Transcript

Assessing the state of media in the Trump era

Insight and analysis on 'The Story with Martha MacCallum'

 

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

MARTHA MACCALLUM, "THE STORY" HOST: So, the question now is: why? That is one of two very big stories this Friday night as the Russia investigation now swings the spotlight onto the Obama administration. Good evening everybody, I Martha MacCallum. The other parallel story is this: did Loretta Lynch provide assurances that hurt Justice Department would not lift the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mail server go "too far."

New letters from the Senate Judiciary Committee today revealed that although those e-mails may or may not have been fake, that has yet to be determined, they do want to speak directly with Ms. Lynch. Chief Intelligence Correspondent, Catherine Herridge, joins us in the moment. But first, Chief National Correspondent, Ed Henry, here with the latest on this report that the Obama administration spent months debating in the White House over how to respond to Russia, and in the end did very little.

ED HENRY, FOX NEWS CHANNEL CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Martha. It's one of the biggest unanswered questions of this entire mess. If Democrats were so outraged by what they call a Russian assault, why didn't then President Obama lift much more than a finger to try and stop it? The Washington Post revealing today in great detail how, as far back as last August, then-President Obama and three top aides were given sensitive eyes only intelligence that Russian President Vladimir Putin, was directly involved in trying to disrupt the American election.

Obama aides then secretly debated about a dozen different options but then did very little on the way out the war door to retaliate. One former Obama officials tell on the post: "It is the hardest thing about my entire time in the government to defend. I feel like we sort of choked." One former Obama Homeland Security Chief, Jeh Johnson, was pressed on the broad parameters of this, under oath, earlier this week he insisted hindsight is always 20/20.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEH JOHNSON, FORMER OBAMA HOMELAND SECURITY CHIEF: In retrospect, it would be easy for me to say that I should have brought a sleeping bag and camped out in front of the DNC.

REP. PETER KING, R-NEW YORK: If the administration was so concerned, why was it that suddenly after the election, so much serious action was taken?

JOHNSON: I didn't get the attention that I would've preferred to get.

KING: The American people would've been a lot better informed.

JOHNSON: I can tell you, I issued statements--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: That's statements, not action. Now, in fairness to President Obama, he said late last year he was careful not to push back too hard against Russia out of a fear that it would incite even more hacking that could really interfere with the election. President Trump just sat down with our own Pete Hegseth for an interview that's airing on "Fox & Friends Weekend," this weekend, and the president is just not buying that explanation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Well, I just heard today for the first time that Obama knew about Russia a long time before the election and he did nothing about it, but nobody wants to talk about that. The CIA gave him information on Russia a long time before they even, you know, before the election. And I hardly see it; it's an amazing thing to me. You know, in other words, the question is if he had the information, why didn't he do something about it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: In one of his last news conferences before leaving office, President Obama told reporters that at a summit back in September, he privately told Putin, cut it out. Clearly, Martha, but he just didn't listen.

MACCALLUM: Yes. I mean, it's such a complicated tale when you think about the fact that the Obama administration at that point believed that Hillary Clinton was going to win the election. So, the reflective look at why they made those decisions is just going to get more, and more interesting over time.

HENRY: Did they think that he was going to win anyway, so leave well alone. Now that they regret the fact that they didn't step in, in fairness to them, they say look, if they had made a bigger public deal about it then, it might've looked like they were tilting it one way of another.

MACCALLUM: But then, the rush to push all this information out about what they knew about the interaction between Russia, and supposedly the Trump administration right when they were heading out the door because they wanted to leave those tea leaves for other people to pick up on.

HENRY: Preserved for the investigations that are now in full swing.

MACCALLUM: Exactly. Thank you, Ed, great to have you in New York. So, now more on the breaking story, the other big breaking story tonight, the Senate Judiciary Committee sending a letter to former Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, and they want to her to hand over communications that she had on the Clinton e-mail investigation. Chief Intelligence correspondent, Catherine Herridge, reports from Washington.

CATHERINE HERRIDGE, FOX NEWS CHANNEL CHIEF INTELLIGENCE CORRESPONDENT: Martha, the Senators are investigating whether Lynch tried to block the FBI case. The Chairman and ranking member writing in this letter they want relevant documents and answers from Lynch about media reports that she would not allow the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton's mishandling of classified information to go too far, and whether those reported assurances were shared with then-DNC Chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. During his Congressional testimony June 8th, Comey said he went public about the Clinton e-mail case last summer, because he lost confidence in Lynch, and in cryptic testimony, he appeared to reference a vital record.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: There were other things that contributed to that. One significant item I can't, I know the committee has been briefed on, there've been public accounts of it which are nonsense but I understand the committee has been briefed on the classified facts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HERRIDGE: Another factor for Comey was Lynch's Arizona tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton just one week before Hillary Clinton's interview July 4th, weekend. Later that same month, Lynch was rebuked by the Republican Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee for refusing to answer questions about the e-mail case more than 70 times.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BOB GOODLATTE, R-VA., HOUSE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN: General Lynch, we are now about halfway through the members of this committee asking questions. And your refusal to answer questions regarding one of the most important investigations of someone who seeks to serve in the highest office in this land is an abdication of your responsibility.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HERRIDGE: There was no immediate comment from Lynch. Martha.

MACCALLUM: Thanks, Catherine Herridge. Here now, Pete Hoekstra, former Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a former adviser to the Trump campaign; and Marie Harf, former Obama State Department spokesperson and a Fox News contributor. Welcome, great to see both of you tonight.

So, very big stories and both of these are sorts of turning the lens now on the Obama administration, and how they handled the question of Russian meddling. And Marie, you were in the administration at that time, with all of these concerns, why is it that all President Obama did was, you know, sort of shake a finger ostensibly at Vladimir Putin, say you better cut it out or else, and then they removed 35 diplomats from Russian facilities.

MARIE HARF, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR AND FORMER OBAMA STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Well, there was a lot of debate at the time inside the administration, and you saw in that story that John Kerry and others pushed for more forceful and aggressive action. And I do think that hindsight is 20/20, reasonable people can disagree about whether we should have done more. I will grant people that. We were worried about looking too partisan; we were worried legitimately about provoking the Russians to do even more to try and change vote tallies.

But Martha, what I'm worried, as I read all these stories and I look at what we did or didn't do, what I'm focused on today is this administration that's in power now doing things to prevent it from happening again. And I am not confident of that, in fact, I've heard the opposite: are they correcting some of the mistakes they said we made?

MACCALLUM: Well, both are very interesting points. Pete, I want to get your thoughts on why the Obama administration might not have done more, especially, if they were truly concerned that the voter tallies might be messed within many states across this country? And secondarily, is the Trump administration not wanting to get too close to this issue because of this investigation, in terms of calling Russia out on future electoral concerns? Is the president worried enough about this in your mind?

PETE HOEKSTRA, FORMER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN AND FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: A number of questions there, Martha. First, what you see here is -- this is going to be the end of the investigation of the Trump administration, at least it should be. What this report comes out and shows is number one, that the head of our Intelligence Community, they believe that the Russian's actions were materially going to impact voter decisions as they approached election day. Number two: they clearly state that the Russians were not able to do any voter tabulation manipulation on Election Day. And number three: as they've stated before, there's no collusion, so why investigate Donald Trump, and his campaign anymore? That is over.

Now, the question becomes, yes, what did the Obama administration do? Why didn't they do more? And you know, what did they know and when did they know it? And those are lots of questions that need to be answered. So, the questions now will be in the Obama administration, and regarding the Trump administration; the Trump administration will deal with Russia but they will deal with it in a private manner and they will not broadcast what they're doing. It's exactly what Obama tried to do as he was walking out the door by putting these so-called "cyber bombs" into the cyber network for the infrastructure if Russia. Don't broadcast it; don't tell them what they're doing, keep it secret.

MACCALLUM: So, Marie, you know, from your side of the political aisle, is there a concern that, boy, you know, we have really fueled this flame in terms of this investigation into Russia. Now, it's turning around and it's focusing on us and what we did in the Obama in administration.

HARF: Well, I think there are issues that are related but are a little bit separate, and with all due respect to the Congressman, two of those three things he just said aren't true. The Intelligence Community has not definitively said there's no collusion, that's exactly what is being investigated by the Intelligence Committees and by the Special Counsel. And they also have never said anything about, you know, the Russian interference changing people's minds. They have said very clearly they didn't say vote tabulation. So, look, we can debate and we can talk about what our administration did. I know that people disagree with what we did, and I'm happy to have that debate.

MACCALLUM: But the point is that now there's an investigation into what you're administration did. They want to Loretta Lynch there; they want to say, did you send an e-mail that basically gave assurances that the Justice Department was not going to go too far when it looked into Hillary Clinton? If that's the case, if that is true, that is huge. You know, she would need to explain why she was obstructing justice into the e-mail investigation, Marie, that's a big deal.

HARF: Well, the Hillary e-mail investigation is completely separate from the Russia investigation. And sure, call Loretta Lynch up, I actually have some questions about why she did to some of the things she did, I would love to hear some of those answers. But that is separate from the Russian investigation--

MACCALLUM: Apparently, they're having trouble finding her. Do you know where she is living now?

HARF: I don't. But what I would press the Congressman on a little bit more is, I have heard that the Trump administration is not focusing on preventing this from happening in the future again, in part because the president will not even definitively admit that they did it in the last election. And all Americans, regardless of party, should be worried about that.

MACCALLUM: Pete, quick response to that and I got to go.

HOEKSTRA: Yes. I think the American people really want to know which the article today didn't answer, what did the Russians, actually, do beyond stealing the DNC e-mails and perhaps releasing those to WikiLeaks? Loretta Lynch, the story there, two questions: did Loretta Lynch actually say something like that, and why did it only raised concerns with Comey? Why didn't he begin investigating the Loretta Lynch, his boss, for potential obstruction of justice?

MACCALLUM: That's a good a question. He said, well, I considered a Special Counsel at this point because I was afraid that, you know, she had a conflict of interest, but I just decide to take the ball in my own court and handle it from there. So, there's a lot of new questions here as you dig in deeper to this whole thing.

HOEKSTRA: A lot of question.

MACCALLUM: Marie and Pete, thank you very much, you guys, good to see you both.

HOEKSTRA: Great! Thank you.

HARF: Have a great weekend!

MACCALLUM: You too. So, coming up next, President Obama calls the new GOP health care plan "mean," but has little sympathy for the millions of Americans facing very high premiums; some say, because of the law that he put in place. Karl Rove and Matt Bennett here to debate that; coming up in a moment. But take a look at this tweet: "GOP Congress may never again get a chance to kill so many people, could rival the Iraq war in its total." That's from a Harvard economics professor. So, just one week after the attack on Republican baseball practice, are our politics back to business as usual? When we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MACCALLUM: Upon leaving office, President Obama made a vow to speak up in situations when he saw fit and he is keeping his word, 900 of them actually using a Facebook post to lay into the Senate health care GOP bill, and with what the former president called its "full fundamental meanness." That shot prompting a response from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer earlier today. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The real meanness is allowing the American people to believe that ObamaCare is still alive. ObamaCare has failed county after county. They are left with no choices, rising premiums and skyrocketing deductibles, so ObamaCare is dead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: Joining me now: Karl Rove, Fox News political contributor, he served as a senior adviser to President George W. Bush; and Matt Bennett, founder of Third Way and a former deputy assistant to President Clinton. Gentlemen, welcome good to have both of you here today. I want to put up a picture of Senator Schumer as he wrote at the end of the word "mean," he wrote "er" at the end, I don't know if we have it, to point out that it's even meaner than the first round that happened in the house. Karl, what do you think about all this?

KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR AND FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH SENIOR ADVISER: Well, I thought it was unusual for President Obama to speak forward in this way. I think -- is it mean to tell people that you can keep your plan if you like your plan, and 14 million people lose their plan? Is it mean to say you could keep your doctor and millions of additional Americans lost their doctor? Is it mean to say your premiums are going to go down $2500? And instead, the premiums have been under ObamaCare, rising at double-digit rates in most places? Is it fair or mean to say, you know, what we're going to cover everybody in America and have all of these people who are not covered today?

I mean, on and on and on, the Affordable Care Act was built on this tissue of lies, and those lies, many of them were hurtful. For example, this bill is funded by taxes on people who need medical devices, people who need drugs, and people who go to hospitals, and fundamentally charge those younger people more for their insurance in order to subsidize wealthier Americans who have higher incomes. So, if there's meanness as the standard of why which we ought to judge this law that the Republicans are proposing, we also ought to use that same standard for the Affordable Care Act, which was in a president talking about standard, pretty darn mean.

MACCALLUM: All right. Let's let Matt Bennett responded that. What do you think, Matt?

MATT BENNETT, THIRD WAY FOUNDER AND FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON DEPUTY ASSISTANT: Well, let's not forget who introduced the word "mean" into lexicon of the Affordable Care Act and this bill--it's President Trump who called the House bill which is nearly identical to the Senate bill; mean, and he was right about that. It's mean because it takes away coverage from 24 million people; it gives enormous retroactive tax breaks to incredibly rich people while soaking the poorest of the poor, the people who get Medicaid.

The reasons that the premiums are going up--there are two reasons for it: one is, medical costs are going up for everybody, people with employer coverage, people on Medicare, people on Medicaid, and people in the exchanges. So, Medical costs are driving up premiums. The other reason is that Republicans -- Republicans in Congress, Republicans in state houses and state legislators around the country are intentionally sabotaging the ObamaCare exchanges, and that's why premiums are going up for those people.

MACCALLUM: Well, I mean, a lot of employers would tell you that you have waxed their premiums go sky high since the beginning of ObamaCare that every year they just can't -- their jaw falls on the floor when they look at how much their premium has gone up since ObamaCare went into play. And now, they're put in positions where they have to get their employers to take in more of coverage because most people in this county are covered by their employers. I think 70 or 80 percent of Americans are covered by employers. So, what you're dealing with are these people who are on the margin who need a better plan.

And I think they look at, you know, obviously a lot of what's been done on both sides and say, whatever. You know, I mean, nobody has come up with anything that puts me closer in touch with my doctor or lets me get to make choices the way I want to make choices. So, I mean, obviously, something has to be fixed, Karl, let me go back to you on this. And I think they see--Republicans and Democrats--not, you know, willing to get together enough to fix this thing.

ROVE: I agree. And look, there's a fundamental disagreement as to why these things are happening. Yes, medical costs are rising because of medical inflation, but the 155 million people are covered by insurance through their employer are seeing less dramatic, smaller increases in their premiums than are the people in the exchanges whose premiums are being dictated by the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act created a lot of problems.

MACCALLUM: But the Affordable Care Act is driving up employer coverage costs as well.

ROVE: Absolutely, because it affects the whole market, because this idea--

MACCALLUM: I'm good to give Matt one quick bite of the apple before I go.

BENNETT: Look, Karl just made my point, that the employer premiums are going up but less than exchanges, because they're not being manipulated by Republican governors and state legislators.

(CROSSTALK)

MACCALLUM: Here's what everybody knows that the deeper the government has gotten involved in this issue, the more prices have gone up. So, far they have not gone down. And I think everybody doesn't really care whether it's a Republican or Democrat way of solving its, but they want that to be fixed.

ROVE: The law is to blame for this, not supposed Republican governor interference; it's the law that's driving up the cost by fundamental flaw--

MACCALLUM: Thank you, Matt. Thank you, Karl. So, it's just five working days until lawmakers headed uptown for the 4th of July vacation, and a five GOP senators standing against the bill. Mitch McConnell has a very tall task ahead of him. Joining me now on how he can get it done: Chris Stirewalt with the magic of how things happen in Washington. Good evening to you, Chris, what do you think?

CHRIS STIREWALT, FOX NEWS POLITICAL EDITOR: Happen or don't happen. Sometimes the magic is not happening. And remember, this is an instance where, to some degree, a failure is an option for the Senate Republicans because the pressure is mounting on both parties. But that does include Democrats that if you have to do a patch on ObamaCare before tragedy strikes, before the disaster strikes which really is November but they have to get it done in September or October. So, they can always just patch ObamaCare at the end. This is McConnell basically saying, you want it? Have it. If you don't want it, we're not going to spend the rest of all of our time this year on doing this because they have to move on to the tax, and they have to move on to other things.

MACCALLUM: Agreed. So, how hard do you think he's going to push these five now senators to get on board because it sounded like Ted Cruz felt like there was some negotiating room in there that he could potentially be happy with? But that may not be true for some of these other folks.

STIREWALT: Well, so they can afford to take it down to 50, they can afford a couple defections and that would be OK. And you could see this limping over, losing two either conservatives or two moderates at the end; it's all possible. But if they're really serious about having a vote next week, then we're talking about the very marginal changes. We're not talking about ripping up the framework here, were talking basically to please conservatives to make it a little stingier or on key points.

The Republicans have made a decision here, which is they're going back to Paul Ryan's Plan A, which is prop up ObamaCare in the short term and make a promise on a replacement for the future but deal with this and move on. Don't try to build a replacement right now.

MACCALLUM: It sounds like two of the favorite words in Washington, kind of like a continuing resolution. We can live on it forever, it will be beautiful.

STIREWALT: It will be beautiful and we will never have to take a pain for that.

MACCALLUM: Oh, my goodness! Chris Stirewalt, thank you so much. Good to see you as always.

STIREWALT: Happy Friday!

MACCALLUM: You too. So coming up here, Senator Elizabeth Warren is using a gentle touch to take on Republicans over this hot, hot issue. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, D-MASSACHUSETTS: These cuts are blood money, people will die. Let's be very clear, Senate Republicans are paying for tax cuts for the wealthy with American lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: Wow! So, what happened to the call for unity following the near-fatal shooting for Steve Scalise? How's that going? When we come back. Also, journalism, very much on the ropes, while some are calling reporters heroes for their work on these stories; one writer explains why the media he believes is partly to blame for what we're seeing, and he has a fascinating reason why, when we come back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, D-CONNECTICUT: Just as in the Watergate-era, the heroes will be our free press and our independent judiciary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLUMENTHAL: When the history of this era is written, Chris, I mean this very sincerely, just as in the Watergate era. The heroes will be our free press and our independent judiciary. And the press has given us information that we need in Congress to know where the corruption is and where there should be investigations. When we filed our legal action against the Trump administration, we use information divulged by the press.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: So, hero status, apparently, is not just reserved for the men and women of the military, or doctors, or nurses, or teachers, journalists are heroes to according to Senator Blumenthal. Editor in chief of Washington Free Beacon, Matt Continetti, sees it quite differently in a searing piece that he wrote today. He said: "More often, the interpretations of current events and prophecies of future ones are merely the products of groupthink or dogma or emotions or wish-casting. There was a time when newspapers printed astrology columns. They no longer need to. The pseudoscience is on the front page."

Here now: Howard Kurtz, Host of "MediaBuzz"; Molly Hemingway is senior editor at the Federalist and a Fox News contributor; and Isaac Wright is a Democratic strategist. Welcome to you, all. Howe, let me start with you, with the media punishment that was meted out in this piece by Continetti and get your thoughts on that, and then I want to share another piece of it. Go ahead.

HOWARD KURTZ, "MEDIABUZZ" HOST: Well, my first reaction was ouch. And I agree that we are awash in a sea of spin and speculation, and prediction is driven by this hyper-speed news cycle, Martha and that these hot takes are often wrong or disconnected from the kind of news that people want. But here's what I think the indictment goes a little too far, there are still lots of reporters who at least try to get it straight. They just don't happen to be the kind of people you see popping off on cable news panels.

MACCALLUM: Yes. Let's look at another piece from this editorial that he wrote this morning. He said, what I had heard from the media and political class over the last several years has been so spectacularly proven wrong by events, again, and again, that I sometimes wonder why I continue to read two newspapers before spending time, following journalists on twitter. And he goes on to say maybe he's just bored, but he still does that out of habit. Mollie, what do you think?

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: It's not just that there is so much conventional thinking or groupthink in Washington, D.C., or in our media environment. Is that there is a lot of it and it's all spectacularly wrong. And what's interesting is 2016 should have been a real big wake-up call for journalists. They should have said, you know what, we don't understand the things that were supposed to be covering, we don't understand Donald Trump, we don't understand how he speaks, what his deal is, why people voted for him, and they should have changed what they were doing. They should have change who they were hiring or promoting of their newsroom, their story selection, and how they went about their business. And instead it seems like they actually somehow gotten worse, and it really is frustrating for people who do want to see a media that is very strong and it can hold people accountable whether they Republican or Democrat.

MACCALLUM: Do you think it's fair that there's sort of a -- an elitist journalistic echo chamber out there that seems to reinforce their own feelings about certain things in certain stories, and they don't really want to hear anything outside of that bubble.

ISAAC WRIGHT, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think the column you just read from is a prime example of that. I think there're tons of folks in the media right now or the pseudo-media who question things that are obvious facts. Things about the Russian investigation...

MACCALLUM: Give me an obvious fact about the Russian investigation.

WRIGHT: Obvious fact about the Russian investigation. Attorney General Sessions and Mr. Kushner both failed to disclose their meetings with Russian agents. President Trump himself in July of 2016, if you'll allow me to quote directly said, hey, Russians, if you're listening, I hope you'll hack Hillary's emails.

MACCALLUM: As you well know, he said that he was joking that was an off- the-cuff comment. And the fact of the investigation over the past year...

(CROSSTALK)

WRIGHT: We are just after the facts.

MACCALLUM: You have to go by the facts. You have to go by the investigation and where we're as of right now as we know it. That's what all of us have to do when we cover this story. It's easy to jump on it and say, well, it's quite clear based on what you could see here, but you have to go through the process. And that's what we have to do as people who talk about these things every day. We can't jump ahead of ourselves. And even David Brooks pointed out the other day, he's no fan of the Trump administration, he said, you know what we've gotten a little bit over our skis on what we've assumed about what's going on here. Mollie?

WRIGHT: That's a really good point. That's a really good point. And in fact to that, I think that's why we should probably default on things that are nonpartisan like the U.S. intelligence agencies, the three of which have all agreed, the three leading agencies have all agreed that the Russians tried to interfere with our election at the behest of Vladimir Putin.

MACCALLUM: Yes. I mean, I think that's pretty clear. The question is still being figured out as collusion. So that part of it is clear. Mollie, do you disagreement with that or any thoughts on that?

HEMINGWAY: I'm just saying it's a great example to reference back to this Trump making a joke about Hillary Clinton's emails. The actual story there was a lot of Americans were concerned about how Hillary Clinton hadn't turned over evidence in a probe of what she'd done in terms of mishandling classified information. He makes a joke about it, the media takes it in this almost autistic hyper literalism, and they don't understand the joke, they don't understand how he communicates, and it's one thing to not understand how a very prominent public figure communicates even though we've all known for decades. In 2016, once he wins the election, it should be evidence to the media that they need to do a better job of understanding him or hiring people who do, as clearly millions of Americans do. And instead of focusing on -- and they should also be thinking about whether this obsessive focus on Russia is really serving their readers or listeners or viewers as well.

MACCALLUM: So...

WRIGHT: So when Michael Flynn discuss -- sanctions with Russia, was that a joke?

UNINDENTIFIED MALE: The Washington Post story on Michael Flynn lying to Vice President Pence about Russian contacts, that turned out to be true and Flynn got fired.

MACCALLUM: Got fired, exactly.

UNINDENTIFIED MALE: The overwhelming majority of stories about Donald Trump and his administration have been negative, the volume, the tone. I think it turns a lot of people off, even if you're not a big fan of Donald Trump. The contrast with the way the previous administration was covered, and that's not spin. And so, I think the media credibility as a whole has suffered here, when you have somebody like Matthew -- saying, gee, I wonder why I'm reading two newspapers a day. Those of us who care about media accuracy may be need to rethink a little bit.

MACCALLUM: And I think when you look at the Georgia election, for example, and the three previous ones, and you look at the way those have recovered. And you wonder -- I mean, you do have to kind of sit back and say what's going on out there? Because maybe there is -- maybe these polls aren't really telling us the whole story about how Americans across the country feel. You just have to keep having that gut check throughout all of this, throughout the investigation, throughout the way these elections are going, and ask yourself what is the real pulse of the American people out there, and not something that just seems to be swirling around inside an echo chamber. Mollie, quick final thought.

HEMINGWAY: It's absolutely true. I think it's not just about an over reliance on polls, it's about letting those pulse shape coverage. We were told for weeks leading up to this Georgia race that Republicans were in real trouble. And that drove all of this media coverage. It turns out Republicans weren't in so much trouble. So I think it's not just about stepping back a little bit from some of these polls, but not relying on them so much or believing that there are the gospel truth when they are frequently in error.

MACCALLUM: All right, guys. Thank you very much, good to see you all.

WRIGHT: Same here, Martha.

MACCALLUM: Coming up. Still ahead, President Trump makes good on his promise to our veterans, signing an important bill on overhauling elements of the V.A. We're going to take you inside the room with one of the best on stage and it was a truly emotional moments, will take you there. Plus, hateful rhetoric rears its ugly head again. So will there be consequences for the vitriol. We're going to show you what happened to a politician who said this about Representative Steve Scalise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNINDENTIFIED MALE: I'm glad he got shot. I wish he was (BLEEP) dead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MACCALLUM: So after the shots rang out, so did the calls for more unity in Washington. It was just over a week ago, when the call to reexamine our political discourse followed the horrific shooting at a congressional baseball practice early in the morning. But already, kind of like a distant memory as harsh and divisive speech has quite quickly re-entered that space. Kristin Fisher takes us through it all, live, tonight, from Washington. Kristin?

KRISTIN FISHER, FOX NEWS: Hey, Martha. Let's start with actor Johnny Depp, who's seems to be following in Kathy Griffin's footsteps. He's now apologizing for making this remark at a film festival in England, yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNNY DEPP, ACTOR: When was last time an actor assassinated a president?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FISHER: Now, Depp said it was a joke and he intended no malice, but the White House is calling it -- and the lack of coverage about it troubling. On Capitol Hill, Senator Elizabeth Warren is also turning up the heat. She said the just released senate Republican health care bill would be paid for with blood money. Listen to what she said on the senate floor just yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARREN: These cuts are blood money, people will die. Let's be very clear, senate Republicans are paying for tax cuts for the wealthy with American lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FISHER: And then, there's the Nebraska Democratic Party officials, Phil Montag, who was caught on tape saying that not only was he glad that Congressman Steve Scalise got shot, he also said that he wished he were dead, listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNINDENTIFIED MALE: His whole job is like to get people -- convince Republicans to (bleep) kick people off (bleep) health care. I hate this (bleep). I'm (bleep) glad he got shot. I'm glad he got shot. I'm not going to (bleep) say that in public.

UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Well, then what are you saying it to us for? What are you telling us for?

UNINDENTIFIED MALE: I wish he was (bleep) dead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FISHER: Wow. Now, he's since been removed from his post. But keep in mind, Congressman Scalise is still in the hospital. He was only released from intensive care today. And on top of all of that, there's a new report on the Washington Free Beacon and it found that 30 Republican members of congress have either been attacked or threatened with death threats over the last two months. Martha?

MACCALLUM: Incredible. Kristin, thank you very much. So here now with more, Mercedes Schlapp, Republican strategist, and Fox News contributor, Emily Tisch Sussman is campaign director for the center for American Progress Action Fund. Welcome to both of you. It's bad. I mean, this is really brutal. And when you think about the fact that Mr. Montag who said that he wished, what he wished, and you saw about Steve Scalise, somehow tried to argue, Emily, that he was taken out of context. I mean, you listen to that over and over, he repeats it. I can't imagine how he thinks that argument is going to get him anywhere, but the good news is that he's out of that position. I mean, why is this happening, Emily?

EMILY TISCH SUSSMAN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS ACTION FUND: Look, his words are terrible. And what happened to Congressman Scalise, and those who are with him, particularly, the Capitol Police, it's a tragedy. But what would also be a tragedy is if this bill, health care bill passes the senate, and that's why emotions are so high. We know from the house version that at least 14 million people will be uninsured and it cuts here deeper. We also know that -- about 200,000 people would be left without insurance and possibly to die. That is also a tragedy. And that's why emotions are running so high. If Republicans were so proud of this bill, it's unclear why they would go the entire process in secret. And now they're rushing to a vote. People should be scared about what people do with their health care.

MACCALLUM: Everyone should be very, very terrified. I mean, that's the message, Mercedes.

MERCEDES SCHLAPP, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I mean, emotions are so high that you have those in the left basically celebrating the fact that it would be OK for Congressman Scalise to die. Emotions are so high that the left they stay silent when those individual celebrities like Johnny Depp basically call for the assassination of the president and they don't condemn this violence. We are Americans. We need to find a way to talk to each other. You might hate the policy, but it's enough when we're trying to hate the people who are trying to legislate. I mean the fact that these 30 Republicans in congress receive death threats, who's basically they're saying were going to detail how we're going to kill your wife and children, it is unacceptable.

(CROSSTALK)

MACCALLUM: It is genuinly disturbing -- that cooler heads and people in leadership are not able to persuade this rhetoric to move down. Take a look at this from Hillary Clinton. This is what she last week. Put this up on the screen if we could for folks at home. Last week, she said two sides take the field tomorrow, but we are ultimately all on one team. My thoughts are with the members of congress, staff, and the heroic police. OK, here's yesterday or today. Watch this. Forget death panels, if Republicans pass this bill, they are the death party. Is that helpful, Emily?

(CROSSTALK)

SUSSMAN: It is important. People should be very scared about what this would do to their health care and to their health. They should be calling their senator and asking...

(CROSSTALK)

MACCALLUM: This is what I'm getting at with our prior discussion. You know, Republicans and Democrats need to figure out a way to fix this health care. It's a mess, and everyone knows it. But pointing fingers at each other and say they want you to die, they want to die, it's not going to get us anywhere.

(CROSSTALK)

MACCALLUM: OK. Quick thought from Mercedes, and then we got to go.

SCHLAPP: I think what's not helpful is the fact that the Democrats continue with the fearmongering, have a conversation, have the debates, but to use the term like blood money, or to say that people are going to die, those extreme words. Why not have a discussion of what works, what you don't like in the senate bill, and then try to make it work where there is a discussion between these senators.

(CROSSTALK)

MACCALLUM: We've got to leave it there. Thanks you guys. Good to see you both.

SCHLAPP: Thank you.

MACCALLUM: So coming up next, a major step towards reforming the V.A., finally. We're going to show you a very moving ceremony that took place this afternoon at the White House. And talk to someone who was there by the president side, right after this. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MACCALLUM: So today at the White House, a very moving ceremony as President Trump sign the V.A. accountability act into law. The measure is an all important step towards writing the wrongs of the past when some veterans died waiting for care. The bill gives the V.A. secretary more power to punish bad employees and extends protection for whistleblowers. One of the most powerful moments when a veteran who lost two limbs discussed what happened when he returned from war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNINDENTIFIED MALE: On April 24th 2010, I stepped on an improvised explosive device that caused life altering injuries. I knew that such injuries were a risk in the enlistment that I made. What I was not prepared for was coming home to a broken V.A. system. I wasn't prepared to wait 57 days for a signature on a piece of paper so that's my only prosthetic limb could be repaired. But today is a new day, and this administration has fulfilled its promise that the veteran is empowered.

TRUMP: I didn't get to shake your hand, Michael. Get up, Michael.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: My next guest is a Iraq War veteran, and he has worked for this moment for years. Chris Neiweem at the White House today, and joins us now. Chris, good to see you tonight.

CHRIS NEIWEEM, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: Good to be with you.

MACCALLUM: This is something that you've been working for a long time as we've just said. What changed today for our nations veterans in a very practical sense?

NEIWEEM: In the most practical sense, Martha, today, the veteran is in front of the union bosses, the bureaucracy. I mean, essentially now if someone engages in malfeasance or departs from V.A. values, the V.A.
secretary can fire them, and they can be removed with a reasonable time, and they won't languish for a year and a half where you just can't get rid of bad people, that's the big change.

MACCALLUM: I mean we all remember that the prior head of the V.A. basically said, look, I'd love to fix this, but because I'm in the middle of this tremendous bureaucracy, I'm not even allowed to fire people when I know they're not doing their jobs. So what's going to happen now, specifically, you know, when someone needs to be -- they need to clean out the deadwood to bring in better people, how can they do it?

NEIWEEM: So here's the dynamic. So this ended up being a bipartisan bill, Democrats ended up voting for it. It was bipartisan. But I think that President Trump, he was guns blazing on the campaign trail about reforming the V.A. and he got it done. What happened in the last congress was the last V.A. secretary asked for this authority, and when the bills start flying through congress, the previous administration issued a veto threat and...

MACCALLUM: Why? I mean, who doesn't think it's a good idea to be able to fire someone who's doing a bad job?

NEIWEEM: At the end of the day, President Obama started off good on this. You know he removed the last secretary, made some changes, but he got down in the 90 yard line and threw an interception. He essentially wouldn't block the federal union. It's the only entity that's lobbied against this bill, and today they lost. And we needed this one. So today was a good day for veterans nationwide.

MACCALLUM: So I know you're saying you're not done. What's next on your list? What we need to do now to get further on this?

NEIWEEM: The implementation. I mean, implementing regulations and doing oversight is a constant job. Congress is going to continue to have hearings, hear updates. I think this V.A. secretary is doing a good job. I think that he's got the president's support to make these changes. But it's just going to be easier to get better, and see doctors, and make it work more efficiently, and not have all that...

MACCALLUM: If someone is told -- you know, they call up, they get back like this gentleman who we just saw, and he says, well, it's going to be three weeks, it's going to be two months, what recourse do they have?

NEIWEEM: Well, traditionally, they haven't had much. I mean, now, they can call patient advocates, they can reach out to veterans service organizations, but the administration has been pretty open about letting veterans get a line in and bring these issues out, and public attention is always good with media as well. So I think we're in a better spot now.

MACCALLUM: All right. Chris, thank you very much and congratulations on your achievement today. Thank you for your service as well. Good to have you with us tonight on The Story. All right. So one of the stories coming up here has to do with robots and hamburgers, and it's the inspiration for our quote when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MACCALLUM: So, as we head out on this Friday, a thought on the future from good old McDonald's where robots are on the march. These kiosks will replace the smiling cashiers in the McDonald's caps at 2,500 Mickey D's by the ends of this year, and more by next year. Heads up America, in many places, robots are replacing people. It is the intersection of technology, and the increasing burden on companies from having employees, the yearly rising health care costs, and constant litigation, so something to think about. Here's the quote of the night from the man who put those golden arches across America, when you're green your growing. When you're right, you rot, said Ray Kroc. He also said you're only as good as the people you hire. I think Ray would choose the living, breathing kind of a Mc-bot. Have a great weekend everybody. Up next, a great human being, Mr. Tucker Carlson, have a good weekend.

END

Content and Programming Copyright 2017 Fox News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2017 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.