Transcript: RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel on "Face the Nation," August 23, 2020

RNC chair defends Pompeo's convention address
RNC chair defends Pompeo's convention address... 08:32

The following is a transcript of an interview with RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel that aired Sunday, August 23, 2020, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: Weija thank you. We turn now to Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel. She joins us from Charlotte. Good morning to you. 

REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR RONNA MCDANIEL: 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?

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?

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. 

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?

MCDANIEL: I'm 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 300 people gathering there for official business. How are you going to protect them all from COVID? This is a mass gathering.

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. 

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,--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well,--

 but that's not good--

MARGARET BRENNAN: I think that--

MCDANIEL: 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?

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 90 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--

MCDANIEL: Why are they doing that? 

MARGARET BRENNAN: --that they can handle the mail volume- volume. They don't have a problem.

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 types of things--

MARGARET BRENNAN: A ballot or an application for a ballot? 

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 clear the Republican Party in these states is promoting mail-in voting. Is the Republican Party--

MCDANIEL: No. We are- we are--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --supportive of that?

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 90 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 US 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 57% of Republicans say the number of dead is acceptable at 170,000 people. Thirty-three percent of independents say it's acceptable, just 10% 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?

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 a number is acceptable? You--

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.

MCDANIEL: He did it from Europe as well, but Joe Biden didn't--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Not until March.

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 10 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?

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 10 Republicans said too much attention on that issue. Not the movement, but the issue. 

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. 

MCDANIEL: Thanks, MARGARET.


Below is a full transcript of Ronna McDaniel's conversation with Margaret Brennan.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Weija thank you. We turn now to Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel. She joins us from Charlotte. Good morning to you. 

REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR RONNA MCDANIEL: 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?

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. We are ready to nominate the president and the vice president. It is really exciting to be here in person. And the city of Charlotte has been a wonderful host to us. We're really excited.

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 line up, 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?

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. 

MCDANIEL: And it's being paid for by the Republican National Committee and the campaign, not the taxpayers.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So Mike Pompeo's trip will also be paid for. I mean, is it appropriate to be doing this?

MCDANIEL: It's appropriate to talk about this administration and what's happening with this administration and the policies that have made the lives better of the American people. And this convention is going to highlight that--

MARGARET BRENNAN: No but is it appropriate to use taxpayer dollars like this?

MCDANIEL: We're not using taxpayer dollars to pay for our convention.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you are confirming that Pompeo's trip will be reimbursed by the campaign?

MCDANIEL: I'm 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 300 people gathering there for official business. How are you going to protect them all from COVID? This is a mass gathering.

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. People cannot afford to not go to work. They can't afford to shut down forever. They really don't understand that many Americans right now are living paycheck to paycheck. And Nancy Pelosi, really interesting, this week, she brings Congress back--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So are you- are you testing all of them though--

MCDANIEL: No, let me finish. She--

MARGARET BRENNAN:  --because everyday people can't get that right now.

MCDANIEL: She- I'll get to that. But she brings Congress back. She brings Congress back to vote on the Postal Service and not on a stimulus package for the American people. The Democrat Party is saying we need to shut everything down. That is not tenable for many Americans who are living paycheck to paycheck. 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. 

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,--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well,--

 but that's not good--

MARGARET BRENNAN: I think that--

MCDANIEL: for average Americans.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I think the point on the safety protocols that you're taking is that those safety protocols aren't accessible to everyday Americans who come into the office. Not everyone can be tested like you say you are doing for everyone. So I think that's a little different. But I want to ask you something else about--

MCDANIEL: Well, you know what this president has done to ramp up testing and I've seen this with employers who have found ways to get testing. They're able to get PPE, they're able to put sanitization areas in their buildings. I mean, you have seen many companies and I see this all the time that have adjusted the way they work so employees can come back because it is just not tenable to shut down this economy forever. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. 

MCDANIEL: Only elite politicians and elite Hollywood celebrities think that that's a realistic solution. And the president is balancing health and safety--

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

MCDANIEL: --with opening up the economy.

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?

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 90 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--

MCDANIEL: Why are they doing that? 

MARGARET BRENNAN: --that they can handle the mail volume- volume. They don't have a problem.

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 types of things--

MARGARET BRENNAN: A ballot or an application for a ballot? 

MCDANIEL: An actual ballot. An actual ballot. She was in California. In Nevada and California, they aren't sending absentee request forms. (00:06:02) They're sending live ballots, which I think is a huge problem. Getting an absentee request form--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But to be clear the Republican Party in these states is promoting mail-in voting. Is the Republican Party--

MCDANIEL: No. We are- we are--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --supportive of that?

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 90 days out from an election, which is adding chaos to an election where we should have certainty. And the states like Florida that have done this for- for years and years and years, we trust their 0process. But why are states changing their whole election protocol when Dr. Fauci has said it is absolutely safe to vote in person, when you saw in Michigan just in early August, we had a primary, a million people voted in person. There has not been an uptick in COVID. So why are we perpetuating this myth that voting in person is a COVID super spreader? And why are Democrats upending all their election laws, tried and true processes that have been verified and proven to work and putting chaos into this election.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I- I want to move on. But, you know, some people feel for safety reasons, they'd like to vote by mail and don't necessarily have the option in--

MCDANIEL: Well and for safety reasons many--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --certain states to be able to do that. But I do want to ask you about some of our polling data.

MCDANIEL: But you know what, MARGARET, they- they are suppressing a vote, though. They are suppressing the votes of people who feel more comfortable voting in person. Look at what they just did in New Jersey. They are stopping in-person voting. There are people who don't feel comfortable voting from- by mail. They want to vote in person. Why are you taking away that right from people who actually want to vote in person? We're not saying you can't vote absentee. The president has said absentee voting is great when it's been proven and tried and true and tested in states that have verified their process. But why are they trying to strip away people's rights to vote in person? 

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to--

MCDANIEL: Every voter should have that option.

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 US 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 57% of Republicans say the number of dead is acceptable at 170,000 people. Thirty-three percent of independents say it's acceptable, just 10% 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?

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 a number is acceptable? You--

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.

MCDANIEL: He did it from Europe as well, but Joe Biden didn't--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Not until March.

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: Let me ask you about that.

MCDANIEL: And to watch their convention last week, trying to lay it at the feet of the president when you have seen Democrats, time after time, not work with him in a crisis is truly shameful. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Last question to you.  Another data point from our CBS News Battleground Tracker, 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 10 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?

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. But to see our Democrat-run cities allow this- this violence to to go unchecked I think is deeply disturbing--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you don't think there has been too much attention on the issue of discrimination? That was eight in 10 Republicans said too much attention on that issue. Not the movement, but the issue. 

MCDANIEL: You know who's given more attention to discrimination than anybody?  This president. When he has given- when he's the one who passed the First Steps Act to get rid of the injustices in our criminal justice reform, not Obama, not Biden. They had every chance to do that. 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: I know it's a busy morning. Ronna McDaniel, thank you for your time.

MCDANIEL: Thanks, MARGARET.