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Special Report

Is Trump taking on abortion a political calculation?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," April 21, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Republican platform every four years has a provision that states that the right of the unborn child shall not be infringed. And it makes no exceptions for rape or incest or the life of the mother. Would you want to change the Republican platform to include the exceptions that you have?

TRUMP: Yes, I would. Yes, I would, absolutely, for the three exceptions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you have an exception for the health of the mother?

TRUMP: I would leave it to the life of the mother, but I would absolutely have the three exceptions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, that raised some eyebrows today in the Republican Party. The March for Life put out a statement right away after that statement from Donald Trump: "Thanks to the good work of people like Phyllis Schlafly, the Republican platform has always been solidly pro-life even when Republican candidates have not been. The platform sets the standard that all candidates need to work from, and the suggestion that the platform should weaken its position on the pro-life issue would setback years of hard work in the pro-life movement." By the way, Phyllis Schlafly has endorsed Donald Trump. That's an interesting element there, but there's a lot of reaction to that and other things that were said today.

Let's bring in our panel: We welcome Jim Angle, former Fox News chief national correspondent, editor in chief of Lifezette, Laura Ingraham, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Jim, for our Twitter followers, this is #throwbackThursday. So welcome back.

(LAUGHTER)

JIM ANGLE, FORMER FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Thank you so much.

BAIER: Listen, what do you think about this? It kind of opened up on the social conservative side of things a can of worms.

ANGLE: Well, Trump has a nasty habit of stepping in it. And he certainly did with this and with another comment today.

Look, Trump has liked to give candidates nicknames. I would probably call Trump "touchy Trump" because he is constantly railing against the RNC and Republican poobahs, saying voters should decide, voters should have the last word on everything. Yet here he is unilaterally arguing that he should be able to change the party platform on abortion. That is not the way to proceed.

And especially for Republicans that hate the idea of Obama acting unilaterally, here you have Trump who says he is going to be so presidential practicing by engaging in the same unilateral behavior that Obama has.

BAIER: So he is facing these northeastern mid-Atlantic states. Is this a political calculation? Is that going through his mind? He obviously had the bad week when he had the interview with Chris Matthews where he had to explain and the campaign had to deal with on the issue of abortion.

LAURA INGRAHAM, EDITOR IN CHIEF, LIFEZETTE.COM: I think in my old home state of Connecticut it probably won't have much of an effect.

I think this is an example of a time where his new team maybe hasn't sat down with him and discussed, this is how the platform works. When you are asked a question about a state issue, you don't have to comment on it. You are not a pundit. You are running for the presidency. So I think he didn't answer either of those questions certainly the way I would have answered them.

But I think on the other front, since about 2004, despite what has been in the platform, the GOP has largely abandoned social issues. The GOP allowed the Supreme Court to impose gay marriage on all 50 states despite a lot of states that didn't want that. They decided not to go for the constitutional amendment on marriage. We have a million abortions a year still in the United States. They were never able to roll back Roe versus Wade.

So I think a lot of the evangelicals, they kind of know Trump isn't one of them on a lot of issues. They are now looking to other issues. Not that those issues aren't important, but they just don't rely on the GOP to do much. They are funding Planned Parenthood still to $500 million a year.
So while I don't think Trump answered this the right way, I don't think most just workaday Republicans are going to see that much would change.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I give him credit. He might have been calculating politically. But just look can at that I get the idea that that's what he believes. And there is a split even among conservatives, surely in the country as a whole, on this issue. On the one hand, there is sort of a moral contradiction. If you believe that the life of the unborn is inviolable, then why would it make any difference how that life came into existence? On the other hand, you have people like Kasich and others who represent a large number of conservatives who deeply believe in the pro-life side, who think that you can't -- you have to make exceptions almost as a kind of human mercy for the parent, the prospective mother.

So I understand it is a split. I understand that he, being somebody, Trump, who came out of an extremely high, extreme pro-choice part of the spectrum, would end up here, although it doesn't square with what he said originally about punishing the woman. So he is a little bit confused on this. But I would give him credit for honesty on this and for taking a position that is not unreasonable in a terribly difficult moral choice.

BAIER: Right. So the authentic thing gets him points, you are saying.
And I think you have seen that across the board, that people say his authenticity is refreshing. But these are sticky issues and very specific when it comes to Republican Party politics. Here is reaction to another thing he said today on the North Carolina bill that deals with bathrooms.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

TRUMP: North Carolina did something that was very strong. And they are paying a big price. There are a lot of big problems. And one of the best answers I heard was from a commentator yesterday saying, leave it the way it is. There is a big move to create new bathrooms for transgender. That would be, first of all, I think that would be discriminatory in a certain way. It would be unbelievably expensive for businesses and for the country. Leave it the way it is.

CRUZ: Donald agreed with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in attacking the state of North Carolina for passing their bathroom ordinance.

(BOOS)

CRUZ: He thought that men should be able to go into the girls' bathroom if they want to. And let me ask you, have we gone stark-raving nuts?

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BAIER: Hit on that, Ted Cruz did, Jim, a number of times today and had a couple of releases about it. Is the Republican Party changing on these issues?

ANGLE: Well, for one thing, saying that men, meaning adult men, can go into a girls' bathroom is slightly overstating the issue. All the ordinance did was say that transgender people should use the bathroom that corresponds to their birth certificate. I can't imagine it working any other way. Can you imagine the PTA meetings in which someone suggested that transgender males, people who identify as males, go into the girls bathroom or vice versa? It just is a totally unworkable solution other than what they are saying. If you have had the surgery, then that's a different thing. But that's not what we are talking about. We are talking about people who identify.

BAIER: I know, but you are not going to get checked at the door, you know what I mean? It is going to be tough.

ANGLE: And school kids are going to know anyway.

BAIER: X-ray at the door?

(LAUGHTER)

BAIER: Of these topics, it is not leading any poll that we go, what's important to you?

INGRAHAM: This is a typical media gotcha question. They did it before and they are doing -- this is the new issue of the moment. If Ted Cruz says something, he is intolerant. If Trump says what he said, then he is completely off the rails in conservatism.

This is a state issue. We are all inclined to think everything has a federal solution. Let the states figure it out. This is not exactly Rosa Parks and the bus here. This is a bathroom and what -- there has got to be a common sense solution that people can agree to. And he kept saying leave it the way it is. I thought his answer was a little confusing. Caitlyn Jenner, of course, Caitlyn Jenner can use the woman's room. But we are not talking just about Caitlyn Jenner. We are talking about the possibility this could be exploited by people who want to do harm to other people, period.

BAIER: Fighting on this issue, it doesn't seem like it helps Republicans at all in a general election, number one. Number two, how Ted Cruz talks about it, is that a positive thing?

KRAUTHAMMER: Look. It didn't start with the media. It started with the special session of the North Carolina legislature run by Republicans. So it's an issue that -- to me what's puzzling here. I really don't understand. This is a solution in search of an issue. Do we really have an epidemic of transgenders being evil in bathrooms across the country? I haven't heard of a single case. Obviously, if there is going to be this dilemma, I think people ought to work it out on their own. If you have to have legislation, then you need to have a lot of liberation about this.

But we are talking about as if transgenders are like a fifth of the population. This is a very small problem at the edges of other problems having to do with gender identity that's become national precisely because Republicans in North Carolina decided it was a problem. It is not a major national problem and it should have been left that way.

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