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Special Report

Race and Rep. Waters Probe; Lame Duck Hypotheticals

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from August 13, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

REP. MAXINE WATERS, D-CALIF.: Neither my staff nor I engaged in any improper behavior and we did not influence anyone and we did not gain any benefit.

MELANIE SLOAN, CREW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: It was a conflict of interest because House rules clearly prohibit members of Congress from getting involved in matters in which they have a financial interest.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

SHANNON BREAM: Maxine Waters laid out her defense today. Let's bring in our panel to talk about it: Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard; Kirsten Powers, columnist of The New York Post, and also syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Welcome to you all.

All right, Charles, you have covered Washington and seen a lot here. Have you ever seen anything like this? It was sort of the trial before the trial, PowerPoint presentation at everything.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, she was handed out accusations and there will not be a trial until September. So she wanted her say and I think she has the right to do that.

But if you listen to her words, it was rather interesting how she parsed it. She said "We did not influence anyone and we did not gain any benefit." Well, the criterion for corruption is not if you succeed in your influence or if you succeed in gain. It's the attempt. If you try to bribe a judge and in the end the judge declines, maybe you didn't offer enough, that does not take you off the hook. You committed a crime. So I found she is out here with her defense, she's stating the case and notice how she parses it.

The other part of this that I think is interesting, she claimed to be acting on behalf of 100 minority bankers. She was implying this was an oppressed minority, she should never have had to speak on their behalf. They were ignored. It is refreshing to hear a liberal Democrats speaking of bankers as an oppressed minority. I'd never heard that one before.

(LAUGHTER)

She clearly, I think, has a weak case, but she is very angry and determined. Unlike Charlie Rangel, I suspect she is not going to settle for anything less than a trial.

BREAM: What did you make of her comments today, Kirsten?

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: She has had a long history of helping minority-owned banks, so there is nothing really suspicious about that. I don't frankly find anything suspicious about her requesting a meeting for this group of banks. In fact, it would be almost suspicious if she didn't, since this is one of the things that she always does. And so I think she is getting a little bit of an unfair rap.

A lot of people are saying this is so much worse than what happened with Charlie Rangel and I absolutely do not see that. I think what Rangel has been accused of and admitted to I think is worse. And I think that she should have a chance to make her case because I do not think there is any kind of smoking gun, there is nothing to show she actually meant to benefit from this. And even she says when she spoke to Barney Frank she went to him because they had come back to her and said, Could you help us get this money, and she said, Whoa, whoa, whoa -- I can't do that.

So I think there is more to this and we need to hear her out.

BREAM: Anything suspicious though about the fact that this even though this might have been done, as she said, on behalf of a group of banks, the only one who showed up was the one her husband had financial ties to?

KRAUTHAMMER: It's a coincidence.

POWERS: Yes, I think it raises suspicion, but we don't know. Just because it looks doesn't mean it is bad.

And like I said, the idea that she shouldn't help this group of banks because her husband is a shareholder in them -- I think it's bad judgment. But is it necessarily something that is unethical or criminal? Those are two completely different things and we shouldn't conflate them.

KRAUTHAMMER: Only her banked showed.

POWERS: But she said she was asked to make the call on the part of this coalition of banks. And so I think that -- like I said, it does not look good. But I don't think we should not rush to judgment.

BREAM: She will have her day on Capitol Hill, even the full-fledged trail, which she's pushing for.

But Fred, I can guess how you would rule were you sitting on the jury.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Look, so far we have had one jury and that was a panel of the House Ethics Committee. And you can disbelieve what they said, but what they did say is that she did seek and her chief of staff after this meeting sought money for this one bank in which her husband held stock. The bank got $12 million and still exists today. Whether that $12 million made the difference or not, I don't know.

But the way this is described by the Ethics Committee, which has looked into it -- the one body that has -- it is pretty much an open and shut case. She intervened and only her husband's bank showed up at this meeting. It got $12 million. And even before that, her chief of staff, who happens to be her grandson, kept up pressure on Treasury -- so the Ethics Committee panel said -- kept up pressure to get money, a bail out for this bank.

And to me, if you believe the Ethics Committee, and I have no reason not to, then it's an open and shut case.

BREAM: Kirsten says she has reason not to.

POWERS: I do have reason to be suspicious of this Ethics Committee, and one of the reasons is that at one point in this year all eight of the people they were investigating were black members of Congress. I'm not saying all eight of those people aren't guilty. I'm saying there is something that isn't right here.

And in the little bit of research I have done, it seems that a lot of these cases are brought by conservative legal groups; they may be totally valid, but are we to believe there are no white people that are doing anything? And the allegation now is that these groups disproportionately target minorities.

And so if they are just handing over the cases to them and they take them, that's a problem.

(CROSSTALK)

KRAUTHAMMER: Are we to believe the House Ethics Committee is racist?

POWERS: Well, I would say they have a problem if they can only find cases against black people.

BREAM: If you've lived in Washington more than five minutes, you know that there are people across race, gender and party line --

(CROSSTALK)

POWERS: I'm not saying it's even a race thing. Maybe it is a laziness thing. Maybe it's because they get these cases served up to them and so they go after these people. The issue is maybe why are these conservative groups only bringing cases against black members?

BARNES: They spent a year on this case. A year. They do not rush to judgment here.

POWERS: You don't think it's suspicious? Come on.

BREAM: Some of these cases come internally. Charlie Rangel referred himself to the Ethics Committee and he launched his own investigation.

(CROSSTALK)

POWERS: There's nothing strange about it that at one point all eight people were black? That doesn't in any way raise any questions?

BREAM: What do you think, Charles? Do you think race will become an issue?

KRAUTHAMMER: I don't think it is race issue. I think she attempted the race card, Waters, and Charlie Rangel did not, which I think is to his credit.

In fact, these are members who are quite senior, they acquire a lot of perks, they get used to those perks, they act in a regal way and that is because a lot of these seats are safe seats. And seniority, of course, rules in the House so you will have all the perks, all the regal entitlements as you proceed in years. And a lot of the African-American members have been in office for decades. So I think it predisposes that the kind of offenses that, for example, Rangel is accused of.

I would simply add that when John Stewart ridicules your playing of the race card as he did with Waters, you've got a problem. He is not exactly Fox News.

BREAM: Final word to you, Fred. Quickly.

BARNES: I think she's in deep trouble. She could win reelection, but she is in the going to win the case.

KRAUTHAMMER: One more point?

BREAM: Quickly.

KRAUTHAMMER: Grandson, chief of staff? Another amazing coincidence.

BREAM: All right, we will leave it right there. We report, you decide.

You voted in your choice on our online poll this week in our homepage. We will find out the winner in the Friday lightning right after this quick timeout.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BREAM: Every week on the FoxNews.com "Special Report" page, viewers vote on what topics we discuss first on the Friday Lightning round. And as of 4 p.m. Eastern, the winner by a landslide was "lame duck hypotheticals" and what the panel thinks will or will not happen during the upcoming sessions in Congress.

And we have our panel back with us now. All right, elections in November -- some people could get ousted, some could stick around. What do they try to do between November and January, Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, Democrats are going to have a majority which will include members who lost. So if there are items on the agenda unfinished, they might want to ram stuff through that would be impossible to do in January.

And John Kerry spoke of a second or third or fifth attempt at cap-and-trade. Other senators have spoken about the card check, which are unions getting around the requirement for a secret ballot, there are other initiatives and taxes will be in play because of the expiration of the Bush cuts end on January 1. So there could be a lot of mischief.

BREAM: Fred, there could be a totally different makeup numbers-wise in the Senate right away.

BARNES: Well there could if Mark Kirk, the Republican, wins in Illinois because he's running against for a seat held by an appointed senator, and in Delaware you have an appointed senator, as well. So if Mike Castle, one wins the Republican nomination, and then wins the seat, both of them could be immediately installed in the Senate and be there for the lame duck senator, getting Republicans to 43 senators, which if they have 43 they can probably mount filibusters against all the things that Charles mentioned.

But they won't have to if Republicans do very well in the election. If Republicans do poorly in the November election, then that will open the door to Democrats, I think.

BREAM: Kirsten, would Democrats be remiss not to try to get some things done during that time period?

POWERS: I think that there is not a lot of appetite, actually. There's a lot of people that are up for reelection in 2012, I don't think they are looking to make a lot of trouble. I think frankly this is much ado about nothing. I really don't think there will be a lot to happen.

There will not be an overwhelming ability to pass things even if they wanted to and in the end we will not know what they would approach to do until we see how many seats they lose. If they lose big then I will suspect they'll do very little.

BREAM: One of the topics we've heard a lot about that somebody might try to sneak through during lame duck would be immigration. Today, Fred, the president signed a massive bill aimed at border security bill and funding border security. Is it enough?

BARNES: It wasn't that massive. And no, it's not enough.

Look, I'm for comprehensive immigration reform. I'm for amnesty. But you're not going to get it until you finish the wall.

BREAM: All right. Charles, what do you want to see at the border?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, look this announcement that they will send National Guards, every time a president, if it's a Bush or Obama, it doesn't matter, is under pressure on immigration, he sends National Guards. There's a big announcement, a big hoopla, he sends 180 guys and they sit behind a desk for a month or two and do nothing. And there's no announcement when the National Guardsmen leave.

It's absolutely worthless. It is show. If you are serious, I am with Fred, build a fence.

BREAM: All right, $600 million --

(CROSSTALK)

BREAM: Kirsten, there are people complaining on the left and the right about the bill. Can the president win on this issue right now?

POWERS: No, and I don't think the conservatives actually give him credit for the fact that enforcement is up and there are more people on the border than have ever been in the history of this country. He has done a lot more in terms of border security than George Bush did. I think where the quibbling comes is about the fence, that they don't think he is doing enough on the fence, but the bottom line is the fence is not the only way to deal with the issue. You need to have people down there and that's why he sent them down.

BREAM: Our final topic today for the Lightning Round is Mr. JetBlue, the guy who grabbed some beers and walked off supposedly. Some are calling him a folk hero, but is that the right thing to call him? Here's what Jay Leno had to say:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": Remember when heroes did things like rescued people from burning buildings and walked on the moon. The guy slipped down a chute holding two beers. That is not heroism. That's called spring break.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BREAM: Charles, is that how you spend your spring break?

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, why do we love this story? It is about the chute, the image, the big yellow chute. You and I want to resign, we go do the boss and hand him our parking pass or send him an e-mail, "I resign." This guy, he lives the dream. He pulls a lever, blows open a door, the chute deploys -- big, huge, billowing, dangerous -- it would have hit somebody it would have killed them -- every romance needs danger so it even has that. He jumps, he slides, walks, he's gone.

I mean, what a great story. Who cares what happened before? He could have been drunk or a jerk --

(CROSSTALK)

BREAM: And many things have been alleged.

KRAUTHAMMER: And who cares what happens after, gets arrested, has his own reality TV show or he runs on a ticket with Levi Johnston for mayor of Wasilla? He's got a future.

But it's the moment. We're a cinematic age, that was one of the great moments of all time.

(CROSSTALK)

KRAUTHAMMER: It was the chute. It's all about the chute.

BREAM: It is. And now speaking of the chute, there is a memo apparently from a JetBlue supervisor or higher-up that the AP got a hold of today that said, look, we shouldn't be joking about these chutes. They are very dangerous and they equated it to being as dangerous as a gun. Kirsten, can we still enjoy hearing that?

POWERS: Yes, yes, we can. I didn't wear my "Free Steven Slater" T-shirt. But I think the idea of anyone being killed by this is a little far far-fetched. How many people are standing around when the airplane is ready to taxi?

So I think Charles nailed it. It's this very dramatic event that I think a lot of people who have bad jobs could fantasize about. And unfortunately I think old folks here who didn't have to deal with all the follow-up and the debunking of their stories, and now we have a 24 media and so we find out all these things were not quite exactly how he said.

(LAUGHTER)

BARNES: I think he had a pretty good job. He wasn't a ditch digger. He wasn't digging graves or something like that. He wasn't a street sweeper. He had a pretty good job -- a service job. You serve people. And the other thing, who would hire this guy now? I think he is unemployable.

BREAM: All right, Fred says no rehiring. We've got to go.

KRAUTHAMMER: A hundred years of aviation history, he did it.

(LAUGHTER)

BREAM: Someone deployed the chute. Thank you very much, panel.