What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Meadows on the RNC, pro sports protests and why he doesn’t usually wear a mask

Ahead of the Republican National Convention’s final night, on which President Trump will accept his party’s nomination for a second term, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the message he believes is being shared at the RNC, his views on athlete protests of police violence and why he’s not worried that he’s transmitting coronavirus by not wearing a mask.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And with just a couple of hours to go before the start of tonight's Republican Convention, we are joined by the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows.

    Mark Meadows, thank you very much for taking time to be with us.

    How do you think the convention is going so far? And what do you think the president is gaining from this?

  • Mark Meadows:

    Well, I think the convention is going outstanding, because we're telling the story of American people across the country.

    And each and every night, it's not just about political figures and personalities. It's about people that are involved in — whether it's a lobster fisherman or a logger or anyone else, small business person, it's their stories. And that's what the American people are really interested in.

    And, ultimately, it's that forgotten man and woman that this president campaigned on some four years ago. And, ultimately, it is his ability to represent them that this convention is all about.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we are hearing a lot of those personal testimonials.

    We're also hearing a lot about Joe Biden. And I want to ask you about that, because he's clearly a progressive, he's a liberal. His views are to the left of the president's. He's for expanding the Affordable Care Act. He is for diverting some police funding to social services.

    But he is not for a government-run Medicare for all. He is not — as we just heard in Lisa Desjardins' report, he's not for defunding the police. He's repeated it again.

    And yet speaker after speaker at the convention is saying he is for these things. They're saying he's a socialist, he's going to bring the country to ruin.

    Why not just say, this is what he believes, and not exaggerate?

  • Mark Meadows:

    Well, I don't think there's any exaggeration.

    Even in your lead-up just a few minutes ago with the reporter and the reporting that was going on, they said that he wants to reallocate. By definition, that means that you cut from one place and you augment in another place.

    And so if he's so clear on it, why doesn't he condemn all the people that are out there saying that we need to defund the police? Why doesn't he condemn them, not just state a policy position, but condemn their very activity?

    Listen, it's never been more clear. This president will back law enforcement, consistently has, and consistently will. And yet Joe Biden is trying to be nuanced in his words, when we all know what he really means by that.

    Listen, I served on Capitol Hill. When you talk about reallocations, you take from one bucket, and you put it in a different bucket. So I'm not sure what exactly he means by that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, reallocating is different from defunding altogether, but we can — we can…

  • Mark Meadows:

    Well, let's say we're not defunding altogether, but you're cutting their funding.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right.

  • Mark Meadows:

    I mean, let's be honest about it.

    If you you're taking money from police, law enforcement, you're not increasing their budget. You're decreasing it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let me ask you quickly about something Vice President Pence and others have said, that the president stayed — saved lives with a total ban on travel from China starting back in January…

  • Mark Meadows:

    Sure. Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    … claiming — he claims, others claim that Joe Biden, the Democrats, attacked this.

    However, we have looked back at all this. It was not a total ban. The New York Times estimates something like 40,000 travelers from China arrived in the U.S. after the president imposed that action over the course of two months, and that Joe Biden and the Democrats did not attack this.

    We have gone back and looked.

    And so where is all that coming from?

  • Mark Meadows:

    Well, if you went back and looked, they did condemn it.

    And so let's go ahead and do that. He did call him xenophobic.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But he was not referring to the ban when he said that.

  • Mark Meadows:

    Well, so, it was in the context of the COVID relief and what the president did. So, I don't know how you can contextualize it in any other way.

    And so what they're saying is, is, Joe Biden today is applauding the president for cutting down trying to travel from China? That would be newsworthy, if that's what he's saying. I don't see any ads out there with Joe Biden saying, we applaud President Trump for cutting down travel from China.

    So, listen, this is all about two different narratives. It's one where the president indeed did save thousands and thousands and perhaps tens of thousands of lives, maybe even, by some estimates, hundreds of thousands of lives, by his quick action, in terms of trying to make sure that there was a travel ban imposed.

    But, more importantly than that, we have to make sure that the facts speak for themselves. And as you're trying to share with your viewers tonight, we can't have a revisionist history that would suggest anything other than where Joe Biden has consistently…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Mark Meadows:

    … even through their convention, complained that the president didn't do things the way that he would have done it.

    And I find that just interesting, because he's in a basement, not really engaging on this particular issue.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So many things to ask you about, Mark Meadows.

    One is certainly the racial unrest in the country right now. The vice president painted a picture last night of many cities overrun with violence.

    There has been violence, but we know there have also been a lot of peaceful protests as well.

    My question to you is, do you understand the anguish, the anger and the anguish of Black families over the repeated instances of Black men shot in — just like this Mr. Jacobs (sic) this week — Mr. — who was — in Kenosha?

  • Mark Meadows:

    Well, as a non-African American, I don't know that I can fully understand it, the way that some in the community might.

    But, in my conversations with a number of my friends, Senator Tim Scott, as we tried to work on making sure that we moved legislation forward in Congress, he was able to articulate this probably better than anyone else.

    And yet what we found was, it was Senator Durbin, and others like it that seemed to take Tim Scott's earnest desire to fix this problem, and suggest that it was only political.

    And yet what I do know is, is that there was a deal there to be made, because the president wanted to make a deal. And yet here we are with Congress not acting.

    The only person in Washington, D.C., who has acted to try to address this in a meaningful way is the president of the United States with an executive order.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well…

  • Mark Meadows:

    And it's not the first time that he's acted on it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we had several — you had several White House officials today criticizing, for example, professional athletes who've been sitting out some games over the last day. Some are continuing tonight. Some are not.

    Just a few minutes ago, Mark Meadows, we heard the coach of the clippers, Doc Rivers, say — and I'm quoting him — "We keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back."

    Are you prepared also to criticize these athletes for what they're doing?

  • Mark Meadows:

    Listen, here's what I do know, is — is, peaceful protest, where they want to boycott, not boycott with the NBA, I haven't been watching their games.

    I'm more concerned with what they do in terms of a winning team than the boycotts.

    Here's what we have done, is, we have taken the whole political side of that and put it into the sports arena, which a lot of people, it's making them tune out, because it's one of the few times where you can — can kind of disengage and not get involved in politics.

    That being said, it is their right to protest. And if they want to boycott it in protest, that's why we have a Constitution, and that's why we have those — those freedoms here that we enjoy.

    We enjoy them in America, and we're not a perfect country, but we're always striving to be a more perfect union. And, with that, it's all about making sure that we address it in a real way.

    This president has been for law enforcement, but he's also been for law and order. And I can tell you that he had the attorney general in the Oval Office when the events happened in Kenosha, and he asked them to make sure they investigate it fully.

    So, what do we know? DOJ is looking at it from a civil rights standpoint as well. Hopefully, the truth will — will come out in the coming weeks.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We did see that.

    And the reason I'm asking you about your view of these athletes, because the president has in the past called them — quote — "nasty and dumb" for sitting out these games.

    But I also want to ask you about mask wearing, Mark Meadows. You were out traveling in the country. You were in your former congressional district in Western North Carolina this week.

  • Mark Meadows:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We have some video of that. You are not wearing a mask.

    We see 1,500 seats on the South Lawn of the White House tonight for the president's address, no mask mandate.

  • Mark Meadows:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The CDC has strongly suggested people wear a mask.

  • Mark Meadows:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How do you square the two?

  • Mark Meadows:

    Yes, well, I can tell you I'm probably the most tested individual in America every single day because of my interactions with the president. I get tested…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Mark Meadows:

    … to sure that I'm safe.

    And so that mask wearing is really a precaution against being able to transmit it to other people. And so each and every day, I know that I am coronavirus-free, because I have to be to be able to work with the president.

    But the other thing that perhaps you didn't see is, I carry this hand sanitizer with me everywhere. So, if I shake a hand or do anything, I am so religious on making sure that we protect those that we come involved with.

    At the end of the day, what we have to do is get a therapy and a vaccine that treats this, because the contagiousness of this particular virus is not going to be stopped just by a mask or just by social distancing. We know that already. We have seen the facts on that.

    Will it help hopefully mitigate it? We hope so. We encourage it. And yet, at the same time, we need to understand that we have to find a real solution.

    And that's what this president has really been focused on with Warp Speed, is to try to do that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And — but you're not concerned about the message it sends, when people see, not just you, but, again, 1,500 seats close together on the White House lawn?

  • Mark Meadows:

    Well, I think the president has talked about masks.

    I have got my mask with me. I wear it occasionally. And so I — for all your viewers that are watching, listen, if there's — in a place where I'm not tested or where I'm extremely close, I will wear the mask.

    And yet, when we look at that, and try to make that a litmus test on whether it's going to actually be communicated or in a contagious way shared with someone else, that's really not a message that this White House believes is being missed.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Mark Meadows, chief of staff to President Trump, thank you very much.

  • Mark Meadows:

    Great to be with you.

Listen to this Segment