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September 27, 2020

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Sunday, during an appearance on CBS News' Face the Nation, addressed reports about how he demanded the Food and Drug Administration justify, in detail, its reasoning for preparing to unveil new standards for a coronavirus vaccine.

Meadows told host Margaret Brennan that he wants to know "why would that new guidance come out after we've already spent $30 billion" on vaccine development. "And my challenge to the FDA is just to make sure it's based on science," rather than politics, he said.

But former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who appeared on Face the Nation after Meadows, suggested the whole debate has been misinterpreted on all sides. Gottlieb said the agency's guidance as discussed in the press isn't technically new, but "an articulation of the principles and standards the FDA has been using for a long time." As Gottlieb put it, the companies involved with clinical trials weren't surprised by the standards, which are in line with what the FDA has communicated to them since the vaccine development process began earlier this year. Tim O'Donnell

September 27, 2020

With former Vice President Joe Biden maintaining a steady lead in the polls, most of the pressure for the first presidential debate on Tuesday seems to be shifting to President Trump.

During Sunday's edition of This Week on ABC, panelists Rahm Emanuel and Sarah Isgur agreed that Trump has to do more on the debate stage Tuesday since he has to "change people's minds," which is a lot harder than Biden's job of reassuring voters. Isgur did note that the Trump campaign will likely be waiting to take advantage of any potential slip up from Biden, but, generally, the former vice president has a little more breathing room than Trump.

Plus, Trump may have a built-in disadvantage. The New York Times' Peter Baker told NBC's Chuck Todd that incumbents have historically struggled in the opening debate because of over-confidence, noting that Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan were among the former presidents who fell into the trap. The good news for Trump is that both Reagan and Obama went on to win re-election rather easily. While it seems unlikely Trump will cruise to a victory, it does suggest that the first debate is not make or break. Tim O'Donnell

September 27, 2020

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who sits on the upper chamber's judiciary committee, told NBC's Chuck Todd on Sunday that he does intend to meet with President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, in the lead up to her confirmation hearing, even as some of his Democratic colleagues consider skipping out on the standard courtesy visits. Booker added that he primarily plans to ask Barrett if, should she be confirmed, she will recuse herself from any election-related cases.

Booker's reasoning is that Trump has suggested he may not accept the results of the election, which could push it to the high court. Since Trump just nominated Barrett, Booker believes she could tilt the court toward an illegitimate decision.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) also said he wishes Barrett will recuse herself under such a scenario. On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said that judges have a "well-defined set of rules that helps guide their determination in making recusal decisions." Lee said that if Barrett is confirmed, she'll be no less of a justice than any of her colleagues on the bench, so the decision will be "up to her." Tim O'Donnell

September 20, 2020

A number of Republican senators have attempted to differentiate between the current effort to confirm a new Supreme Court justice to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the scenario in 2016 when the Republican-led Senate blocked then-President Barack Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland.

Back then, the argument was that it was too close to the general election to confirm a lifetime nominee. One of the senators who supported that argument was Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wy.). On Sunday's Meet the Press, moderator Chuck Todd read a series of Barrasso's own previous quotes on the matter back to him, and also showed an old clip of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) saying he would support waiting to confirm a nominee until after the election if there was a vacancy at the end of President Trump's term.

Todd's point was that neither Barrasso nor Graham ever mentioned — as they do now — that they believe the election year argument only applies in cases where the Senate and the president hail from different parties, which is how some Republicans are explaining why supporting a vote for Trump's eventual nominee, even though the 2020 general election is only weeks away, isn't hypocritical.

In his response, Barrasso repeatedly emphasized the argument about party congruity, but failed to directly address Todd's assertion that the GOP didn't make the distinction four years ago. "Should viewers just not believe anything you're saying today because whatever you're saying today will change depending on the politics of the moment?" Todd asked his guest. Tim O'Donnell

September 13, 2020

Pfizer chose not to take U.S. taxpayer money to help fund its coronavirus vaccine development, a move that CBS News' Margaret Brennan pointed out on Sunday is a bit of a financial risk for the pharmaceutical giant.

CEO Albert Bourla admitted that it will indeed "be painful" if the vaccine fails, but "at the end of the day it's only money" and the lack of taxpayer funds won't "break our company." It was more important for Bourla that his scientists were able to work without any strings attached, he said. "I wanted to liberate our scientists from any bureaucracy," he continued. "When you get money from someone, that always comes with strings. They want to see how we are growing to progress, what types of moves you are going to do. They want reports. I didn't want to have any of that."

Bourla said he gave Pfizer's team an "open checkbook" so they only have to worry about "scientific challenges." Plus, he added, he wanted to keep Pfizer out of politics, a tall task for a pharma company on any day, but especially during this pandemic.

As for the vaccine itself, Bourla said Pfizer is preparing for a situation in which they'll know if the candidate works by the end of October, adding that "I cannot say what" the Food and Drug Administration "will do" after that, but "I think it's a likely scenario" the product could receive federal approval before the end of the year. Read more at The Hill. Tim O'Donnell

September 6, 2020

The debate about which sectors of the economy are able to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic doesn't exist in a vacuum.

While there are certain policies and mitigation efforts in place that could allow businesses to reopen more safely, Mohamed El-Erian, the chief economic adviser for Allianz, said Sunday that "you're not going to see a quick recovery in all sectors" because individuals just won't be ready to participate in the economy on a pre-pandemic scale as long as they harbor concerns about their own health.

In short, he said, "we have to understand there's a difference between ability to work, reopen the economy, and willingness to work, willing to go in and engage in the economy. And until you improve both ability and willingness, we're not going to get back to where we were." Tim O'Donnell

September 6, 2020

Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie on Sunday defended President Trump amid criticism stemming from reports that he has made disparaging remarks about U.S. service members in the past.

In an appearance on CNN's State of the Union, Wilkie didn't argue the reported comments weren't insulting — in fact, he said he would be offended by them. Instead, he dismissed the idea that Trump ever said them in the first place, implying that he didn't trust the anonymous sources that multiple outlets, including Fox News, have used to confirm parts of the story.

Wilkie clearly didn't want to talk about the issue, but Bash pushed him on the subject, noting that Trump has a history of insulting veterans, namely the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who Wilkie said he has great respect for and deems responsible for the advancement of his career. Still, the secretary continued to play things down the middle. He said Trump's comments about McCain were made in the heat of his last presidential campaign, and he made the case that, at the end of the day, Trump's actions toward veterans outweigh his rhetoric. Tim O'Donnell

August 30, 2020

Ben Crump, an attorney for Jacob Blake, said during an appearance on Sunday's Face the Nation that Blake's family has not yet heard from President Trump, a week after Blake was shot by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Trump, who did speak with George Floyd's family after he was killed by police earlier this year, is scheduled to visit Kenosha next week as protests grip the city. While there, he plans to meet with law enforcement. It appears as if the president is making it clear which side he stands on regarding the protests sparked by the shooting, but it's at least possible the White House will reach out to Blake's family then. Crump suggested Blake's family would be open to a conversation since they respect "all elected officials." He added that the Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), have already spent time talking with the family.

Ultimately, though, Crump said their focus isn't on which politicians and officials they've heard from. Rather, they're "trying to march for their son because he'll never be able to stand up for himself, unless some miracle happens," Crump said, referring to the spinal injuries and paralysis from the waist down Blake suffered as a result of the shooting. Tim O'Donnell

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