Sen. Jim Risch: US likely to take military action in Syria

Idaho senator says on 'The First 100 Days' that he is not sure what that action be


This is a rush transcript from "The First 100 Days," April 6, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS CHANNEL THE FIRST 100 DAYS HOST: Breaking tonight, back on the campaign trail, we remember how then Mr. Trump talked about his opponent and what she would do about Syria.


DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: She wants to start a shooting war in Syria in conflict with nuclear-armed Russia that could easily lead to World War III.


MACCALLUM: Now, the President, Mr. Trump, says this.


TRUMP: I now have responsibility and I will have that responsibility and carry it very proudly.


MACCALLUM: And here he is just moments ago.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think that Assad should leave power in Syria?

TRUMP: I think what happened in Syria is a disgrace to humanity. And he's there and I guess he's running things, so something should happen.


MACCALLUM: So, you can see the evolution on this tonight on this day 77. The commander-in-chief now being presented tonight with his military options by his Secretary of Defense, General Mattis, and has diplomatic options by his Secretary of State, Mr. Tillerson. Both individuals, who in recent times, have seem to be somewhat on the sidelines. They are both now front and center, as the west wing dynamic has gone through some big changes.

Good evening, everybody. Welcome to "The First 100 Days," I'm Martha MacCallum. All of this, while the president has a meeting that he has wanted for decades, and that meeting is happening as we speak, there, the pictures just moments ago. Mr. Trump has railed against China's unfair trade practices for years as a businessman. Now, as president, he can take action. But the threat from North Korea, China's aggression in the region, makes this now a game of high-stakes poker.

President Xi and his wife arriving in Florida, followed moments later by the president and the first lady, as you could see, earlier this afternoon. Now, in moments, we will talk about all of this with Senator Jim Risch of the Foreign Relations Committee. But first, we go to Mar-a-Lago where all of this is unfolding as we speak. And our Chief White House Correspondents John Roberts. John?

JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS CHANNEL CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Martha, good evening to you. I don't know how many times I've attended these high-level summits between the U.S. President and a number of world leaders when it's been overshadowed by other developments. And that appears to be happening again tonight. The president coming down here to Florida to meet with Xi Jinping, the Chinese premier. This is their first face-to-face meeting. It's supposed to be sort of an icebreaker summit, supposed to sort of set the parameters for future talks between the two nations, and really kind of give us an indication of how relations are going to be between the two leaders over the next four years.

And then, of course, something else raises its head and overshadows all of that. And what's raising its head now, of course, is the situation in Syria and whether or not the United States is going to take military action against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. I'm told that a lot has gone into changing the president's thinking, and it's not just the apparent sarin gas attack against Syrian civilians, but really, a pattern of escalation that's occurred over the last week, ever since Nikki Haley said publicly that regime change wasn't necessarily the top priority when it comes to Syria of the United States. Suddenly, they saw one attack lead to another, escalating, escalating, until we saw that sarin gas attack.

And there's a feeling in the administration now that Bashar al-Assad might have taken that declaration by Nikki Haley and said, "Hey, that's a green light for me to do whatever I want." He basically just took the ball and ran with it. So, now, the president considering whether or not to launch military strikes against Syria. And now, this idea that regime change was not a priority has flipped around 180 degrees and regime change has definitely become a priority. And Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State, who we barely heard a squeak from over the last month, came out today and articulated how that regime change would happen. Listen to what he said.


REX TILLERSON, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: The process by which Assad would leave is something that I think requires an international community effort, both to first defeat ISIS within Syria, to stabilize the Syrian country, to avoid further civil war, and then to work collectively with our partners around the world through a political process that would lead to Assad leaving.


ROBERTS: Now, that's something that wouldn't absolutely happen overnight. That would take some time to do because you've got to defeat ISIS first. The Secretary of State also sending a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is expected to stand in the way of a U.N. resolution on Assad and Syria, saying that he hopes that Russia would carefully consider its continued support for the Assad regime. Martha?

MACCALLUM: John, thank you.

So, here now with more reaction tonight, Senator Jim Risch, who is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. Senator, welcome. Obviously, a very busy day on Capitol Hill. And now, the issue of what to do about Syria and whether or not the president will want military action. What is your reaction to all of this?

JIM RISCH, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE MEMBER: Well, Martha, first of all, this story is moving very quickly, as I'm sure you've seen today. That those were horrific pictures that we've seen. And back in August of 2013, we saw the same thing. At that time - at that time, President Obama had laid down a red line and said that if they crossed it, he would do something -- nothing happened.

And so now, the President Trump has made somewhat the same declaration. Although, he didn't used the words "red line", but he has explained pretty carefully that this has changed the calculus. And as has been explained by the various administration people that you've heard from today, they are considering the military option. And I have concluded that that probably will take place. I think the question right now is what does it look like? How big is it? How broad is it? How surgical? How long? How short? And what kind of coalition they bring together to do it?

MACCALLUM: Senator John McCain, his calculus has been consistent on this for years. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives. The pictures and images that we are seeing in the recent days are horrific but there are pictures that we never saw that are equally horrific for all of these years. I want to play part of our conversation last night because he's very specific about the military move that he thinks needs to happen. Watch this.


JOHN MCCAIN, SENATE COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES CHAIRMAN: So, what do we need to do? We need to stop Bashar al-Assad's planes from flying, and we can do that easily, just say don't fly or you're going to get shot down. And if you start operating out of the six bases that they have, we're going to crater your runways with cruise missiles and other weapons, but you can't fly, because we're not going to let you drop nerve gas, we're not going to let you drop chlorine, we're not going to let you drop barrel bombs.


MACCALLUM: What do you think? Do you agree with that?

RISCH: Well, I've been in meetings all day long talking about options. Certainly, that's one option that's on the table. There are a number of other options that are on the table, but I tell you, the ones that are going to be wringing their hands over this are the people in Moscow right now. Because they're going to have to make some serious choices as to how much capital they're going to spend on this. Their expenditure is going to go up pretty dramatically. The (INAUDIBLE) that the world is watching, we have a new president, our enemies and our friends are weighing every move that's made to see whether they can count on the United States. I guarantee you that North Korea, they are weighing this very heavily. And they're going to - their future actions are going to be dictated by how the president responds to this.

MACCALLUM: It's hard to understate the importance of what's happening right now.

RISCH: No question about it.

MACCALLUM: Senator, thank you so much. Good to have you with us tonight.

RISCH: Thank you, Martha, good to be with you.

MACCALLUM: So, here now with more Bill Bennett is host of "The Bill Bennett Show," podcast on iTunes, and he is a Fox News contributor. Bill, welcome, good to have you with us tonight.


MACCALLUM: You know, I actually want to start by playing that infamous moment from President Obama when he talked about crossing the red line. Let's watch this. And then, Susan Rice making comments just about a month and a half ago about this. Let's play it.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground that a red line for us is, we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.

SUSAN RICE, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: On the so-called chemical weapons red line, indeed, we had put in place the assets necessary to use force, to try to strike at those chemical facilities and command-and-control entities that we thought were relevant to our chemical weapons concerns. In the mean -

MARTIN: So, why didn't it happen?

RICE: Because in the meantime, we were able to find a solution that actually removed the chemical weapons that were known from Syria.


MACCALLUM: Susan Rice has been much in the news, just a month or so ago saying "We took care of that problem. There are no more chemical weapons in Syria." And we saw clearly that there are, Bill, in these horrific pictures over the past couple of days.

BENNETT: Yes, I'd say this. There were a lot of disgraces in the Obama administration. This is perhaps the worst thing, like Rwanda was for Bill Clinton. At least, Bill Clinton had the decency to admit that. I would say to follow it, this president, if he draws a red line, I would be more confident that he will keep his promise, than in the case of President Obama, he is a man who tends to keep his word. However, this is a dramatic switch from what the president said during the campaign. Now, maybe it's because of what John Roberts was reporting and Senator Risch was reporting.

Remember that the heart has its reasons and we're all moved by this. But as Senator Risch pointed out, we saw these same films, these same videos in 2013. And the heart has its reasons but the head must control what happens. It seems to me, and I have been listening to Fox all day, like a good student of Fox, is that what General Keane was saying, is that you could launch these tomahawk missiles from the Eastern Mediterranean, take down their air capacity, as Senator McCain was adjusting, and that would give people relief. That wouldn't be regime change, but that would be stage one.

And that, it seems to me, is achievable and without putting more boots on the ground.

MACCALLUM: You know, it seems that that's a two-pronged approach, obviously. One to destabilize, to, you know, set Assad back on his heels, essentially, and make it clear to him that there is a new game in town. And what do you think the Russians would do with that move?

BENNETT: Well, you know, how much are the Russians mixed in here with this - with this flying assault? There is talk that there were - there were Russian airplanes involved, so that's a tricky part, presumably, the Pentagon knows this. Let me just bring up one of other point no one has brought up. You know, the worst refugee crisis in the history of the world right now, according to the U.N., is of Syria. And Barack Obama again needs to answer that. It would change people's view of Donald Trump wouldn't it somewhat, Martha, if he were to come forward and say we are going to relieve these people of this horrible suffering. It would be pretty hard to paint him as heartless if that's what he did. Let's just be smart about what we do.

MACCALLUM: Interesting. Great insight, as always. Bill, thank you so much. Good to see you tonight.

BENNETT: Thank you.

MACCALLUM: Bill Bennett. So, you remember when President Obama told Mitt Romney that his concerns about Russia were so 1980s. Well, Russia now at the center of this Syria question, as Bill Bennett and I just discussed, they've been for years expanding their presence in the Middle East. So, how would action -- if we take military action in Syria, which we very well may, will it escalate those tensions? Carl Higbee and Julie Roginsky debate that, next.

Plus, a Republican leading the house investigation into the alleged spying by the Obama administration gets down today under pressure. Does this help or hurt that search for truth? And some say, there goes the upper chamber. Remember the deliberative body? It gets down into the mud today as a slim majority is all you need to do to confirm the next Supreme Court Justice. A big day of change in America when we come back.


MITCH MCCONNELL, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Our Democratic colleagues have done something today that is unprecedented in the history of the Senate. Unfortunately, it has brought us to this point.


MACCALLUM: Breaking tonight, as a U.S. response to serious chemical weapons attack looms. A reminder that throughout this five-year conflict, Syria's murderous dictator Bashar al-Assad has successfully clung to power. This, despite repeated calls from Obama's top envoys in the former President himself that the time had come for Assad to be removed.


HILLARY CLINTON, UNITED STATES FROM SECRETARY OF STATE: The transition to democracy in Syria has begun, and it's time for Assad to get out of the way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We condemn this indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians, and we condemn it in the strongest terms. And it is just further evidence that Assad has to go.

OBAMA: I think that Assad is going to have to leave in order for the country to stop the bloodletting and for all the parties involved to be able to move forward in a nonsectarian way.


MACCALLUM: Joining me now, Carl Higbie, a Navy SEAL Veteran and Supporter of President Trump; Julie Roginsky, Democratic Analyst and Fox News Contributor. Welcome to both of you. Good to have you both tonight. Emblematic, those sound bites, of how long this has been going on, and how many have felt for a long time that Bashar al-Assad must go. But Julie, so far, there's been no progress.

JULIE ROGINSKY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR AND DEMOCRATIC ANALYST: To say that this is a tragedy of our epic proportions does not begin to cover what's going on right now. You know, for years, I've been saying that the President - the former President, needed to have a serious discussion with the American people about the options that were available in Syria and the broader Middle East conflict. And to really make people understand the cost and potentially the necessity of going there.

Whether you agree with that or not, there are decisions that need to be made as to whether as a nation to go forward and to get engaged militarily in, not just Syria, but Iraq, Libya, and other places that are in flames right now or not. And the previous administration did not do that. I think much to their shame. I hope this administration, before it makes any military decisions, does do that, does explain to the American people, both the cost of the benefits, potentially, of what it would to go in and relieve people of this suffering.

MACCALLUM: I mean, that's the issue, Carl. You put lives at risk. We already have at least a 700 U.S. military on the ground there now. There're special ops there. And also, support for some of the entities in the Syrian military who are fighting against the Assad regime. How do you see this?

CARL HIGBIE, NAVY SEAL VETERAN AND TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well, I see this as a making of a global conflict. It's far beyond just the, you know, a good guy and a bad guy. This is, you know, we have some over half a dozen players are here. And there's two options really for President Trump to consider: Assad stays, or Assad goes. Nothing else. Anything in between is political pandering, and quite frankly, won't do anything. Barack Obama was very quick to talk tough and say Assad must go, but was not quick to commit any resources to it. And this, is something that they need to think long and hard about here, because military action or no military action has global ramifications, not only considering ISIS but some of our allies and other people in the region.

MACCALLUM: You know, we've heard from Nikki Haley, and we've all seen the pictures, and I think it is good that we do see the pictures. Because this is real, what's happening there, and it's been going on for years. And it's affected hundreds of thousands of people. The New York Times did a front-page story on torture chambers that were recently found. And it is horrific. So, at some point, there becomes a moral responsibility to do something, Julie. And there's a lot of talk about this President, and all Presidents go through this process of feeling the weight on their shoulders of these kinds of events and of being Commander in Chief. Do you believe that this has changed this President?

ROGINSKY: I don't know. I think in general, I haven't found a 70-year-old man tend to change at some point in their lives when he turned 70 or about that age, but hope springs' eternal. This President was not a fan a few years ago of going into Syria. He was very opposed to it, very adamantly, for some of the tweets that I read. But again, without making a value statement as to whether we militarily go into Syria or not, I think it is very important for the administration, indeed actually, for the President himself from the oval office. If he doesn't make the decision to do this, to explain why we are going to do this.

Carl made a good point, this has ramifications not just for Syria, has ramifications for our relationship with our allies, with the Russians, with the Iranians, with the Israelis who are obviously on the border there. So, there're so many issues that the American people need to hear from their Commander in Chief about before we do anything. I would also say as a personal plea there, people in Syria, as we saw from those awful pictures who are literally getting murdered in heinous ways that violate the Geneva Convention. I hope and pray this President takes a look at the refugee apology that he opposes.

MACCALLUM: Carl, last words.

HIGBIE: Well, I think that, you know, Bashar al-Assad doesn't give a damn about the, you know, refugees, individuals suffering in his own country. So, we need to keep that in mind when we weigh the costs on what's it going to for us and our resources, our American soldiers, and lives to solve this problem.

MACCALLUM: Thank you, both. Good to have you here tonight.

HIGBIE: Thank you.

MACCALLUM: So, coming up, history unfolding today on the senate floor in a bid to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Congress could be forever changed. Plus, new fallout after House Intelligence Chairman, Devin Nunes, recuses himself from the probe into the Trump campaign and Russia. Intel Committee Member Congressman, Chris Stewart, is here on why he thinks the investigation will move forward without issue. Then, former Intelligence Chairman, Pete Hoesktra, here. He says Mr. Nunez was brought down in order to distract from the revelations about Susan Rice. Straight ahead.


REP. MIKE CONAWAY, R-TEXAS: It's his call. His decision. He called me in, asked to he'd do it. I said yes.



MACCALLUM: There was an announcement that sent shock waves through the nation's capital today. House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Devin Nunes, removed himself from the investigation into the Trump campaign that he had been passionately pursuing. As congressional ethics watchdogs look into questions over his handling of the whole thing. Tonight, the man replacing him is speaking out, saying he thinks Nunes did nothing wrong, adding that the investigation stays on course. In moments, we will speak to House Intelligence Committee Member, Chris Stewart, before former Intel Chairman Pete Hoesktra is here. He says this is just a distraction to take the heat off of Susan Rice. But first, Correspondent Peter Doocy, live on the Hill all day with an update tonight. Peter.

PETER DOOCY, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Martha, Chairman Devin Nunes has already dispatched a lawyer to the House Ethics Committee asking what evidence they have on him. He also wants a speedy investigation, but while it is in progress he will not be in-charge of the House Intel Russia probe. It's going to be Texas Congressman, Mike Conaway. Instead, I caught up with Conaway today who said, he doesn't think Nunes did anything wrong, but he also still isn't sure what Nunes saw that made him so sure the Obama administration inappropriately unmasked names of Trump transition officials.


DOOCY: Have you seen the documents?

CONAWAY: Not yet.

DOOCY: So, you have not seen what it was?

CONAWAY: Not since last night. No, I haven't had a chance to look at them

DOOCY: Do you know how much longer it's going to be until you see these documents? They basically are the reason that Chairman Nunes had to step aside.

CONAWAY: Well, again, we're going to conduct the investigation in a workmanlike manner, and we're going to pursue every lead, and we're going to get into the bottom of all of this. It will take as long as it takes. I'm looking forward to working with my colleagues on it.

DOOCY: President Trump said today on Airforce One, he still thinks Nunes is a high-quality person and the Intel Committee's Top Democrat was long accused Nunes of acting inappropriately; applauded him today.

ADAM SCHIFF, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN FROM CALIFORNIA: I'm sure it was a very difficult decision for him. But as he mentioned, I think it is in the best interest of the investigation.


DOOCY: Part of the Nunes controversy was that he took relevant intelligence and went to the President with it before he went to other committee members. But the new head of the Russia probe, Conaway, tells me he has not talked to President Trump about his new role and he's not going to talk to anybody at the White House about it, unless their name comes up in the course of his investigation. Martha.

MACCALLUN: Peter, thank you. Here now, House Intelligence Committee Member, Congressman Chris Stewart. Congressman, good to have you here tonight.


MACCALLUM: This has been a tough road on the House side for this investigation. What do you think about the fact that Nunes was pressured out?

STEWART: Well, it has been a tough road. And frankly, it's been tougher than it had to be because we've had people who have been overly political on this. One of the great things about the Intelligence Community, is we generally do our work behind closed doors, we don't do it in front of television cameras, and we try not to be political. And for Devin to be put in the situation, I mean, I challenge anyone, tell me what you think he did wrong that would require him to remove himself? I'm glad that he did, in the sense that he made his own decision. He did so, to protect the committee, frankly, to protect members like myself and others, so that we can do our work. But he didn't do anything wrong that would require him to do this. And I'm frustrated, and frankly, a little angry that the politics of us has gotten such that he would be forced into that situation.

MACCALLUM: So, you don't think it was a mistake for him to go to the President? Why not?

STEWART: Well, because was - he made clear, it had nothing to do with the Russian investigation that we are currently undertaking. And it was information that he felt was appropriate, in fact, even necessary for the President to be aware of. And again, I would challenge anyone, why was that wrong? The committee will have access to that information. He advised that he had the information, he advised both parties, Republicans or Democrats, I have this new information. And that, you know, for him to take that to the President under those circumstances, I just don't see why people would fault that.

MACCALLUM: In Nunes' statement today he said, several left-wing activist groups have filed accusations against me with the Office of Congressional Ethics. So, he has stepped aside temporarily.

STEWART: That's right.

MACCALLUM: Do you think this will move quickly, and that he will be exonerated, and he'll be back on it? Or do you think he's gone for good?

STEWART: No, no. He's not gone for good. And if you understood what these complaints were - I mean, they're just absurd. They're just so trivial -

MACCALLUM: Then why did he step aside?

STEWART: Well, because again, he wanted to protect the integrity of the committee. He knew that the story, and the press would be talking about this for as long as he was in that position.

MACCALLUM: Yes. That's true.

STEWART: He didn't step aside permanently. He didn't, obviously, resign from this position. He's just stepping aside while the ethics committee does their work. And by the way, I hope they do this very quickly. If you saw how absurd these accusations were, they can do it literally by the weekend. And I hope that they will do it very quickly.

MACCALLUM: (INAUDIBLE) speed is on their side. Congressman, thank you very much. Good to see you tonight.

STEWART: Thank you.

MACCALLUM: We'll talk to Pete Hoekstra the former chairman of the house intelligence committee and a former Trump campaign national security adviser. Peter, good evening to you, I know that you were disgusted with this move today.

PETE HOEKSTRA, FORMER CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Absolutely. I disagree with Devin on this political decision that he made today. I know he did it for the good, as he believes, for the good of the committee. But the bottom line is, the mouse squeaked and the elephant ran. You know, you had an outside group make what I believe will clearly come out as bogus ethics complaints. I wish Devin had stayed there. He fought it. He was bringing critical information to the forefront. He was the tip of the spear, and he ends up being the first casualty. It's absolutely wrong.

MACCALLUM: What do you think about the fact that similar forces have driven out Jeff Sessions from this investigation, the attorney general now has no hand in any rush or related investigation. And Now, Devin Nunes doesn't either.

HUEKSTRA: The good thing here is Devin is not participating in the Russia investigation. He didn't recuse himself from what I think is going to be the very big story here, which is what was going on in the White House with unmasking individuals in the Trump campaign, reports today saying unmasking members of congress. This may even go as far as eventually identifying that there was unmasking of reporters, people in the press. That is the story of how the Obama administration misused the intelligence community for what I believe are inappropriate purposes.

MACCALLUM: Do you think Susan Rice will end up testifying? And do you think that the senate intel committee will get this worked done, and do you have any faith in the house intel committee still?

HUEKSTRA: Again, as we've talked about before, Richard Burr is going to get this work done. He is a quality guy. The senate is approaching this somewhat differently. They will get this done. I think Susan Rice may testify. But I think she'll take the fifth. I don't think she's going to get -- give the senate or the house intelligence committees any information. And I think the house intelligence committee is going to come back. Mike Conaway -- again, another quality congressman, they will get this work done.

MACCALLUM: Before I let you go, what do you think about the fact that Susan Rice made these comments a month and a half ago, saying, you know, we removed all the chemical weapons from Syria. We were successful in that effort.

HUEKSTRA: You know, Benghazi, Syria. Syria is a disaster. It was a disaster for the last administration. There is no way you can make that picture looks good. It's just disappointing. It's going to be very difficult now for the Trump administration to move forward and put together a coherent strategy. Because it's not only what do you do now, but what comes after removing Assad or keeping Assad in place? There's no good answers right now.

MACCALLUM: Pete Hoekstra, always good to have you with us. Thank you, sir.

HUEKSTRA: Thank you.

MACCALLUM: So new details this evening on the stalled efforts from Speaker Ryan's chamber to end ObamaCare. Are they coming back to life on this Thursday eve? New reporting says yes. When the outcome resting squarely on Paul Ryan's shoulders. And an interesting report about a meeting that they had at the White House. And the senate going nuclear today to try to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, but that move could have massive fallout for generations to come. David Wohl and Juan Williams explain and give us their take after the break.



UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Our Democratic colleagues have done something today that is unprecedented in the history of the senate. Unfortunately, it has brought us to this point. Therefore, I raise a point of order that the vote on closure under the president set on November 21st, 2013, is a majority vote on all nominations.


MACCALLUM: So it sounded calm enough, right? That was senate majority leader Mitch McConnell on the senate floor pushing the button on the so-called nuclear option, which means that Mr. Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, can now win confirmation tomorrow by a simple vote of 51 in the majority, instead of the 60 that was required before. Republicans say Democrats forced them into this move. Democratic minority leader Chuck Schumer says they were just innocent bystanders in this whole thing.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-NEW YORK: These past few weeks, we Democrats have given Judge Gorsuch a fair process. Something Merrick Garland was denied. My colleague came into this debate with an open mind. I think many of them wanted to vote for Judge Gorsuch at the outset.


MACCALLUM: What do you think? For more on that, two congressional correspondents Mike Emanuel join us live. It's the pussycat, Chuck Schumer, on the whole thing. Mike, good evening to you.

MIKE EMANUEL, CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Martha, good evening. We just learned that the final confirmation vote on Judge Neil Gorsuch is set for 11:30 tomorrow morning. Earlier today, the nomination for the judge was essentially stuck with Democrats responding to their base, which is demanded that they fight, fight, fight. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell had promised that Gorsuch will be confirmed one way or another before lawmakers leave for Easter recess. Part of the Republican pitch was Gorsuch was vetted by the American people. After all, President Trump gave voters a list of names he would nominate for the Supreme Court. So this was part of keeping a promise to voters and putting points on the board for the president.


UNINDENTIFIED MALE: We said we would let the American people decide who would select the next Supreme Court nominee. And then, we would vote to confirm that nominee. The American people on November the 8th selected President Trump. President Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch. And tomorrow, we will confirm that nominee and deliver on that promise.


EMANUEL: It was an unusual scene on the senate floor today. There wasn't the usual chit-chat and backslapping. Senators were at their desks during the series of votes, and when it was done some worried about long-term damage.


UNINDENTIFIED MALE: The senate has been hailed by many, including our nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Gorsuch, as the world's greatest deliberative body. And yet, today, I think one more blow has been struck at that title and reality.


EMANUEL: After the final vote, there will be a cooling off period, a couple of weeks of recess. But that is not likely to be long enough to cool the tensions between Republicans and Democrats. Martha?

MACCALLUM: Not, likely. Mike, thank you very much. Here with more tonight, David Wohl, attorney and Trump supporter, Juan Williams, cohost of The Five and Fox News political analysis. You look at this, the senate, as you said, is supposed to be the deliberative body. It's supposed to be the adults on Capitol Hill, who can take something like a Supreme Court nomination and ruminate over it and discuss it and debated up and then, vote on it. Those days appear to be over, David.

DAVID WOHL, ATTORNEY: Yeah, I mean, and this attempt to filibuster, Martha, was nothing short of a tactical disaster for Democrats. Look, we all know what happen four years ago, Harry Reid changed the rules, so he blew the doors open and made it a simple majority vote. Republicans are saying now very well, we'll do the same thing. The reality is that makes it so, there's going to be, as of tomorrow, after this vote, a 5-4 conservative majority on the Supreme Court. And, Martha, here's the key thing. Within the next couple of years, if Ruth Bader Ginsburg retires, Justice Breyer retires, there could be as much as a 7-2 conservative majority on our Supreme Court, which could create cultural changes, legal changes in America that could be earthshaking for decades to come. Look out because they will regret the move of not giving up a straight up or down vote in this case.

MACCALLUM: Juan, you know, it appears that this is rooted in a couple of things, anger towards Republicans over Merrick Garland, and anger toward the basic fact of the matter that Donald Trump won the presidential election, and they're not going to give him anything.

JUAN WILLIAMS, CO-HOST OF THE FIVE: I don't know if they wouldn't give him anything. I heard one Republican senator say today if Donald Trump had nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the famous liberal that the Democrats wouldn't have approved of it. But, Martha, from the Democrats point of view, they had a nominee, Merrick Garland that was not only highly qualified, he was a consensus pick and confirmed in so many offices by Republicans, and he was denied the opportunity.

MACCALLUM: But Gorsuch has the same exact description.


WILLIAMS: I don't doubt that you could argue that Gorsuch was qualified, but the fact is Garland was so distinguish in his position. But I wanted to pick up on something.

MACCALLUM: So that's why they didn't vote for him because he wasn't distinguish enough?

WILLIAMS: The point was that they denied. This is the power -- this is the point I wanted to pick up from what David was saying. This is the power of obstruction. So the Republicans obstructed President Obama's nominee, I think Jeff Merkley of Oregon called at the theft of a Supreme Court -- the theft of the century. And now you have a situation where David is saying, oh, going forward, you can have a 7-2 conservative Republican majority. What that says to you, Martha, to me, to David is, oh, the Supreme Court is not an impartial body, it really is an extension of partisan broken politics in the capital.

MACCALLUM: But the truth of the matter is that when people do come together and make these votes, we've seen it happen time and time again. Often, the judges don't necessarily move or decide the way that they party that nominated them things that they will. Because they are judges, right? So we have to give them that latitude.

WOHL: Justice Roberts was thought to be very conservative.

MACCALLUM: That's right.

WOHL: It turns out many don't think he is right now. Look, Justice Garland was an election year nominee. He was a nominee done essentially by a lame duck president. No one thought he was going to get an up or down vote. The Democrats didn't think so. Now, we have an eminently qualified, supremely qualified, a part in the pond, justice, who's going to be confirmed tomorrow. Look, I'm a good judge of judges. I've been practicing in front of them for 28 years. This man is the cream of the crop. There's no question about it. You should not be retaliatory in your decisions.

WILLIAMS: David, that's what I was saying to you about Merrick Garland. I think he's cream of the crop. But to your larger point.

MACCALLUM: We've got to go.

WILLIAMS: You must have forgotten about Justice Kennedy. Justice Kennedy was confirmed as a Reagan pick in February of the president last year. So this whole business about, oh, this is unprecedented, and blocking President Obama, denying the Democrats.


WOHL: Filibusters are unprecedented.

MACCALLUM: Thank you. There they are, but that's the world we live in. Thank you very much, good to see you both. So straight ahead tonight, we have new video that is coming in from Mar-a-Lago, where cameras were just allowed into a meeting between President Trump and the Chinese president Xi. So, you'll get to be a fly on the wall and see what's going on in there for a moment. Plus, new reports tonight, house Republicans gearing up yet again to repeal ObamaCare. It is back on the table, folks. Will Speaker Ryan get it through on try number two? Charles Hurts and Emily Tisch Sussman joins us next.


MACCALLUM: Developing tonight, it's true, Republicans are back to the drawing board on health care. New reporting points to the vice president who we've spoke to yesterday, putting some pressure on his friend a Speaker Ryan, urging the house to accept notable departures from the unsuccessful after that happened a couple of weeks ago. Here's the speaker on that.


PAUL RYAN, HOUSE SPEAKER: All the way there, we have made some real progress this week. That's why we are all here today. We have come together on a new amendment that we all believe will lower premiums and provide added protections for those facing real challenges gaining access to affordable care. This brings us closer to the final agreement that we all want to achieve.


MACCALLUM: So how is this going to go? Charles Hurt joins us now, Washington Times political columnist and Fox News contributor, Emily Tisch Sussman is the action fund campaign director at the center for American progress. Welcome to both of you. This thing looks like it was dead but now it appears to be rising from the dead, Charles, what's going on?

CHARLES HURT, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: Yeah. Well, I think that there is an enormous amount of pressure on Republicans and President Trump to try to figure out some way to salvage it. There's been a lot of negative press. That's not necessarily anything new for Republicans. But the notion that they can get things done when they've sort of have all the levers of power at their disposal is something that I think that worries them, that will stick. So, yes, they are doing everything they can to try to see if they can't affect something from the fireplace. And, you know, something you mentioned in your interview yesterday with Mike Pence, a big driver behind this right now, is the fact that the reason Pence was picked in the first place as vice president is because he was seen as someone who could work with congress and win over traditional conservatives who were unsure of Donald Trump. Well, if he can do that on this, then, people start asking, what is he therefore?

MACCALLUM: Yeah, there is an interesting piece today that basically said that Paul Ryan was brought into the White House, that Mike Pence, and Reince Priebus, and others, and they're all friends. Basically said you have to get this through. We've got to figure out a way to put this together and get this through. Emily, what do you think, can they do it?

EMILY TISCH SUSSMAN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Yeah, look, I mean, we are in agreement. There is no other issue that this current day Republican Party is so identified with other than repealing ObamaCare. They're in full control, control of the presidency, both houses of congress, and they cannot get it done because when the rubber hits the road, when they actually have a bill in front of them, and it wasn't just blanket repeal, repeal, repeal, people started to realize what it would mean for their health care. They were about to lose their health care, tens of thousands of people in every one of these congressional districts. Look, what they are responding to is not just ideological anymore, but it was practical. People who are actually terrified of losing their coverage and losing their health care. And we're talking like 70,000 people in every single district. So if we talk about what they're negotiating -- if they say they're closer to something, they're closer to an actual bill. That means even more people in every district will lose coverage.


MACCALLUM: She thinks they may pass it and it's going to be very good for her side.

SUSSMAN: No, no, not delighted. I want to be clear on that. I don't want anybody to lose coverage. I think that when Ryan said we would move on.


MACCALLUM: Politically, that's clear. You feel that this is going -- if Republicans blow this, and it results in people losing coverage, as you say it will that it will make people want to vote Democrat in the midterm.

SUSSMAN: I don't want anyone to lose coverage.

HURT: Let's also not forget the largest number of people that will lose coverage is when ObamaCare collapses, which is the direction it is going in right now. And that leads to what I think is a very important point for Republicans to remember. If they repeal ObamaCare and replace it with something that is not much better or a little bit better, but it still is something that is too massive and the federal government can't handle it, then, they will have not only tied to something almost as bad as ObamaCare around their own necks, they will let Democrats off the hook for ObamaCare. And ObamaCare has been killing Democrats now since it passed. And so, I think that's a real serious political problem that Republicans have to grapple with. As is often the case, Donald Trump was right when he said that politically speaking, the easiest thing for me to do would be to just step back and let ObamaCare fail and let Democrats pay the price.

MACCALLUM: Given what both of you are saying, and I asked Vice President Pence about this yesterday, you know, do you think you can get the Democrats involved in this? Because it is clear that there are some issues in ObamaCare. And it could be something that turns out to be politically more neutral for both sides. And perhaps, Americans say, gee, wasn't that really great, they got together and they fix it. Emily, the vice president said he doesn't see any Democrats willing to come to the table.

SUSSMAN: Well, as long as the premise is repealing ObamaCare, no, Democrats won't come to the table, but if you could come to a real compromise and talk about something that is going to actually fix the pieces of the law that's not working.


MACCALLUM: Repealing in some ways is semantic because we are already over the Rubicon. The federal government is going to have some responsibility for health care. So, you know, perhaps, you know, you sort of leave some of these words out and get together and say, let's come up with a bill that really works and really serves people.

SUSSMAN: If that does come off the table, then I do believe Democrats will come to the table because they are trying to keep people covered. If that comes off the table, then they would come to talk. But the problem is that Republicans have really stake their hat on it. And I think what Trumps comments that Charlie was referencing.


MACCALLUM: We have to jump to Mar-a-Lago to the Chinese president. Thank you, both, very much. (INAUDIBLE) Let's watch.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The president of China and his incredibly talented wife, a great celebrity in China, a great singer, and it's an honor to have you in the United States. We've had a long discussion already and, so far, I have gotten nothing, absolutely nothing, but we have developed a friendship. I can see that. And I think long-term, we're going to have a very, very great relationship and I look very much forward to it.


TRUMP: Thank you all very much. Thank you.

UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, do you still believe you need military -- congressional authorization to military action in Syria?

TRUMP: Thank you, everybody, thank you very much.


MACCALLUM: Fascinating to watch this play out. The president said that he is beginning a friendship with the president of China, which is interesting in and of itself. He complemented his wife, and how talented she is. He said he hasn't gotten anything yet, but we've been talking and we've been building the basis for our friendship. A lot of people including, John Bolton, the former ambassador to the U.N. writing a piece this morning, saying that's what is needed to go. That they needed to sort of begin a framework, begin a discussion, open this up, very volatile as she was obviously with Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea and elsewhere, and also issues of the trade war that President Trump has been fighting against as a businessman and, now, as president of the United States, as well. So interesting also to see the people at the table there, you saw Jared Kushner was seated right next to the Chinese president's wife. Reince Priebus was across the table, as well, as we watch sort of the shifting of the desk chair a bet at the White House and the west wing. And we understand that there will be more of that going forward, as well. So a busy evening at Mar-a-Lago as we watch all of this unfold this evening. All right, let's bring Charlie and Emily back in to get your comments on this. Your thoughts as we watch that play out? Charlie?

HURT: You know, for all the grief that the president gets for being sort of in politics, this is sort of the setting where he shines. I think the big reason for that is that he is unpredictable, and there was a lot of talk in the Chinese press that there were concerns that the president, Xi Jinping, would be somehow humiliated or something would happen, that it was in politics that would cause embarrassment to him. And when Donald Trump doesn't do that, but does kind of keep everybody on their toes, it's where I think he is at his best.

MACCALLUM: Just about 20 seconds, Emily, your thoughts?

SUSSMAN: Look, I hope that Trump does learn the complexities that immigration is tied to trade, tied to foreign policy, and it's tied to war. I hope he learns that quickly.

MACCALLUM: All right. Thank you, both, for being here tonight.

HURT: Thanks, Martha.

MACCALLUM: And now, for something completely different on this day before we leave you.


UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Dean Martin said to me when Governor Reagan, or Reagan, or whatever they call you, I don't care.


UNINDENTIFIED MALE: What do I care what they call you? You are the governor. (INAUDIBLE) You better make that phone call. I say this for my heart, governor. I met you once in the hallway to NBC, as you remember. I'll never forget your words. Get out of the way, kid.


MACCALLUM: The legendary Don Rickles, tributes pouring in tonight for Mr. Warmth for more than half a century. He lit up the airwaves and night clubs, no one, not even presidents or fellow celebrities were off limits with Don Rickles. In 2012, he received the Johnny Carson award for comedic excellence. And while he's in for his sharp barbs, friends like Bob Newhart say in truth there was no one who was kinder or a better human being. (INAUDIBLE) likely pleased Rickles, he once asked how he would like to be remembered and he said this, I'm caring, I'm loyal, loyalty in this business is very important. He will be missed. Don Rickles, 90-years-old. Have a good night, everybody.

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