This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," May 31, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESUMPTIVE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: When I raise money for the veterans, and it's a massive amount of money -- find out how much Hillary Clinton's given to the veterans. Nothing. And then I see a few guys standing out there, they don't know what they are there for. They have no idea. They are there because Hillary Clinton's campaign sent them.
HILLARY CLINTON, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I, of course, have given money to veterans' charities. And John McCain and I actually helped raise funding for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. And I worked with Senator Lindsey Graham to expand health care to National Guard and Reserve members.
So much of the work that I've done has meant tens of millions of dollars in increased benefits to veterans and their families.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Raising money for veterans is becoming a campaign issue today.
Donald Trump eviscerating some members of the media asking him questions.
And he raised some $5.6 million, he says, and all the checks are out, and he listed all of the organizations that have received these checks.
Meantime, outside that event, as he was holding this news conference, there were protesters holding signs, veterans saying that Trump is essentially against veterans in some way. It turns out -- this is The Daily Beast saying this, that Marine veteran, Clinton supporter Alexander McCoy served as a spokesman for the demonstrators, went to great lengths to hide the Clinton campaign's involvement with organizing the demonstration. When reached by phone after that event McCoy acknowledged that Clinton campaign organized the conference call, bringing together possible attendees to that protest. One element of today's back and forth, we'll also talk about the Clinton/Sanders race.
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, kind of a heated event today between Trump and reporters, saying he's paid the money to the veterans.
STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, a little eruption from Donald Trump today. For five months reporters of all stripes have been trying to get the details of what this event did, and asking I think fairly basic journalistic questions like, what was the total amount given?
Who received these funds? And in some cases, who gave these funds? And they have had very little luck getting that information from the Trump campaign.
I would argue that in a PayPal economy, when I can wire you $25 while we're sitting here at this table and you'll have it in the bank account tomorrow, the Trump campaign should have been able to provide that information much earlier than it has. Now, it took him five months. It's a good thing Donald Trump raised money for the veterans. People have raised questions about why he did it and the original intent of that event to distract from the FOX News thing, but I think basically we're all better off when private individuals or private organizations give money to veterans groups.
I do think when Trump is complaining about the news media targeting him on this, I don't they're targeting Donald Trump. I think they are asking very basic questions.
One last thing, he's right, though, I think to suggest that there's a double standard, that the media are far more interested in his businesses and his alleged scams than they are in Hillary Clinton's fundraising and Clinton Foundation and what have you, although he shouldn't really be surprised by this.
BAIER: OK, here's just a taste of some of the back and forth with reporters today at the news conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And on behalf of the vets, the press should be ashamed of themselves. They are calling me, and they are furious. And instead of being like, thank you very much, Mr. Trump, or Trump did a good job, everyone said who got it, who got it, who got it? And you make me look very bad. I have never received such bad publicity for doing such a good job.
I like scrutiny, but you know what, when I raise money -- excuse me, I have watched you on television, you're a real beauty. What I don't want is when I raise millions of dollars, have people say, like this sleazy guy right over here from ABC. He's a sleaze in my book. You're a sleaze.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: It went like that for a while. Obviously the media, Ron, is an easy target for politicians. We talk about that a lot.
RON FOURNIER, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Yes.
Hillary Clinton does the same thing, tries to fob off her responsibility on us.
BAIER: Maybe not in the exact same way, but she does.
FOURNIER: She'll get there. Bottom line is Donald Trump deserves credit for raising money for veterans. There's not enough attention given to veterans in this country. Good for him for doing that. I don't think this story has big legs.
But it does remind us of things we have already known about Donald Trump and should concern us when we decide whether or not to vote for him. He's obviously very thin-skinned. He obviously does not want to be held accountability. He's obviously a disingenuous man. There's many things he said today that just were not true. For example, he said from the beginning I only thought I could raise $1 million. You said the day of the Fox News debate that you were going to raise $6 million.
And sleazy reporters, yes, some of us are sleazy, but if it hadn't been for the media, he would not have donated this million dollars. The fact of the matter is, it's a fact, not an opinion, he did not donate his $1 million that he promised until The Washington Post called him on it last week.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think this demonstrates, this is a classic Trump maneuver. He counterattacks against the press because you can't lose in doing it. There's no love lost for the press, and I think he did it effectively. And it distracts on the fact A.P. is reporting that half the donations were given after The Washington Post
began to look into the story, which indicates that the press was not only doing its job but it actually stimulated the execution of these donations.
BAIER: The Trump campaign says -- the Trump campaign in response to that says they added veterans groups and there was a vetting process and that the checks went out in an orderly fashion. That's their response.
KRAUTHAMMER: That's fine. Then I will leave it as a heck of a coincidence.
But on the other hand, I think in the longer run, yes, this plays very well. It plays particularly well to the Republican primaries. How is it going to play in the general election? It's not that people don't like seeing attacks on the press, but it is a sense of Trump's character. Is this what you want in the White House? He was asked, is this how you're going to be behaving in the White House? He says, yes.
I think at one point he was asked about the attack on Susana Martinez, which he had said was because the economy was bad in New Mexico. But in this press conference, he said, well, she wasn't very nice to me. Now is that going to be the criteria to which a president decides whether to attack, praise, or just ignore anybody else, either a politician or foreign leader of another country, by the criteria of how good are they to me?
That is a peculiar criteria, and it appears to be the only one that applies to Trump.
BAIER: All right, he also ripped on Bill Kristol for this third-party talk about an independent conservative run. Now we are learning a name that perhaps may fit that wish list for Bill Kristol and others, and that is David French. He's a National Review writer. This is from Bloomberg: "Two Republicans intimately familiar with Bill Kristol's efforts to recruit an independent presidential candidate to challenge Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and told "Bloomberg" Politics that the person Kristol has in mind is David French, whose name the editor of The Weekly Standard floated in a current issue of the magazine. French is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom according to the website of National Review, where French is a staff writer. He's a constitutional lawyer, a recipient of the Bronze Star, and an author of several books. He lives in Columbia, Tennessee, with his wife Nancy and three children." Not exactly a huge name, Ron, that is gaining a lot of attention.
FOURNIER: No. But the fact of the matter is we might not need a huge name to make a difference in this campaign. There's a lot of evidence out there data-wise and anecdotal that the public is sick of these two parties, and we've never had two major party nominees who were this unpopular. I think you could have a dead man or woman run outside the Democratic and Republican Party and get five percent to 10 percent. We already see double digits with Gary Johnson and Weld. So French or whose Kristol comes up with would be the fourth ticket, we could have five, six. It is not totally inconceivable that this thing gets thrown to the House.
KRAUTHAMMER: I like the idea of a dead man.
BAIER: But in all honesty --
HAYES: He can't lie, at least.
BAIER: Trump's response to this, Steve, is that this throws the election to Hillary Clinton.
HAYES: yes. Well, I think the people who are critical of efforts like this one ought to decide if it's really unimportant and not going to have any effect or whether it's going to throw the election to Hillary Clinton, because you hear both arguments.
Look, I have not talked to Bill Kristol in detail about this. I don't know even that that is actually the candidate, though it may well be. As you noted, he floated it in the magazine, this along with several other names.
I think what he wants to do is to go somewhere to make sure that there's a bigger debate, to have a debate that goes beyond Hillary Clinton on the one hand and Donald Trump on the other. As Ron pointed out, you saw The Washington Post/ABC poll that said six in 10 Americans either hate or dislike both of the two major party candidates. Last week there was another poll that showed that Vladimir Putin had lower unfavorables than either of those two. This is about getting people another choice.
BAIER: Sure. But until you put the name behind it, you don't know where the numbers fall. Last word.
KRAUTHAMMER: Whatever name it is, I think it's a mistake for conservatives to run another candidate with the explicit intent essentially of blocking Trump from winning. Either he's going to win -- he is the nominee of the GOP, chosen by the people, he's either going to win or not. And if he doesn't win, he should not be able to claim he was stabbed in the back.
That would be a terrible mistake in the future.
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