This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," May 10, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Frankly he had been considering letting Director Comey go since the day he was elected.
MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK: Is it too late now to ask him to step down?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, it's not too late, but I have confidence in him. We'll see what happens. It's going to be interesting.
BARTIROMO: That's why I'm asking, why is he still in the shop?
TRUMP: Well, I want to give everybody a good fair chance.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has confidence in the director.
THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE TRUMP: It took guts for Director Comey to make the move that he made. What he did, he brought back his reputation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You seemed quite happy with him at that point. What changed?
SANDERS: He was a candidate for president, not the president. Those are two very different things.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did you fire director Comey?
TRUMP: Because he wasn't doing a good job very simply. He wasn't doing a good job.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: "He was not doing a good job." President Trump in the Oval Office today, also tweeting numerous times today, including, "Dems have been complaining for months and months about Director Comey. Now that he has been fired they pretend to be aggrieved. Phony hypocrites."
With that let's start with our panel: Steve Hilton is a former adviser to British Prime Minister David Cameron; Susan Page, Washington bureau chief at USA Today, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Susan, your thoughts about the developments today and obviously the fallout from yesterday?
SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY: I thought it was pretty jaw-dropping, a decision to fire the law enforcement official who is leading an investigation into him. It's something we haven't seen presidents do in the past. And I realized that President Trump says he's doing this for some other reason, but I think that that created a firestorm that the White House did not expect, did not lay the groundwork to make this announcement, and did not handle the communications about it very well last night.
STEVE HILTON, FORMER ADVISER TO BRITISH PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON: I agree with much of that. I think what you've seen the last 24 hours is Washington at its absolute worst. If you just look at the component parts. Congress, the immediate reaction is to go hyper-partisan, get maximum political advantage. You have Democrats who five minutes ago were running around saying that he cost Clinton the election and he should have been fired. Now he is some kind of martyr to the constitution. It's completely ridiculous.
You have got the White House, whatever you think about the substance of this decision, I happen to think on the substance they're right, the handling is a disaster because what it will mean is it just sets back the achievement of what really matters which is action to get the economy moving, jobs and incomes, all the things you talked about in your interview with Paul Ryan. He's very confident about this not affecting that. I wish I could be so confident.
And then finally, the media. As you showed in that fantastic compilation, Howard Kurtz's compilation, they have gone insane over this. And that does no credit to our political conversation, the culture of this country. No one can trust anything anyone says anymore. Nothing is going to get done. If you are just watching this from the outside, you have every reason to have a sense of revolutionary rage at these useless leaders in Washington.
BAIER: Which led arguably to President Trump to the election. This is The New York Times, to your point, today, "Days before he was fired, James Comey, former FBI director, asked the Justice Department for a significant increase in resources for the bureau's investigation into Russia's interference in the presidential election. In his briefing with members of Congress, Mr. Comey said he had been frustrated with the amount of resources being dedicated to the Russian investigation. Mr. Comey has said that he was hoping he would find a supportive boss in Mr. Rosenstein, and according to officials, pressed for more resources so he could accelerate the investigation." It goes on to say that he did press and ask for it. The DOJ responded saying "None of this happened. The entire story is a fabrication."
Charles, from our sourcing and what we have tracked down, he did ask senators and the Senate intelligence committee to help get more resources to speed up because they wanted the investigation sped up. He did not, according to the Justice Department, ask Rosenstein directly, who he would need to ask. So there's the nuance.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: He said, she said. It turns out from your reporting, they are both right. There had not been a request to Rosenstein the DOJ. There had been a request through the Senate Intelligence Committee.
I think the key point is the administration's surprise. I think Trump is totally sincere in his attacks, one after the other, on the hypocrisy of the Democrats. But it's surprising that he should be surprised. These people are hypocrites from the day of their birth. It's in their DNA. That's how they function. It was to be expected. Yes, you say you want Comey to be fired one day, and then as soon as he gets fired, you attack the man who does that. But that's normal.
And that explains, as Susan says, why there was no preparation for the blowback. I assume that calculation was Democrats don't like this guy. They accuse him of costing Hillary the election, so there won't be much of a blowback. Of course there will. Democrats are looking for any excuse to say that there is the great collusion conspiracy and this is all being done in defense of that conspiracy, which I think remains implausible, because if that was the intent of the Trump administration, it's a colossal mistake. It's having the opposite effect.
BAIER: To that point, Susan, you had not only the botched rollout of how it happened, but today with the meeting in the Oval Office with the president and the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, and also the ambassador to the U.S. for Russia, Kislyak, who has been at the center of this investigations that led to the firing of Michael Flynn, those conversations that he had, also the recusal of the attorney general in this investigation. And these pictures, by the way, Susan, are from the Russians. They are not from the White House press pool because they weren't let in there.
PAGE: But the Russians let in their official photographer and they were putting out all kinds of photos. This is really extraordinary. And here is the question, and John Roberts asked this at the briefing -- is this just coincidental or is this sort of an --
PAGE: In-your-face, yes thank you very much.
BAIER: You can say at a number of different ways.
PAGE: I was struggling to find a way to say it -- an in-your-face move by the White House to say we don't care what you think. We are going to proceed the way we want to proceed. And that is perhaps one of the reasons that Trump gets support from the people he gets support from because he doesn't do things that the optics would've dictated something else for a different president.
BAIER: On the flipside, this is Russia who are you are accusing him of doing all kinds of things, bad things. And that is the image the day after this firing.
KRAUTHAMMER: I agree it's in-your-face, and perhaps it stirs up the base because it reinforces the image of Trump as a fearless guy who will show himself with the Russians even a day after that. But it doesn't help with people he needs help with, which is Congress. His presidency hinges on the economy improving and on health care working out. For that he needs the Congress.
And I think Steve is right that what this has done, this has sort of reversed all the momentum he had. He now has to go back to health care. He now has to go back to get help on tax reform. He's not going to get any of that. The Democrats who might have been tempted to cooperate in some way on tax reform are not going to play ball at all. They are not going to sit in the sandbox and throw sand.
BAIER: I just want to play this and have your react, Steve. This is Pat Buchanan, who, by the way, ran for president, but before that worked for President Richard Nixon. This is reacting to the Russia images in the Oval Office today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAT BUCHANAN: I am delighted the president met with the Russians. Quite frankly There are issues far more important than Comey. That's Syria and whether we are going to send troops into Afghanistan to fight. And we've got to talk to the Russians. I know they are bad folks, but I was with old Richard Milhous and with Ronald Reagan when he met with Gorbachev and met with Brezhnev. You have to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILTON: He's exactly right and that's what they're doing, and that's normal. But you can't underestimate the degree I think to which those who hate Trump really believe this Russia story. Look at these words that stood out to me in the New York Times editorial this morning. This is a quote. "We have to determine whether the presidency was effectively stolen by a hostile foreign power." You assume someone wrote those words. It was a human being, not some journo-bot over at the New York Times. They really believe this stuff. And that's why it really matters that it's been so badly handled because, in the end, they've got, as Charles says, to work together to get things done that affect real people's lives.
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