Speaker Ryan: Trump's budget is keeping his promises

On 'The Story,' House speaker discusses the budget proposal, future of GOP unity, Russia probe


This is a rush transcript from "The Story," May 23, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS HOST: Breaking tonight, British Prime Minister Theresa May has just raised the threat level in the United Kingdom.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It is now concluded on the basis of today's investigations that the threat level should be increased for the time being from severe to critical.


MACCALLUM: So, critical means that another attack is highly likely and could be imminent. That's the description of the level that they are now at. British Law Enforcement in a race against time to find others who may be linked to last night's bomber. This home, the scene of a raid; police now out in force, it is now in the middle of the night there; trying to root out killers as we speak. Good evening, everyone! I'm Martha MacCallum and this is "The Story" on May the 23rd.

President Trump now fresh off his successful trip to the Middle East is now in Italy -- as the United Kingdom is confronting brutal homegrown terrorism. Islamic extremist takes to the internet to say "this is just the beginning." Prompting the question: where is the end? Beyond the claims of cowardice and evil losers who is mobilized in this growing fight. The president is calling for action.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must drive out the terrorists and the extremists from our midst. Obliterate this evil ideology and protect and defend our citizens and people of the world. All civilized nations must be united in this effort.


MACCALLUM: So are they? Where is NATO, and its new focus on terror that we have heard so much about? Will Manchester firm the resolve for military action to cut off the head of ISIS in Mosul, and then Raqqa, and to dig deeper to cut out the offspring in Europe and in the United States.


DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: This threat is real. It is not going away. It needs significant attention to do everything we can to protect our people from these kinds of attacks.


MACCALLUM: We've got a big lineup for you. Tonight, we cover all angles here. House Intelligence Committee member, Peter King, joins us with what can be done here to keep track of future killers; military experts, Brad Thor and Col. Tony Shaffer are joining us. Plus, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan here on the other very big story of today: the fight to reform the finances, the budget, and the tax system in this country is underway; he goes on the record on that here tonight. But we begin with Foreign Affairs Correspondent Benjamin Hall, who was at the scene in Manchester tonight. Ben.

BENJAMIN HALL, FOX NEWS CHANNEL FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Martha, and the big news is you just said there is the raising of the terror level to critical. It's only the third time in history that it's been that high. And what that means the government believes there it could be an imminent threat to the nation. Now, some people are saying that it could be more of a precaution or anything else. But right now, in the next day or so, were going to see 5,000 soldiers on the streets to replace armed guards, so a really big acceleration thereof the presence here.

This all started last night at about 10:30 p.m. at the Manchester Arena, which is one of the biggest conference centers -- concert halls in Europe. It happened when the suicide bomber detonated his device just as the crowd was leaving the arena after the Ariana Grande concert. Now, that's not only hit them, hit the parents waiting for them, and this was aimed directly at the children who were there. And of the 22 who died, 12 or under the age of 16; the youngest victim was just eight years old. Her name was Stuffy Rosso, both her mother and her sister are being treated in hospital.

We now know that the attacker was named Salman Abedi, we have no picture of him yet but we do know that he was 22 years old, of Libyan descent, and the son of refugees but born in Manchester. Today, forensic teams search properties around the city. They carried out a controlled explosion and they also arrested one 22-year-old man, he's yet sure how he was connected to the crime yesterday. But ISIS have claimed responsibility for the blast. There's a little bit of confusion -- some ISIS outlet saying that he was directed by them, some saying that he was inspired by them.

But one thing is certain, this blast is more powerful and it was more planned than any we've seen before in the country. So, our real worry now that this guy may have been part of a network and that there might be other attackers out there. So, this is what everyone's worrying about at the moment. And this raised in the threat level has been announced just a couple hours ago, England really battening down the hatches and preparing for tomorrow. We will see a lot more soldiers on the street because we do not know if he was part of a network, if he was a lone wolf, or if anything is coming next. Martha.

MACCALLUM: Benjamin Hall, thank you very much.

So, here now, Congressman Peter King is a member of the House Intelligence Committee and the Homeland Security Committee, which just raised a report warning about the rise of homegrown extremism here in the United States. Peter, good evening. Good to have you with us, Congressman, tonight. Talk to us a little bit about the reaction in this country and what we're doing to try to prevent someone like this here, which we all know is a very real threat.

REP. PETER KING, R-NEW YORK: Martha, if anything positive comes from such a horrible tragedy -- again, this can be a vivid wake-up call to all Americans to realize how real this threat is. The threat of Islamist terrorism is real. It can strike anytime, anywhere. We in the United States are, of course, main targets including New York is a special target. Now, having said that, what we have to do is make sure that there's -- we can have all the security that we want, so we do need a lot of it. But in addition to that, we need intelligence to head these attacks off; we need the intelligence; to get that, your surveillance.

And we're monitoring where the threat can be coming from, that means the Muslim communities -- yes, it means mosques, it also means dealing with the overseas allies, any information they have about anyone who will be coming from their countries into the United States. We have to find out who's been radicalized and who's not. And we can't let our guard down. And we have to realize this is not going after any particular religion or anything else; it is going where the threat is coming from. And intelligence is absolutely essential, intelligence prior to the attack, not just trying to track them down afterward.

MACCALLUM: I mean, you make a great point. And I remember when you wanted to hold hearings on Islamic extremism in the United States of America and you couldn't do it because there is so much political correct -- politically correct pushback on using that. They wanted you to encompass lots of different forms of potential extremism. But let's face it -- I mean, you have more than 300 people who've been killed in these kinds of attacks in Europe. We've had several here as well and some of the attacks in San Bernardino and in Orlando as well. I mean, are we getting to a point where were taking this seriously enough to actually do what we need to do?

KING: Well, actually, I did hold those hearings but there was tremendous opposition to them. Now, what we have to do, for instance, with the FBI; and the FBI does an excellent job, but we saw in San Bernardino, we saw in Orlando that they actually had investigations open but then after a certain amount of time, they let them go.

MACCALLUM: And in Boston.

KING: And Boston, they didn't even tell the local police about it, absolutely. So, those three cases are examples where those individuals, under that tight surveillance -- the surveillance should be kept. And if the FBI doesn't have the personal to do it, have the local police do it because again, these people can be willing to wait months and years before they carry out their attack. So, this monitoring into two or three, or four months, or six months, cannot be enough. In many cases, will not be enough.

MACCALLUM: Can you create an environment though, where people feel safe? You know, turning someone in if they have a legitimate reason to be concerned, just as you would with any other crime or any other suspicion, is there way to do that?

KING: Yes, there is. I mean, I can tell you that the FBI, the police will do all they can to assure someone's security. And also, this one advantage we have here in the United States, the Islamist radicals have a very, very small percentage of the Muslim population. This isn't like in parts of Europe where there's actually a very hostile Muslim community. In our country, for the most part, Muslims are very patriotic, very pro-American. So, if they do turn somebody in, they should be rewarded by their community.

Unfortunately, too often they're not, and somehow it's a cultural reason they don't. But again, I mean, we should encourage them to do it and they will be rewarded not just by the country but also by the good people in their community which is the overwhelming majority. But they have to start doing it. We need more cooperation from within that community, including from the mosques and religious leaders.

MACCALLUM: Congressman, thank you. Always good to have you with us.

KING: Thank you, Martha. Thank you.

MACCALLUM: So, here with more tonight. Lieutenant Colonel Tony Shaffer, is a former CIA-trained intel operative; and Brad Thor is a former member of the Homeland Security Department's Analytic Red Cell Unit, which was tact with anticipating future terror attacks. And gentlemen, you're listening to the conversation that I'm having with Congressman King, and to Benjamin Hall, and the ongoing investigation in the U.K. Brad, what goes to your mind? What do we need to be doing here?

BRAD THOR, HOMELAND SECURITY DEPARTMENT RED CELL UNIT FORMER MEMBER: Well, I got to tell you, I think what Congressman King has suggested is a good start but it doesn't go far enough. The Islamic extremists are targeting the West. And I think in return, the West should put on a strong focus on the Islamic world and demand concessions towards liberty. Reformers in the Muslim world want to bring in enlightenment to their faith, and they can't do it if we're going to play politically correct and not criticize Islamist being the root of this problem. We know 90 percent plus of the world's Muslims are great peaceful, tolerate people, but if we don't keep the pressure up to force a reformation -- remember, Christianity has had a reformation, Judaism has had a reformation, Islam has not and it is long overdue.

MACCALLUM: Tony, you wrote today about NATO, and I spoke about that in the beginning of the show tonight. We have been told by NATO -- you know, the president said it was obsolete, then, there were discussions because they weren't focused enough on this huge threat that faces the world right now. How is that being manifested? Can we see that in action yet?

TONY SHAFFER, FORMER CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY TRAINED INTEL OPERATIVE: Well, we have to go both ways, I agree with, Brad. Look, the president el-Sisi of Egypt wants to be a reformer, we need to work with him. And now, as you mentioned, we need to reinvent the tools, techniques, and technology, and focus in such a way to be effective. Brad was on the Red Cell -- look, that's part of what NATO should be doing. Using all the military capability that they've developed over the years, have not updated, and focused on specific areas. Doing the anti-terrorism actions, intelligence sharing, and all those hard things that, apparently, Europe just can do right now.

Just like Peter King had mentioned -- when you're talking to Peter about FBI knowing all of these and individuals ahead of time, the same thing can be true of all the terror acts in Europe. Every one of those individuals, Martha, was on the radar but somehow they didn't have enough to go forward. NATO has intelligence capabilities, counterterrorism capabilities; it was successful in defeating the terrorist groups in the mid-80s, terrorist groups funded by the Russians and the soviets. We need to look at how we can bring back successful methodologies updated for the 21st century, and go forward, for goodness sake, at the tactical level. At the same time, we're working with those leaders like Brad talked about regarding the reform.

MACCALLUM: Yes. I mean, this kind of attack last night is so sadly easy, Brad. You know, we've moved the perimeter slightly out, right? You don't have to get into the venue. We know they want to go after concerts, and shopping malls, and athletic events, we've seen that in magazines that you see online. It's not that difficult, sadly, so what we have to do is figure out a way to be triggered by behavior, by prior acts, and you know, do surveillance to the greatest extent that we can, right?

THOR: Well, absolutely. Unfortunately, I talked about this with you before and with other folks at Fox is that my biggest fear always was that the West was going to end up like Israel, under a constant state of siege. We were there. So, we need to start thinking like the Israelis. And in fact, one mom said she saw the bomber seconds before it went off, and said it looked weird. He had this jacket that was puffing in the wrong places and all this kind of stuff. If you see something, say something. It's not a snitch thing; it's a save your life thing.

MACCALLUM: Gentlemen, thank you-

SHAFFER: But Martha, to what you're saying -- look, Theresa May's comments to the world today, appalled me. Go on with your life, everything is just fine? Can you imagine Winston Churchill saying that to the people of London during the blitz? Look, we are at war. We are at siege. And the idea here is we need to take this seriously. As Brad said, you know, if you see something; for goodness' sake, say something. And more importantly, the leaders have to lead us.

This was senseless; this was meant to send a huge message. I got the message; I think everybody got the message and understand we have to act as if we are at war because we are at war. We act to fix the strategy. We've done all these -- been victorious over the last 16 years, tactically. But (INAUDIBLE) once said, strategy before tactics -- no, tactics before strategy is in order for defeat. We have to put the right strategy in place to win and do it now.

MACCALLUM: Gentleman, thank you. Thank you very much. Good to have you both here tonight. So, as we have heard, 5,000 law enforcement and military will be flooding the streets of Manchester, England and other parts of Great Britain as they go on high alert tonight. Up next, a former Jihadist and a terror expert take us inside the twisted mind of these evil killers. And then the budget; will we get real cuts? Will we get real tax reform? Can Republicans deliver on what they promised if given leadership? Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, here next on that looming battle. Also breaking news tonight as Fox Business is now reporting that the president has taken steps to build out his legal team to deal with the independent counsel investigation on Russia. We will tell you who is on that team, quite interesting when we come back.


REP. TREY GOWDY, R-SOUTH CAROLINA: Did you see evidence of collusion, coordination, conspiracy between Donald Trump and Russian state actors?



MACCALLUM: Breaking tonight, the horrific images coming out of Manchester, England, provide a chilling reminder of similar attacks on some of the youngest and most vulnerable in our society in years past. For more on the history of what we have seen, we go to Trace Gallagher in our West Coast Newsroom.

TRACE GALLAGHER, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Martha, when the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning to Americans last September that ISIS was turning its attention away from military targets and toward venues with large numbers of civilians. It was already horrifyingly apparent, just three months before that warning, 29-year-old, Omar Mateen, open fire inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 and wounding 53 others. Mateen claimed to be an Islamic soldier who had pledged his allegiance to ISIS.

And just six months before the Orlando attack, ISIS-affiliated terrorists hit numerous targets in Paris, including the Bataclan nightclub where 89 people were killed. Unlike the attack, last night in Manchester, inside the Bataclan was a mostly European audience on hand to see an American act. Mass killings at concert venues and nightclubs have also happened in Turkey, Tel Aviv. And in 2002 when a car bomb struck a nightclub in Bali killing more than 200.

And if children were targeted by terrorists last night, it would certainly not be the first time. In fact, the list is lengthy. Just last summer, an ISIS-linked suicide bomber attacked a Kurdish wedding in Turkey killing 54, including 22 children. In March of 2016, a suicide bomber attacked an amusement park in Lahore, Pakistan; that explosion killed 25 children, along with dozens of adults. In July of 2011 in Oslo, Norway, one man bombed government buildings and then attacked the use youth camp. In all, he killed 77, including 55 teenagers.

And in this country during the 2013 Teen Boston Marathon, who can forget the surveillance video showing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, placing a pressure cooker bomb right behind an 8-year-old boy. Experts say hitting the so-called "soft targets," especially, ones with children are designed to have the greatest psychological impact. Martha.

MACCALLUM: Trace, thank you. Here now to get inside the minds of these depraved killers: Mobeen Sheikh, a former Jihadist turned undercover operative; and Mia Bloom, a professor at Georgia State University and Author of the upcoming book "Small Arms: Children and Terrorism That Digs Into This Disturbing Trend." Welcome to both of you. It is very good to have you with us to sort of shed some light on this. I know, Mia, you've done a lot of research into this. Why children? I mean, you know, why is this OK? And what kind of person's mind is this justified?

MIA BLOOM, PROFESSOR AND AUTHOR, GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY: The way ISIS looks at children is a very utilitarian way. So, they don't see the innocent children, victims that they've killed; they just see it as a target. And the idea of targeting children is in order to increase the shock value. It's to have precisely the effect that it has where you're sitting there and you're thinking this is insane. These are innocent children who've done nothing. But if you think about how ISIS has approached children, they have used children as suicide bombers.

They've been engaging children on the battlefield, and these mixed units, these commando units where it's eight-year-old kids next to 50-year-old men. And now, they are deliberately targeting children. And their affiliates have been using children like Boko Haram. So, this is not new. As the report indicated, attacking children has a long tradition with all the Al Qaeda groups and the Al Qaeda affiliates. But also, if you think about the fact that there was a day care center at the Fred Morrow building in Oklahoma City -- 15 children died there including all the infants whose cribs were next to the window.

MACCALLUM: Unthinkable. All right, you know I read one of the accounts of an interview that was done with a neighbor to Salman Abedi, the young man who they believe was the killer in this case. And Mobeen, you know, of course, the neighbor says this. "I'm astonished. Salman? He was such a quiet boy. He was always very respectful towards me. His brother Ismael is outgoing, but Salman was very quiet. He has such an unlikely person to have done this." We hear this time and time again. Explain.

MOBEEN SHEIKH, FORMER JIHADIST TURNED UNDERCOVER OPERATIVE: Yes. I mean, you hear this with homicides, serial killers, serial sexual sadists even. Once in a while, you might pick up a personality dysfunction, but look; all in all, you really don't know what your neighbor is doing when you're not just giving the niceties of the day. We go through our daily lives, you know, we say our heys and hellos but we don't really know about people.

And then ultimately, this is about the closeness of networks -- you know, we're learning that two of his brothers or one of his brother was arrested as a secondary suspect. Of course, this information is still coming but it seems that there is a family link. You know, they've come from Libya, two other brothers apparently. So, you know, the point is not just children as victims, but also children as attackers. What we're looking at right now, this kind of lone suicide bomber, of course, there's going to be a network outside of that. But wait for the next iteration, what do we do when a child suicide bomber goes off?

MACCALLUM: Well, we've seen young children -- you know, members of ISIS killing people on videotapes; it's horrific. But you know, how do we find these people? He was, apparently, out in the street, you know, sort of proclaiming some of this at the top of his lungs in recent days. But 2e have to get better at getting these people into custody before they can pull this off and that's very tough to do.

BLOOM: It's tough to do in a free society with free speech, because until the person actually does something -- you know, having his radical thoughts isn't in itself illegal. It's only once a thought turn into actions. And you know like with every instance that we've seen in Europe in the last year and a half, the perpetrator was known to the authorities but wasn't deemed to be a threat.

If that's the case, then, either their needs be better investigations, more follow-up, or more resources given to the various police departments to be able to continue to observe anyone who might be the least bit suspicious. The problem is even in the U.K. with their prevent strategy, people have found it too invasive. So, it's really hard to strike just the right balance between the freedoms that we enjoy in democracy, and the security that we demand.

MACCALLUM: Mobeen and Mia, thank you very much. Good to have you both with us.

BLOOM: Thanks for having us.

MACCALLUM: Still to come tonight, the former Head of the CIA, John Brennan, testifying that when it comes to the issue of collusion, President Trump may have a right. Plus, news tonight from the Hill is the GOP getting closer to getting their budget? House Speaker Paul Ryan joins me, coming up next.



MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: You have to have compassion for folks that are receiving federal funds, but also you have to have compassion for the folks that are paying it. And that is one of the things that is new about this President.


MACCALLUM: That was Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, earlier today outlining President Trump's $4 trillion budget blueprint. While Democrats jumped all over this plan with its cut to Medicaid, and food stamps, and the State Department. You got many on the GOP's side slamming cuts to things like meals on wheels, and the appellate to a jobs program and other things. But the GOP has said for years, just give us leadership and we will cut the fat from the budget and get tax reform. So, can our next guest get everyone on his side in line?

Joining me now and exclusive: House Speaker Paul Ryan. Speaker, thank you very much for being with us. Good to see you, tonight.

REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WIS., SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It's good to be with you, Martha. Thanks for having me.

MACCALLUM: So, you know, you listen to Mick Mulvaney who is saying something that we really haven't heard said before, which is we also -- we care about the people who are receiving benefits, we also care about the people whose pockets were taking the money out of, and want to spend that money in a way that is not wasted. Is that -- I saw stories about that today online that said, he felt so sorry for the rich people. Is that what we're hearing here?

RYAN: Look, I've got to tell you, I think it's refreshing to hear Mick Mulvaney say just that because, look, we get this money from the hard-working taxpayer who pay their taxes in the first place, that's point number one. Point number two, what he's basically saying is, let's make sure we're getting our money's worth. I would argue, especially on programs that we've been doing for many, many years, we should measure whether they're successful or not. Are we actually getting the outcomes we want or are we measuring success in Washington based on how much money we throw up programs by automatic spending increases? I don't think we should keep measuring success that way. We should measure success based on outcomes. That's the kind of thing Mulvaney is talking about. But I say, Martha, there's a bigger point to be made here and I don't think we should lose this point, and that is for the first time in eight years, we actually have a president now who is proposing we balance the budget.


RYAN: We've never had that with Obama. He never even tried to balance the budget, let alone even proposed to balance the budget. So we now have a president saying I agree with congressional Republicans, let's balance the budget. And so, what I see is a president keeping his promises. He's putting more funds for veterans for the military. Big things he prioritized in the campaign. He's emphasizing infrastructure.


RYAN: And then saying we need pro-growth tax reform to get the economy growing and let's balance the budget. So, you could quarrel over the details, I've written a lot of budgets, everybody quarrels over the details, but the aspiration and the goal is right on the target.

MACCALLUM: I hear you. But when you start hearing on day one, this was, you have Lindsey Graham weighing in, do not cut the state department. The department has 30,000 plus employees, and that's the 2016 number, they probably have more than that now. I mean, agriculture has 110,000 employees. And you have people in the GOP side who are tripping in and saying, you know, don't cut meals on wheels, don't cut the appellation job program, came from Senator McConnell today. Do you appreciate that?

RYAN: I'm used to it. And, look, not just because -- not from simply my side of the aisle but this is the beginning of the budget process, Martha.
I used to be the chairman of the budget committee. I served on the committee with Mick Mulvaney. This is the give-and-take that you get when budgeting begins. This is the beginning of the budget process. The gun goes off in the starting line when the president submits his budget and then the jockeying, the posturing, and the prioritizing occurs. But let's not lose the force and the tree's here, and that's what you're hearing there, people with priorities pushing for their priorities and that's what congress does. That's what budgeting is all about. But let's not lose the force of the trees. We have a president for the first time in eight years says I'm offering a plan to balance the budget.


RYAN: . and I'm offering a plan that makes good on the things I ran on the commitment side. I think that's fairly refreshing actually.

MACCALLUM: All right. Tom MacArthur left the Tuesday group today, that's the moderate group, is that discouraging to you because everybody watch what happened with the health care bill, you know, once you get the moderates on the raft as I keep saying, the house freedom caucus falls off the other side, and then you get them on the raft and the moderates fall in the water. I mean, how are you going to get -- a lot of people have -- people on twitter say to me, asking how he's going to get the rhinos in line. That means the Republicans in name only, and make sure he has the spine to do that, would you say them?

RYAN: We pass our health care bill. We came together as a team. That's what I would simply say right there. Look, Don stepped down as co-chair because he did it as an abundance of cautions. I think he exercise a lot of leadership stepping down as co-chair because he didn't want to pretend to be speaking for other people. He speaks for himself. He speaks for his constituents. And what I would say, Martha, is look at what we just did. This ObamaCare repeal and replace bill in an enormous achievement for the house Republicans, and so we have been an opposition party mode for a number of years, and within four months times we went from being an opposition party to showing that we're learning how to become a governing party. That's what goes on with this.

That's what happens when you have a big coalition government like we have in the Republican Party. It's a big intense party, people with deep red Republican districts and people with moderate suburban districts. So we have to make sure that we get consensus, come together. We've showed that we can do that on Obamacare. This week we're passing our veterans bills. You know, helping the veterans before Memorial Day. So there's a lot that were doing here. The point I'll say is, the president, I think he's got a very successful trip overseas right now, but we here in the Republican congress are staying here and getting our work done, making a difference for the American people getting things done. That's the points they should be taking out of what's going on here this week.

MACCALLUM: Let me ask one more question about the president because, you know, the Russian story has taken on a life of its own now. It's about obstruction of justice. You have Republicans, some of them hinting, you know, well, if this doesn't work out, perhaps Mike Pence would be a good substitute for the president. If that is what some in your party are saying, can you establish -- it's really all about support for the president. I mean, if the party stands behind this president in the face of all this incoming, his chances to have the leadership that you want him to have are going to be much better. Can you say to us tonight that you believe he will have that, and that will never leave him?

RYAN: Look, like I said all along with these investigations, the investigations need to be independent, they need to go where the facts lead them, and they need to be deliberate and patient. So it's wrong to prejudge these things. It's wrong to suggest that you know what the conclusions are for objective independent investigations. And by the way, there's a lot -- with respect to Russia to investigate, they just did a hearing in the intelligence committee in the house, the FBI has the special counsel that's going on. So those are going to go take their course, they need to be independent. They need to follow the facts where ever they go. But in the meantime, Martha, we've got work to do. In the meantime, the people of this country expect results. The president ran on delivering results. He just gave us a budget making good on his promises. It's our job to work with our president to make sure that we deliver on those results. And so, that's the point.

MACCALLUM: So you're saying let the investigation go where it will. I'm not hearing a hundred percent we're absolutely behind him.

RYAN: Well, I'm not going to prejudge. You asked me to prejudge the conclusion of these investigations. I have no idea what these investigations are going to produce because they've just got started. So I'm not going to prejudge where this independent investigation is going to go as it follows its facts. There's one in the house, there's one in the senate, and there's the FBI one. So I'm not going to prejudge with that's going to do, but in the meantime, what I can control, what we can control, keep our promises, do what we said we would do, fix problems, solve problems, that's what the American people want. They don't want us up here beating each other up about these investigations every single day talking about the news of the day. They want us working on their problems.

Today, we're bringing legislation through to get rid of this waiting list the D.A. has where veterans are waiting for their health care. These are the kind of problems that affect people's lives. We're talking about tax reform half the day today to get this economy growing. They get the tax code simplified -- restrain the IRS, and to get businesses hiring again and bringing up wages. These are the things that we're working on. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. That's what the president ran and that's what we want to deliver.

MACCALLUM: Speaker Ryan, thank you very much, always good to have you with us.

RYAN: Thank you, Martha.

MACCALLUM: So a push for peace from the president. Could this unconventional leader possibly be the one to bring Palestinians and the Jewish people together? And breaking news tonight on the testimony that is just being learned about from James Comey, stick around for that. Pete Hoekstra and Marie Harf give us their take right after this.


MACCALLUM: We have some breaking news tonight, first from Fox News where we are receiving word that James Comey is now prepared to be interviewed by the special counsel Robert Muller, putting the former FBI director one step closer to his congressional testimony. He said he needed to speak to Muller first, so that looks like it's going to be lined up. The second is from Fox Business who reports that President Trump has begun to hire people for his private legal team. The first person named is his longtime attorney, Marc Kasowitz, who will deal with the independent counsel on this case. So these developments coming as former CIA director John Brennan, earlier today became the latest to admit that today, there is no evidence of collusion.


UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Did evidence exist of collusion, coordination, conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian state actors at the time you learned of 2016 efforts?

UNINDENTIFIED MALE: I encountered and I'm aware of information intelligence that reveals contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign. I don't know whether or not such collusion, that's your term, such collusion existed.


MACCALLUM: Here now, Pete Hoekstra, former chairman of the house intel committee, and Marie Harf, former spokesperson for the state department and the CIA, and she's a Fox News contributor as well. So Marie, once again, we have somebody saying that they've been looking at this for ten months and that they don't have, which is really the nut and key to whether or not there's anything here, collusion, evidence that there was -- ability to put their forces together to throw the election.

MARIE HARF, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it is taking what Director Brennan said and turning it a little bit. What was significant to me was that he did not come out and say, no, I haven't seen that evidence, and that's what I think Trey Gowdy wanted him to do. What he said is really extraordinary that he saw people from the Trump team and Russian officials communicating, and that it was so concerning to him that he passed it to the FBI. That's really who actually looks into the collusion question.

MACCALLUM: Marie, do the state department that you work for discuss things with Russia officials?

HARF: Martha, of course we did.


HARF: That's our job.


HARF: But wait second, when you're running for president and your campaign, that's very different. And so, Director Brennan said what he saw was concerning enough that he pass it along to the FBI to see what's actually there. This is what the investigation will bring forward. That's why we have all this investigation.

MACCALLUM: But all I'm saying is, so far, and Pete, I'll love for you to weigh on it, what we have is that there were discussions, and there have always been discussions between administrations and Russian officials. There have always been discussions during transition between ambassadors to other countries that we do things with. Pete, because now this is become -- it feels like they've sort of moved off this collusion question and on to obstruction. Now it's all about that. It's like we don't necessarily have that in our back pockets, so let's move on to something else. What you think, Pete?

PETE HOEKSTRA, FORMER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, I think former Director Brennan, when he first operationalized his first part of his comments were character assassination on President Trump and his team, implying things that, you know, a few minutes later, he had to admit there was no collusion. He then went on to say there's no evidence that, you know, President Trump tried to slow down, inhibit the investigation of former national security advisor Flynn, that he did nothing to stop an investigation of Russian collusion. Once again, after ten months, ten months to a year of investigation, there's no substance. And I think what you're also going to find and I think what Director Muller's going to find is that if he does a thorough investigation, there were lots of contacts between the Russians and people on Hillary Clinton's team. And it happens all the time and most the time it's very, very innocent. They're building relationship. They're building networks with whoever the next administration may be. It's not unseemly. It happens, and is just the way the political process works.

MACCALLUM: Right. So without collusion, you really don't have anything other than discussions, which we have established. And obviously, this investigation is ongoing. There may be something there. They're certainly working hard to find out if there is something there. What about the hiring of Kasowitz, this attorney who we know is a long time attorney for now President Donald Trump. Marie, you know, I mean, he has to have an attorney in this situation, correct? And there's some indication that they're may be more than one.

HARF: That's right. And, look, the conversations aren't the problem it's the contents that could be problematic. That's what the investigations are looking at. But turning to his legal team, I think what all of this underscores is that the Trump administration is gearing up for what they're probably now understanding is going to be a very serious process. Bob Muller is respected, he will be thorough, he's looking both at whether there was collusion or cooperation with Russia, and this possible obstruction of justice charge now. So he has a very broad mandate. This is going to go for months and months and months. And team Trump and all the people at the White House who are involved would be smart to be getting representation right now, absolutely.

MACCALLUM: Well, they're taking it seriously as they should. Thank you, both. Good to see you both tonight.

HOEKSTRA: Thank you.

MACCALLUM: So coming up next, could this unconventional leader end up being the person to bring Palestinians and the Jewish people together? Could it work? A fair and balanced debate on some very interesting developments in the past few days when we come back.


MACCALLUM: So as the world was watching the Manchester terror attack and its aftermath, President Trump responded and at the same time, he was openly pushing to start the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian authorities. And that gave way to more optimism than we have seen on this from both sides in a long time.


TRUMP: I'm personally committed to helping Israelis and Palestinians achieve a peace agreement.

UNINDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump, working with you, I believe we can advance a doable peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, as well as the Palestinians.

UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, I hope that if we go in history, the president, Donald Trump, was the American president who achieved peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis.


MACCALLUM: Very interesting. Joining me now, Marc Thiessen, former chief speechwriter to President George W. Bush and a Fox News contributor, and Yousef Munayyel who is the executive director of the U.S. campaign for Palestinian rights. Gentlemen, welcome. Good to have both of you here. So we've all watched this fascinating process over the past couple of days, and it did spark people to sort of sound a bit more optimistic about this than when we've heard in a long time. Yousef, is there a possibility here and if so, how does it work?

YOUSEF MUNAYYEL, U.S. CAMPAIGN FOR PALESTINIAN RIGHTS: I think you did hear a lot of optimism, but one of things you didn't hear, and I think this is perhaps the most important thing from this entire trip was neither the Israeli prime minister or the American president mentioning the words two state solutions which is been a long-standing U.S. policy towards this issue. So I think the big question now that remains open is how is it that the American president would like to see peace and would like to see freedom, a value that he sounded out very loud and clearly today throughout his trip, realize for Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation now for 50 years, if not through self-determination in a Palestinian state.

If that's not going to happen, fine. That's probably very realistic given the reality on the ground. But what does that mean for Palestinians? How can they achieve their rights, how can they live freely and enjoy their rights that all people do without Israeli military occupation? Donald Trump did not provide an answer for that unfortunately.

MACCALLUM: Maybe he feels he's at the beginning of a conversation, and he wants the parameters to develop as they work it through. And this is a picture at the Western Wall, moving moments when the president was there. Marc, how dug in and how possible for change?

MARC THIESSEN, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the problem with the -- the reason we haven't had peace in the Middle East is not because of lack of negotiating skill on behalf of the president. It's because Israel doesn't have a partner that wants peace. The Palestinians do not want peace. The Palestinians are the most radicalized population in the entire Muslim world. For example, support for suicide bombings have plummeted across the Muslim world. According to the Pew Center, Pakistan which is the home of al-Qaeda, only 3 percent of the population support suicide bombing. In the Palestinian territory, it's 46 percent, in Gaza, it's 62 percent. A Knife attacks, there's been a spade of knife attacks where Palestinian terrorists go up and stab Israeli kids on the street in Jerusalem and other cities. The support for that is 58 percent of Palestinians says it didn't support that, 82 percent in Gaza. You can't have peace with someone who wants to slit your throat.

MACCALLUM: Only about half a minute left. Yousef, what do you respond to that?

MUNAYYEL: Well, clearly, Marc didn't pay attention to what the president said today. The president spoke to the Israelis directly in his meeting with Netanyahu today at the Israel museum and he said the Palestinians want peace, and he looked at the Israeli government and he said you also need to make serious concession. And so it's very clear here that the Palestinians to do want peace. And you have an Israeli government that's stated clearly-- sir, these are their words. They do not want a Palestinian state. So if you're going to hold the people under military occupation forever, it's unlikely that you're going to have peace with them.

MACCALLUM: I'm sorry to cut you off. Right back with the quote of the night after this.


MACCALLUM: So tonight we leave you with this quote from the president and the speech that he gave in Saudi Arabia which rings in our ears tonight as we watch the grief as it has played out in Manchester. Watch this.


TRUMP: If it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians. Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear. Barbarism will deliver you no glory. Hiding to evil will bring you no dignity.


MACCALLUM: That is "The Story" for tonight. Good night, everybody. Tucker Carlson is up next.


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