Transcript

Henninger: Comey was brought down by the 'Clinton method'

Deputy editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page weighs in on 'The Story with Martha MacCallum'

 

This is a rush transcript from "The Story," May 12, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, "THE STORY" HOST: Good evening, everybody. This Friday, May 12th, I'm Martha MacCallum and this is "The Story." The president lashing out at his fired FBI Director today as Comey's side puts out their own version. The president tweeted several pointed messages today, including this one: "James Comey better hope there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press."

A Comey source claims that he's "not worried" about any tapes, more on that back and forth in a moment. But then the White House sought to pivot a bit from a tough week and put some questions to rest with a letter from the president's tax attorneys about Russia and also a short list of potential new FBI Director picks. We begin tonight with Chief National Correspondent Ed Henry in Washington tonight covering it all, Ed.

ED HENRY, FOX NEWS CHANNEL CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Martha, for President Trump's supporters who are hoping he would try to douse the flames on this story with that one tweet, the Commander-In-Chief just poured more gasoline on the fire. Democrats have already been charging the firing of James Comey was Nixonian and now the president has injected the possibility -- there is some sort of taping system for his conversations ala Richard Nixon.

The president lashing out at Comey after the former FBI Chief appeared to be leaking his own version of events to the New York Times, which published the story citing people close to Comey as charging the president summoned him to the White House in January for a one-on-one dinner in which the Commander-in-Chief asked whether he would pledge his loyalty to the president as he investigates alleged Russian collusion. White House officials insist the account of that dinner is false. As for the Russia investigation overall, the president today also tweeted about the former Director of National Intelligence, "when James Clapper himself and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunt, says there is no collusion; when does it end?"

And in fact, today, Clapper himself in an exclusive interview with MSNBC seemed to back the president's account saying, "I don't know if there was collusion or not, I don't know if there was evidence of collusion or not, nor should I have." Remember, in his own interview with Lester Holt of NBC news, the president said it Comey wanted the dinner because he wanted to stay on the job. The president insisted he did not have a loyalty test at all. Noting he did not lash out at Comey when he failed to back up the president's charges that former Presidents Barack Obama had wiretapped them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LESTER HOLT, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS ANCHOR: You didn't take that as a sign of disloyalty that he came out and contradicted you?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I don't think of it as loyalty. I want, whoever the director is, I wanted to do the right thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: But the president contradicted Vice President Mike Pence and various White House officials who had said the firing of Comey only came after a recommendation from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General; the president told NBC he decided on his own before that.
Meanwhile today, the president had his personal lawyer volunteer a letter to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, one of many lawmakers investigating potential Russian collusion that after reviewing the president's tax returns for the last ten years, there is no debt or equity investments in Russian entities. Though Democrats of course, still want to see the actual tax returns themselves.

Another reason this is not going away next week is the Senate Intelligence Committee has invited Comey to testify Tuesday. A chance perhaps, to tell his side of the story on that dinner with the president -- treacherous for the White House because Comey may be freer now to speak his mind without the fear of losing his job. A closed session for that testimony, so there will not be T.V. cameras, but as we've already seen, information about this drama has a tendency to leak out anyway, Martha.

MACCALLUM: That is for sure. Ed, thank you very much. Joining me now Chris Wallace, the host of "Fox News Sunday." Chris, good to see you today.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS SUNDAY HOST: Good to be with you.

MACCALLUM: You know, there's so much in here. And one thing I want to mention is that just a little while ago, there are some reports that James Comey will not testify come Tuesday, so we wait to hear more on that. And before I let jump in, I want to play this from Sean Spicer earlier today with regard to those tapes and get your reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump records his conversations with former FBI Director Comey?

SEAN SPICER, PRESS SECRETARY: As you were referring to the tweet. And I've talked to the president; the president has nothing further to add on that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did he say that? Why did he tweet that? What should we interpret from that?

SPICER: As I've mentioned, the president has nothing further to add on that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Aren't there recording devices in the oval office during the residence?

SPICER: As I said for the third time, there is nothing more to add on that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: What you make of that, Chris?

WALLACE: Wow! That is stunning, and that's the first time I'm hearing that, Martha. That is what they used to call in Watergate a "non-denial denial." You know, it would've been the easiest thing in the world for Sean Spicer to say no, the president has no recording devices in the oval office, he didn't record the conversation, and he doesn't have anything in the White House residence -- that would have been easy to say. He didn't say that. Instead, he said I have nothing further for you on that. That -- talk about something, an answer that only demands more questions.

You know, one of the things that has struck me all week is that if the president is this week, fed up with the Russia investigation and fed up James Comey and hoping to put an end or at least a damper on both of them, that everything single stuff he's taken you'd say, he has done exactly the opposite or it's going to exactly the opposite effect. Well now, this has opened up a whole new can of worms. And again, nobody was talking about the tapes until the president sent this tweet this morning saying, Comey better hope there are no tapes. And now, you have Sean Spicer from the White House refusing to answer the question.

MACCALLUM: Yes. I mean, Jonathan Turley, the Attorney was asked about this whole situation this morning and he pushed back on the idea of there being an underlying crime here. He said I haven't seen anything yet that shows that. But this is becoming a cover-up, he said, in lieu of a crime, so to speak. And you're so right about the fact that the president at every turn so far has dug deeper into this. And if he doesn't want people to talk about these topics, he has worked pretty hard to keep them talking about it this week, what next?

WALLACE: Well, who knows what next? But let's take another example of what we're talking about gratuitously in his letter in which he fired Comey. The president said on three separate occasions, you James Comey told me that I was not a target of this investigation. A lot of people doubted that because it does seem unlikely that a fellow like Comey who somewhat say is so over-the-top and terms of his sense of his own integrity, that he would do something like that, which not if not a legal breach would seem to be an ethical breach to tell a potential target whether to tell the president whether or not he is a target of the investigation.

But then, the president doubled down on that. In his interview with Lester Holt which meant, almost ensured the fact that you were going to get James Comey through some of his aides, through some of the people he allegedly talked to on the front page of the New York Times today saying, no, that wasn't the way it went down at all. I wasn't asking for a dinner with the president; the president wanted to meet with me and three separate times he basically demanded a pledge of loyalty which would be totally inappropriate from the Director of the FBI. I mean, he's supposed to be loyal to the truth, not loyal to a political figure.

So, again, everything that Donald Trump has done seems to have backfired and have done exactly the opposite of what he intended, namely: to have raised the visibility of James Comey, to have raised the visibility of the Russia investigation and doubts about it, and now to have raised a whole new thing that we haven't even thought about which is the possibility of a White House taping system.

MACCALLUM: Which is incredible. Looking at his agenda, which no doubt, the folks in the White House are trying to get back on that agenda. We just saw earlier today, a lengthy introduction from Henry McMaster in National Security, talking about the trip that is coming up. We know that Democrats have been dug in from day one, in resistance to this president but is it possible, given the current situation that he's going to have problems with -- more problems with Republicans as well, Chris?

WALLACE: Well, it certainly -- there's nobody who's going to rally to the president's side because of the events of the last few days because they're really kind of inexplicable. Also, the shifting timeline, and explanation, the fact that on Tuesday, he said this was done at the recommendation of the Attorney General, and then the president said, no, it wasn't done. I mean, there's nobody who could look at this and say, well, that increases my confidence in the president and it speaks directly to your question of the agenda, Martha.

I mean, this has come just at a point when finally the president seemed to be getting some momentum behind his legislative agenda. The House, just last week passed ObamaCare repeal and replace and it was being studied by a working group in the Senate. We seemed headed in that direction. This has sucked all the oxygen out of that. I can tell you nobody in Washington is talking about the legislative agenda; everybody is talking about the Comey firing, the Russia investigation, would seem to be increasing puzzling acts and behavior by this President.

MACCALLUM: The president made a comment about, you can't always -- the people that I put out there in front of the podium they may not have the very latest version of what's going on necessarily or something to that effect and saying, maybe we don't need press conferences anymore. We had one earlier today, so we know that has not changed. But the notion that there's nobody who can sort of advice the president at that very top level, or whom he's counting on it at this point to be, you know, sort of another adult in the room on some of these discussions and some of these moves, Chris.

WALLACE: Well, I'm sure there are people who could do that, whether he listens to them, it sure doesn't seem like he does. In fact, there's some discussion of the fact that, inside the White House, there's been reporting that he was very upset with the communications team, felt that he needed to sort of settling it and figure everything out and clear the record with Lester Holt yesterday. And everything he said in that interview has only added to the fire instead of putting it out.

MACCALLUM: Chris Wallace, thank you very much. Good to see you, sir. I know you have Mike Lee coming up on Sunday, so we will look forward to "Fox News Sunday" as always. Thank you, Chris.

Up next, suggestions from at least one former FBI agent that the Clinton e- mail case could be revisited under new leadership. So, is that a real possibility? Well, let's go separate fact from fiction, ahead. Plus, Dan Henninger, here to explain what he calls "The Clintons' personal Bermuda Triangle" and how he believes James Comey was the latest victim caught in the vortex. And Attorney General Jeff Sessions takes the opposite tact from the Obama team when it comes to charging and sentencing, what the new sheriff has in mind.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have empowered our prosecutors to charge and pursue the most serious offense as I believe the law requires.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: So, we all remember that moment, that was the former FBI Director last July, but could his firing renew life, perhaps, into that Clinton case that he was discussing there. A former FBI agent telling Fox News that the new leadership in the bureau could potentially do a review of that e-mail investigation since many agents on that case felt that their findings were ignored or shut down by election-year politics.

Our next guests said in the end, the former FBI Director did fall victim to the Clintons, writing in the Wall Street Journal that Comey has become "the latest to disappear into the Clinton's personal Bermuda triangle," as he puts it. Here with me now, Daniel Henninger, Deputy Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Daniel, it's good to see you, welcome. So, explain that theory for us.

DANIEL HENNINGER, WALL STREET JOURNAL EDITORIAL PAGE DEPUTY EDITOR: Well look, the person who was standing there and talking with the FBI Director is not who should've been making that statement before the public. It should've been Attorney General Loretta Lynch. But Loretta Lynch couldn't do it because she went under the tarmac and had this (INAUDIBLE) with Bill Clinton. And what I mean by the Clintons' Bermuda Triangle is that so many people either by choice or chance who come into the Clinton orbit get swallowed up into this vortex of legal problems. So, on the one hand, Loretta Lynch gets set aside and then James Comey, somehow, makes the misjudgment that he's in charge of the Justice Department and he's supposed to be making these public announcements.

And this Attorney -- Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made clear that-- in his memo to Donald Trump, that is not the appropriate job of the Director of the FBI. That should have been done by the Deputy Attorney General, Sally Yates. And so, Jim Comey got sucked into this email server story and tried to investigate it. And because the Clintons have this method of stonewalling, and denial, and using legal deflection, he got pulled in deeper and deeper into the details of it. There was no endgame to it and Comey himself, I think, was brought down by the Clinton methods.

MACCALLUM: So, with regard to this question of whether or not it could ever be revisited, I think a lot of people would like to see that whole chapter go away and I'm sure Hillary Clinton would be in that category. But there was an interesting comparison here because here's what James Comey said on July 7th with regard to, how the FBI team who worked on this investigation felt about the final outcome which was the judgment that there was no intent. And then you'll hear Deputy Director McCabe on that team and their real feelings how that thing turned out just yesterday, watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. WILL HURD, R-TEXAS: And so, an unauthorized server in the basement is not mishandling?

COMEY: Well, no, there is evidence of mishandling here. This whole investigation of the info is, is there sufficient evidence of intent?

HURD: Was this unanimous opinion within the FBI on your decision?

COMEY: The whole FBI wasn't involved but the team of agents, investigators, analysts, technologists, yes.

ANDREW MCCABE, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: There were folks within our agency who were frustrated with the outcome of the Hillary Clinton case, and some of those folks were very vocal about that concern.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENNINGER: It is not the FBI Director's job to make a judgment about what the FBI agents are investigating. The agents do the invest -- whether it's this investigation or any other, present what they have and it's the director's job to take it to the Deputy Attorney General or the designated prosecutors inside the Justice Department, and they make that determination. Jim Comey should not have been in front of that committee deciding for the agents what the quality was of their investigation, someone else was supposed to do that. And that's why he's no longer Director of the FBI.

MACCALLUM: Is there any indication that you think that some of those people in the FBI who worked on the case who were unhappy, we've heard from many of them in different channels might push to say that they want to reopen.

HENNINGER: Yes. I think they might push with a new FBI Director. And of course, the FBI, you know, they do things quietly but they also have their way of revealing to the public, shall we say leaking, if they think they have information that needs to be pursued. So, it's not beyond imagining that Hillary Clinton's e-mail server story, which really did involve specific federal laws that might or might not have been violated, unlike say, the Trump collusion story, which so far has surfaced the identification of no law that could have been violated. This one really was something that a prosecutor could look into.

MACCALLUM: Dan Henninger, thank you. Always good to see you, Daniel, thanks for coming tonight. So, Mercedes Schlapp joins us now, Republican Strategist and Fox News Contributor; and Zac Petkanas a former Hillary Clinton Presidential Campaign Aide and former Senior DNC Advisor, welcome to both of you. You listen to that conversation. Zac, let me get your thoughts on it first.

ZAC PETKANAS, FORMER HILLARY CLINTON PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN AIDE AND FORMER SENIOR DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE ADVISOR: Sure. Well, I think it is absolutely ridiculous to make the case that -- in the beginning of this week, people were saying that James Comey was too hard on Hillary Clinton and that's why he needs to go. And now the case is that James Comey has basically been running a protection racket for Hillary Clinton. Has been too soft on her and that's why she's now in legal jeopardy. The idea is absolutely absurd on its face.

The only one who is in potential legal jeopardy is Donald Trump, who yesterday said that the reason he fired James Comey was not because of the e-mail server, was not because of what he did last year; it was because of the "Russia thing." And that Russia thing is a federal investigation into his campaign. And so, when he said out loud in public and that he was firing James Comey because of that, that is potential obstruction of justice, that is a felony, and if I was Donald Trump; I'd start getting a lawyer.

MACCALLUM: Mercedes, what do you think?

MERCEDES SCHLAPP, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR AND REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I'm just shocked by Zac's comments. But look, I don't believe that you're going to see the FBI open up an investigation or re-open up the case on Hillary Clinton. You know, I think that right now the FBI -- in fact, you saw President Trump days after the election in November say that he wouldn't to further investigate. So, I don't think there's appetite there necessarily. Despite the fact that you saw FBI agents coming out and basically saying that they were frustrated with the outcome, and they were these -- vocalized their concerns.

So, I do believe that that's where it's going to stay. And also, when you look at the FBI in general, they had at these limited resources where they aren't focused when you look at their priorities in terms of potential cyber-attacks, protecting us from terrorist attacks. So, they are dealing with bigger issues right now in terms of ensuring that our country is kept safe.

MACCALLUM: Yes. You know, in terms of commenting on ongoing investigations, I just wanted to play a little bit because, you know, there's been a lot of criticism of that of President Trump and perhaps, rightfully so and that will be determined. President Obama commented also on ongoing investigations and made judgments about them, while they were under investigation. Both with the IRS and with the Hillary Clinton situation and here are examples of both of those. I want to get your thoughts on that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Not even mass corruption, not even a smidgeon of corruption. I don't think it poses a National Security problem -- she made a mistake. She's acknowledged it. I do think that the way it's been ginned up is in part because of politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: So, since -- you know, obviously, Zac, you've pointed out that you think it's wrong for President Trump to comment on this ongoing investigation, why was it OK, or do you think it wasn't OK for President Obama to make a judgment as President of the United States about an ongoing investigation?

PETKANAS: The key difference here is that the current FBI investigation is into Donald Trump's campaign, Donald Trump was the head of the campaign. And so, when Donald Trump is threatening Jim Comey, as he did today, to tell him to be quiet and to shut his mouth-

(CROSSTALK)

SCHLAPP: That's not correct.

PETKANAS: That is absolutely correct, it is.

SCHLAPP: That's not correct.

PETKANAS: Go look at the tweets. It is.

SCHLAPP: He's not telling him to shut up!

MACCALLUM: He never said to shut up and or be quiet, neither one of those things are true. But I would point out and I want to get Mercedes' thoughts on this that President Obama -- and just issue in comparison because I think there's so much hypocrisy in the way that both sides are looking at these issues.

SCHLAPP: Right.

MACCALLUM: President Obama was the president of the United States, he was a leader of the administration under which the IRS and Hillary Clinton who was running as a Democratic candidate were certainly, you know, part of his captain of the ship, to put it that way. Mercedes, what are your thoughts?

SCHLAPP: Either side: Democrat, Republican, the president should not be commenting on an investigation, they need these investigations to move forward as we are seeing in terms of the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence committee, the FBI investigation, they need to let the process work. And I think it was very clear that the acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, made it very clear that even with Comey being gone; that it would not impede the current investigation. And I think that's a very clear sign that he's giving to President Trump and the campaign.

MACCALLUM: All right. We've got to leave it there. Mercedes and Zac, thank you very much, good to see you both.

PETKANAS: Thank you.

SCHLAPP: Thank you.

MACCALLUM: So, what happens when the president has a Time Magazine over to the White House for dinner? Howard Kurtz brings us all the details of that no holds barred interview, plus an exclusive look at an interview with President Trump that is set to air tomorrow night; this is the very latest with Judge Jeanine. We will show you some of that. Plus, the Democrats hoping that Comey firing will create a political flashpoint that will help them improve their lot in congress. Kristin Anderson and Austan Goolsbee, here to tackle the new taxes unveil this fast-week, when we come back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have been the single greatest threat to my family in the entire world. You are the reason I stay up at night

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TRACE GALLAGHER, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Live from America's News Headquarters, I'm Trace Gallagher. Sources tell Fox News, Attorney General Jeff Sessions will begin interviews tomorrow for a brand-new FBI Director: Alice Fisher, a former DOJ Criminal Division Official; and Acting Director Andrew McCabe among those on the list. Sessions is also reversing Obama- era policy -- he's now telling prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges possible against a criminal suspect.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder had focused on not incarcerating people who committed low-level, nonviolent crimes. The move is infuriating civil rights groups but the Attorney General says, it's part of the president's promise to keep America safe. North Korea says it has the right to "ruthlessly punish for U.S. citizens detained inside its borders." The State Department is reminding Americans to be aware of the risks of traveling there. The U.S. has no diplomatic relations with North Korea.
Now back to THE STORY.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-NEW YORK: It is the overwhelming view of my caucus that a special prosecutor should now be appointed.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, D-CONNECTICUT: I've called for a special prosecutor to make sure that this investigation is above politics.

SEN. AL FRANKEN, D-MINNESOTA: The situation now calls very clearly for the employment of a special prosecutor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: New tonight, Democrats ramping up calls for special prosecutor to probe President Trump's potential ties to Russia in an attempt that would force the president hand, they think, hinting that they will not approve his new FBI director unless an outside investigator is brought in. The Comey firing emerging as a flashpoint for liberal activism that could fuel Democrats, 18 months ahead of the 2018 midterms. Democrats are looking to GOP town halls like this one held this week by New Jersey congressman, Tom MacArthur, who was very active in the GOP plan, these folks are voicing outrage, watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: We seem to have a pattern that most people who are investigating it seem to be getting fired.

UNINDENTIFIED MALE: I'm also concerned that there's something mentally wrong with Donald Trump.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: Wow. Joining me now, Washington Examiner columnist, Kristen Soltis Anderson, and Austin Goolsbee, former President Obama's -- former chief economist. Good to have both of you here. I mean, what a week, right? If you look at the anger in that room and what we've seen coming in and out of the White House this week, it's been quite a week. Kristen, what's your take?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: I think folks on both sides of the aisle are really fired up now, but especially the Democratic base. This issue of Russia, the issue of Jim Comey, it's really fascinating. If you asked voters about a week ago do you support or oppose Jim Comey, do you think he's doing a good job? It was actually Democrats by like a three to one margin that said they didn't like Jim Comey. But, of course, now that he's on the wrong side of Trump, Donald Trump can do no right. And this is something that really does, I think, animate a lot of Democratic base voters. It's very frustrating for them. And going into a midterm, having your base reactivated is a good place to be. Republicans have that enthusiasm in their advantage with their base over the last two midterms.
So I'm sure Democrats are pretty glad to see that their base is very, very, very fired up and energized. Especially with new developments in the story around the FBI and Jim Comey. It's yet another thing that has persuaded I think the Democratic base to believe that all of the bad things they ever thought about Trump were more than true.

MACCALLUM: Yeah. They haven't really help their cause too much, Austan, the White House this week, it's been a rough one.

AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, ECONOMIC PROFESSOR UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO: Indeed, it has. But, you know, I would just emphasize, it's clearly not just the Democratic base and it's clearly not just about Comey and Russia. The Democrats and the American people were seriously exercised about the passing of the repeal and replace Trump care health care bill. Most of the MacArthur town hall that you were describing where people furious that they were afraid they're going to lose their insurance and price was going to go up.

MACCALLUM: Yeah.

GOOLSBEE: Now this just piles onto it. The fact that you have the president himself in an interview on NBC ask why did you fire Comey, and he said because I was tired of the Russian investigation, it's gone on too long. There has to be a special investigator at this point just because of what Donald Trump has said.

MACCALLUM: Just to be clear, the point that was being made their both by the president and then, again, in the White House briefing room was that they wanted it to move forward, they wanted to happen, just like Hillary Clinton said, yes, I want this investigation into my email thing because I want to put it...

GOOLSBEE: That's not what the president said.

MACCALLUM: No...

GOOLSBEE: That's what James Clapper said.

MACCALLUM: That's the same thing. Both people, individually saying, I want this process to happen and to be investigated because I want to put it behind me. That was clearly the sentiment on both...

GOOLSBEE: That is not what Donald Trump said.

MACCALLUM: Well, that's what a lot of other people heard from it.

GOOLSBEE: OK.

MACCALLUM: You may have heard something differently. But you're entitled to your opinion, of course. Kristen, go ahead.

ANDERSON: Well, Martha, what I would push back on what Austan had to say there, was that, I think, for a lot of independent voters, folks minds about Donald Trump have not moved very much from when he took office.
Despite the fact that every week there seems to be some new outrage or something that gets, I think, the Democratic base very fired up. Donald Trump's approval ratings have stayed pretty stable. They haven't been great, but it's not as though they cratered. And in fact, you have not seen since last -- the passage of the AHCH through the house, any big shift in Donald Trump's numbers. So right now, I really do think that folks are just so dug in. And the problem the Democrats have created for themselves is by making everything that Donald Trump does into the latest, biggest outrage, the latest biggest thing that is destroying America, when in fact the White House does do something that is very damaging to norms or is potentially really genuinely troubling. But a lot of voters just tune out their warnings, if the boy who cried wolf problem, I think that's the biggest challenge. The Democrats have their base maybe fired up, but I don't think it moves the bed to the middle.

MACCALLUM: Austan and Kristen, thank you very much.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

MACCALLUM: So is this a new era emerging in the war on drugs. Attorney general, Jeff Sessions, forcefully rejected the policies of former Obama's attorney general, Eric Holder, in a speech earlier today. The dramatic change and what it means for drug offenders just ahead. Plus, the president's sitting down for another interview with our own Jeanine Pirro, and that will air later -- that airs tomorrow night. We're going to bring you an exclusive look at that when our own Howard Kurtz joins us to analyze, straight ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You see all of these other phony stories. It's so bad, and for me to have great approval records, in light of all the false press and the fake press, I think is amazing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MACCALLUM: We're back and with some brand-new interviews, President Trump is not holding back, going after the media, singling out newspapers, journalists and comedians at times as well. In a preview of an interview with Judge Jeanine Pirro, which will air tomorrow night, he suggests that he would be fine with doing away with the White House press briefings, watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The point is this. When we have those press conferences, I actually said we shouldn't have them because...

JUDGE JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: It's been a hundred years we've been doing this.

TRUMP: But, listen, no, no, but there's never been action like this, this is crazy. I mean, we're getting higher ratings -- higher ratings on those press conferences...

PIRRO: Would you seriously consider stopping this press...

TRUMP: No, we'll do it in a different way...

PIRRO: How?

TRUMP: We do it through a piece of paper with a perfectly, accurate, beautiful answer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: Howard Kurtz joins us now, host of Media Buzz. Howard, what you make of that?

HOWARD KRTZ, "MEDIABUZZ" HOST: Well, I think, I hope, Martha, that the president is just venting at the end of a tough week, putting out a piece of paper is not a two-way communication as is obvious to anyone. Now, look, obviously at these daily briefings, there is some got you that goes on in front of the camera and all that. I understand the frustration. But, you know, you don't hold these press briefings to make a bunch of reporters happy. It is a way for them to communicate to the American public, that's why Spicer gets the pretty good ratings, but also to be seen as taking questions from journalists on behalf of the public.

MACCALLUM: Yeah. Let's play another sound bite from Jeanine Pirro's interview with the president, which I said is going to air tomorrow night, watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: First of all, you have a level of hostility that is incredible, and it's very unfair. Sarah Huckabee is a lovely young woman. You know, Sean Spicer, he is a wonderful human being, he's a nice man.

PIRRO: Is he your press secretary, today and tomorrow? Is he really be tomorrow?

TRUMP: Yes. He's doing a good job but he gets beat up.

PIRRO: Will he be there tomorrow?

TRUMP: Yeah. Well, he's been there from the beginning...

PIRRO: Is he...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: No, he just gets beat up by these people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: Very interesting. Howard, what you make of that?

KURTZ: Well, you know, I think one of the reasons the president is feeling this way about the beating up in his words of his press spokesman, is that there's been a lot of shifting stories this week. And they're now saying, well, they weren't fully briefed on the whole situation involving the Comey firing when the president spoke to Lester Holt. He seems to say things that were so indifferent from what was said from the briefing room podium, but it is our job to ask aggressive questions. And I also understand the president frustration, there's been a lot of inflammatory talk in the media about this being a coup, he's a dictator, a whiff of fascism. I think some of that is off the rails, but I don't necessarily blame the beat reporters in the White House.

MACCALLUM: Yeah. But a cohesive message is launched from the White House would go a fair amount of the way to cutting out some of what we have seen it cropping up in the briefing room this week. And then, earlier today, Howard, this about the president's tweet suggesting that James Comey perhaps could have been taped during their conversation. Watch what Sean Spicer said on this earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNINDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump records his conversations with former FBI Director Comey?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I assume you're referring to the tweet, and I've talked to the president. The president has nothing further on add to that.

UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Why did he say that, why did he tweet that? What should we interpret from that?

SPICER: As I mention, the president has nothing further to add on that.

UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Are there recording devices in the oval office or in the residence?

SPICER: For the third time, there's nothing further to add on that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: What do you make of that, Howard?

KURTZ: That was a flabbergasted moment because I thought the president's tweet, this was a reaction to a New York Times story, quoting sources close to Comey and saying the president had asked for his loyalty at a dinner a week into the administration. I thought it kind of a sarcastic tweet. But now, with Sean Spicer, clearly he was prepared for the question, he didn't want to give an answer, leaving open the possibility of some kind of taping, which of course has echoes of Watergate. The very comparison that you would think the president Trump and his team would want to avoid in the wake of the firing of the FBI director.

MACCALLUM: Yeah. And they have definitely confirmed the fact that there will be a lot more questions about that now based on that answer. Howard, thank you very much. Good to see you tonight.

KURTZ: Good to see you, thanks.

MACCALLUM: So today, attorney general Jeff Sessions making good on President Trump's law and order promise, demanded that prosecutors across this country push for the harshest charges possible against drug offenders. Up next, Charlie Hurt and Richard Fowler weigh in on the major reversal of the policies from the Obama administration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Unlike previous charging memoranda, I have given our prosecutor's discretion to avoid sentences that would result in an injustice. This is a key part of President Trump's promise to keep America safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MACCALLUM: U.S. attorney general, Jeff Sessions, announcing a major overhaul of the justice department policy for going after accused criminals. New rules direct federal prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges possible against most suspects. That is not what was happening after President Obama. Listen to former attorney general Eric Holder on this back in 2013, and then what Mr. Sessions had to say about it today, watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have today mended the modification of the justice department charging policies so that certain low level, nonviolent drug offenders with no ties to large scale organizations, gangs, or cartels, will no longer be charged with offenses that impose mandatory minimum sentences.

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have empowered our prosecutors to charge and pursue the most serious offense as I believe the law requires, plain and simple. If you are a drug trafficker, we will not look the other way. We will not be willfully blind to your misconduct. These are drug dealers, and you drug dealers are going to prison.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: Trace Gallagher joins us now live in out West Coast newsroom with more on this. Hey, Trace.

GALLAGHER: Hey, Martha. Jeff Sessions has been aggressive on drug crimes for more than 40 years, dating back to when he became a federal prosecutor back in 1975. Even two years ago, then Senator Jeff Sessions helped block a bill that would've eased federal sentencing for marijuana use. So it's no surprise that as attorney general, Sessions is resending the policies signed by Eric Holder, and putting mandatory minimum sentences back in place. For example, under Eric Holder, if someone was busted for drugs the prosecutor could choose not to disclose the amount of drugs and that allowed the judge more discretion in sentencing. Under Jeff Session, prosecutors must disclose the amount of drugs, and being caught with 100 grams of heroin means a minimum of five years in prison. The ACLU says Jeff Sessions is repeatedly, quote, failed war on drugs experiment, and that his policy will disproportionally hurt minorities. Former attorney general, Eric Holder, calls the policy, quote, dumb on crime. But the national association of assistant U.S. attorneys said the new guidelines will make the public safer, and attorney general Jeff Sessions says it's part of the president's promise to keep America safe. Listen again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SESSIONS: We're seeing an increase of violent crime in our cities, particularly in Baltimore, Chicago, Memphis, and Milwaukee, St. Louis, and many others. The murder rate has surged 10 percent nationwide.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GALLAGHER: We could not independently confirm Jeff Sessions' numbers on the increasing murder rate, but we did find that in cities of a million people or more, the violent crime rate last year was up almost 10 percent. In fact, the violent crime rate has risen every year since Eric Holder's policy was implemented in 2013. Jeff Sessions says he simply wants to apply the laws that congress passed, Martha.

MACCALLUM: Thank you, Trace. Here now, Charles Hurt, is a political columnist for the Washington Times, and Richard Fowler, senior fellow of the New Leaders Council, both are Fox News Contributor. Welcome, gentlemen. Good to have you here today. Charlie, let me start with you, it should be no surprise that we have a very different policy under this administration.

CHARLIE HURT, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: Yeah. Probably the starkest difference from one administration to the new administration, certainly in modern times. Look, the problem with these sentencing guidelines though is that they were put in place by congress, they were voted on by congress, duly passed into law. And so, under the previous administration, you basically have the attorney general and the president saying, look, I know congress passed these laws but, you know, we don't really need to follow them, forget about it, as Jeff Sessions said today, that's not justice. And Donald Trump and his entire campaign was very much a law and order campaign, he promised to crack down on drugs. And I think if you wanted to see where the fruits of that sort of law and order stance can be found, look at the southern border right now. Donald Trump hadn't built 1 inch of his wall yet, and you're already seeing a 70 percent drop of illegal border crossings? People hear these things and they act. They change their behavior accordingly.

MACCALLUM: Yeah. It's a verbal wall so far. It didn't cost anything. It seems to be doing a pretty decent job. Richard, what's your take

RICHARD FOWLER, SENIOR FELLOW NEW LEADERS COUNSEL: I think you're mixing apples and oranges when you talk about the border wall to the policy that we saw released by Jeff Sessions. But more importantly, you want to look at the sort of spectrum on this. So Rand Paul released a statement saying-- indicating it wasn't just -- the Koch brothers, their group, their outfit also released a statement today condemning this particular move by the justice department. So, Maxine Waters, Cory Booker, and the Koch brothers, and Rand Paul agree on something, I think there is a consensus, and the consensus here is that the war on drugs failed miserably. And rolling back to those types of policies is not only wrong for America, but it's wrong all over the place. Here are a couple reasons why it's wrong, right. So beyond just the order he did with sort of putting everybody in prison, a couple weeks ago we also saw Jeff Sessions roll back the justice department policies on private prisons. So when they arrest these people, they will be going to private prisons costing taxpayers five times the rates that a regular federal prison will cost, so this is problematic for so many levels.

MACCALLUM: Richard is right, there's a lot of people on very different sides of the political spectrum who do believe that some of these sentencing has been unjust and that is not economically the best path for the country.

HURT: I don't know. Pushing Maxine Waters and the Koch brothers out there as evidence that something is politically popular...

FOWLER: And Rand Paul.

HURT: ...it seems kind of -- well, Rand Paul would be a better one to stick with I think. But, yeah, without a doubt. But the thing to remember here is, you know, Donald Trump would run a very clear campaign promising to crack down on the drug trade. And I think that that was a cornerstone of his campaign, and I think much of what he said especially in regard to drugs coming over the border and things like that, I think it's a big reason why he is president today.

MACCALLUM: Yeah. You know, clearly following through on the promise from the campaign, you can agree with it or disagree with it but that's what he promised. Quick couple of seconds, Richard, final thoughts.

FOWLER: And he might have promise it, but I can tell you right now, this is taking our country backwards almost 30 years. The war on drugs has failed miserably. It locks up so many innocent people. And remember, the one thing that the audience doesn't need to remember is that -- excuse me, one to remember that drugs is not a criminal justice problem it's a public health problem, point blank, period.

MACCALLUM: Thank you very much, guys. Good to see you both. So when we come back tonight, we've got a great story on a 111-year-old war veteran, from World War II and the secret to his long and happy life which includes whiskey and ice cream, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MACCALLUM: So a great story tonight. Richard Overton, he's a 111-years- old, which makes him the oldest living World War II veteran. The United States army air force vet hitting a major milestone, I'll say, on Thursday, he celebrated with a block party. Mr. Overton stands by what he calls the Overton diet. Here you go. Twelve cigars a day, four cups of coffee, some whiskey, couple of cups of whiskey he said, and daily ice cream. He recommends butter pecan in that category. He also recommends church, and this our quote of the night watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD OVERTON, WORLD WAR II VETERAN: You learn something in church too. You learn how to live better, how to treat people. (INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: That's what it's all about, right. We want to know your story as well. Send us a tweet @ThestoryFNC #thestory. Have a great weekend. Tucker Carlson is up next.

END

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