SPECIAL REPORT

President Trump slaps down on Iran

The 'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in

 

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," February 3, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They're not behaving.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Today's sanctions really represent a very, very strong stand against the actions that Iran has been taking. I would never rule anything off the table.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY, D-CONN.: This is truly reckless because this is a country that could start World War III.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C. I don't want a war with Iran, but they deserved to be sanctioned.

SEN. MARK WARNER, D-VA.: This is dicey, what he is doing. And I think he has to understand that the words of a president, or, for that matter, the tweets of a president actually carry a lot of weight.

REP. LEE ZELDIN, R-N.Y.: That's an important step. We have seen that done in the past. And where you have new players, you need to crack down on it.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Iran sanctions put in place by President Trump and the Trump administration. This is as a U.S. Navy destroyer makes a move into the Red Sea. The USS Cole, a lot of people remember that name from the destroyer that came under attack off the coast of Yemen.

This comes after a number of provocations by Iran, 16, actually, since signing the U.N. nuclear agreement in July, 2015. At least five ballistic missile tests, four under President Obama, one under President Trump, one what is called a highly provocative rocket test, seven incidents of harassment with the U.S. military in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, and those fast boats confronting U.S. Navy vessels.

Let's start here on foreign policy with the Trump administration and bring in our panel from Washington tonight: Steve Hayes, editor in chief of The Weekly Standard; Lisa Boothe, columnist with the Washington Examiner, and Tim Farley, host and managing editor of "Morning Briefing POTUS" on Sirius XM radio.

OK, Steve, this action by the administration, obviously these had been planned as an option under the Obama administration but deployed under the Trump administration.

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Thank goodness, this is such a long time overdue. If you think back about the way Iran has behaved over the past decade, whether you're talking about deliberately and killing U.S. personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, whether you're talking about funding a variety of terrorist groups, whether you're talking providing what Usama bin Laden himself called the main artery for Al Qaeda, whether you're talking about providing support for Palestinian terrorist groups, the provocations that you mentioned, any of a number of reasons that we can point to over the past decade that have allowed Iran to establish itself as the foremost state sponsor of terror in the world means that these actions are wildly overdue.

When was the last time that you heard anybody stand at the White House podium, as General Flynn did the other day, and suggest that what Iran was doing was wrong? We just haven't heard that for eight years. And it is long overdue. I'm glad we have this kind of forceful statement. I think the Trump administration is exactly right to do this.

And what is so shocking to me is that he would have objections from Democrats like Chris Murphy. It is hard to imagine having anybody have a problem with scolding the Iranian regime given what we have seen the regime do in its hostility to the United States over the past decade, and really longer.

BAIER: Lisa, if you don't think the Twitter, monitoring Twitter is important, today we read a lot of tweets because the president tweets. Today there was international tweeting going on. President Trump tweeting "Iran is playing with fire. They don't appreciate how kind President Obama was to them. Not me." And 20 minutes later the Iran foreign minister tweets, "Iran unmoved by threats as we derive security from our people. Will never initiate war but we can only rely on our own means of defense. And then we will all know mike never use our weapons against anyone except in self-defense. Let us see if any of those who complain can make the same statement." Pretty interesting back and forth.

LISA BOOTHE, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Yes, it is. And President Trump is in the infancy of his administration, so I think it's important for him to set the tone, particularly in regards to Iran. Look, anyone that thought that somehow Iran was going to temper their behavior because of the Iran deal has been completely dispelled by the provocations we have seen, as you spelled out earlier in the show, just this most recent testing of a ballistic missile. And not to mention the fact that just two weeks after implementation date of the deal, we saw Iranians put sailors on their knees and shoot it for propaganda purposes.

And how did the United States respond to that? We responded by a $1.7 billion ransom, purchasing heavy water, having the Obama administration encouraging businesses to reengage in the Iranian marketplace. So yes, this is a big, strong message that the Trump administration is standing. And as Steve pointed out earlier, I think it is one that is welcomed and needed.

BAIER: Tim, the Democrats have said that they are going to fight and resist on a number of fronts. Take a listen to -- and you heard Steve mention Senator Murphy. Here is also Senator Warner reacting to foreign policy Trump style.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

WARNER: I am not sure what he means by putting Iran unnoticed. Is this similar to the Obama redline in Syria? I don't know what that means, and none of us up here on the Hill have gotten any kind of assessment from the administration of putting them on notice.

MURPHY: For somebody that advertises himself as being a strong president on foreign policy, let's just look at the context here. Nobody is afraid of the sky. The Russians literally within hours of the phone call between Putin and Trump started advancing on eastern Ukraine.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BAIER: I mean, there's two different messages. He's either too ominous or too forceful, or they don't know what it is and it's like Obama's redline.

TIM FARLEY, SIRIUS XM RADIO: Exactly. It almost sounds like a couple of Republicans talking about President Obama not dealing with the redline in Syria. I think one thing that came out today aside from what we heard on Iran was also General Mattis and what he said about North Korea. And then we heard Nikki Haley, the ambassador to the United Nations this week, saying the United States was going to be very strong in its dealing and was going to support the Ukraine.

I think the point here is no so much about what Mr. Trump is saying, because he has typically in the past said that he doesn't want to show his hand. He is sort of showing his hand, but maybe not because you don't know exactly what he is going to do, but obviously he has sat down a marker. The question is, what are the circumstances under which you will deal with that marker that you set down, and what are you going to do?

And it's not so much what he has said right now, I think, although a lot of people are paying attention to it and the tweets are flying. It is what's going to happen, what kind of action he takes. And now he has set up an expectation I think to be tough. He has to make sure that whatever he does afterwards is equally as tough and it matches the rhetoric that he is using.

BAIER: Steve, I just want to touch briefly on the settlements, the Israeli settlements, and the statement out today that new settlements are not welcome as far as moving towards peace. But the old settlements, essentially, don't factor into that. Can you read between the lines here where this administration coming down on the Israeli settlements?

HAYES: No. Actually I think there is some confusion on where this administration has come down on the settlements, unlike what we heard about Iran. I think if you go back, just to make a quick point to follow-up on Tim's point. If you go back to what Senator Warner said that he doesn't know what it means precisely to put Iran unnoticed. Well, what it means we can say with certainty is that the eight years of accommodationist policy towards Iran is over. We know that much.

On the settlement question, I think it is much less clear. You heard Sean Spicer address that from the podium today. You've had indications, I think, pointing in a number of different directions. This is one of the hazards I think of sometimes doing policy by Twitter and doing it in short bursts is some of these problems are complicated enough that it requires more explanation then you are allowed to give or you're capable of giving in short outbursts.

BAIER: Yes, not a lot of nuance in 140 characters. But clearly the issue is different than in the Obama administration.

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