Transcript: Mike Pence on "Face the Nation"

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The following is a transcript of an interview with Vice President Mike Pence that aired Sunday, June 28, 2020, on "Face the Nation."

JOHN DICKERSON: Mr. Vice President, some of the states that are having the biggest spites- spikes are the big ones -- Texas, California, Arizona. Are you concerned?

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Well, we're monitoring very closely new cases in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and California. In fact, I'll be traveling with members of our team to several of those states over the next several days to make sure and get a ground report.  But what the American people should know is that because of the leadership that President Trump has provided, because of the extraordinary innovation that we have brought to this task, we are- we're in a much better place to respond to these outbreaks than we were four months ago. I mean, today we are now testing 500,000 Americans a day. We're able to do a great deal more surveillance and community testing than ever before. We've also expanded our- our health care capacity across the country, literally seeing delivered billions in personal protective equipment, ventilators. And most importantly in this moment is we've seen the development and distribution of therapeutics that have literally been saving lives around the country. And we believe by the end of this year, it's likely we'll have a vaccine.

JOHN DICKERSON: So you say that the country is in a better place in this moment. 

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: It is. 

JOHN DICKERSON: But- but the experts say we shouldn't be in this moment we're in. And I'll read you a few. Dr. Anthony Fauci says there is a disturbing surge of infections. The governor of Texas, Governor Abbott, says there is a massive outbreak. In the Wall Street Journal 10 days ago, you said 20,000 cases was a good number relative to where they've been. This week, there've been 40,000 cases. Your level of concern -- I understand you're saying what's been done -- seems insufficient to the alarm from governors and experts.

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: No, we're- let me be very clear that we are focused, our entire team is focused on working with governors to make sure that we meet this moment and support the efforts at state level to- to provide--

JOHN DICKERSON: But why did we get here at all? 

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: --the kind of steps that will- will mitigate these new cases. But there's another way, John, that this is different from early on. And that is that one of the things that we've heard in Texas and Florida in particular is that nearly half of those who are testing positive are Americans under the age of 35. That's contributing to the fact that- that those that are requiring to be hospitalized, who are testing positive for coronavirus is significantly lower than it was two months ago. And so we really believe that- that what- what is happening here is a combination of increased testing -- we're able to test a great deal more Americans than we were able to several months ago -- but it also may be indication that as we're opening our economy up, that- that younger Americans have- have been congregating in ways that may have disregarded the guidance that we gave on the federal level for all the phases of reopening. And I think that's why you see several governors taking action--to- to- to- to- to essentially try and- and- and prevent further increases in those new cases.

JOHN DICKERSON: The spike states are also states that are reopening early, and the administration is focused a lot on the economy, trying to get it reopened. 

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Right. 

JOHN DICKERSON: The- The states that are reopening are having some of the biggest problems. Did the reopening happen too early?

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, all 50 states are opening up again to one degree or another. And I know there's a temptation to associate the new cases in the Sunbelt with reopening, but it's important to remember that- that states like Florida and like Texas actually began to open up in- in early May. For the better part of six weeks, John, we did not see any significant movement. In my conversations with governors in Florida and in Texas and in Arizona in particular, we're monitoring very closely their hospitalization rate. And we continue to be very confident that they have the supplies and the support and the capacity to give people the render- the level of care that any of us would want a family member to have.

JOHN DICKERSON: You're talking about being able to monitor the situation. The argument is that the situation shouldn't be existing in the first place. Europe waited longer to reopen and they have seen less trouble in reopening. In Florida since Memorial Day, which was a new stage of reopening, cases are up 165 percent. There are almost 10,000 cases in a single day in Florida. Something happened. And it's not just a question of monitoring. The- the experts are saying these states walked into a problem with their eyes wide open because they opened too early. And that's a mistake, which seems to repeat the original mistake, which was to downplay and not take seriously the nature of the threat.

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, I- I beg to differ about the reopening and I beg to differ about downplaying. On- on the second point, I mean, President Trump suspended all travel from China before the first case of community transition- transmission occurred in the United States. 

JOHN DICKERSON: There were nine cases when he did that. 

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: We stood up- well, no, not- not- there were- there were cases in the United States of people who had returned to this country but the first case of community transmission would occur weeks later. And he stood up the White House Coronavirus Task Force and everything I've described about- about an unprecedented scaling of testing, the development of billions of- of medical supplies, ventilators, the development of therapeutic medicines like Remdesivir and others that are being developed, the launch in record time of a vaccine development. But as we've arrived at this moment, it's clear across the Sunbelt that there's something happening, particularly among younger Americans. And that's why we fully support Governor Abbott's decision to close bars and limit restaurants. We fully support--

JOHN DICKERSON: But bars should never have been open--

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: --steps taken in Florida and elsewhere. And we'll continue to support those efforts.

JOHN DICKERSON: Why not ask people to wear masks?

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, we believe people should wear masks wherever--

JOHN DICKERSON: Why doesn't the president say that? 

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: -- social distancing is not possible, wherever it's indicated by either state or local authorities. And, you know, the- the president has worn a mask. I wore a mask on several occasions this week. 

JOHN DICKERSON: Governor Abbott in Texas has said the precondition for opening the economy is wearing a mask. Wear the mask, he said, we'll keep the economy open. You and the president care a lot about keeping the economy open. The message on masks has been muddled. Why doesn't the president, who has some suasion in the country, come forward and say everybody should wear a mask, which is what all the governors are saying? Why has he been kind of muddling that message?

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, first, we- we believe that every state has a unique situation. And I want to be clear, while- while we're monitoring about 16 states that are seeing outbreaks, it represents about 4 percent of all the counties in this country, 34 states are not seeing a rise in positivity and they have different measures, different requirements and different guidance in place. I mean one of the- one of the- one of the elements of the genius of America is the principle of federalism, of state and local control. We've made it clear that we want to defer to governors. We want to defer to local officials,--

JOHN DICKERSON: But Mr. Vice President--

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: --and people should listen to them. 

JOHN DICKERSON: The virus doesn't know federalism. A virus that hits in Texas is in New York tomorrow. This is a problem that requires a coordinated national result, which is what these outbreaks are showing. And so to say, states should deal with them individually seems to miss the big fact, which is the virus can go wherever it wants.

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: John, if we'd have taken that approach, we'd have never had the success that we had in the greater New York City area. We'd have never had the success in Michigan or New Orleans, because from early on, we worked closely in partnership with governors to make sure that they had what they needed when they needed it, tailored to the unique circumstances in their states. And- and when you look at the extraordinary progress that we made in New York and in Connecticut and in New Jersey and New Orleans and in Michigan and in -- early on in states like Washington State where we- we flattened the curve, we slowed the spread, and we did it at a time early in this pandemic where we were just scaling testing up.

JOHN DICKERSON: You mentioned testing. To get the economy open again, testing has to happen. The president said if we didn't do testing, we'd have no cases. That's wrong and misleading. Given how important testing is, why is the president saying things that are wrong and misleading about testing?

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, I think it's inarguable that the historic increase in testing that we've accomplished in this country has played a role in the new cases, particularly among younger Americans. John, I want to remind your viewers that two months ago, in most states in this country, we were not testing people that had no symptoms or were below a certain age. 

JOHN DICKERSON: But Mr.- but Mr. Vice President--

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: We were focusing on seniors. 

JOHN DICKERSON: I understand.

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: We were focusing on those with symptoms. But now, because of the public-private partnership that President Trump initiated, we're literally able to test anyone in the country that would--

JOHN DICKERSON: But--

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: --want a test--

JOHN DICKERSON: I understand.

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: --to come forward. We scaled it with great American innovation--

JOHN DICKERSON: But Mr. Vice President, 125,000 Americans have died. We're six months into this. Testing is crucial to get the economy opening- opened and because of public health.

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Right.

JOHN DICKERSON: And the president of the United States, with the biggest megaphone on the planet, is saying something about testing that is wrong and misleading. Is that the standard we want for the president of the United States?

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: John, the president was observing the fact that rising cases, which is -- which the media has focused exclusively on -- has been--

JOHN DICKERSON: Why is that vital to getting this problem solved?

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: --has been in part a result of increased testing. What- what the media doesn't focus on at all is because of the sacrifices the American people made in those 45 days to slow the spread and the good commonsense measures they continue to do, we've continued to see fatalities decline. I grieve for every American family that lost a loved one, for the more than 125,000 Americans that we've lost in this. We're going to continue to take steps to protect the most vulnerable,--

JOHN DICKERSON: But--

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: --and testing will be a critical part of that going forward. 

JOHN DICKERSON: But, Mr. Vice-- it's- testing is critical to protect and to open the economy. In a public health crisis, information and confidence in that information is crucial,--

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Right. 

JOHN DICKERSON: --as you know so well. So why does the person with the best megaphone say things to undermine confidence in testing? It seems totally at odds with what you're spending all your day doing. This isn't a triviality. This is an important, crucial thing about testing.

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, John, I just- I just disagree that the president's undermining confidence in testing, he observed--

JOHN DICKERSON: Repeatedly.

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: --that- that the volume of new cases is in part a result of all of- of the rapid scaling of testing that we've done around the country.

SECTION 2

JOHN DICKERSON: What do you hear the protesters saying when they protest?

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, it's- it's been a focus of ours since the tragic killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. There's no excuse for what happened to George Floyd. But there's also no excuse for the rioting and looting and violence that ensued. Look, the president engaged law enforcement leaders. We've sat down with leaders in the African American community. I've- I've met with leaders in the African American community and- and law enforcement in cities around this country. And what I hear is while- while the radical left says we need to defund the police, what the American people want is for us to fund the police with additional training and support and also improve the lives of the people in our African American community, which I'm proud to say, under President Trump's leadership, we were doing over the last three years. We don't- we don't need to choose between supporting law enforcement and supporting our African American neighbors. 

JOHN DICKERSON: One--

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: We can do both. And that's how we bring our country together.

JOHN DICKERSON: One thing protesters would like to hear is leaders say black lives matter. You won't say that. Why?

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: All my life, I've been inspired by the example of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. When I was in Congress, I traveled to his home church in Montgomery with Congressman John Lewis. I walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday. I cherish the progress that we have made toward a more perfect union for African Americans throughout our history. And I've- I've aspired throughout my career to be a part of that ongoing work. It's really a heart issue for me. And as a pro-life American, I also believe that all life matters, born and unborn. But what- what I see in the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement is a political agenda of the radical left that would defund the police, that would--

JOHN DICKERSON: Leave that out of it. Just the phrase.

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: --tear down monuments, that would- that would press a radical left agenda that, and- and- and support calls for the kind of violence that has beset the very communities that they say that they're advocating for.

JOHN DICKERSON: But the- but the- sir,--

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: We- I've- I've literally met- I've literally met with African American leaders around this country and in the national capital area who've- who made it clear to us they- they want law and order. They- they want peace in our streets.

JOHN DICKERSON: So you won't say black lives matter? 

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: John, I really believe that all lives matter.

JOHN DICKERSON: OK.

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: And that's where the heart of the American people lies. And we're going to continue to stand strong. We're going to continue to stand strong with Americans that- that want to see us come together as a nation. And we're going to carry that message all the way to November and for four more years. 

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Thank you, Mr. Vice President.

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Thank you, John.


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Open: This is "Face the Nation," June 28