Secretary Mnuchin on jobs recovery, status of COVID relief package

This is a rush transcript from “Fox News Sunday," September 6, 2020. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I'm Bret Baier, in for Chris Wallace.

Signs of a slowly recovering economy as the presidential campaigns gear up for a post-Labor Day push.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're witnessing the fastest labor market recovery from any economic crisis in history.

BAIER: The unemployment rate falls, but the economic recovery from the pandemic is far from over.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Donald Trump may be the only president in modern history to leave office with fewer jobs than when he took office.

BAIER: We'll discuss with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and ask about his plan to avoid a government shutdown despite the ongoing battle over COVID relief.

Then --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm committed to helping Kenosha rebuild. We all are.

BIDEN: Donald Trump looks at the violence and he sees a political lifeline.

BAIER: Donald Trump and Joe Biden visit electoral battlegrounds and urban hotspots and deliver contrasting messages on how to confront racial unrest.

We're joined by Biden campaign senior advisor Symone Sanders, only on "FOX News Sunday".

Plus, the president pushes back on reports he privately disparaged American soldiers.

TRUMP: It's a fake story written by a magazine that was probably not going to be around much longer.

BAIER: We'll ask our Sunday panel how it could impact the crucial military vote.

All, right now, on "FOX News Sunday."


BAIER: And hello again from FOX News in Washington.

It's now just 58 days, eight weeks, until Election Day and the first debate between President Trump and Joe Biden just three weeks away now. Coronavirus, racial unrest and the economy all key issues that could impact the vote.

We begin with FOX team coverage, David Spunt at the White House and Jacqui Heinrich in Wilmington, Delaware.

Let's start with the latest on the president's strategy as he faces reelection and that backlash over a report he mocked American soldiers killed in action -- David.


The president is fuming over this report, claiming that he disparaged the American war dead, he's calling it a hoax. Meanwhile, the White House is trying to fit the focus to a potential COVID vaccine.


TRUMP: It's a disgrace that somebody is allowed to write things like that.

SPUNT: President Trump aggressively denying your report in "The Atlantic", claiming he called American war dead, quote, "losers and suckers."

TRUMP: There is nobody that feels more strongly about our soldiers, our wounded warriors, our soldiers that died in war, than I do. It's a hoax.

SPUNT: In November 2018, the president spoke at a Suresnes outside Paris, but did not visit Aisne-Marne, some 61 miles east. The White House says the decision for the president to skip the visit was weather-related.

Back on American soil, Portland hit its 100th day of unrest. At the same time, the president ordering a scaled-back of racial sensitivity training and federal agencies. In a memo, Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought says the U.S. has spent millions, quote, training government workers to believe divisive, anti-American propaganda.

The White House instead looking to focus the attention on 1.4 million jobs added in August and a potential sustainable COVID vaccine by late October, early November.


SPUNT: Bret, this week, the president will travel to Michigan and North Carolina to hold campaign rallies. On Friday, he'll head to Pennsylvania on September 11th, to memorialize Flight 93. Also in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on Friday, former Vice President Joe Biden -- Bret.

BAIER: David Spunt, reporting from the North Lawn of the White House -- David, thanks.

Now let's turn to Jacqui Heinrich, who's covering the Biden campaign -- Jacqui.


Well, after more than a week on the defensive over Republican messaging about law and order, former Vice President Joe Biden is using reported comments by the president to undercut a central theme of his reelection campaign.


BIDEN: Who the heck does he think he is?

HEINRICH: Joe Biden is trying to get the message across: Donald Trump is not patriotic.

BIDEN: President Trump has demonstrated he has no sense of service, no loyalty to any cause other than himself. I'm always cautioned not to lose my temper. This may be as close as I've come.

HEINRICH: Biden's speech Friday was expected to make headlines on the economy and jobs, but following a report that President Trump disparaged American troops, Biden's most memorable remarks invoke the memory and military service of his own son, Beau.

BIDEN: The servicemen and women he served with, particularly those that did not come home, were not losers.

HEINRICH: While Biden runs on character, his running mate is sticking to issues. Senator Kamala Harris telling CNN's "State of the Union" she would not trust the president's word alone on potential coronavirus vaccine, following reports his administration is rushing a rollout for political points.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: He's grasping for whatever you can get to pretend that he's been a leader on this issue, when he is not.


HEINRICH: The campaign is picking stops in swing states resonating best on the issues. Tomorrow, Labor Day, Biden heads to Pennsylvania to talk jobs with union leaders -- Bret.

BAIER: Jacqui Heinrich reporting from Wilmington, Delaware -- Jaqui, thank you.

Joining us now, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Mr. Secretary, thanks. Welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."

STEVEN MNUCHIN, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: Thanks, Bret. It's great to be with you.

BAIER: I'd like to start with where the coronavirus stimulus bill, the next iteration stands and the negotiations as of right now.

MNUCHIN: Well, Bret, the president and I couldn't be more pleased with the way the economic plan is working. We've injected $3 trillion into the economy.

People thought we'd get 25 percent on unemployment. Fortunately, it never came close to that. We're now down to 8.4.

But the president and I believe we should do more stimulus. We have about seven and a half million jobs that we need to get back until we're back to where we were up. And we want to help small businesses, we want to help businesses that are particularly impacted by this, and we'll continue to work on proposed new legislation.

BAIER: So, what's the sticking point? Does Speaker Pelosi want this, do you believe?

MNUCHIN: Well, I think, you know, in my discussions with the speaker, where we're really stuck is both on certain policy issues but more about more importantly on the top line. The speaker has refused to sit down and negotiate unless we agree to something like a two and a half trillion dollar deal in advance.

And, Bret, as you know, we put $3 trillion into the economy when the economy was completely shut down. We've now reopened the economy.

Well, let's -- let's do a more targeted bill now. If we need to do more in 30 days, we'll continue to do more. But let's not hold up the American workers and American businesses that need more support.

BAIER: So, on the logistics, will Senate Republicans move a so-called skinny bill next week?

MNUCHIN: I'd like to call it a more targeted bill, not a skinny bill. But yes, our expectation is we'll move forward with that next week.

BAIER: What exactly did you agree with the speaker on government funding?

MNUCHIN: Well, the good news, Bret, is the speaker and I have agreed, we don't want to see a government shutdown. So we've agreed that we are going to do a clean CR. We'll do this separately from the CARES Act negotiations.

We're having the Appropriations staff, the four corners meet and go through some specific details on it. But the good news is we've agreed on a clean CR, and I hope by the end of the week, we can begin moving forward with that, because that's important to the American people.

BAIER: CR, continuing resolution. How long would that extension last? Through Election Day, some other timeline?

MNUCHIN: We haven't agreed on the specific details but my expectation, it would be through the beginning of December. That's what we did this year, we had one through December, we then needed another one into the beginning of next year and then -- and then we had final appropriations.

So, for now, the most important thing is to make sure at the end of the month, we don't shutdown the government and we get something past the election.

BAIER: You know, Mr. Secretary, there has been some vocal criticism from Republicans about you negotiating, saying in essence that you're giving away the store. The president's joked that he doesn't know whether you're a Democrat or Republican.

Here's "The Wall Street Journal" editorial board: Republicans in the age of Donald Trump don't know what they stand for on economics. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is a Keynesian whose idea of compromise is half of whatever Mrs. Pelosi wants -- saying it's a down payment on her election agenda.

Your reaction to that criticism, and would it be better to bring the president in, have him, get everybody in the Oval Office and try to hammer out a deal?

MNUCHIN: Well, Bret, let me first say, I don't take "The Wall Street Journal" editorials personally. Sometimes they have good things to say and sometimes it's nonsense, like this case.

As I've said before, I don't agree to anything that I don't review with the president. I speak to the president daily. Our economic plan got us back to an extraordinary reopening for the economy and the president wanted us to move forward with $3 trillion of spending. That's what we did. It's helped an enormous amount of American businesses and American workers.

And the answer is, the president constantly has -- not only his economic team in the Oval Office, but now Mark Meadows and I have been on the phone with Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans every single day. Mark and I obviously speak to Kevin McCarthy and the Republicans in the House.

But let me be clear: any legislation requires bipartisan support. We couldn't be more proud, the last two bills in the Senate, 100-0 and 96-0. So I find that anything other than complete bipartisan support from both sides.

BAIER: Most experts look at Friday's latest job report as positive, as you mentioned. Strong, beating expectations.

Here's how the former vice president characterized it Friday, though.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The report reinforces the worst fears and painful truths -- the economic inequities that began before the downturn have only worsened under this failed presidency. When a crisis started, we all hoped for a few months of the shutdown would be followed by rapid economic turnaround. No one thought they'd lose their job for good.


BAIER: Your reaction to that?

MNUCHIN: Well, the former vice president and the former president had one of the longest economic recessions that we've had. Under President Trump, we had the lowest unemployment we've had. We had the best economy we've ever had.

And to no fault of any American businesses, the president made a very difficult decision to shut down the entire U.S. economy because of this terrible COVID disease. Now, the good news is we've reopened it.

So, again, let me just say -- people thought we have 30 million, 40 million people unemployed. We never did that because of the bipartisan support putting money into the economy. We're now down to 8.4 percent, and the president is going to get it back down to 3 percent or 4 percent where it was before all of that in the beginning of next year when he's reelected.

BAIER: So, 1.4 million jobs added in August. As you mentioned, unemployment rate down to 8.4 percent. Looking right now on the current trajectory, what you think it will be by Election Day?

MNUCHIN: I think you're going to see it continue to go down. We're going to have one more employment number this month that you're going to see. I think you're going to see another good number.

You're going to see a phenomenal third quarter GDP. Some people think it's going to be in the neighborhood of 30 percent, 35 percent. Whether it's 25 percent, 30 percent, 35 percent, you're going to see this is the American economy rebounding.

This is American business. People know when the government gets out of the way and we let American business work, and with a little support from industries that are the hardest hit -- and that's why we don't (ph) want more legislation -- this economy will fully recover and the president's job and my job is not done until everybody gets back to work.

BAIER: I want to go overseas. The countries still in the Iran nuclear deal said the U.S. doesn't have standing to do snapback sanctions. Can and will the U.S. go alone on this?

MNUCHIN: We will. So, let me just say, we don't agree with that technical analysis at the U.N. I think our allies understand that selling arms to Iran right now would be perhaps the worst decision that one can do. We're talking about the number one country in the Middle East that has created terror around the Middle East.

And the president is determined: one, they're never going to have a nuclear weapon, and two, we're not going to let them hurt their friend -- hurt our friends in the area.

BAIER: You are not on that trip to France with the president, that's the focus of "The Atlantic" piece, that has received so much attention in the past few days. Administration pushed back on the record. But unnamed sources confirming parts of that story, at least parts of the account.

Have you ever heard the president use any of that language, about veterans, dead or alive, ever being around him?

MNUCHIN: Bret, quite the contrary. This president supports the military in an unbelievable way. He's created more funding to rebuild the military. That was one of the things he campaigned on and he delivered.

I've been with the president to Arlington on Memorial Day. Let me tell you, I've listened to him there, I've watched him go visit sites there. I've been with him to the anniversary of World War II. It was a very emotional experience.

So, no, quite the contrary, I think this president has enormous respect for the military and for the generals, and I've been at the tank at the Pentagon with him. I've been at 9/11 at Pentagon with him. This president respects and supports the U.S. military.

BAIER: The president also says he is against cancel culture. Do you think it's right for him to call for the firing of a reporter who has unnamed sources who confirm parts of that story?

MNUCHIN: Bret, I really don't know anything about that, so it's just not something I can comment on.

BAIER: OK. Well, he's tweeted about it and, obviously, he -- he says that he wants a reporter who happens to work here at FOX fired.

MNUCHIN: I've been busy on economic issues, to be honest with you. I focus on a lot -- a lot of things and as I said on the military, I've always heard him to be 150 percent supportive. I'm just not aware of the issues that you're talking about.

BAIER: All right. Last thing, the CBO says the national debt will reach about the size of the U.S. economy by the end of the year. I've interviewed you many times before and ask you about the growing size of the debt.

You look at it, it's approaching $27 trillion. The deficit and the debt are a concern. You've always said it's, quote, manageable.

But after this pandemic, if the president is reelected, would you see a second term, some serious administration plan to address the debt?

MNUCHIN: I would, Bret. I think before we got into COVID, I thought the debt was very manageable. We were having extraordinary growth. We were creating growth that would pay down the debt over time.

Unfortunately, this China virus has cost us trillions of dollars, and as I've said before, this is like a war. In a war, you've got to spend whatever you need to spend.

So, that's the reason why we spent $3 trillion. We'd spend another trillion dollars.

The speaker wants to just spend unlimited amounts of money. I think the former vice president, if you were elected, would have socialist economic policies that would take the debt out of control.

But there's no question in a second term, once the economy is back, we will focus on this issue.

BAIER: Mr. Secretary, we appreciate your time and happy Labor Day.

MNUCHIN: Thank you.

BAIER: Up next, former Vice President Joe Biden's return to the campaign trail heading into the home stretch. We will talk with senior Biden campaign advisor Symone Sanders when we come back.


BAIER: With Labor Day weekend comes the start of the final countdown to Election Day.

Joining us now, Symone Sanders, senior advisor for the Biden campaign.

Hey, Symone. Thanks for being here.


BAIER: The treasury secretary just on, paints a pretty optimistic view of where the economy is going to be come Election Day. Is that a problem for your campaign?

SANDERS: Well, Bret, I did hear the treasury secretary just a moment ago, and I think we -- folks have to ask themselves at home, is this recover working for you?

Now, economists are starting to call this recovery a K-shaped recovery, mean it is going well and up for folks at the top, but folks who are middle-class or below, it's going down. And so, the question it really is, is this working for working families? And the answer is no.

Look, one in six small businesses have shuttered their doors. You know, if you work, 30 -- I think more than 24 million people have noted that they are teleworking. So, if you work a job that has you working on a laptop and you are working at a desk, you're less at risk for COVID.

But I'm thinking, Bret, and Joe Biden's thinking but the folks who are truck drivers, who work as cashiers, who are working in the grocery stores, auto workers. Those are folks that are at higher risk of shortened hours, but also higher risk of being exposed to COVID.

So I just really think we have to think about the pain and the working families across this country are experiencing right now.

BAIER: What are the prospects for a vaccine before Election Day? Asked about the safety of that, Dr. Anthony Fauci said this.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES:  I think that we can have some confidence and have faith in what the FDA is saying. They're saying very explicitly that they're going to be making the decision based on the scientific data, and we hope that that's going to be the case.


BAIER: Is the Biden campaign saying essentially if a vaccine comes out before Election Day, it shouldn't be trusted or that it's pure politics? A couple of times, the former vice president has weighed in on that buried

SANDERS: Well, Bret, I think what we're saying is, first and foremost, we all want to vaccine, right? We all -- but we want that vaccine to be safe, and when a vaccine is eventually available, we want it to be equitably distributed.

And the question really is, is how can Americans and folks across the country trust the president to be able to effectively and equitably distribute a vaccine when he's had issues getting personal protective equipment to front-line workers all across this country?

So, we all want a vaccine, Bret. We all want -- but we wanted to be safe and we want to get folks across the country, in every community that needs it.

BAIER: Yeah. So, if it comes out the last week in October and the FDA gives at the go-ahead, you're okay with that?

SANDERS: Well, Bret, again, we all want to vaccine. The question is, how will it be distributed? Will working families across this country -- I just talked about the folks who work at cashiers -- who are working check -- cashier (ph) counters and work in grocery stores and folks who are truck drivers, will they have the ability to get this vaccine?

We know that African-American and Latino folks in this country are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Will those neighborhoods and communities across the country have the opportunity to receive the vaccine? That is the question.

And if we look at just frankly how this White House and how the administration has handled the mitigation or the lack thereof of COVID-19, has handled, you know, disturbing personal protective equipment to folks across this country, there have been real issues.

So, I -- we are -- we would hope that if a vaccine is available, that it is safe, but it's a question of can the Trump administration distributed equitably? And what we see instead (ph), we don't know.


BAIER: OK, they say they have a plan for that.

But will Joe Biden get the vaccine if it's available?

SANDERS: Well, look, Bret, again, as I just noted, first and foremost -- I think folks have asked, we've had conversations about testing, right? And as folks know now, Vice President Biden and Senator Harris are being regularly tested, as our campaign staff.

But, first and foremost, at the top of the mind -- a top of mind for Vice President Biden is, are the American people getting what their -- what they need? You know, the White House has testing, Bret. You know, folks are tested very regularly coming in and out of the White House, anyone who's around the president.

But that testing, that level of testing is not available to folks across the country. So, if a vaccine were to become available, again, it's about will working families benefit, will they be able to receive the vaccine?

BAIER: OK. Many journalists detected a shift in the former vice president's answer about shutting down the economy. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Get off Twitter and start talking to the congressional leaders in both parties, invite them to the Oval Office, the Oval Office.

Negotiate a deal, a deal for somebody other than yourself.

INTERVIEWER: So if the scientists say, shut it down --

BIDEN: I would shut it down. I would listen to the scientists.

There is going to be no need in my view to be able to shut down the whole economy. I got asked by David Muir a question, if I was asked to shut everything down, I took that as a generic question, if -- am I going to follow the science?


BAIER: So would he shut it down or not?

SANDERS: Well, I think the vice present was very clear in that last clip, Bret. He noted that he was asked by David Muir, and he took it very generic, that if he -- if it was recommended by the scientists that that is what needed to happen to keep Americans safe, would he do it, and the answer was yes.

But, look, the reality is this, that Vice President Biden wants folks to be able to go to work, just like I noted we want folks to be able to get that vaccine, we want working families to -- you know, we want folks to be able to send their children to school safely.

BAIER: Yeah.

SANDERS: And currently in Donald Trump's America, that's not happening. And so, I think at the beginning of that clip, what you heard was Vice President Biden urging President Trump to call the Democratic leaders in the United States Congress and Senate and in the House, bring them to the White House, let's negotiate a deal and get this done for the American people.

BAIER: But you know it goes the other way, Symone, too. He is now the de facto head of the Democratic Party. Why doesn't Joe Biden call Nancy Pelosi and say, let's get a deal done?

SANDERS: Well, I do believe, Bret, that Speaker Pelosi passed a stimulus bill in the House more than 115 days ago. It is the Senate --


BAIER: Right, but there's big difference. There's a gap between what they're talking about as far as the negotiation.

SANDERS: Well, right, Bret. So, I do -- I don't think I've read anywhere where Speaker Pelosi or Leader Schumer have noted that they're unwilling to work with the president. I think even you have noted that the president has to come to the table and negotiate.

So what Vice President Biden is urging and I think with the American people want is a deal.

You know, Donald Trump talks about being this business leader that can cut great deals -- make a deal with Congress. Come on, do your job. This is part of the job as president.

BAIER: All right. Let's talk about the protests and the violence around the country, often turning into riots and looting, some significant violence stemming from it. This week, the former president has condemned that rioting and looting and violence, spoke out about it, but he has yet to condemn Antifa, a group that is behind a lot of the violence specifically. Why?

SANDERS: Bret, the vice president has been very clear, he condemns all forms of violence. And, frankly, what you heard him say in the speech that he gave on Monday of last week was it doesn't matter what political party you belong to, it doesn't matter what your political beliefs are, violence is wrong.

In this moment, he is calling for calm and we have also noted throughout the week, Bret, that he, you know, asked the president to join him in condemning violence, regardless of who is causing it.

So, Joe Biden has been very clear. I do believe it's Donald Trump that has not.

BAIER: Do the dozen-plus Biden campaign staffers who donated to this Minnesota Freedom Fund have any regrets about that, now that at least one person bailed out has been rearrested on a serious charge?

SANDERS: Bret, it was not and has not been our campaign position of bailing anyone out. So I'm unsure about specifically what you're speaking to --


BAIER: Well, Kamala Harris tweeted about it. She said, if you're able to chip into the Minnesota Freedom Fund to help post bail for those protesting on the ground in Minnesota, please do.

SANDERS: So, Bret, look, I think you ask a good question, right? Do we condemn the violence and the answer is yes. Now, protesting, we have to make a clear distinction between protesting and violence.

To be clear, as Vice President Biden has said, though, burning communities, looting communities is not protesting, that's violence. And we condemn that in all forms. But protesting peacefully is necessary, it's American and folks should be raising their voices in this moment.

BAIER: Why do you think all the police organizations have endorsed President Trump?

SANDERS: You know, I'm unsure, Bret. You know, I'm not a negotiations, if you will, inside these various police organizations.

But what I can tell you is more than a 132 law enforcement officers from across this country, in the high-ranking positions, former folks, endorsed Vice President Biden on Friday.

And I can also tell you this, that when you ask the American people looking at these polls, who do voters trust to keep them safe in this country, overwhelmingly, they say Joe Biden.

And so, I think this "law and order" campaign, if you will, that President Trump and his campaign are trying to gin up and run, I don't think it's working, because the question is, are you safe in Donald Trump's America? Are you safe from COVID? Are you safe in the incitement of violence?


SANDERS: Is it safe to send your children to school? Unequivocally, the answer is no.

BAIER: Let me on this. Let me end on this, here is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo this week.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Changed his residence to go to Florida. Why? He can't come back to New York. He can't. He's going to walk down the street in New York?

Forget bodyguards, he better have an army if he thinks he's going to walk down the street in New York.


BAIER: He's talking about speaking out against violence.

So, was that appropriate or helpful for your campaign?

SANDERS: Well, Bret, Governor Cuomo doesn't work for the Biden campaign. I'm not sure what context he was speaking, but I can tell you what Joe Biden --

BAIER: About Donald Trump.

SANDERS: I can tell you what Joe Biden and Kamala Harris believe. They believe that we should live in a country where a president does not incite violence or fan the flames of hate in this country, pour gasoline on tense situations.

They believe that we need leadership who's ready to stand up for all of the folks, not just people who voted for the president. And that is the kind of leader that Joe Biden will be, a president all Americans.

BAIER: So, they would condemn that language from Governor Cuomo?

SANDERS: I don't know what context Governor Cuomo was speaking which, but I can tell you -- and I don't speak for Governor Cuomo. I speak for Joe Biden and Senator Harris, and what I can tell he was what they believe.

BAIER: Symone, we really appreciate your time. Happy Labor Day.

SANDERS: Thank you. Happy Labor Day.

BAIER: Up next, we'll bring in our Sunday for their take on the president and Joe Biden's travels to Kenosha, Wisconsin, and the state of the campaign.


BAIER: Coming up, President Trump declares this election is about law and order.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Biden's plan is to appease the domestic terrorists and my plan is to arrest them and prosecute them.


BAIER: We'll ask our Sunday panel how both candidates are dealing with the spike in urban violence.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm committed to helping Kenosha rebuild.

We must give far greater support to our law enforcement. It's all about giving them additional support. These are great people.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The underlying racism that is institutionalized in the United States still -- still exists, has existed for 400 years.


BAIER: President Trump and Joe Biden with contrasting messages during their visits this week to Kenosha, Wisconsin, as protests continue after the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

It's time now for our Sunday group.

Co-founder of "The Federalist," Ben Domenech, Fox News Contributor Jessica Tarlov, and president of RealClearPolitics Tom Bevan.

Let's set the table for this race as the RealClearPolitics average of polls, since we have Tom on we'll show these, RCP. Biden up 7 in the average of recent polls, if you look at the key battleground states, also Biden with an advantage. Some of those closing slightly in recent days.

Back with the panel.

Tom, when you look at these numbers and state of the race, where do you see it?

TOM BEVAN, CO-FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, REALCLEARPOLITCS: Well, as you mentioned, there's been some tightening in some of these battleground states. Florida, for example, which is a key -- key state, Biden's lead pre-convention was over five. It's now under two. There's been some tightening in places like Pennsylvania. We've had some polls there showing some tightening.

In other states, not as much. But if you look overall, if you take an average of Biden's lead in the top six battleground states in this election, it is at 3.0 percent. That is exactly where Hillary Clinton's lead was four years ago. So I think despite the national polls showing Biden with a bigger lead than Hillary Clinton had at this point in time, in the battle ground states it's still very, very competitive.

BAIER: We're getting ready, Jessica, to see Kamala Harris go on the trail for the first time to Wisconsin. The same day, Mike Pence is there. Clearly the Biden campaign thinks it's necessary now to get out of Wilmington, Delaware.

JESSICA TARLOV, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, absolutely. And they started doing this a couple weeks early. If you remember, Joe Biden was supposed start traveling in earnest after Labor Day, but he's been out on the road. There were a few polls out of Wisconsin that showed that independent voters were paying more attention to this law and order or crime issue and people were really pushing the vice president to show up in Kenosha, which he did, and met with Jacob Blake's family as well and even spoke with Mr. Blake from his hospital bed.

So it's very clear that the Biden campaign is reading the tea leaves that Tom just laid out for us there. They know exactly where they need to go and they also are working really hard to protect a number of different routes to 270 electoral votes. With the Fox News poll in Arizona, for instance, that's looking better than anyone expected and really great for Mark Kelly, I should say, running against Martha McSally there.

But they know that Florida's getting tight, Pennsylvania's getting tight, and they need to make sure that Wisconsin and Michigan go their way this time around versus what happened to Hillary Clinton.

BAIER: Ben, I mentioned with Symone, I asked her about why these police organizations are seemingly all endorsing President Trump. And you heard her answer. But there's more than a dozen law enforcement organizations, including the Fraternal Order of Police, 355,000 members, the National Association of Police Organizations, the International Union of Police Associations. Clearly they're going one way. Some of them enforced to Obama-Biden ticket in 2008.

BEN DOMENECH, "THE FEDERALIST": This is probably going to be the first time that you don't see any major cop backing for Joe Biden. He's historically had quite a lot of it in terms of all of his past runs. And I do think that, to Jessica's point, one of the reasons that the campaign is kind about on the trail earlier than maybe expected is because that they saw some of these law and order messages having significant impact, potentially, in the states.

When you look at these polls generally, it's kind of interesting situation though because I wouldn't say that the Biden campaign is acting like they have the lead that these national polls indicate that they do. They're behaving as if it's much closer, as if it is, to Tom's point, you know, something that is just a couple of points separating him from the president. And I think that there's a real concern on the part of Democrats that, you know, this race was lost last time, perhaps in the last 60 days after what happened on the 9/11 ceremonies with Secretary Clinton and I think the debates, obviously, went well for president -- for then Candidate Trump. There's a lot of concern about what they could lead to this time around.

BAIER: That first debate, three weeks away.

Here is the president and Dr. Fauci on vaccines.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It will be delivered before, in my opinion, before the end of the year, but it really might even be delivered before the end of October.

Not because of the election. It would be nice because we want to save people.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Most of us project that that's going to be by November/December, by the end of the year. Could this be earlier? Sure. It is conceivable that you could have it by October, though I don't think that that's likely.


BAIER: And, Tom, earlier I played the sound bite where Dr. Fauci said that you have to trust that the FDA is not going to put anything out there that's not safe. But the Biden campaign, in multiple times, is suggesting that if it comes out before Election Day, that it's pure politics.

BEVAN: Right. I think that's a dangerous move for -- for Kamala Harris, her comments, Joe Biden, to sort of politicize the vaccine. I mean I think if you're an average American, you know, everybody wants a vaccine as soon as possible so they can return to their normal lives. I thought Symone Sanders actually did -- made an interesting angle during her interview, Bret, where she said, look, we're -- you know, we're worried this isn't going to be equitably distributed and that the coronavirus has -- has disproportionately impacted African-Americans, Latinos.

So they're going to actually, I think, based on what she said, not politicize the vaccine, the safety of the vaccine, they may question a little bit, but actually politicize Trump's handling of the distribution of the vaccine to communities of color.

BAIER: Yes, that's a good point.

Jessica, it seems like they're preparing for this vaccine to be available and out and the president to talk about it.

TARLOV: Right. Yes, absolutely. It will certainly be a boon for the president's campaign if the vaccine is a deliverable before Election Day and that Operation Warp Speed was a success. That's kind of where he's put, you know, all his eggs into that basket, that -- well, after he said that it was just going to go away, now at least we'll have a vaccine. And I do think that Symone Sanders' answer was incredibly smart and nuanced and also avoided talking about Kamala Harris' mention of being suspicious of the vaccine.

I know a lot of people who also feel that way, though, especially in light of the CDC pushing convalescent plasma and then having them walk that back. And the fact that the president has boosted Hydroxychloroquine, for instance, on TV a number of times, where Dr. Fauci has had to contradict him to ensure that people are not just taking it for sport.

I personally, if the FDA approves it, will be taking that vaccine if I can get my hands on it. I want to go back to normal life, like the rest of us.


TARLOV: But I think that the equity issue is a very smart place for Joe Biden to be in this campaign.


TARLOV: It really underpins everything he's talking about.

BAIER: Symone didn't -- didn't answer whether Joe Biden would take the vaccine once it's available.

When you rank things, Ben, coronavirus, where we are, November 3rd, the economy, where it is, and you heard what the Treasury secretary said about that. And law and order and protests and where that stands. How do you see which issue is taking most prominence?

DOMENECH: Well, I think the virus still is very prominent for the most part, in most people's minds and in their decision factor when they come in terms of looking at the different priorities of issues. But I do think that these economic questions that are going to become more and more important as we get closer to Election Day because a lot of this has to do with who people have confidence in to lead us out of this situation.

The president has been hammering away on the idea, as you heard from Secretary Mnuchin, that the Obama-Biden years were -- were a stagnant recovery, one where wages really didn't grow. That he's proven that he can do that and that he's going to do it again. I think he's going to lean into that strength as we get closer to Election Day and try to establish a message that only he can take us back perhaps to where we were before.

BAIER: Fifty-eight days from now. And we should point out, a lot of states, including North Carolina, already voting. The ballots are going out the door.

Thanks, panel.

We'll have to take a break here. But when we come back, President Trump denying a report saying he disparaged veterans even as his campaign sought to show support for members of the military.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was a terrible thing that somebody could say the kind of things, and especially to me, because I've done more for the military than almost anybody else.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: If these statements are true, the president should humbly apologize to every gold star mother and father and every blue star family.


BAIER: President Trump slamming a report he denigrated American soldiers, calling them losers and suckers. A big pushback publicly on that. Rival Joe Biden seizing on the claims. We're back with the panel.

Tom, interesting couple of days on this story. The on the record pushback from the White House vigorous but unnamed sources confirming parts of that account. It seems like -- where does this story go?

BEVAN: Well, I don't know. I mean, to me, the -- the sender of this story is all about the way that the media has gone wild with the use of unnamed sources and anonymous sources, right? We've -- we've seen that happen. I mean it wasn't so long ago, Brad, that the rule in journalism was, if you don't go on the record, it doesn't make the paper. And we've gotten away from that and particularly with Donald Trump the use of anonymous sources has -- has really, by factions within the government that have really tried to hurt him politically and undermine his administration, I think we need to really get back to that. If you've got something to say derogatory about the president or you've got a story to tell about the president, go on the record.

And so you've got these four unnamed sources and, on the other side, you've got a dozen people from the administration who are now on the record saying, look, I was with him, I was in the room, it didn't happen. And so I think it just speaks to the -- the way the journalists and -- and media, their integrity has been undermined by the use of these unnamed sources.

BAIER: Yes, and we should warn now, we use unnamed sources for various stories, including on this one, Jennifer Griffin's reporting.

Ben, I should also note, your late father-in-law, John McCain, part of this reporting and -- and the alleged remarks made by the president.

Your thoughts on how this story plays?

DOMENECH: Well, first, if you'll indulge me, you know, we, as a family, have gone through a lot of -- of tough years with the reporting about various things that President Trump has said about my late father-in-law. It's always hurtful. It's never fun. But I would say that this is also beef that lasted for several years. This is now two years that we mark since the senator's passing. And, at a certain point, we feel like the media entered an area where they're more interested in pouring salt on the wound, trying to get the president to go back and -- and continue his beef long after the point where the senator passed and that that -- and, honestly, it's -- it's reached a point where it's like, breaking news, they had beef. You know, this is not a new story for us.

On the other hand, on the -- on the story itself, I have to say, "The Atlantic" has not really covered itself in glory these past couple of years. They were carrying water for the Russia collusion hoax and the Steele dossier. They smeared Brett Kavanaugh. Their most recent higher than announced was E. Jean Carroll, who lost her job at "Elle" magazine given the outrageous nature of her allegations against the president and they actually had to retract and correct a major piece recently thanks to our own reporting at "The Federalist" about a police shooting.

I do believe that the first paragraph in this piece is false. There is a paper trail to prove that there was, in fact, a weather-related reason for this delay. And I believe John Bolton when he says that if this was true, it would have been an entire chapter in his book. He has no reason to lie.

That doesn't mean that the president doesn't say terrible things often about people with whom I think he should have more respect and more acknowledgment of the sacrifices that they've made for our country, particularly those who served in harm's way.

BAIER: Yes, former National Security Advisor John Bolton wrote a very negative book, if you're looking for President Trump's point of view, about his time serving there. Here he is talking about this incident.


JOHN BOLTON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: I didn't hear either of those comments or anything even resembling them. I -- I was there at the point in time that morning when it was decided that -- that he would not go to Aisne-Marne Cemetery. He decided not to do it because of John Kelly's recommendation. It was entirely a weather-related decision and I thought the proper thing to do.


BAIER: Jessica, I understand the Biden campaign jumping on this. I understand that the former vice president and -- and his passion about -- talking about it with the caveat, if true, when he delivered those remarks.

TARLOV: Right.

BAIER: What I don't understand is the campaign surrogates who are out going after Donald Trump for his deferment to the Vietnam War because of bone spurs. That seems interesting because Joe Biden had deferments too to avoid the draft. In fact, he had five of them because of a diagnosis of asthma as a teenager.

TARLOV: Bone spurs, asthma, that's very much in the past. I don't think that's necessarily the relevant point right now.

Joe Biden speaks about this issue passionately, not only because he cares about our troops, and he famously carries around a card that's updated on a daily basis of how many lives we have lost of servicemen and women abroad, but as the father of someone who fought honorably for the United States, Beau Biden, who passed away a few years ago. So I don't really want to talk about bone spurs versus asthma. I don't think that's the issue.

I think that there are really two issues at play here. One, to Tom's point about sources. Deep Throat was an anonymous source. It was not revealed who he was for decades. I don't think that anyone on this panel or in the world would deny the fact that that account mattered and that it certainly carried weight. And has Jennifer Griffin defended her own reporting yesterday with Neil Cavuto, her sources are very real, they are not anonymous to any of these reporters, and she even said, I'm sure they're not anonymous to the president himself.

This isn't an account that came out of a left-wing rag. "The Atlantic's" reporting has been confirmed by us, by "The Washington Post," by "The New York Times," by the Associated Press, all by very good reporters at those outlets as well. So to say that this is anonymous and it's a hoax is --

BAIER: We should have a caveat in there. Now, I agree with you, there are elements of that reporting that Jennifer confirmed from -- from sources.

TARLOV: Right.

BAIER: But as Ben pointed out, there are other elements that appear to be pretty pushed back pretty hard.

TARLOV: Absolutely. Yes, but -- absolutely. And -- and John Bolton is saying the decision was because of weather, that's fine. He also said he didn't spend the entire day with him. And the president said, oh, I called Melania to tell her how upset I was about this. She was back home. Guess what, Melania was with him in Paris and they went to dinner that night with the Macrons. He also said it's a hoax and then he said, but it could have been John Kelly. He was super fatigued and bad at his job. I don't think John Kelly has ever been bad at anything or super fatigued and not capable of doing it.

So I think John Kelly would probably come out and say he didn't say this thing at my son's grave if that were the case.

So pushing this aside as a hoax and something that isn't --

BAIER: Or he could come out and confirm the report on the record, too. He's no longer inside the administration.

TARLOV: Yes. I welcome him to do either of those things. I think it would help a lot. But that "Military Times" poll that showed that Biden is getting more support amongst active service members than Donald Trump shows that they're running scared here.

BAIER: So, Tom, I guess that's where I want to wrap up, is the political impact of something like this. There is a lot of things that we thought were going to move the needle ahead of the 2016 election. A lot of things, including all kinds of things that were said, let alone the "Access Hollywood" -- people thought that the thing was -- his campaign was cratering a number of different times.

Where are we on this? Does this not fall into some of that category?

BEVAN: I think it absolutely does. I mean if you're a supporter of Donald Trump, you look at this piece and you think it's a total hit job. The president's denied it. His folks have denied it. They're not going to believe it. And if you're a Biden supporter, you look at it and say, of course he said it. This is absolutely true. So what does that small slice of folks in the middle, what -- what do they think? How do they react to this story and particularly the folks who are sitting in the states that are going to matter? I -- I don't think we know, but I think this does fall into that category, that bucket of things that, in the final analysis, it's not going to move the needle and it's not going to matter on Election Day.

BAIER: And, quickly, Ben, I mean we're getting ready for a Michael Cohen book that's going to probably have all kinds of things in that too.

DOMENECH: We -- I just think people need to brace themselves. This is the beginning of a series of anonymously sourced pieces that will go after the president in all manner of ways. You're going to see a lot more of this before Election Day.

BAIER: Panel, thank you very much. We'll see you next Sunday.

Up next, our "Power Player of the Week." Our Broadway legend who gave thanks from his balcony to those on the front lines of the coronavirus fight.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): To follow that star. No matter how --


BAIER: When the coronavirus hit New York this spring, residents began to open their windows each night to salute health care workers fighting to save lives. And as we first told you in April, a Broadway legend lent his voice to that tribute. And what a voice it is. Here's Chris Wallace with our "Power Player of the Week."


BRIAN STOKES MITCHELL, TONY-AWARD WINNING ACTOR: I would go to the window, as everybody does here in -- in New York City, and cheer on all of the essential workers, the first responders, the health care workers, every night. And one night I just started spontaneously singing "The Impossible Dream."

MITCHELL (singing): This is my quest.

CHRIS WALLACE, ABC NEWS ANCHOR (voice over): Broadway legend Brian Stokes Mitchell bringing his signature baritone to his window each night to spread a message of hope.

MITCHELL (singing): No matter how hopeless, no matter how far.

WALLACE: It's Don Quixote's ballad from "The Man of La Mancha."

MITCHELL (on camera): People think that it's a song about doing the impossible. It's not. It's a song about trying. Trying, period. And the lyrics to the song couldn't be more perfect, to dream the impossible dream, to fight the unbeatable foe, to bear with unbearable sorrow, to run where the brave dare not go.

MITCHELL (singing): To try, when you're --

WALLACE: The song is a trademark for this two-time Tony winner, once dubbed the last leading man.


To be willing to march --

WALLACE: Only now, instead of singing in a Broadway theater, he sings from his apartment window on Broadway, still drawing a crowd.

MITCHELL (on camera): I'll look down sometimes and there's a fire engineer there, or there's an ambulance or there's a police car and I'm singing for them.

I've been laying low for the last number of days because I could feel my body fighting something unusual.

WALLACE: In early April, Mitchell announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

MITCHELL: And I got hit with a fever. I got hit with body aches, chills, a very high fever.

WALLACE (on camera): But there was a period when Brian Stokes Mitchell couldn't sing?

MITCHELL: Yes, without coughing. You don't know any of these things. And will I be able to sing again if something happens? Will it get into my vocal cords? Now I have a few more answers than I do questions, but still there's a whole of questions.

WALLACE (voice over): Now recovered, Mitchell wonders when his city will come back.

WALLACE (on camera): Do you worry about one Broadway will open again, when people will feel safe coming to New York and sitting in a theater with strangers?

MITCHELL: Yes, I'm very worried about that, actually. The theater, movie theaters, the live theater are going to be one of the last sectors to kind of get back to any kind of normalcy because we rely on people showing up, sitting next to other people in theater seats.

MITCHELL (singing): The world will be better for this.

WALLACE (voice over): When Mitchell sings "The Impossible Dream," he changes the lyrics.

MITCHELL (singing): (INAUDIBLE) fire person, or sanitation worker.

MITCHELL (on camera): The quest is to get through this. The quest is to get through this together. The quest is to collaborate.

Everybody sing with me!

MITCHELL (singing): The unreachable stars.

MITCHELL (on camera): Thank you essential workers of New York!


BAIER: We're one day closer to getting through all this.

Finally today, some big news to share. Our own Chris Wallace has yet again been named a presidential debate moderator. As you recall, in 2016, Chris became the first Fox News anchor to moderate a debate. The final debate between then-candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. This time around, Chris will moderate the first debate between President Trump and Joe Biden. That's just three weeks from now, September 29th. It will be held in Cleveland. And I guarantee you, you don't want to miss this.

That's it for today, have a great week and a great Labor Day. I'll see you tomorrow for "SPECIAL REPORT." Chris will see you next FOX NEWS SUNDAY.

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