This is a rush transcript from “Fox News Sunday” October 11, 2020. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I’m Chris Wallace.
President Trump gets back on the campaign trail, facing an uphill battle against Joe Biden.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is the single, most important election in the history of our country.
WALLACE: With 23 days and counting, President Trump tries to put his campaign back on track after contracting the coronavirus, and the contentious debate process gets even uglier.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We don’t know what the president is going to do. He changed his mind every second.
WALLACE: We’re joined by the president’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, a senior adviser to his campaign.
Then, Judge Amy Coney Barrett heads to Capitol Hill for confirmation hearings, hoping to become the next Supreme Court, but facing fierce opposition from Democrats.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: We are demanding today that the hearings be postponed.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: They’re grasping at straws to block this exceedingly well-qualified nominee.
WALLACE: We’ll talk with Republican Ben Sasse and Democrat Chris Coons, key members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Plus, we’ll ask our Sunday panel what Democrats will try to do to block Barrett’s confirmation.
And our “Power Player of the Week,” the former White House counsel credited as the architect of the president’s judicial makeover.
All, right now, on “FOX News Sunday.”
WALLACE: And hello again from FOX News in Washington.
Even by Donald Trump standards, there’s a lot to cover this hour. The president held a public event yesterday just nine days after testing positive for COVID-19. His doctor says he is no longer a transmission risk but did not say the president tested negative for the virus.
Hundreds attest — attended that event on the South Lawn, two weeks after a Rose Garden ceremony for a Supreme Court nominee that’s now being called a super-spreader. Tomorrow, that nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, begins confirmation hearings in the Senate and the president is headed back on the campaign trail, but not to a debate that was scheduled for this week, but then canceled.
In a moment, we’ll discuss all this with Lara Trump, senior advisor to the campaign.
But first, let’s bring in Mark Meredith at the White House with the latest on the president’s return to in-person campaigning — Mark.
MARK MEREDITH, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Chris, the president’s reelection campaign has scheduled three rallies for next week, all of them in battleground states as the president appears eager to get back out there and make up for lost time.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: First of all, I’m feeling great, I don’t know about you. How’s everyone feeling?
MEREDITH: After spending the week recovering from coronavirus, on Saturday, President Trump welcome hundreds of supporters to the White House, most wearing masks, but not socially distanced.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I want to thank all of you for your prayers. I know you’ve been praying and I was in that hospital.
MEREDITH: The president kept his distance from the crowd by speaking from a balcony.
BIDEN: More than 7.5 million Americans have been affected — infected and counting.
MEREDITH: On the trail, Joe Biden continues to criticize the president’s pandemic response, but it’s Biden who’s facing criticism for refusing to say if he’ll support efforts to increase the number of Supreme Court justices.
BIDEN: Look, the only court packing going on right now, it’s going on with Republicans packing the court now. It’s not constitutional what they’re doing.
MEREDITH: The issue would have likely come up during the second presidential debate but the Miami matchup was canceled by organizers Friday after the president refused to agree to a semi-virtual format.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: This commission has been ridiculous, frankly, but who wants to do a debate on the computer?
MEREDITH: Instead, Biden will participate in a televised town hall on Thursday. It’s unclear what President Trump may do instead of the debate.
MEREDITH: Tomorrow, the Senate Judiciary Committee begins the confirmation hearings for the president’s Supreme Court nominee. Democrats are demanding those hearings being delayed because of concerns with the coronavirus spreading in the Capitol — Chris.
WALLACE: Mark Meredith reporting from the White House — Mark, thank you.
And joining us now, Trump campaign senior advisor and daughter-in-law to the president, Lara Trump.
Lara, welcome back to “FOX News Sunday.”
LARA TRUMP, TRUMP CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Thank you. Great to be with you, Chris.
WALLACE: Let’s start with the president’s health.
His doctor put out a memo yesterday that said this: He is no longer considered a transmission risk to others. But it doesn’t say that he tested negative.
Laura, is your father-in-law now free of the coronavirus? Is it gone?
L. TRUMP: Well, according to the White House medical staff, it sounds like that’s the answer.
Obviously, working at the campaign, we do not conduct any testing on him ourselves. So if the White House doctors says that he’s free of transmission, I think that sounds like he’s done with the coronavirus and by all accounts, he should be able to go out, get back on the road campaigning.
He certainly should be able to do a debate on October 15th, but we know the Debate Commission decided against that. They wanted it virtual. But it sounds by all accounts like he is free of the coronavirus.
WALLACE: OK. We’ll get to the debate in a moment.
As we said just a moment ago, the president held an event on the South Lawn of the White House yesterday and while people were not socially distanced, many, but not all, were wearing masks.
Having said that, that’s a lot better than two weeks ago at the event for Judge Amy Coney Barrett were people were packed in, almost no masks, and Dr. Fauci has said that that event was a super-spreader.
Question, why did it take the president getting COVID for the White House to take the CDC safety guidelines more seriously, although even yesterday, they were still violating some?
L. TRUMP: Well, at that Amy Coney Barrett event — look, I think most of those people if not all of those people were tested for coronavirus before sitting down for that event.
And you never hear, Chris, on the other side of the coin, the fact that we have had in this country since really the height of the COVID days, these demonstrations across America, riots in the street, peaceful protests some of them, many of them not peaceful, all across America but you never hear any concern after these sayings about those being super-spreader events. I had yet to hear one doctor say anything about them. I have yet to hear one media outlet say anything about those.
It doesn’t seem like coronavirus would have a political agenda, but often times, it feels like it does because those events are never talked about as being an issue.
So, look, the White House has always followed guidelines. They’ve always either tested people before they are around the pursuit or whenever there’s not testing available for the number of people that are there, encourage people to wear masks. And honestly, if we all look at this from the same perspective, it doesn’t seem right that we’re criticizing one event and not another.
WALLACE: Well, I take your point about the protests, but that doesn’t make what happened at the White House, which as I say, Tony Fauci says was a super-spreader, at least eight people at that event later came down with a virus, including the president and the first lady.
I’ve got to ask you, because you were there, about another event, which was the first debate 12 years ago in Cleveland. The Cleveland Clinic’s rules were very clear. Everyone in the audience had to wear a mask but after the first family came in with masks, you all took them off.
Did you think, Lara, that the rules that applied to everybody else in that hall didn’t apply to you?
L. TRUMP: Well, of course, we didn’t think that and first of all, I’ll say that everyone in there, Chris, was tested and tested negative for COVID, at least in our family before we even got on the plane to head out to Cleveland. And we walked in with the mask on, we sat down, all of the seats were socially distanced.
And I’ve heard you actually say this many times, I want to be very clear, never one time did anyone from Cleveland Clinic up and ask member of our family to put a mask on. So that is totally false. I know that that notion has been out there, that is not true.
We were respectful to people around us coming in. We wanted to do that, to walk in with the masks on. We sat down. We didn’t move from the seats until the very end, until it was all over, and we felt like we were being safe.
Those are the same guidelines applied to restaurants. Those are the same guidelines applied to many outlets across America and the fact that we had —
WALLACE: Listen —
L. TRUMP: — tested negative, Chris, I mean, you know, look, we followed the rules that — as we thought that they were given to us.
WALLACE: Well, I don’t want to belabor this, I want to move on, but everybody in that hall had tested negative. I had had a test three days before. You couldn’t get in the hall without testing negative.
And the fact is the rules were everybody except for the president, the vice president and I were supposed to wear masks and it was the pool report — I’m not just making this up — the pool report says that a member of the Cleveland Clinic — and, in fact, there is video that exists coming up to somebody in the presidential party and saying, would you like masks, and they were waved away.
L. TRUMP: Well, they didn’t ask any member of our family.
I — what I understand afterwards is that Colby Covington, who was sitting behind me, had a MAGA mask on and they didn’t appreciate that apparently. So I think they were coming up to offer him maybe a different mask. That’s all I can tell you about it.
But never once, Chris, was anybody —
L. TRUMP: — from our family asked to put a mask on.
WALLACE: I want to ask you about some of the president’s actions this week. On Tuesday, he tweeted this — I’m going to put it up on the screen – – I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating on COVID relief until after the election.
Walking away from talks with Nancy Pelosi.
By Friday, the president was saying this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would like to see a bigger stimulus package, frankly, that either did Democrats or the Republicans are offering. I’m going in the exact opposite now, okay?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
WALLACE: How could the president go in three days from saying that the top offer was $1.62 trillion to — on Friday, three days later, saying he wanted to do more than Nancy Pelosi’s $2.4 trillion, which now Republicans are rejecting as far too much?
L. TRUMP: Well, I think first and foremost, let’s point out the fact that I think most people can agree, Nancy Pelosi was not serious about this negotiation. This was a liberal wish list, as have they all been when it comes to these stimulus bills with Nancy.
You know, defunding the police, bailout money for states that were in huge deficits well before COVID hit any of them, trying to bail them out for their bad decision-making from Democrat governors.
And look, the president is entitled to change his mind. I haven’t specifically talked to him about this, but, you know, maybe he got some different information.
I can tell you, Chris, the bottom line is that he wants for what is best for the American people. You saw the way that he pushed for the Paycheck Protection Program in the middle of COVID to make sure that small businesses could stay afloat.
L. TRUMP: That people could weather the storm.
This is no different. He understands that there are people out there who desperately need this money, but it feels like the Democrats and Nancy Pelosi are yet again playing politics and that is not what we need right now.
WALLACE: I’ve got one last question. We’ve got one last minute to talk about it.
When the Commission on Presidential debates announced this week that it was going to change the debate that has you mentioned was coming — was supposed to come up on Thursday, the 15th, from in-person town hall to a virtual town hall, the president immediately pulled out.
That debate has now been canceled.
I understand why the president would have preferred an in-person debate, but that wasn’t what was on the table. Didn’t he make a mistake — regardless of what you think of the commission — didn’t the president make a mistake because he’s now lost one of his last two chances to confront Joe Biden on camera?
L. TRUMP: Well, I don’t think so.
Look, I think a virtual debate is just a complete disaster, quite frankly. We see even now when we’re talking, there’s a delay in communication.
This is how it goes virtually. You cannot have a legitimate debate with somebody virtually and I know — look, who’s to say what happens on the other end of things, what happens on the Trump side, what happens on the Biden side? Nobody knows.
These two men should be on stage. There is no reason that they shouldn’t be — 175 doctors told “The New York Post” that they think that the president, without a doubt, should have been able to do this. It made no sense.
And good for the president for calling it out.
Why did the Debate Commission, Chris, decide early on, no, we’re not going to add a fourth debate like the Trump campaign was pushing for —
L. TRUMP: — because they didn’t want to change the rules, they told us?
Now, they’re willing to change the rules without reaching out to our campaign, made a split-second decision the day after the vice president had a very strong debate against, Kamala Harris. It seems a little suspect to people, and I think a virtual debate is an absolute disaster.
Good for the president for saying, no, they need to be in person.
WALLACE: Lara, thank you. Thanks for your time this weekend. Always good to talk with you and happy birthday tomorrow.
L. TRUMP: Thank you. And happy birthday to you as well.
WALLACE: Up next, we’ll bring in our Sunday group to discuss the president’s rejection of a virtual debate and has returned to big public events.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think this was a blessing from god that I caught it. This was a blessing in disguise.
BIDEN: Anybody who contracts the virus by essentially saying masks don’t matter, social distancing doesn’t matter, I think is responsible for what happens to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: President Trump and Joe Biden with very different takes on the president’s bout with COVID this week.
And it’s time now for our Sunday group. FOX News senior political analyst Brit Hume, Susan Page of “USA Today” and moderator of the vice presidential debate this week, and Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for “The New York Times.” and author of the new book, “The Man who Ran Washington”.
Peter, let me give a quick review. I just finished your biography of James Baker. It is a fascinating read about a man who actually got things done in this town. Good for you.
Now, Peter, let me put you to work. A number of top Trump advisors both in the White House and the campaign were hoping that the president would use his bout with COVID, his recovery, to reset the campaign.
What’s your sense as somebody who works the White House beat? Has there been a change in his message, has there been a change in his approach?
PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: No, I think the president is doubling down on his approach, he is trying to reframe his own experience instead of being a result of predictable, you know, lax handling of the virus among his own team and his own event, is now portraying it as an act of courage, that he got out there even though he knew the risks because the country has to be able to move forward.
You know, of course, there’s a middle ground between complete isolation and going out and bringing people together in these crowds without masks without any kinds of precautions, but he’s determined to show that he’s on top of this and because he survived, America can too. We literally reported in our papers this morning he had talked about appearing with a Superman shirt beneath his dress shirt that he would open up to sort of demonstrate that he’s conquering this, either talked out of it or thought better of it.
But I think that’s where he’s at right now.
WALLACE: I’ve got to say as a reporter, that would have been some photo op.
Brit, some of the president’s action that he’s taken this week have — I know some Republicans shaking their heads. There was that flip on the COVID relief talks and the amount of COVID relief that I was just discussing with Lara Trump. There is the fact that the president has been really pushing hard for Attorney General Barr to bring charges against Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, before the election and contradicting his own national security advisor about the number of troops that will be in Afghanistan the end of the year.
Do you have a sense of what’s going on in this White House right now?
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I don’t exactly have a sense of it but I remember that four years ago during the closing weeks of the campaign, the president stopped the tweeting, was very disciplined on the campaign, went to the states where he needed to go in several of which crucially won and put on a very, very measured and very focused performance.
He’s not doing that now. He’s all over the place. It was all over the place, as you pointed out this week on the COVID relief bill, he’s contradicting his advisors, he’s making — he is trying to act like a conquering hero over COVID while people are still very worried about the ailment.
I think his instincts have been largely right, but it’s been obscured by all this carrying on. So I think, you know, I think he needs a disciplined, focused performance and so far, he’s not giving one and what you cite are examples of that.
WALLACE: Then, there was the president’s snap decision to pull out of the second debate after the commission announced this week that it was going to be a virtual town hall, not a real in person town hall.
Here was the president announcing that decision.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate, that’s not what debating is all about. You sit behind a computer and do a debate is ridiculous. And then they cut you off whenever they want.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
WALLACE: Susan, as soon as the president said I’m not going to do it, Joe Biden very quickly announced that he was going to do a town hall on a network, not giving the president a chance to change his mind. And the president therefore lost one of his last two opportunities to confront Joe Biden, even if it was virtually.
How big a mistake on his part?
SUSAN PAGE, USA TODY: Political malpractice. You know, Joe Biden doesn’t need this debate, Joe Biden is delighted to avoid an opportunity to shake up this contest. It was President Trump who needed to change what we see happening.
We now have this morning, with “The Washington Post”/ABC poll, the fifth high-quality poll since your debate that shows the president trailing by double digits now. Four years ago, he confounded all the experts, we all remember that.
But this is a really uphill task for them over the next 23 days.
WALLACE: Yeah, let me pick up on that with you, Peter. What’s your sense, again, as somebody who works the White House beat, what’s your sense of the mood in the campaign and the White House? I’m not talking about the president, but the people around him. How discouraged are they by these polls? Do they see a clear path to victory?
BAKER: Yeah, I think it’s a mix of despondency and denial at this point. You have a lot of aides out there who recognize how bad things are, they are 23 days away from an election, double digits down. That they don’t see a lot of opportunity as you point out correctly, to change the dynamic in the weeks to come, the fact that the president himself as the virus means that that issue is number one. It’s not his best issue, obviously.
And then there are those who are basically still holding onto the idea that they did it last time, they will do it next time. The fact that the pundits are writing him off just remind them of 2016 and he pulled it off then, so he can pull it off again, and that, you know, that the punditocracy doesn’t know what it’s talking about, and they have a point obviously. We did — you know, a lot of people did get it wrong four years ago, so they hold out hope for that.
But the problem for years ago was there some outside forces that change the dynamics and the question is whether we see anything like that happening this time. And as Brit pointed out, the president actually altered his own campaign style and we haven’t seen that yet.
WALLACE: Brit, I need a pretty quick answer from you here. You know, we all have a tremendous sense of humility as an unaccustomed as that is because of the surprise victory by the president four years ago. But what is your sense of where we stand three weeks out?
HUME: I think he’s in a place where the only thing that might save him would be a performance or several performances by Joe Biden in which his senility, which I think has been obvious to careful (ph) watchers for some time, becomes utterly obvious that people begin to say, wait a minute, we really can’t have this guy in the White House.
I think that’s his best hope, but that means more — more debates, and let Biden talk, because the longer he talks, the greater the chance of it showing through are.
WALLACE: That’s a very controversial view, but that’s your view, you’re entitled to it.
Panel, we have to take a break here. We’ll see you a little later.
Up next, we’ll talk with two key members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss the upcoming fight over President Trump’s latest Supreme Court nominee.
WALLACE: Coming up, Democrats map out their strategy in the battle over president Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: President Trump is in the Supreme Court right now trying to get rid of the affordable care act.
WALLACE: We’ll ask key members of the Senate Judiciary Committee what’s at stake in this week’s hearings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: The confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett begin tomorrow. The president’s Supreme Court nominee expected to face tough questioning from Democrats as they try to block her from filling the vacancy left by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
We’re joined by two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will conduct those hearings. We’ll talk with Republican Senator Ben Sasse in a few minutes.
But, first, Democratic Senator Chris Coons, who’s a member of Joe Biden’s inner circle.
Senator Coons, your caucus just plain doesn’t have the votes at this point to block Judge Barrett’s nomination to the court, so what’s your strategy for the hearings this week?
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Well, I’m going to be laying out the ways in which Judge Barrett’s views, her views on reaching back and reconsidering and long settled precedent are not just extreme, they’re disqualifying. She has taught at a well-regarded law school. She clerked for Justice Scalia. But she has views that make her not qualified to serve on the Supreme Court.
President Trump has said he would only nominate someone who would overturn the Affordable Care Act, taking away health care protection for more than 100 million Americans in the middle of a pandemic. And both President Trump and members of the majority on this committee have said they would only vote for a nominee who would overturn Roe vs. Wade.
As I will lay out in my questioning this week, we shouldn’t be having this hearing with two members of the committee infected with COVID. It’s rushed. It constitutes court packing. And her views are too extreme to qualify her to serve on this court.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Well, let me just point out, there have been a number of hearings since COVID began that had virtual membership participation by some of the senators. So this is nothing new in these — in this period of time.
But I want to get back to your main point.
Based on her writings, and even some of her — her votes as a judge in the — in the Seventh Circuit, do you have any doubt that a Justice Barrett would vote to overturn Obamacare and would vote to either overturn or restrict a woman’s right to abortion?
COONS: I think she’s made that very clear in recent writings. And, frankly, don’t just believe me, believe President Trump. He said publicly, I will only nominate someone who will overturn the Affordable Care Act. Judge Barrett directly criticized Chief Justice Roberts just three years ago saying that his decision eight years ago upholding the Affordable Care Act stretched the plausible limits of the text and criticized him for not being a proper textualist.
This is hard for your average American to follow, I think. When I spoke with a constituent here in Delaware last week, someone with a pre-existing condition, she said, I thought this was settled. I thought years ago that the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act. I said, that’s right, but Republicans in the Senate and President Trump keep trying to overturn it.
This is their last, desperate measure to jam someone onto the court to accomplish that goal by Supreme Court decision what they couldn’t accomplish by legislative action in the Congress.
WALLACE: All right, Senator, I want to talk to you about a different subject related to this though.
You’re a member of the Biden inner circle. And the former vice president has been asked repeatedly, if you become president, will you move to pack the court, will be moved to increase the number of justices?
Here was his answer this week to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: You’ll know my opinion on court packing when the election is over.
But you know the moment I answer that question, the headline in every one of your papers will be about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator, I’ve been doing this a long time and I don’t understand that answer. He says, you’ll find out what my position is after the election. And if I were to tell you, it would be a headline in every paper.
Why not just be straight with the American voters on this issue before the election?
COONS: Well, Chris, as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I’ll tell you, for the last four years, I’ve seen unprecedented court packing where nominees to fill lifetime seats in the federal judiciary, who the American Bar Association said were not qualified, got jammed through.
Instead of passing a COVID relief package that will help millions of Americans who are unemployed, who have been infected, whose businesses or employers have closed —
WALLACE: But —
COONS: We’re focusing on jamming through Judge Barrett.
I think this constitutes court packing and, frankly, I think that’s the implication of what Joe Biden was saying.
WALLACE: But — but — but, Senator — but, Senator, you’re not — respectfully, Senator — no, Senator, with all due respect, you’re not being straight with me and you’re not answering my question. We have 23 days left until the election. Can Vice President Biden, can Senator Harris, his running mate, can they continue to stonewall on a perfectly legitimate question?
Biden says it’s legitimate. If you’re elected, will you try to change one of the three branches of government by adding justices to the court? There haven’t been any more than nine justices, I think it’s since the 1870s. It’s a pretty important question. Can he hold out and stonewall on that issue for three weeks?
COONS: Well, Chris, for the coming week, what I’m holding out is hope that there are still two more Republicans who might join with the two Republicans who have already said, based on what they did four years ago, in refusing to give a hearing or a vote for Judge Merrick Garland, they should not be doing this now.
Senator Murkowski, Republican from Alaska, said, fair is fair. If that’s what we did during the election four years ago, now with the election already underway, with voting already happening in 27 states, 4 million votes being cast, we should not be racing ahead.
COONS: I am concerned and so are some members of the majority —
WALLACE: OK. And — but that — but that’s a different — let me just say – – and I got — I — I — I’ve just going to say, that’s a different issue than packing the court. That’s the question as whether or not the court should — the Senate should vote to confirm Barrett. That’s different than changing the number of justices on the court.
Senator Coons, I’ve got to leave it there. Thank you. As always, thank you for joining us.
COONS: Thank you, Chris.
WALLACE: Joining me now, another member of the committee, Republican Senator Ben Sasse.
Senator, let’s start where I left off with Senator Coons.
What do you make of Joe Biden’s refusal to answer the question, if elected, will you change the number of justices on the court? And do you think he can continue to hold out to that nonanswer for the next three weeks?
SENATOR BEN SASSE, (R-NE), SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, Chris, first of all, thanks for coming to Nebraska, glad to have you.
It’s grotesque that Vice President Biden won’t answer that really basic question. And it isn’t just one branch of government, what they’re really talking about or refusing to talk about, is the suicide bombing of two branches of government.
What they’re talking about is blowing up the deliberative structure of the United States Senate by abolishing the filibuster and making it possible to turn the Senate into just another House of Representatives where every two years by a 51-49 or 49-51 majority major portions of American life change. And they’re (ph) doing that to pack the Supreme Court.
This language, I apologize to you Chris, you live — we live right next to a Union Pacific mainline and you’re about to hear America working as a big train is about to come by. So, I wanted to say —
WALLACE: That’s right. We’re going to —
SEN. SASSE: — I’ll speak up just a little bit —
WALLACE: Right (ph). Let me get to the next question —
SEN. SASSE: (Inaudible).
WALLACE: — and I’ll — guys, cut Senator Sasse’s mic while I ask the question and then we can hear him when he answers.
I want to discuss some of the key issues that a Justice Barrett would confront on the court.
Back in 2006, she signed a newspaper ad that called for overturning the, quote — the words that she signed, “barbaric legacy” of Roe v. Wade. Then as a judge, she voted to rehear cases where other judges in the Seventh Circuit struck down restrictions on abortion.
Senator, aren’t you counting on a Justice Barrett to either end or restrict a woman’s right to abortion?
SEN. SASSE: The reason I think that Amy Barrett is a rock star and should be on the court is because she is very clear about her jurisprudence. She’s an originalist and she is a textualist, which means when she puts on her black robe in the morning, she knows what it is to be a judge, and that is to cloak your personal preferences.
Our judges don’t wear red or blue jerseys, they don’t advocate for policy positions and we shouldn’t be having either Democrats or Republicans on the committee trying to figure out how can they divine the future of how they’ll rule on particular cases. This is the so-called Ginsburg rule (ph) historically — —
WALLACE: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Senator — Senator, you’re — Senator, with respect, you’re being a little disingenuous here. You’re very staunchly pro-life. That’s a perfectly legitimate position to take, but aren’t you in fact counting on Justice Barrett to either end or restrict Roe v. Wade? And wouldn’t you be terribly disappointed if she failed to do that?
SEN. SASSE: There are two different jobs, Chris. You’re right, I’m pro-life and I stood for election before the voters of Nebraska and I get to do that again in 23 days and I asked them for their vote and I tell them my policy positions.
If Amy Barrett were running for the United States Senate from the state of Illinois, she would have policy positions that she’d layout to the American people. That isn’t what a judge’s job is.
The politicization of the court and some of — Chris, I like Chris Coons, by the way, but some of his weirdly Orwellian language in that last segment claiming that court packing is filling open vacancies, that obviously isn’t what court packing means, we have seen a politicization of the courts since Robert Bork in 1987, where the left wants to turn it into a super legislature to advance things that they can’t get done through the electorate.
That is not what textualists want. I didn’t say —
WALLACE: And (ph) —
SEN. SASSE: — that isn’t what conservatives want. That is not what people who know what a judge’s job is should want.
WALLACE: All right. Then there is also Obamacare, which is particularly timely because the court will hear a lawsuit that is seeking to strike down the Affordable Care Act the week after the election.
I want to put up Barrett’s history here.
In 2017, this is what Coons was referring to, Barrett wrote this, “Chief Justice Roberts pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute” back in a 2012 case.
I mean, look, all we can judge a judge by — a justice by is what they’ve said in the past. There’s a reason that President Trump chose her. There’s a reason that you’re going to be voting for her.
Aren’t you in fact counting on Justice Barrett to overturn the Obamacare Act?
SEN. SASSE: So first of all, the 2012 case, the Roberts’ opinion there, which I disagree with, is a different case than the case that’s before the court now. And every time people have said they can predict how judges are going to rule in the future, they’re almost always disappointed and wrong.
And so obviously President Trump says a whole bunch of things and so he may say something that’s more outcomes-based, but for those of us who sit on the committee or those of us who are making the judgment about how we’ll vote in the United States Senate on Amy Barrett’s nomination and her ultimate confirmation, is because of how she spells out what the job of a judge is. And that is not outcome-based.
She is a rock star jurist, there’s nobody in the Notre Dame faculty, no matter where they are on the political spectrum, who’ve dissented from the fact that this woman is not just a great thinker, but she has the character to understand who a judge is, what their job is, and how you’re humble in that calling. And that’s why she was unanimously recommended by the Notre Dame faculty —
SEN. SASSE: — including people whose politics are way to the left of mine.
WALLACE: Senator Sasse, thank you. Thanks for your time. Please come back and next time, hopefully, there won’t be a freight train going through during the interview. Thank you, sir.
Up next, we’ll bring back our Sunday group to discuss Joe Biden’s refusal to answer the question, as president, would he try to pack the Supreme Court?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Democrats and liberal extremists are attacking Amy Coney Barrett for her faith. It’s shameful bigotry.
Democrats know she’s brilliant and principled, so their attacks on her faith will only get worse.
Stand with Amy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: A conservative legal group launching a multimillion dollar ad campaign to try to preempt attacks on Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s religious beliefs.
And we’re back now with the panel.
Susan, what do you expect from the hearings this week? I mean we’ve got the situation where Judge Amy Coney Barrett would be replacing the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That would seem to ensure a few really emotionally charged days. And specifically on that ad that I just — we just played, what about Judge Barrett’s involvement with the People of Praise, a charismatic Catholic group? Do you think that Democrats are just going to steer clear of that, it will be off limits, because of any fear that it will be portrayed as questioning her catholic faith?
SUSAN PAGE, “USA TODAY”: Yes, I don’t think that’s going to be the — the thrust of the Democratic attack. I think Democrats are quite determined to focused on health care, on the effort to strike down the Affordable Care Act and the protections it provides for people with pre-existing conditions. That’s the — Democrats do not believe they can defeat this nomination, but they believe they can make a point about that.
WALLACE: Brit, you heard my conversation with the two senators, Coons and Sasse, about Joe Biden’s continued refusal to discuss whether or not to answer the question, whether or not he will pack the court. And by that we specifically mean add, so that there will no longer be nine justices, there will be 12 or even 15.
Your thoughts about his continued refusal to answer that question?
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I don’t think it’s a tenable position, Chris, and now it’s get — and his answers are getting more and more wild. He said, for example, yesterday that the American public did not deserve to know his position on that, which is a very odd thing for somebody to say about the voters.
He also said that the way that the Republicans were approaching this nomination was unconstitutional, which is utter nonsense. And, of course, he’s got the court packing line you saw Chris Coons trying out. That’s not what — adding justices — I mean appointing justices to vacancies on courts is not court packing. It never has been. It’s an expression that dates to the 1930s when Franklin Roosevelt tried to expand the Supreme Court and it been and it has been known as court packing ever since. So what — what — what President Trump needs right now is more Joe Biden on that issue because as long as he refuses, it’s going to hurt him.
WALLACE: Peter, let me pick up on that.
President Trump, and he brought it up in the debate I moderated, the first debate, he clearly seems to think that this court packing issue, and maybe more than the issue, Biden’s refusal to answer the question, is a good issue for them.
How — how vulnerable to they think Biden is on that and is it — your point of view, do you think it’s good politics for — for Biden to try to just duck this, not just to give an answer, regardless of whether it ticks off some voters either in the center, if he says, yes, I’m going to pack the court, or on the left if he says, no, I’m not going to pack the court?
PETER BAKER, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: Yes, I think it’s an interesting question. He did answer the question during the primaries in which he said he didn’t favor court packing. That was, a course, before this current situation with Judge Barrett being confirmed just days before the election. And there’s a lot of agitation among Democrats to — anger over this happening, saying, well, if they’re going to stretch the norms and boundaries of what we used to consider to be the rules, then there’s no reason we can’t either. It’s perfectly constitutional for them to confirm Judge Barrett, perfectly constitutional to change the number of seats on the Supreme Court. It’s just something that hasn’t happened all that often, as you point out. It hasn’t changed since the 19th century.
I think Biden is an institutionalist but he doesn’t want to rile Democrats who would be mad at him if he says, look, I just as soon not court pack because I don’t want a stretch the — the boundaries of our norms even further than they already have been.
WALLACE: Susan, if the Senate does go ahead, as Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, says he intends to, and they, at least at this point, they have the votes, to confirm Judge Barrett to become Justice Barrett before Election Day, and if it’s a done deal therefore, how much of a voting issue do you think this is in these final three weeks and, most importantly, on Election Day?
PAGE: Well, I think it’s — the issues that surround the confirmation of — of the judge as a justice and thereby cementing this conservative majority in the court, those are big issues. The issue of abortion rights is a big issue for a lot of women and for progressives and for others. And the issue of health care and the — which — which is infused with the issue of the coronavirus is the strongest issue defining this election.
You know, in the poll we — the national poll we saw this morning, President Trump still does pretty well in the assessment of how he handles the economy. Usually that’s the defining issue for an incumbent president. Not this time. Sixteen percent of the people who support the president, think he’s doing a good job handling the economy, say they’re going to vote for Joe Biden. That’s the reason that this court case, this court confirmation could have some real legs politically because of what it might lead too when it comes to health care.
WALLACE: Yes, but let me — let me ask you about the — that, Susan, because I directly asked Republican Senator Sasse about that, wouldn’t you be disappointed? Aren’t you counting on a Justice Barrett to either overturn or restrict Roe v. Wade? Aren’t you counting on her to overturn Obamacare? And he said, well, look, we’re not worried about results. You know, she’s a judge. Is that being disingenuous on his part? I mean, in fact, aren’t the president, aren’t the Republicans, in fact, in — counting on exactly that?
PAGE: Yes, well, I can’t speak for Senator Sasse in particular, but Republicans in general, yes, I think they are — they expect this confirmation to lead to different results than they’ve had on those two, big issues.
WALLACE: Brit, if the president does — or if the Senate, rather, does go ahead and confirm Barrett, if it’s a done deal, does it lose its potency as a political issue, as a campaign and voting issue, in these final days of first early voting and then actual voting on Election Day?
HUME: I suspect it might, Chris.
Let me make a couple of points about this issue of whether they’re counting on Judge Barrett to rule against Roe v. Wade in whatever way or on the Affordable Care Act.
I think it’s by no means predictable which way she’d go on those issues and I don’t think Republicans are necessarily counting on her to be a vote — to do what they think they want on those issues. I think there’re more looking for her as a judge that will solidify a majority against further such imaginative rulings as have led to the creation of the right to an abortion and so on. So I think that’s where that goes.
You know, the ACA issue is kind of a technical issue on — on whether the whole law must fall if the — if the tax penalty provision fails. And I don’t think there’s any way to predict which way she’d go on that. I rather suspect she would — she would not vote to overturn the whole thing, but that’s just my guess.
WALLACE: Peter, I want to get back to what I was discussing first with Susan at the beginning. There’s been a lot of reporting and some commentary about this — this group that — that — that Judge Barrett is a member of, People of Praise, a charismatic catholic group. But you saw the ad at the beginning where conservative groups are really putting a marker down. You start talking about Judge Barrett’s faith, her religious beliefs, and there’s going to be a big backlash.
Obviously catholic voters, a big constituency in this election. Do you expect Democrats to tread lightly on it? Do you expect them to just say it’s off limits and not touch it? How are they going to deal with that?
BAKER: I would be surprised if Democrats went anywhere near it. I think that they saw that it kind of blew back on them a few years ago during her confirmation to the appeals court and so I don’t expect them to do much. I think it’s a useful issue for Republicans to make her out to be a victim of religious bias, and that’s a good thing for their base.
WALLACE: Yes, we should point out that when she was being confirmed to be an appeals court judge, it was a member of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Feinstein, who said, I believe the dogma speaks loudly within you. I suspect we won’t be hearing that this week.
Thank you, panel. See you next Sunday.
Up next, our “Power Player of the Week,” the chief architect behind President Trump’s move to reshape the courts.
WALLACE: We started thinking this week about the push for a new Supreme Court justice in the final days of the presidential campaign. And long after Donald Trump leaves office, whether it’s in 2021 or ’25, the work of one of his key former aides will live on.
Here’s our “Power Player of the Week.”
DON MCGAHN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Judges have life tenure. It’s the closest thing we have to permanence in our constitutional system of government. And particularly for President Trump, it’s really going to be his central legacy.
WALLACE (voice over): Don McGahn is a key player in that legacy. As former White House counsel, he drove the process for President Trump to appoint over 200 judges to lower courts and two justices to the Supreme Court, all following the conservative principle of sticking to the law as written.
MCGAHN: More predictable legal frameworks allow people to plan their affairs and not have to be second-guessed by judges who — who reverse course.
WALLACE: In 2016, then candidate Trump released a list of potential Supreme Court nominees, put together by McGahn.
MCGAHN: It was an issue that was front and center. When it came to making the list public, and the politics of it, that was 100 percent the president.
JUSTICE NEIL GORSUCH, SUPREME COURT: I Neil M. Gorsuch —
WALLACE: One of the names, Judge Neil Gorsuch, who President Trump nominated to the court in his second week in office.
JUSTICE BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT: I will administer justice without – –
WALLACE: In 2018, he named Brett Kavanaugh, whose confirmation hearing turned ugly.
CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD: I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth, stopped me from yelling.
WALLACE (on camera): Is it true that you told Brett Kavanaugh, you’ve got to come out and — and fight for this nomination?
MCGAHN: I thought he had to come out, show some heart, show some emotion and let people know that this was not true.
KAVANAUGH: This whole two week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit.
WALLACE: What about the argument that some people make that he was too hot and didn’t show a judicial temperament?
MCGAHN: Well, when you’re accused of the thing he was accused of, I don’t think it’s time to have a judicial temperament.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
WALLACE (voice over): Barrett was another name on McGahn’s list. The president wanted to save her in case Ruth Bader Ginsburg left the court. Now, Democrats are hitting Barrett for past criticism of Roe v. Wade and Obamacare, saying she’ll push to overturn both. Mahan pushes back.
MCGAHN: The question is, how does she perform as a judge. And as a judge, she calls it straight. She read the law as passed by Congress. She read the Constitution.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What’s your message today, Mr. Mueller?
WALLACE: McGinn was swept up in Robert Mueller’s investigation of the 2016 Trump campaign. He told the special counsel he threatened to resign after the president ordered him to fire Mueller.
MCGAHN: Look, Robert Mueller is not nominated for the Supreme Court. I’m not nominated for the Supreme Court. Amy Barrett’s nominated for the Supreme Court. The issue of the day really is why she’s a — why as a judge she’s a great nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.
WALLACE: When McGahn isn’t playing politics, he used to play in a rock band.
MCGAHN: People find it either amusing or odd. It’s something I enjoy and it’s — we all have our hobbies and one of mine is playing music.
WALLACE: While McGinn had his differences with the president and left the White House two years ago, there’s no question who he’s voting for.
MCGAHN: I look at what President Trump has done with judges. My vote is pretty much in the bag. He speaks to me in a language that I understand when it comes to the issues I care about.
WALLACE: Now this program note.
You can watch the confirmation hearings for Judge Barrett tomorrow on Fox News Channel starting at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.
And that’s it for today. Have a great week and we’ll see you next FOX NEWS SUNDAY.
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