#childsafety | ‘This Week’ Transcript 9-13-20: Jason Miller, Symone Sanders, Gov. Jay Inslee, Sen. Jeff Merkley

A rush transcript of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” airing on Sunday, September 13, 2020 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the “This Week” transcript archive.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR: Let’s take that straight to the Trump campaign.

Senior adviser Jason Miller joins us this morning.

Jason, welcome back to “This Week.”

Those are some pretty harsh judgments about how the president is handling this crisis. How do you turn it around?

JASON MILLER, TRUMP 2020 CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Well, George, good morning, and thank you for having me.

What you didn’t mention is that Americans very much trust President Trump to help us recover with the economy. And Americans also believe that President Trump is the one who is best positioned to lead us to a vaccine, something that President Trump, I believe, will deliver this calendar year and a return to normal in 2021.

But, George, one other thing I got to point out that we didn’t hear from in the intro, there is a reason why Bernie Sanders and other Democrats are so concerned about Joe Biden and the lack of enthusiasm with his candidacy.

Last night, I was with President Trump in Northern Nevada. And what we saw were thousands of enthusiastic people. And listen to this, George, over 20 percent of the people who were at that event didn’t even vote in 2016.

That’s why our internal numbers show us actually winning Nevada, feel very well-positioned. It’s another blue state we’re going to flip this year.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And I’m going to ask him Symone Sanders about that.

But what do you make of the criticism that so many people are showing up at those rallies without masks?

MILLER: We take safety very seriously, George. That’s why people are given masks when they come in, if they don’t already have them. We do temperature checks. We have plenty of hand sanitizer.

We encourage people very strongly to wear the masks. And this is something that President Trump takes very seriously. And we’re — good to see a lot of folks there taking our direction here.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As we approach 200,000 deaths from the pandemic, the president’s new refrain is, we’re rounding the corner on the virus.

Here’s what Dr. Fauci said about that on Friday:


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: I’m sorry, but I have to disagree with that, because, if you look at the thing that you just mentioned, the statistics, they are disturbing.

We’re plateauing at around 40,000 cases a day, and the deaths are around 1,000.


STEPHANOPOULOS: So, is the president still downplaying the severity of the virus?

MILLER: Not at all.

But I think the president is accurately saying that Americans are starting to safely and responsibly reopen all around the country.

People want to get back to work. They want to get back to school. They want life to return to normal, where we see football coming back. Saw the NFL start on Thursday. We saw some college football yesterday and more pro football today.

Americans want to get their lives back. And this is a key differential, George, between President Trump and Joe Biden. Joe Biden, I think, wants everyone to stay locked in their basement forever. President Trump wants to be safe, responsible, get us back open.

This is the key, one of the key contrasts in this race.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What evidence do you have that Vice President Biden wants people to stay locked in their basements forever?

MILLER: Well, very simply, when he was asked if he would shut down the economy in January, he said yes.

He said: If the experts —

STEPHANOPOULOS: He said if the scientists —


MILLER: — then I will. And that’s exactly what I said, George. Was if (ph) the scientists want me to shut it down. He hasn’t said who these scientists are. Even Dr. Fauci hasn’t said go and shut it down. That’s not something that we need to do.

What we need is to safely and responsibly move forward and developing this vaccine is absolutely critical. And I think it’s very dangerous that Biden and Kamala Harris are both trying to throw out these anti-vaxxer type rhetoric, casting doubt over a vaccine when, look, all of the vaccine makers have come out and made it very, very clear, it’s going to be driven by the experts. It’s going to be approved by the experts. And that’s why we’re moving ahead with Operation Warp Speed that President Trump has put into action.

Eight different vaccines that are currently in the works, we’re going to get America back to normal (ph). We’re going to defeat this virus, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I mean, and everybody hopes that we have the vaccine tomorrow. There’s no question about that, assuming that it’s safe. But Vice President Biden said he would take the vaccine if it were safe, if the experts said it was safe, even if that cost him the election.

MILLER: Well, he needs to share that information with Kamala Harris who was very much throwing out some different rhetoric last week. And that’s why they’ve changed their tune.

But the fact of the matter is that Americans know that President Trump, as a businessman, as someone who cuts through all the bureaucratic nonsense, is pushing this ahead.

Think how remarkable this is for a moment, George. The fact that we’re going to have a vaccine the same year we’re getting hit by this global pandemic, this is unheard of. And if it was typically going back to kind of the bureaucrats or the swamp monsters and the status quo we’ve seen from Joe Biden, they’d be going super slowly.

You remember back in the swine flu, the H1N1, that even Biden’s Former Chief of Staff Ron Klain said that it was — that it was fortuitous, that they didn’t have an absolute pandemic, something even worse break out, said they did everything wrong.

Americans don’t want someone like Joe Biden who did everything wrong the last time they had a chance. That’s not deserving of a promotion.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to move on. I would point out only 17,000 people died during the swine flu. It’s up to almost 200,000 now from the coronavirus.

I want to talk about the president’s claims that the election is going to be rigged. Yesterday he sent another tweet encouraging people to vote twice in North Carolina. We’ll put that up on the screen right now.

You know, Twitter said — put a warning label on that tweet and the North Carolina attorney general responded as well saying, do not do what the president directs. To make sure your ballot counts, sign it and send it in early, then track it online with BallotTrax. Do not vote twice. It’s a felony.

Why is the president telling people to vote twice since it’s a felony?

MILLER: Well, let me go and take that in reverse order, George. First of all, the president is not telling people to vote twice. What he is saying is vote, vote early, whether it be by absentee, whether it be early voting this in person and then make sure that your vote is counted, either call or show up to the registrar, call or show up to the polls, make sure that your vote has been recorded and counted.

But let (ph) me tell you something, George, about what they’re doing to try to —

STEPHANOPOULOS: He says, if not, vote —

MILLER: — steal this election.


MILLER: The fact of the matter — hold on, hold on. But — vote. You vote once, vote early, and you make sure that your vote is counted. That’s what all of us should be able to agree to, George. That every American gets the right to vote and their vote counts.

But let me take this in reverse order and go to Nevada here, where we have this clubhouse governor, this Sisolak character — who, by the way, if you go against him politically and, again, politically speaking, you’ll find yourself buried in the desert.

They went and pushed through in the middle of the night these sweeping changes to where they’re moving to this unrequested mass vote by mail plus they’re keeping polling locations open — many of them open, so you’re going to have instances of double voting. They’re allowing ballot harvesting which is about a step above organ harvesting. This is some really bad stuff here.

But then, listen to this, I think most Americans would agree with me that you have to vote by Election Day. You have to. You can’t vote after Election Day. That’s not how it works. That’s exactly what this Assembly Bill 4 that Governor Sisolak put into place will do

You can — they will receive and they will count ballots that were sent and received after the election with no postmark, think about the fraud and abuse that could happen there. That’s ridiculous.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Final question, the Biden campaign outraised you by almost $150 million in August. From August 10 to September 7, they outspent you on television by 4:1, that has a lot of Republics (sic), including the RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, quite worried. What do you say to them?

MILLER: Well, you’re going to see a big increase in spending from the Trump campaign this week, we’re expanding into new battleground states. We’ll have ads up in Arizona and Pennsylvania. Some great new ads they we just approved yesterday that are going to be going out the door.

Look, we were outspent bigly (ph) in 2016 and President Trump whooped on Hillary Clinton, so it was a absolute great victory. It doesn’t matter what the Democrats try to spend this year because we’re going to have plenty of money to go and run a successful campaign.

We’re actually on track to spend more than 2:1 over what we did in 2016 and we have some great ads coming showing what President Trump has done for the country in (ph) his second term. And this is, again, a key difference between the president and Joe Biden.

Joe Biden I think wants to stay in his basement with a bunch of old ideas and 47 years of doing nothing. President Trump is going to lead us forward.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Jason Miller, thanks very much.

Let’s get a response now from the Biden campaign Senior Adviser Symone Sanders, who joins us now.

You just heard Jason Miller. Symone, thank you for joining us. Says Vice President Biden wants to stay in the basement and have everybody else stay there, too.


SYMONE SANDERS, BIDEN CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Thank you for having me this morning, George.

What Jason Miller and Trump campaign are asserting isn’t true, George. Vice President Biden was out campaigning this week, as you know. He — folks saw him not campaigning but reverencing and really taking a solemn moment marking the 9/11 this past Friday.

And Vice President Biden will be out next week. He’s going on to Florida. We’ll be in Minnesota. We’ll have some things that we’ll be announcing.

So, the reality is Vice President Biden is actively campaigning, as is Senator Harris. But the difference so, George, we’re doing it so safely.

We are letting the science lead us. We are listening to the experts. You know, safety is of the utmost importance to our campaign — the safety of the voters, the safety of our campaign staff.

And that is why Vice President Biden is modeling good behavior. He’s wearing mask. We’re social distancing, as you’ll see at our events and press conferences.

That stands in stark opposition to what President Trump is doing, having huge rallies with large groups of people who are packed in together. It’s not safe and it’s not modeling good behavior.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Vice President Biden has said the president’s response to coronavirus is betrayal that has cost American lives. But what evidence do you have that Vice President Biden was calling for a significantly different response early on? Can you point to public statements in January and February where the vice president called for travel bans, social distancing, wearing masks?

SANDERS: Well, I can give you one better, George. In October, 2019, Vice President Biden warned that we were susceptible and vulnerable to a pandemic.

In January of 2020, he wrote an op-ed that warned and cautioned that Donald Trump should take this seriously.

On March 12th, he put out his plan for a COVID-19 response that spoke of widespread testing, making sure everyone had the proper personal protective equipment that operate — that call for operationalizing the Defense Protection Act. It was a template plan, frankly.

Later on, about a month or so later, Vice President Biden actually had the opportunity to speak with President Trump about this very issue. In public statements, he urged President Trump to take his advice, please adopt his plan, because Vice President Biden was concerned about what’s most important for the Americans.


SANDERS: On the contrary, though, George, I will just note, you know, those Bob Woodward tapes as you noted earlier were very explosive. While Vice President Biden was doing all this public urging and President Trump was speaking privately to at least we know one reporter saying that he knew the virus was deadly. He knew it was airborne.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Right, but, Symone, that was — Symone, that was back in February, I asked you about January and February. You pointed out in March, March 12th, that Vice President Biden put out a plan, he did.

But he also put out a tweet that day saying a wall will not stop the coronavirus, banning all travel from Europe or any other part of the world will not stop it.

And I asked you specifically about January and February, I saw the op-ed the president — the vice president wrote in October, I saw the one he wrote in January. But he didn’t explicitly call for travel bans or social distancing or wearing mask.

SANDERS: Look, George, in January and February, Joe Biden was not being briefed by national security experts who warned him how deadly the virus was. In January and February, Joe Biden did not have the knowledge that President Trump did.

But I will tell you that if Joe Biden were president in January or February, he would have taken proper precautions he would have warned the American people. He would have told folks to social distance. He would model good behavior and wearing a mask.

But I will note, in January, as you noted, he wrote that op-ed. And so, the reality here is, Donald Trump had information that could have made a difference not just seven months ago but could have made a difference for us right now, George. I’m thinking about the folks who are sending their children to schools across this country tomorrow not knowing if they’re safe. I’m also thinking about the parents who are trying to juggle working from home or setting up child care because their children cannot go to school. And they’re setting up schools in their kitchens and basements.

I’m concerned about the folks who are going to work in grocery stores and person to person services who do not have the proper personal protective equipment, because Donald Trump, the president of the United States, has not moved to ensure that it is so.

So, it is Donald Trump here that has failed the American people.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You heard Jason Miller about the Trump’s rally in Nevada last night. There is, there have been some polls showing a pretty close in Nevada right now and the president — I mean, the former Vice President Biden having relatively weaker numbers with Latinos in Nevada, in Florida. Democrats are concerned about that, as well.

Here’s how the president addressed the Hispanic vote last night in Nevada.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our incredible border agents, they’re incredible people, more than half who happen to be Hispanic Americans. Did you know that?

I know all of them. Jose, how you’re doing? Juan, how you’re doing? Everyone is like, every six times I say, hello, Jim, how are you?


STEPHANOPOULOS: Some of the concerns about the Latino voter have been echoed by Bernie Sanders. And there’s a front page story in “The Washington Post” that says the — Senator Sanders has expressed concerns about the Biden campaign to your campaign. The senator has identified several specific changes he’d like to see, saying Biden should talk more about health care and about his economic plans and should campaign more with figures popular among young liberals, such as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Are you going to take that advice?

SANDERS: Well, George, look, we know that we have work to do. And we have said from the beginning, and Vice President Biden has been very clear about this, as has Senator Harris, that we are really working to earn every single vote in this country. And we want to earn the votes of the Latino and Hispanic community.

And so we’re doing the work, George. You know, you saw Senator Harris out in Florida just this past week. She also did virtual events in Arizona. Vice President Biden himself will be traveling to Florida next week and we’ll be doing virtual events and interviews because we’re committed to doing the work. We have made an historic investment in our Latino and Hispanic paid media program, more than any presidential candidate ever. And we started earlier this cycle. On June 19th we started a very heavy paid advertising program that’s not just television, George, but it’s radio, it’s digital, it is meeting voters where they are. And we’re going to continue to do that work.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Symone Sanders, thanks very much for your time this morning.

SANDERS: Thank you so much.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Up next, a closer look at the deadly wildfires raging across the West Coast.

We’ll be right back.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Stark warning there from California Governor Gavin Newsom after the worst week of wildfires ever, up and down the Pacific coast, apocalyptic scenes, at least 27 dead, dozens more missing, thousands forced to flee their homes. Portland, Seattle and San Francisco now among the worst cities for air quality anywhere in the world. President Trump is heading to California tomorrow.

And we’re joined now by Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley.

Thank you both for joining us this morning.

And, Senator Merkley, let me begin with you. I know you spent the day traveling your state yesterday. What have you learned? Where do things stand right now?

MERKLEY: Yeah, George, it is apocalyptic. I drove 600 miles up and down the state. I never escaped the smoke. We have thousands of people who have lost their homes. I could never have envisioned this. The — the east winds came over the top of the mountain, proceeded to turn the fires into blowtorches that went down and just incinerated a series of small towns, like Blue River and Phoenix and Talent. Just, you have community after community with fairgrounds full of people, refugees from the fires.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Governor Inslee, how is the situation in Washington state this morning?

INSLEE: The same situation, the skies are a smoke that we have never seen before except two or three years ago. It’s apocalyptic. And it is maddening, George. And I’ll tell you why. I was — I was in Malden the other day, a town that was absolutely decimated; 80 percent of the homes were burned down, in southeastern Washington, talking to a woman who — who moved there to try to have a peaceful existence in a small town. And she just broke down and could not stop crying.

And what struck me is, as I was listening to her, the only moisture in eastern Washington was the tears of people who have lost their homes, and mingling with the ashes. And now we have a blowtorch over our states in the West, which is climate change.

And we know that climate change is making fires start easier, spread faster and intensify. And it is maddening right now that, when we have this cosmic challenge to our communities, with the entire West Coast of the United States on fire, to have a president to deny that these are not just wildfires, these are climate fires.

And if this — if this is not a signal to the United States, I don’t know what it will take. Because, as Governor Newsom suggested, it may not be fires in the Midwest. It’s floods in Hamburg, which washed away Hamburg, Iowa. It’s — its the rising seas that are drowning Miami Beach. It’s the hurricanes on the East Coast.

We need to act, and we need to act now. And these people whose homes were — were destroyed, that I’ve seen, with their tears, in the last few days, they deserve action against climate change.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Senator — Senator Merkley, the president did address that last night in Nevada. He — he actually bragged about leaving the Paris Climate Accords, and then went on to say this about the fires.


PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP: I spoke to the folks in Oregon, Washington. They’re really having — they’ve never had anything like this. But, you know, it is about forest management. Please remember the words, very simple, “forest management.” Please remember.


It’s about forest management…


… and other things, but forest management.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Is that contributing to this, Senator Merkley?

MERKLEY: You know, the president has said it’s all about raking the forest. It’s just a — a big and devastating lie. We have — the Cascade snowpacks have gotten smaller. Our forests have gotten drier. Our ocean has gotten warmer and more acidic. And this has been happening steadily over the last several decades.

These are consequences of a warming planet that have huge impacts, huge impacts on rural America, with our forests, with our farming, with our fishing. This should not be blue or red. This should not be rural or urban. This is devastating to everyone.

And we need — just on COVID, we need to have a president follow the science. We need to have a president now who follows the science on global warming. America not only has to get its own act in order. It has to help lead the world to take this on. This is a planetary-scale tragedy of the commons that we need leadership to end.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the other signs of the times here, Governor Inslee, that we’re seeing is that the response to this fire has been complicated by a lot of disinformation out there on social media.

Any way to combat that?

INSLEE: Yes. Vote. Vote. And vote on climate.

Get out there and vote against any politician like Donald Trump who has downplayed climate change, just like he’s downplayed COVID. And for Donald Trump to say he’s a hero of climate change is like saying he’s a hero of masks against COVID.

And this idea that somehow we could have solved this problem by timber thinning is just a bunch of malarkey. I was in Bridgeport, Washington, yesterday, a town that lost about 20 homes. And I looked at where the fire came from. And where it came from was grass and bunchgrass and cheatgrass and sagebrush.

It doesn’t have a dang thing to do with thinning timber. It’s just a bunch of malarkey.

Now, there are places where it makes sense that we thin our timber. And we are doing that. Of course, the Trump administration doesn’t want to help us actually finance that. They just want an excuse.

And, listen, it is way too late to be debating this. This is not a debate. The time for excuses, for denial, for downplaying this, those days are over. The days of consequence are upon us.

And the point I want to make about this event, it’s not just happening to us. And it’s happening today. Look, most of the scientists thought maybe we had a few more years to deal with this. But it’s today.

The orange skies over California is something that we thought Hollywood just would portray in some apocalypse movie. But it’s today.

So, we need to act. We need to act now. We are doing it. We’re building jobs. We’re putting people to work. We got a great candidate, Joe Biden, who understands we can put people to work.

You know, that town I told you that burned down, you can see the wind turbines there that are generating clean electricity and putting people in jobs with good union jobs generating clean energy. That’s the future that we need.

But we have got to have action. So, what we can do is vote this year.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, Senator Merkley, there’s some — some signs that the weather could bring some relief in the coming days.

What’s your greatest need in Oregon right now?

MERKLEY: Well, we are hearing reports that, as the winds start to move back onshore, we may have gusting starting this afternoon. We’re very worried about that. This would move the fires back to the east.

It’s — right now, the winds are calm. We have a little more humidity. That’s great. But the weather can change, and we’re still — we have fires still burning across our state. So, we’re very concerned about this moment and the days to come.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Gentlemen, thank you both very much. We know it’s such a tough situation out there.

Thank you.

INSLEE: Thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Nate Silver and our roundtable coming up.

We will be right back.

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