All-Star Panel: Which scandal is most dangerous for administration?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," May 23, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: As commander and chief, I believe we must keep information secret that protects our operations and our people in the field. To do so, we must enforce consequences for those who break the law and breech their commitment to it protect classified information.

But a free press is also essential for our democracy. That's who we are. And I'm troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable.  Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: But we learn tonight Attorney General Eric Holder according to NBC news approved and signed off on the controversial search warrant going after and identifying Fox News reporter James Rosen as a possible coconspirator and violation of the espionage act as part of a leak investigation. The attorney general has talked before, most recently about in an interview with NPR, about these requests for investigations, and he was asked how many do you think that he has approved.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'm not sure how many of those cases that I have actually signed off on, I take them very seriously. I know that I have refused to sign a few, pushed a few back for modifications.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: And apparently not that one. We're back with the panel.  Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: So here is a president saying journalists shouldn't be at risk, legal risk, and yet he endorses full confidence in Eric Holder, who now admits, or it turns out, signed off on a search warrant, essentially that named Rosen as a codefendant, something that you've never had a successful prosecution, even an attempt since Nixon of a journalist as a criminal conspirator in a leak case. So this is unique. It isn't just that he signed a search warrant. It's that he did something extremely unusual.

And the president on the one hand says this should never happen, but when my attorney general did it, so I will look into it. What is he a bystander here? He is the boss. He is the man in charge. I think what we are going to have is Holder on the Hill. He should be under oath and he should answer this. And perhaps he will say, like the secretary of state, I don't read stuff I sign. But that's not going to be easy to do.

BAIER: All right, Chuck. We will do one scandal per panelist here. Tonight, the IRS scandal, Lois Lerner up on the Hill took the fifth.  She is now on administrative leave with pay. Chuck Grassley, the senior member of the finance committee, just said that his understanding is the new acting IRS commissioner asked for Ms. Lerner's resignation and she refused to resign. Then she was put in administrative leave, again, with pay. Grassley goes on to say the agency needs to move to fix this now.

CHARLES LANE, EDITORIAL WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: Administrative leave with pay, that's my dream job. You can sit around but still get paid for doing nothing. I don't think that's going to fly, obviously, with the Hill. Look, you can't forget this is a bipartisan problem on the Hill there are a lot of Democrats upset about it too. She is, I think, going to have to be sacrificed at some point.

Although I must say it was very creative to go up there to the Hill and say I didn't do anything wrong, and then say, but then say I'm not going to testify. And I wonder if you can get away with that too. I guess we will find out.  I guess Darrell Issa said he wants to bring her back in view of that. it seems strange to sort of, on the one hand, assert you did nothing wrong but then say you won't answer any questions about it.

BAIER: The question will be how fruitful that will be on the second go around. Final scandal, Benghazi. A lot of people talking in this town like it's slowing down, but instead it's increasing, this investigation.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yeah, it's expanding. Darrell Issa sent a letter to John Kerry, as you reported earlier, on May 17th asking for permission, in effect, to interview 13 top State Department, current and former state department officials in transcribed interviews, is how they are putting testimony, sort of a precursor to potential congressional testimony. These officials include senior state department officials, those around Hillary Clinton, very close to Hillary Clinton, who would have had a window into her involvement with things like the talking points, the decision-making process that night.

And they are also, I think, going to focus quite a bit on the ARB, this administrative review board that wrote, this I think, deeply flawed report, many inconsistencies, many holes in it. And the question will be why -- they are going to interview Ambassador Pickering and ask him why he didn't interview Secretary Clinton, other people, and also talk to the people who weren't interviewed to find out more about what they know.

BAIER: And we also may have more whistle-blowers soon, from what we hearing. Down the row, very quickly, of these three, what looks like it is tracking the most dangerous for the administration?

HAYES: It sounds like a copout, but I think they all are in their own different ways.

BAIER: It is a copout. Chuck?

(LAUGHTER)

LANE: The press stuff does manage to bring Fox News and the mainstream together all on the same side, and it's not the president's.

KRAUTHAMMER: For the man on the street, it's the IRS.

BAIER: That is it for the panel. But stay tuned to see someone who stole the show.  

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