Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on August 23, 2020

8/23: Face the Nation
8/23: Face the Nation 47:17

On this "Face the Nation" broadcast moderated by Margaret Brennan:

  • James Comey, Former FBI Director
  • Ronna McDaniel, Republican National Committee Chair
  • Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles
  • Dr. Robert Robbins, President of the University of Arizona
  • Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Former FDA Commissioner

Click here to browse full transcripts of "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm Margaret Brennan in Washington. And this week on FACE THE NATION, halfway through this year's unconventional political conventions, the spotlight turns to the Republicans to make their case that President Trump deserves a second term. With the Democratic convention now a wrap, its message was loud and clear and far more negative than in years past. But in 2020, there is no business as usual.
 
JOE BIDEN: The current President has cloaked America in darkness for much too long. Too much anger. Too much fear. Too much division.
 
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This administration has shown it will tear our democracy down if that's what it takes for them to win.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: The contrast will be stark. A new CBS News poll shows very different views from Republicans.
 
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Make sure your vote gets counted. Make sure because the only way we're going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: That kind of talk from Mister Trump has fueled a furious political battle over the Postal Service. We'll have the latest on efforts to ensure your vote gets counted. Plus, we'll hear what the GOP has planned this week from the head of the Republican Party, Ronna McDaniel. Biden national campaign co-chair and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will also join us. And will the convention be overshadowed by the stunning arrest of former Trump White House aide in 2016 campaign strategist Steve Bannon. He's been charged with fraud in a fundraising scheme to build the President's border wall. This, as the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's ties to Russia pose a "…grave counterintelligence threat" during the 2016 campaign. We'll talk with the former head of the FBI James Comey. We'll get the latest on the coronavirus from former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb, then talk with the president of the University of Arizona Robert Robbins as some schools are forced to make dramatic changes in their COVID-era learning plans as students head back to school.
 
It's all just ahead on FACE THE NATION.
 
Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. With just ten weeks to go until Election Day, former Vice President Joe Biden has maintained his ten-point lead over President Trump following the Democratic convention. That's according to our CBS News Battleground Tracker. And there is yet another scandal facing the President on the eve of his convention, new audio recordings have surfaced of President Trump's sister Maryanne Trump Barry sharing some candid thoughts about her brother. CBS News has obtained those tapes and as of, yet, we have not independently verified their authenticity. White House correspondent Weijia Jiang reports.
 
WEIJIA JIANG (CBS News White House Correspondent/@weijia): Margaret, the recordings paint President Trump as a liar who does not read and even paid someone to take his SATs. This morning White House chief of staff Mark Meadows brushed off the statements on ABC saying just another day, and another attack.
 
(Begin VT)
 
MARY TRUMP: That existed--
 
WEIJIA JIANG: President Trump's niece, Mary Trump, who recently released a book criticizing her uncle, allegedly recorded conversation she had with her aunt in 2018 and 2019. Maryanne Trump Barry was a federal judge at the time and said her brother is, quote, "cruel."
 
MARYANNE TRUMP BARRY: All he wants to do is appeal to his base, he has no principles, none, none. And his base, I mean, my God, if you are a religious person you want to help people, not do this.
 
WEIJIA JIANG: President Trump spent the week waging a personal war on mail-in voting.
 
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This will be the greatest catastrophe, one of the greatest catastrophes in the history of our country. That's how serious it is. And they also think I'm trying to steal an election. Just the opposite: I want the fair results of an election.
 
WEIJIA JIANG: But Democrats are convinced the President is trying to control the outcome of the election by slashing resources to the U.S. Postal Service, which could cause balance to be delivered too late to count.
 
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Don't pay any attention to what the President is saying, because it is all designed to suppress the vote.
 
MAN: The bill is passed.
 
WEIJIA JIANG: In a rare summer Saturday session, House lawmakers passed an emergency measure to send the Postal Service twenty-five billion dollars to help process ballots. Republican lawmakers agreed with President Trump.
 
REPRESENTATIVE DREW FERGUSON (R-Georgia): This bill is a sham. We are piling up money we might as well put it on the national ball-- National Mall and have a bonfire.
 
WEIJIA JIANG: The bill would also reverse recent operational changes that resulted in nationwide mail delays, forcing the return of machines and mailboxes that were already removed. A new CBS News Battleground Tracker finds three-fourths of Republicans believe they are better off now than they were four years ago. Republicans also agree with Mister Trump's handling of the economy with sixty-seven percent saying it's in good condition.
 
(End VT)
 
WEIJIA JIANG: President Trump plans to participate every night of the Republican National Convention, which kicks off tomorrow. Campaign officials say he will present a contrast the, quote, "dim and dark view" of the country that Democrats offered. And the President's chief of staff promises Americans will see a new side of the President. Margaret.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Weijia, thank you.
 
We turn now to Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel. She joins us from Charlotte. Good morning to you.
 
RONNA MCDANIEL (Republican National Committee Chair/@GOPChairwoman): Good morning. Great to be with you.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: I know you're quite busy. The RNC nomination, formally, of President Trump is scheduled for tomorrow. Will he be in Charlotte at all? Can you tell us anything about what to expect?
 
RONNA MCDANIEL: Well, he will be in North Carolina, unlike Joe Biden, who didn't go to Wisconsin, the state where he held his convention. The President has an event planned in Asheville. He hasn't confirmed if he's going to come by Charlotte yet, but we have the delegates here.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: The AP is reporting that the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, will be addressing the forum from Israel where he's on official business. This lineup, when you start hearing about cabinet members being involved-- I mean, first of all, it's very unusual for a diplomat to get involved in domestic politics. But this starts to look like using taxpayer-funded federal resources for a campaign. Will taxpayers be reimbursed?
 
RONNA MCDANIEL: I can only tell you, Margaret, that the events that we've put forward from the RNC and the campaign are going to be paid for by the convention from-- from-- of the RNC and the campaign. You know, everything that we've put together has changed because of COVID. The President rightly said we're going to leave Jacksonville because we don't want to have resources taken away from a city that's dealing with a pandemic. And he brought it back to the White House, which is his residence.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
 
RONNA MCDANIEL: And it's being paid for by the Republican National Committee and the campaign, not the taxpayers.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you are confirming that Pompeo's trip will be reimbursed by the campaign?
 
RONNA MCDANIEL: I-- I am not confirming anything having to do with Secretary Pompeo's trip. I am just saying the programming, the staging, everything that we're doing will be paid for by the Republican National Committee and the campaign.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: You will have, as you said, some in-person activity there in Charlotte. I heard you have something like three hundred people gathering there for official business. How are you going to protect them all from COVID? This is a mass gathering.
 
RONNA MCDANIEL: You know, Margaret, I think it's really important to understand that the Democrats and Joe Biden just said we're going to shut this country down again. And that is a really elite view of America right now. Now from a safety perspective, we tested everybody before they came to Charlotte. We have been testing people on site. We are doing the things that are allowing people to live their lives, have a convention and do it in a healthy and safe way--
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
 
RONNA MCDANIEL: --which most Americans are doing going back to work because they're going to the grocery store, as they're going to hospitals. This is a realistic way of opening up our country and doing it in a health-- healthy and safe way. And the Democrats are saying, shut it all down. Well, that's easy for Hollywood celebrities and privileged politicians but that's not good for average Americans.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about the election itself. The President has said he expects this to be one of the most fraudulent, if not the most fraudulent in history. He's against mail-in ballots, but the Republican Party in Iowa has mailed absentee ballots to voters. Politico is reporting Pennsylvania, the GOP website is promoting vote-by-mail, similar situation in Ohio. Why is the Republican Party promoting something that the President says he's against?
 
RONNA MCDANIEL: I'm so glad you asked me this question because there is a very real difference between states that have tried and true absentee processes that have been in place and have been tested and work versus states like Nevada that ninety days out from an election have completely upended their entire election protocol and put chaos into their process because they haven't tested it and it isn't certain.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: But the post office said this week--
 
RONNA MCDANIEL: And why are they doing that?
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: --that they can handle the mail volume-- volume. They don't have a problem.
 
RONNA MCDANIEL: It's not about just the post office, Margaret. It's that they're sending ballots to unverified voter rolls. I just talked to a voter this week who said she's received three ballots for a different woman at her address, a person that's never lived there. These are the type of things--
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: A ballot or an application for a ballot?
 
RONNA MCDANIEL: An actual ballot. An actual ballot. She was in California. In Nevada and California, they aren't sending absentee request forms. They're sending live ballots, which I think is a huge problem. Getting an absentee request form--
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: But to be-- to be clear the Republican Party in these states is promoting mail-in voting. Is the Republican Party--
 
RONNA MCDANIEL: No. We are-- we are--
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: --supportive of that?
 
RONNA MCDANIEL: --promoting people embracing the absentee processes that have been put in place, that are tried and true. And we are suing states that are trying to change their process ninety days out from an election, which is adding chaos to an election where we should have certainty.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about some of our data that we just got. CBS News has a Battleground Tracker out, and it's showing a big divide between how Republicans view the U.S. response to the coronavirus and how the majority of voters see it. Seventy-three percent of Republicans say it's going well. Thirty-eight percent of all voters say it's going well by comparison. Then fifty-seven percent of Republicans say the number of dead is acceptable at a hundred and seventy thousand people. Thirty-three percent of independents say it's acceptable, just ten percent of Democrats. How could that number be acceptable? And why is there such a big divide between how Republicans see it and how the majority of people do?
 
RONNA MCDANIEL: Well, I think that is a really unfair poll and-- and, of course, there is nobody in this country, there is nobody starting with the President of the United States who wants to see people pass away from this global pandemic that came here from China not being honest, from the WHO failing in their one duty, their one duty, to identify a pandemic. And they failed the global community. But let's be honest, Republicans do want-- do not want to see people suffering from this pandemic. We have all been affected by this. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. When you see Democrats continue--
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you say that number is acceptable? You--
 
RONNA MCDANIEL: No, of course, not, Margaret. This is a global pandemic. Nobody wants to see somebody die from this. I have-- have had friends die from this. This is not something people want. But the President's response has saved lives by shutting down travel early, which Joe Biden called xenophobic, by doing the decisive actions he did earlier--
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: From China, but not Europe.
 
RONNA MCDANIEL: He did it from Europe as well, but Joe Biden didn't--
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Not until March.
 
RONNA MCDANIEL: But Joe Biden didn't support that. You didn't hear him come out and say we should shut down travel from Europe. You didn't hear Democrats saying that. They have opposed this President every step of the way. In a time of crisis when we should be coming together as Americans, this should not be politicized.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: One area where Republicans also differ from voters overall is on the Black Lives Matter movement. Most voters nationwide agree with the ideas of it, while most Republicans, two-thirds of them, strongly disagree. Eight in ten Republicans think there has been too much attention on the issue of discrimination. Doesn't this type of thinking hurt Republicans' chances of making gains with black voters?
 
RONNA MCDANIEL: Well, I think that there's a big distinction between the words Black Lives Matter and the movement, which has been led by people who embrace Marxism, who have said on networks, we want to burn this country down. And I think you have to separate that, because as we are seeing in the name of Black Lives Matter, these riots and these looters who really aren't affiliated with any type of peaceful protest, we all condemn what happened to George Floyd. Republicans and Democrats alike recognize that.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you don't think there has been too much attention on the issue of discrimination? That was eight in ten Republicans said too much attention on that issue. Not the movement, but the issue.
 
RONNA MCDANIEL: You know who's given more attention to discrimination than anybody? This President. He's the one who passed the First Steps Act to get rid of the injustices in our criminal justice reform. This is our President who's pardoned people who were unjustly charged with crimes and sentenced to lengthy sentences disproportionately affecting the black community. This is the President who gave more loans to HBCUs. This is the President that created economic opportunity zones. This is the President who has tackled discrimination. And he's going to continue to do so. And you're going to hear more about that next week in our convention as he talks about the policies he's put forward and how they have improved the lives of everyday Americans.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Ronna McDaniel, thank you for your time.
 
RONNA MCDANIEL: Thanks, Margaret.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to go now to national co-chair for the Biden campaign, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Good morning to you.
 
ERIC GARCETTI (Mayor of Los Angeles/@MayorOfLA/ National Co-Chair, Biden-Harris Campaign): Great to be with you, Margaret, thank you for having me.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to start on the issue of voting, because your state was specifically mentioned there by Ronna McDaniel as having increased mail-in ballots during the pandemic. During the March presidential primary more than a hundred thousand mail-in ballots were rejected by election officials, according to data that had been gathered by the AP. Given that experience doesn't that indicate that there are some significant gaps in terms of your state's election integrity?
 
ERIC GARCETTI: A democracy is not an easy thing, Margaret, of course, but I have a very deep confidence in our secretary of state, Alex Padilla, in our counties, to be able to run elections and to run them well. And the difference is that we're trying to run elections that expand democracy, that give the vote to everybody where we see a war on voters in other states run by Republicans who literally want to take people off the ballot, take them off the election rolls, you know, a period here, a different-- a middle initial. We saw it happen with Stacey Abrams in Georgia. She would be governor today--
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: And Ronna McDaniel is saying you're adding people.
 
ERIC GARCETTI: And it's kind of ironic that Republicans-- no, we are making sure that every American in California who can vote will vote. That is, I think, what a democracy is about. Why we make it so difficult for Americans to vote--
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
 
ERIC GARCETTI: --seems to be anti-democratic with a small D. And so we're going to make sure that we have not only safe and secure elections, but a paper trail as well, something I think all folks from both the right and left have called for, for years.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.
 
ERIC GARCETTI: I simply don't understand why this President fears this. It's probably because he knows he's going to lose.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: On the issue of the economy, that is one area where President Trump still seems to poll-- have better poll results than candidate Biden does in terms of perception of who would be better for it. Joe Biden said a lot of things in his address this week, but he gave virtually no detail on his economic plans and no detailed criticism of President Trump's either. Isn't that a mistake?
 
ERIC GARCETTI: Mm-Hm. Well, I-- I know here's the-- the facts, Margaret, Democratic Presidents have added sixty million jobs to America, Republican ones, twenty-three million in the last few decades. You want to see the stock market do better, the GDP over-perform, that's always been under a Democratic President and not a Republican one. And we're very proud of the plans that we have to not only bring back jobs, manufacturing--
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: But isn't the slogan "Build Back Better"? Wouldn't you need to, if that's your slogan, explain how you're going to do it? Joe Biden mentioned the economy four times. Economic was a phrase used four times, mentions five million jobs, but didn't say how he was going to do it. Why not emphasize that?
 
ERIC GARCETTI: We-- we have been talking until we're blue in the face about the most progressive and most expansive economic plan that we will see in our, I think in our lifetimes in America. Build Back Better has four different planks to it. One is to invest in infrastructure, in a new green energy economy and careers throughout America. Two is manufacturing back in America, unlike this President who said he'd bring jobs back but has been offshoring federal contracts to foreign companies since he has been President. We'll build back everywhere in America. And, third, the care economy. So many Americans-- and it's such a contrast in these campaigns, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris are about what we can do to care for one another, whether it's our kids right now in child care--
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
 
ERIC GARCETTI: --or whether it's our seniors in the end of their lifetime. And then something that's usually a peripheral issue, racial justice is a core part, the fourth pillar of that plan. So we have detailed that you go to President Trump's website, just like when he ran last time, there's two or three things on the economy and that's it. It was build a wall.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
 
ERIC GARCETTI: It was get rid of immigrants. He has no plan. And he's killing Americans right now and killing our economy. I think it's such a contrast between two people who have a heart and experience--
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
 
ERIC GARCETTI: --what this country needs, and a man who has neither.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Killing Americans is-- is a strong phrase there. I'm going to ask you about what's happening with Covid-19 in your own city. You told CNN last month that it is becoming much more of a Latino disease. Why is it still such an issue that people of color in your city are disproportionately affected?
 
ERIC GARCETTI: Well, a couple of statistics, what our lowest hospitalization rate since this has been recorded, we're at a positivity rate now that's about six percent. So we're really, I think, making huge progress and proud of that. But we're being left on our own. We're the first city in America to cut, I think, the African-American deaths, which were double throughout the country to under the population here. But for the Latino population, which I'm a part of and I come from, I think there's a couple of things. One is you had federal assistance that didn't go to many immigrants and to their families who could be married to or the child of an immigrant. And you didn't get the same money your fellow American citizens did. So they're being pushed to work more. They don't have access to the unemployment. They don't have as much of the kind of social network right now that we need. But we're making huge inroads, including in the Latino community right now. But this is something where you saw this President plant a seed when he ran for President, demonizing folks who are Latino, saying Mexican Americans were murderers and rapists and maybe there was a few good ones. This stuff has ramifications because it washes through a government--
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
 
ERIC GARCETTI: --that thinks it doesn't have to serve cities, doesn't have to serve Latinos. And we're seeing those numbers rise.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. I want to talk about your management, though, in your city. You made an interesting choice this week. You actually shut off the power at a Hollywood home after they were hosting large parties there because it wasn't abiding by your regulations regarding the pandemic. How many other houses are you going to shut off the utilities at? Why aren't people listening to you?
 
ERIC GARCETTI: People are listening, they're far and few between our numbers are coming down, but where people don't listen, we're going to shut them down. That's critically important. This is not a time to be spreading this disease, especially younger people. And, by the way, I want to thank all the young people who said shut it down because they saw their peers acting irresponsibly. At super spreader events ten percent of people, Margaret, usually are responsible for about eighty percent of the cases. And we're just not playing here.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
 
ERIC GARCETTI: We are not going to let people take our lives into their hands so they're shut down.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mayor Garcetti, thank you for your time.
 
And FACE THE NATION will be back in one minute with former FBI Director James Comey. Stay with us.
 
(ANNOUNCEMENTS)
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: And we are back with former FBI Director James Comey. He used to be a registered Republican, but this week he will speak at the Convention on Founding Principles, which is a gathering of Republicans who are not happy with President Trump. Good morning to you.
 
JAMES COMEY (Former FBI Director/@Comey): Good morning, Margaret.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to get your reaction and insight into what we learned this week, which was that the Southern District of New York indicted former Trump White House official and campaign strategist Steve Bannon for alleged fraud. He's now the sixth close Trump associate to be criminally charged by the DOJ. You used to run the SDNY. What do you make of this case?
 
JAMES COMEY: Well, it's another reminder of the kind of people this President surrounds himself with. At this point, they could almost start their own crime family. It's a very serious case. The Southern District of New York has laid it out in a very detailed indictment called a speaking indictment. And he's in a world of trouble.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: A world of trouble. What do you mean by that?
 
JAMES COMEY: Well, it's a very serious fraud case with a huge amount of money stolen from innocent victims, Americans who thought they were giving money to support the President's wall on the Mexican border and, instead, it was stolen. That will drive up the potential punishments for Mister Bannon and his co-conspirators. And, you know, he's in trouble because the indictment lays it out in such detail, including excerpts from texts. If you're Steve Bannon, you're his lawyers, you're reading this saying, I'm going down here. And I don't know what the next steps are for him and his co-defendants, but that's what I meant by world of trouble.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: The Senate Intelligence Committee, we know, also sent a letter to the Southern District asking them to investigate Bannon for lying to Congress. Is there more that the public leads-- needs to know about Steve Bannon and any links to election interference?
 
JAMES COMEY: I don't know. I don't know what the Southern District of New York is doing. I think this indictment surprised a lot of people because they did it like the pros they are. They didn't talk about it until they were ready to bring the case. But people can learn an awful lot about Russia and the Trump campaign just by reading the thousand pages that the Senate Intelligence Committee put out this week. It tells a story that blows up the President's nonsense about it being a hoax, that blows up Bill Barr's nonsense about there being nothing to investigate. There's a story there that the American people, if they're interested, can read and learn a whole lot about the kind of characters who were working with Russia during the 2016 campaign.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you more about that in a moment. We will have to take a break. But, very quickly, what do you see as the biggest threat to the rule of law right now?
 
JAMES COMEY: That even-handed law enforcement has disappeared from the Justice Department under Bill Barr and Donald Trump. It shouldn't matter whether Trump likes you or not. Everybody should get a fair shake. And that the truth is under attack--
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.
 
JAMES COMEY: --both by the attorney general and the President. Those things matter. That's why I'm speaking for the first time--
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.
 
JAMES COMEY: --ever at a political event this week.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. We're going to take a break and come back and continue our conversation with former Director Comey in just a few minutes.
 
(ANNOUNCEMENTS)
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: And this programming note, starting tomorrow night and running through Thursday, CBS will bring you coverage of the Republican National Convention led by CBS EVENING NEWS anchor Norah O'Donnell, along with our political team. Tune in. Beginning at 10 PM Eastern.
 
(ANNOUNCEMENTS)
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back with more from former FBI director James Comey and later the latest on the coronavirus from Dr. Scott Gottlieb. Stay with us.
 
(ANNOUNCEMENTS)
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION.
 
We're continuing our conversation with former FBI Director James Comey. I want to pick up where we left off, which was that Senate Intelligence report. This is a bipartisan report, meaning Republicans signed off on it. This was three years long. And the conclusion here was that Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort represented a, quote, "grave counterintelligence threat" to the U.S. because of his close work with Russian intelligence officer Konstantin Kilimnik. This goes farther than what Mueller concluded and made public. Why? Why is the public just now hearing about it?
 
JAMES COMEY: Because the Senate Intelligence Committee was looking at all information they could gather. Mueller was approaching it as a prosecutor, trying to see what evidence he could bring into court to prove something beyond a reasonable doubt. And so the Senate Intelligence Committee could look much more broadly and, as you said, came to this conclusion that the head of Trump's campaign was funneling information to a Russian intelligence officer, someone he likely knew was a Russian intelligence officer. Let that sink in and then ask yourself, so there was nothing to investigate here, as Bill Barr says, it was a hoax? The Republicans have exploded that nonsense.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: The report, though, also was critical of your old agency, the FBI. It said your bureau should have done more to alert DNC officials that Russian hackers had accessed their servers. Why didn't the FBI do this? This was a national security threat happening under the nose of the FBI.
 
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. That's-- I understand that. That's fair criticism. I think at the time, our folks thought that just telling an institution that the Russians are inside your house was enough. But I think part of what may have led to a lack of urgency at the DNC and at the FBI is that nobody anticipated this wasn't normal intelligence gathering by the Russians, this was an effort to weaponize. And if anybody had seen that, I think they would have yelled a little bit more loudly.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Was that a mistake on your part? I mean, how did the FBI miss that this was an active measures campaign by a foreign intelligence service?
 
JAMES COMEY: That's a great question. I think the simple answer is because it had never happened before, but if I were still director of the FBI, that wouldn't be a good enough answer. I hope they're taking a look back across the intelligence community and asking, so why didn't we imagine that the Russians might do this? But the truth is that we didn't. Nobody in the intelligence community did.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: When you were FBI director, you never imagined this scenario. I mean don't you think this was a mistake on your part?
 
JAMES COMEY: I sure think it was a miss-- a-- a mistake, I'm not going to quibble on words. Yeah, it was a miss. I don't know why it didn't occur to us that the Russians were doing something that they had never done before, which is to weaponize and actually fire stolen material at our Democratic process. And, look, looking back in hindsight, it seems obvious. I don't know the answer as to why nobody in the intelligence community, none of the analysts, saw this coming. And it ought to be something that we're asking ourselves.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Are we still this vulnerable?
 
JAMES COMEY: Yes, in a different way. I'm sure the Russians will use different tactics because we figured out what they were last time. They achieved their objectives in the last election. They've done incredibly well under President Trump. They want him to stay in office. They'll be coming again. And the problem for us as Americans is you can't effectively stop a threat that the President won't even acknowledge exists. And so, sure, they're going to be in our house again, messing with us. The only way we're going to kick Putin out of our elections is to elect Joe Biden President so someone finally puts real pain on the Russians.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: What does real pain look like? I mean we've been warned by the U.S. intelligence community that interference is happening again. President Trump is talking about election interference in very different terms. I actually want to play for you something that he said this week. He said that this will be the most fraudulent election in U.S. history. And he told this to Fox News.
 
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP (on phone): We're going to have everything. We're going to have sheriffs, and we're going to have law enforcement, and we're going to have, hopefully, U.S. attorneys, and we're going to have everybody and attorney generals.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: He's talking about fraud at the ballot box. He's talking about fraud in the mail. He's talking about fraud by receiving a ballot in the first place. What the President just described in that soundbite is, frankly, illegal in many states. It's up to local authorities when it comes to sending out local law enforcement, but he's making clear what he wants to see happen. What do you make of what he's laying out?
 
JAMES COMEY: Well, I'm sure the next question Fox News asked was, what are the facts that support your allegations of fraud? And there were crickets. I trust state, local and federal law enforcement to honor their oath to the rule of law and to not be part of suppressing votes. There's a legitimate role for law enforcement to play in connection with elections. And I'm confident that the men and women in law enforcement at all levels will abide by their oath.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: In other words, not do this. In terms of--
 
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. We-- this is-- this is America. We don't-- we don't-- at least we don't anymore, we did it a whole lot to African-Americans when I was a child, we don't anymore use cops to scare people away from polling places. We just don't do it. And I'm confident that police officers around this country are not interested in being part of an illegitimate effort like that.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: I have to ask you the Justice Department is investigating the investigation into 2016. Do you know if you are a witness or a target or have you sat for an interview with John Durham as part of the investigation?
 
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, I have no idea. I've had no contact with him and haven't talked to him.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you believe that that means you are a target?
 
JAMES COMEY: I can't imagine that I'm a target. I saw the news report that John Brennan-- Brennan was a witness. I-- given that I know what happened during 2016, which was a bunch of people trying to do the right thing consistent with the law, I'm not worried at all about that investigation of the investigation. Next, I'm sure will be an investigation of the investigation of the investigation. They just want to have an investigation to talk about.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about a tweet you sent this week. You sent out a picture of yourself wearing a T-shirt that said, you know, more women should be elected, more votes for women. Of course, it is the-- the week honoring ratification of the 19th Amendment. But it drew this response that we just put up for our viewers from Hillary Clinton, who is just sort of making a smirk. I know she's said in the past that she thought she was on the verge of winning in 2016 until you reopened that e-mail investigation. Do you see this as contradictory? Do you regret what happened then? Because she, clearly, sees this as a contradiction for you to say now.
 
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. Look, I think it's pretty funny. And I get why she would send something like that. She's better at Twitter than I am. But I-- I regret only being involved in the 2016 election. We were stuck, and I think we made the right decisions choosing between terrible options. And so I wasn't trying, nor was anybody else in the FBI trying to elect or not elect anyone. And I hope more women get elected to office. I'm proud of that shirt that my daughters and my wife gave me. And I think it's time for more women to be leaders in this country. We'll all be better off.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we agree with you on that point. Thank you very much, Jim Comey, for your time.
 
We will be right back.
 
(ANNOUNCEMENTS)
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to our continuing coverage of the coronavirus with CBS News national correspondent Mark Strassmann, who reports from Atlanta, Georgia.
 
(Begin VT)
 
MARK STRASSMANN (CBS News National Correspondent): At COVID University partying students have inflamed viral outbreaks, fuming administrators and campus anxiety.
 
BRIAN SALVATORE (Professor, LSU Shreveport): We also have a lot of older faculty and staff. And we're all vulnerable.
 
MARK STRASSMANN: Dozens of schools already have reversed plans. They've switched undergraduates to all virtual classrooms, and offered a course in consequences. Syracuse suspended twenty-three partiers; Purdue, thirty-six; St. Olaf in Minnesota, seventeen; North Carolina State University has had multiple COVID clusters.
 
DR. RANDY WOODSON (Chancellor, NC State University): We've seen behaviors off-campus that, frankly, are inconsistent with our community standards and have-- have had an impact on our ability to go forward.
 
MARK STRASSMANN: But human nature's always the X factor, and fingers crossed is a poor COVID defense. Students have blamed administrators for poor planning. At Notre Dame, three hundred seventy-two people have tested positive. The student paper's front-page editorial "Don't make us write obituaries." Across America, fewer people are dying from COVID. Death rates are down or flat in thirty-eight states and up in twelve. A month ago deaths were up in twenty-six states. But America's Heartland has more COVID troubles. Rising cases in twelve states, including North Dakota, Wyoming, Kansas, and Missouri. South Dakota's average daily case loads are up fifty-eight percent. Just one week ago, the state hosted a biker rally with a quarter million attendees.
 
CROWD (in unison): Let us play. Let us pray.
 
MARK STRASSMANN: Feeling normal again is behind the push to play fall sports. In Division One college football's most competitive tier, there are one hundred thirty schools. Fifty-four programs so far have shut down this fall. But some schools required testing of all arriving students. COVID stampeded on campus anyway. And with this virus, getting it wrong in the first few weeks fuels a crisis.
 
(End VT)
 
MARK STRASSMANN: Georgia's COVID case is improving. Like other southern states, it's been a hot spot for months. But now the Southeast faces another danger: A pair of tropical storms named Marco and Laura. They're both expected to strengthen into hurricanes, potentially complicating the region's efforts to bring the virus under control. Margaret.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mark Strassmann in Atlanta, thank you.
 
We turn now to former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb, who joins us from Westport, Connecticut. Good morning to you.
 
SCOTT GOTTLIEB, M.D. (Former FDA Commissioner/@ScottGottliebMD): Good morning.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: New cases have dropped below fifty thousand for about the eighth day. That seems, according to Johns Hopkins, a positive development. But the CDC director says it's really middle America that's getting stuck. Where do you think we are?
 
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, we're seeing some signs of good news here. We're seeing cases fall across the country, across the Sun Belt, where the epidemic was. We're seeing deaths start to fall, and I think we're going to see deaths fall below a thousand a day. They've been persistently at above a thousand a day now for almost four weeks. And we're seeing hospitalizations fall, which is probably the most important indicator to watch. They fell below forty thousand for the first time in a very long time. And this is being driven by declines in the Sun Belt where the coronavirus really was epidemic, the sort of second wave, if you will, of the epidemic, the first being located in the New York Tri-State region. But we're seeing more cases build in the Midwest and the West. And the concern is that if there is sort of a third wave, a third iteration of the national epidemic, it could be more diffuse spread across a broader section of the Midwest and the West, because cases are building in those parts of the country. And that's what's concerning people right now.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about some of the things that the President has said regarding your old agency, the FDA. Yesterday, he posted a tweet that I want to show our viewers. He said "The deep state, or whoever, over at the FDA is making it very difficult for drug companies to get people in order to test the vaccines and therapeutics. They're hoping to delay the answer until after November 3rd. Most-- must focus on speed." It sounds like the President is directly accusing the FDA of political motivations. What is he talking about?
 
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, I'm not sure exactly what he's talking about, but I can tell you about my direct experience at the agency. I served in that agency three times, twice under President Bush and once as the commissioner for two years under President Trump. And when it comes to regulatory decision-making in that agency, it's a foundational truth that guides that agency as science and a deeply seated sense of public health mission that permeates that agency. It's a part of the esprit de corps of the staff of that agency. And I know that they know the urgency of the moment. They put out sixty guidance documents to find new ways to bring products to the market more quickly. There are seven hundred and fifty drugs under mid or late stages of clinical development, clinical trials right now. So I firmly reject the idea that they would slow walk anything or accelerate anything for that matter, based on any kind of political consideration and any consideration other than what's best for the public health and a real sense of mission to patients.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well--
 
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: As for the clinical trials they-- please.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the-- the chief of staff to the President doubled down on that today. He says sometimes you have to make them feel the heat if they do not see the light. He said a number of bureaucrats don't see the urgency. What urgency? What-- what-- what is the FDA being pressured to do?
 
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, look, I-- I think a lot of that was about plasma, that tweet, I think the President scoped into that tweet a comment on vaccines. But I will tell you and I sit on the board of Pfizer, one of the two U.S. companies furthest along and developing a vaccine, the vaccine trials have-- have enrolled very fast. Moderna and Pfizer, the two U.S. manufacturers who are the furthest ahead, enrolled twenty-five thousand patients into those trials in the four weeks that those trials have been stood up and they've really only been enrolling in earnest for three weeks. That's extraordinary. So to say that these products aren't moving at really historic pace I think is wrong. The-- there were delays or perceived delays in bringing plasma, authorizing plasma under an emergency use authorization, was reported this week that NIH had misgivings about FDA going forward with that authorization. But there's reasons people have some questions about that. The trial that that's going to be based on, seventy thousand patients, wasn't a very rigorously done trial. It was an open-label study where everyone got treated. So it's hard to draw conclusions. I believe plasma is probably beneficial. It's probably weakly beneficial in the setting of this treatment. But I think some people wanted to see more rigorous data to ground that decision. And I think that's part of what is going on here with respect to that tweet and questions about the FDA decision making.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.
 
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: But I think the FDA is on firm ground taking their time to try to closely evaluate that information.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: The Pre-- the White House has said there will be a major therapeutic breakthrough on the virus announced today. Do you know what that is?
 
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, I would guess it's the emergency use authorization for plasma. You know, the-- the issue here, though, is that patients are getting it. More than seventy thousand patients, again, have been dosed with that. So it's available. What the emergency use authorization will allow is probably more commercial distribution, and it will allow manufacturers of plasma products to more easily recoup the costs. Now, what plasma is is basically taking the antibodies from people who've recovered, so it's a blood product, and infusing them in people who are sick. And if you use it early enough in the course of the disease, there is some precedent for it being beneficial in the treatment of viruses. And so it is a good therapeutic to have in the overall armamentarium. But the bottom line is it's widely available right now, patients are getting it.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
 
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: The EUA, the emergency use authorization, will enable probably easier access in certain settings, but it's incremental, and you know, incremental gains--
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.
 
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: --are important here, but we need to view it for what it is.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Quickly, before we let you go, I want to understand this study that came out this week showing from the Journal of Pediatrics that children have a more significant role in community spread than-- than believed initially. Does this mean kids are more contagious than we thought?
 
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, I think this study was consistent with other studies. What it showed-- it was nasopharyngeal swabs, so it was swabs from children comparing them to swabs from adults. There was some problems with this study in that they were swabbing the kids early in the course of the disease, comparing them to adults who were swabbed late in the course of the disease, albeit adults who are very sick, who were hospitalized. And they found that the kids had very high viral levels, in many cases higher than the adults. I think it confirms what other-- other studies have shown, which is that children do shed virus and they can transmit the virus. If they can't transmit the virus, we wouldn't be seeing these outbreaks in day camps in Missouri and Georgia. We saw the situation in Ohio where there was an outbreak in a church service and children were in the chain of transmission. So children can transmit the virus. The presumption is that when they're asymptomatic, they're less likely to transmit it. And that's true of adults too. The CDC says that when adults are asymptomatic, they're also less likely to transmit the infection.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm. Doctor Scott Gottlieb, always good to talk to you. Thank you for your time.
 
We'll be back in a moment.
 
(ANNOUNCEMENTS)
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Tucson, where classes at the University of Arizona start tomorrow with four instructional options, including in-person learning. Joining us is university president and doctor, Robert Robbins. Good morning to you.
 
DR. ROBERT ROBBINS (University of Arizona President/@UArizonaPres): Good morning, Margaret.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Sure. How many students are coming back for in-person, in-class instruction, and will all of them be tested?
 
DR. ROBERT ROBBINS: So all of the students that are living in our dormitories are being tested, that's mandatory. We've tested over five thousand students with twenty-six positives, so it's about 0.3 percent. The other students that are living off-campus are being strongly encouraged to be tested. And in total, there'll be about five thousand students that will be taking essential courses face to face, in person. Those would be things like organic chemistry lab, physics lab, gross anatomy lab, those kind of things. And we think we're going to have about thirty thousand, twenty-eight to thirty thousand students coming back to the Tucson area. Normally, we would have forty-five thousand.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: And your office told us that the only mandate for testing is for those living on campus. You just mentioned dorms there.
 
DR. ROBERT ROBBINS: Right. Yes.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: It looks like five thousand of your students live in dorms. That-- that means the majority don't live on campus. So-- so isn't this exposing everyone if you can't mandate testing for those who don't live in a dorm?
 
DR. ROBERT ROBBINS: Well, I think-- I think that what we're going to do is we will try to test everyone that comes on campus. What I would like, and, of course, what we would all like is a ten second-- ten-cent test that we could test everyone every day. We-- we think that we can test everybody who comes back to campus in person, but we can't test them every day using an antigen test, which is what we're using to look at our students that are coming into-- to the dorms. We-- we think that we've got a random testing protocol that we've got in place, but I would like to see us test at least once a week everybody who comes on campus face to face.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: So Notre Dame mandated testing for students on campus. And I'm sure you know that they have had an outbreak–
 
DR. ROBERT ROBBINS: Yeah.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: --that has caused them to put things on hold for at least a few weeks. If they tried and failed, why do you think your university will be different?
 
DR. ROBERT ROBBINS: Well, I think that we've got extensive testing policies. I think they did the same thing that we did, which is test students when they came into the dorms, but I'm not sure if they were tested-- because they'd only been in class, just like at UNC Chapel Hill, they'd only been in class for a week or so. I think the big issue is off-campus activity.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
 
DR. ROBERT ROBBINS: I think we all know that we can control things in the classroom and on campus and in the student union and not having large gatherings of people on campus in official venues. The problem is, what I've seen is that others such as Kansas, even Arizona State, other universities, Purdue, have gone aggressively off campus to try to break up large gatherings and parties. And that's where most of the transmission has occurred.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Would you expel a student if they violated one of your requests? I mean, how do you force people to behave in their own best interest--
 
DR. ROBERT ROBBINS: Yeah.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: --when they're--
 
DR. ROBERT ROBBINS: Yeah. I--
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: --teenagers and in their early twenties?
 
DR. ROBERT ROBBINS: Sure. No, I understand, and I think we're-- we're so to answer your question first, we've-- we've got a face-covering policy. We're anticipating there'll be some people who refuse to cover their face because of their expression of their individuality and freedom. But that is going to be-- that'll go through the dean of students and code of conduct. And, yes, they can be expelled. What-- what I think we're moving into is we-- we've done a very good job of testing, contact tracing. We've got COVID-19 Watch, which is a Google Apple app that uses Bluetooth. And we're the first university to use that. So, we feel good about our education. And we've been on with a weekly briefing every week and over social media. I think we're-- we're going to continue that preventative therapy and education.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
 
DR. ROBERT ROBBINS: But we've got to switch quickly into the treatment mode.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: When--
 
DR. ROBERT ROBBINS: We know they're going to be spikes in cases, so we've got to be able to handle them.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Very quickly, when do you hit the brakes? What's your threshold?
 
DR. ROBERT ROBBINS: When we can't mitigate and handle, if we get overwhelmed with cases where we can't-- don't have enough room for isolation, our hospitals are starting to get capacity-- overcapacity where we can't surge into ICUs--
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
 
DR. ROBERT ROBBINS: --and if someone were to get really sick. So, we're going to be watching the numbers every day. And if we run out of isolation beds and we can't handle it and people are getting really ill, then-- then we'll pull the plug.
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Doctor Robbins, thank you for your time.
 
We will be right back.
 
(ANNOUNCEMENTS)
 
MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to leave you today on an uplifting note. There is a new arrival here in Washington. Giant panda, Mei Xiang, gave birth to a new cub at the National Zoo on Friday. And the yet-to-be-named cub has been called a miracle, given how rare a panda pregnancy is, plus, the mother's advanced age. Proof that some of 2020 surprises can actually be good ones. And we need more of them.
 
That's it for us today. Thank you for watching. Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.