Will campaign manager controversy damage Trump?

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Star panel


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 29, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


GOV. JOHN KASICH, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My understanding is that the report is that he grabbed somebody. And that's, frankly, totally and completely inappropriate. It could have been one of my daughters, for that matter.

SEN. TED CRUZ, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is the consequence of the culture of the Trump campaign, the abusive culture, when you have a campaign that is built on personal insults, on attacks, and now physical violence.

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I looked at the tape. And by the way, if he was that way, I would have fired him in two seconds. I wouldn't have cared. I couldn't have cared less. But I look at the tape. There is not even a change of expression on her face. Wouldn't you think she would have yelled out a scream or something if she has bruises on her arm? How do you know those bruises weren't there before?


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Donald Trump reacting to the story today that his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was charged by the police in Jupiter, Florida, for misdemeanor battery. This is after a series of tweets, one of them saying "Why is this reporter," referring to Michelle Fields, "touching me as I leave the news conference? What's in her hand?" He then went on to say that she essentially started this whole thing.


TRUMP: She was actually, if you look at her, according to a lot of people, she's grabbing at me. And he is acting as an intermediary trying to block her from doing that. The news conference was over. It was done. It was finished. And she was running up and grabbing and asking questions and she wasn't supposed to be doing that.

When people see that tape and they take a look at the tape and they take a look at her initial statement before she knew she was on tape. Take a look at that. You have to see it. You take a look at her initial segment, it sounded like she got thrown out of a building.


BAIER: OK, here is Michelle Fields' initial statement after that incident. "When he approached me," talking about Trump, "I asked him about his view on an aspect of affirmative action. Trump acknowledged the question, but before he could answer I was jolted backwards. Someone had grabbed me tightly by the arm and yanked me down. I almost fell to the ground but was able to maintain my balance. Nonetheless I was shaken."

Here is Corey Lewandowski's reaction immediately on Twitter to that. "Michelle Fields, you are totally delusional. I never touched you. As a matter of fact, I have never even met you."

All right, that is where we'll start in this surreal day in campaign 2016. Let's bring in our panel: Jonah Goldberg, senior editor of National Review, Charles Lane, opinion writer for the Washington Post, and Tucker Carlson, host of "Fox & Friends Weekend." Jonah?

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW: Well, this, as you say, has been a surreal campaign. This is one of maybe the best or at least the most recent examples of the gas lighting of America. Don't believe your lying eyes. These guys came out originally saying nothing happen. Then my favorite explanation was when Corey Lewandowski said I only manhandled you was because I thought you were part of the mainstream media, which would make it OK. And I honestly think --

BAIER: This is the video that the police put out today. And there you see Lewandowski grabbing her and pulling her back.

GOLDBERG: I don't think Lewandowski should have grabbed her. I also don't think it is a vicious or savage beating or anything of the sort. I think if he had done what Michelle Fields originally asked for, what was to apologize and say, hey, look.

BAIER: Stuff happens.

GOLDBERG: Stuff happened. I got a little carried away. I apologize, this all would have been over. She wouldn't have had to quit her job at Breitbart. But instead, going from denials to bizarre accusations, and it is all just a farrago of lies as far as I can tell. But this kind of thing has worked before. It is like a Jedi mind trick. Don't believe your lying eyes. Believe whatever Donald Trump says from his fancy plane.

BAIER: All right, just to be clear, obviously you talk to legal experts in the pantheon on charges, this one is not that serious, but it is serious. It's a battery. A simple battery in Florida or a misdemeanor battery as defined under the statute. It means any actual or intentional touching or striking of another person against that person's will, nonconsensual, the intentional causing bodily harm to another person. You don't have to have an injury. It is a fairly low bar according to the statute. And it's technically criminal battery. That's what he's facing.

CHARLES LANE, WASHINGTON POST: I'm looking forward to the trial. I can just imagine the live coverage on all the cable channels of the battery trial of Donald Trump's campaign manager. It is surreal. It truly is.

But somewhat to echo Jonah, I wouldn't be surprised. You know, almost every other ostensibly negative thing has somehow worked in Trump's favor. So I wouldn't be surprised if this proves to be another one.

But what we have already. What we can conclude already is that it demonstrates once again the sort of basic reflex of Trump. In any situation, his instinct is to make a counter accusation, right, to admit nothing, deny everything, and say, no, wait a minute, they started it. And that's what did here. She grabbed me. So he is placing the blame on to her. And I think with a lot of his fans that will be enough.

BAIER: So Tucker, we're spending a lot of time talking about this and we will turn to the campaign here. But the last thing here. Not to minimize what we see on the tape and what happened to Michelle Fields and what she said happen. But is a bigger problem for this campaign the fact that they said it never happened. The candidate said it never happened. And Lewandowski, the campaign manager, says I never touched you. Is that a bigger problem politically?

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Those are all problems. The fact that we're talking about this is a problem I think for everybody. His opponents are acting like Lewandowski is O.J. are engaging in moral grandstanding which I don't think is very attractive or helpful to them either.

But the tragedy is for the Trump campaign. This is just another example of the truth about it, which is he is succeeding in spite of his campaign, which is easily distracted and badly run. Any shiny object pulls its attention away. The only reason Trump is where he is, is because his message is resonant. The Democratic Party has abandoned the middle class. They are now the party of the rich and the poor. The Republican Party isn't sure they want the middle class. And Trump is making on his best day a direct pitch to the middle class, except when he's distracted by stuff like this which doesn't help at al.

Of course Jonah is right. Just apologize and get it out of the way. But they can't. When the history of this period is written, the dumb people will say it was because he was famous or had mesmerizing hair. No. It was he was right on a couple things that ordinary people agreed with him on and this obscures it.

BAIER: The last thing, for president who take office, often it is a benefit to deescalate thing that have bubbled up.

LANE: There you go using earth logic again, Bret.


LANE: That era is the era we all grew up with. And by that rule -- this is a guy who today says I will not watch Corey Lewandowski's reputation and life be ruined by these outrageous charges which are captured on videotape from a candidate who twice accused Ben Carson of essentially being a pedophile, and it worked for him. So the idea that somehow, yes, the normal rules that yes deescalate, don't do that kind of thing, we're through the looking glass on that kind of stuff.

BAIER: Let's turn to Wisconsin now where he is giving an event. The Real Clear Politics average of polls has him up slightly, but it is in recent polls seen Cruz taking a bit of a jump, and you see him down by about 1.7 in the average of recent polls. Today Governor Walker, Scott Walker, endorsed Cruz. What does it look like? It looks like a big battleground, definitely.

LANE: I was not surprised of course to see Walker do that. As you remember when he exited the race himself he did so saying we have to do whatever we can to stop Donald Trump. We have to prevent him from getting the nomination. So it was a given he was going to endorse and probably endorse Ted Cruz.

What I'm interested to watch as this moves along is whether the Walker organization, which has been turned into a real machine in that state through all the recalls and the two gubernatorial elections, whether he can put that into motion behind Ted Cruz and make up those two or three points.

BAIER: That's an important point about the voters in Wisconsin. They are savvy. They've been through all of this. They pay attention to stuff.

CARLSON: They are. It does seem like the perfect state for Donald Trump, and no other governor, Nikki Haley who I think is at least as popular in South Carolina as Walker is in Wisconsin was not able of course to affect the outcome of that election. So I'm dubious about that.

But I do think this is a pretty significant test for Trump. Everyone knows the truth. If he doesn't get majority of delegates he's in real danger of losing the nomination, maybe to Paul Ryan. The dream of every Republican in Washington is to put in Paul Ryan. They're going to try and do it. He has got to get the majority, and this is an early and significant test.

BAIER: We're going to have a big story about the delegates and the hunt for delegates, even the once in states that have already been decided, tomorrow.

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