Journalists Discuss COVID Chaos at the White House

Today President Trump said he would not take part in any virtual debate, then suggested doing it in-person a week later—something the Biden campaign has rejected. Meanwhile, the White House COVID hotspot gets hotter, with at least one military aide who carries the nuclear code briefcase now infected. Veteran journalists Susan Glasser and Peter Baker weigh in on this fraught situation.

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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: That list that I just read, I mean, you cannot make it up and it all happened within the space of a few hours. Peter, let me ask you, what is going on inside the White House? You’re a White House correspondent.

PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CO-AUTHOR, “THE MAN WHO RAN WASHINGTON”: Yes, it’s a place of shell shock right now. It’s a place that doesn’t understand what to do. The aides are either sick themselves, trying to get tested, staying home or trying to figure out what to do to get information. They’re very frustrated. They haven’t, in fact, been given information about their own safety. They’re very frustrated about the political situation. They don’t know what to do with a president who won’t stay isolated in the residence as he has been advised to do. And I think it’s a place that feels very unhinged at the moment. It’s very, very — it’s become the number one coronavirus hotspot in all of Washington, D.C. And so, you’ve got a president who is lashing out like a caged lion because he’s frustrated and looking at polls that are very, very bad for him right now.

AMANPOUR: And as you mentioned, a lot of the senior tier is infected, including his campaign manager. Hence, this hullabaloo about whether he will actually agree to a debate or not by his own conditions. Biden says he won’t agree to what President Trump is putting forward. Susan, how does this look if there’s no more debating, is that a problem?

SUSAN GLASSER, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER, CO-AUTHOR, “THE MAN WHO RAN WASHINGTON”: Well, look, Trump is the one who needs to somehow change the dynamic in the campaign. So, you know, you would think that normally someone who is behind who want to debate and, in fact, would seek every effort to try to get himself in front of the people and change the dynamic. Except, of course, that Trump’s performance in the first debate was such a debacle and, you know, I think it will probably go down in history as the worst presidential debate in U.S. history. And so, in a way, it might have seemed like a face-saving way out, especially, Christiane, because the debate that was supposed to take place next week was a debate — a town hall style debate in which regular Americans were going to ask questions. And that is not, to say the least, a format that favors President Trump. He did one recently on ABC, that was really a disaster for him. He’s not used to facing skeptical audiences outside of his sort of Fox News bubble and, you know, rallies of adoring fans. So, you know, interestingly, you know, he may have reckoned that it benefitted him not to have that second debate. But, you know, he’s behind in the polls and it does appear that Biden’s lead, which was already substantial, is widening a bit since that disastrous debate performance last week.

About This Episode EXPAND

Susan Glasser and Peter Baker discuss their new book on former Secretary of State James Baker. Stella McCartney reflects on the future of fashion. Reverend Samuel Rodriguez discusses Roe v. Wade, the evangelical vote, and more.