Rep. Mike Rogers talks Ukraine standoff, retirement plans; Sens. Barrasso, King on fixing ObamaCare

Written by Chris Wallace / Published March 30, 2014 / Fox News Sunday

Special Guests: Rep. Mike Rogers, Sen. John Barrasso , Sen. Angus King

This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Sunday," March 30, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: I'm Chris Wallace.

Vladimir Putin makes a surprise phone call to President Obama to discuss how to resolve the standoff with Ukraine.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If the Russian leadership stays on the current course, we will ensure that this isolation deepens.

WALLACE: But a surge of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border ignites fear of another invasion.

We'll get the latest from Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. It's a "Fox News Sunday" exclusive.

Then, vulnerable Democrats propose changes to ObamaCare as yet another delay starts a backlash on Capitol Hill.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER, R-OHIO: Another deadline made meaningless. What is the hell is this, a joke?

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER HARRY REID, D-NEV.: The joke I say to my dear friend, John Boehner, is him for having more than 60 votes over there to terminate ObamaCare.

WALLACE: We'll discuss the latest signup numbers and the new controversy with Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, and one of the senators leading the charge to fix ObamaCare, Angus King of Maine.

Plus, an internal investigation clears New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in the bridge-gate scandal.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, R-N.J.: It has been my resolve from the beginning to learn from this, to be a better governor, to be a better staff, and to be a better administration.

WALLACE: What does it mean for Christie's political future? Our Sunday panel weighs in.

And an unforgettable power player of the week, 10-year-old Gabriella Miller lost her battle with cancer, but the fight she started for kids like her goes on.

GABRIELLA MILLER: Stop talking and start doing.

WALLACE: All, right now, on "Fox News Sunday."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: And hello again from Fox News in Washington.

The standoff in Ukraine took another turn Friday when Russian President Putin reached out to President Obama in a surprise phone call. Secretary of State Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov are meeting today in Paris.

But Washington remains on alert over Russia's massive troop buildup along its border with Ukraine.

Joining me now from Michigan, Congressman Mike Rogers who had his own surprise this week when announced he's stepping down as chair of the powerful House Intelligence Committee at the end of the year.

Congressman, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."

HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN MIKE ROGERS, R-MICH.: Chris, it's great to be back.

WALLACE: Let's start with Putin's phone call with Obama. While the White House portrays as Putin (AUDIO GAP) pursuing a diplomatic resolution, the Kremlin says he called to talk about extremists threatening ethnic Russians in Ukraine.

What is your best analysis given particularly the buildup of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine? What's your analysis? Is Putin looking for a way out or simply setting the stage for another invasion?

ROGERS: He's absolutely not looking for a way out. So, you have two environments going on at the same time, Chris. You have the Ukraine issue and you have the Georgia issue. So they're moving some of their most advanced equipment into the South Ossetia. No reason to do that. The Georgian army really poses no threat. That's certainly concerning.

And then you see all of the Russian movement along the border. And you see Russian coverts influence operations, meaning they have their intelligence officials and their special forces inside Ukraine trying to foment this notion the Russian should come in. There is no way that I would take that as any other sign other than he is looking for a way to find his land bridge from Crimea to Transnistria, along the northern Baltic Sea area which is right along the Moldova and Ukraine border.

WALLACE: So, when you say you see no other explanation, are you saying you think he's going to move into eastern Ukraine?

ROGERS: I wouldn't see that he would go into eastern Ukraine. My -- if I looked at it today, nobody really knows. They don't know what his intentions are other than you can gauge by history and what his actions are today, he really -- if he's going to protect Crimea from a military perspective, there is a water source that's several hundred kilometers north of Crimea and he needs a land bridge to connect Crimea and the Transnistria area that's already said they wanted to be a part of the Russian Federation. That's right along the top of the Baltic Sea area.

So if I were looking at this and going to lay down some stakes of where he was going, that's exactly what I would think he would do. He would do that first, the southern part and then he would continue his covert influence campaign in the east of Ukraine. And it's -- unfortunately, there's just not a lot that can happen.

I mean, United States said we're going to give MREs, I think they're finally getting here this weekend. But it's taken us weeks just to get food to the folks who are saying they want to stand up to Russian aggression in the east of Ukraine.

WALLACE: Just to talk about the situation in eastern Ukraine, you're best intelligence, how many Russian troops arrayed along that eastern border and how threatening is their posture right now?

ROGERS: Yes, we see tens of thousands. And it's not just the number of troops. It's the kind of troops and the kind of configuration. What units are along that border and what could they accomplish. They have everything they need already, I believe, on that eastern border to go into Ukraine if they decide they want to do it.

So, they've got their special forces teams. They've got heavy armor elements. They've got all of the light infantry and heavy armored infantry that they would need to move in to Ukraine.

And I think there's -- they're going to continue this pressure. They're going to continue the covert influence campaign in eastern Ukraine to -- I think to kind of foment this at least future decision to go into the eastern part.

I would look at the south. I think that there is real ground in the south. And then I would ask, why is he moving the equipment that he is into the South Ossetia up in Georgia? Which is --makes really no sense other than they're contemplating maybe using those armor columns to drive through Georgia down to Armenia, create a land bridge from Iran.

So, if you look at all the possibilities that they lay on the table, it is really concerning. I doubt Putin called because he thought that he wasn't in the best spot in that particular conversation.

WALLACE: Let me move to another troubling issue and that is the continuing mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The Australians moved the search area. Let me put a map up if you can see, about 700 miles northeast closer to the coast of Western Australia based on new radar analysis. Congressman, they're finding more debris in the area although they haven't so far been able to link it directly to the flight.

Are you -- how confident are you that they're now looking in the right area?

ROGERS: Well, I can't say the right area because debris moves and the weight of the impact and the heaviest part of that aircraft probably went down at least on some angle. So, the debris field can move. That's what's so difficult, I think, and presents such awe huge challenge.

The probability is very, very high that that aircraft is at the bottom of the Indian Ocean somewhere. It is going to take some time. Remember, this is a -- planes are big but not -- they're not big in relation to the Indian Ocean. And so, this becomes a mathematical and a little bit of luck equation for them as they're continuing their patterns for search.

WALLACE: The FBI for some period of time now, more than a week, has been examining the computer hard drives of the two pilots who were in the cockpit, as well as the hard drive for the flight simulator of the lead pilot. And there are reports that they have done a thorough examination and have come up empty, have come up with a dead end.

Question, is that true?

ROGERS: Well, I have seen nothing yet that comes out of the investigation that would lead me to conclude that there was some -- anything other than a normal flight that something happened and something went wrong. Now again, they're going to compare the forensics on the computer with a fullback ground on not only just the pilots but every crew member and every passenger on that aircraft will take a tremendous amount of time to do that.

So, there is, you know, we're just going to have to be patient I think as this thing unfolds and the only way to really find out what happened is to try to find the airframe itself or as much of it is intact so they can do the forensic investigation on that. That will be the best place to make the final determination of what happened, barring if there were some conspiracy and it's pretty hard in the world to keep conspiracies quiet, that there was some conspiracy that they could uncover in the portion of the human portion of the investigation, the passengers and the crew.

WALLACE: Congressman, let's turn to the Benghazi terror attack, because the former acting director of the CIA, Michael Morrell, is going to be testifying before your House Intelligence Committee this weekend open hearing. Question, what do you want to find out from him?

ROGERS: Well, we've had two hearings with Michael Morell both in a classified setting. And I thought it was inappropriate. So, his last time testifying in front of the committee in a classified session, we've had some additional information. I think it's important for him to have the opportunity to answer questions on the public record and allow the public to see, you know, the House Intelligence Committee has done more investigative work, more public hearings -- excuse me, more hearings, more committee time hearings, more subcommittee hearings than all the other committees.

WALLACE: But is there a specific -- sir, is there a specific question or a specific issue that you want to resolve with him?

ROGERS: Well, I think we do. There's -- the fact of the memo and the talking points is important. Many believe that there was political influence on the changing of those talking points in that particular -- in the day that's happened right after the event.

We need to make sure if that in fact is not true. Additionally, you know, we know that facts on the ground said, hey, that the State Department folks were requesting help and didn't get it. We need to try to make sure Americans and the committee fully understand that link and why that didn't happen.

Was it anything that the CIA did leading up to the event or was this completely a State Department failure when these folks were asking for additional security and somebody in that chain of command for security clearly didn't -- ignored the threats, ignored the intelligence and unfortunately at least contributed to the death of four Americans?

WALLACE: Finally, I want to talk to you about Mike Rogers. You had quite a surprise. This time was stopped when you announced on Friday that you're planning to step down at the end of the year, not seek re-election, and to pursue a career on radio.

I have a couple of questions. First of all, you seemed in effect to indicate in your announcement that you think -- and you're the chair of a very powerful committee, but you can contribute as much as a radio talk show host. Do you really believe that, sir?

ROGERS: Well, here's the thing. When I took the committee, it was not functioning very well. So I work with my ranking member, Democrat from Maryland. We agree we're going to take all the politics out of it.

And so, during the last 3 1/2 years and will be four years at the end as chairman, 10 years on the committee, I think we've made really important strides to try to fix a lot of that -- take the partisanship out of national security and fix some very hard technical problems, everything from cyber to space and everything in between, human collections. We've done that. I've helped do that. I've helped drive that agenda.

You know, it was an interesting opportunity when you see the level of debate today, Chris, on national security issues and foreign policy, it worries me for the future of this country, like nothing I've ever seen.

So, when someone walked in and said, hey, we're going to give you the opportunity to have a discussion, and people's cars, living rooms, and kitchen, every single day from California to Iowa to New Hampshire, to South Carolina, we think that you can change the needle on this debate, and I thought long and hard about it and thought, you know, I think they're right.

We have to -- this is a great program. It's a sophisticated program that you have. But we need to broaden that audience to have this discussion so that we can put America on solid footing as we move forward in a very troubling -- a very troubling world.

WALLACE: I have to do the kind of thing that you're going to do when you're on this side of the microphone, because I noticed when you were talking about the conversation, you talked about New Hampshire and Iowa, just as random states. And, you know, Ronald Reagan back in 1980, I don't have to tell you, used his platform as a radio commentator to run for president.

So is that a consideration for you? Are you prepared at this point to rule out any interest in 2016?

ROGERS: Ronald Reagan used his platform on radio to run for president of the United States? I had no idea, Chris.

WALLACE: So what are you saying? I mean, you're thinking (INAUDIBLE) --

ROGERS: No. Listen, I'm going to take it where it goes. This is a very unique opportunity that I will be able to talk about issues in ways that you don't hear on a national radio platform today about the importance of national security, foreign policy, and all of the issues facing America. And, you know, to have that intimate conversation with listeners was very appealing to me all across the United States.

My goal here is to be -- is engaging as I can and to get listeners' opinion. And if I can move the needle on the debate, there's a lot of celebrity politicians that are using issues candidly in Washington, D.C. today that are detrimental to the national security of the United States and the politics in Washington has gotten as small as I've ever seen it.

This is an opportunity to explain --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: Wait. I have to ask -- we're over time. You say celebrity politicians, you want to name one?

ROGERS: Oh, I think that you're listeners are smart and savvy enough to make their own list.

WALLACE: I think -- first of all, you've always been a great congressman and great guest. I suspect you're going to be successful as a talk show host.

Congressman Rogers, thank you. It's always good to talk with you, sir. I'm sure we'll get the chance to do it again before you start your new career.

ROGERS: I hope so. Thanks, Chris.

WALLACE: What do you think are the chances for a deal with Putin to end the crisis in Ukraine? Please let know us in our Facebook page and join the conversation with other FNS fans. Our Sunday panel takes its turn, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: What we need right now to resolve the situation is for Russia to move back those troops and to begin negotiations directly with the Ukrainian government as well as the international community.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: President Obama calling for Russia to seek a peaceful solution to the standoff in Ukraine.

And it's time now for our Sunday group.

GOP strategist Karl Rove. We welcome Ron Fournier of "The National Journal," Kimberley Strassel from "The Wall Street Journal," and Charles Lane of "The Washington Post."

Karl, I'm going to ask you the same question I asked Mike Rogers. What do you think Putin was up to with that phone call with the president on Friday night? Do you think he's looking for a way out? Or do you think he was trying to set the predicate of extremists threatening ethnic Russians to set the stage to open the possibility of further military action?

KARL ROVE, GOP STRATEGIST: Well, we don't know. And that's the issue. Have things gone on beneath the surface over the last couple of days that have caused Vladimir Putin to believe that it's time to call halt and find an off ramp for his activities or is he laying the predicate for further action?

Remember, less than a month ago, he told the president to his -- flatly out, direct, I have no territorial ambitions for Crimea. We will not be annexing Crimea. We have looked -- and been behind strategically the curve all along.

The president is not thinking ahead, has not been thinking ahead. We are where we are because of a lack of strategic thinking. The president in the last few weeks has made the situation worse. The comment about Putin acting out of weakness was good for -- good trash talking on the basketball court but just the kind of thing that's going to enrage Putin.

The comment that president made of we hear -- here's what we need. No, what we need to frame this in terms of what Russia needs and what Russia needs to do is find an off-ramp and we need to force him on to that off-ramp.

And the question is, what is the president doing to get ahead of this by finding ways to pressure Putin on to an off-ramp?

WALLACE: Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials keep asking the U.S. and Europe for military weapons to defend their country. But President Obama keeps saying, no. As you just heard Mike Rogers say, we are finally providing rations, military rations to the Ukrainians, which means they'll be able to eat but not necessarily be able to fight.

Ron, do you think that military aid might be effective in forcing Putin to recalculate what the cost is of military action or, just as the president seems to think, further inflame the situation?

RON FOURNIER, NATIONAL JOURNAL: I think it might. The big problem we have here is --

WALLACE: Might what?

FOURNIER: I think it might. The big problem we have here is --

WALLACE: Might what?

FOURNIER: I think might actually help force Russia's hand, force Putin's hand. I think there is very little Obama can do now. I think we need to look at our allies in Europe, specifically, Germany.

We have a president right now who's on the record saying, I'm not that interested in Putin's motivations. I'm more interested in the facts on the ground.

Well, how can you not be interested in Putin's motivations? I would get up every day worried to death about his motivations and try to figure out how I can get a step ahead of him. And the president just frankly has not been a step ahead of Putin. He's been a step behind.

WALLACE: During his trip to Europe this week, the president had to deal with criticism that he has been naive towards Putin and he also had to answer a question about Mitt Romney who back in 2012, during the campaign and the president mocked him for this, said that Russia was our number one geopolitical thug. Here is how the president answered that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors not out of strength, but out of weakness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Kim, this is the clip that Karl was just talking about. One, did it get Obama off the hook politically in terms of the criticism that, you know, he's been naive? And secondly, what does that do when you've got Putin who has made it very clear and had a long list of grievances about how the West has been pushing Russia around, dismissing Russia, kicking sand in its face like a bully at the beach. Does this just further inflame that?

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: No, I mean, this does not get him off the hook at all. And in fact, the real problem, of course, Vladimir Putin is going to put out his list of grievances.

But the real reason that we're in this situation is America has not taken a forceful enough stance in order to try to get Russia to back down. That is what Vladimir Putin looks for. Not words, not calls to international law. He wants to know if there is going to be anyone who is going to stop him.

And in that regard, I actually disagree. I think there is a lot that president could be doing to show that they're not going to stand for this. I mean, they could be bolstering NATO which is hollowed a lot in recent years. He could be talking about missile defense in Eastern Europe. He could be sending arms to the Ukraine. He could be doing -- he could be bolstering our naval presence in the Black Sea.

There is a lot to send the message that you're not going to stand by and let this guy get away with it.

FOURNIER: I don't disagree with that. My point is that kind of stuff should have been happening before Putin started moving on Crimea.

STRASSEL: Right.

FOURNIER: But because they took Putin at his word, because he wasn't really willing to walk in Putin's shoes and figure out what he might be doing, they've been caught off guard. Now, it's getting too late for a lot of this.

WALLACE: But it is too late? I mean, if you think of what Mike Rogers just said, he is talking about eastern Ukraine or Transnistria, then there is still an opportunity to try to stop Putin from doing more.

FOURNIER: That's true. But it is certainly too late if you think Crimea should be a part of Ukraine. That's gone.

WALLACE: That does seem to be true.

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: Wait, wait, I want to bring Chuck.

There were a number of polls this week that show Americans do not want to get involved militarily within Ukraine, militarily. On the other hand, they gave President Obama very low ratings and say that he's been weakened in this situation.

Chuck, explain that contradiction to me because on the one hand, they say he's too weak but I don't want to get involved militarily. So, what is it they want from this president?

CHARLES LANE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think in foreign policy, the public very often wants what the president explains to them is in the U.S. national interest. What we have here is a situation where the president himself has said in very certain terms, we don't want to go into militarily. This is a regional issue. We're going to try to contain it, et cetera, et cetera.

He has not gone out and made a case for a major U.S. push in Europe to challenge Putin. And that --

WALLACE: When you say "major push" -- what do you mean?

LANE: Well, what I'm saying is many of the measures that the folks here have talked about, you know, are more aggressive posture, maybe including military. He hasn't made the case for any of that. So, of course the public is going to say on one hand, I don't want to go there and on the other hand I'm not hearing leadership from the public.

Having said all that -- guys this is a very tough situation. Putin is right there on the border of Ukraine and Crimea. He has all the leverage. He has a much higher -- there's an asymmetry. He has an extremely high national interest in what happens inside Ukraine.

We have some -- a strong national interest. There's going to be a mismatch in terms of the leverage that the United States can bring to bear on this situation.

And within that, I think there have been a lot of verbal missteps by the president. But in the last week or so, I've seen some improvement in terms of his ability to rally Europe and get a little bit more of a common front.

KARL ROVE, GOP STRATEGIST: That's called grading on the curve.

STRASSEL: Yes.

ROVE: Now, granting that he's been doing it well on the last couple of days. But back to this point about we do have a grave interest here, because if Putin is embolden to take Crimea and gets away it with and then takes a slice of southern Ukraine and gets away with it, then there is going to be pressure on the Baltics and pressure on our allies and central Europe and NATO -- this umbrella has been an enormously stabilizing influence for prosperity and security and peace is going to be in essence shown to be no longer able to do its mission.

WALLACE: All right. We have to take a break. We'll see you later in the show.

Up next, the White House touts a surge in ObamaCare signups. So what do the numbers really mean? We're joined by two key senators in the ObamaCare debate.

And still ahead, a very special power player of the week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GABRIELLA MILLER: I need my childhood. You know, less and less kids are going to have their childhood. It's awareness. People don't lead (ph) awareness and (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: A brief little girl inspires Congress to do something.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: The White House announced this week a surge of signups for ObamaCare, but that doesn't stop five Democratic senators and one independent, some of them facing tough re-election battles this fall, from offering several big changes to ObamaCare.

Joining us now from Maine, Angus King, an independent, one of the senators proposing those fixes.

And here in studio, Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, a GOP leader and a doctor.

Well, the White House announced this week more than 6 million people now total have signed up for private health insurance on the exchanges including 1.8 million so far just in March. But they still have no numbers for how many people have paid for coverage, how many so-called young invincibles have sign up or how many people have signed up who were previously uninsured. Senator Barrasso, given that, how much is this 6 million number actually mean?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO,  R-WYO.: I don't think it means anything, Chris. The -- I think they're cooking the books on this. People want to know the answers to that. They also want to know once all of this is said and done, what kind of insurance will those people actually have? Will they be able to keep the doctors that they want? How much more is it going to cost them? And we know that some of the best cancer hospitals in the country want very little to do with people that actually buy this insurance on the ObamaCare exchanges.

WALLACE: Let's stick -- wait, wait, wait, wait. Let me ask a question for the senator and then I'm going to bring you in on exactly that issue. Because while the White House is not offering numbers in some of those internal issues, their insurance companies and some private studies have offered some numbers. Let's put those up on the screen. The administration said they needed 38 percent of the risk pool to be young, healthy people. So far it looks like there are only a quarter of the enrollees. Studies have found only 27 percent of those who signed up were previously uninsured and up to 23 percent of the 6 million figure haven't paid yet. Senator King, aren't those big holes in the 6 million number that the administration is touting?

SEN. ANGUS KING, I-ME.: Well, in the first place, I checked the numbers this morning. It is now 6,563,000. 6.5 million just in the last few days. There were 500,000 people on the call centers on Friday and a million and a half on the website. And those numbers don't come from the White House. There's a wonderful website acasignup.net, private Website by a guy named Charles Gaba who is collecting data from all across the country. So there really is a huge surge. Number two, the president of WellPoint, which is one of the big national insurance companies said a couple of weeks ago that the signups are getting younger by the day. In other words, younger people not surprisingly are the last people to sign up. I suspect that's who is signing up today and tomorrow. And so I think the data is making a lot of difference. As far as ...

WALLACE: Wait. Let me just say -- If I may just ask you ...

KING: The numbers are going up on that.

WALLACE: If I can just ask you, though, what about the number that are uninsured, which seems to be about a quarter and what about the number of -- that haven't paid, which is also about a quarter?

KING: Well, that's -- the McKenzie (ph) and company did that 25 percent uninsured. The only real numbers we have are from New York and Kentucky and Kentucky at 75 percent of the people signing up were previously uninsured. In New York, 59 percent. So, those numbers are going to sort themselves out over time. But, you know, there is no denying it. They're probably going to make that 7 million target, which was set, you know, a couple of years ago. Nobody two months ago if you'd asked me I would have just said there's no chance because the rollout was so bungled.

WALLACE: All right. Tomorrow was supposed to be when we booked you, we thought this is because tomorrow was the drop dead date for open enrollment and it's certainly what administration officials said over and over. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HHS SECRETARY: The enrollment deadline, which was set out to end Mar 31 will end March 31st.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: March 31st is the deadline for enrollment. You've heard us make that clear.

JULIE BATAILLE, CMS COMM OFFICE DIR.: Open enrollment ends on March 31st. And in fact, we don't actually have the statutory authority to extend the open enrollment period in 2014.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: But this week the administration made what "the Wall Street Journal" says was the 38th unilateral change in ObamaCare creating a special enrollment extension for people who claim that they've had a problem signing up. Senator King, how can they do that when you just heard this top CMS official admit they don't have the statutory authority to do it?

KING: I don't think there is any inconsistency here. They're not opening it up to new people. Here in Maine at 8:00 P.M. on election night, if you're in line to vote, even if it takes you a half hour to get there, you get to vote. They don't close you out. This is exactly the same thing. People are in line. They've started the process of signing up. Sometimes it takes a day or two to go through all the paperwork or the computer work. This is not overextending the enrollment for new people who say, oh, I forgot. These are people that are already in the line. And that is just common sense. So, we do that all the time. I think the best example is people in line to vote.

WALLACE: And Senator Barrasso, it may be messy, but if the point is to get more people coverage, health insurance, why not let them have more time to sign up?

BARRASSO: Because it doesn't deal with the issue of actually getting people care. People wanted health care reform so they can get the care they need from a doctor they choose at lower cost. And what we see is even though signing up are finding out many of them are seeing higher premiums, can't keep their doctor, can't keep their hospital in the state right next to Senator King's in New Hampshire, ten of the 28 hospitals are excluded from all of the exchanges in New Hampshire. In Senator King's own state, the most popular individual market plan prior to this is now not able to be sold anymore because it didn't meet the ObamaCare standards. So those are concerns that I hear about every weekend, so what we're seeing now are that the politicians trying to save their political careers instead of focusing on patient care.

WALLACE: Well, that certainly brings me back to you, Senator King. You've joined as we mentioned at the beginning with five Democratic senators to propose major changes to ObamaCare. Let's put them up. They include offering a new lower cost, higher deductible -- we have the gold, silver. This would be the copper plan. And you would also exempt companies with up to 99 workers instead of 50 from the employer mandate. But, and here's the rub, Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid has already said he's not going to allow a vote on these changes. So to take Senator Barrasso's point, isn't this really -- I know you're not up for re-election in November, but some of your colleagues here are -- so that they can go back to the voters in home and say, hey, we tried to fix it?

KING: No, look, I've been in all of those meetings and talking about it. And I've never seen the piece of legislation yet that was perfect. In fact, the United States Constitution probably the most perfect piece of legislation ever devised by the (INAUDIBLE) of men, has been amended 27 times. I think it's time to try to fix it. And in fact, that's what the public wants. There's a recent poll on Kaiser Family Foundation, KFF.org, probably the gold standard of polls. What it says is by two to one, 59 percent to 29 percent the people of America want us to fix this law, not repeal it.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: We can -- I'm going to be talking to Harry tomorrow, you know.

WALLACE: Well, let me just say -- how do you ...

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: Two points if I may, sir. One, then why is Harry Reid saying he's not going to allow a vote on the fixes? And, two, speak directly and briefly, because we're about to run out of time, to Senator Barrasso's comment about the fact that a lot of doctors, a lot of hospitals are being excluded by what ObamaCare is offering.

KING: Now that's something -- you know, there is no such thing as ObamaCare. You can't sign up for ObamaCare. You're signing up for an Anthem (ph) policy or an Aetna policy, or a WellPoint policy. It is private insurance. And private insurance companies have been doing closed networks for years. I do think there is a problem if John Barrasso wants to join me in co-sponsoring a bill to have more transparency, so people can know exactly who is covered and who is not covered by the various policy options, I'm all for it. But, you know, I think this thing of you can't keep your doctor, that's -- and there is a problem in New Hampshire because there is only one carrier on the exchange. I think that is the only state in the country like that. I looked up -- I played a game and looked up John's situation. If you're in Laramie, Wyoming and you make $50,000, you have two kids, mom, dad, two kids, there are 16 different policy options you have ranging in premium from $67 a month to $800 a month. There are a lot of choices out there.

WALLACE: All right. Let me bring in -- We're running out of time, Senator. Let me bring you and Senator Barrasso, final word.

BARRASSO: Well, a couple of things. Let's not be fooled here. What Angus is offering in his legislation only nibbles around the edges. It doesn't get to the fundamental flaws of the president's health care law. The Democrats are unnerved. They have pushed the panic button. The president says this is working. It is broken. And people say can you fix it? I've looked at this ten different ways, Chris. This health care law is not fixable.

WALLACE: We're going to leave it there. Obviously to be continued. Senator Barrasso, Senator, King, thank you both. Thanks for joining us. And we'll stay on top of this, gentlemen.

KING: Thanks for having me.

BARRASSO: Thank you.

WALLACE: When we come back, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says an internal investigation clears him of any wrongdoing in the Bridgegate scandal. But what does it mean for a presidential run in 2016? We'll bring back our Sunday group.

Plus, what would you like to ask the panel? Just go to Facebook or Twitter at Fox News SUNDAY and we may use your questions on the air.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: What people -- the American and people in New Jersey really care about is did you do it? And we're finding that you didn't. I think what you're going to find is they'll just say, OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Governor Chris Christie telling Megyn Kelly an internal investigation confirms what he has always said, he knew nothing about the closing of traffic lanes to the George Washington Bridge last fall, which led to massive traffic jams in Fort Lee New Jersey. And we're back now with the panel. Well, Christie was clearly trying to act as if the internal investigation that he commissioned has cleared him and that the Bridgegate scandal is over. Karl, is it? Is Christie now back as a viable candidate for the 2016 presidential nomination?

ROVE: Well, he was never not a viable candidate. But he does this investigation end it? Obviously not. It does help. You have a respected former prosecutor who is a lifelong Democrat who had access to a lot more information. Every piece of documentation available through the governor's office, 250,000 emails, memos, communications, and so forth. But, look this is not going to be over until the both the New Jersey legislative committee finishes its work and the federal law enforcement officials who are looking at this, namely the U.S. attorney in New Jersey, finish looking at it. But is Christie's possible candidacy ended? No. Is it back flourishing like it was before all this began? No.

But the interesting thing to me is we learn a lot more about how politicians handle adversity than we learn from them when they're in moments of success. And what Christie has done is he's got knocked down. He's now gotten back up. Dusted himself off and he's back in the arena. He's going to get knocked down again when the New Jersey legislature meets. The question is at the end of this in six months, nine months, a year, do the American people say, look, this guy did or did not have something to do with it and he's able to take a punch and at that point he'll be better off than he was a couple of weeks ago? The question is, is he going to be as good as he needs to be?

FOURNIER: This doesn't help him at all.

WALLACE: Let me just point out a couple of things, Ron. I mean as Karl points out, the state legislature has a special committee, which is still investigating. A federal grand jury convened by the U.S. attorney is still meeting. And the two key players in this whole thing, Bridget Kelly who was a deputy chief of staff and David Wildstein, he was a top official on the Port Authority, both of whom we know from e-mails were directly involved in the lane closures, neither of them talked to the internal investigation. So, Ron, forgive me for interrupting. But with that context, how much does this help him turn the corner?

FOURNIER: Not at all. I mean let's start with the whitewash report. We saw what happened with the IRS scandal. When you have your own person investigate yourself. Nobody believes it. It's not credible. This is basically is attorney declaring his innocence and the public trials are about to begin. And the public trials are going to be ugly. We have first of all, as you mentioned, Chris, we have the Department of Justice once they are crawling in your life, things get awfully complicated. And they're not in the business of exonerating you. So he's in for a tough few months and it's going to be hard for him to concentrating on as you say pulling himself back up. We saw a big mistake yesterday. If he was just focused on running for president, would he have talked about the occupied territories in a pro-Israel group like he did yesterday?

WALLACE: Yeah, let me just ...

FOURNIER: It's a kind of distraction.

WALLACE: He was in Las Vegas meeting with Sheldon Adelson and a number of other big Jewish contributors and at one point he talked about flying over the occupied territories, which implies that Israel is occupying parts of the West Bank or Gaza.

FOURNIER: It doesn't imply, he says that.

WALLACE: Yeah. Right.

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: That is not something that a lot of Jews like. So ...

STRASSEL: Can I just ...

WALLACE: OK, but I want to bring everybody else in. Please, Karl, you have got to be more collegial.

(CROSSTALK)

ROVE: Well, I think I need ....

(CROSSTALK)

STRASSEL: Let me take ...

WALLACE: All right. Let me just set the premise for you. Which is that the governor in his news conference on Friday clearly was trying to act like all of this was behind him, even re-establishing himself as the old combative Christie batting down questions from reporters. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: Christine, stop. You have to get the facts right if you're going to ask me a question. I don't know whether you can't take notes, or you are not listening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: And it went on and on like that. At least a half a dozen. Kim, can Christie go back to that old combative style? Are voters still going to find that appealing? And where do you weigh in on the rehabilitation scale, because we have about a six from Karl and a zero from Ron?

STRASSEL: Look, I think you can't. It's part of a shtick, right? I mean this is why people like Chris Christie. He's sort of a brash guy. He just says what's on his mind. And, yeah, that does play into this narrative a little bit about questions if he's a bully in office? But to go back to what Ron said, this review that was done was done by Gibson, Dunn. It's a very well respected law firm. A team of former ...

FOURNIER: Paid for by the taxpayers on Christie's behalf.

STRASSEL: Except for -- I mean look at this point.

FOURNIER: It's a whitewash.

STRASSEL: No, how can it be a whitewash? And what they've gone through.

FOURNIER: Because it's done on his behalf.

STRASSEL: Except for the ...

FOURNIER: It doesn't talk to ...

(CROSSTALK)

STRASSEL: You are now talking about so many reputations at stake here. They came out. They were so forceful in saying no. And ...

FOURNIER: They wouldn't be ...

(CROSSTALK)

STRASSEL: Any of them.

FOURNIER: They wouldn't be the first.

STRASSEL: We do not think that any of them would take that risk.

FOURNIER: That's what (INAUDIBLE) do all the time. That is exactly what defense attorneys do to defend the clients who might not be...

ROVE: And they reviewed every single document that was available to them including private communications from Bridget Kelly's, private email to government accounts. And if there was any evidence, a single email that said, hey governor, we're going to do this in order to mess over the mayor of Fort Lee, ain't it great, you did. They would have brought it forward. And there was no such communication. Now, I grant you that this does not exonerate.

FOURNIER: Not even close.

ROVE: But look, I think you're missing this. This is part of a process. And now we have someone, a third party that has looked at all this information and gushed it out.

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: I have got to cite. This is the least collegial panel I've ever seen. There is four (INAUDIBLE) Lane has lots to offer and Chuck ...

STRASSEL: Chuck.

ROVE: Go ahead, Chuck.

WALLACE: We ask our -- all of you for questions. And we got this on Facebook from Justin Eldery. He says, and this was taking the whole cliff side of this argument, "Is this the best the DNC could do? A traffic jam? And we have got a lot of questions like that with people suggesting that this is just a left wing attack and nothing compared to what they -- what some of our viewers say are real scandals like Benghazi or "Operation Fast and Furious" or the IRS targeting of the Tea Party.

LANE: Well, here's the connection, he doesn't control the IRS. He doesn't control the CIA and U.S. military. He controls New Jersey. And the idea is, if he would abuse -- yea, he would abuse his power in New Jersey, and do something like this, well, as president he might abuse his power otherwise. But I've got to say, you know, what we have here from Chris Christie is a counteroffensive, not a comeback. And he is finally gotten up off on that and started to establish his own narrative about this thing where he's been defined by the media and -- all his enemies for the last three months. So, to that extent, it almost doesn't matter whether this is a whitewash or not. It's his story now. He has got an authority now that says he's clean. And he can push that for the next couple of months until somebody comes up with something else.

WALLACE: How effective, given the fact -- and you know, you've heard two sides of the argument. It's an internal investigation. He got what he paid for. Or these are, you know, obviously, yes they were paid for by him, but they have their own reputation. How effective do you think this investigation is in at least -- if it's not the final word, at least a partial word in clearing him and allowing him to come back out as if he's --

LANE: I'm going to give it a three. I'm going to go between zero and six. Because it's missing, obviously, because they've all taken the Fifth. It's missing the eyewitness direct testimony of the people who really know what happened. And furthermore, there is in this report an illusion to a conversation between David Wildstein and Chris Christie while the bridges were closed where they may have discussed the traffic test at some time.

ROVE: On September 11th and a September 11th ceremony. And Christie says I have no recollection of it. And also ...

LANE: And we need to hear Wildstein.

ROVE: Wildstein -- and notice the language that Wildstein ...

WALLACE: Yeah, let me just show you. This is a picture. This was at a 9/11 ceremony, this last 9/11, that was right in the middle of the traffic study. And that is a picture of Christie and Wildstein. I mean there was never any question about the fact that they met there. There is a real question about what they said. And as Christie said in defense of him, if Wildstein said to me, hey we're doing a traffic study in Fort Lee, he said I wouldn't remember that. The question is did he say, hey, we're doing a traffic study in Fort Lee because we want to get back at the mayor?

LANE: When this is all over, there will probably be, based on what we know now, no smoking gun. Right? And the decision the voters will have to make is that OK? That there's no smoking gun.

ROVE: What's your point, attacking the media, a good thing to do? A smart thing to do, even a fair thing to do. Attacking and smearing Bridget Kelly, bad idea.

WALLACE: All right. We have to leave it there. Thank you, panel. See you next week. Up next, our "Power Player of the Week," an unforgettable ten-year-old girl who inspired everyone around her and even got Congress to act. I promise you, you don't want to miss this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: It's become a cliche to say nothing ever gets done in Washington. But this is the story of a remarkable little girl who spurred the politicians to put aside their differences and do something big and she is our power player of the week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GABRIELLA MILLER: I was diagnosed when I was nine. And once you get cancer, you kind of got to be all grown up. And you don't really have a childhood.

WALLACE: That was a rare moment of despair for Gabriella Miller. Because almost as soon as she learned she had brain cancer in November of 2012, she was determined to seize life and help others.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK MILLER, GABRIELLA'S FATHER: She was always -- could command a room. She would point -- and you see here, see here, let me tell you a story about a time, you know, once upon a time.

WALLACE: She was the kind of child who at age six, long before her illness, donated her hair to cancer patients who had lost theirs. But now she faced her own challenge, terminal brain cancer.

ELLYN MILLER, GABRIELLA'S MOTHER: It can be fixed because we live in an amazing country. We have got access to some of the best medicines, science, doctors in the world. It will be OK. And it wasn't.

GABRIELLA MILLER: Hi. My name is Gabriella Miller. I'm ten years old and I have brain cancer.

WALLACE: Gabriella decided she would campaign for more funding to find a cure.

GABRIELLA MILLER: Less and less kids are going to have their childhood if awareness -- if people don't raise awareness and raise funds.

WALLACE: The tumor was the size of a walnut on her brain stem which pressed on nerves to the rest of her body. The Millers would smash walnuts to give her a sense of control. And they started the Smashing Walnuts Foundation to raise money for research.

GABRIELLA MILLER: I'm smashing walnuts, cracking the cure for childhood brain cancer.

WALLACE: Then there was Macy's, which promised to donate a dollar to the Make a Wish foundation for every letter written to Santa.

ELLYN MILLER: The average wish was $7500, so we made it our goal to get 10,000 letters.

WALLACE (on camera): How many letters did she end up getting?

ELLYN MILLER: She personally delivered over 240,000 letters.

WALLACE (voice over): But Gabriella also wanted to squeeze all the life she could into the brief time she had. She wanted to go to college. Shenandoah University put her through a day of classes. Then staged a ceremony to give her an honorary degree.

GABRIELLA MILLER: I've had a wonderful day. And, you know, I can't wait to come back and learn more in a year.

MARK MILLER: She said to us that was the best day of her life and she died a week later.

(APPLAUSE)

WALLACE: There was only one thing that got Gabriella down, the failure of Washington to put more money into research. She delivered a blunt message.

GABRIELLA MILLER: You stop talking and start doing. Talking (INAUDIBLE) we need action.

(LAUGHTER)

WALLACE: After her death last October, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor saw that video. He pushed the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act through Congress, $126 million over the next decade.

HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER ERIC CANTOR, R-VA.: This place can often be about politics and what we're trying to do is put the curing of disease for children above politics.

MARK MILLER: I want people to remember that she achieved what she wanted far too young.

WALLACE: Her parents didn't tell Gabriella she was dying until two days before she did. But she knew. Her mom read a poem Gabriella wrote six weeks before her death.

ELLYN MILLER: I die here tonight so that you are able to go on so that you will not stand and watch the world's children go. I go for you.

She was ten years old. And she was dying and yet she is thinking about other kids.

GABRIELLA MILLER: That might be one of the reasons why I got cancer so -- not as many kids will die. If I lose my battle, then I want people to carry on for more and I'll be with my friends. And I'll be in a good place. It won't be all that bad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: President Obama will sign the Gabriella Miller Act into law on Thursday. If you'd like to learn more about the Smashing Walnuts Foundation, please go to our website foxnewssunday.com. And that's it for today. Have a great week. We'll see you next "Fox News Sunday."

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Exclusive: Gov. Christie talks 2016 campaign, calls Clinton a 'disgrace'

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On the Show

Sunday August 30, 2015

This Sunday: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has positioned himself as the “tell it like it is” candidate, so how does he compete with the likes of the blunt, straight talk from rival Donald Trump? We’ll talk to the Governor about his strategy to stay in the top 10 heading into the next GOP debate. It’s a Fox News Sunday exclusive.