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Special Report

NRA endorsement more about Clinton than it is about Trump?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," May 20, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hillary Clinton wants to abolish the Second Amendment. Just remember that. We're not talking about changing. She wants to abolish the Second Amendment. So we're not going to let that happen, I can tell you that right now. We're going to preserve it. We're going to cherish it. We're going it take care of it, OK. You know, they keep chipping away.

The Second Amendment is on the ballot in November. The only way to save our Second Amendment is to vote for a person that you all know named Donald Trump.

HILLARY CLINTON, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's got to do a better job dealing with the gun culture and dealing with the kinds of attitudes we're now seeing where people reach for guns to solve their problems. And it's never solved anybody's problem. It's only made more heartbreak and bloodshed.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, today Donald Trump with the endorsement of the NRA, what many thought was an early endorsement, actually, of Donald Trump. The two candidates obviously on very opposite sides of this issue. As you take a look at the new New York Times/CBS poll about the unity question for Donald Trump, and now this is among Republican primary voters, 80 percent saying that they support Trump. Not support Trump, 17 percent. One who didn't is now supporting him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TREY GOWDY, R-S.C.: I'm happy to say I endorse Donald Trump. I was a Rubio guy. And if Marco had won, I would have expected the Cruz supporters and the Kasich supporters and the Trump supporters to support my guy. So my guy lost. When the jury speaks, I'm going to respect the jury. I'm going to support the Republican nominee who is very likely to be Donald J. Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Trey Gowdy from South Carolina. Let's bring in our panel and start there, Jason Riley, columnist with the Wall Street Journal, Anne Gearan, political correspondent with The Washington Post, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

OK, Jason, the NRA sometimes doesn't put its endorsement down. Sometimes they don't do it early. There have been presidential elections where they didn't do it. They chose to do it this time.

JASON RILEY, WALL STREET JOURNAL: I'm not surprised. I think Trump is the type of candidate that projects strength. He's been doing that from day one. So this doesn't come as a surprise at all. And I think Trump will take it to school. There's a big difference between him and Hillary Clinton when it comes to guns in this country. You heard that in the clips. So I expect him to take full advantage of this and do it all the time.

BAIER: She will go to a gun control event tomorrow. The Clinton campaign will tell you, Anne, she's not out to abolish the Second Amendment.
However, history may show that she may try to change it or degrade it a bit in the eyes of the NRA.

ANNE GEARAN, WASHINGTON POST: Sure, her official position is that responsible what she calls commonsense gun control can coexist with the Second Amendment just fine. She likes to frequently point out that a majority of gun owners and a majority of the American public actually support an expansion of the current background check system, which is not the same thing as supporting wide-scale gun control on the order of some of the things that some Democrats want. She's trying to walk a line there.

But she sees gun control, gun safety, as she prefers it, as a winning issue not only in the primary where she used it as a cudgel against Bernie Sanders, who had a mixed record on gun control, but she also sees it as a winner in the general election because of the widespread support for it among key groups she needs -- women, suburban women, and independents.

BAIER: However, historically Democrats have not done that great on the issue of guns. And it could go the other way, Charles, and perhaps the NRA endorsement is more about Hillary Clinton than it is about Donald Trump.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: If you go back to her husband's administration, it was in his first midterm election he got burned by gun control and the Democrats avoided it for a long time. Now, it's true there have been some changes in public opinion as a result of some of the horrific gun massacres that have occurred. But if you heard Donald Trump speaking about it and then you heard that clip of Hillary Clinton, which argument is easier to make? Save the Second Amendment, or that meandering, somewhat nuanced you might say if you were generous, argument that she made. Hers is a rather tepid one. I'm not against it. I'm not for it.
His is strong. I think the Trump argument is a lot easier to make. And I think in the end it's much more of a winner.

BAIER: Fits on a bumper.

KRAUTHAMMER: It does, and it's a point that not only fits, it's easy to see and understand.

BAIER: Fits on a bumper sticker is what I was going to say. Hillary Clinton on Bernie Sanders and this primary battle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: He has to do his part to unify. He said the only day that he will do everything possible to defeat Donald Trump. He said he'd work seven days a week. I take him at his word.

I will certainly do my part and more to reach out and bring in Senator Sanders' supporters, and I have every reason to expect he will do the same.
I think we'll have a great convention in Philadelphia, and then we will go out and carry on the campaign against Donald Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: There are a lot of people, Anne, who look at that, a great convention, it just doesn't feel that way right now if you look at the Democratic Party.

GEARAN: Yes. We've had quite a week on the Democratic side of the race.
We're used to being the boring race, the one I cover primarily. And this week it certainly wasn't. We had reports of chair-throwing, widely disputed by Sanders supporters, violence, threats of violence against the Nevada state Democratic Party chairman coming out of the convention, the state convention there last week, a week of back and forth in which senior members of the Democratic Party accused the Sanders campaign of being recalcitrant, not apologizing, not disowning violence. Quite a week.

That could all be well tamped down ahead of the convention. But it doesn't really appear that Sanders wants it to. He's riding a wave of kind of cresting a movement here. He's got to know he's going to lose. His supporters know he's going to lose. They want to get the maximum altitude and exposure for their issues. And one of his supporters told "The New York Times" this week that it doesn't really matter whether they damage Hillary Clinton in the process if they get that message out and they take it to the convention.

BAIER: Jason?

RILEY: There's a civil war going on in the Democratic Party right now.
It's not just a skirmish. And the press focuses on the divide among Republicans. But we know it is just as bad, if not worse, among Democrats right now. It's not just some idle threats here. Death threats have been made, recorded on phone mail. So this is a serious issue.

And I think you're right, Bernie Sanders has no interest in tamping this down before the convention, and not just because he wants certain issues -- free college tuition for all on the platform. I think it's going to go way beyond that. He'll want a say on the V.P. pick. He'll want say on the whole delegate process going forward, on the primary process, the number of debates going forward. So I think he's really going to leverage this division going into the convention.

BAIER: Donald Trump said today he should run independent. He's encouraging Bernie Sanders to do that.

By the way, we have not heard back officially from Hillary Clinton or her campaign on our invitation to the California Democratic debate. We hope to very soon.

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