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Special Report

President-elect Trump's administration begins to take shape

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," November 18, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Let's bring in our panel early for some analysis of the first Trump picks. Stephen Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, Mara Liaison, national political correspondent of National Public Radio and Tom Rogan, columnist for National View and Opportunity Lives.

The president-elect tweeting out today, will be working all weekend in choosing the great men and women who will be helping to make America great again. He is in Bedminster, New Jersey, for meetings among them, Mitt Romney tomorrow.

Let's start about the picks today. Sessions, Pompeo and Flynn.

Steve, Pompeo first. We talked about it yesterday with David Nunez, the chairman of the house intelligence committee. He brings a long resume to the job.

STEPHEN HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, and Nunez is on the executive committee of the transition team. I would imagine that he had some role in pushing Mike Pompeo.

Look, Mike Pompeo is one of the brightest members of Congress. He has certainly been true in my experience in talking to him and interviewing him and looking at the way that he studies issues. A lot of times you have members of Congress who will read questions or talking points presented to them by their staff and then can't really go beyond those in a hearing or - - that's not a problem with Pompeo. He knows the issues. He knows them well. He asks relevant questions as you saw in the package. He is respected by members of both sides of the aisle. I think that's an incredibly solid choice. I would expect he will have virtually no difficulty getting through.

BAIER: Buddy somebody who would be concerned is Iran view. He has a pretty aggressive Iran view about the president -- current president's policies as does lieutenant general Flynn obviously.

MARA LIAISON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Yes, look. These choices are competent. They are at least with Flynn and Sessions really loyal to Donald Trump. He chose mostly from the inner circle. I do think the orientation to Russia is something I heard from Democrats and Republicans are giving people pause. This is definitely Trump's vision that Russia isn't our number one enemy. We should, you know, almost consider them an ally. He has expressed lots of positive feelings about Vladimir Putin. Certainly general Flynn agrees with him on that. But otherwise, I think they are tough on Iran. They want to make ISIS a top priority. But they definitely reflect this new orientation that's shaking up a lot of our traditional allies.

BAIER: But to your point, He was on "Fox & Friends" November 9th. This is Lieutenant General Flynn:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS: What should Iran, Russia and maybe even Syrian president Assad know about a Donald Trump foreign policy?

FLYNN: Well, I tell you what. It's going to be one that leads from the front. You cannot have a complex, uncertain world that we have and have a depleted military.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Now, strength, he didn't get into the details as you mentioned there.

LIAISON: Those are the big questions, though. Because Assad sees Donald Trump's election as a positive thing. So does Putin. And at least in Syria, the United States will be on the side of Iran if they side with Assad and Russia.

BAIER: Tom?

TOM ROGAN, NATIONAL VIEW: Yes. Well, one of the interesting things about Syria at the moment is you have actually seen the Russians continue this aggressive campaign against Aleppo which to me suggests they are not quite sure about Trump. If they thought confidently that he was in their back pocket as it were, they would wait simply and build consensus. Look. We are conceding and then go at that point.

One of the things that's interesting about General Flynn, I spoke to someone (INAUDIBLE) who used to serve with Flynn. Yes, joint special operations command. He said that Flynn's nickname was the fire hose. Not in a good way. He had a reputation for going off the rails, being a bully to subordinates. And if was tempered specifically into a task, that there would be some difficulties. And I think you sigh that in terms of some of the concerns people are expressing.

BAIER: Yes. The most important thing in that job is the trust in between the president and the national security --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The process.

BAIER: Right. Any red flags here for obviously Flynn does not need to be confirmed. You mentioned Pompeo, Sessions.

HAYES: No, I think as we saw in the clip from the Chris Wallace interview with Chuck Schumer, I think Democrats would like to make an issue of Jeff Sessions nomination that would like to have a fight, despite the fact that he is a colleague, despite the fact that he is a senator.

BAIER: That does give you additional points when you have a Senate confirmation, if they're coming from your group, the senators.

HAYES: Yes. It usually does. I expect that in the end it will. But I think the Democrats will prepare for a big fight because they think they can exact some political price for having chosen Jeff Sessions given what he said in the past.

Just a comment on Mike Flynn for minute. I think Maura is right to raise questions about Russia. Certainly we will hear more about that. It also shouldn't be -- it should be more than just an asterisk that he was right about Al Qaeda and ISIS. He was in the intelligence committee one of the only voices in the intelligence community sounding the alarm in 2012, 2013, 2014 about the rise of Al Qaeda, the continued proliferation of Al Qaeda, the growth of Al Qaeda offshoots including is. It turns out the guy was right. The New York Times wrote a profile on him today and had that literally the parenthetical. That's not a small thing to have been right about the enemy in the global war on care.

BAIER: Pushing against the administration that was r

ROGAN: That's actually right. And he has that reputation. He earned it correctly. But I think it does show that there is controversy surrounding him from the right. Yes, Russia is the big motivator on that. But these other issues, if those -- if it was purely about that record of predicting and assessing and pushing the administration, I think he would be a shoo- in, but it isn't. And so, there is that.

LIAISON: Doesn't have to be.

(CROSSTALK)

BAIER: There's no confirmation.

I want to go forward. And a couple of the big there picks coming, Maura. Secretary of state. We are hearing all kinds of name. Rudy Giuliani in the mix here, even though there are stories whether his chances were diminished tonight. He is still fairly wants it. John Bolton, Senator Bob Corker from Tennessee. David Petraeus and now Mitt Romney on the list who Donald Trump meets with tomorrow.

LIAISON: Right meet with tomorrow. The most interesting thing there is the Rudy Giuliani versus Mitt Romney. Rudy Giuliani was the absolute most loyal, loyal soldier to Donald Trump. After the access Hollywood tape he was out there, more than anyone else. Even Mike Pence went to ground at that point. And he is, we heard earlier he could have whatever he wanted and he want wants state. Mitt Romney has a different world view. Mitt Romney remember famously said Russia was the number one threat.

BAIER: Geopolitical threat.

LIAISON: Geopolitical threat. And he has a very different world view than Donald Trump and the kind of soft on Russia, whatever we want to call them guys around him, that would be an interesting pick if he went with Mitt Romney. That would send a really big message that he wants to have different views, reaching out to the establishment who shunned him. And don't forget Donald Trump has a long memory. He doesn't like to forgive. Mitt Romney was one of his most prominent detractors.

BAIER: If not the most prominent. Defense secretary. Let's look at this list. We mentioned Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas. Senator Kelly Ayotte's name had come out. She lost that Senate re-election bid in New Hampshire. Jock Keane and James Mattis has popped up and David Petraeus today has come up as well. Steve, that list.

HAYES: That's a heck of a list. I would be surprised if James Mattis who is now at Hoover Institution writing books and doing sort of big thinking would come back. But certainly, that would be greeted with cheers and applause from the rank and file military, particularly the Marine Corps because of who he is and the reputation he has. Jack Keane, as you say, sort of speaks for himself.

I do think Tom Cotton is getting serious consideration here. He is young but talk about a resume. I mean, Tom cotton has -- he served. He has studied these things. He distinguished himself very early first as a member of the house and then as a member of the Senate as an outspoken proponent of American power. Somebody who understands the use of American power well beyond his years.

BAIER: I will say that the Pentagon, having covered it for six and a half years, is a massive bureaucracy. And you wonder whether you need to have someone who has run something before, whether this be a company or something big.

ROGAN: Right. I think one of the interesting things is with Mattis that he does have the, you know, the warrior scholar is his reputation. And so he would be very popular. He was also the (INAUDIBLE). So he has managerial experience within DOD. The question is how much does he want to embrace that bureaucracy? I mean, Bob Gates, for example, former defense secretary said you couldn't drag me back to Washington to deal with it. Because I think by far, it's the hardest thing.

The question here though is, one of the interesting things for secretary of state, even if we talk about Giuliani and Romney as different, both of them are very popular abroad. That would be another example. I could imagine the sort of the foreign allies would be very, very happy with either of them, because it would suggest that this is -- they have experience and engagement.

BAIER: All right, panel, thanks you.

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