TRANSCRIPTS + FULL EPISODE: CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

10/04/20 Fmr. CDC Dir. Tom Frieden covers Trump’s COVID diagnosis, plus two senators talk SCOTUS
10/04/20 Fmr. CDC Dir. Tom Frieden covers Trump’s COVID diagnosis, plus two senators talk SCOTUS
Published: Oct. 4, 2020 at 12:34 AM EDT
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Washington, D.C. – Greta Van Susteren interviewed former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) for Gray TV’s “Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren” airing Sunday, October 4, 2020.

Dr. Frieden said it was possible that Vice President Joe Biden was exposed to COVID by President Donald Trump during Tuesday’s debate. “This was a little more than 48 hours before President Trump’s diagnosis and although it was more than six feet, we know that the volume of speech increases the spread of the virus,” said Frieden. “So singing and shouting spread the virus much further than whispering or talking quietly.”

Sen. Cruz told Van Susteren that “security protocols around the president are unusual,” and that everyone who comes in contact with President Trump is tested beforehand.

Mr. Cruz, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also outlined the social distancing measures used when he met with SCOTUS nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett, including that chairs were placed eight feet apart. However, Cruz said, “there is no mandatory testing protocol at the Capitol [for Senators] … and the staff testing …. is not uniform and I would say, not as widespread.”

The Senator, whose new book is entitled “One Vote Away and How a Single Supreme Court Seat Can Change History,” also expressed concerns about Democrats ending the filibuster, expanding the Supreme Court, and granting statehood to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico should they win the election.

Sen. Duckworth said that she had asked to meet with Judge Barrett and was told the judge was “too busy.” When asked whether Democrats would pack the Court if they won the election, Duckworth said “For me, everything is on the table.”

Interview excerpts are below.

Full transcript for Dr. Frieden is here.

Full transcript for Sen. Cruz is here.

Full transcript for Sen. Duckworth is here.

Dr. Tom Frieden highlights

On President Trump’s COVID diagnosis:

Greta Van Susteren

In terms of President Trump, would it be wise for Vice President Pence who has been around him in the Rose Garden and other places, would it be wise for him to quarantine?

Dr. Tom Frieden, Former CDC Director

Well, first off, anyone who’s been near anyone with COVID, needs to quarantine for 14 days, regardless of test results. That’s important, because even if you get tested, you could be negative in the morning and positive in the afternoon, and the test isn’t a hundred percent. So one of the things that needs to happen is to identify everyone who’s been exposed, not just to the president and the first lady, but to anyone else who is positive.

Greta Van Susteren

What do you consider being around? I mean, I assume that it could be indoors, outdoors, 10 feet, six feet, and even lengths of time. But what do you considered being around?

Dr. Tom Frieden, Former CDC Director

The standard definition is 10 or 15 minutes within six feet. Now that’s not hard and fast. We’re always looking for dichotomies, on, off, yes, no. But it’s more a question of degree.

One of the things that comes up is during the debate Tuesday night, is it possible that the vice president was exposed? Yes, it’s possible. This was a little more than 48 hours before President Trump’s diagnosis and although it was more than six feet, we know that the volume of speech increases the spread of the virus. So singing and shouting spread the virus much further than whispering or talking quietly.

Greta Van Susteren

Could President Trump have contacted this theoretical, or anybody, have gotten COVID long before the Thursday night announcement? How long before could he have gotten it?

Dr. Tom Frieden, Former CDC Director

You can get sick as little as two days after you were exposed. So it’s possible he was exposed Tuesday or even Wednesday, and began getting sick Thursday night and Friday.

But it can be up to 14 days, that means if you’re actually looking for where he might’ve been exposed, you have to draw that diagram for 14 days before Thursday, any one of those days he could have been exposed and that might have led to his infection.

Dr. Tom Frieden, Former CDC Director

So far we’ve heard that President Trump has gotten two different treatments, both of them experimental, both of them promising.

The first was a cocktail of many different monoclonal antibodies. There’s only one small study that’s looked at that particular product with less than 300 patients and what it seemed to find is if you gave it to people really early, before they made their own antibodies, that those antibodies that are made in the laboratory might help them to become less ill.

The second medication is Remdesivir, there’ve been studies over Remdesivir, it appears to reduce the severity of illness and make it so people spend less time in the hospital. It’s not proven to improve survival, but it does appear to be helpful. Both of those are helpful early in the course of illness.

Greta Van Susteren

I take it that a lot of people are thinking like, why would you give an experimental drug to the president? But I take it that there are two reasons that a drug is being examined. One is for danger, but the other is for efficiency or effectiveness, do you have any information about whether there’s a danger associated with these or whether they’re exploring it to see how effective it is?

Dr. Tom Frieden, Former CDC Director

So in terms of the monoclonal antibodies, there is limited evidence of whether it may be harmful, the belief is that it’s promising. For an FDA emergency use authorization all you’ve got to prove is that it may be more good than harm, that’s a really low bar. But I think it’s really up to the president and his doctors to make these decisions. What I imagine they’re thinking is they want a no regrets policy. They want to make sure that if there is any treatment that might improve his outcome, he gets that treatment and he gets it promptly.

in this situation, Greta, where you’ve got someone who’s got symptoms of COVID, 74 years old, given his weight, he is in the category of being obese and male, you’ve got at least a 10% risk of death without those extraordinary measures. So you want to reduce that with really good prompt care. But that also means you’ve got an 85, 90% chance of him doing just fine.

And that’s what we hope will happen with the president, the first lady and all of the people who’ve been infected, including last Thursday, when by the best estimate, about 200,000 Americans became infected last Thursday, the day that President Trump did.

On wearing masks:

Greta Van Susteren

Does a mask protect others from you or you from the virus or both?

Dr. Tom Frieden, Former CDC Director

The science here is really clear. If someone who’s sick wears a mask, they drastically reduce the risk to others. Don’t eliminate it, but drastically reduce it. And that goes for both the big droplets and the aerosol. Even a mask that you wouldn’t think would block those tiny particles, will block a large proportion of them in someone who’s sick.

On protocols in Congress:

Greta Van Susteren

All right. So let me move from the White House to Capitol Hill. There are hearings that go on periodically on Capitol Hill and at some point they’ll be judiciary hearings for Judge Barrett, her confirmation. The rules are rather squishy up there on Capitol Hill, not everybody is tested, not everybody who’s coming into the hearing room, should the rules be tightened in the US Senate and everybody be tested to who comes into that building?

Dr. Tom Frieden, Former CDC Director

Well, you have to follow basic principles. First and foremost, anyone who’s got COVID, needs to isolate. Anyone who’s been exposed to someone with COVID, needs to be quarantined 14 days, regardless of testing. Third, even with those things, there are a lot of safety measures you have to put into place. Indoors, everyone needs to wear a mask.

One of the things that they’ve been doing in Congress, is having people who are speaking take off their mask. That’s actually the opposite of what makes sense from a scientific standpoint, because you’re spreading the virus when you’re talking.

Sen. Ted Cruz highlights

On President Trump’s COVID diagnosis:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

I think the treatment regimen for the President is, is anyone who has been sick, which sadly across the globe now is millions and millions of people who have been sick with COVID, which is to be under the care of a doctor. To follow medical advice and try to get healthy again. And I’m certainly hopeful that he will, but in the meantime, he’s taking reasonable precautions and quarantining, which is the right thing to do.

Greta Van Susteren

You talked about regional precautions. We have the visual of his staff, for instance, traveling to the debate, all going on Air Force One, all touching the rail, not wearing masks. We have the family at the debate, no masks. The Biden family was wearing masks. Cleveland Clinic were sponsored, asked for masks. I mean, what’s the message that’s being sent by the President and his family?

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

Well look, the President, the security protocols around the President are unusual. I’ve traveled with the President a number of times, and every person who comes in proximity with the President is tested right before you do.

On whether Judge Barrett should be quarantined:

Greta Van Susteren

But oftentimes you don’t necessarily get the symptoms until several days after you’ve begun to get the viral load. In that sort of period of what experts say was his meeting with Judge Barrett. Should she be quarantined because she’s meeting with, I assume, you and many other U.S. senators, there are a lot of people that he’s been around. Where should this umbrella of quarantine expand to?

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

Well, I can tell you with Judge Barrett, I met with her earlier this week and when we met, we were socially distanced. The chairs were set up probably eight feet apart. And so we talked but at far enough distance that it was within the CDC guidelines.

And so you would have a nominee coming by, in normal times, 100 Senate offices that you’d come in and come into the office and sit down and talk and have an interview. In this instance, they didn’t do it. They did all of the meetings in the Capitol, in one room. And it’s a room called the Mansfield Room, which is a big room.

On testing on Capitol Hill:

Greta Van Susteren

Despite the pandemic, business is going forward on Capitol Hill, there are hearings. We’re going to have a Senate hearing, I presume for Judge Barrett’s confirmation. And I don’t know. A lot of people are going to congregate in the Capitol and do, and at the hearings, what are the current testing protocols at the Capitol? And what should they be? Because you talked about how the White House has testing protocols. And we’ve seen now that in spite of that, the President has the virus. What are the current protocols for the Capitol and what should they be?

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

So there is no mandatory testing protocol at the Capitol. Every Senator has been tested multiple times.

Greta Van Susteren

Staff too? Your staff?

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

No, and the staff testing is not nearly, it’s not uniform and I would say, not as widespread. It varies office by office, what the protocols are in terms of what staff is doing. In my office early on in COVID I had all of my office, both in DC, all of my staff and my state staff and the various district offices, all of them work from home and telecommute. We did that for several months and set up a virtual office where we were able to do our jobs via telecommuting. We’re now, I would say, on a partial staff in DC, where we try to respect social distancing in our office. Staff wears masks. In many instances, not a hundred percent of the time, but in many instances and certainly when we’re out in common areas and traveling through the Capitol. And as I said, some staff are working in the office, some are not.

The Senate itself. We’ve had multiple senators test positive for COVID. Thankfully those that have have recovered. No one that I know of has been seriously ill. A couple have gotten ill but it hasn’t been, I’m not aware of anyone who’s been hospitalized. In terms of how have we vote, we’re trying, and we’ve been asked to respect social distancing on the floor. I will confess with a hundred elected politicians that are used to glad-handing and putting their arms around each other, it is not the most natural constraint on that body, but, but I think we’ve seen members endeavoring to follow it.

In terms of Senate hearings, we’ve changed how we do hearings quite significantly in that hearings are socially distanced. So we spread out, we have hearings in much, much bigger rooms than we typically have them. Each Senator is at least six feet apart from the other Senator. Some Senators participate virtually via video. And so there have been significant steps to try to mitigate the risk, but with a contagious disease, it is impossible to eliminate the risks and take it to zero. And so I think we’ve taken reasonable steps to slow the spread and reduce it.

On the SCOTUS nomination controversy and the potential of Democrats expanding the court:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

The American people made a choice to elect President Trump, to elect a Republican Senate. And, and that choice by nominating Judge Barrett, Donald Trump is honoring his promise to the voters and by confirming Judge Barrett, the Republican majority is honoring our promise to the voters.

Greta Van Susteren:

If President Trump loses reelection, Vice-President Biden is elected and if the Senate goes Democrat. It’s very close right now, Democrat versus Republican, there has been a suggestion by some Democratic senators they would like to expand the Supreme court. There has been efforts in history, but it’s been nine people since the 1800′s hundreds but that’s politics and they would certainly have the right to do it. There’s no constitutional impediments. So your thoughts on this?

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

Yeah, I think that is a very real risk. I would take those threats with deadly seriousness. I think if the Democrats win, if it is Biden and Pelosi and Schumer, I think within a few weeks in the Senate they will end the filibuster.

I think we will see early on in the tenure, if they have a majority, two new states admitted to the union, I think they will admit both the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

And then on packing the Court, a number of Senate Democrats have explicitly threatened to do so. I think that threat is real. All of us saw Joe Biden in the debate. It was one of the first questions he got asked and he refuses to answer. And the reason I believe he refuses to answer is because his answer is yes, that’s what his party wants. That’s what the hard left wants. And I think that would profoundly de-legitimize the Court. It would politicize the Court.

If the Democrats come in and add two justices to the Court and go to 11, the natural escalation is the next time that Republicans come in, we take it to 13. And the Senate turns the Supreme Court into essentially another legislature, a political body. I think that is a very bad idea.

On the ballot dropbox controversy in Texas:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

Harris County is a very mobile county. We don’t have a whole lot, we don’t have mass transit in significant regards. Everyone drives in Houston. It’s not, it’s not New York City. It’s not Philly. It’s not Boston.

The county courthouse is not difficult to get to for anyone in the county.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth highlights

On SCOTUS/Judge Barrett:

Greta Van Susteren

Senator, do you intend to have a conversation with Judge Barrett before she has her nomination hearings? If so, what would you like to ask her?

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

Well, I don’t know that she’ll meet with me. The last two Trump’s Supreme Court nominees did not meet with me, even though I wanted to meet with them. So we’ll see how that goes. I want to know about her support for groups that say that life begins with fertilization of an egg, because it would mean that my two daughters would not exist, and if that is something that she would uphold on the Supreme Court.

Greta Van Susteren

Now, let me just go back. The other two would not meet with you. Did you ask to meet with them and then they declined to?

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

I did express the interest in meeting with them, but I was told that they were just busy and they were only meeting with senators on the Judiciary Committee, and I’m not on Judiciary.

Greta Van Susteren

All right. Now, let me talk to you about your dear colleague letter that you’ve sent out that you have an objection because she has been part of or had some connection to some organization. What’s the organization?

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

It’s a St. Joseph Right to Life group, I believe. But I have several objections to her. I didn’t vote for her for the lower court position that she currently holds, because she has said that she does not support the Affordable Care Act. I am deeply, deeply scared that she will vote to take away healthcare from 20 million Americans by voting to eliminate the Affordable Care Act.

On whether Democrats would pack the Court:

Greta Van Susteren

There’s been a discussion about should Vice President Biden become President and should the Senate go Democrat, currently Republican, about whether the Democrats would seek to what we call pack the court, expand the court so that the Democrats or more liberal-leaning justices would be in the majority. Is that something you would be in favor of?

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.):

Well, I would have to take a look at that more. For me, everything is on the table. Right now, my concern is that they are trying to do a power grab and force through this nominee before the election, even, or even during the lame duck session and not do what most American people want, which is to let the winner of the election choose and nominate the next Supreme Court justice.

On the upcoming VP Debate:

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.):

Well, Kamala is a wonderful debater. She and I were freshmen in the Senate together. She will more than hold her own. What I would tell her is just talk about the Affordable Care Act. Talk about people’s healthcare. Mike Pence has said time and again that he wants to take away health insurance from Americans and that he has a plan, but to date, it’s been four years, I’ve not seen a single plan from the Trump administration for some sort of alternative to provide healthcare for Americans.

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About Greta Van Susteren:

Greta Van Susteren is the Chief Political Analyst for Gray Media and host of Full Court Press. Ms. Van Susteren is a veteran of Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and CNN. Her prime-time Fox News Channel Show, “On the Record,” was number 1 in its time slot for 14 1⁄2 years. Before joining Fox News, she hosted CNN’s prime-time news and analysis program, “The Point with Greta Van Susteren,” and co-hosted the network’s daily legal analysis show, “Burden of Proof.” Her legal analysis for CNN’s coverage of Election 2000 earned her the American Bar Association’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Journalism. She continues to host the weekly 30-minute program “Plugged In with Greta Van Susteren” on Voice of America, which broadcasts exclusively outside of the United States.

About “Full Court Press” and Gray Television:

“Full Court Press” is a Sunday political show broadcast on all Gray Television markets and syndicated in leading cities including New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles covering 80% of the country. Gray Television currently owns and/or operates television stations and leading digital properties in 94 television markets, including the number-one-rated television station in 68 markets and the first or second highest-rated television station in 87 markets. Gray’s television stations cover approximately 24 percent of US television households and broadcast approximately 400 separate programming streams, including nearly 150 affiliates of the CBS/NBC/ABC/FOX networks. Gray Television also owns video program production, marketing, and digital businesses including Raycom Sports, Tupelo-Raycom, and RTM Studios, the producer of PowerNation programs and content. For further information, please visit www.gray.tv.

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