All-Star Panel: How should US respond to shooting down of plane in Ukraine?

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," July 17, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R - AZ: The separatists could have only gotten that capability from Russia. And so therefore, the culpable party here is Vladimir Putin. And what gives credence to that theory is in the last couple of weeks the, quote, "separatists" have shot down several aircraft, including a transport aircraft that was flying at 21,000 feet. So they have a record in recent days of shooting down Ukrainian aircraft.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Malaysian Airlines flight MH-17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur going over eastern Ukraine shot down today. All 300 people onboard, 295 killed. It was brought down by a surface-to-air missile. As you heard Senator McCain in recent days, Russian separatists have claimed responsibility for a number of things. Monday, a Ukrainian AN-26 cargo plane was shot down, according to both Ukrainian and U.S. officials. Late Wednesday, Ukrainian SU-25, a fighter jet crashes, and U.S. officials aren't confirming that, but the Ukrainians say that it was shot down as well by separatists. Thursday, separatists reportedly brag about shooting down another Ukrainian cargo aircraft, that's today. And then we have the Malaysian passenger jet crashing, brought down by a surface-to-air missile, one that had to be very sophisticated.

Let's bring in our panel, Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox News senior judicial analyst, Juan Williams, columnist with The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. OK, Charles, thoughts on this?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, there's one scenario that fits all the facts, and that is that the rebels shot down the plane probably by accident. The reason that we think that is because one of the rebel leaders proudly announced on Twitter at the time of the shoot-down that they had shot down a Ukrainian cargo plane and he placed the area where it landed exactly where the Malaysian airliner is. So clearly this, overwhelmingly likely -- this is what happened. And as you said, the rebels had already earlier this week on Monday shot down another cargo plane. And this is part of the festival of the rebels playing with their new toys on which they could only have been trained by the Russians.

Where it came from, well, apparently two weeks ago they captured a battery, they paraded it on Twitter, of these antiaircraft missiles. So it could be that, or it could be a battery directly supplied by the Russians.

The bottom line is, if this is an indirect Russian attack. The Russians, Putin is the one supporting the rebels, arming the rebels. The rebels already are in retreat. They lost their main center, the Ukrainian army performed rather well. They are now sort of holed up and surrounded in their two main towns. But this is an aggressive action on their part.

They clearly did not try to shoot down an international airliner -- it's a disaster for them. But we ought to be pushing really hard on the evidence here. And the Russians and the rebels are in charge of the wreckage.  They've already announced a black box is on its way to Moscow, so you know how reliable that information is going to be. We have to nail this to Russia and Putin and to make them pay.

BAIER: Juan, a couple of top Democrats have weighed in. Elliott Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said this, "The shooting down, if it's true, of a passenger airliner is an act of terror."  Then you had Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin saying that the perpetrators of the attack, even if it's foreign government, should be held accountable. He said "Whoever did it should pay a full price. If it's by a country, either directly or indirectly, then it could be considered an act of war."

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, and Vice President Biden today said this was not an accident. So what you have here is a situation where the United States in terms of its foreign policy, Brit, is having to come to terms with how do you handle this. We, yesterday, as you know, imposed additional sanctions on Putin and the Russians with the idea that they were persisting in having their troops push into the Ukraine despite promises that they were going to pull back. And part of that also was delivering weapons to the separatists, and the idea was, again, we want you to stop. They said they were going to stop, but they had not stopped. And now we see this today.

So is it an act of war? I don't think we're at that point yet, and I hope we don't get to that point. But the fact is, what you have here is, especially if you have Americans killed, and apparently there were Americans onboard, an act that is against the citizens of our country, and our government has a right to protect them.

BAIER: Judge, the president talked to Vladimir Putin today by phone, and it was as this was breaking, and we're told by the Kremlin that it was Putin, and then confirmed by the White House, Putin who told President Obama about this downed airliner in Ukrainian airspace. What about this -- where we go forward if, in fact, it's Russian separatists and if, in fact, obviously Russia has been supplying them?

JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: Look, Bret, Charles just made the case, and so nicely outlined almost in lawyer-like fashion the evidence against the Russians and the evidence against President Putin. This is not news. President Putin is a killer. This is more evidence of the fact that he's a killer. When the Russians shot down a Korean airline in 1983, Ronald Reagan called one of president Putin's predecessors a killer. The Russians denied it. They admitted it 12 years later.

Instead of running around lower Manhattan raising money for Democrats, the president should go on national television and call Vladimir Putin a killer. He should isolate him diplomatically and put him back in the black hole from which he came.

BAIER: All right, Juan, what about that? The White House putting out a picture of President Obama on the phone with the Ukrainian president, saying that he's in contact with Secretary Kerry and the national security team. But yet he kept his schedule. He went to a burger joint today, he talked about infrastructure as all this is breaking, and then continued on to, as Judge Napolitano mentions, to DNC fundraisers in New York and the Hamptons. Is that a problem?

WILLIAMS: I don't think it's a problem. If he was out of touch, if he wasn't engaged, if he's unaware, if his team is not on top of it, but I mean, it's not the case that -- I mean, we look at presidents through history. Presidents react to crises but they don't necessarily cancel everything they're doing.

BAIER: Two big ones on this day.

WILLIAMS: That's certainly right, but clearly the second one came late in the day. It's not a matter -- I can understand why someone who is a political critic would want to say, hey, it looks like he's not paying -- I don't' think it's the case that he's not paying attention. He's paying intense attention. In fact, the world is.

And to respond to Judge Napolitano, my god, Putin is isolated. In fact, today, I think he hurt himself with the Europeans. Any European who was previously interested in trying to make excuses for Putin and continuing to do business with the oil and gas coming out of Russia, they lost that excuse today.

KRAUTHAMMER: What is the president's reaction? You said what matters is not where he is. He's had no reaction. He's had no reaction to anything that I can tell in the last six months. Look, it isn't as if we're going to go to war with Russia, but we have denied Ukraine lethal weaponry on the grounds that we don't want to escalate the conflict. The rebels and the Russians are killing Ukrainians in large numbers by shooting them out of the sky. The least the president could do is make a damned decision for once in his life, announce that we are now going to supply lethal weapons to assist the Ukrainians in defending themselves and in completing the offensive that is now going on in Eastern Ukraine to actually destroy the rebel insurgency.


WILLIAMS: You said a minute ago that the Ukrainian army has performed well. And guess who's backing the Ukrainian army? It's our CIA, it's our government, it's the Europeans.


KRAUTHAMMER: You know what we have given them? MREs.

WILLIAMS: I'm just telling you --


BAIER: We've to wrap up because we have breaking news? We got to wrap it up because we have another big story, Israel beginning ground operations in Gaza. We'll be right back.

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