VP Mike Pence talks health care reform, surveillance claims and Syria

The vice president goes on 'The First 100 Days' to discuss the Trump administration's agenda


This is a rush transcript from "The First 100 Days," April 5, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, "THE FIRST 100 DAYS" HOST: Breaking news in Washington tonight. The president changes his tone as he takes on serious challenges on the world stage. With this changing guard at the White House, what does the staff moves really mean and how will they together tackle a brutal chemical weapons attack by a leader that the prior administration vowed would be gone by now, as North Korea brazenly fires off another banned missile test, the president gets ready to challenge the Chinese President this weekend on why he has done nothing to stop them. And at home, new questions about the legality of unmasking for American officials. President Trump today, stood side-by-side in the Rose Garden as he welcomed the King of Jordan and made this promise.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I have to just say that the world is a mess. I inherited a mess. Whether it's the Middle East, whether it's North Korea, whether at so many other things, whether it's in our country, horrible trade deals -- I inherited a mess. We're going to fix it. We're going to fix it. OK.

MACCALLUM: I'm Martha MacCallum. Welcome to a jam-packed day 76 of the first 100. Later tonight, I will discuss what could be a massive policy shift on Syria and the latest in the efforts to bring former top Obama official, Susan Rice, in front of a Congressional Committee for questioning. As Senators Tom Cotton and Senator John McCain joined me.

But first, earlier today, I sat down with Vice President Mike Pence, where we spoke about the attack in Syria, whether the U.S. is prepared to go it alone on North Korea, the National Security Council shakeup that happened today and the recently resurrected health care bill.


MACCALLUM: Mr. Vice President, thank you very much for taking time with us today.


MACCALLUM: We appreciate it. There's a lot to talk about so I want to dive right in. I know that you've been very busy trying to get a second round of this health care bill, up and running, speaking with people on Capitol Hill. And the latest word is that the talks aren't going that well. That the moderates are unhappy that you've brought the conservatives a little bit more on board, the Club for Growth, and they like the way that this bill looks right now. Is that an accurate reflection? Is it falling apart?

PENCE: Well, first let me say, Republicans are united in our commitment to keep the promise we made to the American people years ago, to repeal and replace ObamaCare. And President Trump and I couldn't be more grateful with the determination that the men and women serving in the Congress under the Republican banner are bringing to this effort. But, clearly, few weeks back, Congress wasn't quite ready to take the first step to begin the end of ObamaCare, but conversations have continued since then. I think -- I think we've made good progress, and I've seen good faith on all sides.

MACCALLUM: There has been some talk about having something put together by Friday. It doesn't sound like you're there.

PENCE: Well, we'll see. Actually, we don't want to put any timeline on it, but I can tell you that there are good faith discussions underway. And the president and I are encouraged. Not that it will get done in any particular period of time but that it's going to get done.

MACCALLUM: You've put yourself on a line with this, and said "I'm going to lead the charge on this," and many believe that's why you were, in some ways, brought on to the ticket that you were the person with congressional experience, that you are the man who can do that. Do you feel any concern about that responsibility?

PENCE: It's the greatest honor in my life to serve as vice president for President Donald Trump in whatever way I can be helpful in advancing the president's agenda. Either on Capitol Hill or around the country, or occasionally around the world, it's my great privilege to do it.

MACCALLUM: So, let me ask you about the leadership in the White House. This morning, it was announced that Steve Bannon would no longer be on the principals committee for the National Security Council, and that's being called a "shake-up". What's going on with that?

PENCE: Well, with H.R. McMaster as our National Security Advisor, I think the president's action adding the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, adding the Director of National Intelligence, and moving a couple of our senior personnel off the National Security Council, just simply represents a very routine evolution of the National Security team around the president.

MACCALLUM: So, it's not a demotion for Steve Bannon.

PENCE: Well, not for Steve, not for Tom. These are very highly valued members of this administration. They're going to continue to play important policy roles. But I think with H.R. McMaster's addition as our National Security Advisor, a man of extraordinary background in military, this is just a natural evolution to ensure the National Security Council is organized in a way that best serves the president in resolving and making those difficult decisions.

MACCALLUM: One of the issues that keeps hanging around is this Russia's story, and it doesn't look like it's going to go away anytime soon. One of the most recent developments is Susan Rice being named as the person who unmasked names of the Trump administration. She said she was just doing her job. Do you believe that?

PENCE: Well, I think the American people have a right to know what was going on. And we have every confidence that the intelligence committees in the house and the senate will get to the bottom of all of these allegations. Our focus is on the agenda, it's on moving this country forward.

MACCALLUM: You think she should testify?

PENCE: I think that's a decision for members of Congress, but I would say that the American people have a right to know if there was surveillance of any private citizen in this country, and the identity of those citizens who has revealed, people I have a right to know why. And the fact that it involved our campaign and our transition, I think is -- should be deeply troubling to anyone who cherishes civil liberties in this country.

MACCALLUM: So, you believe there was a political motivation? Do you think there was reverse monitoring as that has been suggested?

PENCE: Martha, I would hesitate to speculate because these issues are so serious. But, we think it is -- it is within the jurisdiction and the purview of the intelligence committees in the house and the senate to get to the bottom of this.

MACCALLUM: All right. I want to turn your attention overseas because we have all seen the horrific pictures of what happened in Syria. A chemical attack that took the lives of families, of children, who does the administration believe was responsible for that attack?

PENCE: All evidence points to the Assad regime in Syria. And I know the president and I, and our entire administration, condemn this chemical attack in Syria in the strongest possible terms, it cannot be tolerated. Yesterday, President Trump joined leaders around the world condemning this heinous attack. And will continue to do so.

MACCALLUM: But the Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, recently said that Syria -- the Syrian people will determine their own future. And that removing Assad is not necessarily the top priority, in terms of foreign policy anymore. Some believe that this chemical attack was in response to that.

PENCE: Well, first, let's remember how we got here. Back in 2012, President Obama said that if Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people, that that would cross a red line and there would be consequences. There were none. We were told that there was an agreement by the Russians and the Syrians to destroy their chemical weapons, and that the threat to civilians from a chemical attack had been eliminated. It wasn't. And yesterday's horrific attack, which grieves my heart, not just as an office holder but as a dad. I can't -- no American can look at those images and not be heartsick. It is a reflection of the failure of the last administration to both confront the mindless violence of the Assad regime, and also whole Russia and Syria, to account for the promises that they've made to destroy chemical weapons.

MACCALLUM: People would agree with you on that. But then, they would say "Now, we're in a new administration --

PENCE: Yes, we are.

MACCALLUM: -- and President Trump during the campaign said that safe zones had to be set up in Syria." Is it time to renew the call for Assad to be ousted and to establish those safe zones for these people?

PENCE: I think you saw Ambassador Haley at the United Nations today expressed the very strong position of the United States of America. We are hopeful that there may well be action in the United Nations Security Council. But let me be clear, all options are on the table.

MACCALLUM: Do you hold the Russians responsible as well?

PENCE: Russians are in a close-working alliance with the Assad regime in Syria. And the time has come for them to keep the word that they made, to see to the elimination of chemical weapons so that they no longer threaten the people in their country.

MACCALLUM: In terms of North Korea, the President of China is about to arrive in the United States, and they are saber-rattling again with another missile launch. It's being said now by experts in the field, General Jack Keane and others that we need to go after the underground nuclear sites there, the areas where these missiles are launched from, that the military option may be the only one left. Do you agree?

PENCE: But let me say, I know that President Trump is very much looking forward to welcoming President Xi to the Southern White House this weekend. I think they are looking forward to a productive discussion on our economic relationship. But our expectation is that North Korea will also be a part of that conversation. And as the president said this weekend, if China won't deal with North Korea, we will.

MACCALLUM: But I think the tone of this meeting in Florida will be when -- we know the president wants to change trade practices, he spoken out about that for decades. And you've got this expansionism that China is exhibiting and their reluctance for years and years to crack down on North Korea. That makes as a pretty tough meeting, doesn't it?

PENCE: Well, the president has described it as maybe a difficult meeting. But our expectation is that both of those leaders are going to have an opportunity to get to know one another, have an opportunity to sit down. What they're going to find in President Trump is a strong leader, who's going to put America first, and he's going to be willing to talk about the hard things. The fact that we lose $500 billion a year and a trade deficit to China, that we've seen manufacturing leaving this country and going to China, the fact that we see China constructing bases in the South China Sea far beyond and well into international waters and other areas, I'm sure will all be topics.

MACCALLUM: So, on THE FIRST 100 DAYS, we often ask our guests what grade they would give the administration for the week. So now that you're about three quarters of the way through that first 100 days, what grade do you give the administration so far?

PENCE: I give us a very solid A because you look at the fundamentals, you look at the fact that the latest job report, more than -- more than three quarters of a million jobs created since the beginning of this year. President's been keeping his promise to roll back the avalanche of regulations that was stifling jobs and growth in this economy, has taken decisive action to end illegal immigration, and as Secretary Kelly testified today, we seen a dramatic reduction of illegal immigration at our borders. We see America standing tall in the world again, companies are reinvesting in America and creating those good-paying jobs, and what the American people see every single day is a president who is keeping his word to the American people.

MACCALLUM: Vice President Pence, thank you very much. Good to see you today.

PENCE: Good to see you, Martha.


MACCALLUM: So, my thanks to the vice president for sitting down with us earlier. We're going to bring you some bonus clips from the interview coming up later in the show, but first still ahead on a very busy day, 76 in Washington, Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton is here with his unique take on the Susan Rice question, on whether he believes that she will testify before his committee.

Plus Senator John McCain is here with his reaction to the language that we heard in the Rose Garden this afternoon, as President Trump signals a shift on the Syria policy, after that horrific chemical attack in the country.

And House Intel Committee member, Eric Swalwell, is here. He claims that the investigation of Susan Rice would be just another distraction. We will ask him why, straight ahead.


REP. ERIC SWALWELL, D-CALIFORNIA: Well, Wolf, I'll just say this, we have agreed on our witness list. I'm excited that that's showing the American people we're going forward. And if they want to put a hurt a lot like bringing Susan Rice in, that's fine.



MACCALLUM: Breaking tonight, Republican lawmakers continue to call for investigations into potential unmasking of Trump transition team members. All at the request of President Obama's top security official, Susan Rice. Experts from across the intel community are now urging Americans to think twice before they take Rice's brush-off of this at face value. A two- decade CIA veteran, Fred Fleitz, cautions this, quote, "Rice's denials don't add up. It is hard to fathom how the demasking of multiple Trump campaign and transition officials was not politically motivated."

Joining me now, Congressman Eric Swalwell, he sits on the House Intel Committee, and says that Rice's appearance in front of any panel would represent an unnecessary hurdle, he said earlier. Congressman, welcome. Good to have you today.

SWALWELL: Yes, thanks for having me.

MACCALLUM: Why would it be an unnecessary hurdle?

SWALWELL: Because there's no evidence that there was any wrongdoing. But if the Republicans think that this has to be on the witness list, we'll clear that hurdle and we'll make it to the finish line, and we're determined to do that.

MACCALLUM: So, you're saying that you don't believe that there are, sort of, two sides to this investigation? That there is the side of the unmasking issue and whether or not there was an effort by the prior administration to observe or surveil the incoming administration to damage them? And the other side of it, which is whether or not there was any collusion between Trump team folks and the Russians?

SWALWELL: What I believe is Russia attacked our democracy.

MACCALLUM: So you don't believe there are two investigations to do?

SWALWELL: Not with unmasking. I don't think there's any evidence yet, and actually, you know, the attack doesn't --


MACCALLUM: Someone says there's no evidence on the other side.

SWALWELL: Oh, there's a lot of evidence. I mean, I'm just on the unclassified side. We've seen, you know, Roger Stone talking with Guccifer 2.0, who receives his information from Russia. Carter Page going to Russia years after years, recruited by Russia, and a month after, it was revealed that Russia was attacking us. But here, this seems to be a pattern of obstruction.


MACCALLUM: But investigators who've looked into this (INAUDIBLE) have said that so far, there is no evidence that there was collusion between the Trump team and the Russians. No evidence, so far, and I think everyone agrees that that is an ongoing investigation and as it should be. But I don't know how you can say that there's no evidence on the other side of the equation, and accept that that's true in terms of the Trump side of it.

SWALWELL: But it's your only evidence that Donald Trump said it. Because he also said that Russia didn't interfere in our election. That was proved wrong. He said that President Obama wiretapped him. That was proved wrong. So, I think he has a credibility problem on Russia, which is unfortunate. We need him to be credible because North Korea is firing ballistic missiles and Syria is unraveling.


MACCALLUM: But why -- Congressman, why you don't have curiosity to find out why there would be unmasking of American officials. Shouldn't this concern you and any American citizen, just to understand? And if there's nothing there, there's nothing there. But why not bring her in and ask the questions?

SWALWELL: Because we don't have time to have curiosity on what Donald Trump makes up. And actually, Martha, what's interesting, he's the only person in the world who has the ability to actually show us the documents. So if the evidence is there he'd show us.

MACCALLUM: It's been separately verified by a number of sources that the unmasking goes back to Susan Rice. Now, there is a division in the intel community of whether or not that's normal, or whether or not that's very unusual. So I guess, I just don't understand. If the shoe were on the other foot, wouldn't you want to know if someone had unmasked your name, whether or not they did it illegally, or whether they had good reason to do so?

SWALWELL: The shoe was on the foot of the Trump team right now. They're under an investigation and this seems to be another tactic to avoid, you know, finding the truth.

MACCALLUM: That seems very partisan, Congressman.

SWALWELL: No, you know, I think, people at home and Republicans and Democrats, they say this country is worth defending, and they see a president who continues to want to obstruct. And I'll just say this --

MACCALLUM: So, the privacy of American citizens isn't worth defending?

SWALWELL: So, Susan Rice, if she sees that foreigner A is talking to foreigner B about U.S. person C, she can request to see who that is and it only goes to her eyes. But I think --

MACCALLUM: That's right. The question is was the reason for requesting it, political in nature, was there a compelling national security issue that compelled that? And I don't understand, you and your position, not at least being curious enough to want to know the answer to those questions.

SWALWELL: I do. But the president won't show me and we have asked to be able to go over and see those documents. He, actually, is the only person (INAUDIBLE) --


MACCALLUM: Keep pushing. Maybe you'll get them.



SWALWELL: And I hope he does because -- we will -- we'll clear this hurdle and this isn't going away, and people want us to get to the bottom of it.

MACCALLUM: I wish you'd have an open investigation of anybody who could potentially pertain to any of this. But I thank you for coming in and we'll be watching. Thank you, Congressman. Good to see you tonight.

SWALWELL: You, too.

MACCALLUM: All right. So, President Trump tends to light up Twitter at night, as you know. But last night, the fireworks came from our own political analyst, Brit Hume, jousting with Ben Rhodes, the former top foreign policy advisor to President Obama, at issue -- the media's near blackout of the Susan Rice revelations.

So, what does he think of all this today? Brit Hume joins us now. Brit, good evening to you. Good to see you tonight.


MACCALLUM: You know, we've read with great interest, your back and forth with Ben Rhodes, and we have some of those that we'll put up on the screen because it goes -- it goes right to the topic that I was just discussing with Congressman Swalwell. And it starts by, you know, "This is amazing. The story is clearly news," you say, "and refusing to report it is not the behavior of a news organization." That came off of Don Lemon's at CNN saying that they were just not going to cover this at all. And Ben Rhodes comes back, "Bullying people into covering routine work of any senior security official as news is a clear effort to distract from questions about Trump and Obama." And you say, "Bullying? Please. If this was so routine, why did Rice falsely claim on PBS that she knew nothing about it?" That's the set up. I mean, it's an interesting question. It's the one that the Congressman and I were just talking about, the lack of curiosity.

HUME: Well, it's certainly been a lack of curiosity in the part of a lot of news media. I noticed that it finally made news on a couple of mainstream outlets today because members of Congress were calling for Susan Rice to be called to testify. But the revelation that she was involved in unmasking requests had not previously been news to them. So, this is one of the reasons why Fox News was formed, to cover the stories that others will not. And the result of this, Martha, I think it's unmistakable. Your previous guest is grumbling about it, notwithstanding is that these Congressional investigations, and possibly, the FBI investigation as well, will now proceed along two tracks, simultaneously. One of them will be to determine whether there's any collusion between the Trump team and the Russians in an effort to get him elected, and the other will be whether the intelligence involving Trump campaign officials and associates was improperly gathered, perhaps, improperly unmasked, and then possibly improperly distributed.

Those seem to me to be both relevant questions. I think it's pretty well acknowledged now that that's the case, although, Democrats seem so afraid that this hope that they have, that Trump can be brought down by being found of collusion with the Russians, that -- they're so afraid that that investigation will go off track. You heard the congressman say "We don't have time for that." Of course, we have time for that. There's always time to do an investigation, and it appears were going to do one and it's going to proceed on two tracks.

MACCALLUM: Yes. You know, Brit, given your time spent in this town and the presidencies that you have watched, what is your gut tell you about this investigation? About how long it's going to hang around and about how serious it may be on both of those tracks that you mention?

HUME: Martha, once you get into these Congressional investigations and you have, you know, you have staff preparation, and you have questioning in advance of witnesses, and then you have public hearings, and sometimes they go on for days, we're looking at this being with us for the foreseeable future. This is going to be with us a while. And this is proceeding very much along the lines of many Congressional investigations that I've covered in the past, where one party has its list of witnesses it wants to call, to elicit the facts that it wants to see brought out.

And the other party is moving in a different direction, trying to get the witnesses it once called, to elicit the facts it wants to see brought out. And out of that, sort of, competitive and even adversarial process, the public often finds out quite a lot. That's how these things work. We have an adversarial system in Congress. We have two competing parties. They conduct these investigations. They are rarely nonpartisan, sometimes they are bipartisan, but normally, they're fairly partisan, and that's not a bad way to get into facts. That's what happened at Watergate. That's what happened in (INAUDIBLE) country. That's what happened in innumerable other investigations and that seems to be where we're headed now. It's going to take a while.

MACCALLUM: Brit, thank you. Good to see you tonight.

HUME: You bet, Martha.

MACCALLUM: Still ahead, Senator John McCain joins me to discuss the devastating chemical attacks in Syria, and his reaction to what seemed today to be a policy shift on this from President Trump. So, we'll ask John McCain about that coming up.

But up next, as more and more members of Congress call for investigations into Susan Rice, Senate Intel Committee member, Tom Cotton, joins me up on the roof of this building to discuss what the chances are of that. Plus, what did he mean by this?


SEN. TOM COTTON, R-ARKANSAS: Susan Rice is the Typhoid Mary of the Obama administration foreign policy. Every time something went wrong, she seemed to turn up in the middle of it.



MACCALLUM: Breaking this evening, there's outraged tonight over President Obama's top security official Susan Rice's defense of her request for the identities of Americans who were caught up in surveillance of foreign targets. Earlier, I asked Vice President Mike Pence what her possible motivation could have been.


MACCALLUM: She said she was just doing her job. Do you believe that?

PENCE: Well, I think the American people have a right to know what was going on. The fact that it involved our campaign and our transition I think should be deeply troubling to anyone who cherishes civil liberties in this country.

MACCALLUM: So you believe there is a political motivation.

PENCE: Martha, I would hesitate to speculate because those issues are so serious. But we think it is within the jurisdiction and the purview of the intelligence committees and the house and the senate to get to the bottom of this.


MACCALLUM: That was the vice president earlier. The president took it a bit further. He told our own John Roberts that he believes Susan Rice may have committed a crime. Earlier, I spoke with Arkansas senator, Tom Cotton, who sits on the senate intel committee and I asked him what should happen next year here.


MACCALLUM: Senator, welcome. Good to have you here today. So you have called Susan Rice, Typhoid Mary. What you mean by that reference?

COTTON: Well, anytime something went wrong in the Obama administration foreign policy, which was often, Susan Rice seemed to turn up in the middle of it, whether is Benghazi or the (INAUDIBLE) controversy, or the Syrian redline, and now this. And I think the vice president is right. There are serious allegations that the intelligence committee will have to review. There are legitimate reasons for someone at the National Security Council to request for an unmasking of an American citizen. But the suggestions of the number of times and the potential political sensitivities do raise serious concerns. And I think it's appropriate that we take deliberate steps forward to reveal all these records and if necessary, call Susan Rice and to testify.

MACCALLUM: She and her people have said that it's ridiculous to suggest that there's any legal implications here, any illegality that could have occurred here. But when you look at the way that it's laid out in terms of how you have to secure the right to unmask those names, it has to be a compelling foreign policy or national security concern that compels the removal of mask, right?

COTTON: There has to be a very good reason. And typically, a member of the National Security Council wouldn't have many reasons to do so. I mean, normally these unmasking's are done in the middle of a counterintelligence or criminal investigation. That's not what the National Security Council does. And there have been precedents for this kind of thing to happen in the past where people have gotten in hot water. Zbigniew Brzezinski in the Carter administration was brought to congress to testify about unmasking materials related to Jimmy Carter's brother. So this is not just routine business, especially the number of times it happened turns out to be true based on public reporting. That's why it's important for the intelligence committee to access all of these records and review them.

MACCALLUM: And testify?

COTTON: if our review of those records has answered all these questions, I think she should testify.

MACCALLUM: All right. Syria also very much in the news for horrific reasons, we saw the brutality that was brought upon people there, families, children, suffering from a chemical weapons attack. Is it time to change our policy on Syria?

COTTON: Well, it's another horrific atrocity by Bashar al-Assad and his patrons, Iran and Russia. I would remind everyone that in 2014, Barack Obama after having drawn his redline on use of chemical weapons and erase them, cut a deal with Vladimir Putin to remove all of Syrian's chemical weapons. Well, it turns out that once again, Vladimir Putin and Bashar al- Assad didn't keep their deal. Ultimately, Bashar al-Assad remaining in power is just not an option for America's national security. That's not an opinion, that's not a policy, that's just the fact. Millions of Syrians and Arab leaders who are critical in our fight against Islamic terrorism are going to insist that Bashar al-Assad go. May not be today, may not be tomorrow, we can prioritize the fight against the Islamic state, but the United States cannot be secure as long as the Syrian Civil War continues and Bashar al-Assad remains in power.

MACCALLUM: All right. Last subject, Judge Gorsuch, by the time you and everyone else leaves for the break, the congressional break that is coming, will he be on the Supreme Court?

COTTON: By the time we leave at the end of this week, Judge Gorsuch will be Justice Gorsuch. I think it's unfortunate the Democrats over the last 14 years have repeatedly violated senate traditions until 2003. But we're 214 years of senate history there's never been a single partisan filibuster that succeed in blocking any nominee of any kind. Starting in 2003, Chuck Schumer, now the Democratic leader of the senate, began to break those traditions, and the Republicans are going to have this week, if necessary, to restore the senate tradition that nominees walked to the floor, deserves an up or down vote. Judge Gorsuch, I think, will make a fine Supreme Court justice. He deserves that vote. He will get it, and he will prevail.

MACCALLUM: We'll be watching Friday night. Senator Cotton, thank you very much. Good to see you here.

COTTON: Thanks, Martha.


MACCALLUM: So coming up, our team of political power players will break down the big interviews from tonight. Plus the highlights of the day that was when Chris Stirewalt, Ben Domenech, and Matt Bennett, joins me here in Washington. But first, the president today in his first Rose Garden address sent a very strong signal to Bashar al-Assad and by extension to Russia. Senator John McCain has long been outraged at our lack of action to help the people of Syria. He's here next.


MACCALLUM: So there's new reaction tonight following yesterday's horrific attack in Syria. And a warning that some of the images that you are about to see are disturbing, but we think they are important to understand what is going on here. Dozens of civilians including women and children brutally killed in a chemical attack, President Trump today condemning this attack, blaming the Assad regime and perhaps signaling a change in policy in progress. Watch this.


UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you feel like you bear responsibility for responding to the chemical attacks?

TRUMP: I now have responsibility and I will have that responsibility and carry it very proudly. When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, babies, little babies, with a chemical gas that is so lethal that cost many, many lives beyond the red line, many, many lives. And I will tell you it's already happened that my attitude towards Syria and Assad has changed very much.


MACCALLUM: Joining us now with reaction to all of this, Senator John McCain, chairman of the armed services committee. Senator, good to see you and welcome.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZONA: Thank you, great to see you. That was horrible, and I spoke to the president this morning, he's angry as he well should be, and his consulting with his military leadership as well as his secretary of state. And I have some optimism that he would take some concrete action here. He is obviously, as we all are, appalled. I'm going to make two points. One, this is the legacy of Barack Obama. The last time this happened, Barack Obama said they crossed a red line, called me and Lindsey Graham down to the White House and did nothing. You know one thing worse than doing nothing is saying you're going to do something as the most powerful leader on earth and doing nothing. So this is a legacy of Barack Obama and it's been going on now for the intervening four years. So, what we need to do, we need to stop Bashar Assad's planes from flying and we can do that easily. To say don't fly or you're going to get shot down. And if we start operating out of the six bases that they have, were going to create a runway 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. You know what barrel bombs are? There're large cylindrical things that are filled with shrapnel and they explode about 20 feet above the ground and they indiscriminately kill people. He's got to be stopped from flying. And we can stop it easily using our cruise missiles and other capabilities. And tell the Russians it's your guy, you join us and stopping him from flying and committing these war crimes. Then I would have safe zones and there're a lot of other things. But first thing we ought to do, stop his ability to slaughter people.

MACCALLUM: When you spoke to the president today about this.


MACCALLUM: . did you talk to him about Russia and what did he say?

MCCAIN: We talked mainly about that -- issue of Russia did not come up.

MACCALLUM: You have your differences on Vladimir Putin.


MACCALLUM: . and that's a big part of this equation.

MCCAIN: I think the president understands that if not for the Russians, the Iranian revolutionary guard in Hezbollah, that Bashar Assad would have been gone long ago.

MACCALLUM: Let's bring in Nikki Haley at the U.N. -- let's play it for folks at home.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR FOR THE UNITED NATION: We cannot close our eyes to those pictures. We cannot close our minds of the responsibility to act. Assad has no incentive to stop using chemical weapons as long as Russia continues to protect his regime from consequences. How many more children have to die before Russia cares?


MCCAIN: I'm very proud of her remarks. And I don't believe that she would be saying that unless she had some coordination with the White House. And so, I'm very pleased with her statement. And the first thing I would hope the president would do as I say, he can't fly anymore. Stop the flying. That way we would stop this war crimes and atrocities. Aren't we growing a little tired of seeing pictures of dead children?

MACCALLUM: And it's been hundreds of thousands over the years that you have been bringing this issue up to the forefront. I know it's been a great frustration for you. I've got to go, but just very quickly, are safe zones viable?

MCCAIN: I'll mention again, Barack Obama had an opportunity to stop this long ago and he took a hike, and that's a terrible legacy.

MACCALLUM: All right. We'll pick it up as we talk next time. Thank you very much, senator. Good to see you tonight. Thank you, Senator John McCain for joining us here in Washington.

So coming up, we are going to break down this hour and a day of news with our political experts coming up. We got Chris Stirewalt, Ben Domenech, and Matt Bennett, joining us right here, coming up next.



MACCALLUM: Do you have any hope that Democrats will come on board either with tax reform or with health care?

PENCE: Martha, I do. It's a question not of if, but of when. The president and I both believe that issues like infrastructure, issues like child care, all represent great bipartisan opportunities. But we do recognize that to repeal and replace ObamaCare, Republicans are very likely have to do that on our own at the beginning.


MACCALLUM: On their own there, he said. Healthcare just one of the many issues that is top of mind in Washington right now, and quite a bit he starts to the fourth quarter, so to speak, of the first 100 days of the Trump administration. Let's bring in our power panel. We usually keep them in little boxes from far away, but we have Chris Stirewalt her at the desk, Fox News politics editor. Ben Domenech is the publisher at the Federalist, and Matt Bennett, former deputy assistant to President Clinton. Welcome, gentlemen, good to see you in Washington tonight. So you've heard Vice President Pence basically say, yeah, we think we might have some wiggle room on maybe tax reform or infrastructure, but we are on our own when it comes to healthcare.

CHRIS STIREWALT, FOX NEWS: Well, first of all, I like to say that if other people watching could be as successful to get as many different players in the spectrum as you have been today to get onto this one show, I think they could do a lot more deals.

MACCALLUM: And we have you.


MACCALLUM: A power panel plus.

STIREWALT: Yes, he is right. But unfortunately, the Republicans seem as far apart from each other on the questions of what to do about health insurance, as they are from Democrats on questions like taxes. And they're getting ready to leave for Easter or whatever nondenominational term that they're going to use for this break. They're getting ready to leave and they leave empty-handed.

BEN DOMENECH, THE FEDERALIST: It's all situations really where, as Chris said you have conservatives very far apart from moderates in this. But there's a real question I think for the Republican Party going forward. Do they want to run in a year and a half on having failed to deliver on the signature promise that they've been making to their constituents for seven years regarding ObamaCare? I think there're a lot of members and I talked to members who are in the Tuesday group and members who are in the freedom caucus who are both equally of the mind that they can't afford to do that. The question is, really now, whether they're going to be able to make enough changes to this existing healthcare agreement to be able move it across into the senate, where, frankly, it starts all over again. They're going to have to really tear up a lot of it in order to get it through.

MACCALLUM: Matt, do you hope they win or you hope they lose on this one? What's better for you?



BENNETT: But I'm going to tell you, as you pointed out earlier, there was a pretty big divide between Vice President Pence and his boss. The two biggest problems that Pence has in fulfilling the vision with working with Democrats is Donald and Trump. I mean, when you are attacking President Obama with baseless allegations about wiretapping, you're attacking his staff with baseless allegations about breaking the law, or at least unsupported allegations. That is not going to endear you to the folks on the hill, when you're attacking Senator Schumer, attacking Nancy Pelosi.

DOMENECH: Let's not be silly about this. This would be the same situation even if he wasn't doing that. This is a very partisan town. Democrats are being driven by their base to do what they're doing right now when it comes to this hopeless filibuster against Judge Gorsuch. And this -- the dynamic of this would not be any different if you are talking about a President Pence as opposed to a President Trump.

BENNETT: Maybe. But it certainly doesn't help that you have Trump just kind of going up in all these bizarre directions. It's impossible to know where he's going to be from one day to the next. And that means the Democrats don't know if they should seek.


MACCALLUM: Using that as an excuse, I guess. Because, you know, if they are things that need to be fixed in ObamaCare and they had (INAUDIBLE) goals to fix them, they would say, look, forget all that stuff, but let's get to the table and work this out. They seem to be enjoying the resistance movement so far.

BENNETT: Well, I mean, yes.


BENNETT: I will grant you that. What they came to the table with on the other side though was so -- to the Democrats, there was no way to negotiate over RyanCare. That was the opposite of what Democrats wanted to do. Kicking 24 million people off the rolls, raising rates for the middle class, cutting taxes for the rich, that is exactly the opposite of what anybody wanted on the Democratic side.

MACCALLUM: Let's talk Syria because the president did seem genuinely moved into a different place on this today. Do you believe he is, and if he is, once he put that line down? We've seen what happens if you don't take action.

STIREWALT: And one thing that both parties agree in Washington is that the way things panned out in Syria, red line, and all of that stuff, this has been a thoroughgoing disaster. Trump is facing a similar -- he cannot go back in time. He cannot undo the mistakes of the past. You have to live in the world as it is. But here's a serious challenge, we thought we were getting a picture of what Trump is and was on the international stage and this was America first, not isolationist, but certainly a withdrawal from the traditional role that Republicans and Democrats like and safe for the United States. Then, in one day, we see Steve Bannon taken out of his role at the National Security Council. He's sort of the high priest of Trump as inside the administration. And then, in addition to that, we see Rex Tillerson and, in an amazing moment at the United Nations, Nikki Haley delivered absolute fire and brimstone. She dropped it right on the head of the Russian ambassador, and you saw a different Trumpism coming to the floor.

MACCALLUM: On this staff change, how significant?

DOMENECH: I think it's a little bit interesting to see what happens with Bannon. It's not necessarily as big of a deal I think as some in Washington, or saying simply because he only attended apparently one meeting. But with the serious side of things, we need a clear answer from the Trump White House what victory looks like in Syria.

MACCALLUM: I'm going to leave it there. Thank you very much, gentleman, great to see you all. So when we return, behind-the-scenes of my exclusive interview with Mike Pence, when we come right back.


MACCALLUM: Earlier today, I visited the vice president ceremonial office at the executive office building here in Washington. Watch.


PENCE: The noteworthy part of the desk is the tradition in the drawer, which is that every vice president since Harry Truman has signed the interior of the desk.

MACCALLUM: There's your predecessor, Joe Biden.

PENCE: And a few.

MACCALLUM: Dick Cheney.

PENCE: A few presidents, Dwight Eisenhower actually signed it. Walter Mondale. Harry Truman actually signed it twice for reasons unknown.


MACCALLUM: He'd forgot he already done it. Look at that. That is remarkable.


MACCALLUM: That was pretty cool. So for the quote of the night, the two things together, the Roosevelt desk which was very impressive, and the subject of marriage which was much discussed with this week with regards to the vice president and Mrs. Pence. So this T.R. quote, the man who loves other countries as much as he loves his own stands on a level with the man who loves other women as much as he loves his own wife.

Good night from Washington everybody. See you tomorrow night back in New York.

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