This is a rush transcript from "The Story," August 21, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
MARTHA MACCALLUM, HOST: Breaking tonight, President Trump is about to announce that after deep debate within the White House, he has decided to send 4,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.
Good evening, everybody, I'm Martha MacCallum, coming to you from Washington tonight. And this is "The Story."
Since 9/11, the U.S. mission has been to never let it happen again. A war on terror under President Bush gave way to President Obama's ending of the Iraq war and a focus on what he saw as the right war in Afghanistan before pulling out there as well. Two hours from now, the president will speak to the nation about the most solemn question that a commander-in-chief faces: the call to put more American lives at risk. It is his first prime time policy address as president of the United States. And it comes as he returns from a working vacation that was mostly work and during which he struggled with a tragic day in Charlottesville that reignited the racial divide.
So, in just a moment, we will be joined by retired Four-Star General Jack Keane, but first, we go to chief White House Correspondent, John Roberts, who is live in Fort Meyers, Virginia tonight -- a few hours from here where the president will speak in a couple hours. John, good evening to you.
JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS CHANNEL WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Martha, good evening to you. And you can see behind me a couple of hundred yards away, (INAUDIBLE) with the last of the troops here at Base Meyer, they're filling in for the president's speech to occur in just under two hours now. What the president will say tonight is far different than what he was saying just, you know, a couple years ago --maybe back as far as 2013 in regards to Afghanistan where he thought that the United States should not be there. That we should pull out and we should focus on efforts on rebuilding the United States and spending the money that we're spending in Afghanistan here state side.
He even went so far as to say that President Obama was correct in his belief that we needed to draw down the level of troops. But as you said, the president has signed off on this idea of sending as many as 4,000 troops into Afghanistan to bolster the 8400 American forces who are already there. We don't believe that the president is going to mention an exact figure tonight -- though he may. As always with President Trump, things are fluid. Also, according to the great reporting of Jennifer Griffin and Lucas Tomlinson over at the Department of Defense, the Pentagon. The president will also call on countries in the broader region to pitch in and help. Asking India, asking Pakistan to do more to bring the Taliban back to the table.
Yes, the president wants to reopen negotiations with the Taliban. He believes that the negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar were a failure because President Obama had already announced that U.S. troops are going to draw down. So, what reason did the Taliban have to come to the negotiating table? But the Pentagon believes with the upward pressure now on troop increases in the Afghanistan, and what that will signal to the Taliban that they may be more inclined to come to the table. President Trump will also announce tonight that he is going to hold Pakistan to account for its continued support of the Taliban and attacks that are emanating from its region as well as to try to do something to root out corruption in the Kabul government.
When asked what's different about this plan from the previous 16 years, we are told it's the scope and pace of the overall pressure campaign. But let's remember, Martha, at one point the United States had 100,000 troops in Afghanistan and couldn't put this thing to bed. We will now, with the addition of the 4,000 troops there, have just a little more than 12,000. That's just a little more than 10 percent of what we had at the height of this campaign. So, it's going to take a lot of coercion, I think, on the part of the president to get those nations like Pakistan and India to get the Taliban to the table. If we actually finally want to put an end to the Afghanistan campaign. Martha?
MACCALLUM: Thank you, John. So here now: General Jack Keane, Chairman of the Institute for the Study of War and a Fox News Military Analyst. General, good to have you here tonight --
GEN. JACK KEANE, FOX NEWS MILITARY ANALYST AND CHAIRMAN OF THE INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR: Good to be with you, Martha.
MACCALLUM: An area that you have spent a lot of time in and something that you've studied very closely. What do you think of the president's plan from what you hear so far?
KEANE: Well, I think he's absolutely moving in the right direction here. He's going to commit himself, from what we understand, to stay in Afghanistan, and is in the American people's vital interest because if we don't do that, international terrorist also occupies that space again. They will threaten Europe, and they will threaten the people of the United States. It is a fact, indisputable that that will happen.
And I think that's the reason for this decision. I mean, his instincts after 16 years as many people in America, we don't have much to show for this, why are we going to continue to do it? I think he has asked those hard questions. And I would like him tonight to share with the American people why, why we haven't succeeded in 16 years?
After all, this is America, that's America's military. We are the best in the world. And there are reasons for that, and it's been a lack of political and moral commitment by our two previous presidents to actually achieve an enduring victory. You know war is a fundamental test of wills. It's not just about resources. It is about commitment and dedication.
And I'm hoping that that is what he's going to address tonight. Regional strategy with our allies to be sure. Counter the Russians and the Iranians who got their hands all over this war in a negative way. That has to happen. Stop Pakistan from providing safe haven to the Afghan Taliban. And stop the overthrow of the Afghan government the Taliban is so earnest in doing. These are achievable goals.
MACCALLUM: I want to ask you about the numbers, the troop numbers. But first, I want to take our viewers at home through President Trump's thinking on this starting with when he was a private citizen, and then as a candidate, and then more recently. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We made a terrible mistake getting involved there in the first place. We had real, brilliant thinkers that didn't know what the hell they were doing, and it's a mess. It's a mess. I'm not happy about it. I will tell you. But I would leave the troops there begrudgingly.
You have to stay in Afghanistan for a while because of the fact that you're right next to Pakistan which has nuke already weapons, and we have to protect that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: When you look at that, and here's the tweet that he said back in 2013: "We should leave Afghanistan immediately. No more wasted lives. If we have to go back in, we go in hard and quick. Rebuild the U.S. first." There's a lot in there, obviously. And you can see the process that he's been going through here, and you can see that the president is very torn on this issue. It's a tremendous expense, a trillion dollars in by some estimates so far. And he has things he wants to do here at home that he feels, you know, may not be throwing good money after bad.
KEANE: Yes, absolutely. I think we're probably going to have a modest troop increase in and of itself, providing more advisors down at the fighting level, that's a very good thing. I hope he increases our counter- terrorism special forces, so they can put more pressure on the Taliban leadership. And I hope we can put some capacity back into the Afghan National Army that President Obama pulled out of it, and made it considerably less effective.
If we can do some of that, we'll make some improvement. But it's not going to be a major turnaround. It's not going to be something that's going to change in six months or probably even a year. This is going to be a slow change, not a rapid turnaround. Because the only thing that would get you a rapid turnaround, Martha, is that we put U.S. fighting troops back in there, side by side with the Afghans, and started winning some battles. But, we're not going to do that because the political capital is not there to do that. The president hasn't even seriously discussed that issue.
So, I think he is making the right decision to stay, but it's going to take some time. And what he's doing is, he's not providing an end date. I'm not going to wrap this up in two years. He's not going to talk about four years or any timeframe. That is a good thing because then the Taliban is saying to itself, well, maybe the United States is serious this time. Maybe they're just going to stay and deal with us and not going to walk away from this thing. And our allies if they sense that the president is dead serious about his commitment to Afghanistan, then their behavior will change as well.
MACCALLUM: So, that's clearly what you're going to be listening for tonight. That commitment, that open-ended commitment to seeing this thing all the way through right, Jack?
KEANE: Yes, you got it. And the words are important here in terms of how committed I am to do this and solve this and be successful at it.
MACCALLUM: All right. We'll be watching along with you. General Jack Keane, thank you. We'll see you later. So, still ahead tonight, U.S. soldiers, 10 of them -- sailors, rather, missing after a warship collided with a tanker in Asian waters. Tonight, the U.S. Navy is facing some pretty tough questions. Former Congressman Jason Chaffetz and Mo Elleithee are here on what they think the president needs to tell the country tonight on that, and on Afghanistan which we were just discussing with Jack Keane. And Democrats, putting Charlottesville in their political playbooks. We examine the consequences of their attempt to weaponize a tragedy. Plus, what's the impact of the eclipse besides giving everybody a spectacular distraction today when we come back?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's entirely dark here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Man, look at that.
MACCALLUM: All right. Good evening. Welcome back to THE STORY, everybody. We want to take you straight to Trace Gallagher, who has the latest for us on the tragedy that unfolded with the USS McCain and the continuing search there. Trace, what can you tell us?
TRACE GALLAGHER, FOX NEWS CHANNEL ANCHOR: Yes. Martha, the question being asked by top military brass is exactly how a state of the art Navy destroyer equipped with cutting-edge radar and communication technology is somehow unable to detect and evade a much slower oil tanker three times its size. Both ships were in the South China Sea heading for Singapore when the coalition happened. The USS McCain was able to limp into port where it now sits with a gaping hole in its side. The search for the 10 missing sailors is still being called search and rescue, but it will soon being search and recovery; four of the five sailors injured are in Singapore hospitals.
The one-day operational pause for U.S. Navy ships will give the military a chance to review whether there are systemic problems in the way crew members are trained. Back in June, the USS Fitzgerald, a sister ship of McCain, crashed into the Philippines. A merchant ship there off the coast of Japan killing seven sailors. The collision was deemed avoidable, and Fitzgerald's three top officers were relieved of their duties. In May, a guided-missile cruiser was struck by a small fishing boat off the Korean Peninsula. And in January, another missile cruiser ran aground in Tokyo Bay. Here is the Defense Secretary. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES MATTIS, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: The chief of naval operation's broader inquiry will look at all related accidents, incidents at sea, that sort of thing. He is going to look at all factors, not just the immediate ones, but will fall rightly under the commander's investigation of what happened to his ship.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GALLAGHER: This is also a bad time for the USS McCain to be out of commission. The McCain is equipped with the Aegis Missile Defense System touted as a very effective counter weapon to any missile that North Korea might launch. Martha.
MACCALLUM: All right. Trace, thank you very much. Here now with more on that, and also the Afghanistan issue of the night, the former Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, and Mo Elleithee, the Founding Executive Director of Georgetown University Institutes of Politics and Public Service, both are Fox News Contributors. Gentlemen, good to have both of you with us tonight. You know, a quick thought first on what Trace was reporting, and the difficulty that the U.S. Navy is encountering here. Jason Chaffetz, do you want to take that first?
JASON CHAFFETZ, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR AND FORMER OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Yes, it's pretty stunning. I was out on the San Jacinto, which is a cruiser much like what was damaged here. This is one of the most sophisticated ships that we have. It's real -- you can't even begin to explain how this could happen. Usually, these cruisers are there to protect carrier groups, so that they can see a wide array of everything that's moving towards that carrier group. So, it really is pretty -- it's just flat-out embarrassing and unexplainable. And there are people from Admiral Harris down, they're going to have to do a lot of explaining about this.
MACCALLUM: You know, we have heard from the president, Mo, his concerns about our capability, our readiness in the U.S. Military. And you look at this situation, and 10 sailors missing, seven were lost just a few short weeks ago in June. You know, the president's been criticized for wanting to put more money and more resources into our defenses. This would appear to show that there is definitely some need for some evaluation at the very least.
MO ELLEITHEE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR AND FOUNDING EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY INSTITUTES OF POLITICS AND PUBLIC SERVICE: I think that's right, there definitely needs to be an evaluation. It's a tragedy. I feel heartsick over the sailors who are lost here or unaccounted for. And the fact that this has happened now multiple times in a very short period of time, does require some serious evaluation and some accountability.
MACCALLUM: Yes. I mean, we've heard, there was a recent 24-hour pause. And now, they are asking for all the systems to be re-evaluated for everybody who is out there to take a look at the systems and to figure out what's going on. Back to Jason Chaffetz, you know, it is astonishing, as you point out, to imagine that the ability to see around these ships twice in such a small period of time could be jeopardized to end in the loss of the missing situation at least currently for these sailors. What do we do about it?
CHAFFETZ: Well, look, our thoughts, hearts, and prayers go out to these young men and women. What they do is very dangerous, it is very crowded out there. But we have the most sophisticated Military and Navy in the world. And so, to run into something so big and massive, this was not a, you know, high-speed vessel coming in the dead of night surreptitiously through the waters to try to hit. This is a major tanker. And so, you can't go on pause, either. We have a lot of active scenarios going on around the world. We don't have time for a pause.
MACCALLUM: Mo, let me turn your attention to what we are waiting to hear from the president this evening. The announcement that 4,000 more troops will be committed to Afghanistan. It's an interesting place for this president to come, given the debate that's gone on over this and what he said in the past.
ELLIETHEE: That's right. I think I'm looking forward to hearing his remarks tonight. Now, there are a couple things I'm looking for. First, why the evolution, right? What is the compelling case for this? He went from as a private citizen to being for immediate withdrawal to as a candidate being for not immediate withdrawal, and now it appears as president to want to put more troops into the region. And so, I want to hear a very compelling argument for that.
Secondly, what is the mission? Where he's been very clear throughout his candidacy as president that the United States should not be in nation- building business. So, what is the mission and how will we define success? What are the measures there? And then, third, I hope he'll speak about both the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and what kind of leverage we're going to put on them in their role in this?
We've seen that the corruption in the Afghanistan government and the Pakistanis enabling extremist groups have led to many of the setbacks up till now. So, how are we going to hold them accountable, make them play their part? Because, otherwise, this is either a temporary surge that will result in back sliding or it means a more indefinite and possibly larger escalation of troops in the long run if they don't play their roles.
MACCALLUM: Jason Chaffetz, we know a lot of different opinions went into this. Mike Pompeo was consulted, Jeff Sessions was consulted on this as well, and H.R. McMaster, of course, who at one point, according to reports, wanted 50,000 troops, and was told that the president simply wouldn't go that far at this point. But Jeff Sessions said, something along the lines, according to reports that this is not what we were elected by the American people to do. He appeared to have been very much against this plan.
CHAFFETZ: Well, there was a great deal of skepticism, and I'm one of them. I think the president needs to define what success and victory are. We have the biggest, baddest military on the face of the planet. If we unleash them and let them do their job without the handcuffs of the politically correct war that has been going on for the last 16 years. So, what is that victory? But I worry that in Afghanistan, where to have your parts of the country, literacy rates are near 90 percent, where have your corruption that is just off the charts. I don't know that you can go in and train these people. That's what we've been doing for 16 years.
[19:20:30] MACCALLUM: Yes. Well, that's been an ongoing problem.
CHAFFETZ: We spent nearly a trillion dollars, it hasn't worked. So, why is this different?
MACCALLUM: Thank you very much Jason Chaffetz and Mo. Good to see you both. So, in this a little while, the President Trump will take to the airways to present a rare prime-time address to the nation to unveil a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan as we've been discussing. One that Fox News has learned will it include a surge of U.S. troops in that country, we believe in the neighborhood of 4,000 troops, but we'll wait for the final number tonight from the president ahead of that three Afghanistan veterans who will be here to weigh in on what the president needs to tell the American people and the troops who are serving us all. Plus, Washington still reeling over Charlottesville. Our next guest has some very strong words for Democrats who are now looking to make race a wedge issue on this fallout. Congressman Pete King joins us next.
MACCALLUM: So, if you thought that you were feeling the last of the shock waves from Charlottesville, think again. The angst from that weekend is still looming very large and Congress is set to return to these sieges two weeks from now. Healthcare, tax reform, infrastructure, all of that may be in further jeopardy now. Democrats are even less likely to support the president over his response to the protest. especially if they're taking their cues from former and current leadership for the DNC. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER CHAIRMAN OF THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: If you want to vote for a racist in the White House, then you better vote for Republican.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You think that he is like-minded, that he is a White Supremacist?
REP. KEITH ELLISON, D-MINN.: I'm not saying he is one. I'm saying that the positions that they have articulated are positions that he does not feel an urgent need to denounce and distance himself from.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MACCALLUM: Joining me now: Republican Congressman, Pete King. Congressman, always great to have you with us. Good evening to you.
REP. PETE KING, R-N.Y.: Thank you, Martha.
MACCALLUM: So, if you want a racist in the White House, you should vote for a Republican. That's coming from Howard Dean. I mean, the that's language being used here is quite stunning.
KING: It's not just stunning, you know, it's really disgraceful. They're talking about somehow trying to unify the nation, instead, they are using the most divisive type language and most hysterical rhetoric, and that's totally out of balance. It's wrong. And politically, I think it hurts them because of it -- I think that alienates the American people. But I think also as Republicans, we have to make it clear that we're not going to give into that type rhetoric, you know, we're not going to panic.
And it is important that we do achieve something as we get back into Washington in a few weeks. We have to show results. We have to get those results. And we have to find a way to work with the White House to get it done. Like, for instance, my own view is that we should, for the moment, put healthcare aside. It's not going to go anywhere. And let's put some quick points on the board that is good for the people like tax cuts.
And I would say not even go with tax reform, go with tax cuts to help middle-income people, to bring back money from overseas, repatriate the money, give small businesses and corporations tax cuts they can hire people. Then, you know, people would see results. And then go onto infrastructure. We need the jobs. We need the infrastructure improvements. And that's something we can work on. If the Democrats don't cooperate, they will look bad on that.
MACCALLUM: Yes. I want to put up a tweet that you sent out on August 17th. You said, "How long can Trump administration survive Bannon using race as a political issue and undermining the president and the cabinet on North Korea?" So, Steve Bannon is not an element inside the White House anymore, but he's made it quite clear that he wants to continue to be one from outside. How do you feel about that?
KING: Well, again, I have nothing personal against Steve Bannon. But I thought, first of all, he was undercutting in the White House. If he's outside the White House, he can't do the same damage. He can't be leaking. He can't be taking shots at -- behind the scenes at competitors in the White House which ends up hurting the president. So, his influence is definitely minimized. As far as the remark I made about race, that was in response to him saying that, you know, the more the Democrats raise race --
MACCALLUM: Yes. He said, bring it on.
KING: Nobody wants -- bring it on. The last thing we need is a heated debate over race. If you, obviously, discuss intelligently and rationally as soon, you know, division --
MACCALLUM: But Congressman, there's no rational conversation around this subject happening of substance. I mean, Chuck Todd over the weekend was talking about Antifa, and saying, basically, had a guest on and they were arguing that sometimes violence is necessary to fight what they see as rampant racism on your side of the aisle. I mean, that's where the conversation has moved here. So, what I'm not hearing from you is how you are going to fight back against that? What is the Republican strategy to correct what you see as a misinterpretation?
KING: Now, as far as race -- I mean, to make it clear that we, obviously - - we have nothing to do with any type of racism. And to go forward with our policies and show how our policies will help Black and White or help everybody in this country. And that Democrats, by using race, to me, they are trivializing racism as an issue. They are politicizing it and that, to me, is truly insulting to everyone who is genuinely concerned about Civil Rights and Human Rights to use race as a political issue. And that's just wrong. What Howard Dean said is absolutely disgraceful.
Chuck Todd, talking about -- if he said that, I didn't see the show yesterday, possible use of violence and Antifa, all of that. I mean, that to me is so far not just outside the American mainstream, it's outside the elements of the norms of democracy. We have a democracy so people can vote. Donald Trump won the last election. If Democrats feel that strong, then they can run against us in 2018 and 2020. But he is the president. And the Congress is there. Racism talk is wrong.
MACCALLUM: Congressman, thank you. For the record, it was Chuck Todd's guest that brought that up in a conversation.
KING: I'm sorry.
MACCALLUM: And it was quite stunning. No, I just wanted to make sure everybody is clear on that at home. Congressman, thank you so much. Good to see you as always, Pete King.
KING: Thank you, Martha. Thank you.
MACCALLUM: Still in the wake of Charlottesville, there is one thing that the president apparently got right in the eyes of the majority of Americans. A new NPR-PBS Marist poll says 62 percent of Americans feel that the monument should remain where they are, 27 percent want to see them removed. Here now to weigh in on everything that Congressman King and I spoke about and that as well, Washington Examiner columnist and pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson, and Richard Fowler, Fox News contributor and nationally syndicated radio host, Richard Fowler. Good to see both of you here.
RICHARD FOWLER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you, Martha.
MACCALLUM: This question that Peter King brings up -- and Kristen, let me start with you on this with regard to what's going to happen behind us in the capital when they return, is this becoming the political weapon that Democrats will use in the debate over things like tax reform, and healthcare, if it comes back, and infrastructure?
KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, WASHINGTON EXAMINIER: Well, certainly, I think this removes any possibility that you will see Democrats wanting to cooperate and try to find any kind of bipartisan agreement on things like tax reform. Ideally, we'd like to have policies that aren't just passed by one party, but now there is so much bad blood in Washington. And I think Democrats have really seized on this moment to say not only do we disagree with Republicans but many of them are bad people. They hold these racist views that we don't like. And you just can't work together in an environment like that.
MACCALLUM: It's so toxic, Richard. In terms of whether or not it's resonating in the nation, you know, you saw that number, 62 percent believe that they would -- they think the statue should remain where they are for a variety of reasons. And Charles Barkley just is one person who spoke out on this over the weekend, had this to say. And I want to get your thoughts on this, Richard.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES BARKLEY, FORMER NBA PLAYER: I've never thought about those statues a day in my life. I've never -- I think if you ask most black people to be honest, they ain't thought a day in their life about those stupid statues. We need to worry about getting our education. We need to stop killing each other. We need to try to find a way to have more economic opportunities and things like that. Don't waste -- those things are important and significant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Charles Barkley. I mean, it raises the question. These statues have been around through the entire Obama administration. They've been there for years. What provoked this sudden fixation on the statues?
FOWLER: Well, I mean, I think that's a good question. I think we as a nation reached a tipping point where I think there's been calls for these statues to be removed over time. And I think now we're at a critical mass where a lot of folks are speaking out, a lot of elected leaders are hearing from their constituencies and they're saying we want these statues taken down. I'll give you an example.
MACCALLUM: What produced the tipping point is my question? I mean, there's so much going on in this country and Charles Barkley talks about issues that confront so many people of education and divisiveness and murder, you know, and it almost seems that we're taking our eye off the ball of what the real issues are. We're putting it all into these statues as if taking them down is going to suddenly change things?
FOWLER: Let me stop you there. I think those things -- I think there are some mutual exclusivity there, right. The statues are one thing. A lot -- most of these were erected in many of these places during the Jim Crow south, and they were used for purposes of intimidation, right? And so, I think now there is a time in our country after having an African-American president where not only African-Americans but white people are saying, hey, listen, we think enough is enough. These statues must come down.
I'll give you a great example. A neighboring city to hear, Alexandria, right, which is a very, quote, unquote, liberal city, some would argue. And in their city they're saying, hey, listen, we want these statues taking down, they don't represent who we are as Alexandrian. And their city council is fighting and working with the governor to take down those statues. We saw the same thing in Charlottesville which led to the horrific scene we saw couple of weeks ago.
So I think that it's a very clear push in this country to take them down. I think that will happen over time. But I think that's different from what Charles Barkley is talking about. Yes, there's some work needs to be done in black community, but that is separate and apart from statues that exist. Who people who I call, and I'll call them again here on the show who are traitors, who defended on American activity. In 1860, when Abraham Lincoln became president it was very clear that we as a country made a turn to say we will no longer endorse the ideals of slavery. These individuals fought for slavery and they are traitors to America.
MACCALLUM: I guess I'm just curious why it has suddenly erupted into such an issue. But I just want to say, you know, in terms of Democrats -- Democrats are having a very tough time fundraising. And one of the questions that has brought up is, are they focused on the right things? And are the things that Democrats are yelling and screaming about here in Washington, really resonating across the country when you look at these numbers, Kristen?
ANDERSON: So if you're talking specifically about the confederate monuments, the polling does not actually show that most Americans are with the Democrats on this particular issue. When you look at a generic ballot question, who would you rather vote for in congress, Democrats are doing OK on that measure. So there's a lot of different signals that are being sent by the American people. They don't necessarily love what's going on here in Washington. They don't love either party in congress. And they're really looking for both parties to focus on the issues they care about.
MACCALLUM: It feels like there's one conversation that's happening here and something else going on in the country. We're going to be in Louisville this week. So we're looking forward to speaking with people at our town hall to find out what they're actually caring about, what matters to them in the face of all of these debates. Thank you, guys. Good see you both as always. So still ahead tonight, the Islamic militant suspected of driving a van through a crowded street in Barcelona is shot and killed by police. Find out why authorities say that his path of terror was far from over. Plus, a spectacle of celestial proportions as a total solar eclipse enthralls everyone in America on this summer August day. We're going to show you some of the incredible visuals -- we saw it from the roof top here today, all of that when we come back, and talk to a NASA official on the ground.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Wow, would you look at that. It's a total eclipse of the sun. It's going to go all the way across America. All the way across. And now it is in Oregon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: We are back with more of The Story from D.C. tonight. Here's some of the other stories that are making headlines today. After a four- day manhunt, the fugitive at the center of Thursday's deadly terror attack in Barcelona has been found and killed, 22-year-old Younes Abouyaaquoub was wearing a fake suicide belt toting a bag of knives and shouting, Allah is great, moments before being fatally shot by Spanish police. The Moroccan national is suspected of driving the van who plowed -- that plowed through Las Ramblas killing 13 people and wounding more than 120 others. Authorities believes that he is part of an extremist cell of 12 radical jihadists who intended to drive explosive packed vans through popular Spanish tourist sites including the famous Sagrada Familia Cathedral in the center of Barcelona.
Also told, for the first time in 38 years a total solar eclipse of the sun made historic coast-to-coast passage across mainland United States. It went 2600 miles in about 90 minutes. Millions of Americans got their glasses on, their shoeboxes all set up, to witness the moon's passage between the sun and the earth. We watched for reaction as we were told from nature. And look, these cows laid down in the middle of the totality. They thought maybe it was time to go to sleep. The eclipse even capturing the attention of President Trump, of course, and there is Barron Trump and the first lady Melania Trump got their glasses on and took a look at the celestial celebration from the White House balcony this afternoon as well. So my next guest was front and center from the eclipse path of totality. Joining me now is Dr. Jim Green, director of NASA's planetary science division, and one scientific thing we have not worked out is a little bit of audio delay and we have a bit of a gap. So, Dr. Jim Green, I'm going to let you tell us what you thought was significant about what we witnessed today.
JIM GREEN, NASA PLANETARY SCIENCE DIRECTOR: Well, Martha, it was absolutely spectacular. The weather report here was completely cloudless with two minutes of darkness. And as the moon moved in front of the sun, the corona peeked out. It was unbelievable. We saw ray structures, and we could just imagine as scientists how these rays of material flow out away from the sun and into the solar wind. Now, I'm a planetary scientist. And another thing I noticed is a few planets happened to peek out from behind that darkness. We could easily see Venus, Mars and Mercury off to the side. Now, in addition to just the excitement of experiencing the eclipse, NASA had a number of experiments going on. We flew experiments on a plane by testing instruments that we may fly later into space.
But in planetary terms, we also had a fabulous experiment that was a connected to balloons that we launched all along the path of totality. Fifty seven balloons went up to 100,000 feet. And on 30 of them, we put two coupons, like this, one full of bacteria, the other one full of bacteria we kept on the ground. But the one we attached to each of 30 balloons went up to this altitude of 100,000 feet. Why we did this is because that's the altitude that receives ultraviolet light, because it's above the ozone. It also was a very low temperature, 30, 40, 50 degrees below zero. And it's at the pressure of Mars, so it gets the ultraviolet light, the pressure and the temperature of mars. And that balloon then goes up to another 10 -- and then it pops and we receive it and go back and analyze the data.
MACCALLUM: It's fascinating. It's fascinating. Dr. Green, thank you so much. Thank you for the science lesson, great to see you tonight. So we are awaiting, as we have been talking about all afternoon and evening, a very big address tonight from President Trump. He will address the nation and explain to all of us his new strategy for the war in Afghanistan. It's already the longest conflicted in U.S. history. So can the president convince the nation that an increase in troops on the ground is what we need? We'll speak with three veterans of the war in Afghanistan on what the president needs to tell the people tonight, what their take is on what they have heard so far, army special forces veteran Ben Collins, former CIA officer Buck Sexton, army ranger veteran Robin Biro, all next.
MACCALLUM: So we are just about an hour away now from the president's speech. He will lay out his plan to win the longest war in U.S. history. So far, this year, 11 U.S. servicemen have been killed in that conflict, more than in all of last year already. More than 2400 have died since the war began. Thousands more have been wounded in these battles. So here now three veterans of the Afghan war, Ben Collins is an army Special Forces veteran, Buck Sexton is a nationally syndicated radio host who served in Afghanistan with the CIA, and Robin Biro is a Democratic strategist and army ranger veteran. Gentlemen, welcome. Thank you for your service in this fight, and it is great to have you here tonight to get your take on what we expect the president to talk about. So, Ben, in terms of the number of troops and the discussion of getting more cooperation from Pakistan and India, in particular, Pakistan, I mean, that's been a pretty tough road to hoe up until to this point. Why do you think President Trump believes he can get them to cooperate now?
BEN COLLINS, SPECIAL FORCES VETERAN: Well, Martha, I think the most important thing that the president actually has to address tonight is not so much the how of what this new policy is going to dictate, but it's the why. And I think the greatest thing that's been missing, at least for the last 15 years, is having a president that can look the American people in the eye and say, here is why this matters. Here is why we continue to be in Afghanistan, and why I'm going to authorize more troops to go.
I do think, however, as you stated that this is a regional problem. Afghanistan is a regional problem. It's going to require a regional solution. We have to address each one of those countries in total, what their individual security concerns are. And we've never really done that. We've always kind of abrogated policy to India, towards Pakistan, or one or the other. For the first time I think we might actually have the chance to address each one individually and address them total. So it is a regional solution. And I believe that's where he's going to go this time around.
MACCALLUM: Robin, there was a lot of criticism of President Obama for pulling out of Afghanistan, doing incrementalism, not listening to his generals on the ground, not even speaking with them all that much in terms of the communication. How do you see this president as different in his handling of this?
ROBIN BIRO, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: For one thing, Martha, he's very impulsive which is a concern for me as a former service member. You know, let me just point out an example. The morning that he sent out the tweet about the transgender ban, he said that he spoke with his generals and was going to make some policy changes, dot, dot, dot. Then we didn't find out until 8 minutes later that it was about a transgender ban. We were in the midst of very heated discussions with North Korea at that time, so all of us were waiting with baited breath. I'm just concerned about the level of impulsivity. I understand that he is the president and can do that and wants to get his message out timely, but when it comes to being commander- in-chief that requires some better guidance, some more -- he has just got to do a better job of actually vetting what he's going to say.
MACCALLUM: Buck Sexton, obviously, the CIA and Special Forces played a very big role in the beginning stages of the war in Afghanistan, the horse soldiers, the work that was done then. What role do you see for Special Forces, for CIA, in the president's new plan?
BUCK SEXTON, SYDICATED RADIO HOST: Well, they'll continue to play an enormously important role in counter terrorism operations against specific groups, the Taliban being one, of course, and also the Islamic state's course on franchise which is operating in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda. So that's going to continue no matter what. And I think that will actually be an even bigger focus of what the Trump administration will be looking to do here. Look, we should not mince words about this. The strategic position right now for the Taliban is it the strongest that it has been since 2001. The situation in Afghanistan on the ground right now is pretty dire. Depending on the estimate that you want to believe, it's either about a third or up to even as much as a half of the country is contested or held by the Taliban at this point in time. And that's after years and years of war.
That's after the Obama administration surge, which by the way, I think the biggest problem with the previous 8 years that we saw when it comes to Afghanistan is that a lot of the decision-making was done based upon domestic politics. The idea that you would surge troops and say there would also be a drawdown at the same time gave a timetable to the enemy. I think that was mostly driven by a desire to placate critics and also play to the base here at home instead of accomplishing strategic objectives which I think the Trump administration will realign, and I also think that they will increase some of the scope of air strikes and other important aspects of the U.S. force presence on the ground.
MACCALLUM: I just have about 30 seconds.
COLLINS: Martha, I would like to hop in here.
MACCALLUM: Hold on a second. I want to ask you about the blue on green violence that we have seen, Ben. A number of those 11 were killed by Afghan soldiers. So what's our level of confidence with the Afghan leadership that they're going to have our back in this arrangement if we increase our commitment here?
COLLINS: Well, look, I think to a certain extent that we have to recognize that within the -- certainly, the military leadership in Afghanistan, and the political leadership as well, you know, this hasn't always been merit- based. I mean, I think we recognize that corruption is rife throughout the entirety of the political hemisphere. It's also rife within the police and the different -- and the military organizations. You're absolutely right. I mean, we need to know that they're going to have our back and that they're going to trust us. You know, part of that is the vetting process that we have to put these soldiers, you know, through. I do have to say though, I think that we.
MACCALLUM: Very quickly.
COLLINS: . have such a political push to put the Afghans out front.
MACCALLUM: I've got to cut you off. I'm sorry, guys. I'm at a hard break. We're going to take a quick break and we'll be right back with more.
MACCALLUM: So tonight, we remember one of the greatest actor-comedians of all time, Jerry Lewis first gain fame in 1946 as part of the magical partnership of Martin and Lewis. Dean was the suave, debonair straight man to Lewis' zany boyish, hilarious antics. Here's one of the many moments that have America laughing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: When the stars make you drool just like a pasta fazool, that's amore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Thanks to Jerry Lewis who we lost at the age of 91. But don't go anywhere tonight, everybody. We're going to be here throughout the evening, complete coverage of the president address to the nation at 9:00. Tucker is up next. And I'll be back at 8:55 with Bret Baier for special coverage of the president speech, and then "Hannity" follows at 10:00 and a special edition of "The Five" at 11:00 p.m. tonight. We will see you here on Fox throughout the evening as the president gets ready to address the nation. Good night, everybody.
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