Transcript

Rep. Scalise talks whipping the votes for health care bill

House majority whip opens up about the process on 'The Story with Martha MacCallum'

 

This is a rush transcript from "The Story," May 4, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan, period.

NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: This is a pretty (BLEEP) deal!

OBAMA: Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

MARTTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS CHANNEL THE STORY WITH MARTHA MACCALLUM 

HOST: We all remember that moment, right? But then came the campaign of 2016, 

which gave voice to the 60 times that the GOP tried to undo that deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

DONALDTRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: One of the true staples of my campaign, and I say to our campaign, repeal and replace  ObamaCare.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

MACCALLUM: That was October of 2016, rather. But the first round at repealing and replacing which was rushed to a vote basically crashed before takeoff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

TRUMP: I'm disappointed because we could have had it. So, I'm disappointed. I'm a little surprised to be honest with you. We really had it, it was pretty much their within grasp. But I'll tell you what's going to come out of it is a better bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

MACCALLUM: And we will see. Good evening, everybody. I'm Martha MacCallum. It is May the 4th, and this is THE STORY. The bill passed the house today, it squeaked by with a one-vote margin. The White House was just railed the democrats were spiking the football on the spending bill. Remember that? Spiked the football pretty much this afternoon in the Rose Garden. The President was clearly in a good mood.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

TRUMP: How am I doing? Am I doing OK? I'm President. Hey, I'm President. Can you believe it, right?

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

MACCALLUM: Can you believe it, right, he says? So, the first step, but keep in mind, really about one-fifth of the way there because that go to the Senate, and they're already sort of talking about what kind of bill they're going to create. Then, conference, then the adoption process, and then, and only if it gets that far, signature by the President. But from a scoreboard perspective, today was probably one of the best, if not the best day for President Trump. He got the first leg of repeal and replace, he got the spending bill that's on its way to his desk to be signed, and he got an executive order boosting religious liberty in this country. We're going to talk about that in a moment. 

And we could hear more about those wins moments from now, there is a look at the USS Intrepid, the Air-Sea, Air and Space Museum where President Trump is expected to take the stage any moment from now. This is the first time he's been back to New York since he became President of the United States. And tonight, they will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the battle of the Coral Sea.

So, moments from now, we will talk to the congressman who whipped the vote and got his job done today, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. But first, Peter Doocy joins us live on Capitol Hill with happens now. Peter?

PETER DOOCY, FOX NEWS CHANNEL CORRESPONDENT: Martha, we just spoke to some of the Republican lawmakers as they were getting off the buses that had taken them to that Rose Garden celebration today. And we really got a sense that these members are trying to make the good feeling they got from this bill's passage last as long as possible.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 

DOOCY: You just got back from the White House. Was it pure celebration or was there much talk behind closed doors about what has to happen next?

JEFF DUNCAN, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN FROM SOUTH CAROLINA: Not a lot of -- with this group, not a lot of talk about what has to happen next. It was messaging to the American people about exactly what we had done today.

DOOCY: And the people working at the White House right now are getting a lot of credit from lawmakers who crafted this legislation, like Oregon Congressman Greg Walden.

GREG WALDEN, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN FROM OREGON: I'll tell you, this administration was more hands on in helping us get this done than any I've ever seen in all the years I've been here. And so, I think they made a big difference.

DOOCY: But Walden admits this is just the first step, other steps before President Trump's desk are the senate, where it's going to be changed, and then, it will bounce around until both chambers agree. Senator Lindsey Graham has already tweeted today, "A bill -- finalized yesterday, has not been scored, and my mom allowed, and three hours final debate -- should be viewed with caution." And Senator John McCain doesn't like that the house doesn't know how much their own health care bill costs because they voted before the Congressional Budget Office, put a price tag on it.

JOHN MCCAIN, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM ARIZONA: I don't approve of it but they -- whatever they want to do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think those -

MCCAIN: They spend their time criticizing me, so - but I won't 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE) 

DOOCY: And there were conflicting reports today, this afternoon, about a big celebration for republicans here at the Capital. Republican Congressman Sean Duffy told me on his way out of the House Chamber that he heard there was going to be champagne at some point. But we haven't seen any champagne, we haven't heard any bottles popping. It appears that most members just headed right to the airport for another recess. Martha?

MACCALLUM: Thank you very much, Peter.

Joining me now, the congressman responsible for making sure that this bill had enough votes to pass, the House Majority Whip, Steve Scalise. Good to see you today, sir. Welcome.

STEVE SCALISE, HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP: Good to be with you, Martha.

MACCALLUM: Congratulations because this is something that you were working and you achieved it today. And we saw Kevin McCarthy stand up and say, "You know, this is the guy who never gave up on this process." So, I think everybody would like you to take us behind the scenes and show us a little bit of how the sausage was made. What was it like?

SCALISE: Sure. Sure. Well, you know, it was a lot of work. And like all of our members in the Republican conference have been working really hard to try to find a way to get to yes. We still had more work to do a few weeks ago. You know, we would have liked to see the bill passed sooner but the most important thing was getting it right. And fulfilling this promise and starting the process of repealing and replacing  ObamaCare so that we can lower premiums and put families back in charge of their healthcare. So, you know, we worked very closely with President Trump. He was engaged from the very beginning. Vice President Pence was very hands-on. And so, our teams worked well together.

But ultimately, every change we made to the bill over the last few weeks were focused on lowering premiums more and bringing more members on board that weren't there. And so, we had a lot of cooperation. But look, it was difficult but I always set from the beginning, failure is not an option. This is too important to the people that elected us, that want relief from ObamaCare, and that we had to get this done. And so, I'm glad we were able to pass it on the house, now it goes to the senate. There's more work to do, but I really feel good about where we are in our ability to actually get this on President Trump's desk.

MACCALLUM: So tell me about that because the house did its job on this bill, but now, there's a long, arduous process ahead. And we know that it's going to look very different when it gets over to the senate side. Do you think it will pass and what kind of changes do you expect to see?

SCALISE: Well, you know, for all the people that said it couldn't pass the House, I always knew that we had a path to get it out of the House and it wouldn't be easy. But I also knew that it was going to take a lot of work, and that's why we're here, that's why we ran. I've already talked to John Cornyn, the Senate Majority Whip. And he's already working on what they need to do in the Senate to put a similar coalition together to pass the bill. They can only lose two senators over there, and that means Vice President Pence will break the tie, but they know - look, we're going to, you know -

(CROSSTALK) 

MACCALLUM: Let me just jump in because I want to give you some news that we just got because word is just breaking that the senate says that they will basically come up with their own legislation, and that they will incorporate parts of yours. What do you say about that?

SCALISE: Yes, I know we've been working with them every step of the way. They've been following what we've been doing and the changes we've made. We actually have to check with the Senate because a lot of the limitations of this budget reconciliation process, that allows you to pass this bill will 51 votes in the Senate, it means you have to work with the Senate. So, if they can make more improvements to the bill, I'm all for that. I think that would continue to improve this process. And, you know, and then we'll see what they - what they changed, and if it's better, we could take those changes. If not, we'll go to our conference committee. But the ultimate goal is to get a bill on the president's desk that lowers premiums, that puts patients back in charge of their health care decisions by repealing and replacing this broken law.

MACCALLUM: Understood. But before I let you go, how important was it that the GOP was getting so much criticism for having the House, the Senate, and the White House, and not being able to get anything done? Did that end up helping you guys because you were sort of getting hammered for that?

SCALISE: Well, you know, we were focused from the beginning on making sure that we did get it done because like you said, when you have the House and Senate and White House, failure is not an option. You've got to get it done, you've got to follow through, and I think you saw that focus all the 

way through. I mean, you know, there were times when people could have given up on the process and we never did because we knew we had to get this done for a lot of reasons. But the main one is because we promised people we'd give them relief from  ObamaCare. And so, you saw that coalescing, you saw members from all different factions within our conference come together, and it was a really healthy process. You know, it took time, but, look, it took over a year before  ObamaCare got on President Obama's desk. In just a few weeks, we're able to get this moved through the House, and that brings it to the next step. But let's provide relief for those families.

MACCALLUM: Lots of steps to go. So we will see. Steve Scalise, thank you very much. Good to see you today, sir.

SCALISE: Good being with you, Martha.

MACCALLUM: So if flipping house votes for this bill was a bit of an uphill battle. Lawmakers are now racing for the arrival of this in McConnell's chamber. So, here's just a taste of what might be in store for the Senate. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

NANCY PELOSI, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES MINORITY LEADER: So, 

I ask you, my colleagues, does Trumpcare lower health costs?  No? Does - how Trumpcare provide better health care? Does Trumpcare protect seniors and families?

PAUL RYAN, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES SPEAKER: Are we going to meet this test? Are we going to be men and women of our word? Are we going to keep the promises that we made? Or, are we going to falter? No.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

MACCALLUM: Democracy in action, right? Joining me now, Guy Benson political editor in townhall.com - at townhall.com, and Fox News Contributor. And Zac Petkanas is a former DNC senior advisor. Welcome, gentleman, good to have both of you here tonight.

GUY BENSON, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR AND TOWNHALL.COM POLITICAL EDITOR: Hey, Martha, good to be with you.

MACCALLUM: I want to start with this sound bite from Kevin McCarthy at the White House today. Let's play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

KEVIN MCCARTHY, HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER:  So, Mr. President, I want to thank you. You know, I've only been through a few Presidents, but I've never seen someone so hands on.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

MACCALLUM: So, Guy, what do you make of the process so far and the President's involvement in it? Does GOP come out looking good after this or is it too early to say?

BENSON: Too early to say in the long-term. In the short term, this is an important step. I likened it earlier to a first down on the football field, but not a touchdown yet, with a long way to go, as you just discussed with Congressman Scalise. But the President, I think, deserves a fair amount of credit here. He was very hands-on, as was his Vice President, Mike Pence, who really kick started what looked like a dead process just a few weeks ago, getting the two sides together. So now, things move on to the U.S. Senate, which is an entire different bottle of soda, or ball of wax, whatever metaphor you want to make. And we're going to see, I think, some significant changes.

MACCALLUM: All right. Let's hear from Nancy Pelosi today after this. Here she is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

PELOSI: This vote will be tattooed to them, and I also said, they will glow in the dark.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

MACCALLUM: They are going to glow in the dark? Zac, it's so toxic that people are going to be glowing in the dark and have tattoos blazoned across their heads. Some pretty weird stuff.

ZAC PETKANAS, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE SENIOR ADVISOR: Look, I agree with Guy that Donald Trump owns this, Mike Pence owns this, every house Republican who has voted for this piece of legislation owns this. They will have to campaign on it. And I'm going to be very clear, Democrats plan to campaign on this, as well. You know, they voted to cut people's Medicaid, they voted to allow insurance companies to raise premiums on seniors, on cancer survivors, on people with diabetes, on pregnant women. I mean, this is a bad bill. And it's so bad that the senate won't even take a look.

MACCALLUM: Let's remember the fact that ObamaCare in and of itself did a ton of damage to the Democratic Party. They lost a ton of seats based on ObamaCare and they may have indeed lost the Presidential Election because it was in October that we saw the premiums come out and people looked at them and were aghast. And so, ObamaCare has not been particularly good for Democrats. But, Guy, what do you make of the assessment that this is going to be very rough and there are some prognosticators who are already shifting their numbers for Republicans based on this today?

PETKANAS: Yes. Well, what we've seen is not just going back to October, as you mentioned, with the double-digit premium increases under ObamaCare, and providers pulling out of a bunch of markets across the country, that bad news continues today in Virginia, in Iowa.  ObamaCare is failing badly and harming people. The republicans said, "We're going to fix this mess of the Democrats, 100 percent made on their own with  ObamaCare." And I think that the vote today, as I said, is a step. What was passed today isn't going to be the law. There are concerns, policy-wise and process-wise, that I have with the bill right now. But there are still two or three significant iterations to come of this process and what will matter is the final result. Do they get it done, and does it help people and fix the ObamaCare problems?

MACCALLUM: That's so true. And Zac, you know, if people do start to see some downward momentum or even, you know, just that their premiums are staying the same, they're not getting any higher as they become used to, or maybe they get a little bit more choice with their doctor, or maybe a few more plans arrive in their state where there was only one before, perhaps that's the reason that Charles Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have been so apoplectic about this movement on this front.

PETKANAS: Well, I mean, let's be clear, the reason why the insurance companies have been piling out of the markets of late is because of the uncertainty that is being created by Donald Trump and the republicans, as well as the attempts by the Republicans to sabotage this law, including the beginning of this year. And so, any issue that you're seeing right now, just look at Donald Trump's tweets over the past couple of months, he is articulating that he is actively trying to sabotage this law. So that's the reason why you're seeing that.

BENSON: No.

(CROSSTALK) 

BENSON: I reject that. I mean, we've seen providers pulling out of markets for years now. And the reason is, the risk pools aren't sustainable and it's not financially sustainable for the companies. And that continues to be the case because  ObamaCare was a terrible law that was shoddily written and isn't working or fulfilling its promises. The Republicans are sabotaging the law by allowing it to play out under its own terms, which was written 100 percent by the Democratic Party.

MACCALLUM: We will see, gentlemen. We got to go. I got to leave it there. Thank you very much. Good to see you, both, tonight.

So breaking tonight, as well, you are looking live at New York City, where there are protests on one side and the USS Intrepid on the other. President Trump expected to make some remarks any moment now. We'll take you there live when that gets underway. He is back in New York, his hometown for the very first time since he became President.

And then, a stunning new report about the growth of surveillance under the Obama administration in the final months. We're going to tell you about the spike. What did it mean? What were they up to? And what about Susan Rice in all of this, Marc Thiessen and Juan Williams on that. 

And a victory for religious liberty in America as President Trump signs an executive order giving religious organizations more latitude, greater freedom in political speech. So what does that really mean when you go to church on Sunday? Pastor Robert Jeffress was there for this. He's coming up right after the break.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

TRUMP: We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied, or silenced anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

MACCALLUM: Here's a live look at the USS Intrepid, sea, air, and space museum, which is just a few blocks from here, really, in New York City, where President Trump brushed off his health care victory lap today is set to speak moments from now. The President back in his hometown of New York for the first time since taking office. A lot of people thought he was going to be here every weekend in the beginning but he really hasn't been. He arrives amidst some protests that you can see on the street, that's across the street from where the Intrepid is. We're going to keep an eye on that situation. We will bring you the President's remarks when he gets to the podium. We'll take you there live.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

TRUMP: I would like to thank the evangelical and religious community. Our laws prevent you from speaking our minds from your own pulpits. I am going to work very hard to repeal that language and to protect free speech for all Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

MACCALLUM: That was at the convention last summer. President Trump there pledging to get rid of a law that blocks religious institutions from taking politics to the pulpit. And this morning on the 66th Annual National Day of Prayer, the President made good on that pledge. He signed an executive order repealing the so-called "Johnson Amendment".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

TRUMP: Free speech does not end at the steps of a cathedral or a synagogue or any other house of worship. With this executive order, we also make clear that the federal government will never, ever penalize any person for their protected religious beliefs.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

MACCALLUM: Pastor Robert Jeffress is senior pastor at the First Baptist Church in Dallas and a Fox News contributor. He was with the President in the Rose Garden today. Good to see you this evening, pastor. You know, obviously, evangelicals came out and support very strongly for the President in this election. But there were moments during the campaign, especially in debate, when he was asked about religious liberties and his answers were sort of vague on this. You've spent a lot of time with him today. Do you believe that he has more conviction about these issues now, and if so, why?

ROBERT JEFFRESS, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR AND FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH SENIOR PASTOR: I think he is always had conviction about these issues. I've known him for two years. I was with him yesterday in the Oval Office for a private meeting before a dinner last night. His positions remain steadfast. And Martha, what has led to this is the President knows that it's absolutely wrong for government to be assaulting people's religious liberty they ought to be protecting it, instead. And I think today is historic, today marks the beginning of the end of government's 60-year-old war against religious liberty. And we're ready for that to happen.

I mean, whenever you have an Atlanta fire chief losing his job for publishing a book supporting traditional marriage, or you have the Little Sisters of the Poor, who were here today, who were being assaulted by the Obama administration, something is wrong. The President recognized that, and he vowed to do something to change it.

MACCALLUM: All righty. I want to get your reaction to this because the ACLU put out a statement today, and they called the whole thing at the White House today an elaborate photo op. And they said that after careful review, we determined that the order does not meaningfully alter the ability of religious institutions or individuals to intervene in the political process. And that it pretends to but does not harm the Provision of Reproductive Health Services. Are they right or wrong?

JEFFRESS: Well, I think they're wrong. And I think today's executive order was a giant step. But I look at it, Martha, more as a compass than a road map. I think there are more details to come but I think it's saying we are changing the direction government is of its attitude towards religion; we're doing a giant U-turn; we're going to start protecting religious liberty instead of assaulting it. And that's what was historic about today.

MACCALLUM: All right. Let's bring in -

JEFFRESS: And by the way, Martha - yes.

MACCALLUM: I want to bring in - just hold that thought -- bring in Reverend Barry Lynn, who's the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. And also, let's pull up this Pew Poll, which says, during political elections, should church and other houses of worship come out in favor of one candidate over another? And they say, should not, 66 percent say should not come out during - you know, from the pulpit to endorse a candidate. Reverend Lynn, what are your thoughts in all of this?

BARRY LYNN, AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: I mean, frankly, what was happening today was a profound effort on the part of President Trump to describe what he wants to do. Now, he can't repeal the statute, it's in the law, and it would require the Congress. But I do think he made it very clear that he believes there's some attack on religion. I can tell you, there has never been in the history of this country, any pastor, any rabbi, any imam who has been penalized by the federal government, not during the last administration, not so far in this administration, for what she or he said from the pulpit about any controversial issue. You can be pro-choice, you can be anti-war, you can be on the opposite side of those very issues. No one has ever been penalized. The only restriction in the so-called Johnson Amendment is that you can convert your church or your synagogue into what amounts to a political action committee. You can't cross the line and endorse or oppose candidates for public office. So, when the President said today, there's no free speech for churches, maybe he hasn't been in enough churches lately.

MACCALLUM: You think that's not safe. We were - I'm almost out of time, just 10 seconds, Pastor Jeffress, quick answer.

JEFFRESS: I want to remind Barry Lynn that he sent me a letter 20 years ago threatening my church's tax-exempt status, not because I endorsed a particular candidate, but because I stood against an issue that was a moral issue in our community. Government has no business policing speech from the pulpit, period. That is against the First Amendment.

MACCALLUM: All right. We'll leave it at there. Gentlemen, thank you.

LYNN: You did endorse candidates. Thank you.

MACCALLUM: Thank you. We're going to leave it there. Thank you, gentlemen.

So still ahead - there's a look at the Intrepid on the left - on the right-hand side of your screen. On the left, there are protesters. The President is going to speak in just a few minutes. We're going to take you there live as soon as that gets underway. But first tonight, Susan Rice has now said that she refuses to testify in front of the senate committee just one day before we got new numbers showing that there was actually a huge spike in surveillance of American citizens towards the end of the Obama administration. Marc Thiessen and Juan Williams break it down for us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

LINDSEY GRAHAM, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE MEMBER: Is it fair to say that very few people can make request for unmasking (INAUDIBLE) I can't go and make that request, as a senator, can I?

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: Sure, it's a fairly small group that the consumers, which I am, of that a small set of --

GRAHAM: It's the National Security Council within that group that can make this request or do you know?

COMEY: I think the National Security Adviser certainly can. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

MACCALLUM: That was FBI Director James Comey at a hearing yesterday on Capitol Hill. The unnamed national security advisor they're discussing was Susan Rice, at the time after she decline to participate in a senate hearing over her potential role in requesting quite a bit of unmasking Trump associates. Congressman Trey Gowdy made clear to Ms. Rice that there are other ways he believes of getting her to the witness chair.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TREY GOWDY, U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Remember that congress don't pick the witnesses, lawyers don't pick witnesses, the fact picks witnesses. And whether Ms. Rice likes it or not, she's really important fact witness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: Fox News chief intelligence correspondent, Catherine Herridge is here to tell us the story of where this goes from here. Catherine? 

CATHERINE HERRIDGE, FOX NEWS: Well, thanks, Martha. The FBI director and head of NSA were back on the hill today for a classified session, dealing with a 2-month-old request for record showing whose communications were swept up during foreign surveillance, and who in the last administration had access to American names, and with the new Republican leading the House Russia case, an effort to put political differences to one side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKE CONAWAY, R-TEXAS: I want to come out and just announce we've had a very successful hearing, and I appreciate you guys being here. We will be issuing a written statement with more details shortly. 

REP. ADAM SCHIFF, D-CALIF.: Today, the witnesses I think were valuable in providing some additional insights to us. And I very much appreciate Mike's conduct of investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HERRIDGE: This new report released by the U.S. government shows a spike in searches of the national security agency's database under President Obama. This covers signals intelligence, such as phone calls, text messages, and emails. In 2016, there were more than 30,000 searches for information about 

Americans who's communications were picked up accidentally. Those numbers represents a nearly 28 percent jump over 2015, and three times as many searches as the year before that. Critics of the Obama White House say it's more circumstantial evidence that during an election year, there was an 

unprecedented effort to gather information and circulate reports about American citizens. Mr. Obama supporter saying the laws were broken and with Russia meddling, the searches amount to due diligence, Martha. 

MACCALLUM: All right. Catherine, thank you. 

HERRIDGE: You're welcome.

MACCALLUM: Here now with more, Marc Thiessen, former chief speech writer for President George w. Bush, and a Fox News contributor. And Juan Williams, cohost of The Five, and a Fox News political analyst. Gentlemen, welcome. Good have you both here. Juan, do you think Susan Rice should testify? 

JUAN WILLIAM, THE FIVE CO HOST: At this point, her argument is that because a Democrat on the senate intelligence committee did not request, in fact said, that he thought it would be a distraction, that it was a political move by the Republican majority on the committee, she decided not to testify, not to participate. 

MACCALLUM: Marc, does that hold water with you? 

MARC THIESSEN, FORMER CHIEF SPEECH WRITTER TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I've spent seven years working on Capitol Hill, and that's not how it works, Juan. The Democrats don't get -- don't have bipartisan agreement on witnesses. The chairman of the committee can call whoever he wants before the committee. The Democrats could call whoever they want before the committee, and they have to testify. And the reality is that this is a big back fire for her. So number one, her excuse for not testifying is yet another Susan Rice misstatement, the woman who told us that Benghazi was because of an internet video, that Syria given up its chemical weapons, and she said I don't know anything about it when the unmasking first came up. So she's been seriously dishonest. Now, what's going to happen is, Graham is going to hold the committee hearing just on her, and just on unmasking. Instead of being part of a larger one, let's spend three hours talking about you and your record. 

WILLIAMS: You know, Marc, I don't think she's going to have any trouble. I think this is, you know, the way that you posed it, it seems to me, went way off the target. The question on the table is why is Susan Rice deciding not to testify her? She feels this is a political game, not speaking to the facts. The question in part is why was there a spike in terms of surveillance in 2016? 

MACCALLUM: That is the question. Because the question is more than just -- I mean, the reason why she won't testify goes back to the basic underpinning of all of this, which is that there was this enormous spike. And we also know that the Obama administration, towards the end of their time there, change the rules to dramatically lower the bar in terms of who was allowed to look at all of this intelligence.

WILLIAMS: Exactly.

MACCALLUM: And as the New York Times story documented, they wanted to push the word out there as much as they could about these Trump transition officials because they believed that they were in cahoots with Russia. She believes that there was a legitimate reason to do all of that. Why doesn't she have to testify and go before congress and explain what they're thinking was? Marc, and then Juan. 

THIESSEN: Well, because she doesn't want to explain it because that would be really look really bad for them. I mean, no one has yet explained why Susan Rice, as national security advisor, to unmask an official, you have to provide a national security rationale for why you need that information. 

So James Comey might have a national security rationale because I'm investigating her -- this person. But Susan Rice isn't investigating anybody. She's the National Security Council advisor. Why does she need to know? 

WILLIAMS: Come on, Marc. 

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: Marc, you are witness number one for Susan Rice. She was a national security advisor. She is in charge of informing the president.

MACCALLUM: Hold on, Marc.

WILLIAMS: Let me talk for a second. She's in charge of making sure the president of the United States is fully aware of threats to our national security. If you have an increased, whether it's from WikiLeaks, or from the Russians, or anyone else trying to influence an American election, hacking into our political structure, I would think that's a good reason for her to make a request. And remember, she does not make the determination. She has to make a request. And its people in the intelligence agency who say yes, she is justified in seeking this information. 

MACCALLUM: All right. So, Marc, why did they all give her a pass on it? Why did they say, OK, I think there's legitimate reason? 

THIESSEN: Well, first of all, I think it would be great if Susan Rice went to Capitol Hill and said that is the case is so open and just. Go ahead, why is she afraid to testify, Juan, because there's no rational for her to get this information. And the other question is which Martha raise is that they were lowering the bar for sharing this stuff. We had a junior official in the Pentagon talking about how they were spreading this information around, about who was being monitored, and what information they had because they were afraid the Trump campaign would destroy this intelligence. So who was this spread with? Who was this information shared with? She should come up and explain this fact. 

WILLIAMS: Marc, that's a different issue in terms of spreading around or leaving breadcrumbs. What we're talking about tonight is whether or not the intelligence agencies lowered the bar in terms of who they granted access. 

MACCALLUM: No, they are connected because the reason that the bar was lowered was so that more information would be able to get out to more people. Because they were in a panic that the Russians had taken over the Trump campaign and there's all these stuff going back and forth. They wanted to make sure. 

WILLIAMS: That explains why you had increase surveillance taking place. 

MACCALLUM: All right, guys. We've got to leave it there. Thank you, Marc. Thank you very much. Thanks, Juan, good to see you as always. So President Trump is returning home tonight to New York for the first time since becoming president. Any moment now, we expect him to step in front of that 

podium at the USS Intrepid, which is an amazing museum, that's right here on the Hudson River. He's there tonight. We'll take you there live as well coming up. Also, tonight, late night host Stephen Colbert said that he would change a few words from his anti-Trump rant that got him a lot of heat this week, but did not back away from the meaning of the message. But his is just the latest in a long line of comedians who seem to have lost, some say, their sense of humor when it comes to the president. Raising the question, who took the fun out of late-night? When Howard Kurtz joins us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, THE LATE NIGHT SHOW HOST: You attract more skinheads than free Rogaine. You have more people marching against you then cancer. In fact, the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin's (beep) Holster. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MACCALLUM: Quote, people are able to say this about anything these days. That was the response from the SCC chairman of all people, he offered that after a late show host Stephen Colbert's rant against Donald Trump which caused a lot of controversy this week. Late-night, of course, has always been a place where a president can expect some jabs. But the tone across the board has changed so much that we wanted to take a look back at how we got here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNNY CARSON: Can you believe a drug scandal in the White House? That's the only high the Carter administration has had in 18 months. 

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: This is my daily brief from one of my top foreign policy advisors. 

UNINDENTIFIED MALE: All right, governor, once again, the category is world leaders. 

DAVID LETTERMAN: What is it about New York that you think it requires the most immediate attention? 

UNINDENTIFIED MALE: The Knicks. 

SETH MEYERS: I'm not going to take as an opportunity to make that a bunch of [bleep] jokes. I'm just saying that Donald Trump doesn't want to be slapped with soft Canadian wood. 

COLBERT: The only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin's [bleep] holster.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: So here now, the host of Media Buzz with his thoughts on all of this, Fox News channel's Howie Kurtz. Howie, good to see you tonight. You know, I remember seeing the Jerry Ford jokes where he was, you know, kept bumping his head all the times on things. But there's always sort of -- it 

was a little bit more in good fun. And I'm sure that in those times, we would see some of this and think, oh, my goodness, I can't believe he said that about the presidents. But now, that has gone to a whole new place. And I'm curious what you think as a media observer, an expert media observer, about why that is, and how we got there. 

HOWIE KURTZ, THE MEDIA BUZZ HOST: Well, the culture used to be somewhat tamer, guys like Johnny Carson and Jay Leno. I mean, they would poke fun at Republicans and Democrats. You didn't necessarily know if they had an ideology. Now, in the Trump era, when we just saw a little bit of that, it's like everybody is competing to be on the same Trump-bashing channel. Stephen Colbert is leading the pack. That's how he dug himself out of last place with a nightly barrage of anti-Trump. You've also got Samantha Bee who was down here in Washington to stage an anti-Trump show, the night of the White House Correspondents Dinner. John Oliver, Trevor Noah, trying to get out of the shadow of Jon Stewart. Seth Meyers. Everybody except Jimmy Fallon seems to think that they can play to half the country. The half that they think doesn't like this president. 

MACCALLUM: Let's take a look at Stephen Colbert's response last night. Here's what he said. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLBERT: I had a few choice insults for the president in return. I don't regret that. I believe he can take care of himself. I have jokes, he has the launch codes. So, a fair fight. So while I would do it again, I would change a few words that were cruder than they needed to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: So what do you think about that? 

KURTZ: The only words that Stephen Colbert should have change, is he should have added I'm sorry to that lame non-apology which he just seemed to be kind of doubling down on what was a gratuitously offensive sex joke about the president of the United States. And you know he's a talented comedian. I've been on the air with him. This was beneath him. And by the way, CBS also needs to address whether it should allow this kind of garbage on the air because this is a pre-taped show. So some suit at CBS thought this was OK to air. It wasn't something that was blurted out. It was scripted. 

MACCALLUM: So I think, you know, that some people would say that we got to this sort of dialogue, that the president kind of helped us get here. That some of the vulgarity that he has spoken in the past that was well documented during the course of the election, is part of what put us in a dialogue that we're in right now. Is that fair or not fair? 

KURTZ: Well, certainly, President Trump during the campaign, you know, did a lot of finger in the eye insults. And you could say that especially on Twitter that added to the tone, the adversarial tone that we have now. But I just think regardless of what you think about Donald Trump, whether you think he's a great president or a terrible president, you have to respect the office. 

MACCALLUM: But what about the deface the nation comment which set this whole thing off? What do you think about that? 

KURTZ: When the president said defaced the nation.

MACCALLUM: Yeah.

KURTZ: And he kind of got into a scrap with John Dickerson. Look, the president is entitled to defend himself in an aggressive interview. I think John Dickerson did his job. But there is something about the tone and the very highly personal nature of it, I mean, Trump can take care of himself, Colbert is right. He can give it back. But, you know, here is a perfect example, Jimmy Kimmel had this incredibly heartfelt monologue about his son almost dying, and yet, he needed to throw in a swipe at Trump and a pitch for  ObamaCare. It's all becoming politicized in a way that I think we've lost something from the previous culture. 

MACCALLUM: Howie Kurtz. Thank you, Howie. Good to see you. 

KURTZ: Thanks, Martha.

MACCALLUM: So we're still awaiting remarks tonight from the president who is expected to take the stage any moment now at the USS Intrepid. And we will bring you their live. Also, tensions continue to arise with North Korea, new details tonight about our potential action from our military to confront North Korea. We'll take you there with former navy seal Carl Higbie when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MACCALLUM: So with the escalating threat of a nuclear North Korea, the House passed a bill today which would bolster sanctions against the hermit nation, where Kim Jong-un continues his provocations. This as we continue to learn more about our potential military strategy there, Trace Gallagher, live with the details from our west coast newsroom tonight. Trace?

TRACE GALLAGHER, FOX NEWS: Martha, those new tougher sanctions passed the House on overwhelming fashion with a final tally of 419 to 1. The sanctions mostly targeted North Korea shipping industry, which is one of the bed rocks of their shaky but improving economy. Congress is also asking the Trump administration to report back within 90 days as to what the North Korea should be put back onto the U.S. government's list of state sponsors of terror. The north was taken off that list back in 2008. President Trump has vowed to deal harshly with North Korea, should it test another nuclear weapon. And we now know the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force commanders are permanently based on the Korean peninsula in case conflict breaks out. 

In prepared testimony before a house subcommittee, General Raymond A. Thomas, the commander of U.S. special operations, wrote that special ops forces like the Navy SEALs and the Army's Delta Force are set to conduct operations against North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile sites. The general wrote, quoting here, we're actively pursuing a training path to ensure readiness for the entire range of contingency operations in which Special Operations Forces, to include, are exquisite countering weapons of mass destruction capabilities, may play a critical role. The top priority would be sabotaging weapons to make sure they're not stolen or exploded where they sit inside North Korea. Along with biological and chemical weapons, North Korea is believed to have about 20 nuclear devices and is thought to be developing nuclear warheads small enough to be carried on the tip of a long-range missile. Though, it should be noted the north has yet to prove it can successfully fire off its new medium-range missiles at all. In three separate test last month, the farthest, a cayenne 17 scud flew was about 22 miles. Martha? 

MACCALLUM: Trace, thank you. So here now with more, former Special Operations Petty Officer First Class, Carl Higbie. Carl, welcome, good to have you here tonight. When you hear that list. 

CARL HIGBIE, FORMER NAVY SEAL: Who was the one person that voted against those, by the way? 

MACCALLUM: Yeah, good question, right. When you hear that list, it's somewhat daunting about the nuclear capability. If our only solace is that so far we are not sure whether or not they have the capability to put any nuclear material of the top of an ICBM.

HIGBIE: Right.

MACCALLUM: And you've got a pretty unhinged individual, maybe not unhinged, but certainly unpredictable. 

HIGBIE: Oh, he's unhinged. 

MACCALLUM: As the leader of North Korea, that is a pretty scary combination. 

HIGBIE: Incredibly scary. And, you know, you can put all the SEAL's in Delta, and all of the Special Ops guy you want on the ground, but the burden lies religiously on the intelligence community. Because if we don't know what and where we're going after it, we can go get it. So that's our first step. 

MACCALLUM: In terms of the commandos, take us inside what they're doing. We heard, you know, about lots of operatives and people on the ground, who are there ready to pounce if need be. Talk to us about their training, what they're doing, and what they may be able to pull off there. 

HIGBIE: Well, right now, without going into too many details, we are going over every scenario, every possible scenario that could go wrong. What this facility looks like, whatever footage we have, whatever satellite footage we have, we're rehearsing as we see it, as we know it, and planning for multiple contingencies. I mean, this is something that you would have to sign just to give you a gravity of what's going on here. You'd have to have a gravity of every single nuclear sites being hit simultaneously to avoid some sort of detonation. And that is an immense task when we're fighting against something that has the means to detect us through ISR footage, through heat signatures, through night vision, and also has a 700,000 person standing army. 

MACCALLUM: Incredible. Carl Higbie, always a pleasure to talk to you. Thank 

you very much for joining us tonight. 

HIGBIE: Thank you, Martha.

MACCALLUM: So breaking tonight, President Trump is back in his native New York, some protesters lining the streets to be among those welcoming him home. The president is set to speak aboard the USS Intrepid any moment. That's where our chief White House correspondent John Roberts is tonight. 

Good evening, John. 

JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Martha, good evening to you. The president should be taking the stage here at the USS Intrepid. The dinner commemorating the 75th anniversary of the battle of the Coral Sea, which was a joint U.S.-Australian military endeavor that blocked the 

Japanese expansion into the South Pacific, the president having a bilateral meeting right now with the Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull, you remember back on the 28th of January. There was a little bit of a tense conversation between the two leaders when the president said he did not like this idea that President Obama had kind of deals with Prime Minister Turnbull to take some 1,250 refugees that had been kept on offshore islands by the Australians. He called it a dumb deal on the internet. 

But apparently, the two of them have buried the hatchet over all of that. A pool report coming out of that meeting say, quoting President Trump is saying, I love Australia, we have a fantastic relationship. Ask about the refugee deal, the president said, that's all worked out. And the first call that he had with the prime minister, the president said we had a great call. You guys exaggerated that call. But a leaked transcript of that call showed that it was indeed a little bit tense. There was some heat between the two leaders. Prime minister Turnbull, in an interview with that country's version of 60 Minutes said, we had a frank conversation, and you know me, I always stand up for what I believe in. But tonight, it's all sweetness and light, celebrating the long alliance between the two countries, going all the way back, Martha, 75 years, to when they fought and died together back at the Coral Sea Battle during World War II. Martha?

MACCALLUM: We do expect in moment that we're going to have the tape of their bilateral. The prime minister, Malcom Turnbull, of Australia, and President Trump speaking with each other. You know, it's also interesting to note, it's the first time the president has been back to his hometown of New York City tonight. 

ROBERTS: It is.

MACCALLUM: In terms of that and his visit here, what have you seen over the course of this afternoon? 

ROBERTS: Well, we've been seeing a group of several hundred protesters across the street from the USS Intrepid on the highway here. They've been very noisy. They were particularly noisy when the motorcade came by. They've kept up the drumbeat ever since. They just want to let the president know that they're there and they disapproved of him and his policies. But it's a free country. We have freedom of speech. And it's what they're entitled to do here, Martha. 

MACCALLUM: When I spoke with him last week, he said, you know, it's so expensive for me to go back to New York. It's so disruptive. It locks down all of Midtown. So, it's interesting to see what the path was. But we're going to hear right now in just a moment, we're about to play out this bilateral discussion between the Australian prime minister, Malcom Turnbull, and the president of the United States, Donald Trump, as we mentioned, they had a little bit of a rocky start. Let's watch. 

(INAUDIBLE)

MACCALLUM: All right. Apparently, we're working on the sound for this. John Roberts is still with us. John, we see the group gathering here. Originally, I think there was going to be a longer time together, but the schedule got a bit crunched because of the Rose Garden celebration of the health care deal in the house, right? 

ROBERTS: Well, they were supposed to be at the Peninsula Hotel, which is literally a block away from Trump Tower at about 4 or 5:00 this afternoon. But when the health care boat was coming down, the president decided he wanted to stay in Washington a little while longer to have that victory lap 

that he did so many members of congress. And I guess he called Turnbull and said, listen, I got to cut back the meeting this afternoon. Let's have it tonight on the Intrepid. I don't know what the prime minister's reaction to that was, but I am told that somebody in the Australian delegation saw that as quite a snob that the president would cancel a planned bilateral meeting with the leader of another country to have that ceremony in the Rose Garden. But Martha, you know this president well. He does what he wants to do. He feels like he's invested a lot of time and energy and a lot of 

cooperation with Republicans in congress on that health care bill. And he wanted to let the country know that he was happy about what happened. So the person who was for that was the prime minister of Australia, but it seems tonight like they're getting along quite well. 

MACCALLUM: Yeah. They seem pretty happy, shaking hands. We're going to see that tape in just a moment. But it was a very big day, really, for the White House. And there was no way that he was going to miss that moment of marking it. He blames the Democrats for spiking the football the other day, but they didn't do that today as well.

ROBERTS: Well, don't forget too, Martha, that the president has invested an awful lot of capital in this as well as time. And when they went out for the Easter break, members of congress -- it look like this whole thing was dead, but the president persevered and got pass this afternoon, at least by the house. 

MACCALLUM: Yeah. John, thank you so much. John Roberts at the USS Intrepid. There is a scene of the dinner where that president is headed into that room moments away. Thank you for being with us tonight and sharing The Story. We'll be back with more, tomorrow night. Tucker Carlson, coming up next. 

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