'Loyal opposition' in danger of looking like whiners?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," January 16, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: If he doesn't have confidence in the intelligence community, what signal does that send to our partners and allies as well as our adversaries?

BOB WOODWARD, WASHINGTON POST: That is a garbage document. It never should have been presented as part of an intelligence briefing. Trump is right to be upset about that.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I) VERMONT: Do I think Russia supported him? Do I think they tried to get him elected? Do I think they worked against Clinton? I do. And that is something that has to be investigated.

REINCE PRIEBUS, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I think president Obama could step up and get his people in line and tell them to grow up and accept the fact that they lost the election.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, the back-and-forth about Russia, what they did ahead of the election, the hacking, intel back and forth with Donald Trump, the president-elect, the intelligence community is continuing, as we are now four days away from the inauguration. This as the number of Democrats skipping the inauguration stands at 31 according to their offices tonight. Obviously that could change in the next few days, either less or more.

John Lewis, congressman from Georgia, has kind of led this by saying that the president-elect is not legitimate as president. He has said that before. According to The Washington Post ahead of the George W. Bush inauguration some members of the Black Caucus decided to boycott inauguration day. John Lewis, for example, spent the day in his Atlanta district. He thought it would be hypocritical to attend Bush's swearing-in because he doesn't believe Bush is the true elected president. This on Martin Luther King Jr. day.

Let's bring in our panel: Juan Williams, columnist with The Hill; Julie Pace, White House correspondent for the Associated Press, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Juan, first of all, it's good to have you in D.C.



BAIER: What do you make of all this? It's 31, the number, as of tonight.

WILLIAMS: I think the number is going to grow, actually, and I think you're going to see major protests around the inaugural festivities here this coming weekend. Part of this of course you can trace back to things like the argument over Russian interference, over Jim Comey and the FBI's role in the days just before the election, and even to the fact that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote.

But at some point it comes off as political whining. Why do I say that? As a Democrat even, not just as a political analyst, but why do I say that? Because I think at some juncture you have to be politic about this and say, guess what. Donald Trump is going to be inaugurated on Friday. He is going to be the commander-in-chief of our military. He's going to be the chief executive of our federal government. And the question is, one, peaceful transfer of power. I think all of us need to celebrate that.

But secondly, how do you, in terms of forming a loyal opposition, go forward? And I think they are putting themselves in a box where they come off as easily disregarded or easily ignored or categorized as petty.

BAIER: The leader of the Democratic Party, at least now, President Obama, has said he wants a smooth transition, that this is a legitimately elected president-elect who will put his hand on the Bible on Friday.

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: And I think he understands that this idea of questioning the legitimacy of the presidency is a really dangerous thing. We've seen this in the last three presidencies at least. You had people after the 2000 election.

BAIER: We had people, we should point out, in 2009 who were saying he wasn't legitimate because they said he wasn't born in the U.S. And that was litigated over time including with the president-elect.

PACE: Exactly. You had people in 2000 who said that Bush after the election had to go to the Supreme Court was not legitimately elected. So three new presidents in a row have had their legitimacy questioned.

What that does to the political system when you talk about Russian interference in our elections, that's one of the things they're trying to do. It was not really who they were trying to get elected. It was the idea of creating chaos in our system. I think Obama knows that if you have not just lawmakers but citizens who question the process, the idea of the peaceful transfers of power becomes maybe not as easy as it has been throughout our history.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It's a sign of the loosening of the threads of our sort of constitutional system. It's a minor one, but it does show that the trust in institutions has declined radically since the Second World War. About the only remaining one that is trusted is the military. And this is not a good sign.

Look, John Lewis is a genuine American hero, a man of extraordinary courage, and he deserves all the accolades he's had. But he does tend to exaggerate and to go to hyperbole, as in 2009 -- 2008 when he intimated that the McCain campaign reminded him of George Wallace. He has a right to say anything he wants, but he should be cognizant of the moral weight he carries.

And to call Trump illegitimate because of the Russian hacking, that's a rather thin reed. There are a lot of ways to question the legitimacy of an election, let's say the Supreme Court stepping in. But on the Russian hacking, it looks as if he was looking for an excuse.

On the other hand, Trump should have restrained himself. He's not a man who turns the other cheek. But it was not a time to attack John Lewis personally for the troubles in African-American communities in America. So the two are at fault, and together I think it creates a dynamic that undermines the majesty of what is supposed to happen on inauguration day.

BAIER: To the end of your point there, the president-elect meeting with Martin Luther King III at Trump Tower today.


MARTIN LUTHER KING III: In the heat of emotion, a lot of things get set on both sides. My father would be very concerned about the fact that there are 50 million or 60 million people living in poverty, and somehow we've got to create the climate for all boats to be lifted. In America, with a multitrillion dollar economy, $20,000 trillion almost, it is insanity that we have poor people in this nation.


BAIER: And Donald Trump tweeting "Celebrate Martin Luther King Day and all the many wonderful things that he stood for. Honor him for being the great man that he was." Juan, he was asked the question, Martin Luther King III, and John Lewis, and he's responding to that.

WILLIAMS: I want to double down on something Charles said. I don't think there's any question John Lewis deserves the accolades as a person of bravery. So when Donald Trump tweets something like "All talk, no action," I think a lot of people, specifically people who know civil rights history, but I would say black Americans of a certain age, they are just turned out, thinking what is he saying? You can't say that about this guy. This guy really put himself on the line and took risks. This is not a man who is all talk and no action. No way.

BAIER: That is the problem with tweeting. There is no nuance. I think he is tweeting "all talk, no action" about the problems in inner cities currently, but not "all talk, no action" throughout his career, John Lewis.

WILLIAMS: Right. But even if we said it's just about what's going on in John Lewis' congressional district, he suggests that Lewis' Congressional district is a mess. That's not the case. You know Atlanta. And the airports there, this is a congressman who has had some success.

So again and again, you say tweeting is inadequate. But it's the fact that even today on King's birthday, people say to me, so where is Donald Trump? Is he doing something with a black group that would at least signify some intent toward healing? The answer was, well, he had Martin Luther King III come visit. He didn't take any questions, as you saw, retreating into the elevator. So that just wasn't a demonstration of reaching out. I hope he does more on inauguration day.

BAIER: Quickly, I want to deal with this real quick question. In "The Washington Post" interview he says about Obamacare that there will be a replacement and that there will be insurance for all. I mean, we don't know what that looks like.

PACE: We don't know. And his team is pushing back at this idea that he wants the replacement package to guarantee coverage for all. They are saying his goal is to create a health care system that will allow people to have access to all, but we don't know. We hear a lot of different things from Trump about what his goal for a replace package. Throughout the campaign he basically said he wanted something terrific. So now is the time to start filling out those details, and he didn't do a lot I think there to give us a picture of what has replaced package will look like.

BAIER: Will he?


BAIER: Provide details, or is it going to fall on Congress?

KRAUTHAMMER: I don't know who it comes out of. They're going to have to. You have to present a bill that will either come out of Ryan's office. It will undoubtedly come out of Price as HHS secretary or maybe the White House. But when the president says insurance for all, we have no idea what he means. And I think it is completely idle speculation. I guarantee you that Trump himself is not sure what that means. So let's wait and see what the policy is.

BAIER: OK, we will.

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