This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," May 12, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS: People suggest that the question that apparently the New York Times is selling that you asked Comey whether or not you had his loyalty was possibly inappropriate. Could you see how they could think that?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I read that article. I don't think it's inappropriate.
PIRRO: Did you ask that question?
TRUMP: No. No, I didn't. But I don't think it would be a bad question to ask. I think loyalty to the country, loyalty to the United States is important. You know, I mean, it depends on how you define loyalty, number one. Number two, I don't know how that got there because I didn't ask that question.
PIRRO: What about the idea that in a tweet you said that there might be tape recordings?
TRUMP: That I can't talk about. I won't talk about that. All I want is for Comey to be honest, and I hope he will be I'm sure he will be, I hope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: President Trump with Judge Jeanine, and this comes after a New York Times piece today. You can see it, big piece. It's a private dinner, Trump demanded loyalty, Comey demurred. It says, "As they ate the president and Mr. Comey made small talk about the election crowd sizes at Mr. Trump's rallies. The president then turned the conversation to whether Mr. Comey would pledge his loyalty to him. Mr. Comey declined to make that pledge. By Mr. Comey's account, his answer to Mr. Trump's initial question apparently did not satisfy the president. Later in the dinner Mr. Trump again said to Mr. Comey that he needed his loyalty. Mr. Comey again replied that he would give him honesty and did not pledge his loyalty according to the account of the conversation. Mr. Trump pressed him on whether it would be honest loyalty. "You will have that," Mr. Comey told his associates he responded."
Well, the president tweeted this morning: "James Comey better hope that there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press."
With that, let's bring in our panel: Matt Schlapp, contributor with The Hill; Amy Walter, national for The Cook Political Report, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Well, if the media and people who cover Washington were not in a lather already, this and this interview, these tweets today, it put them over the top.
MATT SCHLAPP, THE HILL: Wow. It's been a heck of a week. Try to even think about what happened this week because so much happened. And all I can think of when it comes to Comey is that, as strange as the politics are around it, one of the reasons why James Comey got himself in trouble where Democrats had lost confidence in him, the president had lost confidence, a lot of Republicans like me had lost confidence in him, is what we were reading about in the New York Times, which is that he is going to try to win this news cycle. He is going to push back on the president aggressively. It's a two-person dinner and Jim Comey was the only other person in that dinner, and he is now getting the story out about exactly what happened. That's how he plays the game and that's why he became a political actor and not so much the revered prosecutor that you are supposed to be when you run the FBI.
BAIER: I guess it was this exchange, Amy, at the White House briefing that really caught everybody's attention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF MASON, REUTERS: Did president Trump record conversations with former FBI Director Comey?
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I have talked to the president. The president has nothing further to add on that.
MASON: Why did he say that? Why did he tweet that? What should we interpret from that?
SPICER: As I mentioned the president has nothing further to add on that.
MASON: Are their recording devices in the Oval Office or the in the residence?
SPICER: As I said for the third time there is nothing further to add on that.
MASON: Does he think it's appropriate to threaten someone like Mr. Comey not to speak.
SPICER: I don't think -- that's not a threat. He is simply stating a fact. The tweet speaks for itself. I'm moving on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMY WALTER, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Yes, and the president himself telling in your first clip in that interview saying I'm not going to get into that either. So there is that saying about when you are in a hole to stop digging. And it just seems to me that every day the story gets bigger or the lather gets deeper based on self-inflicted wounds. And had the story -- it's not that it's going to end tomorrow, but why would you want to make it bigger and deeper by bringing up the issue of recordings?
For Democrats who already want to make the parallels between this and Watergate, to bring up the issue of tapes is only going to make that that much more difficult. There were plenty of ways to handle this that I think there would have been some blow back for the president, Democrats would have been upset, but would not have created the firestorm. And, again, it's all coming from within, not from without.
BAIER: And they have stopped talking about it, Charles, but there are, as you would imagine, right after all that was said and tweeted today, calls from Capitol Hill for those tapes, if there are tapes, and there are multiple calls from committees that they would like to see them.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, now we have a new rabbit to chase down another rabbit hole. But this is, I think, as Amy says, self-inflicted. Who brought up the tapes? When you hear Spicer saying, oh, this isn't a threat, it's just -- I mean, what is it? All of a sudden you are raising something nobody had imagined and saying you better watch out. That's, you know, that's un-presidential, which is kind of a nice way of saying that that sounds more like a mafia boss than the president of a free republic.
People say, well, what people like about Trump is that he is unconventional. Unconventional means stepped outside of the bounds of the behavior that 44 individuals have tried to stay within, starting with George Washington, who tried to set an example of a certain rectitude and dignity. And to talk like, well, you better watch out or you might get whacked by tapes, this is -- it was self-inflicted and unnecessary.
I agree, there was total grounds for getting rid of Comey. There was sympathy on both sides of the aisle for the mistakes he made and perhaps his unfitness for the job. But that would have made it relatively easy to get rid of him in a way that would have not stirred up this kind of firestorm. And then when it looks like it's starting to damp down, to start up with you better watch out or something might happen to you I think is simply extending a story that is not going to help the president.
BAIER: More than the process story, Matt, and looking at what was said on all of these fronts and the Russia investigation and the tie in the NBC to Russia in one of those answers about his decision to fire Comey is the sense that it's a cycle. If this explodes and continues to explode, he can't get lawmakers together to pass things on Capitol Hill. If he can't get lawmakers to pass things on Capitol Hill, they're going to go home empty-handed and get beaten in 2018. And if they get beaten in 2018, the House and the Senate will be run by Democrats who will step up the investigations into Donald Trump. I mean, this is like a giant circle.
SCHLAPP: It's amazing. The thing is that I think that the earliest point in a presidency that we can remember the other side of the aisle is at war. They don't even want to pretend that they can work with each other. And that's to the president's detriment because not everything he can pass is going d to be on a reconciliation vehicle where you only need Republican votes. He is going to need Democratic votes on a lot of other things he cares about, including long-term fixes to healthcare.
You're right, it's not only just a problem with Democrats being at war and acting like the election is every day of the calendar year, the secondary piece is when presidential approval ratings stay as low as they are, it makes your own team start to get worried.
So there's two things he has got to do. He has got to make sure he has got to get through this investigation, which there is really no credible evidence of any wrongdoing. That's the crazy part of this. We should be able to move beyond it because nobody can find a scintilla of evidence that the president did anything inappropriate with Russia in the campaign. You have to get beyond this controversy and we've got to start focusing on the Trump agenda, which by and large on the big questions is very popular.
BAIER: For all the leaks, we have not had a leak about a credible evidence of collusion. There have been a lot of leaks, but there hasn't been that.
WALTER: At the end of the Lester Holt interview, the president says you know what, I want to start talking about jobs and the economy and ISIS and building the wall, which is great. I think everybody would like him to do that. And then less than 24 hours later he tweets out the tapes, and so this makes this that much harder.
The other piece, of course, is that a lot of the agenda, though, Matt, isn't particularly popular. The healthcare piece is going to be a big, big, big hurdle for Republicans, not just getting it passed but making sure that voters don't see it as toxic. And right now it's not particularly popular. So getting members, you're right, not just to stick with you when you are unpopular but to stick with legislation that right now isn't that popular, those are two tough things to ask your own team to do.
BAIER: I want to play one more sound bite from this interview with Judge Jeanine which actually airs this weekend. This is about press briefings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: When we have those press conferences, I actually say we shouldn't have them.
PIRRO: Would you seriously consider stopping these press --
TRUMP: No. We do it in a different way.
TRUMP: We do it through a piece of paper with a perfectly accurate, beautiful answer. What I would love to do is stop them.
PIRRO: You don't mean that.
TRUMP: Well, you just don't have them. Unless I have one every two weeks and I do it myself. We don't have them. You have a level of hostility that's incredible. And it's very unfair. Sarah Huckabee is a lovely young woman. You know Sean Spicer. He is a wonderful human being. He is a nice man.
PIRRO: Is he your press secretary today and tomorrow?
TRUMP: Yes, he is.
PIRRO: Will he be tomorrow?
TRUMP: He is doing a good job, but he gets beat up.
PIRRO: Will he be there tomorrow?
TRUMP: Well, he has been there from the beginning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: It was not a ringing endorsement, I guess, of Sean Spicer.
KRAUTHAMMER: And I'm not that outraged by his idea. The republic went along for a couple hundred years before television and before it monopolized daytime television. In another interview, perhaps it was in this one, Trump said that the ratings for those briefings are through the roof. I thought he would ask for the network to actually contribute something to charity as a way to pay back what he is doing for them.
But, you know, if you want -- if people want to do it by writing or without cameras, that's fine. That's not the end of the republic. I think his real problem for Huckabee and Spicer is not that they are falling on the job. It's that their job is impossible. They're sent out on the day ever the firing to give one story, and it doesn't last 48 hours before the boss gives it to contradiction. What can they do? What can they say? It's not the fault of Spicer and Huckabee. That's for sure.
BAIER: I'll tell you, if he had a press briefing every two weeks, I don't know.
KRAUTHAMMER: That would be fine.
WALTER: I think that was the thing he said there that rings the most true, which is that he wants to be the one doing it, messaging.
KRAUTHAMMER: He thinks he is the best, and in some ways he is.
WALTER: Right, and that's what he has been doing.
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