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Special Report

The optics of the Clinton-Lynch private meeting

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," June 30, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH: Our conversation was a great deal about his grandchildren. It was primarily social and about our travels. But there was no discussion of any matter pending before the department or any matter pending before any other body. There was no discussion of Benghazi, no discussion of the State Department e-mails by way of example.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president's view is that this is an investigation that should be conducted free of political interference, and the attorney general has indicated that's exactly her expectation as well.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESUMPTIVE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: When I first heard that yesterday afternoon, I actually thought they were joking. I am just -- I'm flabbergasted by it. I think it's amazing. I've never seen anything like that before.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: This is all about the meeting that happened in Phoenix on Monday, we first reported that, between the attorney general and the former president on the attorney general's plane. She says, as you heard, they talked about things not related to the investigations involving his wife.

This is coming from Capitol Hill, the House Majority Whip Congressman Scalise saying "Considering the ongoing criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton, this secret meeting between the attorney general and Bill Clinton shows an astounding lack of judgment by Loretta Lynch. Given the culture of unaccountability in the Obama administration it is unlikely that Attorney General Lynch will heed the growing calls for her resignation, but at a minimum Lynch should immediately recuse herself from the Justice Department's criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton's unlawful activities and appoint a special prosecutor to handle the case."

With that, let's bring in our panel: Charles Hurt, political columnist for The Washington Times; A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

There was a lot of reaction, A.B., today to this on Twitter, on social media. I read one tweet that said "Within two weeks the president has endorsed someone that his FBI is investigating while his attorney general meets with her husband on a plane and talks about grandchildren and golf."

A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL: There's nothing about it that's OK. I think it's actually really embarrassing to the Obama administration. Obama has endorsed Hillary Clinton because he's arguably likely bought himself off the deniability he needs and knows nothing about the investigation. The smart play for President Obama is to make sure that the FBI director knows when he's briefed about these matters that he never wants to hear anything about that investigation. And should she -- her candidacy collapse in a huge either an indictment or something that is a lethal blow to her political career and her nomination, that they'll move forward with another plan. And I don't think that Obama would pause before he pitched her over the side of a building if that's the case.

But this is not what Loretta Lynch should have done. And I understand that, particularly among Democrats, when Bill Clinton climbs aboard your plane, he's a former president and he's Mr. Charming and it's hard to stop him, but it was the wrong thing to do. She shouldn't have been caught with him. Some staffer should have stopped it, she should have stopped it. And it's embarrassing to have her standing up there saying we talked about pictures and travel.

BAIER: He's a former president, Charles. He has staff, too. They could have said, you know what, maybe this is the wrong --

STODDARD: They can never stop him, that's the problem.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: When he starts bounding wherever he is, airport tarmac, his staff does not stand in the way. But he should have known this is a mistake. She should have known this is a mistake. How do you bump into somebody inside their private plane if you're starting from outside the private plane?

And you notice how she said we spoke primarily about golf and grandchildren. Well, what was the rest about? Yes, I'll take her on her word. But everybody is saying this is a silly, self-inflicted wound. It's not a big deal. But in the context of a Clinton campaign that is riddled with lies, cover-ups, prevarications, and all kinds of excuses that are really hard to believe, this just adds to the general impression, and it's not going to help her trustworthy numbers.

BAIER: The Justice Department and State Department insist that these two are not related, be the Justice Department filed in the federal court for the State Department saying that they cannot meet this FOIA request for Clinton Foundation documents, and that these emails dealing with Clinton Foundation items will be released 27 months after the election.

CHARLES HURT, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: Well into what would be her first term if she wins. It's all just terrible. And what's so bad about it is that even good people, and by all accounts when you talk to people, Republicans or Democrats, Loretta Lynch is a serious lawyer. And the idea that these people, that they get caught in the vortex in the wake of all of the stuff that the Clintons get involved in, it hurts their enemies. It hurts even their allies. Everybody gets hurt, all in the name of promoting their -- whatever their agenda is. And it's what we've been putting up with for 25 years. And if we go -- you know, potentially another eight years, I guess.

KRAUTHAMMER: And 27 months means at the beginning of her reelection campaign. So it would have an effect on her election, just not this one.

BAIER: Decouple these from the State Department's point of view, this is Admiral Kirby today asked about this strange coincidence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KIRBY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: In considering the response time to any single FOIA request, you have to factor in the cumulative effect it has on an office that is already working at full tilt to try to deal with a very large volume of increasingly more complex and cumbersome FOIA requests. I'm not going to get ahead of budget requests that haven't been made, but I can tell you the secretary is very focused on trying to deal with these FOIA responsibilities as efficiently and effectively as we can as an institution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: All right, just to air that out, that's their answer.

OK, A.B., I want to turn to the race. RCP average of this race between Clinton and Trump right now, this includes 10 polls from 6/16 to 6/29, and there you see, 44.6 to 39.8. If you look at the average of polls, including 14 polls, about their favorability, Clinton's net difference -- actually these are the battleground states. Leave that up. Clinton has a lead in these battleground states according to these polls, again, five polls, three polls, four polls, three polls, three polls for these states, and there you see the breakdown. The reason I say that is because there's a lot of focus on individual polls day-to-day. This gives you a little bit of a perspective on where things are.

STODDARD: In some of those battleground states her lead is just on the margins. But the race is won and lost on the margins. And so the problem for the Trump campaign is that in the last couple of weeks or more than a month since he's become the nominee, he's become less popular with Republicans, not more. He needs to have a high percentage of Republican voters in order -- and he really needs to have a high percentage of college educated white women who Romney won by 14 percent to make up for any non- white losses and potential Republican defections.

He needs to add and not subtract because the race will be won or loss in a handful of states on the margin. And so a ground operation is important. Republican unity is important. Today he said I'm running against two parties. With 18 days to go before the convention it's probably a good time when all eye also be on that convention more than any other convention probably, whether it's a train wreck or the greatest show on earth, it's probably good for him to be adding Republicans at this point instead of subtracting.

BAIER: Charlie, his supporters will say, listen, he's had weeks in a row where the mainstream media will not focus on Hillary Clinton's problems. To case in point, this meeting in Phoenix was not even really mentioned in a lot of media outlets. And he will say, over time she's so vulnerable that I can close this gap.

HURT: I have to say given the amount of negative -- and some of it deserved, obviously, the amount of negative coverage of Donald Trump has intensified immensely in the last couple of weeks. And I think the fact that he is within striking distance in a lot of these polls is significant. That's doing a lot better than most people predicted going in.

But it is why Hillary Clinton spends all her time trying to make this about Donald Trump. Ad if Donald Trump, his singular focus has to be talking about trade, illegal immigration, and terrorism, because if he can get onto the issues, he can do a whole lot better.

BAIER: I want to do one quick question on this FEC vote, about the debate in August that they were going to punish FOX News, and it was -- ended up being a 3-3 tie. But the Democrats on the FEC were going to punish FOX News for having the two tiered debate.

KRAUTHAMMER: I think it is utterly scandalous, clearly partisan without any logical reason. The idea that FOX was contributing to these campaigns, what it was obviously trying to do is to give a chance for other candidates to appear on stage because it had to draw an arbitrary line. It should have never come to a vote. And it is ominous because it shows what the power of these sort of unleashed agencies is and there's no way to reign it in. Other than the fact that it was split, Republican and Democratically even, otherwise we might have had a really offensive action by the FEC.

BAIER: Yes. Other networks obviously had two-tier debates and didn't face one of those votes.

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