The impact of President Trump's executive actions

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," January 24, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This is with regard to the construction of the Keystone pipeline, something that's been in dispute and is subject to a renegotiation of terms by us. We will see if we can get that pipeline built. A lot of jobs, 28,000 jobs, great construction jobs. We build the pipelines. We want to build the pipe. We're going to put a lot of workers, a lot of steelworkers back to work. We're bringing manufacturing back to the United States big league. I am to a large extent an environmentalist. I believe in it. But it's out of control.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Workday two, a lot of stuff going on. Here's what happened today. Executive orders that President Trump signed reviving the Keystone XL pipeline project, reviving the Dakota Access Pipeline project, gives the Commerce Department 180 days to maximize the use of U.S. steel in the pipelines, direct the Commerce Department to streamline the permitting process for manufacturing, expedite the environmental permitting process for infrastructure projects, that includes pipelines, roads, bridges, et cetera.

TransCanada put out a statement quickly, this is from their spokesperson, "We appreciate the president of the United States inviting us to reapply for KXL. We are currently preparing the application and intend to do so. KXL, this is, again, the Keystone XL pipeline, creates thousands of well- paying construction jobs and would generate tens of millions of dollars in annual property taxes to count along the route as well as more than $3 billion to the U.S. GDP."

Earth Justice, an environmental group, says "We are shocked and dismayed by today's news because it puts water for millions at risk." It goes on after that.

Let's bring in our panel: Guy Benson, political editor at TownHall.com; Tim Farley, host and managing editor of Morning Briefing POTUS on Syrius XM radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. OK, Guy, thoughts on the past two days, but today's actions.

GUY BENSON, TOWNHALL.COM: On the pipelines, this is a layup for Donald Trump. It's good optics. It's good economics. It's good politics. And it's a clear pivot away from the Obama administration that slow walked these things and killed the pipelines I think for mainly political reasons. That was a pander to certain interest within the Democratic coalition, well moneyed interests on the environmental green side of things, and Trump is not going to be indebted to them.

So this sort of rolls into one neat package, a number of different narratives that Trump wants to pursue about his administration, creating jobs, putting working people to work. And no one is going to be cheering louder than some of those union bosses with whom he met just yesterday in Washington D.C. A lot of bipartisan support for this, a smart move, no- brainer.

BAIER: Yes, and that union image, the fact that he had the meeting with seven unions who all endorsed Hillary Clinton in the election was quite something.

TIM FARLEY, SIRIUS XM RADIO: Yes, and this is kind of a short-term thing in some ways in terms of jobs because permanent jobs will not be plentiful as a result of this. I think one of the things that goes deeper especially with the Dakota Access pipeline is that attacks, and some of those other executive orders you mentioned, the kind of process to get these things approved because the Dakota Access pipeline was approved long ago, then it was stopped. And it's this interminable waiting period. It's uncertainty for business. So I think in some ways that even has more of an effect business going forward, and that's, again, another way for him to check off the list of things that he said he wanted to do when he was elected.

BAIER: Charles, the environmentalists say this is dirty, it is going to create more pollution in our country. Supporters of these pipelines say it's actually very clean compared to doing it on a railway or taking it by truck across the country.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: There have never been weaker arguments against a project that on the Keystone pipeline. Their assumption is that Canada would stop extracting the oil sands in the north in Alberta if we didn't have the pipeline, which is always absurd. It's a huge resource for Canada. It's the future. And all they have to do instead of going south is go west and export it to Asia. So that was a completely empty argument.

And you are right about the pipeline. If it doesn't go by pipeline, this oil, or in the Dakota project, it ends up in railcars, which is much dirtier. The pollution is at least twice as much, and dangerous. There was an accident in Quebec of a rail shipment of crude oil that wiped out half a town and dozens of human beings. We are not talking about abstractions here with carbon in the air.

So there was never a strong argument. It was always symbolism. The Obama administration was cravenly cynical, putting it off because its own State Department when it had a real, honest examination of the issue concluded that it was not going to hurt the environment. I agree that in the end what's going to have the most effect is the directive to streamline the permitting of other projects in the future because that has been killing initiatives on infrastructure and also on planned construction.

BAIER: The permitting process and just the images of the president signing these things, calling the press in, seems to be a positive thing for the Trump administration.

This, however, seems to be a negative thing, a focus on something the president said in a bipartisan meeting with congressional leaders, saying that he likely won the popular vote because there were three to five million illegal voters. That took up a lot of oxygen at the news briefing this afternoon.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to ask for an investigation at the White House and formally ask for a probe into this alleged --

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think he won very handily with 306 electoral votes and 33 states. He's comfortable with his win, but I think --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The trouble is he keeps bringing it up.

SPICER: He was having a discussion with folks and mentioned something in passing which has been a long-standing belief that he's maintained. This isn't the first time that you've heard this concern of his.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's worth clarifying whether illegal ballots or illegal --

SPICER: I think there were some studies that came out in 2008 that showed 14 percent of people who voted were not citizens.


BAIER: OK, Guy, your thoughts.

BENSON: We are talking about this, aren't we? So the oxygen is being consumed as we literally speak on this.

I'm sort of perplexed as to why we keep going back to this argument, we being the administration and really just the president, frankly. There is no actual evidence for this. I'm sure there were illegal votes. Voter fraud is a real phenomenon that ought to be guarded against. But three to five millions, I think that was the line of questioning there. If you had millions of illegal votes that could absolutely tip a national election. Shouldn't there be a serious investigation if you really believe this to be true?

I've always believed that the best argument Trump could have made, and he did initially, was his better argument on this, saying forget the popular vote. I would have won that if that were the goal. If the whole campaign or structured to win the popular vote I would've done that. Instead it was a different chessboard on I won that game. That's true. The illegal voting thing is a waste of time.

BAIER: And they pressed him about this and Sean Spicer said maybe we will launch into, look into it at some point.

FARLEY: I don't know who's going to investigate this.

BAIER: After two pretty strong days as far as what's getting done.

FARLEY: It's getting in the way. Rene Descartes once said the cogito ergo sum, I think, therefore I am. With Donald Trump, it's I believe therefore it's true. And my Latin is to rust, I can't translate it. But this is one of those moments where just as Guy said, it gets in the way. And you can have a whole bunch of different things you want to say. All of us are sitting around trying to work this out, if I were doing PR here's what I'd say, and no one is doing what Donald Trump is doing. He is telling you how to not handle the first few days of a presidency when it comes to something like that.

I will say I didn't see any angry tweets this morning about the front page story in "The Washington Post" or "The New York Times" covering this and the tumult in the first couple of days. So it may be that he is holding off on that.

But I can also only imagine what it's like to have to be out in front of the press, as Sean Spicer is, to say, well, he believes, therefore we are operating under the assumption that we could keep acting that it's true. That makes no sense.

BAIER: We should point out, Sean Spicer is with Sean Hannity tonight on his show, kind of behind the scenes of the press operation. I'm not a conspiracy theory guy, Charles, but I watched candidate Trump on the next day of heads exploding on the left and in the media, and then he won. He was a winner, and he's always figured out how to win. And there is some part of me that thinks is this somehow a strategy? It seems, I can't figure out why, but is it?

KRAUTHAMMER: Guy asked the question, why are we talking about this? Why is it being brought up? And the answer is rather simple. I don't think it's a strategy. This is a character problem. He defines himself as a winner. Good people are winners. He's always said that.

BAIER: Quite frankly he is a winner.

KRAUTHAMMER: And he is a winner.

BAIER: And he turns out to win.

KRAUTHAMMER: He does. But he's obsessed with the fact that he won the election, and nobody cares about the popular vote. He does. So he considers this a slight to his image and to his self-image as a guy who runs the table, who wins everything. Why did he bring up the size of the crowd at the inaugural? That's nuts. Nobody cares. He cares. Why did he bring up the ratings for "The Apprentice"? He cares about this. You go back to the Iowa primary. He had to blame his coming second on a trick done by Ted Cruz, lying Ted. That's his character. He wins anyway so maybe in the end it won't matter, but that's the answer. It's a character issue.

FARLEY: He is scoring more points in every game but he's arguing over whether or not he actually completed more passes.

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