Jared Kushner under FBI scrutiny in Russia probe

The 'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," May 29, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF, D-CALIF.: To have the president's son-in-law, a key player within the Trump organization, trying to establish a backchannel with the Russians through a Russian diplomatic facility, you have to ask, well, who are they hiding the conversations from?

HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY JOHN KELLY: Multiple ways to communicate back and forth is a good thing with any country, I think and particularly a country like Russia.

SENATE MINORITY WHIP DICK DURBIN, D-ILL.: This is a rumor at this point and whether it is something that should be followed up on, I'll trust Bob Mueller's judgment.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: I don't trust this story as far as I can throw it.

SEN. BILL CASSIDY, R-LA.: This will play out. We'll know eventually. Right now Americans need help with their premiums.


JAMES ROSEN, FOX NEWS: Reaction to a Washington Post story that broke late Friday reporting that White House adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner sought during the transition to create a secure backchannel line to the Kremlin. Sources telling our Catherine Herridge it was the Russians who raised the issue and is one-time event, not as a permanent hotline. Let's bring in our panel: Charles Lane, opinion writer for the Washington Post; Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Charles, to you first?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I'm with Lindsay here. I don't trust the story. The Russians are leaking it clearly on a channel they know we're going to pick up. The Russians are masters of disinformation. They already have Washington with its knickers in a twist over the Russia conspiracy. This is an added twist. Somebody is going to get a hernia here. I think I'll stop the metaphor at that point.

But we have no idea if it's true. Let's say it is true. Isn't the problem here, the accusation here that there was some collusion during the campaign with the Russians? Everyone agrees if the story is true it occurred after the campaign during the transition. So unless there is some nefarious connection, there is no connection to what was alleged to have happened during the campaign.

And lastly, we've had backchannel connections with adversaries for generations. Henry Kissinger had them with the Russians and the Chinese. Hillary had a backchannel to establish the opening of negotiations with the Iranians in what ended up as the Iranian nuclear deal.

ROSEN: And Barack Obama with Cuba.

KRAUTHAMMER: It's absolutely -- yes. And the negotiations occurred in Canada in secret are negotiations with the Cubans. This happens all the time. I don't quite understand where is the crime other than it's another piece that has Russia in the headlines, Trump people in the headline, and thus it is supposed to be scandalous. Show me.

ROSEN: We should point out that Mr. Kushner has not been accused of any formal crime of any kind and indeed he has through his lawyer pledged to cooperate with the various investigations. President Trump was quick to his son-in-law's defense, tweeting, and I quote, "Jared is doing a great job for the country. I have total confidence in him. He is respected by virtually everyone and is working on programs that will save our country billions of dollars." In addition to that the president tweeted "And perhaps more importantly, he is a very good person." But Mollie, is Jared Kushner now somehow suddenly a liability for this president?

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: Journalists in Washington D.C. are living in some kind of dramatic alternate reality. They are willful participants in a coordinated campaign where you get selective information, half-truths. It's always without context. It's frequently incorrect. And then they use this to sort of prove the point that they've already concluded, which is that Donald Trump is a traitor in the White House, then they backfill with information like this.

In point of fact, if this is even true, such backchannel communications are quite common. President Barack Obama before he was even elected sent an advisor to Iran to set up a backchannel with that country. That was a sworn enemy of the United States. And somehow the media were able to handle that information without losing their minds. And yet here as part of this drip, drip, drip campaign, we're supposed to believe that this is somehow quite nefarious without any evidence that is in fact nefarious.

ROSEN: Chuck Lane.

CHARLES LANE, WASHINGTON POST: It's true there is a lot of misinformation floating around in the media. I'm thinking of the conspiracy theories about Seth Rich's death, some things that have come out of the White House involving the crowd estimates. So yes, we do have to be careful about the veracity of the information circulating in Washington. Having said that, unless I missed it, the White House has not denied this Washington Post story, have they? I don't think they have.

ROSEN: Sources close to Jared Kushner told our Catherine Herridge, said it wasn't his idea at all. It was a Russians and it was a one-time --

LANE: That is different from the that position. They're recasting it.

Let me explain why. And I agree with all the people who said we don't know nearly enough about this. This is a very sketchy scenario. But it isn't true that it's totally innocent and has nothing to do with collusion because obviously if there had been collusion during the election, this kind of special favoritism toward Russia could be the consequence of some sort of collusion and cooperation between these two people. Part of the reason people are suspicious about this is that President Trump throughout his campaign, for what seems to be extremely mysterious reasons, preferred one leader out of all the leaders in the whole world that he constantly praised, constantly touted as a potential American ally, and have no criticism about whatsoever, and there was Vladimir Putin of Russia. And that outstanding fact that separated him from all the other candidates and indeed from every recent American political leader cries out, is a very mysterious fact that cries out for --

KRAUTHAMMER: The conspiracy theory hangs on the word "could." The fact that he is trying to establishment a channel and the Russians were could indicate that there was this collusion during the campaign. Yes. It could. It could also indicate that anything is possible, that they could have invented a flying machine. Show me the connection.

LANE: That's why I said at the beginning we need to know more information about this.

KRAUTHAMMER: In the absence of a connection it's nothing but a conspiracy theory.

ROSEN: Mollie?

HEMINGWAY: Throughout the campaign Donald Trump repeatedly said he looked for opportunities to work with Russia. Just because he doesn't share everybody else's hysteria about a country that is not just a superpower but a nuclear superpower and one that you do need to have some relationship with, doesn't mean that it's nefarious, again.

KRAUTHAMMER: A country that is trying to destroy our traditional allies, a country that persecutes homosexuals.

ROSEN: The president has also made clear throughout the stages of the campaign and even into the transition in his early days as president that it was quite possible from where he say that he wouldn't get along at all with Vladimir Putin.

LANE: The irony is that relations haven't been very good.

ROSEN: Let me put one other thing to you, Chuck. I saw a headline in The New York Times today that I thought was fascinating. It states simply put, "A Constitutional Puzzle -- Can the President be Indicted?" Chuck, is that something that's fit to print right now?

LANE: I honestly didn't read the story. It is an old conundrum of constitutional law whether or not --

ROSEN: Is it timely. Should it be on the front page of The New York Times?

LANE: I'm going to say, since I didn't read the story, I'm not going to give you an opinion on live television about that.

ROSEN: Whether the story was expertly crafted or not, do you believe The New York Times should be reporting on its front page on what is this, day 140 or so of the president's term, can the president be indicted?

LANE: Again, I'm not going to go there because I'm not going to question the news judgment of The New York Times about anything.

ROSEN: Dr. Krauthammer, we have 30 seconds.

KRAUTHAMMER: All I would say is that seems to assume a crime. What's the crime?

LANE: I think a lot of people are wondering about the issue. I would put it to you that way.

ROSEN: People where?

LANE: In America.

HEMINGWAY: Mostly in newsrooms it seems like.


HEMINGWAY: In fact in the rest of the country people are kind of wanting journalists to get a grip and get a handle on it.

LANE: Maybe they're wondering whether Seth Rich was assassinated by Hillary Clinton, things like that, that's what their really wondering?

ROSEN: Well, I mean, to raise that, here we have the president of the United States, and the questions being raised by the leading newspaper in the country as to whether or not he could be indicted, and the subtext is imminently, right, that this is timely.

LANE: James, I already told you I didn't read the story so I don't know what the text was, let alone its subtext.


KRAUTHAMMER: Whatever the text, what's the crime?

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