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Special Report

Trump campaign trying to move past distractions?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," August 19, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S SON: I think my father didn't want to be distracted by whatever things Paul was dealing with. And Paul was amazing, and, yes, he helped us get through the primary process, he helped us get through the convention. He did a great job with the delegates. But, again, my father didn't want to have the distraction looming over the campaign and, quite frankly, looming over all the issues that Hillary's facing right now.

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Doing this on a Friday in the summer is a right thing. It's unfortunate that it couples the same day that Mr. Trump is going be in Michigan doing a large rally and also being very presidential and going down and seeing those victims of a terrible tragedy in Louisiana. But is there ever a good time? The answer is no. Today is the right day to do it, and this story ends today, and they can move on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHANNON BREAM, GUEST ANCHOR: Another change in the Trump campaign. Let's talk about it with our panel: Lisa Boothe, columnist with The Washington Examiner; Karen Tumulty, national political correspondent for The Washington Post, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Happy Friday to all of you.

All right, Lisa, I will start with you. What do you make of the change? because earlier in the week when the changes were made with Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, we were told it's not a shake-up. It's an addition. But now Paul Manafort is out. So what does it all mean?

LISA BOOTHE, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: I think that needed to happen because Paul Manafort muddies the waters with his supposed and alleged connections to this pro-Russian Ukrainian group. And what Donald Trump needs is to lay out the indictment on Hillary Clinton with both foreign policy foundation and also with the Clinton Foundation and the fact that 40 percent of the Clinton Foundation's top donors come from foreign governments or foreign entities, foreign actors. And so Donald Trump needs to cleanly be able to lay out the argument. How is he supposed to do that if there's this drip, drip, drip of information with Paul Manafort serving as a campaign chairman or a campaign manager or whatever the exact title was for him? So I think that's something that needed to happen.

BREAM: And Karen, he may not formally still be with the campaign, but we're told he may do work from the outside and coordinate via D.C. So if there's any connection at all left, is that a clean break the Trump campaign needs to make?

KAREN TUMULTY, WASHINGTON POST: No. And in fact, Donald Trump has ordered a clean break. There was a precipitating event to this, which is as Trump was getting off stage last night at his rally in Charlotte, somebody handed him a printout of yet another story, this one from the Associated Press, of the Manafort connections in Ukraine and the entanglements. And that's the point at which Donald Trump said, basically I'm told blew a gasket and said, this guy is out of here. So I think there may be a relationship on paper, but I think the cut -- the ties are being cut.

BREAM: And Charles, the second sound bite we heard from there after hearing from Eric Trump, Donald Trump's son, was Corey Lewandowski who was formally with the campaign and himself found himself on the outs not that long ago in June. Is there -- at some point does the changeover, the turnover appear that there's too much disarray or is this, do you think, a final set that's the right team that's going to move him forward?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: You get two strikes. Three strikes and you're out. The third firing and it will be called disarray, chaos, confusion. But I think at this point people understand that with the stories coming out about Manafort it was impossible to keep him on. So that's sort of explicable.

The other part is we saw from the speech that Trump made late today in Michigan, the process of softening the man is under way. I mean, this is a very heavy soak, a wash, a dry, a spin, and they're doing it, I think, rather effectively, talking about the concern of minorities, supposedly confessing that he occasionally says the wrong things. Let's see if he can do that without reading off a teleprompter. And I'm sure he'll be asked what do you regret, can you give an example. It will be extremely interesting to see if he gives an example and which example it might be. So that process is going on. The new team is in charge of that. So this makes a lot of sense.

BREAM: He's getting a lot of credit, a lot of praise this week for the speeches he's had, as you said, to the teleprompter. They're more scripted and people saying he's staying on message and it's a better week for him. I want to play a sound bite from last night, Charles, where you mentioned where he expressed some sort of regret about the way some of the things he said came out. Here's a bit of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I've never wanted to learn the language of the insiders, and I've never been politically correct. Sometimes in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don't choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that. And believe it or not, I regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BREAM: Lisa, to that point, Kellyanne Conway, who has now been elevated within the campaign, said that might even include something like an apology to the Khan family, the Gold Star Muslim-American family.

BOOTHE: I think Americans have been waiting for some kind of empathy from Donald Trump. So I think this is a positive step. And I also think with him visiting Louisiana, this is a connection of "I care about you," bigger than self. And I think voters need to hear that.

And I honestly think that him having a rough couple weeks could have been the best thing to happen to Donald Trump because sometimes candidates, particularly the stubborn ones, need to get kicked in the teeth to change course. We've seen a changing of course with him giving these more nuanced and substantive policy speeches, showing a little bit more empathy, and also on the mechanical side of things, going up with campaign ads, hiring a data and analytics firm, starting to raise, which we saw him actually out- raise Hillary Clinton with those direct donations, tapping into the small dollar donors. So I think we're starting to see some positive steps, and maybe getting beat up a little bit was what it took for him to sort of come to this conclusion and the reality of what was going on.

BREAM: And speaking of getting beaten up, President Obama has gotten beaten up by a number of people in Louisiana, including a paper there, "The Advocate," which ran an editorial saying, listen, you have got to get down here. This is important. Now we learn he is going to go down Tuesday. Do you think he was drawn by the Trump/Pence visit, or do you think this is apolitical for him, he just realized, it doesn't look good, I have to make a change in my schedule.

TUMULTY: I don't know if the Trump visit itself precipitated it, but the fact is that, you know, as Democrats now are trying to defend this decision and say, well, he'd just be getting in the way and the governor doesn't want him there. These are in many cases the exactly same people who criticized George Bush for doing a flyover during Katrina. So there is a place for our leaders to show up at these events and be on the scene. And, you know, in this case, you do get the sense that, you know, President Obama is feeling like this is his last year in office and he can do things on his own timetable.

BREAM: After that visit by Trump and Pence down there today who spoke this afternoon, we covered much of that live on the air. I want to play a sound bite that Donald Trump, the GOP nominee, had in appealing to the African- American vote. He was pretty blunt about it. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Look how much African-American communities have suffered under Democratic control. To those I say the following -- what do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump? You're living in poverty. Your schools are no good. You have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BREAM: Charles, people who love him say they love the blunt talk, they love the honesty. Will that appeal work?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, I don't think it's going to appeal to get a large number of African-Americans on November 8th. I think what this is an appeal -- this is part of the shaping of the image, the softening, trying to remove the edges. The worst thing that can happen in the precincts of, say, you know, the suburban Republican population is to be accused of racism, credibly or not. And we've even heard it said by Paul Ryan regarding what Trump had said about the Mexican -- so-called Mexican judge.

I think what he has to do, he has to banish that image. He has to undo it. I think this is an effective way to do it. You show that you are not a candidate of simply white people, which is sort of the main story going on here. He cares about America. This is sort of the Obama, we're not white America, black America. We're the United States of America. He ended on a kind of a crescendo there talking about that unity and non-divisiveness. That's the object of this kind of talk.

But the question is, yes, you may have nothing to lose, but what exactly is he going to do that's going to give the jobs to the young people in the inner city, et cetera? We haven't heard that yet, and that's what we'll be waiting to hear.

BREAM: He often ties that to the issue of immigration as well. So we'll see.

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