Here’s what we do know- here’s what we do know. We continue to test more than any country in the world. In fact–

JOHN DICKERSON: But here is the point.  

MEADOWS: We have more than the eight countries below us and- and trying to do that. So here’s what we have to do– 

JOHN DICKERSON: But, Mr. Meadows, here’s the point. Testing is important. Testing has to take place. The president being in a debate with Dr. Fauci doesn’t get people focused on what you listen to all of his public health experts saying on all the other channels. The president’s got his channel. On the other channels you have health officials telling people wear masks.

MEADOWS: Well I–

JOHN DICKERSON: You’ve got people–

MEADOWS: JOHN, I’m here with you- I’m here with you this morning– 

JOHN DICKERSON: I know, but the president–

MEADOWS: –talking to your viewers, to talk about the facts. And the facts are this, is- as we continue to test, we’re continue to look at- at areas that we need to be concerned about, nursing homes, long term care, those that have three comorbidities. We need to make sure that we focus there. We’re finding more and more asymptomatic people. But the- the real result is we’re not going to test our way out of this. We’ve got to get a therapeutic we’ve got to make sure–

JOHN DICKERSON: But Mr. Meadows–

MEADOWS: –that we have a treatment and we’re making great progress.

JOHN DICKERSON: But there has no- there is no better megaphone in the country than the president. And the things he’s concerned about don’t seem to be the same things his public health officials are concerned about. In a war, if this is a war as the president says, to have the Commander In Chief on a different channel than his generals seems to me to be a bad idea. Let me ask you this question–

MEADOWS: Well, JOHN, I don’t agree with your characterization there. I can tell you that that daily in fact, many times, multiple times a day, he is checking in with not only the doctors, but myself and others. What are we doing with therapeutics? We’ve got to give hope to the American people. Hopefully, we will- we will be able to not only have a vaccine, but have therapeutics for those who get this where- where it’s not a death sentence. And we’re making great progress. So we’ve already seen that with convalescent plasma. Hopefully some good announcement in the coming days there.

JOHN DICKERSON: Alright. We’ll move on now to the next question. Did the president ask you or anybody in the administration to look into the idea of delaying the Election Day?

MEADOWS: Listen all of this that we’re talking about comes down to one thing, universal mail in ballots. That is not a good idea for the country. We don’t have to look any further than New York–

JOHN DICKERSON: But

MEADOWS: –to see what a debacle that mail in ballots have been when we have weeks and weeks of delay of who the- the- the winner is. Can you imagine if that is with the president of the United States?–

JOHN DICKERSON: So he didn’t? 

MEADOWS: He has not looked at delaying any- any election. What we will do is if we try to transform this and start mailing in ballots all across the country, all 50 states, what we will see is a delay because they’re just not equipped to handle it.

JOHN DICKERSON: Is it a responsible thing, Mr. Meadows, is it responsible for the president to wing out an idea about delaying the election without looking into it?

MEADOWS: Well, it was a question mark. And if we look at that–

JOHN DICKERSON: But he’s–

MEADOWS: It is responsible for him- it is responsible for him to say that if we try to go to 100% universal mail in ballots, will we have an election result on November 3rd? No, I would suggest that we wouldn’t even have it on January 3rd.

JOHN DICKERSON: But Mr. Meadows–

MEADOWS: So we’ve got to make sure that we do this in a proper way, where we- we promote absentee ballots. We make sure that a ballot goes from an individual to the ballot box–

JOHN DICKERSON: Alright.

MEADOWS: –without someone else having the ability to conduct a fraudulent effort.

JOHN DICKERSON: We’re out of time, Mr. Meadows, but this is no small thing. Steven Calabresi, the co-founder of the Federalist Society, which conservatives care a lot about, said this was grounds for impeachment. 

MEADOWS: Yeah.

JOHN DICKERSON: That’s no small thing for the president to suggest that. So unfortunately, we’re out of time and we’re very grateful for you being here with us.

MEADOWS: Well, we’re going to hold an election on November 3rd and the president is going to win. 

JOHN DICKERSON: Thanks so much for being with us, Mr. Meadows. 

MEADOWS: Thank you.

JOHN DICKERSON: And we’ll be back in a moment.


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Rosalind Bruenig

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