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Special Report

All-Star Panel: Reaction to Bundy land dispute with federal government

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," April 14, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SHOUTING)

CLIVEN BUNDY, RANCHER: And then they flew up the river here, come around the top black top mesa here, and all of a sudden there's an army up there, a compound of, I don't know, probably close to 100 vehicles, armed soldiers in there. And then I'm wondering, well, where am I? I'm not in Afghanistan. I think I'm in Nevada.

WAYNE HAGE, RANCHER: Most the people here are not ranchers, they are city people that are just fed up with it as well. And that is amazing to me that the American people finally stood up and said we have had enough of this federal government overreach and we are not going to take it any longer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Clive Bundy ranched in this particular area of Nevada since the 1880s. And he had grazing rights he says that preempts and predates, he says, the federal authority over the land. So when the federal government decided to say that the desert tortoise was endangered and took away, and there you see the tortoise, the BLM, the Bureau of Land Management, took away the grazing rights, Bundy refused to comply, and he lost in court three times. But it started this back and forth that really came to a head this weekend.

Let's bring in our panel, Tucker Carlson, host of "Fox & Friends Weekend," A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and Juan Williams, columnist with The Hill. Tucker, it seems like all parties have backed down.

The Bureau of Land Management had this in a statement, "Due to escalating tensions, the cattle have been released" -- they were holding the cattle -- "from enclosures in order to avoid violence and help restore order. Safety has always been our number one priority and the bureau of land management and national park service appreciates the support of those who called for a peaceful conclusion to the operation." What about this?

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Thanks heaven. It was moving in an ugly direction, and I think the feds exacerbated it by showing up with snarling dogs and drawn weapons. That's appropriate when you are dealing with a drug cartel, not with an elderly rancher.

On the other hand, the Bundys don't have a legal case that I can see, to be totally honest about it. And this is public land. This is not land that they own. And if you are going to use public land for profit, you have to pay for it, and they haven't. And so the bottom line, and I think this is something conservatives ought to remember, if you want a ranch without any impediment at all, you have to buy your own ranch. That is the essence, that is the core principle behind private property which undergirds conservatism. So I have a lot of sympathy for the Bundys. I think they were completely mistreated by the federal government. But I still think it's important to point out that this land does not belong to them, and that's not a minor distinction. It's the essence of private property. Sorry.

BAIER: A.B.?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: It wasn't that he was denied grazing rights. He refused to pay the grazing fees. So he could have had his cattle grazing on federal land but he refused to pay up to $1 million in grazing feeds.

So the BLM could not have bungled this more by, A, coming in and tasering his son, which then became a viral video. Agents from the BLM also came up behind Cliven Bundy's sister and knocked her down on the ground. This is something they have been dealing with for 20 years. They knew exactly who would be there protesting with their weapons. They knew how mad everyone would be and how this would escalate. They did not plan well for this.

They have now removed all this cattle and because of raised public concerns, brought the cattle there. They are never getting that cattle off that land. The BLM is out of leverage and it's been peacefully concluded because they have got nothing left on Mr. Bundy.

BAIER: Juan?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, I think what really talking about here is conservative angst over the sense that government has grown too large, too powerful. The government controls huge swaths of the western part of this country. And even local and state officials sometimes have disputes with federal authorities.

But the fact is, as Tucker said, this is public land. And despite his claims going back to the 1880s that his more Mormon forefathers used this land, it is public land. It's not his land. And even by his own admission he owes the government, maybe not $1 million, but $300,000 that he has not paid.

So the courts have ruled against him three times, as you said, Bret. He doesn't have a leg to stand on in that regard. But in terms of the larger picture, I think you have to worry about Waco, you have to worry about Ruby Ridge when people start showing up with guns and saying they are willing to take on the federal government.

BAIER: Now, there's another element to this, and that's the land adjacent to this is being used for dry lake solar zone. And there are some critics who point to Senator Harry Reid and his connection to all of this, the new director of the Bureau of Land Management as a former policy adviser to Senator Reid. They say that his son Rory is a lobbyist for a Chinese energy giant, and the tortoise was removed from that land to make way for these solar panels, yet when it came to this particularly land with the grazing, the tortoise took precedent.

CARLSON: I don't think you need to insert the Bundys into that story to make it a good story. If I was the assignment editor at the New York Times, one of the first stories I would assign is, hey, junior reporter, go found out how the Senate Majority Leader who spent his life working for the government wound up so rich. He lives in a hotel – in an expensive hotel. How did that happen? And his son is indeed a lobbyist. What are those relationships like? This is, I think, a rich feild for study, and I wish someone would get right on it. But I don't know if it's directly connected to the Bundys or not.

STODDARD: The government's issue with the Bundy's not paying grazing feed predates the Reid project. So it's an interesting connection, but I still think the beef with the Bundys started a long time ago.

BAIER: No pun intended.

(LAUGHTER)

WILLIAMS: Look, the fact is that this guy, Neil Kornze, the new BLM director, was an aide to Harry Reid. And the fact is that Neil kornze was confirmed four days into this standoff. So everybody who is concerned about government, and don't forget mostly folks out there, these are people who have alliances with the Tea Party Patriots and the western militias, they are not Harry Reid people – belive me, they don't like Harry Reid. They don't like the Democrats. They see a conspiracy here. If you try to make the connections, it's tough because there are so many politically powerful people who have interactions with lobbyists and corporations.

BAIER: The important part of this story to put in context is that they went to court three times. They lost three times – on three appeals -- on this very question.

CARLSON: It may be unjust, and I'm willing to believe it is, and I think there's an awful lot of abuse by federal authorities over land in the West.  I've seen a lot of it personally. That's all real. On the other hand, you've got to be for the rule of law. If you are conservative you have to be. Even if the law is unjust, we have all of these mechanisms for changing it. I don't mean to sound like Schoolhouse Rock, but that's completely real. And pause, hesitate before you advocate extra legal solutions to things you don't like. It's a little scary.

BAIER: Panel, thank you. Don't miss Sean Hannity's exclusive interview with Cliven Bundy tonight at 10:00 eastern on Fox News Channel. That should be interesting. We'll hear from the man himself.

Next up, Russian separatists in the buildings, Russian tanks on the borders, the latest on Ukraine.

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