TRANSCRIPT

How Comey's testimony could be a turning point for Trump

The 'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in

 

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," June 5, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He's scheduled to testify Thursday. And there's a question as to whether or not you will invoke executive privilege or if you will allow them to testify.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: The president's power to exert executive privilege is very well-established. However, in order to facilitate a swift and thorough examination of the facts sought by the Senate's Intelligence Committee, President Trump will not assert executive privilege regarding James Comey's scheduled testimony.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, HOST: Well, the White House saying it's going to happen. Jim Comey will testify in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday. Two of the members on that committee weighed in on this whole investigation over the weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. MARK WARNER, D-VA.: There's a lot of smoke. We have no smoking gun but there's a lot of smoke.

SEN. ROY BLUNT, R-MO.: I think the president is better served by getting the information out sooner rather than later. Let's bring it to a conclusion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: So we'll start there with our panel. Let's bring them in, Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist, Tom Rogan, staff writer for the Washington Examiner, Bloomberg News White House reporter Jennifer Jacobs, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Mollie, it's happening. It's like, finally.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: It's finally happening, although I think people are anxious to have Comey actually answer questions. He's got a good track record of answering questions obliquely in a way that's favorable to him, declining to answer questions that might actually shed light on exactly what's going on at the FBI. So I think that it will be important for both the Republicans and the Democrats to ask really good question.

The Senate Intelligence Committee had just asked in a series of questions about his practice of writing memos, who had access to them, who he has transmitted information about those memos to, and he declined to answer that. That is par for the course. Hoping on Thursday we actually get some good answers with Comey.

BAIER: Jennifer, sometimes, if you heard Brit Hume earlier, these big moments in Washington never really live up to everything everybody thought they were going to be. And here you have this questioning, and you wonder how much Jim Comey can answer about an ongoing investigation, how much he will talk about what he said to President Trump or didn't say.

JENNIFER JACOBS, BLOOMBERG NEWS: It could be a turning point in his presidency. I know the White House is preparing for this. They are also trying to prepare for other things. Part of the reason why Reince Priebus flew back early from the foreign trip was to get their house in order to work on their domestic agenda. And they have made this week infrastructure week. Next week they told us it's going to be workforce development week. So they are trying to stay on message and they're trying to keep reporters feeding us talking points about how they are rebuilding and retraining America. So they're doing their best to keep us focused on the topics that they would like to be talking about, but meanwhile they are preparing.

BAIER: Yes, that is the shiny thing, Thursday.

TOM ROGAN, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: I think the interesting thing here is that if you look at James Comey the man, his professional career up until Russia, of course, was quite quiet, understated, behind the scenes. Since he has left, also that he has been behind the scenes. He has not craved publicity. So I suspect that would be right, as you suggest, that this might not be as exciting as some people are gearing up for it to be, both on that point of the man's personal character, but also because of the context of an ongoing investigation.

BAIER: There will have to be some answers whether what he said, didn't say, all of this leakage about the memos and what he's going to say, there will have to be some substance.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, there will be, but he has a history and a talent for navigating, what he says, his remarks, his status, his own history in a way that minimizes its impact. You can interpret everything the last year as a way for the director of the FBI caught in a unique situation with a candidate who's under investigation, a campaign under investigation, a unique situation that put him out in the spotlight as a way to avoid determining the election. I think he failed but I think that was his motive.

Here there is one question -- did the president obstruct justice? That's what everybody is waiting for. I don't think there's anything of great interest other than that.

And his answer I think is going to be obvious. He will navigate to a point where he says, well, there might have been some pressure, but it's not obstruction. Why? Because if it were obstruction then he's indicting himself.

BAIER: Because he didn't bring it forward.

KRAUTHAMMER: For not making a statement, for not bringing it out in the open. So he can't say it's obstruction, which is what everybody wants to see Trump destroyed is waiting to hear. So what we will hear is something navigating in between and saying, well, it wasn't really pressure. He was speaking on behalf of an associate, a friend. It could be interpreted in various ways. That's what I think is going to happen and that's why I think it's going to be a bust.

BAIER: But tune in anyway. We will have full coverage all morning. Such a great promo. Thank you, Charles.

(LAUGHTER)

I want to go through the tweets really quickly, in chronological order on the travel ban. This is in the wake of the London attack. "We need to be smart," this is Saturday, 6:17 p.m., "vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the travel ban as an extra level of safety." Then in the morning, 5:25, "People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a travel ban!" "The Justice Department should have stayed with the original travel ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.," Supreme Court. "The Justice Department should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered down travel ban before the Supreme Court and seek much tougher version." "In any event we are extreme vetting people coming into the U.S. in order to help keep our country safe. The courts are slow and political."

In reaction to this, George Conway, the husband of Kellyanne Conway, said, quote, "These tweets may make some people feel better but they certainly won't help OSG get five votes in SCOTUS, which is what actually matters. Sad." That is the solicitor general's office making the case to the Supreme Court, Jennifer.

JACOBS: Right. The same morning you had Kellyanne Conway on NBC talking about how the press obsesses over everything that the president says on Twitter, you've got her husband saying, listen, this gives ammunition to the other side, to critics to make it more difficult for the solicitor general to make their case.

But listen, I think the interesting conclusion from today was you can add Donald Trump to the list of people who are frustrated with the actions of Donald Trump and his administration. You've got Trump saying that he didn't like this watered down travel ban that he watered down himself. You have got him talking about how frustrated he is that he doesn't have -- it's taking forever to get ambassadors. You had him considering using executive privilege to try to keep his former FBI director from testifying. That's a little bit difficult when you fired someone because executive privilege is easier to use to keep someone, a government official from releasing information. And then you've got Trump expressing frustration with what members of his own administration are saying on behalf. So he went on Twitter today to speak for himself.

BAIER: Mollie?

HEMINGWAY: I do agree that the most problematic tweet was actually the one where he said the Justice Department shouldn't have issued this watered- down travel ban. He's the person who signed that. If he had a problem with it, he didn't have to sign that. And there are many areas where the bureaucracy in the administrative state are kind to unaccountable to any source of authority. This is not one of them. This is something where he could have had control over the situation.

At the same time, I think there's a little bit too much reaction going on here. He's been calling it a travel ban for a really long time. People act like it just happened again now. He did it after Sean Spicer said it wasn't a travel ban in January. He did it a few days after that.

And also there's a larger issue here which is a bigger discussion about whether countries have the right to have conversations about immigration who's allowed in the country and not. And if they're not allowed to have that in the context of what's happening in London, this is something that is actually to Donald Trump's advantage that he's willing to talk about immigration, he's willing to talk about how immigration affects national security and economic policy and other people aren't. So it's not entirely as out there is people are making it.

BAIER: Yes, and even some of these Muslim or Arab countries, Tom, when I was traveling overseas, they were sympathetic to that whole who can come in and who can't. Saudi Arabia has its own issue along its southern border. So there is the substance of that. This is a process question about whether tweets speak to a White House policy or it's the president on social media. And I think that that line, when they start to try to draw that distinction between -- that the tweets somehow are less important, it doesn't make --

ROGAN: It muddies the waters inherently. It hurts the president the most. And ultimately I think when this does go to the Supreme Court, I think the president will be successful. But as Mollie points out, the idea of the politics, the substance of the executive to be able to protect the American people, firmly I think President Trump does hold the cards there because if you look, for example, what happened in London, and you look at the threat reporting of European passport holders trying to use visa waiver to travel to the United States, behind the scenes, which he's getting briefed on, of course, there's a lot of issues.

KRAUTHAMMER: The one tweet among all of these that I think is the most astonishing and got the least amount of coverage is the one where he says we are already doing extreme vetting. The point of the travel ban was to give 90 days during which the administration could redo the vetting procedure and come up with extreme vetting. If, as the president has tweeted today, we already are doing that, then the ban disappears, the rationale evaporates, and what is it all about? It's moot.

This undermines the case the administration has before the Supreme Court more than anything else, and it's sitting out there in broad daylight. And by the way, if you watch the hearings, you must watch it on FOX.

(LAUGHTER)

KRAUTHAMMER: It's going to be a bust, but boy, it's going to be exciting.

BAIER: And exciting bust.

Next up, the fallout from several Arab nations severing ties with Qatar over funding terrorism, ties to Iran, and meddling inside other countries. We have two bases inside Qatar. So now what?

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Every country in the region has an absolute duty to ensure that terrorists find no sanctuary on their soil.

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I think what we are witnessing is a growing list of some irritants in the region that have been there for some time, and, obviously, they have now bubbled up to a level that countries decided they needed to take action.

ROBERT GATES, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: If we say we want this guy out, they'll put that guy out. But I don't know of instances in which they take the initiative, in which they aggressively go after these networks, do the investigative work themselves, identify people on their own.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BAIER: Well, this is big news, a geopolitical shift, as you have several Arab countries, part of the GCC, severing ties with their neighbor, Qatar, claiming that the Qataris support extremist groups, terrorists like Al Qaeda, ISIS, Hamas, as well as being close to Iran. And they suggest they are meddling inside other countries. And this is affecting us because as you look, we have a big air base there. We also have an army base that forward deploys material for Central Command. So there are basically two U.S. bases there. And now the question is, what happens?

The Qataris put a statement today, saying, "Qatar has been exposed to an instigation campaign based on allegations that amounted to absolute fabrication that proving that they are premeditated intentions to cause damage to the state. Qatar is an active member of the Gulf Cooperation Council," the GCC, "committed to its charter, respects the sovereignty of other countries, does not in interfere in their internal affairs, and carries out its duties in combating terrorism and extremism. We're back with the panel. Jennifer, it is sticky for the administration.

JACOBS: It is. It was just two weeks ago in Riyadh, I was one of the reporters in that room when President Trump had the bilateral meeting with the Emir of Qatar, warm, friendly meeting. Remember, Trump called him a longtime friend, said the nations have been longtime friends, talked about selling our beautiful military equipment to Qatar, very warm.

I am told that, yes, Trump was aware of tensions with Qatar between Saudi Arabia and some of these Gulf countries with Qatar and the reports about Qatar being too friendly with Iran at the time of the meeting. But they were not aware at this particular advancement was going to happen, that these new documents came out, which of course Qatar is denying. But I was told by a couple of officials that, yes, Trump would like to see the Arab states united. He would. But this is also, they said, demonstrative of these countries taking President Trump seriously when he said you need to isolate Iran. So that is how they are seeing it as the silver lining.

BAIER: And the other thing, Tom is that these countries probably would not be doing this action had it been President Obama and not President Trump, because obviously President Trump went over there and said I have your back when it comes to standing up to Iran.

ROGAN: I think you're absolutely right. They absolutely wouldn't have. What you see here is them I think trying to show President Trump, especially on the part of the Saudis, look, you are dealing with us now and our concerns about Iran. Here is our pay back to you in reciprocity. I think the interesting thing is, though, about threatening the potential relationship going forward with Qatar is that in that sense, in this development, there is a multilateral diplomatic success here for President Trump because you can be sure that nations in Europe, for example, and the NATO defense spending, which might seem peripheral, will also pay attention if the United States is saying everything is -- we are shaking the board here but in a way that might not be so good for you because we're the superpower.

BAIER: Asked about, and it had been talked about that the U.S. may even threaten to move the bases out of Qatar and move to someplace else in the region. Bob Gates, former defense secretary, was asked about that prospect at a conference at the end of May.

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GATES: Qatar is the only country in the region that allows us to land B- 52s. We have run operations out of there for a dozen years. So transitioning away from there would be expensive, and it would be very complicated operationally. And you run the risk if you say, OK, we are going to shut down part of it, you run the risk of the Qatari government basically says, OK, then why don't you just get the hill out altogether?

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BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: That is a possibility. But right now I think what we are seeing out of the Gulf States deciding that the double game, the dirty game the Qataris have been playing for 30 years, which is to play the Iranian side and the Arab side. Also, within the Sunni world, to play the terrorists, they support the Muslim Brotherhood. They have given indirect to Al Qaeda, to ISIS, they support Hamas. The Egyptian government is in a war against the brotherhood, Hamas, and it's got Al Qaeda and the Sinai, all of which are supported indirectly or directly by the Qataris.

This I think this is Egypt, Saudi Arabia acting together, saying, we now have an umbrella of American protection, a president who supports us. We're going to have to end this game. And the way to end it is to say to the Qataris, you are not free agents. We control the borders, we control your intake of food, we control the sea, we control the airways. We are not going to invade, like North Korea and China, but this is a serious step. This is not just withdrawing ambassadors. You're going to shape up or not.

And I think this is a result of the Trump visit. And it's a culmination of a situation which was untenable. Qatar was playing both sides and it has to declare itself. And this is a statement you have got to declare yourself.

BAIER: Talking to people in the region, Mollie, they said this was a long time coming. This wasn't like overnight. It didn't just happen because of us. But it probably happened because the Trump administration is where it is.

HEMINGWAY: Sure. But it is a longstanding conflict that goes back for hundreds of years, in fact, some of these tensions. Just three years ago there were cuts of diplomatic ties between some of these countries. And Qatar is one of those countries that has very good reason to be playing different sides of the field, as well. They share a large liquid natural gas field with Iran. That does make it a little more delicate.

As President Trump has wisely decided to move away from President Obama's policy favoring Iran to the Sunni regions, that is going to naturally cause a conflict with those countries that do have good relations with Iran. So it's really in America's interest that this all be worked out peacefully. I think you heard that with what Tillerson was saying. Please, everybody just kind of work this out. They did it three years ago when they got some commitments from Qatar in terms of not finding the Muslim Brotherhood so much. But they need to do more quickly.

BAIER: Last word.

JACOBS: Yes, that's exactly right. This is Saudi Arabia emboldened by its ties with Donald Trump. That recent trip has emboldened them to take action like this.

BAIER: Panel, thank you.

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