Political fallout from tapes of Trump conversations with Bob Woodward

This is a rush transcript from “Special Report," September 9, 2020. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Hi, Juan, thank you. Good evening, welcome to Washington. I'm Bret Baier.

Breaking tonight, President Trump is acknowledging he did underplay the danger of the coronavirus to the public in order, he says, to prevent panic. The president responding to a new book by journalist Bob Woodward in which Woodward quotes the president, saying he knew the virus was dangerous and highly contagious while downplaying the risk in public.

Now, this is not from unnamed sources. Woodward has tapes of 18 different interviews with President Trump on the record. Some twenty hours of tape over several months. The president said this afternoon "We had to show calm".

But his COVID talk is not the only part making news from this book. In a few minutes, we will talk live with National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien who cited in the book as well and other things. We're going to talk to him about this on a day when the president announced a new list of potential nominees for Supreme Court vacancies, should he be reelected?

We have Fox team coverage, Peter Doocy in Warren, Michigan with what Joe Biden is saying today about the Woodward book. But first, correspondent Kristin Fisher is live in the North Lawn with a very busy day at the White House. Good evening, Kristin.

KRISTIN FISHER, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, good evening, Bret. Well, President Trump is calling Bob Woodward's new book a political hit job. But Woodward says that the president granted him 18 on the record interviews and there are tapes.


FISHER: President Trump telling author Bob Woodward he understood the severity of the coronavirus early on but had a reason to say publicly that it was under control.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think, Bob really, to be honest with you.


TRUMP: I wanted to -- I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down.

WOODWARD: Yes, sir.

TRUMP: Because I don't want to create a panic.

FISHER: Woodward's new book Rage, shows the president realizing COVID-19 was more dangerous than the common seasonal flu.

TRUMP: It's a very tricky situation, it's a -- it goes it goes -- through air, Bob, that's always tougher than the touch, you know the touch you don't have to touch things, right? But the air, you just breathe the air, and that's how it's passed.

And so, that's a very tricky one, that's a very delicate one. It's also more deadly than your -- you know, your -- even your strenuous flues.

You know, people don't realize, we loose 25,000, 30,000 people a year here, Bob. This is more deadly; this is five percent versus one percent in less than one percent. You know, so, this is deadly stuff.

FISHER: But publicly, President Trump projected an air of calm, saying things were under control.

TRUMP: If you have the flu, you recuperate, you get better and they're recuperating.

FISHER: Earlier today, the president defended his public stance.

TRUMP: And I don't want people to be frightened. I don't want to create panic as you say and certainly, I'm not going to drive this country or the world into a frenzy. We want to show confidence. We want to show strength.

FISHER: Administration officials say the president took action early in the pandemic with travel restrictions with China in late January.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I didn't get any sense that he was distorting anything. I mean, in my discussions with him, they were always straight forward about that concerns that we had.

FISHER: But Democrats quick to pounce on the president as being deceptive.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): There is damning proof that Donald Trump lied and people died. This report is totally believable. We all know President Trump puts himself first. But this time the consequences were deadly.

FISHER: While the White House scrambled to contain the political fallout from the book's revelations, the president turned to a favorite topic of his base, judicial nominations.

TRUMP: Apart from matters of war and peace, the nomination of a Supreme Court justice is the most important decision an American president can make.

FISHER: The president updating his list of possible Supreme Court candidates with 20 new names. Among them, three GOP senators: Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley.


FISHER: News that the White House would have preferred to focus on today, a member of the Norwegian Parliament has nominated President Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize, citing his work on the historic peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. And that peace deal is going to be signed here at the White House next week, Bret.

BAIER: Kristin, thank you. As we mentioned, the national security adviser here on air in just a bit.

Joe Biden meantime saying President Trump's statements at the start of the coronavirus crisis may have led to the death of tens of thousands of Americans.

The Democratic presidential nominee condemning the president based on the accusations and quotes in the Woodward book. He made the comments during a campaign event in Michigan aimed at highlighting Biden's plans to keep American jobs in America. Correspondent Peter Doocy reports tonight from Dearborn.


PETER DOOCY, FOX NEWS CHANNEL CORRESPONDENT: Joe Biden was late to his event today so he could get caught up on Bob Woodward's new reporting about President Trump.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He failed to do his job on purpose. It was a life and death betrayal of the American people.

DOOCY: Joe Biden is blaming what he calls Trump's early in action on COVID- 19 for exacerbating the economic problems that came with the pandemic.

BIDEN: This is a recession created by Donald Trump's negligence and he is unfit for this job as a consequence of it.

DOOCY: He also touched on the pandemic's human toll.

BIDEN: How many families are missing loved ones at their dinner table tonight because of his failures. It's beyond despicable. It's a dereliction of duty, it's a disgrace.

DOOCY: At one point, Biden read from a printed list of COVID-19 statistics but appears to have exaggerated here.

BIDEN: Military COVID deaths 6,114.

DOOCY: Because seven members of the U.S. military have died from COVID according to the Defense Department. Still, Biden tried to contrast himself with Trump.

BIDEN: Yes, Donald Trump and I have a pretty different philosophy when it comes to giving our word, mine means something.

DOOCY: If backdrop today, six American cars right off the assembly line.

BIDEN: As they say in parts of my state, I got brung up on General Motors.

DOOCY: Today's remarks were originally build as being about hiring more American workers in the Biden administration.

BIDEN: Make it in Michigan, make it in America. Invests in our communities and the workers in places like Warren, that's what this is about.

DOOCY: The Biden campaign asks invited guests to stay away from events if they have any symptoms of COVID-19. But today, the Democratic nominee stopped himself multiple times to cough.

BIDEN: We're going to hear a lot more about this.

DOOCY: Still, he assured Michigan's Governor Gretchen Whitmer, he is careful to follow all the states COVID regulations.

BIDEN: Since I'm socially distanced, I'm allowed to take my mask off, they tell me. Well, I speak but I promise I'll put it back on Gov.


DOOCY: And late this afternoon, the Biden campaign explained that makes up with the number that the former V.P. gave of military COVID debts versus the actual number from the Pentagon they say, he just misspoke. He has all the statistics on the car that he carries around in his pocket, Bret.

BAIER: Peter Doocy, thank you. The Trump administration plans to reduce American troop strength in Iraq by one-third. Just in time for the presidential election.

National security correspondent Jennifer Griffin reports tonight from the Pentagon.


JENNIFER GRIFFIN, FOX NEWS CHANNEL NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It's the first time U.S. forces have been withdrawn from Iraq since 2016.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Today, the president and the Pentagon, the Department of Defense are announcing a drawdown of troops in Iraq, just an ounce from 5,200 to 3,000.

GRIFFIN: In Baghdad, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, General Frank McKenzie made it official. "This reduce footprint allows us to continue advising and assisting our Iraqi partners in rooting out the final remnants of ISIS in Iraq and ensuring its enduring defeat".

In recent months, U.S. forces have left a number of Iraqi bases where they have been increasingly under attacked by Iranian backed proxy forces.

The uptick comes in the wake of President Trump ordering the assassination of the powerful Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.

Iran responded by launching ballistic missiles against U.S. troops in Iraq days later.

In March, two American troops and a British Army medic were killed in a rocket attack. The U.S. military responded with air strikes.

In North Carolina last night, President Trump weighed in.

TRUMP: We kept America out of new wars and we're bringing our troops back home. We're bringing them back home from all these faraway places.

We spend hundreds of billions of dollars and what do we get out of it?


GRIFFIN: The U.S. still has about 60,000 troops deployed in the Middle East and operates about 800 military bases in 70 countries around the world, Bret.

BAIER: Jennifer Griffin at the Pentagon. Jennifer, thank you.

The National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien is cited in the Bob Woodward book. We want to talk about that but also other issues. He joins us tonight from the White House. Thank you very much, welcome back to SPECIAL REPORT.

ROBERT O'BRIEN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Thanks, good to be with you, Bret.

BAIER: There's a quote in this book about the COVID threat, January 28th in the Oval Office. You're quoted to say to the president, "This will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency. This is going to be the roughest thing you face". Is that true?

O'BRIEN: It is true. I was joining one of our Oval intelligence briefs and it was something we were concerned about. (INAUDIBLE) our job is to look around the corner and see threats that maybe the I.C. or other folks aren't seeing. It was a threat we saw, and we conveyed it to the president.

And by the way, he took very prompt action within 48 hours of that warning and at the time there were no deaths in the U.S., very few cases. He banned travel -- excuse me, from China within 48 hours of us giving that advice. And there were very few people who thought that was a good idea at the time other than the president. So, I give him a lot of credit.

BAIER: Yes, the actions are one thing, he often talks about those. But what he's saying to Bob Woodward behind the scenes in these interviews is different than what he's saying publicly about it. Do you see a disparity there?

O'BRIEN: No, I don't see disparity. I mean, look, we saw the threat of a pandemic. You know, I'm not a public health professional or doctor, we thought that this would be a -- you know, it could potentially be a widespread pandemic.

I've seen this in the prior administration, the Bush administration when we saw SARS. We've seen animal -- swine flu, avian flu come out of China.

Now, we know that Communist Party is their first reaction to something is to cover it up, so we had a gut feel that the Chinese communist would cover this up the same way the Soviets did with Chernobyl.

So, we saw a real threat. Of course, we didn't know at the time and the WHO was saying that there was no human to human transmission at the time. We were -- the Chinese were downplaying it. We didn't know how it played out as a virus. It turned out to be resilient and nasty.

But at the time, we saw the threat of a pandemic. The president took extraordinary action, but at the same time, we didn't want to panic folks and the public health professionals and the WHO and others we're downplaying the threat.

So, I think he took just the right approach. He was calling me, he was resolute, he was confident.

And in the month of February, he got the vaccine program going. He got the therapeutics program going. He got the ventilator program going and we've done things that haven't been done since World War II in this country.

BAIER: Well, on February 7th, he says, China is working very hard. Late last night, he had a very good talk with President Xi, this is him on February 7th. And he goes on to talk about how it's passed through the air the coronavirus.

I guess there are multiple times where he talks about it's going to go down to zero, we could play a montage of shots after February 7th where he says it's going to wash away the COVID coronavirus.

And the -- your critics -- the president's critics are saying, because of that, tens of thousands of people died instead of having action that could have warned them, that's what they're saying.

O'BRIEN: Yes, well, what they -- what they're saying is flatly wrong, it's not true. So, look, the president saved thousands and thousands of lives. First by making the decision on January 30, he announced it on January 31 that we're banning travel from China.

Second, by standing up the biggest industrial program to create ventilators. Remember, at the start of this Bret, folks were saying the doctors are going to have to make terrible decisions and give young people ventilators and take old people off ventilators and all that sweating, that never happened.

Not only did we res -- the stockpile of ventilators that we inherited was diminished. We rebuilt the stockpile. We made sure that every American who needed the ventilator had one. And we've given out over 16,000 ventilators around the world.

So, that's what we were -- you know, standing up in February. So, it was saving lives. Same with PPE production in the United States. Same with vaccine production. We're going to have a vaccine within well within a year of this virus taking hold here which is never happened before.

So, the president took extraordinary action to save people's lives but at the time that he made those statements, we were being told by many people by the WHO, by the Chinese themselves (INAUDIBLE). Turned out not to be true by public health professionals here that there wasn't a rest. That the virus would go away with warm weather and things like that. All of those things were being told to us, it turned out they weren't true unfortunately.

But the president was taking action, notwithstanding what the -- what the establishment and the general opinion of this virus was he was taking action to prepare for the worst, and he saved thousands of lives as a result.

BAIER: I want to ask you a couple more things about the book and a couple of more topics. But why did the president sit down with Bob Woodward 18 times? He's got 24 hours of tape.

O'BRIEN: Well, listen, the president has been able to make his case to the American people. He's answered more questions probably than any president in history, at least any president my lifetime.

He spends a lot of time with the press, he spends a lot of time with the press while he's walking to the chopper or an Air Force One or in the Briefing Room. And he gives a lot of one on one time.

And so, I think -- and he's willing to take the hard, tough questions from journalists who are probably opposed to him. So, I think the president made a decision that he was -- he was willing to go into the lion's ring with Bob Woodward as the toughest investigative reporter of all time.

And I think he -- you know, look, he felt confident making that decision. If Bob Woodward's put together -- and I haven't read the book. And he's put together book that wasn't kind towards the president, that's really a shame.

BAIER: He concludes the book saying that the president's not fit. So, I think you can get that judgment.

You're quoted in the book a couple of times. But the president tells Woodward about a weapon system. He says, I built a nuclear, a weapon system nobody's ever had in this country. We have stuff that you haven't seen even seen or heard about. We have stuff that Putin and Xi had never heard about before. There's nobody -- what we have is incredible.

It says that national security officials were surprised that he talked about that since a lot of it is classified. What is he talking about?

O'BRIEN: Well, look, I'm not going to get into what he's talking about but you can -- you can rest assure that the men and women who manufacture our weapons and who have always had us on the cutting edge, whether it was back in the old days of the F-117 Nighthawk to the B-2 Bomber to this F-22, F- 35, we're always on the cutting edge and we've always got something out there that are adversaries don't know about.

The president didn't talk about any specific weapon system but you can rest assure that we can protect the United States of America against any felony, any threat that's out there because of the -- you know, the actual manufacturing that we do here, the research and development that we do here and the fine men and women, the servicemen and women who manned those platforms.

BAIER: Speaking about that, after The Atlantic piece, the president on Monday said this about military leadership.


TRUMP: I'm not saying --


BAIER: I'm sorry, I'm -- I think that sound bite went to -- there you go. Let's listen.


TRUMP: I'm not saying the military is in love with me, the soldiers are. The top people in the Pentagon probably aren't because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.

GEN. JAMES MCCONVILLE, ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: Many of these leaders have sons and daughters who've gone to combat or maybe in combat right now. So, I can assure the American people that the senior leaders would only recommend sending our troops to combat when it's required for national security and a last resort.


BAIER: He's obviously the army chief of staff. Do you believe that the senior leadership wants to send people to war?

O'BRIEN: Well, look, I think the point that the president was making was a very similar point that Dwight Eisenhower made in his valedictory address as president when he talked about the military industrial complex. And he's been lionized and lauded by -- you know, across the political spectrum.

The president made just made a similar point like the troops love the president. The president has supported the troops. He's given increase to defense budget from those terrible days of sequestration that we had under Obama-Biden. Well, when literally the troops didn't have the ammunition and the readiness and the tools necessary to defend themselves, that's been turned around.

And like Ronald Reagan, the first president since Ronald Reagan who hasn't started a war. So, the president would like to get our troops, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines home to the extent we can. We want to shift those burdens to our partners and allies, and we want to bring our troops home. And I think he was making that point.

He's got a great relationship with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs with the other -- the other senior leaders in the Pentagon, uniformed leaders in the Pentagon. And I've seen that up close and personal. I know they have tremendous affection for him.

BAIER: Obviously, you know, he often with world leaders talks about how much they're buying from the defense industrial complex and what weapons they're buying and how much they're paying. So, it's just an interesting thing that raised eyebrows.

I want to ask you about this, the UAE --

O'BRIEN: Well, we want our partners to burden share, absolutely, Bret. I mean, we can't -- the American taxpayer can't afford to defend the entire free world as it has. And so, we want our allies and our partners to spend some of their own money. Some of them are very wealthy countries like Germany and the Gulf Arab states and that sort of thing. So, we want them to buy the equipment did that they need to defend themselves. We'll be there side by side with them, but they can't all be up to the American taxpayers.

BAIER: Speaking about burden sharing, the UAE-Israel deal signing is next week. Will there be other Arab Israeli delegations that make that decision before Election Day?

O'BRIEN: You know, none of this is driven by Election Day politics. I mean, these are very hard negotiations to go through as you saw since the UAE- Israel deal and that was a signal deal. It's the first time in 25 years that we've had such a deal and I was lucky enough to be on the first commercial flight, El Al flight from Ben Gurion Airport to Abu Dhabi International Airport last week and it was a very emotional experience for the people on the plane and for the host that received us at the UAE.

Since that time, Kosovo has (INAUDIBLE) a Muslim majority country has said that they're going to recognize Israel and move their embassy to Jerusalem.

I think you're going to see other countries do it but their complex difficult negotiations. I don't know if we'll get it done by any certain date but we're working hard on it.

BAIER: Obviously the news of the Nobel Peace Prize nomination not getting through the day but you're happy about that as is the president, I'm sure.

O'BRIEN: Well, look, I've always said that the president came in office knowing -- it was known as a deal maker. He's going to leave office known as a peacemaker.

When you -- when you look at what he's done in Afghanistan, negotiate and ceasefire between the Turks and the Kurds, normalizing relations between the UAE and Israel between Kosovo and Serbia and I think there's more to come. He's got a pretty impressive record. I don't know if anyone else has the -- has a record similar, so he should get the prize. I don't know what the committee will do or not.

BAIER: And the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and the same thing with Afghanistan, nothing to do with Election Day?

O'BRIEN: No, you know, look, the president campaigned on ending the forever wars but he also campaigned on burden sharing and so, one of the things that is the untold story of Iraq and I saw your piece earlier, Jennifer Griffin's piece, is it that we now have 1,800 NATO troops working side by side with our troops on train and assist and countering ISIS.

I think the number of NATO troops is going to go up. Our European allies are in Iraq. I think that allows us to draw down and the same thing in Afghanistan.

So, we need to resolve these conflicts, we need to do it in a matter that the preserve's away a life of the Afghan people, the Iraqi people. And we need to bring as many of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines home as possible. And part of that is by ending conflicts with peace agreements and part of that is by getting our allies to step up. And no one's had more success on that front than the president.

BAIER: There is an investigation, a whistle-blower complaint alleging the DHS suppressed the Intel reports on Russian election interference. The complaint itself refers back to you, saying that this specifically instructions, specifically originated from you. Is that true this has to do with the former undersecretary -- acting secretary for Homeland Security?

O'BRIEN: No, I've never even heard of this guy. I don't know who he is and its hearsay. He says he heard it from somebody else and in polite society, that's the sort of thing that used to be frowned on, now it gets news coverage, it's totally false. And I don't think there's anyone who's been tougher on Russia in this administration that I have been or the president for that matter's been.

I've been writing about Russia for years and years and years, I have a well-developed reputation on that. We've taken extraordinarily strong action against Russia on a whole number of fronts from Nord Stream to whether support of Venezuela. We sanction more Russians than any administration in history.

But I'll tell you one thing that -- you know, China is a serious threat to our elections. Iran is a serious threat to the free and fair elections here. And I certainly want reporting on not just what Russia is doing, but on what China's doing, what Iran and what other bad actors are doing. But I've never -- I've never heard of this guy, it's absurd.

BAIER: National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien. We appreciate your time today.

O'BRIEN: Great to be with you, Bret, thank you.

BAIER: SPECIAL REPORT continues with a lot of other news including why the Justice Department is involved in a lawsuit, next.


BAIER: Report continue, a quick correction. We had a quote on a graphic from the Bob Woodward book earlier in the program and had dated March 19th, that day was actually February 7th, we regret that.

The Justice Department is coming to the president's defense in a lawsuit brought by a woman who has accused him of raping her, the accusation the president has vigorously denied. Correspondent David Spunt has details tonight from the Justice Department about why they're stepping in. Good evening, David.

DAVID SPUNT, FOX NEWS CHANNEL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Bret. From the moment he came into office here at the Department of Justice, Attorney General Bill Barr faced a lot of criticism. People said that he was representing the president's personal interests over the interests of the country of the American people.

Now, we're specifically talking in this case about a woman, a writer in New York named E. Jean Carroll. She came forward last year and said then businessman Donald Trump sexually assaulted her inside of Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in New York in the mid-1990s. She's now suing the president for defamation in New York state court but now the U.S. Department of Justice wants to get involved and represent the president in federal court. The president has denied the charges multiple times.


TRUMP: It was a total false accusation and I don't know anything about it.


SPUNT: According to the DOJ, because he denied the allegations as president as he did there and other times, President Trump can be subject to representation by the Justice Department. The Attorney General Bill Barr at a news conference today in Chicago cited a law called the Westfall Act, listen.


WILLIAM BARR, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: This was a normal application of the law. The law is clear. It is done frequently. And the little tempest that's going on is largely because of the bizarre political environment in which we live.


SPUNT: But many legal experts including our own Fox news analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano see bright red flags.


JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS CHANNEL SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: The president has found an Attorney General willing to stoop to great depths in order to protect him and to insulate him from paying legal bills. The Attorney General has grossly misused the assets of the Justice Department.


SPUNT: E. Jean Carroll herself reacting to news from the DOJ tweeting to Donald J. Trump. Sir, I and my Attorney Robbie Kaplan, are ready. So is every woman who has ever been silenced. So is every American citizen who has been trampled by Bill Barr and the DOJ, bring it.

Now, Bret, if DOJ successfully takes over the case and E. Jean Carroll would win the case and be awarded damages in a civil case, the money, the reward would not come from Donald Trump's personal account, it would come from the American taxpayer, Bret.

BAIER: We follow this. David, thank you. Up next, the latest on the prospects for a coronavirus vaccine.

First, here's what some of our Fox affiliates around the country are covering tonight.

Fox 12 in Portland as Oregon's governor says wildfires raging across the Pacific Northwest could bring the greatest loss of human life and property of any fires in his state's history.

Firefighters are struggling to contain and douse the blazes that have fanned 50 miles per hour wind gusts in that area.

This is a live look at Orlando from Fox 35. One of the big stories there tonight, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis vetoes a bill that would have raised the age for buying tobacco products to 21. DeSantis saying, he rejected the measure because it would have also banned the sale of flavored liquid nicotine products used in vaping.

That's tonight's live look outside the Beltway from SPECIAL REPORT. We'll be right back.


BAIER: two of the president's top experts on the coronavirus response are promising no shortcuts in the approval process for a coronavirus vaccine. That testimony coming as a leading drug manufacturer halts testing on a potential vaccine after one participant falls ill. Chief Congressional Correspondent Mike Emanuel has specifics tonight.


DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: I'm ready to roll up my sleeve as soon as they say it's safe and effective.

MIKE EMANUEL, FOX NEWS CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, and U.S. Surgeon General on Capitol Hill trying to build public confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine process.

DR. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: There will be no shortcuts. This vaccine will be safe, it will be effective, or it won't get moved along. And when a vaccine is either approved or authorized by the FDA, I and my family will be in line to get it.

EMANUEL: The hearing taking place is one of three vaccines in the final phase of trials from AstraZeneca paused due to an unexplained illness in one participant. Collins told lawmakers that means science is leading the process.

COLLINS: There are ways however that we have adopted in Warp Speed to move quickly while retaining those most rigorous scientific standards, and I think you would want us to do that. People are dying.

EMANUEL: AstraZeneca called the pause, quote, "routine action which has to happen whenever there is a potentially unexplained illness in one of the trials, while it has investigated, ensuring we maintain the integrity of the trials." Dr. Anthony Fauci told FOX's John Roberts, this means the system works, and it's not the end for this trial.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES:  The single episode of a severe adverse event is important enough to cause a pause in the trial, but very likely they will now cautiously continue after they do the appropriate investigation.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I-VT): What is most important is that that vaccine is safe.

EMANUEL: But former presidential candidates asked whether election-year politics with President Trump eager for a vaccine by Election Day is having an impact on the timeline.

COLLINS: Science and science alone will be the way in which this decision is made. Otherwise I will have no part of it.

EMANUEL: Senator Elizabeth Warren also taking a swipe at the president.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, (D-MA): Congress is lying to itself and to the public if it pretends that the president cares about anything other than his own political survival when it comes to vaccine development.

COLLINS: I just hope Americans will choose to take the information they need from scientists and physicians and not from politicians.


EMANUEL: While Congress is winding down much of its work ahead of the election, Chairman Lamar Alexander announced another COVID hearing two weeks from today. It's expected to include Dr. Fauci, the FDA commissioner, and other top public health experts. Bret?

BAIER: Mike, thank you.

Wall Street had a big rebound today, the Dow gained 440, the S&P 500 recovered 67, the Nasdaq picked up 294.

Overseas, Iran is building a facility for making advanced centrifuges after what it calls sabotage of another site. There are increasing concerns from experts around the world about Iran's ability to make a nuclear weapon. Senior foreign affairs correspondent Greg Palkot has the story.


GREG PALKOT, FOX NEWS SENIOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Iran continues to build its nuclear clout, announcing it's constructing a, quote, larger, more modern, more comprehensive facility at its Natanz nuclear site to manufacture uranium enrichment centrifuges. This after another centrifuge plant was destroyed in July by an explosion and fire, possibly Israeli sabotage.

MICHAEL RUBIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: It's not backing down. The nuclear program has become a program that's all about national prestige, and the regime's prestige. And let's make no mistake, this is a regime that wants nuclear weapons come hell or highwater.

PALKOT: The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, the IAEA, says Iran now has enough fissile material to construct two bombs and could build the first one in just three-and-a-half months. Secretary of State Pompeo referring to the Iran nuke deal, the JCPOA, which the Trump administration quit in 2018, and its European participants, or E3, tweeted "Iran's uranium stockpile is reportedly more than 10 times the limit set by the JCPOA. The E3 and other nations must wake up to the reality that the nuclear deal is history and should join us in imposing strong sanctions. Pressure and comprehensive talks are the only path forward."

So far the U.S. hasn't had luck getting other countries to go along with so-called snapback sanctions aimed to be put in place if Iran violates the nuclear deal. A conventional arms embargo on Iran is set to expire in October, and so it's been up to Washington's unilateral sanctions to keep the pressure on a still-defiant Tehran.

RUBIN: It's a game of chicken. Iranians are going to continue with their nuclear program at least until what they see happens with the American election.


PALKOT: And that's the wild card. Whoever is the winner in November will face a dangerous challenge in Iran that most say will take more talking and pressure to resolve. Bret?

BAIER: Greg Palkot in London. Greg, thanks.

Tonight at 11:00 p.m., Shannon Bream has an exclusive interview with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Don't want to miss that.

Up next, controversial new diversity rules for the Oscars.


BAIER: There are big changes ahead for Hollywood's most prestigious award, and critics are howling about political correctness run amok. National correspondent William La Jeunesse explains tonight from Los Angeles.


WILLIAM LA JEUNESSE, FOX NEWS NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: After years of preaching about diversity, the Academy Awards is adopting a quota system for Best Picture.

TAYLOR FERBER, ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: We have the whole Oscars so white controversy, and I think that they are to please everyone, but how many rules can you put in place?

LA JEUNESSE: To ensure, quote, a more equitable representation of people of color and other minority groups, nominees in 2024 and beyond must meet at least two of these requirements. One of the four lead actors must be a racial minority, black, Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Native-American, or pacific islander. At least 30 percent of all secondary roles must be a woman or racial minority, LGBTQ, or an actor with a disability. The main storyline must focus on an underrepresented group, and at least two senior executives must be from a minority group.

FERBER: That's the irony and the hypocrisy, right, because you have these people behind the scenes in high-level positions, and they are making these rules. But they are -- not to be insulting, but they are old white men.

LA JEUNESSE: Under the new rules, a majority of last year's best picture nominees would likely not qualify. According to a UCLA study, Hollywood has made progress. Last year, 44 percent of lead roles went to women, 28 percent to actors of color.


LA JEUNESSE: Officials for the Academy say the rules are flexible. Studios are free to make any film they want, just don't expect to win and Oscar for Best Picture. Bret?

BAIER: William, thanks.

Up next, the panel on the Woodward book and reaction. First, beyond our borders tonight, a bombing in Afghanistan's capital targets the convoy of the country's first vice president. He suffered minor injuries in the attack that killed 10 people and wounded at least 31, including several of the vice president's bodyguards, the vice president of Afghanistan.

India and China meantime accuse each other of making provocative military moves, firing warning shots along their disputed border, despite talks on ending the escalating tensions. The nuclear armed rivals have engaged in a tense standoff since May.

Just some of the other stories beyond our borders tonight. We'll be right back.



DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president never downplayed the virus. Once again, the president expressed calm. The president was serious about this.

TRUMP: The last thing we can show is panic or excitement or fear, or anything else. We had to take care the -- we had to take care of the situation we were given.


BAIER: The president today and also talking to Bob Woodward for 18 different sit-down interviews or phone calls, which, Bob Woodward, the journalist has some 20 hours of tape apparently. He's going to show some of that on "60 Minutes" this weekend.

Let's bring in our panel, former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford Jr., currently chairman of RX Saver, Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at "The Federalist," Tom Bevan, Real Clear Politics co-founder and president. I asked, Mollie, the national security advisor why the president would sit down with Bob Woodward knowing that this book was going to come out 50 some days ahead of the election. He said it's just part of what the president wants to do, talking straight.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE FEDERALIST": I just read Byron York's excellent book, "Obsession," which just came out yesterday, and one of the big themes in that is looking at how President Trump thinks that if he talks to people he can win them over, and it's this pattern where he keeps talking to people who seek his destruction. But this is something that we've already known.

And in general, I think people should be ready for this type of supposed bombshell to drop every couple of days, because we are in the closing days of an election -- or the last couple months of an election and people are very interested in fighting President Trump. But I'm not sure this is such a big deal. We all knew that President Trump thought this was serious. He closed the border, he created a task force, he declared a public health emergency, and we already knew in March he was asked why are you so optimistic about it, or why are you downplaying it? And he said I don't want to cause panic.

I think that, in fact, if there were criticism to be had against President Trump is that that he didn't do enough to stop those people who tried to panic everything into shutdown. And everyone said it was going to be two weeks that we needed to have a lockdown, and we're now in many months of it, and I think we know now it's a much less serious threat than we thought at the time, but there is still criticism to be had about whether Trump and other politicians did enough to stop that panic that the media were inducing.

BAIER: Dr. Anthony Fauci asked today with John Roberts, at 2:00 p.m., about this disparity, as it sounds, on the tapes with Bob Woodward and what the president said at the time publicly. Take a listen to Fauci.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES:  I may not be tuned into the right thing that they're talking about, but I didn't really see any discrepancies between what he told us and what we told him and what he ultimately came up publicly and said.

I'm a small frame in the big picture of what goes on.


BAIER: Fauci also disputed a couple of the quotes that Woodward attributed to him. Harold, how big a deal do you think this book is?

HAROLD FORD JR. (D) FORMER TENNESSEE REPRESENTATIVE: I don't know. A couple things are not in dispute. First, the national security advisor told the president this was going to be the biggest threat he faced, security threat he faced as president. His deputy national security advisor said that this moment was on par -- this is back in January, I might add -- that this was on par with the pandemic over 100 years ago. And 190,000 people have died. These things are not in dispute.

Now, I don't disagree that the president probably did not want to panic the country, but I think part of that motivation for not wanting to panic the country was not wanting to panic the economy, and thinking about his own reelection, I will put my own editorial on that.

I think this presidency, or whether or not this presidency will continue won't necessarily hinder of all of the things that have been said in this book. The president certainly had a tough week, "The Atlantic" article, other things. But what it will hinge on is how we move and how we proceed from here.

I thought Biden did the right thing responding as he did, but I thought he even did a better thing about being in Michigan, talking about building back better, talking about making the economy more durable and stronger and resilient for everyday Americans and all Americans, because of the end of the day, that's what's going to win. President Trump has proven that one bad article, one bed interview, one bad set of words anywhere is probably not going to doom his presidency.

BAIER: You just have to go back to 2016 to see the end of that sentence.

Meantime today, the president, Tom, rolls out his possible Supreme Court nominees should he win reelection, for any vacancies, and the nonjudges in this list obviously caught everybody's eyes. They include the Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, the Kentucky attorney general, who was just featured in the RNC, and there you see the former solicitor generals Paul Clement and Noel Francisco. Obviously, this Woodward news is like a tsunami happening, but for conservatives, that is a big list to look at.

TOM BEVAN, REAL CLEAR POLITICS CO-FOUNDER: It is, and it's -- on the list of accomplishments for conservatives and Trump supporters, judges rank right up there. So it is obviously smart of Trump to put this out there and to hammer that point home.

I think this is going to -- the Woodward news will probably hurt Trump politically in the short term. Whether it does anything, changes the outcome of this election remains to be seen. But the president -- being on tape, one thing he did is just hand the Democrats -- Joe Biden just raised $364 million last month, and he just handed the Democrats a club which they will beat him with over the head in these swing states for the remaining 57 days. So that may be the longest lasting effect from what we learned today.

BAIER: Mollie, the unnamed sources and pushing back on stories is one thing, but when you have the president on tape as much as Bob Woodward does, it is a different animal.

HEMINGWAY: It is. But I was reading through one of the stories with some of the quotes on their, and while they were characterized as being bad quotes, I think they actually do sound like things Donald Trump would say, and understood by people who don't hate him, they don't come off horrible at all.

BAIER: We will see what comes from all of this. Panel, thank you very much. Fifty-five days to go.

When we come back, standing for something, riding in style.


BAIER: Finally tonight, being fearless. During the 2017 collegiate Rugby National Championship, Robert Paylor broke his neck and his life changed in an instant. He was told he would never walk or move his hands again. And against all odds, Robert did not give up, and he stood on his own for the first time in more than three years Monday. Congratulations.

And as kids across the country go back to school, one boy made quite the entrance on his first day. Six-year-old Liam, who has autism, had not been coping very well lately, according to his mother. So police in Freeport, Texas, drove Liam to school in their autism awareness Humvee before his first day of classes. Just some police officers doing some great things.

Thanks for inviting us into your home tonight. That's it for this SPECIAL REPORT, fair, balanced, and unafraid. It's been a newsy day.

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