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Special Report

All-Star Panel: Political implications of Hillary Clinton's troubles

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 16, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Let's flap our jaws about this for just a little bit on 2016. Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, Ron Fournier, senior political columnist of National Journal, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. OK, Steve, where are we on this story, and what do you think?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, look, if James Carville, who I think is really one of the best spinners in Washington in the last 30 years, if he can't make this go away, if he can't offer an explanation, then nobody can. And the reason he can't offer an explanation is because there is no good explanation.

You saw this when Matt Lee from the Associated Press was questioning Jen Psaki today. It's a very simple question. Where is the separation form? She either signed it or she didn't. They either have it or they don't. But it doesn't take a week. And the problem with them is they present a signed OF-109 form or they present an unsigned OF-109 form. Either way it's a problem for Hillary Clinton. And it's not just the form. That's the beginning of a series of cascading questions that she has signaled that she doesn't intend to answer. Now, there was a New York Times piece over the weekend that suggests that Democrats are starting to feel better because she is giving them something to push back with. I don't see it. I don't see that they are feeling better. I don't see that she is giving them any kind of reasonable explanation here.

BAIER: I do hear Democrats saying, come on, this is all inside beltway machinery and this is not nothing that is getting picked up outside. You have the other story, as well, the funding of the Clinton Foundation by foreign governments. Now you have a CBS News report which says that Rilin Enterprises pledged $2 million in 2013 to Clinton Foundation's endowment, the company's privately held Chinese construction and trade conglomerate run by billionaire Wang Wenliang who is a delegate to the Chinese parliament. Basically, it's tied directly, this group, this company, to the Chinese government.

RON FOURNIER, SENIOR POLITICAL COLUMNIST, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Yeah. It's a big issue. There is a lot of other ways the Chinese government and the Saudis and the Qatars, there are other ways that they can help the world if that is what they want to do. They are giving their money to the Clinton Foundation for a reason. They want something out of it. So what I really want to see in the e-mails is any e-mail that mentions the foundation and mentions one of the donors.

And I just gotta say, Stephen, I am really proud of you for giving James Carville such a pass.

(LAUGHTER)

FOURNIER: Because what Carville did is give up the goods. What he admitted there is that this was not a matter of convenience, which is what the secretary said. He admitted that the reason she did was so she didn't have to comply with the oversight of the House and with the natural laws of transparency. He gave up the goods. He sold her out.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: The Chinese donation is particularly troublesome because Democrats went apoplectic in the previous campaign implying that Republicans were using foreign money that was infiltrating our elections and distorting our democracy because of the Citizens United ruling. Now, that was not true in the first place, but nonetheless they made a big issue of the Chamber of Commerce being on the take from outside sources.

So here we have the Clintons admitting, and Bill himself has admitted and said he doesn't see anything wrong with it. He is the kind of charming scoundrel in all of this who sort of says aw, shuck. But she of course will deny there was any impropriety. But this company is close to the Chinese government. It built the Chinese embassy in Washington, which, as you know, when you build an embassy in a semi-hostile country you've got to be really careful about the security and the bugs and all of. That means it's really close to Chinese security apparatus. So it isn't just some innocent entity in China that's building habitat houses. So this is a real issue for her. And as we heard from Pataki [sic], she is not, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is not a normal employee, which is exactly the charge against her. Everyone else has to sign a separation agreement including David Petraeus. She doesn't because she is a Clinton.

BAIER: So where does it go? Down the road?

KRAUTHAMMER: All the lawsuits, Judicial Watch, the subpoenas issued by the Congress and the A.P., which is suing for the Freedom of Information Act information are going to keep it alive. It's not going to be alive every day, but it will remain in the news between now and Election Day.

FOURNIER: Nobody is going to vote against her because of this, and nobody will vote for her for this specifically. Democrats are right about that. What they don't want you to understand is this is a matter of trust. And you can't lead a country, you might not be able to win an election if the people don't trust you, and we already see her trust numbers coming down.

HAYES: I think it is a character issue for her. The problem is it reinforces what many people thought about her before. I think many Democrats may decide that they're not going to vote against her for this, but it could keep some of them home.

FOURNIER: Can I throw in a little bit of reporting? What the Democratic -- I talked to a lot of them this weekend. What the Clinton people think is going to happen is they understand everything we are saying is true. The way they want to turn the page is to somehow show how transparent she can run as a campaigner, that she will overwhelm the media with her access, that she will overwhelm the public with social media. I would like to see that actually happening, but that is their plan.

BAIER: Because there isn't really a big track record there.

FOURNIER: There is no track record. It cuts against the kind of public servant she has been. But any little bit she does would look transformational.

HAYES: She didn't answer Ed Henry's question. It's a bad start.

FOURNIER: I'm not saying she's done it; I'm not saying she can do it.

HAYES: That's a bad start.

FOURNIER: But that is their communication strategy going forward.

BAIER: What about this investigation potential, that Boehner may look into a separate investigation just on the e-mails and the private use of the e-mails separate of what is happening with the Benghazi committee?

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, it will keep it alive. Will any smoking gun be found? I'm not sure. But remember, she lost in '08, and when you are a losing candidate and you run a second time you try to run as a new person. Nixon loses in 1960 and in '68 he is the new Nixon. It has been 15 years since all the shenanigans of the '90s. And there was a hope that with Hillary that shadow, that cloud would go away. With the donations from the foreign entities and the e-mails now, regardless of details there is no new Hillary. She can't possibly run on it. It is going to be the old Hillary and that makes her chances greatly diminished.

FOURNIER: I still think it's possible she can do it. But she has got to step up and do it.

HAYES: But what we know is bad and what we don't know raises all sorts of questions. That's why this is a big story.

BAIER: But is the alarm going off in the Democratic Party?

FOURNIER: Yes. Don't buy the spin. They are scared to death. And there is a lot of them who are already starting to think is she really the best candidate for us?

BAIER: And is there another one out there?

FOURNIER: Their bench compared to the Republican bench is awfully, awfully thin. A lot of Democrats, by the way, are saying follow the money, because a lot of Democrats are really worried about the foundation. That's what they're really worried about.

HAYES: It's worth remembering that every field looks like a bad field until it is not bad anymore. Look back at the 1992 field and Bill Clinton was regarded as sort of miniature. He wasn't regarded as somebody who was going to be a good politician, and now I think most of us regard him as one of the better politicians in recent American history.

BAIER: Ever.

We were going to talk GOP but we will have plenty of time to do that. Next up, the reappearance of Vladimir Putin.

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