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Growing frustration over president's response to VA scandal; will Russia respect Ukraine vote
Written by Chris Wallace / Published May 25, 2014 / Fox News Sunday
Special Guests: Derek Bennett, Dr. Margaret Moxness, Sen. Kelly Ayotte
This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Sunday," May 25, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: I'm Chris Wallace.
Chilling Internet videos and new crime scene in that California shooting rampage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very, very apparent that he was severely mentally disturbed.
WALLACE: The killer, the son of a Hollywood director, whose family alerted police of videos he posted online. We'll go live to Santa Barbara where authorities are gathering evidence at multiple crime scenes.
Then, growing frustration on the right and left with President Obama's response to the V.A. scandal.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If these allegations prove to be true, it is dishonorable. It is disgraceful. And I will not tolerate it, period.
SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER, R-OHIO: This isn't about one person. This isn't about the secretary. It's about the entire system underneath it.
REP. DAVID SCOTT, D-GA.: Mr. President, we need urgency. We need you to roll up our sleeves and get into these hospitals!
WALLACE: We'll talk with Derek Bennett of Iraq and Afghanistan's Veterans of America, and V.A. whistleblower, Dr. Margaret Moxness.
Plus, the V.A. becomes the latest scandal the president supposedly learns about through the media.
REPORTER: When was the president first made aware of these problems?
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think were reported first by your network out of Phoenix, I believe, we learned about them through the reports.
WALLACE: What does this say about President Obama's leadership? Our Sunday panel weighs in.
And Russia vows to respect the outcome of today's presidential election in Ukraine despite deadly attacks by pro-Russian rebels. We'll have a live report from the region.
And Senator Kelly Ayotte joins us from Kiev. It's a "Fox News Sunday" exclusive.
Plus, our Power Player of the Week -- honoring our nation's veterans with a proper military farewell.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No amount of money could ever buy the feeling that I get from the family once I finish the 24 notes.
WALLACE: All, right now, on "Fox News Sunday."
WALLACE: And hello again from Fox News in Washington.
Disturbing new developments today in a college student's murderous rampage across a California seaside community. Police say 22-year-old Elliot Rodger stabbed three men to death before a shooting free along the streets near the University of California-Santa Barbara.
Rodger laid out his deadly plan in a video just hours before the attack, but we are not going to play his message and give the killer the spotlight he so clearly wanted.
We're going to have a report in a few moments from Dominic Di-Natale live in Santa Barbara live.
Pope Francis holding mass at Mangers Square in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, during his first papal visit to the Holy Land. Francis called the stalemate in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks unacceptable. Both the Palestinian and Israeli presidents have now accepted his invitation to the Vatican next month to pray for peace.
Now, to the V.A. scandal which on Memorial Day weekend is especially troubling. More reports of our veterans waiting months for health care while administrators cook the books to hide the problem. But President Obama says he wants to see more studies before taking action.
We brought in Derek Bennett, chief of staff of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, to discuss the scandal. Along with a doctor and whistle-blower Margaret Moxness who says there were dangerous delays in treatment at the V.A. center in West Virginia where she worked.
This week, President Obama finally spoke out about the V.A. scandal.
Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: If these allegations prove to be true, it is dishonorable, it is disgraceful and I will not tolerate it, period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: But while the rhetoric was strong, the president did not actually do anything. He didn't fire anyone. He didn't announce any plans to fix the problem. Mr. Bennett, you say he is dithering around, your words.
DEREK BENNETT, IRAQ & AFGHANISTAN VETS OF AMERICA: Yes, we think that he is, Chris. I mean, our 270,000 members and supporters were certainly expecting more in the way of a plan of action from the president rather than waiting for another report.
WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about that. The president says, not unreasonably, that he wants to see studies coming from secretaries in the next week and from the inspector general. That might not be until July or August. But looking at it ourselves, there have been reports of gaming of the system going all the way back to 2008. In fact, President Obama -- and we have some clips that we're going to play, President Obama has been talking about precisely this problem for years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: No veteran should have to fill out a 23-page claim to get care or wait months, even years to get an appointment at the V.A.
I pledge to build a 21st century V.A. We need to cut throughout red tape.
All with a simple mission, cut those backlogs, slash those wait times, deliver your benefits sooner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Mr. Bennett, given all the comments, as I say, going back to 2007, does the president need still more studies before acting?
BENNETT: I don't think so, Chris. I mean at this point we agree strongly with candidate Obama, the first administration President Obama. There have been plenty of studies, scores of I.G. reports, GAO reports dating back to 2008 alleging gaming of the system, as you said. There was a transition team memo from President Bush to President Obama, alleging that there's some gaming potentially going on.
At some point, we have to stop studying and actually start action.
WALLACE: So, how do you explain it? How do you explain with the fact that with all the studies, and as you say, a lot had been described by candidate Obama in the past, why the failure to act now?
BENNETT: You know, it's a Washington bureaucracy. I think it's much easier to talk than take actual action. I think there is a little bit of cynicism in the hopes that this story, that the public attention on this, is going to go away soon.
WALLACE: Dr. Moxness, you worked as a psychiatrist at the V.A. facility in West Virginia for two years. And you say that they would often come in. You get to see them. They have serious problems. You'd say I need to see you back here in a week to 10 days. But then it would take them months to get back.
How dangerous was that situation?
DR. MARGARET MOXNESS, VA HOSPITAL WHISTLEBLOWER: Well, dangerous because they were -- when you start a patient into care and then expose them to the risks that are inherent in treatment, you need to watch them more closely in order to help them along until they're more stable. So, we didn't -- I was not seeing any secret waiting list, but my patients were waiting and they were waiting in a way that made them more risky, more likely to be suicidal. So in a sense that we doctors want to first do no harm, I -- my remarks to my administration was better they not be seen than partially treated because they're put in a worse place than they were before they came in. And that's where we butted heads and that was our argument.
WALLACE: I'm going to get to the argument in a second. I want to talk about the treatment of the veterans first. In fact, you say that two vets shortly before you arrived who had been waiting for care committed suicide. Explain why it is so dangerous to begin to see a veteran or any patient who has mental emotional problems and then they can't get back to see you promptly.
MOXNESS: Well, to start with, these are unstable patients and they need to be promptly identified and put in contact with a treatment facility or as Derek's organization does, network with the social resources and their communities in order to come up with a comprehensive treatment plan. So you have to be nimble and quick. An organization like the IAVA is very nimble and quick, does very little with not much money and fewer staff in efficacious manner.
But you have a cumbersome bureaucracy -- and my clinic was very good at getting them within the 14 days. But then the clinic became filled to capacity and what can you do? You need more treatment staff which is why this idea of privatization is a good idea. We need to --
WALLACE: We're going to -- we're going to get to that in a second, but now, let's talk about the argument. Because you did report these problems, the fact you see somebody and then you want to see them two weeks later and they have to wait for months. In fact, you even wrote a memo about it to your superiors.
WALLACE: How did V.A. administrators, your immediate superiors react to that?
MOXNESS: Well, the initial contact with them was verbal. I just assumed they'd be interested in hearing what I have to say verbally. But I got the idea that they were just letting me talk. So I thought well, in my past experience, they respond to the written word.
So I did say you will not be able to say that you weren't warned because these men are already suicidal, partially treated, more suicidal. So there will be deaths. And you won't be able to say you weren't warned now because I'm telling you, you're exposing them to a greater risk. That's when things went south.
WALLACE: And when you say they went south, then what happened?
MOXNESS: The silence fell. That is no one answered my calls. I never controlled. Doctors in my clinic didn't control scheduling or time.
So, they kept putting in more patients. But I wasn't able to complain to anybody because no one answered my calls. So I realized the more patients I'm seeing, the more I'm putting more guys at risk, they're pushing back my patients I already had. I'm seeing them in May, follow up in October. I mean that's bad practice.
WALLACE: You sound, even though this is some years ago, you still sound emotional about this, Mr. Moxness.
MOXNESS: Well, yes. Neither choice was good. I could either stay and work and bring my patient mores risk or I could leave and leave my other vets in the lurch, two bad choices. But I thought, at least my older vets have this treatment plan and a workup, and maybe they could -- they would stand a better to -- inconvenience but they could be treated. And maybe I wouldn't be participating in something that brings young Iraqi vets more harm. So, yes, it was a very hard choice. It was painful.
But I'm very gratified to be a part of what's happening now which is the lightest scrutiny is being shown on the problem.
WALLACE: OK. Let's talk about one possible fix, because this weekend the administration announced it is going to allow at least some veterans who have been waiting months for care to get private treatment. Dr. Bennett, how helpful is that?
BENNETT: So, I think it's going to be extremely helpful, but it's also a step that could have been put in place years ago. The idea of a public-private partnership providing veterans or anyone the access of private health care that is paid for by the government when the capacity isn't there in the V.A. is a no-brainer to me.
WALLACE: Dr. Moxness, do you think that's the idea of at least some privatization, allowing people who have been waiting and not being able to get care to go see private doctors as a good idea?
MOXNESS: Absolutely a good idea. And really, what other solution is there? And I agree with Mr. Bennett. It should have happened a long time ago.
I was hoping for that when I worked in Charleston, West Virginia. There were therapists and health care providers and prescribers in the community with open hours who would have treated them. So, it wouldn't have been hard. We need them quickly. You have to be nimble.
That's why I like the organization. They're quick and they get the job done.
WALLACE: When Secretary Shinseki testified before Congress last week, week before last, some people were struck by his lack of emotion, his lack of seeming passion to fix the problem. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC SHINSEKI, SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: Any allegation, any adverse incident like this, makes me as -- makes me mad as hell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Mr. Bennett, does -- do your vets, the vets in your organization, did they still have confidence in Secretary Shinseki or do they think that he needs to go?
BENNETT: We certainly respect the secretary's almost five decades of service to his country at this point. But as you play in that clip, Chris, that a gentlemen who is mad as hell in the most even tone manner I think I've ever heard in my life. Our veterans are outraged and they are actually outraged and impassioned, and day by day, they were -- excuse me, day by day, they're losing confidence in him.
WALLACE: Finally, Mr. Bennett, the V.A. budget has tripled. It's not for a lack of money. It tripled since the year of 2000 but with an influx of veterans including your group from Iraq and Afghanistan, plus the aging population of older vets, the number of primary care visits has gone up 50 percent in the last three years. So, I guess the question is the V.A. system just overwhelmed?
BENNETT: I think it most likely is. I mean, there are a couple different components of it. One is whether or not the V.A. has enough resources. And as you said, the budget has gone up. Then, it's whether or not they have officially allocated those resources and one really has to wonder if they're able to balance supply and demand.
In addition, you know, you can't really balance supply and demand when you're shutting off important streams of communication like Dr. Moxness' leadership and raising her hand and saying there's a problem here and the V.A. rather than responding to it just stops returning your calls.
WALLACE: We're going have to leave it there, Mr. Bennett, Dr. Moxness -- thank you both. Thanks for coming in on this holiday weekend.
MOXNESS: Thank you, Chris.
BENNETT: Thank you, Chris.
WALLACE: When we come back, top officials from the president down are said to be mad as hell about the V.A. scandal. Our Sunday panel joins the conversation. Are they doing enough to fix it?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: As commander-in- chief, I believe that taking care of our veterans and their families is a sacred obligation. It's been one of the causes of my presidency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: President Obama in his weekly address this Memorial Day reaffirming his commitment to our veterans during the V.A. scandal.
And it's time now for our Sunday group. Syndicated columnist George Will, author of the book "A Nice Little Place on the North Side," about Wrigley Field at 100. USA Today columnist Kirsten Powers. Kimberley Strassel of The Wall Street Journal. And Charles Lane from The Washington Post.
Will, congressional Republicans are building a narrative from the V.A. scandal that this is all part of the incompetence of President Obama and as big government solutions and it's a preview of where he would take the country with ObamaCare. George, given the fact that the V.A. has been a troubled department for decades, is that fair?
GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Half way fair. I mean, I have a smidgeon of sympathy for the president, one of his favorite words, when he says he learns about things like this from the newspapers. The fact is big government is too big for meaningful oversight and effective management from the Oval Office to the White House. It just is. He will not draw conclusions from that.
But why are we surprised the government that runs the post office badly and runs Amtrak badly can't run a health care system? Delivering a postcard from A to B or a passenger from point A to point B is a lot simpler than delivering health care. So, we shouldn't be surprised by this.
WALLACE: Kirsten, the argument is when the government gets involved with health care, that there is no incentive because the doctors are all in salaries, there's no incentive to see more patients. Therefore, you get the backlog, the waiting times, then the gaming of the system.
Do you buy that argument, it's the V.A. now and it will be ObamaCare later?
KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY: No, well, I don't -- ObamaCare and the V.A. are not the same thing. Of course, the V.A. is really government-run health care where you have the government controlling everything. That's not what ObamaCare is. ObamaCare is more like insurance. You know, you don't have the doctors working for ObamaCare. So, I don't think it's the same thing.
I also think the private sector has a lot of problems. You know, Amtrak -- you have a problem with Amtrak -- well, I have a lot of problems with U.S. Air and American and United. So, you know, this idea that somehow putting things off into the private sector is going to make everything work, also doesn't work if you consider your experiences, at least experiences I've had with insurance companies, health insurance companies.
So, you know, this is not a surprising argument coming from Republicans. It's always their argument. Take anything that's happening in the world and this is the argument that they follow it through. It's always proof that big government is a problem. So, it's not surprising that that's the answer here.
WALLACE: But, Kim, you know, the argument would be -- well, you get the long wait times because there isn't the profit incentive. You also get rationing which is in effect what's going on now in V.A. and that that could happen under ObamaCare.
KIMBERLEY STRASSEL, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, I mean, as George said, this is about mismanagement. But it's also, you cannot manage a failed system. This is -- you know, to quote the liberal economist Paul Krugman, he called socialized -- the triumph of socialized medicine, the V.A.
Well, it's not such a triumph. But the idea is, when you don't have a private system, you don't have individual consumers who are making choices about their care, pushing care upward, pushing prices downward, you have an endless demand on services and no matter how much you throw at it, no matter how many good officials you put at top, you will ever effectively manage the system, which is why they had to start over.
And ObamaCare is where we are headed next, because that's the entire premise of it. More free care, more of government providing and mandating things that you as a consumer supposedly deserve.
At a certain point, the system is not going to be able to handle that burden anymore.
WALLACE: Tim, I want to ask you another question, because House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi had her particular take on what caused the V.A. scandal this week. Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOUSE MINORITY LEADER NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF. Maybe when we go into war, we should be thinking about its consequences and ramifications. You would think that would be a given. But maybe it wasn't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Kim, the president also touched on that this week in his statement in the White House briefing room, that these are the fruits of a decade of war.
STRASSEL: Well, you know, there are not many things that Nancy Pelosi would not blame on George Bush. But the reality is that the numbers again here are in fact wrong. It is true that the Iraq and Afghanistan war -- most think of this V.A. crisis, they tend to think of the most recent wars we've had, those have been expensive wars in particular in terms of the medical injuries we've had, amputees and brain injuries. But if you look in the GAO has explained this, the vast burden on the V.A. is actually coming from Vietnam and Korean veterans. It's not just because they have war-related injuries, but because they are now of that age. They're baby boomers. They have all of the health issues that are related to everyone else their age. It is the primary cause of a lot of the V.A.'s money problems at the moment.
WALLACE: You know, this scandal is politically potent precisely because it is in a sense so nonpolitical. We all, Republicans, Democrats, liberal liberals, conservatives, we all care about our veterans. Here is what House Speaker Boehner had to say this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: These are men and women who served our country and -- we've not just let them down, we've let them die. This is awful stuff. And somebody ought to be held accountable for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Chuck, can Republicans convince voters to hold Democratic candidates running for election or re-election in the midterm to hold them accountable for the V.A. scandal?
LANE: Well, that is certainly what they're trying to do. And as you know, Speaker Boehner's House colleagues already paused the bill rather quickly that would enhance the authority of the V.A. to fire people without usual protections that they had before. Veterans as a group, it's true, they sort of everyone respects and loves veterans as they should.
But veterans as a group are kind of politically interesting. They're overall kind of conservative people. They have a military background and so forth. And most of them are older men.
But they depend on big government. So, they're in kind of an interesting space in our political system. It's awkward for Republicans to be in the position of saying we'll make big government work better because usually their position is privatize smaller government work. So, I think that's the jam that Republicans are in.
Now, of course, President Obama has been pushing very hard. His wife has been working with military families and so forth, trying to sort of turn veterans into a Democratic group based on the younger, more diverse military that we have. And this is a huge setback to that effort.
WILL: You solve that problem Republican in the following way. Kirsten says, look, Amtrak has trouble and so does U.S. Air. The difference is airlines, as a lot of them could tell you, go out of business. Amtrak is run by a government that prints money and therefore can never let Amtrak go out of business no matter how many billions it loses year after year after year. With the Republicans, it seems (ph), we should say is this -- this weekend, Memorial Day weekend, Americans are here and there on the interstate system. When the government decided to build that, that the country needed it, it didn't go into the highway building business. It didn't start a federal highway construction company.
It dealt with the private sector. And it got done. They can do the same thing with this. There's no reason in the world why, if I can use this word, it's anathema to Democrats, give people vouchers to be redeemed in our private hospital system.
WALLACE: All right. We need to take a break here. We'll see you all a little later.
What do you think about the latest developments in the V.A. scandal? Join the conversation on Facebook with other FNS viewers.
Up next, a fiercely divided Ukraine votes on a new lead in the violence. We'll have a live report and talk with Senator Kelly Ayotte, who is in Ukraine as part of a group monitoring the election.
WALLACE: We mentioned the murderous rampage in California at the top of the show. Let's go live now to FOX News correspondent Dominic Di-Natalie in Santa Barbara with the latest -- Dominic.
DOMINIC DI-NATALE, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Chris. Yes, this is a memorial weekend marred by the work of a mad man. And that's how people here in this student enclave of Isla Vista will remember the act of murder and savagery.
Several thousand people turned out for a silent vigil procession, walking through the student enclave here last night. That solemnity and stark contrast frankly with the anger from the father of one of the victims, that was Christian Ross-Martinez, the 20-year-old student gunned down at the Isla Vista deli.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD MARTINEZ, VICTIM'S FATHER: When will this insanity stop? When will enough people say stop this madness? We don't have to live like this! Too many have died! We should say to ourselves, not one more!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DI-NATALE: Surveillance footage of that killing reveals customers diving for cover as the gunman opens fire inside the store. The investigation is proceeding on several fronts today, Chris. The 10 separate locations of this atrocity.
Also, the sheriff is saying Rodger's main target was the Alpha Phi sorority house, he shot three women outside there. Before that, he stabbed to death three people at his apartment complex, possibly his roommate. Then, those YouTube videos in which he pledges his day of retribution, how he described it because, quote, "no beautiful girl wants to be my girlfriend." He continues, "I will take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you."
There is also the blood-chilling manifesto filled with vicious hatred towards women and his plans to kill as many as possible.
Here's what we know about Elliot Rodger. He was 22, the son of an assistant director of "The Hunger Games." He was in therapy with a high functioning patient with Asperger's syndrome and had difficulty making friends. There was three (INAUDIBLE) with police he had. Just four weeks ago the authorities checked in on the welfare of Rodger. A visit at his family's request. Police found him polite and courteous. In his manifesto, Rodger said had authority -- had officers stepped inside his apartment at that time, they would have discovered his deadly arsenal and that was three semiautomatic handguns and at least 500 unspent rounds of ammunition. All of it obtained legally, Chris. Back to you.
WALLACE: Dominic, thank you.
A critical election in Ukraine today as voters head to the polls to pick a new president and hope to ease the standoff with Russia. Let's get the latest now from Fox News senior foreign affairs correspondent Greg Palkot who is live in Donetsk, a strong hold of pro-Russian separatists.
GREG PALKOT, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Chris, it is a tense day in this region. Pro-Russia separatists are doing everything they can to derail the presidential election here. They are seizing and smashing ballot boxes. They're blocking voters from going to the polls. They're attacking polling stations and basically showing off their well-armed muscle all around town. For example, here in Donetsk, a city of 1 million, there was basically nobody voting. The same for another major city Lugansk. Across this region, officials say only around 20 percent of the election districts are functioning. We stopped in on one. Take a look at what we saw.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALKOT: Something very rare in eastern Ukraine, voting in the presidential elections here in the town of (INAUDIBLE). The turnout, we are told, is pretty normal. However, the people here we're also told are a bit nervous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PALKOT: Now even in that town we saw a heavily armed pro-Kiev militia just right around the corner from the voting, waiting to do battle with rebel militants if they arrive. Still, across the rest of the country, voting is going as planned. The turnout is said to be high. The election is seen as locking in gains from pro-democracy uprisings here earlier this year and maybe getting a government in place that can deal with the situation here and deal with Russia. Vladimir Putin has claimed he will respect the outcome of the voting. Chris?
WALLACE: Greg Palkot, reporting from Donetsk. Greg, thanks for that. Let's bring in our panel to discuss the situation in the election. George, let's assume that what happened is what we expect, which is the election as it appears so far, we are several hours into it, it will go pretty well in the West and there will be some areas in the east where it is blocked because of the pro-Russian separatists who in Donetsk and other areas have simply in some cases literally broken the ballot boxes. Where does that leave Ukraine?
GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It leaves Ukraine in a position where Putin can say that it is his sacred obligation to defend Russian minorities outside the borders of Russia. And he can say that this election, the purpose of which is to legitimize something, didn't legitimize anything else. And therefore, that he will have an excuse to propose or to enforce the partition of Ukraine, which seems to be what he is after in the first place. We forget that during the Second World War when there were no foreign troops on British soil, the British didn't hold an election. They just suspended elections. Very difficult to do this in a kind of chaos that they're experiencing there.
WALLACE: There is another possibility and that is that the Ukrainian government is talking more and more about greater autonomy for the east and the front-runner in this election and let's put his picture up on the screen, is a fellow named Petro Poroshenko. And Poroshenko is known as the candy tycoon or the chocolate king. And he has had a history of dealing with both the Ukrainians, the pro-Western Ukrainians as well as with Russia. And Kirsten, there is some feeling he is somebody who could do business with both sides. I mean is it possible that Putin looks at it particularly if Poroshenko ends up as the president and says, look, I'm not going to have to go in, but I can deal with this guy. He won't take an aggressively pro-Western position and have a lot of influence over Eastern Ukraine. I can kind of do it without having my fingerprints all over it.
KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Well, I think that is the hope is that Putin will somehow back down. The problem is, that hasn't really -- seemed to be his style thus far. And I think that that is certainly the feeling the administration has had, which is why they haven't done that much other than try to invoke sanctions because they don't feel like they have a lot of control over what Putin is going to do. I think he seems to be obviously very aggressive and wanting to be an aggressor in this situation. So it would be great if he felt that this was someone that he could work with (INAUDIBLE)
WALLACE: But Kimberley, there has been some backing off on the part of Putin. He has talked about pulling troops out and now for the first time, at least, the NATO is saying, oh, it looks like he is beginning to pull some troops out from the border. And he's also talked, understood, about that they would recognize the results of this election. So is it possible he feels that to flip a phrase that Margaret Thatcher used about Mikhail Gorbachev that this is a government we can do business with?
KIMBERLEY STRASSEL, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, I mean, remember, he has been very careful all along. A lot of the disruption that has been going on in the Ukraine we know is coming from Russia. But he's been very careful to do it in a way that we wouldn't necessarily be able to trace it back to the Kremlin. So I think he's -- he understands now that the world realizes he is a bad actor in this and that's probably influencing to some degree what he's doing.
CHARLES LANE, WASHINGTON POST: Well, I don't know whether he's been deterred, cowed or whatever that much. I think he is also perhaps responding to the fact that in the eastern Ukraine, all these disruptions, provocations, violence that his minions -- let's face it, these are actual Russian agents and soldiers in (INAUDIBLE). They're not pro-Russian Ukrainians, have not been able actually to stir up a big popular revolt for joining Russia. In fact, popular response has been pretty modest. And I think he may have realized that that was a limitation on what he can do. Perhaps more than anything the West was imposing on him. There is a sort of Finland-ization scenario for Ukraine that may be at work. You remember during the Cold War, Finland kind of accepted a certain level of Russian influence and didn't join NATO and sort of stayed in that gray area between East and West. And now this is supposed to be the happy ending that awaits Ukraine. That would have to be negotiated between this next government and Putin and unfortunately, unless the West stands behind whatever legitimate government comes out of this election, the deal they would have to cut to achieve even that sort of ending could be very unfavorable to Ukraine and very favorable to Russia. But it does seem that Putin is awaiting the outcome of this election to then see what sort of a deal he can cut.
WALLACE: So let me throw out a controversial extension of all this. There is a lot of criticism at this table of the argument that President Obama and the Europeans have been very weak in their sanctions against Russia. And the slow targeted sanctions, not the secretarial sanctions, is it just possible at the end of the day that will it have been maybe in a kind of muddling through way, a fairly effective policy and while Putin obviously will have taken Crimea, and will still have a lot of influence in eastern Ukraine, George, it won't be the worst case scenario where Putin just kind of rushes -- rolls into eastern Ukraine and takes over a whole new sphere of influence?
WILL: It's possible that we can say that such restraint that he shows he shows because he fears sanctions we've not yet put on. But it doesn't -- it seems to me that is three or four suppositions deep.
WILL: Clearly, he can do what he wants there. Because Europe is hostage to its lowest common denominator of resistance and in the way that is Germany at this point. And the United States is hostage to Europe because it doesn't look as though we can do very much on our own hook, other than make ourselves feel good by imposing sanction that would be quite porous if they're only from us.
WALLACE: Kim, I'd like you to finish this up. Your thoughts about whether President Obama and Europeans and their targeted sanctions may end up looking better than they did a month ago?
STRASSEL: I think the only problem with that is that it ignores all the harm that has in fact been done already. So the people who have died in all of these uprisings that might not have happened had America had a firmer line in the very beginning, that's one, also just the present that is set. America has looked very weak. And Putin knows that he can roll into some of these places and largely not be pushed back. You know, other than, as you said, some sort of slow rolling targeted sanctions. So he may have internal reasons for deciding. And that is an aspect of this, too, Chris. We don't know what kind of pushback he is getting in a country that has itself a fairly weak economy. There is a bit of worry about what comes next. So, he may feel at this point that some sort of quiet or minimal retreat. But some precedent has been set here which do not help this country or Eastern or Western Europe.
WALLACE: All right. We are going to have to take a break here. We should point out, we have promised you we were going to have Senator Kelly Ayotte live from Kiev. She's there as part of an international observing group.
It turns out it's raining in Kiev. Now I can't explain it. But because it's raining, our satellite isn't working. I liked it better when we just had long strings with two cups at the end of it. When we come back, ever notice the president's answer when it comes to scandals and his administration?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I first learned about it from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Our Sunday panel discusses what that's all about. Plus, what would you like to ask the panel about the president and accountability? Just go to Facebook or Twitter at FoxNewsSunday and we may use your question on the air.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Let me take the IRS situation first. I first learned about it from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We don't have any independent knowledge of that. He found out about the news report yesterday on the road. These are specific allegations that I think were reported first by your network out of Phoenix, I believe. We learned about them through the reports.
MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: President Obama, the most powerful man in the free world always seems to be last to know about what's going on in his own administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Well, President Obama taking some heat after he and top aides repeatedly claim the president learned about scandals through the media. And we're back now with the panel. We ask you for questions for the panel. We got a lot on this topic. David Mansfield posted this of Facebook. "How inept is an administration who learns all its important news through the media?" We got this on Twitter from Chris Slawek. "Good thing we have the news. IT seems that is how he learns, he, the president learns, about a lot of things in his own administration." Kim, why do you think that the White House keeps playing this card?
STRASSEL: Well, because they can't say that they did know or else the next question is going to be, why didn't you do anything about it or why were you allowing this to go on? You almost -- you have to wonder if there is a scandal manual in the top drawer of the president's desk. It isn't just the I heard about it from the media. There is five steps that this administration keeps repeating every time the scandal comes up. Step one is, well, I didn't know about it, step two is to express great outrage. When that doesn't work, step three is to fire some low level bureaucrat.
WALLACE: The study -- The study is going ...
STRASSEL: The study comes next. Then, you know, we're going to wait and see what the I.G. says or the FBI investigation or whatever it is. And then when that doesn't stop, six months later, you say it's either A, done or B, all the results are the partisan pushed by Republicans. And it just goes on and on. You could take -- this is not just the clips of him repeating again and again I didn't know about this, when you listen to some of his press conferences, they're eerie. It's the exact same language every time.
WALLACE: Chuck, it does serve to distance the president from the problem, at least, originally. I didn't know about it. But it does, and particularly when you see the pattern that's happened over and over again. It does make him look awfully out of touch.
LANE: It does. Although as Kim pointed out, he is in a bit of a trap, you know. He can't say oh, yes, I had detailed knowledge of all those things going on ...
LANE: because then everybody will wonder why didn't you do anything about it? I'm going to give him a little bit of the benefit of the doubt in one sense. There's been a lot of talk he doesn't seem angry. Eric Shinseki doesn't seem angry. This is not -- come on, this is not about emotions. It is perfectly fair for a president or anybody else who is confronted with this kind of information to say I'm checking into it. I want to find out what the real facts are and so forth. That is a perfectly legitimate response. But he has got to go out and find them, you know? And he has got to come out and find a way to express them forthrightly and convincingly.
WALLACE: All right. This show, we are kind of making it up as we go along. We now hear that the rain has stopped and the satellite is working in Kiev. Senator Ayotte, I hope you are there, and I'm going to get you very quickly before the wind changes. From the reports that you've received -- as we mentioned you're part of an international observer group. How is the election going today in Ukraine and are Ukrainians getting the chance to vote for a new president in a way that you think will be seen as a widely legitimate election?
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R-NH), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Well, what we've seen, Chris, is high turnout throughout Ukraine. Obviously, Donetsk, Lugansk, the security situation there is preventing many people from voting in those two regions. And I just want to make clear there is one person to blame for that security situation and that is Vladimir Putin. Because he has had strategic control of what is happening there. It paid mercenaries. It is also the violence and intimidation and the fear for the people that live in that region.
WALLACE: As you mentioned, there was a lot of talk and considerable violence from pro-Russian separatist who's said they were not going to allow this election to take place. I know you're in Kiev in the western part of the country. But what reports are you getting from the eastern part in how effective the separatists have been in disrupting the election in that part of the country?
AYOTTE: Well, I think, unfortunately, in Donetsk and Lugansk we don't have observers there because of the security situation. They have disrupted the elections there. But in the rest of Ukraine, particularly here in Kiev, the polling stations that I visited, high turnout. People are waiting patiently. They want to exercise their right to vote and to elect a new president. And I think what you see here is actually pushback against what has happened with the Russian aggression. So that's what we're seeing in this part of the country. But make no mistake, obviously in the eastern part of Ukraine, in Donetsk and Lugansk those elections are being disrupted for many Ukrainians. And Putin is the one that can dial this up or dial this down.
WALLACE: The big favorite to win this election as we mentioned with the panel in the last segment is the candy tycoon Petro Poroshenko who is known as the chocolate king. Now if he gets more than 50 percent of the vote, he avoids a runoff. Otherwise, he and the other top finisher have a runoff in mid- June. Not to prejudge the election, but if Poroshenko were to win and he is seen as someone who can do business with both the East and the West, where would that leave Ukraine, do you believe?
AYOTTE: Well, I actually met with Poroshenko yesterday along with our delegation. I think it leaves Ukraine, he was very clear, actually, that he would not accept the annexation of Crimea. He would actually like us to increase our support in terms of their military. He would also, I think that as you look he will try to reach out to eastern Ukraine to establish more communication and ties there for the people who are there. But he also wants us to continue and I think there is a general feeling here of pushing back on Putin so they can have security in that area because, obviously, the violence that's being fermented interferes with unifying the country.
WALLACE: Senator Ayotte, I'm glad the rain stopped. I'm glad we've got a chance to talk with you. Safe travels back home. Thank you so much for talking with us, senator.
AYOTTE: Thanks, Chris. Appreciate it.
WALLACE: Let's change subjects here at home. After a lot of back end talk, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has decided to appoint five Democrats to the House select committee on Benghazi. Here was her explanation for her change of mind.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: I do think it is important for the American people to have a pursuit of these questions done in a fair and open balanced way as possible. That simply would not be possible leaving it to the Republicans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: George, is that the right move for Democrats? And how much do you think this was as a result of Clinton, Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State Clinton who will undoubtedly be called to testify before this committee, her and her staff wanting to have some Democrats there as they used to say on "Do You Want to Be a Millionaire" to provide a lifeline?
WILL: Well, it is a tactical decision on the part of Nancy Pelosi. It made the calculation as her caucus presumably did for her that it's better to be in the room than not in the room. I think that may not be true. It seems to me, if I were Hillary Clinton and were destined to be subpoenaed before this committee, I'd rather be Daniel in the den of lions by myself. I just think it's better optics. But -- and Republicans should remember the last time a committee, well, not the last time, but one of the last times the committee had someone in their sights and said we're really going to get this guy, it was later Fox News contributor Colonel Oliver North who stood up in his uniform and changed the dynamic of the Iran-contra hearing. So again, they should be careful what they wish for.
WALLACE: Yeah. It's always dangerous when the dog actually catches the car that it is chasing.
WALLACE: Kirsten, your feelings about the Democrats? Because this was a tough call for them.
POWERS: Well, I felt all along that it was better for them to be there than not be there. Because it would look like they don't care, like they don't think this is a real issue. And it would give the Republicans too much of a free reign to do pretty much whatever they want. And I think Pelosi wants them there. She has chosen people who have been on the committees that have already investigated this, so they can say this is old news. We have already seen this. To kind of tamp down, you know, the sense that there are new revelations coming and to run interference a little bit, I think. I don't think it's to send a lifeline to Hillary Clinton. I don't think Hillary Clinton needs a lifeline, but maybe for other people who come in, you know, to try to help them out.
WALLACE: All right. Thank you, panel. Thank you Senator Ayotte. Up, next, our Power Player of the Week, honoring America's fallen with 24 musical notes
WALLACE: It's a holiday tradition here that we profile a man who created his own special project to make every day a memorial day for our fallen heroes. Once again, he's our power player of the week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM DAY, BUGLES ACROSS AMERICA: You're playing it. It's only 24 notes. But it's so meaningful to that family.
WALLACE: Tom Day is talking about playing "Taps" at the funerals of military veterans. And he should know. He's the founder and president of an organization called "Bugles across America."
WALLACE (on camera): All told, how many funerals have you done since you started Bugles Across America? DAY: 200,000.
DAY: In ten years, right.
WALLACE (voice over): It started back in 2000 when Congress gave every vet the right to a funeral with military honors. Including two uniformed officers to present a flag and play "Taps." The problem was the military only had 500 buglers. So they sent someone to play a recorded "Taps" on a boom box or an electronic device inside a bugle. Tom Day who played in the Marines in the '50s didn't like it.
DAY: I call it stolen dignity. That these veterans can't get live "Taps" when we are out there ready to perform live "Taps."
WALLACE: So he started his organization. Recruiting 400 horn players within a year.
DAY: Now we have 6,270 horn players and we're doing 2200 funerals a month.
WALLACE: It's become quite an operation that Day runs out of his basement near Chicago. Families can go on his website to ask for a bugler. A message is sent to every horn player within 100 miles of the funeral. Day gives away bugles and helps with uniforms. While he gets support from foundations, he runs a deficit every year.
(on camera): How do you make up for the short fall?
DAY: I kind of make it up myself.
WALLACE: $15,000 -- $20,000 a year?
DAY: Probably $10,000. You finish the last of the 24 notes. You put the horn down and the flag has been presented. And the family comes over. The kisses, the handshakes from these families, there is nothing, no amount of money could ever buy the feeling that I get from the family once I finish the 24 notes.
WALLACE (voice over): With soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan plus 1800 veterans of World War II dying every day, there is a flood of military funerals. Day says he wants to keep going until he dies. Then leave his organization and solid shape to carry on.
DAY: I want every family to have live "Taps" at that going away presentation of their veteran and it kind of tells the Marines who are guarding the gates in heaven, live Taps, we're going to let this veteran ride in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Since we first ran this story five years ago, Tom Day's organization has more than 5400 active members. And the Pentagon credits them with playing at 35 percent of all veterans funerals. If you want to learn more, go to our website, FoxNews.com/FNS. And that's it for today. We hope you'll take a moment this weekend to remember all the men and women who have given their lives defending our freedom. And we'll see you next "Fox News Sunday."
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