The contrasting styles of the House, Senate Russia probes

The 'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," March 29, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. ERIC SWALWELL, D-CALIF.: What's going on here? Why aren't we going forward with this hearing?

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY, D-ILL.: My point of view, it begins and ends with the White House. I believe unfortunately the chairman is following their orders.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: How he conducts himself with his members, when and where he shares things, et cetera, are issues for him in the community and the House of Representatives, not for us.

REP. DEVIN NUNES, R-CALIF.: As far as I know, they have done little to even look through the documents that the intelligence agencies have provided.

REP. CHARLIE DENT, R-PA.: It seems like there's not going to be a House report on intelligence on the Russian meddling. And so I think we have to turn our eyes to the Senate.

SEN. RICHARD BURR, R-N.C.: Because this is one of the biggest investigation of the Hill has seen in my tenure here.

SEN. MARK WARNER, D-VA.: We will get to the bottom of this.


SHANNON BREAM, FOX NEWS: Let's bring in our panel to talk about all of that: Jonah Goldberg, senior editor of National Review; Julie Pace, White House correspondent for the Associated Press, and Steve Hilton, a former adviser to British Prime Minister David Cameron. Good to see all of you on yet another busy Washington day. Jonah, I'll start with you. The House and Senate on this topic right now, couldn't be more different.

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW: That's right. And I think some of this is because, as Charles Krauthammer said earlier in the show, the warrant for the two committees is a little different. What they are actually going after is a little different.

But at the same time, look, I think Devin Nunes is a smart, capable, and honorable guy. I think he kind of stepped in it in how he handled the politics of this. I think going, trying to seem to corroborate, or appear to seem to want to corroborate Donald Trump's original wiretapping tweets, which I thought were irresponsible even if true. Even if Donald Trump was right that Barack Obama was wiretapping him, you don't reveal that.

BREAM: He said that statement --

GOLDBERG: Is false, right. My point is even if it was correct, you shouldn't tweet about it on Saturday morning. You should launch an investigation and do something serious. I think on the politics and the optics, Nunes has gotten himself in a bit of trouble. I also think Congressman Schiff has been remarkably partisan, but he's better at hiding it. And I think that really matters a lot in terms of how the mainstream media covers a lot of this.

BREAM: The piece in "The Wall Street Journal" said, listen, Schiff has also been out there making statements that he doesn't then back up with evidence that he floats out to people. So you're right. Maybe he's playing the game a little bit better. There's been a lot of back and forth about people saying that the committee is shutting, nothing is getting done. So we have a little bit from both sides about what is actually going on with the House committee.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why have the investigation and the committee been put on ice? When you canceled all of the ordinary business meetings of the committee, it's kind of up to the individual who does not to say here's why I did that.

REP. TREY GOWDY, R-S.C.: I don't know when Congress not doing something for a week was deep freeze mode. That's not unusual up here that we would have a week where we didn't have a whole lot to show for it.

NUNES: We conduct meetings every day. That story was spun up by people who didn't know what they were talking about.


BREAM: Julie, what is going on with this committee?

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I think even if the House committee moves forward, and they probably will move forward in some sense, we have to acknowledge that this is a deeply partisan committee on both sides right now. If there's going to be a real report that comes out of Congress on the Russian hacking, which is really where this all starts, is going to come from the Senate. I don't think anybody disagrees with that.

And I think that that's really important, though, because a lot of this has gotten caught up in what President Trump campaign knew and who was involved. That's really important. But at the end of the day, this is an investigation about a foreign government meddling in a U.S. election, and if there's not a credible hearing into it, it leaves the door open for it to happen again in the midterms, and the next presidential election, and it affects both sides. It's not as though one party or the other is going to be immune to this kind of interference.

BREAM: But Steve, the House side is saying there's another branch, another trail to this which is surveilling potentially in some way people connected to the Trump transition team, unmasking and leaking names derived from that incidental collection. So there is another branch that maybe Democrats aren't so excited about investigating. But Nunes keeps saying just hold on. You're going to see where this is going, the fact that we've been investigating.

STEVE HILTON, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. And I think that's all true, all these points are true. I think there are sincere issues of substance, I don't want to deny that.

But honestly, I am so sick of hearing, as we heard I think from Mark Warner there, this endlessly repeated phrase, we've got to get to the bottom of it for the sake of our democracy and so on. It's so pompous. And I think it really shows that Washington is just so out of touch, actually worse than out of touch. I think this actually shows Washington as a place that is truly decadent.

When you have people in this country so desperate for real change in their lives, for jobs and a pay rise and to deal with things like the drugs epidemic that I know you talked about on the show tonight, there is so much real stuff to do that the way that there is this self-indulgent circus going on in this town over this issue, I think it is really, really damaging to the reputation of everyone involved.

And I think that what they've got to do is deal with it professionally and quickly. I agree with all those points. But just stop delighting in it so much. It feels like this is what they really love doing instead of the hard stuff of actually making change happen in people's lives.

BREAM: People are saying if you look at these separates, as Julie was talking about, we do need to know what Russia is doing. And on the Senate side, they seem a little bit more buttoned up about how they are handling this and saying not only do we need to know what they did, we need to know what they are going to do, because their idea is all about undermining democracies and damaging what is happening in the west. Here's a little bit about what the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Intel committee said today.


BURR: I've got a job in the United States Senate, and I take that job extremely serious. It overrides any personal beliefs that I have or loyalties that I might have. Mark and I might look at politics differently. We don't look at the responsibilities we have on the committee differently.

WARNER: I have confidence that we with the members of our committee are going to get to the bottom of this.


BREAM: All right, Jonah, do you have confidence the Senate side can get to the bottom of this?

GOLDBERG: Whether they get to the bottom of it or not remains to be seen. To take Steve's point just for a second, senators in particular, their whole reason for being alive and being in the Senate is to come from a great Olympian height and say "People of earth, stop your squabbling. We are here to help." So you get this kind of condescending tone from them.

And I agree with Steve when he says there's a certain tumult and reveling in all of this drama. But you've got to remember, a lot of this drama was started by this tweet storm by Donald Trump which was based on reporting that was so thin it should probably be called emaciated. And that's what ignited this crazy firestorm. I think for President Trump it would be very much in his political interest to focus on jobs, get back to the core message that got him elected. That's where he polls best. That's where he's best at messaging. And this whole thing is a sideshow that has been bad for him, bad for his poll numbers, and I think bad for the country.

BREAM: but both the Senate and House committees will tell you, across partisan lines, Julie, that they started these investigations well ahead of that tweet by the president.

PACE: They did, but they have taken on a much different tone in the aftermath of that tweet, and they should to some degree, because this isn't a random advisor who throughout this idea of Barack Obama wiretapping Trump Tower. This came from the president of the United States, this idea that we could just put it aside or dismiss it or that the FBI or the investigative committee should put it aside I think is just unrealistic. The president put it out there. He then demanded that these committees investigate it. And they are trying to varying degrees to do that justice.

I think from the Senate side, there was a really nice picture of bipartisanship today which was actually a bit refreshing to see. That was a press conference, though. We don't know where this is going to go when they actually start digging into this, when they are up there have to ask questions of witnesses publicly. And I think what I would be really refreshing for this town to have an investigation and a public hearing that looks bipartisan. We haven't actually seen that in quite a long time.

BREAM: And Steve, quickly, we are almost out of time on this particular panel, but while Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has said that the exact wording of what the president tweeted out may not have been correct, he continues to suggest that the overall idea or the substance of the idea that somehow the president or his associates were being tracked by the former administration, he continues to hint he has something to back it up. We haven't seen it yet.

HILTON: I think generally speaking, we as a country can rightfully be very skeptical of claims about surveillance being limited and controlled because we have seen officials absolutely clearly lying about that. When you go back to some of the testimony that we've seen over the years about surveillance generally --

BREAM: James Clapper comes to mind.

HILTON: Exactly. And so I think that we should assume the worst when it comes to what the government and its agencies are doing in terms of surveillance of all kinds on all people.

GOLDBERG: I do think Nunes may well have something.

BREAM: Yes. We will have to see. He says he is waiting on documents from the NSA. By the way, that's going to be a new hash-tag, just assume the worst, because then you're never disappointed, by the way.


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