Should Republicans be optimistic about Donald Trump?

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Star panel


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," May 26, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESUMPTIVE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I was coming out of my building this morning, and there was a big news flash that Donald Trump had won the nomination.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: They are surprised by the Republican nominee. They are not sure how seriously to take some of his pronouncements. But they're rattled by him.

TRUMP: We're going to have great relationships with these countries. But if they're rattled in a friendly way, that's a good thing. He is a president who has done a horrible job. Everybody understands that. He's a president who allowed many of these countries to totally take advantage of him and us, unfortunately.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Donald Trump there reacting to President Obama overseas saying leaders are worried about the prospective Republican nominee, now the Republican nominee in waiting.

Here's a look at the delegates and how it breaks out. Basically what happened today is that unbound delegates became bound. They committed. According to the Associated Press who had been tallying up and interviewing people, now Donald Trump is at 1,239. He needed 1,237. Here are the states that these delegates came from, the unbound delegates, 29 delegates Trump gained from all of these states just today. And that means that officially on the first ballot in Cleveland he will get that even before we get to California where he's likely to rack up delegates as well.

Here's his celebration Instagram pic today on the plane eating McDonald's, celebrating 1,237. I think that was the meal of choice today. Let's bring in our panel, Charles Hurt, political columnist for The Washington Times; Ed O'Keefe, reporter for The Washington Post, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

OK, we started the hour, Charlie, with just the amazing political story. And we've talked about it many times. But now that we're actually at this moment, it's worth reflecting on.

CHARLES HURT, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: Absolutely. I think it is remarkable how over the past month we have seen a pretty significant number of establishment Republicans and credentialed conservatives, far more than I actually thought we would see, get behind him. Obviously there's still some holdouts and people like Paul Ryan who are going tore very careful about this.

But I think that what we're seeing is the unifying of the party. And I think that he's got a strong hand, especially considering who he's going up against. And Republicans who want to see a Republican win have a lot to be optimistic about right now.

BAIER: Charlie, Ed, mentions Paul Ryan. Here he is from press conference today talking about a phone call he had with Donald Trump last night.


HOUSE SPEAKER PAUL RYAN, R-WIS.: It was a productive phone call. Like I said, we had this conversation. Our staffs have been meeting. We had a very good and very productive phone call. I'll leave it at that.

What I'm most concerned about is making sure we actually have real party unity, not pretend party unity.


BAIER: Is that working? Is that holdout for an endorsement working for the House speaker?

ED O'KEEFE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, there's growing calls for him to hurry up already. But I think when you've been the guy that has essentially written orthodoxy for the last few years and you have a guy come in and start picking it apart, you have the right to sort of step back for a second and say, hold on for a second. Where are you on budget reform and on taxes and on national security? And given that he has the position and the perch, I think he understands he's speaking for a good segment of the party that has some reservations about him winning.

BAIER: How much of this, though, Ed, do you think has to do with Mitt Romney? "Bloomberg" reported tonight that Mitt Romney is looking again at a third party run.

O'KEEFE: It's another week, so he switched his thoughts on this yet again. Yes, that's part of it. He's speaking for the Mitt Romneys, for the Jeb Bushs, for the conservative intelligentsia that I think still holds out because they're very concerned that all the things that they've advocated for in the last few decades could be at risk if he suddenly becomes the nominee.

But again tonight he got another one. Marco Rubio has signed on saying, you know, his delegates should vote for Mr. Trump and he'll go to Cleveland and he'll be helpful if need be. That signals again I think that the unity is continuing, and that's the kind of thing that will continue to put pressure on Ryan to hurry up and make a decision.

BAIER: Charles, after all the talk about a contested convention and all the angst that was going to be in Cleveland, it looks like the focus is going to be on Philadelphia as far as problems potentially. And now this is a coronation that will be organized in Cleveland.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, absolutely. And that's what everybody had expected for the Democrats. And Sanders is going to remain in this. Even if he is, if there's an absolute achievement of the delegate count that Hillary needs, he's not going to concede in the sense that he will be out there to fight on the platform, also waiting in the wings in case she loses the Comey FBI primary.

But on the Republican side, I think with what you have with Paul Ryan is ultimately everyone knows he's going to have to endorse. But I think he played it well by saying, after his initial hesitation, I'm not ready, I need to talk about this, saying he's willing to step down if Trump asks him to step down as the chairman of the convention. I think for Ryan it's a win-win. If he steps down he's not responsible. He's not implicated, assuming that the Trump campaign ends up badly in November. If he does stay, that means he has -- at least Trump has not decided to act against him.

But I think the reason he's holding out even though we all know he's going to have to cave at some point, I think perhaps the Susana Martinez incident earlier in the week where Trump gratuitously went after a Latina woman governor, popular, and the chairman of the Governors Association as a matter of what looked like vengeance, it makes no sense politically, is a warning thaw don't have to fall in line. There's still people who need the cover, like Martinez, and I think as a result of that it will be a longer process before Paul Ryan acquiesces.

BAIER: What about that? Governor Walker came out tweeted support of Martinez. Rubio tweeted and talked about support of Martinez.

HURT: Sometimes when he goes after some of these people you wonder how much homework went on into it. And they need to do more homework on cases like that. But in terms of people like Paul Ryan not getting behind him, obviously it didn't hurt them in the primary. It's not going to hurt them now.

BAIER: All right, speaking quickly about the debate possibility, take a listen to this.


TRUMP: I'd love to debate Bernie, actually. The problem with debating Bernie, he's going to lose, because honestly his system is rigged just like our system is rigged. I said I would love to debate him, but I want a lot of money to be put up for charity. So what we'll do is if we can raise for maybe women's health issues or something.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump has agreed to debate me, and I look forward to that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's starting to be some back-channel discussions.

HILLARY CLINTON, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I understood they said that was a joke, and I'm going to look forward to debating Donald Trump.


BAIER: Well, I'm here to tell you it is not a joke and those back-channel discussions are continuing, and there will be some event in California.

O'KEEFE: Are you going to be moderating it?

BAIER: I may. I may very well be.

So Ed, what about this and the prospect of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders?

O'KEEFE: This could rival Super Bowl level ratings, I think, if somebody can get their hands on it. I think most of the world would tune in for just for the mere curiosity of it all.

BAIER: And who does it help, who does it hurt?

O'KEEFE: It helps both of them, I think. And I think it does legitimize Sanders a little bit and might actually win him some favor with at least California primary voters who will say at least he was willing to go toe to toe with this guy or at least attempt to.

I do wonder about this $10 million charitable donation thing the same week when he finally was forced to give $1 million to veterans charities after one of my colleagues went after him for figuring out where the money was. How that gets worked out, good luck figuring that out if that's part of the arrangement.

BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: This is an idea of genius. The sure loser is Hillary. She's not going to be there. Sanders is elevated. How can Trump lose? Either Sanders supports his attacks on Hillary, which will diminish Sanders and elevate Trump, or he'll take her side and it will be extremely uncomfortable. He wins either way.

Trump did -- this is the old boxing promoter creating a new card where you dip down and you get the unknown Rocky and you put him on stage. It will be a spectacle. I think they're going to come in with the belts and the thing and -- dancing up and down.

O'KEEFE: Crossed with Capone's tomb. A Super Bowl and an NBA final, and the battle of the sexes, all of that together.

KRAUTHAMMER: I think it should be done in the Houston Astrodome. I'm not sure it still exists.

BAIER: Sanders said the biggest stadium ever. They're looking at Michigan stadium.

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