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Special Report

Is Ted Cruz's endorsement of Trump a big deal?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," September 23, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS: Stand and speak and vote your conscience. Vote
for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom
and to be faithful to the constitution.

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: He will come and endorse over
the next little while. He will come and endorse just because he has no
choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, he did. Ted Cruz endorsing Donald Trump today, saying he
will vote for him and he wants you to vote for him in a Facebook post after
saying "After many months of careful consideration, of prayer and searching
my own conscience, I have decided that on Election Day I will vote for the
Republican nominee Donald Trump." He says he made that pledge. He's
sticking to it.

He finishes saying "Our country is in crisis. Hillary Clinton is
manifestly unfit to be president and her policies would harm millions of
Americans. And Donald Trump is the only thing standing in her way. A year
ago I pledged to endorse the Republican nominee and I'm honoring that
commitment. And if you don't want to see a Hillary Clinton presidency, I
encourage you to vote for him."

Now, on background, officials will tell you that one of the main reasons he
did this was because of the move the Trump campaign made to expand the
Supreme Court justice possibilities to include Senator Mike Lee and the
pledge that Donald Trump would only pick from the list that is expanded, as
of today that includes Senator Mike Lee.

Now, the Trump response to the endorsement, "I am greatly honored by the
endorsement of Senator Cruz. We have fought the battle and he is a tough
and brilliant opponent. I look forward to working with him for many years
to come in order to make America great again."

Let's bring in our panel, Lisa Boothe, columnist with the Washington
Examiner; David Catanese, senior politics writer for U.S. News and World
Report, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. OK, David, I mean,
obviously we could play sound bite after sound bite of these two going at
it, especially towards the end. How big a deal is this?

DAVID CATANESE, U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT: I think it's a bigger deal
for Ted Cruz's future than anything that will happen in this current cycle.
Two things change since Ted Cruz defied Donald Trump at his own convention
until now, besides the Mike Lee add, which I'm a little cynical about.

The two things that I really think move Ted Cruz is that he is in trouble
in his home state in Texas in a reelection battle where he is now behind
Rick Perry if he were to challenge him in the Texas Senate primary, and
tied with a Castro brother. The other thing that's happened is that Donald
Trump is in a much better position to win the presidency now.

So I think Cruz was always caught between a rock and hard place, and he,
for his future, for him to have a future in the Senate or to run for the
White House again he had to get on board.

BAIER: Lisa, Mike Pence? Vice presidential nominee met with Cruz here in
Washington, and apparently that's where this kind of deal started.

LISA BOOTHE, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, I think another thing
that happened as well was the backlash that Senator Cruz faced,
particularly from one of his biggest donors, Robert Mercer. So I also have
to imagine that might have helped move him along in this direction as well.

Secondly, I think as Donald Trump improves in the polls, he doesn't
approve in the polls, especially heading into Election Day, I think you
will see a lot more Republicans like Ted Cruz that were holding out
potentially come and support Donald Trump.

But this most certainly helps Donald Trump. Not only does it make
him look strong in the sense that Senator Ted Cruz, who vehemently opposed
him in the speech before the Republican National Convention has now come
around, but also helps him in his effort to try to coalesce the Republican
base and support which he has been struggling with.

BAIER: You know, though, the polls seemed to have changed recently. Our
state polls, some national polls now have it at 93, 94, 95 percent of
Republicans saying they are certain they are going to vote for Donald
Trump. So coalescing the conservative base, obviously a concern, but this
helps with that.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It does help. But I think
David is right. This is about Cruz much more than it is about Trump. And
when he says it makes him a little cynical, I would have to say that that's
an understatement. It should make you very cynical.

I love the way Ted Cruz said after searching his conscience.
Whenever a politician says he is searching his conscience, you can assume
it was a quick search of a very small space. Now, I'm not saying anything
personal about Cruz, but, remember, he and Trump were the outsiders. And
what was their calling card from the very beginning? We don't act like the
Washington insiders. We don't scratch each other's back. We speak our
conscience, et cetera.

Well, it turns out in the end that they do what you would expect of
any other candidates, which is why -- I mean, I don't denounce them or
deplore what they are doing here. This is business as usual. But weren't
they the candidates who were against the business as usual?

And I like Trump's line, his line where he says we fought the
battle. He was a tough, brilliant opponent. At the time he was a tough
and lying opponent. And now, apparently, he is a brilliant opponent. This
is politics. This is exactly what you would. But it is not how they sell
themselves.

BAIER: Yes. As I said we could play sound bite after sound bite from the
primaries.

I want to turn to this other story, and that is the immunity deal
given to five people tied to the Clinton email investigation, including
Hillary Clinton's former chief of staff Cheryl Mills. Here is the House
Government Oversight Committee chairman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ, R-UTAH: This is not a real investigation if
you're handing out immunity like candy. The fact that they would let
Hillary Clinton's chief of staff to be also a witness and immunity
recipient, and sit in on Hillary Clinton's interview, is just shameful.
Why is a witness interviewed by the FBI able to sit with Hillary Clinton
during her interview? That's just -- Lady Justice is just different for
Hillary Clinton than it is for anybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: And just to be clear, the DOJ gives this immunity at the
beginning of this, and then, obviously, the FBI does not get to the place
where they're going to prosecute.

CATANESE: And I think the real problem for people watching at home is that
why would you have to give immunity to people if there is nothing to hide
here? If everyone could come out and be transparent about the process,
critics would say, why did immunity have to be granted?

Cheryl Mills is getting a lot of the press on this because she was
the chief of staff. But this Bryan Pagliano, who deleted the emails,
that's the most fascinating. This is the guy that deleted emails and then
misled Congress about it. He initially said he didn't -- then went back
and had to change his testimony. So I feel like this guy really felt he
was in hot water, and then he had to follow an order later on to use a
special program and prove all the emails are gone.

BAIER: So is the bleach bit guy on this list. And, remember, that these
people don't have security clearance, and they were dealing with classified
emails on this server, Lisa.

BOOTHE: I think it raises a whole host of questions. And particularly,
too, these are going to be the folks that are going to serve with Hillary
Clinton in her administration if she becomes president of the United
States, Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin. And there's also increased scrutiny or
there should be increased scrutiny about Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin and
what role they played and the fact that you have Cheryl Mills and her work
with the Clinton Foundation while serving at the Clinton Foundation or Huma
Abedin who worked at the Clinton foundation, the State Department as well.
So it raises a lot of questions about that.

It also puts Comey, FBI Director Comey in the hot seat who is coming
before Congress next week and sort of his dealings and his discretion and
his, the investigation, it raises a lot of questions that I'm sure are
going to be brought to the forefront next week.

BAIER: In fact, Charles, late today, 5:30, we get another document dump
from the FBI about these interviews, these 302 interviews. We are going
through them to see what's in them. But this is kind of a thing that
happens, this document dump. It's traditional in Washington. But for the
FBI to say they are being transparent in this investigation, that doesn't
appear to be true.

KRAUTHAMMER: Something ironic is happening. It's not just we got used to
a year of the drip, drip, drip for Hillary's reputation, for honesty,
transparency, et cetera. But now that is happening to Comey's reputation.
He came into this as a shining knight for what he had done in the Reagan
years, especially if you do something that appears to be sort of against
the conservative consensus you get to be a Washington hero.

But playing off that, everything that we have seen since the press
conference where he said he wasn't going to prosecute, makes you wonder
what in God's name is going on. If the Watergate inquiry had been handled
the way that this is, giving out immunity, allowing the witness, the sort
of the co-conspirator, if you like, to act as the principle's lawyer, as
Cheryl Mills was, it is truly scandalous. And because it's an election
year and this is all going to be swept away, if she wins, nobody will
remember it. And if she loses, nobody will care.

BAIER: We'll see how much is covered. It's a big story.

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