Pollster: Mueller and FBI face a crisis in public confidence

This is a rush transcript from "The Story," December 14, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, HOST: Breaking tonight, James Comey's actual draft of his statement exonerating Hillary Clinton and the clear effort to soften its tone. And also, a top former Clinton advisor now says that he believes, based on the news this week, that the Mueller investigation could ultimately lead to a constitutional crisis. Because his polling finds that most Americans do not believe what they are hearing about all of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: The FBI that I see is people, decent people, committed to the highest principles of integrity, and professionalism, and respect.

ROD ROSENSTEIN, U.S. DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I've spoken with thousands of department employees around the country. I remind them, justice is not only our name, justice is our mission.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: Mark Penn, Jason Chaffetz, and Juan Williams on the ongoing competence in crisis in the FBI. But first, National Correspondent Ed Henry, live at the White House tonight with the breaking news as we comb through this document that has just been released earlier this evening. Ed, tell us what you're learning.

ED HENRY, FOX NEWS CHANNEL CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Martha. Breaking tonight, we have previously heard about early drafts of James Comey's July 2016 public statement, exonerating Hillary Clinton in the e-mail investigation. But for the first time tonight, we're actually getting a close look at the actual changes in black-and-white, and it's not pretty for James Comey. It suggests major edits were made by FBI agent Peter Strzok and others to give Clinton a political assist and try, at least, to damage Republican Donald Trump.

Here's the timeline from Senate Homeland Security Chairman, Ron Johnson, who has gotten this information tonight:

May 2nd, 2016, Comey e-mail's a draft statement clearing Clinton of criminal wrongdoing to FBI Director Andrew McCabe and two others before the FBI has interviewed Clinton and other key witnesses.

May 6, 2016, FBI officials have changed proposed edits to Comey's statement and McCabe forwards that draft statement to other officials like, yes, Peter Strzok. Who he -- we later learned, sent all those pro-Clinton text messages.

Now, there were repeated edits, at least three times, the words "grossly negligent", taken out. Comey originally writing, "there is evidence to support a conclusion that Secretary Clinton and others used the server in a manner that was grossly negligent with respect to the handling of classified information." Changed for Comey to instead say this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: In addition, the draft statement had Comey saying similarly: "the sheer volume of information that was properly classified as secret at the time, it was discussed on e-mail -- that is excluding the up classified e- mails, supports an imprint of the participants were grossly negligent in their handling of that information." That changed dramatically again. More innocuously saying, "In addition to this highly sensitive information, we also found information that was properly classified as secret by the intel community at the time it was discussed on e-mail."

Now, another bit of information in this document dump tonight about the FBI's agreement to give immunity to key witnesses like Clinton Cheryl Mills. We are learning that Comey made a side agreement that requires the FBI to destroy evidence on electronic devices that were turned over to the agency. All this coming as a very powerful Republican, Senator Chuck Grassley, is demanding answers about those anti-Trump text messages -- exchange between Strzok and FBI colleague Lisa Page. In a new letter, to the deputy attorney general, Grassley demands to get to the bottom of the text from August 2016 that invokes a meeting in the office of the FBI Deputy Director, we mentioned, Andrew McCabe, that appears to go beyond just personal political views. Talks about having an insurance policy against a Trump presidency. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY, R-IOWA: There is a very good reason to suspect that people that were a very early involved in the investigation, and very deeply involved in it had biases against the president, and very much supporting and anticipating that Hillary Clinton would be president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: Now, in his defense, Comey has been on social media, cheering on, on the Robert Mueller investigation, try to almost taunt the president with post like this, just the other day: "Beautiful Long Island sound from Westport, Connecticut to paraphrase the Buddha, three things cannot be long hidden -- the sun, the moon, and the truth." I can tell you, I spoke to a top advisor to the president today who told me that they have been watching these posts from inside the White House. They think they've been a little weird, frankly, that's the word that was used, and they think that James Comey is afraid about the truth coming out -- not about the miller investigation, but about how he handled the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton, Martha.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: Ed, thank you very much. Ed Henry at the White House tonight. And Mark Penn is a pollster, he was a strategist and a pollster for Bill and Hillary Clinton. He wrote today that a majority of Americans believe that the Mueller team is biased and that there's a conflict of interest. Which he says, even in the Monica Lewinsky days, which he remembers quite well, was not the case in the country. He points out that given the president's approval numbers, many of those who say the Mueller team is biased don't even like the president.

Mark joins us tonight from Washington, he's also the author of the upcoming book "Micro Trends Squared". Mark, good evening, good to have you here tonight.

MARK PENN, POLLSTER AND FORMER STRATEGIST FOR BILL AND HILLARY CLINTON: Thank you.

MACCALLUM: You know, your numbers reveal a stunning reality that a lot of people, as I said, even people who don't like this president, are very suspicious of what's going on here.

PENN: Oh, absolutely. I think -- you see how long it's taken just to get this basic information that existed within the Justice Department that we learn tonight. 63 percent say that they think the FBI is resisting giving the kind of information that they should give. And now, 54 percent see that the cause of the friendship that the independent or special counsel has with Comey, he really has a conflict of interest.

MACCALLUM: So, you know, you also point out that the numbers that you have in the piece that you wrote today for the Hill, these were done before. Any of these text messages came out from Peter Strzok. What kind of impact do you think that will have on the numbers? And potentially, the look, the first actual look at this draft?

PENN: Well, that's right. We polled this, ending on December 11th, 2000 American voters. And I take a look at what's coming out now, I take a look at these text messages. Remember, there were 10,000 and it would take the FBI forever to go through them. And Fox News got them and went through them in three hours. I mean, it's pretty obvious here that these text messages are only going to pile on to this growing, I think, crisis in public confidence of an operation here with the new FBI director and special counsel that was supposed to provide more objective look at these things that were going on in our country -- and the opposite seems to be happening.

MACCALLUM: You also suggest that the dossier may have been peddled to the FBI, what do you mean by that?

PENN: Well, I think you see here. Meetings that were held with FBI officials, the wife of one of the FBI officials was, in fact, paid for. What I say in the pieces, look, theories that seem far-fetched two months ago that this dossier was paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democrats, peddled to the FBI and then used to start the whole Russia investigation even though it has tremendous amounts of, clearly, false information. I would have said that was preposterous. But now, as these facts emerge, the public is saying maybe this is true.

MACCALLUM: And just as you say, you know, many of the people that you polled are not fans of this president or his presidency and they feel this way. They watch this and say, you know what, this isn't fair. What happens now? I mean, what needs to happen now because then any outcome that's found by this panel isn't going to be trusted by the majority of people according to your numbers.

PENN: Well, that's right. There's a 40 percent in this country who are anti-Trump no matter what; 40 percent that are pro-Trump almost no matter what; and that middle 20 percent. When I see numbers like 63 percent, that means the middle 20 percent has real questions here. And that means these are not just partisan issues, these are issues that are going to have been settled in this country, and somebody who's an adult is going to have to stand up, say so, and clean this operation on. MACCALLUM: Who do you think that should be?

PENN: You know, either Sessions is going to have to do it or resign, or Rod Rosenstein, or Christopher Wray. One of those -- or they're going to have to empower one of these independent inspector generals with real subpoena power and tough, and tough rules to get an information quickly. Something's going to have to happen here because I don't think the current situation is tenable.

MACCALLUM: Stunning. Mark Penn, thank you very much. Good to have you here tonight.

PENN: Thank you.

MACCALLUM: So, joining me now is former House Oversight Chairman, Jason Chaffetz, he is a Fox News contributor; Juan Williams, Co-Host of "The Five" and a Fox News Political Analyst. Juan, pretty interesting coming from Mark Penn, that he believes that the American people do not have faith in this investigation.

JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS CHANNEL HOST AND POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think that what he said. I think he said that there's a swing vote there that has question and that people have questions, I think, in large part --

MACCALLUM: No, he said 63 percent of the people they polled believe the FBI has been resisting, providing information to Congress; 54 percent say they think the Special Counsel Robert Mueller has conflicts of interest that prevent him from doing an unbias job.

WILLIAMS: Right. So, what he said was 40 percent are pro-Trump, 40 percent anti-Trump. There's 20 percent in the middle. When you get up to those with 60 percent numbers, that means that those people in the middle have questions, and questions about the investigation, question at this point about Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel. And to my mind, there's nothing new here. Of course, they're going to have questions. There's an ongoing effort by the Trump administration and by their surrogates on Capitol Hill to raise questions about everything that would suggest the relationship between Russia and the Trump campaign.

MACCALLUM: Well, let me ask you as a Democrat and not a Trump supporter, are you starting to have questions about what's going on here?

WILLIAMS: No. I mean, to me, I saw yesterday Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General, says there's no reason. No reason to have any questions about the conduct of the investigations so far as it's been prosecuted by Robert Mueller. I see Christopher Wray, the FBI Director, a Trump appointee, Martha, say that the FBI remains an organization of hardworking, patriotic Americans with the highest level of integrity.

MACCALLUM: Mark Penn says that the American people don't believe --

WILLIAMS: Yes. Well, guess what, there's an assault by the Trump administration to call into question this investigation because they don't want to hear anything about it.

MACCALLUM: Jason.

JASON CHAFFETZ, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR AND FORMER HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIR: No. Look, you've got senior people, I think the House Judiciary Committee and in the Senate, who are drawing legitimate questions based on new documents. You know, they had two tactics, which could've got a document dump and put everything out there, but they've given us a stone wall. They won't provide witnesses, they won't provide documents, they won't provide the financial trail.

And then, when they see it, Director Comey's story starts to break down. He said, no reasonable prosecutor would ever prosecute this. But in his own words, he was going to be grossly negligent, and they probably would've done that.

The tarmac supposedly was the reason that the FBI was even doing this and making the statement in the first place. That story starts to totally break down. And to suggest, as Director Comey said, well, we didn't coordinate, we didn't talk to the Department of Justice at all.

In their own notes, they talk about communicating with the office of general counsel, which I'd have to check, but I believe is part of the Department of Justice. So, why are we supposed to just believe everything when we're starting to find a huge conflict of interest? And people, the guy's wife works for the very institution that they were looking at. She was a fact witness.

WILLIAMS: You mean, in Fusion GPS?

CHAFFETZ: Yes.

WILLIAMS: Well, let's go back to what you were talking because I find it so interesting. To me, we have news today as we just heard from Catherine Herridge, on the suggestion that while they changed the language from "grossly negligent" to "extreme the careless", to a lawyer, as it's been said many times because this has been previously reported, there's no difference.

CHAFFETZ: But there is. There's a legal difference. They had even interviewed 16 people.

WILLIAMS: There's a statute.

CHAFFETZ: There were 16 people they interviewed, and then they gave immunity -- Heather Samuelson and Cheryl Mills.

WILLIAMS: OK.

CHAFFETZ: Come on.

WILLIAMS: What?

CHAFFETZ: You can't come to a conclusion and start writing the draft when you haven't even interviewed --

WILLIAMS: They haven't found any evidence before the interview with Hillary Clinton and that's where they started. It was a draft, congressman, that's all. And once you get, you would say, oh, where's the hacking?

MACCALLUM: We got to leave it there, guys.

WILLIAMS: They're still -- they're still, as we sit here this evening, no evidence that her e-mail was ever hacked.

CHAFFETZ: They watered that down too.

WILLIAMS: No evidence.

MACCALLUM: No, in this document, James Comey says that it revealed that that was probably exposed to a foreign government, and that's part of the issue that was softened as well.

WILLIAMS: Probably --

CHAFFETZ: They watered it down by the person who's texting, saying, oh my gosh, we got to do everything we can to get an insurance policy to make sure that Donald Trump never gets in the White House. I think it's a legitimate question.

MACCALLUM: I find it fascinating that there's, you know, that these numbers show that people are losing confidence. And that, you have to as an American, and, you know, we're talking about the Monica Lewinsky case. He said back then, you know, Americans in these same polls did have confidence in it, and people need to have confidence.

WILLIAMS: I would agree.

MACCALLUM: That it's going to be fair because we're Americans. And you want to know that there is a just system to figure out whether or not someone is on the right side of the law. Thanks, you guys. Good to see you tonight.

WILLIAMS: You're welcome. Good to see you.

MACCALLUM: So, it is one of the holiest sites on Christmas. But this year, Nazareth will not be celebrating the birth of Jesus because of President Trump? That story is still to come.

And why U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, says that the missile is proof that Iran is violating the nuclear deal. General Jack Keane joins me in moments on what that means coming up.

Also, Paul Ryan's folks say he's not leaving yet. What a look at Ryan's future may hold. Larry Sabato listens to the crystal ball, what the impact of all of that on 2018 and the elections.

And President Trump makes good on another campaign promise as he cuts regulations and red tape. That's a lot of regulations in that pile. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: One, two, three.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MACCALLUM: So, the path for the GOP in 2018 is getting a little bit trickier, and now buzz that Paul Ryan may not stick around for that part of the story is all the talk tonight. The Ryan camp says he's not going anywhere, at least not yet. So, why is Ryan -- what's he seeing in the future? Who better to ask than Larry Sabato with the University of Virginia Center for Politics. He looked to the polls. He says, Democrats could gain up to 33 seats in the House in the 2018 race, and he joins us now with more of his thoughts on all of this. Larry, good to see you. Good evening.

LARRY SABATO, POLITICAL SCIENTIST AND ANALYST, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: Thank you, Martha, great to see you.

MACCALLUM: So, this is a conversation that is getting more traction these days. As people start to look towards 2018, they want to know what the likelihood is that Republicans could lose the House or potentially lose the Senate. What are you seeing in the crystal ball at this point?

SABATO: Well, I think Democrats would gain the house before they can the Senate. The Senate is much tougher because of the seats that are up. But in the House, Democrats need to flip net 24 seats. It doesn't sound like many in a House that's 435 members, but actually, it is because there are so few competitive districts. The districts have been drawn in most states in such a way that they're really not competitive. You don't really have contests that are even close. So, 24 seats, is a lot.

This is a midterm election next November 2018 in a Republican administration. Normally, that means the out of party picks up a certain number of seats, I would say right now, the Democrats have a very good chance at maybe 15, 16 seats -- they need 24. We'll see what happens in the coming year. You never know whether President Trump's popularity will go up or down or stay the same. But it's doable for the Democrats, it's an uphill climb but it's less uphill than it was. And they're hoping the trend continues.

MACCALLUM: Yes. I mean, I think, you know, what happened in Alabama this week has a lot of Democrats, sort of, feeling that their hand is strengthened somewhat by that, and they're becoming more optimistic about the prospects for 2018. But you look at the president, he's talking about this tax deal, and he thinks that's going to really help them out, they think the economy will continue to help him out. How do you see those factors playing in?

SABATO: Well, they all play in. There's no question that it's going to be a bit of all of that. I think what you have to look toward is the fact that the out-of-power-party -- and the Democrats are out power in the White House, and the House, and the Senate. The out-of-power-party tends to be energized at midterm elections, because they're A, B, C, D. Whatever has happened during the first two years of a presidential administration. And because they're energized, as we've seen in Alabama, as we've seen in Virginia, as we've seen actually in a couple of dozen state legislative and special congressional elections that have been held in 2017, Democrats are our doing themselves and turn out. That is, they're doing much better even if they lose the race, they're doing much better than you would expect them to do based on their normal performance in those state legislative or U.S. House district.

MACCALLUM: So, what -- just give me your rundown on the Senate races that you're watching the most closely that you think are the most perilous for the GOP right now.

SABATO: Republicans have to worry certainly about Nevada. Senator Heller, Dean Heller there, that's a shaky seat because Nevada's kind of leaning blue. Arizona is probably going to be a competitive state now that Senator Flake, the incumbent Republican has stepped down. We don't know who the nominees are yet, so we'll have to wait, but that could be competitive. Look, you can have several other seats potentially becoming competitive. Some people mentioned Tennessee, which to me is a stretch, but it's possible. Strange things happen in politics. Let's keep in mind that Democrats have 10 seats with Democratic Senators coming up in a state that President Trump carried sometimes by 25 percent point. So, you have to look at both sides of it.

MACCALLUM: Larry, thank you very much. An early look at the crystal ball --

SABATO: Thank you, Martha.

MACCALLUM: And we'll be talking to you a lot as we head closer to all of that toward the new year. Thanks, Larry, good to see you.

SABATO: Thanks. Thanks, Martha.

MACCALLUM: So, joining me now is Marc Thiessen's here, American Enterprise Institute Scholar and Fox News Contributor; Matt Bennett is Former Deputy Assistant to President Clinton and Co-Founder of the Third Way. Gentlemen, welcome, good to have both of you with us.

MARC THIESSEN, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR AND AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE SCHOLAR: Good to be with you, Martha.

MACCALLUM: You know, let's put up the women, the polls of women approval ratings for President Trump, because this is one of the areas that he's losing some traction. And approval number in September was at 36 percent, he's now at 24 percent, and his overall approval numbers go from about 32 to -- as high as 41 in some other polls that I've seen. Marc, what are your thoughts on what Larry just said in those numbers?

THIESSEN: I think it really depends on what happens in some of these Senate races. I mean, the reality is that Donald Trump doesn't have to have national approval ratings because there's no national election, there's no national Senate races. What matter in the key states that are up next year. And the fact is the Republicans, at least in the Senate, have a major advantage because there are ten Democrats running in states that Donald Trump won in 2016, including five that are running states that he won by double digits -- in some cases by 30 or 40 points. So, his approval ratings are very high in those states.

So, if he really takes it -- what needs to do in the next year is abandon the Steve Bannon kamikaze mission of going after Republican incumbents and weakening your own party. Which we just saw fail miserably in Alabama, where Steve Bannon managed to elect a Democrat in a state that hasn't elected a Democrat since 1992. And state focusing on, specifically on those five vulnerable Democrats, because if he can beat those five of several of those five, he's going to expand his Senate majority. Then, he won't have to worry about, about some of these defections like Marco Rubio today or John McCain on the Obamacare vote, because he'll have a cushion. That's what he needs to do. MACCALLUM: All right. I want to get your thoughts on that Matt, but first I want to play this little sound bite. Because today, the president was touting his achievements in terms of cutting through regulations in this country -- he's eliminated, I think, ten for every new one. And here he is cutting the ribbon earlier, and here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I am challenging my cabinet to find and remove every single unlawful and excessive regulation currently on the books. By ending excessive regulation, we are defending democracy and draining the swamp. Truly, we are draining the swamp.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: Matt, the president is betting that that message combined with the strong economy after this tax bill likely goes through -- there have been hiccups in it tonight -- is going to continue to fuel him through 2018, and that pocketbook is really what's going to matter for most people.

MATT BENNETT, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT CLINTON AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE THIRD WAY: Yes, good luck with that. I got two words on that event today: Al Gore. When I was working in the White House, we do an event just like that on the south lawn where we had a, you know, pallets full of regulations that Gore was cutting as part of his reinventing government. And it's not new, we did it. The things he's cutting, some of them are very, very popular like allowing people not default on student loans when they've been defrauded shady colleges. So, there are things that they're cutting into bone. He's not going to be able to save the Senate based on cutting regulations. I do think that --

MACCALLUM: Businesses like it an awful lot.

THIESSEN: Absolutely.

BENNETT: The businesses do, but the question is: do the voters? And I think that --

MACCALLUM: And businesses aren't voters?

BENNETT: Well, sure, some are --

THIESSEN: But you think voters who are employed.

BENNETT: No, I'm not saying that Democrats should run its business. My point is this, if look what happened, and particularly in the Virginia governor's race, where Ed Gillespie was unlike Roy Moore in Alabama -- a very strong candidate, a very smart guy, and a very savvy Republican -- try to kind of turn himself into a Trump clone and he got crushed in the state- wide race. That is going to happen all across the country and Republicans are really --

MACCALLUM: That's what they'll -- I mean, that's clearly what Democrats think right now. Marc?

THIESSEN: Yes. Well, you know, what he did today with the regulations is hugely important because it's a shot in the arm of the American economy. I mean, what you have to realize that the American -- we now have trillions of dollars in regulations that stifling economic growth in this country. That pile of regulations he showed great there, they're like that's thousands of little fusion threads holding down job creators, holding down businesses that are trying to create jobs. And Trump is snipping those threads and unleashing the American economy. If he combines that with a major tax cut, then the economy could be roaring next year, and then you're going to have a really hard time protecting those five Democrats.

MACCALLUM: And it's clearly something, as a businessman he has a good handle on, and he talks to tons of small business owners who are the majority of employers in this country. And they're small families, they run businesses, they have people that live in their communities who work for them, and they are very, very happy about the developments on all of that. Matt, thank you very much, Marc, good to see you guys as always. Have a good night.

THIESSEN: Good to see you.

BENNETT: Good to see you.

MACCALLUM: So, still ahead tonight, Ambassador Nikki Haley revealed some shocking new images of Iran's deep ties to terror outside of this country. So, what's going to happen now? General Jack Keane weighs in in a moment.

And you know what, "Star Wars" fans, tonight, the movie opens, but one galaxy character is being dragged into the #metoo movement -- not the actor, the character himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the moment I met you, all those years ago, not a day has gone by that I haven't thought of you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MACCALLUM: So today, for the first time, we saw some startling new evidence that the Obama administration's deal with Iran may indeed have been, as President Trump is characterized it, the worse we have ever seen. Ambassador Nikki Haley offered what she calls concrete proof that Iran is arming dangerous malicious and terror groups outside its borders in direct violation of the United Nations. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's hard to find a conflict or a terrorist group in the Middle East that does not have Iran's fingerprints all over it. These are the recovered pieces of a missile fired by militants from Yemen into Saudi Arabia. The missiles intended target was a civilian airport in Riyadh, through which tens of thousands of passengers travel each day.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MACCALLUM: So what happens now? General Jack Keane, retired four-star general, former army vice chief of staff, and Fox News senior strategic analysis joins us tonight. Good evening, general, good to see you.

JACK KEANE, FOX NEWS SENIOR STRATEGIC ANALYSIS: Good to be here, Martha.

MACCALLUM: So this is evidence that they have violated the U.N. resolutions under which this Iran deal exists, correct?

KEANE: Yeah, absolutely. You know, the tragedy of this, you mentioned in the introduction, is we wanted to put this on the table initially as part of the condition for having a nuclear deal with the Iranians. But the Iranians said no, we're not going to discuss any of this maligned behavior, any of this kind of aggression is not related to nuclear. So here we have Iran being totally exposed for providing short-range ballistic missiles, anti-tank weapons, patrol boats rigged for detonation, and also UAB's and - - all being used against Saudi Arabia who's an ally of the United States after they topple the friendly government in Yemen.

MACCALLUM: Yeah. I mean, this obviously puts us in a pretty tough position, so what do we do?

KEANE: Well, first of all, one of our problems we have is exposing it the way we're doing is good because I think it brings our allies closer to us in pushing back on Iran's malign behavior. As a matter of policy, the president has said he wants to push back on Iran, but we don't have a strategy with specifics to do that. As an example, Iran is trampling all over Syria. They about own the country. The institute of the study of war has declared that Iran has established a land bridge now from Iran through Iraq, through Syria to Lebanon. That is something we should never have permitted to happen. Iran is trampling all over our political interests in Iraq. They've got 150,000 Shia militia, Martha, some of whom are on the border with Syria and Iraq, but who have undue influence in Iraq. We should be pushing back on that. And we should also be taking a stand to help Saudi Arabia with the problem they have in Yemen. But we don't have any of those specifics.

MACCALLUM: I mean, you have long mapped and tracked the expansion of Iranian power throughout the Middle East, and it's clear that their goal is to take over and dominate the entire Middle East. And unless somebody pushes back on that, that's pretty much the road that they're on. So in order to do that, down the road, we may need a stronger defensive position. And I know you're very concerned about the budget issue that would be essential to President Trump's desire to increase our defenses.

KEANE: Yeah, absolutely. Listen, good news this week. The president signed into law the FY18 national defense authorization act which brings us close to a $700 billion budget, approximately $100 billion plus up over Obama's budget, which is a huge down payment in rebuilding the military. Problem is that the budget caps are still there and the appropriators have to pass legislation and they have to remove those budget caps or it doesn't -- we don't fund $700 billion, we fund $549 billion, and that means no, I say no, military plus up. That's got to be done in the next couple of weeks. And they need Democratic support to do it. I think they'll likely get it, Martha, because they'll probably work some deal with the Democrats to give them some increase in spending as well.

MACCALLUM: Important to watch. General Jack Keane, always good to see you, sir. Thank you very much.

KEANE: Good talking to you, Martha.

MACCALLUM: You, too. So no Christmas in Jerusalem this year? The Grinch seems to have surfaced in a very real way in a place where Jesus lived. Plus this question, sexual harassment in "Star Wars"? How the blockbuster franchise is now part of the #metoo movement, when we come back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "STAR WARS: EPISODE II")

HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN AS "ANAKIN SKYWALKER": You said it yourself.

NATALIE PORTMAN AS "PADME AMIDALA": Please don't look at me like that.

"SKYWALKER": Why not?

"AMIDALA": It makes me feel uncomfortable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MACCALLUM: So just hours from now, the latest "Star Wars" movie hits theaters nationwide. But one galaxy watcher said, I'll be in tongue and cheek, that Anakin Skywalker is actually a sexual predator who should have been removed from the Jedi workplace. So, is the Me Too Movement seeping into other pockets of our culture? Trace Gallagher live in a newsroom far, far away with the answers to this. Hi, Trace.

TRACE GALLAGHER, FOX NEWS: Hi, Martha. As many have pointed out, this isn't the first movie hero to sexually harass the heroin. For example, Dustin Hoffman character of Benjamin Braddock in "The Graduate" was clearly inappropriate with Katherine Ross' character, as well Sylvester Stallone's Rocky Balboa towards Talia Shire's Adrian, and it's hard to argue that Tom Hanks character, "You've got Mail," didn't cross the line with Meg Ryan's Kathleen Kelly. But now, writer Hayden Frye has penned an opinion piece in USA Today detailing why Anakin Skywalker should have been removed from the Jedi order for sexually harassing Padme Amidala in "Star Wars Episode II," or as Frye said, quote, "while this may have happened a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, it deserves to be called out now. Frye then goes on to list his reasons, including that Skywalker was assigned to protect her, but aggressively pursued her. And because her life is in danger, Amidala has no way to flee her predator. "

It's clear Hayden Frye is writing satire, or is it? Because the subject matter has been front and center for months, and because the Me Too Movement has proven to be so powerful, many readers took Frye's piece as is. On twitter post read, quoting, is this satire? Please say this is satire. To which, Hayden Frye responded, it's supposed to be funny, but many didn't think it was funny, quote, the worst excuse of satire I have ever read in life and, usually, I'm pretty good on picking this up. Or this quote, I cannot tell parody from seriousness anymore. And this tweet kind of sums up the conundrum, quoting again, the satire illuminates how the current moment affects 2018 romance. Stalkers are creepy. No one from the notebook is adorable and noteworthy for his dogged pursuit of love. Although, nobody appears to be arguing that Harvey Weinstein and others simply had their noble intentions misunderstood, and the moral of Hayden Frye's satirical op-ed might have a serious take away when he notes the Jedi council inability to remove a toxic misogynistic predator from its ranks ultimately brings about its downfall. Martha?

MACCALLUM: Trace Gallagher, awesome set up there. Thank you very much. Charlie Hurt, Washington Times columnist, and Richard Fowler, national syndicated radio host, both are Fox News contributors. Gentlemen, so I have a little test for you. Let's play the "Gone With the Wind" video.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "GONE WITH THE WIND")

CLARK GABLE AS "RHETT BUTLER": You turn me out while you chase Ashley Wilkes, you dreamed of Ashley Wilkes. This is one night you're not turning me out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: Rhett Butler, harasser or not, Charlie?

CHARLIE HURT, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Come on, you can't do this to me. I have to say no just out of solidarity with my people.

MACCALLUM: OK, Richard? Harasser or no?

RICHARD FOWLER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I have to be with Charlie on this one. It's fiction. I mean, think about the time and place and the era that it happened in, right?

MACCALLUM: Well.

FOWLER: And I think that paints everything.

MACCALLUM: And that raises a lot of questions. And I just want to show you one more clip. This is Moonstruck.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MOONSTRUCK")

NICHOLAS CAGE AS "RONNY CAMMARERI": I'm in love with you.

CHER AS "LORETTA CASTORINI": Snap out of it!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: Cher's character, whose name I can't remember, harasser, Charlie?

HURT: That's violence. That's unacceptable even in my household.

(LAUGHTER)

MACCALLUM: Richard?

FOWLER: Yeah. I mean, I think that is definitely violence. That's a little rough-and-tumble there.

MACCALLUM: I mean, all of this is not at all to minimize the real situations as Trace just pointed out with the Harvey Weinstein point that he made perfectly at the end of that piece. But I do think that what this writer is doing in this satire is saying, you know, we do have to figure out where the lines are drawn, you know, and are we going to get to a point where movies become triggers because we expect everyone to behave perfectly even in a movie. And that romance doesn't ever, you know, have elements to it that maybe something that some people may find questionable. I mean, we may might find ourselves in a very, sort of, sterilized situation when we go to the movies, when we talk, when we interact with each other, Charlie.

HURT: I think you're absolutely right about it. Although, I'm fully in favor of the idea that Hollywood might begin policing itself a little bit because they lecture us about whether it's the treatment of women, or they'll lecture us about violence, or they'll lecture us about guns, and then they produce all of these filthy movies that come out, and they're obviously some great movies in there. But they also produce a lot of filthy movies that promote all of this stuff. And I think it's kind of strange. The thing that I find really appalling right now is in the midst of all of this, we have that movie that is out that clearly celebrates an older man as a predator of a young, underage teen boy and already, this movie is being talked about for Oscar nominations and other awards.

MACCALLUM: Is this, call me by your name?

HURT: Yeah.

MACCALLUM: I haven't seen it.

HURT: I haven't either. And I would never go see it, but I find it kind of astonishing that in this environment that they would produce a movie like that.

MACCALLUM: Richard, what do you think about all that?

FOWLER: Well, I think Charlie brings up a good point, and I think it speaks to the point that I've said all along, and I think it's really important now more than ever that the next level as a next step for this Me Too campaign is has to be about education. How do we educate both older men, but also younger men and boys about how to treat women?

MACCALLUM: And women. Cher was pretty rough there.

FOWLER: And women at that rate, that's a good point, Martha. On how we operate in society because now you can't mimic the movies because mimicking the movies will get you fired, or get you in trouble, or will get you possibly in court. So we've got to have an education component here, or we could be creating a society where people mimic what they see on television or what they see in movies, and get themselves in really big trouble.

MACCALLUM: Well, the lines are going to be something that we have to work on for some time because you don't really want to live in a society where, you know, some of this is considered triggers and horrible behaviors that we have to eliminate if from movie -- I worry about that.

HURT: It all does comes down to basic human decency and treating people with respect.

MACCALLUM: Thank you, Charlie Hurt.

(CROSSTALK)

MACCALLUM: We just saw you on the other monitor on Dobbs, Charlie, so we're trying to figure out how you do that. You're everywhere.

(LAUGHTER)

MACCALLUM: Thanks, you guys. Good to see you both, have a great night. So Jesus' hometown is saying bah humbug. They canceled Christmas and they're blaming President Trump, we're going to tell you what that's all about when Pastor Robert Jeffress joins us, next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And now as the president of the United States, it's my tremendous honor to finally wish America and the world a very merry Christmas.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MACCALLUM: There you go. Today, the president and the first lady unveiled their official Christmas photo dress in black attire holding hands next to two snow-covered trees decked in bright gold lights. Remember, it was one of candidate Trump key campaign promises that we'll all going to say Merry Christmas again. But one place where they will not be saying Merry Christmas this year is Jesus' hometown of Nazareth. Local leaders are cancelling a number of the Christmas festivities. They blame President Trump for his decision to declare that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. They say that that has taken the joy out of all their celebrations, and it has annoyed the Palestinians. So joining us now, Pastor Robert Jeffress has met with the president couple of times this week, spent a fair amount of time with him and the first lady, and he's a Fox News contributor. Pastor, good to have you with us tonight.

ROBERT JEFFRESS, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks.

MACCALLUM: First of all, explain to us the irritation about the decision which is obvious -- obviously on the face of it, but this decision to remove the Christmas celebration from Nazareth is quite striking really when you think about it.

JEFFRESS: Well, really, Martha, this is a pretty good year for the Palestinians to skip celebrating Christmas because the historical account of the birth of Christ actually proves that the Palestinians are absolutely wrong and President Trump is absolutely right about Jerusalem. And here's why, in Luke's gospel it notes that Jesus was a descendant of King David. We know from history that David is the one who named Jerusalem as Israel capitals in 1,000 B.C. That's a full 1,100 years before the term Palestinians was invented by the Roman emperor Hadrian.

And you know, Tuesday night at the White House Christmas party, President Trump asked me to say a few words before I closed in prayer, and I thanked President Trump for having the guts to do what no other U.S. president has been willing to do and recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital. President Trump is not only on the right side of history, he's on the right side of God.

MACCALLUM: Obviously, there some backlash in Nazareth, which I guess as you say it set to be expected. They don't like the origin of the Christmas story and the Christmas tradition. So, let me just take a look at a pew poll that we also found interesting, and I think that people who believe that Christmas is a Christian holiday will find it a little bit disheartening. Those who believe it's a religious holiday that has declined by 5 percent. Those who think it's a cultural holiday is now up to 33 percent. I guess, you know, we have our own materialism to thank for that.

JEFFRESS: Well, I think so. Look, the tenancy of any culture that become more secular, and as that happens, unbelievers still in power to come out of the closet and share what they really believe or what they don't believe. But Martha, opinion polls don't change historical facts. The fact is, that we divide human history, we divide out calendars by the birth of Christ. Every time we type a right the year 2017 we're affirming it's been 2,017 years since the birth of the son of God.

MACCALLUM: Quickly, I mean, you know, what's your message this Christmas to Christians who really want to do keep Christ in Christmas and to the rest of the country?

JEFFRESS: Well, I would remind people that no matter what happened in the world, as the world gets darker and darker the light of the gospel of Jesus shines that's much more brightly. And we have so much to celebrate and that's what we can concentrate on this year.

MACCALLUM: Pastor, thank you very much. Good to see you as always. Quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MACCALLUM: That is our story for tonight. We love to hear from you. Send me a tweet @marthamaccallum, or you can email us at our new email address because some people like that better, thestory@foxnews.com, we love to hear from you. We'll see you back here tomorrow night at 7:00. Tucker Carlson in D.C., up next.



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.