SPECIAL REPORT

Is Russia manipulating President-elect Trump?

The 'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in

 

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SERGEY PETROV, RUSSIAN FEDERATION CONSUL GENERAL: We can see these
sanctions completely un-substantive, unreasonable, and very detrimental to
the bilateral relations between two neighbors, between the United States of
America and the Russian Federation. They are bitter because they have to
leave before their term expired. What happened is they have to leave
within hours. And it's just not human, frankly, not human.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHANNON BREAM, GUEST ANCHOR: Reaction from a top Russian diplomat on the sanctions that
President Obama unveiled yesterday. So let's talk about it with our panel,
Tom Rogan, columnist for "National Review" and "Opportunity Lives," Leslie
Marshall, syndicated talk radio host, and syndicated columnist Charles
Krauthammer. Welcome to all of you.

And there were a lot of people who thought that President Putin would
unleash something very nasty in return. But here is a bit of his statement
today. He said, "As it proceeds from international practice, Russia has
reasons to respond in kind. Although we have the right to retaliate, we
will not resort to irresponsible kitchen diplomacy but will plan our
further steps to restore Russian-U.S. relations based on the policies of
the Trump administration." By the way, he went on to tweet, Donald Trump,
"Great move on delay by V. Putin. I always knew he was very smart!"
Exclamation point, Tom.

TOM ROGAN, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Look, I mean, the Russians -- I actually
thought they might over-retaliate and get the U.S. ambassador out of
Moscow. But I think what they're doing is quite simple. They think they
can manipulate Trump because he's playing right into that at the moment.
They will keep playing this game until there comes a push back point which
they have not seen, frankly, under President Obama. And I think these
expulsions represent, why didn't he persona non grata the ambassador if he
wanted to show a really serious message? And I find it quite amusing that
the foreign ministry statement, that's Russian humor, nothing else. That's
a sign of profanity to President Obama. We're tweeting out a photo of a
duck.

BREAM: Lame duck.

ROGAN: The Russians do -- any American diplomats or western diplomats in
Moscow or journalists, they do far worse, far more inhuman things than
that, going into their apartment and leaving gifts of every measure --

BREAM: Special packages.

ROGAN: Yes, exactly. And read between the lines.

BREAM: I thought it was interesting, too, Leslie, because the statement
from President Putin went on to a say, "By the way, any diplomatic kids who
were in Moscow right now, we invite you to the New Year's Eve party at the
Kremlin." So is all of this tongue-in-cheek? What is this?

LESLIE MARSHALL, SYNDICATED RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Yes, I think definitely.
If President Obama were in his first term going into second or if Hillary
Clinton were coming in as president next year, I don't think we would have
seen the same reaction and response from Putin and from Russia as we are.
I agree. I think he looks at, well, I have my buddy, which Democrats call
his puppet, president-elect Trump coming in, so this is how I'm going to
respond.

I have to say, I think this is great that the president did this, but,
honestly, as a Democrat, I think he should have done it a long time ago. I
was looking at history with Russia today and I was looking at not only
hacking but spying. We executed a man and a woman in this country for
spying. So this is a serious offense. When Republicans and Democrats
agree on something, we know there's a level of seriousness and severity.
And I'm not surprised by Putin's response because, you know, next month
it's a whole different ballgame for him.

BREAM: It is. And there are questions tonight about the timing of what
the Obama administration has done. Kellyanne Conway, who is going to be a
senior adviser to President Trump, here is a bit of what she had to say
about why now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Even those who are sympathetic
to President Obama on most issues are saying that part of the reason he did
this today was to, quote, "box in" president-elect Trump. That would be
very unfortunate if that were -- if politics were the motivating factor
here. But we can't help but think that's often true.

Even "The New York Times" characterized this as such, that this may be an
attempt to box him in to see what he will do as president. That's not the
way that peaceful transitions of administrations work in our great
democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BREAM: Charles, how much do you think what President Obama did is about
Putin versus being about Trump?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think it's both. It was a
to-for for him. But I think it's become rather farcical. Putin is showing
his complete contempt for Obama, the way he laughs it off. He decides this
is so trivial, he isn't going to retaliate, which is the normal thing you
do. I love the way he invites American diplomatic kids to the Kremlin.
What kid doesn't dream of a New Year's party at the Kremlin? What American
kid doesn't?

And Trump I think has sort of played into it by congratulating Putin. But
it's a smart move on the part of the Russians. You put no pressure on
Trump so you give him the option to drop the sanctions. But this is a
complete distraction. These sanctions are meaningless. The only ones that
matter, and even those sanctions are not that severe, are the ones that
were imposed on Russia because of Ukraine. The two leading candidates for
the French presidency next year are both opposed to those sanctions. Those
sanctions are on their last legs. And if you're worried about sanctions
and Russian aggression, that's where the focus ought to be. These are
going to be temporary sanctions on Russia for a few weeks, maybe Trump will
keep them. But as soon as there's an agreement on anything, some kind of
trivial nuclear deal or something, the dropping of the sanctions will be a
part of that and this will be a distant memory.

BREAM: Tom, what kind of situation does this create for incoming president
Trump with, as Leslie noted, there is bipartisan support for taking more
serious action against Russia for potential special select investigations
into exactly what they did or didn't do with respect to the election? And
now he walks in with praise of Putin, with saying it's time to move on with
our lives, and he's going to have opposition on the hill from both parties?

ROGAN: He's going to have opposition on the hill and it will create
fraying because there's real anger on the Hill. There's also real anger in
the intelligence community. And there's concern on the part of the western
allies. If you link back to some of the things candidate Trump said about
NATO, the European are especially concerned and potentially the U.K. is
offering this pivot to Trump saying, look, we will try to get NATO to
increase defense spending.

But if he keeps doing these sort of tweets, playing Putin's game, because
that's what it is. It's standard manipulation. And if he keeps ignoring
the intelligence briefings, the Russians think he is a joke, as a fact.
They think he is joke and they think he is pliable. You are going to see
degrading American credibility in the same vein, a sort of different
version of President Obama's red line collapse, that American power is
subject to the Kremlin and more specifically subject to a KGB
counterintelligence guy who never left the KGB.

BREAM: OK, so we have a late tweet from the president-elect today, also
saying "Russians are playing CNN and NBC News for such fools. Funny to
watch. They don't have a clue." Then he goes on to add, "FOX News totally
gets it." So Leslie, if they think that he is a foolish puppet, is he also
playing the game back at them with reverse psychology? What's going on
here?

MARSHALL: No. I don't think that president-elect Trump is dumb.
Certainly, he made very good business decisions that have certainly bode
well for him. But I don't think he is as clever as Putin and his people in
Russia, unfortunately. So no, I don't think in the sense he is bright
enough to be pulling that back, if you will.

I think it's terrible that regardless of who won that anybody isn't
concerned about this. I think one of the reasons the president waited was
there wasn't enough information. And I think that as president-elect
Donald Trump should care more about this country because it's our election
today. God forbid it's our nuclear codes tomorrow.

BREAM: Panel, that's it on this.

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