Obama building a fortress around his environmental legacy?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," December 20, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: President Obama has aggressively blocked oil production of oil and natural -- you know, you just take a look. Every single move he's made is to block the production of oil and natural gas. He's taken huge percentages of the Alaska petroleum, and you take the reserve, he's taken it off the table. He's taken it completely off the table.

BRIAN DEESE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: It is clear and there is no authority for subsequent presidents to un-withdraw. That's not the authority that was granted. I can't speak to what a future Congress or future Congresses may do.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, the White House, their senior adviser, Brian Deese, talking about on a phone call that the action of a joint agreement with the Canadian government to suspend and in some cases end permanently, they say, new offshore drilling and production from large swaths of the Arctic Ocean. You can take a look at the map on the Arctic side, huge areas that are prevented under this deal from drilling, and then in the Atlantic canyon also a withdrawal here from those spots. Obviously, environmentalists very happy about it, but others not so much.


ERIK MILITO, AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE: A decision like this fundamentally is removing very important, well-paying job opportunities from our economy. We need oil. We need natural gas. And it's important for us to recognize that if we're not going to produce it here, those investments could move to other parts of the world, and that's not what we need as a country.


BAIER: What about this? Let's bring in our panel: political reporter Jonathan Swan; editor in chief of Lifezette, Laura Ingraham, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. First of all, can we talk about this permanent thing? Can't Congress go in and pass the law? I mean, they're talking like this is --

LAURA INGRAHAM, LIFEZETTE.COM: A royal decree, like the emperor has spoken, there's no challenging the emperor. Of course Congress can change this. This is a several decades old law that the president used in the waning days of administration in a very cynical move.

This, again, represents another reason as to why so many people are tired of Washington. This is taking executive action that will be challenged in court or changed by Congress, executive action at a time where the country has said we need job growth, we need change. We don't want to destroy the environment. No one wants to do that. But there's responsible technology that is in place now to drill very effectively, very responsibly, a lot of it in shallow waters which can be done.

And, again, in the last days of the Obama administration, he's worried about burnishing his legacy which on foreign policy is in that tatters, domestic policy, he'll argue that he delivered a great economy to Obama which a lot of us will take issue with. But this is just giving a Christmas gift to the environmentalists. You're right, they are very happy. But the native people in those regions who need jobs, I bet a lot of them are not happy.

BAIER: Green Peace statement out today, "We now know more clearly than ever that a Trump presidency will mean more fossil fuel corruption and less governmental protection for people on the planet. So decisions like these are crucial. President Obama should do this and more to stop any new fossil fuel infrastructure that would lock in the worst effects of climate change." There is something about that this administration, this president, perhaps, Jonathan, didn't think he had enough positive with the environmentalists that going out the door this is one of the things he does.

JONATHAN SWAN, POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, he's so keenly aware that so much of his agenda is going to be unwound, including, of course, Obamacare, so he's trying to build these fortresses around certain elements of it.

Now, talking to people in the Trump orbit on this issue, one is there's no doubt, this is going to be opposed and attempted to overturn. The question is how that's done, whether it can be done through executive action. The Obama team doesn't think that's, but there's already lawyers looking at this in the energy sector, so that's one part of it.

Congress will have a tougher time overturning it because it may need 60 votes, but they're going to oppose this. They believe this is land that the public deserves and will benefit them for jobs.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: This is so egregious, it's perfectly revealing of the fact that Obama as he leaves the White House, he's trying to nail everything to the floor so it can't be moved. Of course it can be moved.

First of all, he's interpreting this 50, 60-year-old law, in a wildly different way. It was intended to protect the feeding areas of the walrus. It was supposed to be specific, narrow, small tracks, not this gigantic locking away.

And second, they can't even defend it in its own terms. The idea that because we're not going to drill here, the oil and natural gas is not going to be produced is ridiculous. It's going to end up being produced in Nigeria, places all over the world where the standards, the environmental standards and protections are infinitely less than they are in the U.S. So even in terms of the environment, you're increasing the danger.

And it's very obvious that all they're trying to do is prevent American production of hydrocarbons, and it's futile. The Indians and the Chinese are opening a coal-fired plant every week. It is not going to stop. What we don't do, they will do. All we're doing is exporting jobs, exporting the waste, and exporting the danger.

BAIER: Laura, I guess the two picks that have the left's head exploding are Rick Perry at energy secretary and Scott Pruitt, EPA administrator. Today, not a fan of Donald Trump, per se, Jeb Bush had an op-ed in which he defended Pruitt. He said "The EPA has become a one-agency job killer putting working people out of a job, increasing costs for everyone. The far left has tried to distort Pruitt's views in a lame attempt to make him into an anti-science boogeyman. The Scott Pruitt I know is far from it. Unlike liberals who want to shut down any rational debate about climate change, Pruitt has acknowledged human impact on the climate and supports a robust discussion about its effects and what the government should and should not do to address it." Jeb Bush there writing that. Laura, what do you think the environmental policy of the Trump administration is going to look like?

INGRAHAM: I think it's going to be a lot more pragmatic. I think people may be disappointed if they think it's going to be just -- it's no holds barred on the environment, that they'll be able to do anything anyway. Probably not. But I think in areas like this, which Charles is exactly right, the law as it originally intended -- this is why the Supreme Court picks are going to be so important -- as originally intended should be narrowly interpreted. That's the whole point of originalism. We don't want these laws to just give a president cart blanche to do whatever he wants to stop localities, states to be able to create jobs and growth.

My goodness, we need economic growth in this country. And I'm glad Jeb Bush is, you know, kind of coming around on this and the op-ed was terrific. The name calling and the demonization of good people who are themselves sacrificing a lot to go into government, it's -- again, this is why people hate Washington. They want fairness and they should fairly keep Obama -- keep Trump in check when necessary, and fairly examine the facts on the ground.

BAIER: Quickly, Jonathan, Scott Pruitt was an attorney general. A lot of people forget to talk about the attorneys general and what they were doing to pressure and take these cases to court, and in a lot of case on the conservative side, winning these cases.

SWAN: Yes. So much of this has been happening beneath the surface of the national discussion, and he's a perfect example of that.

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