This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," February 28, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Let's bring in our panel up top here: Matt Schlapp, contributor with The Hill; Amy Walter, national editor for the Cook Political Report; and Tom Bevan, Real Clear Politics co-founder and publisher.
Amy -- first to you. Hope Hicks, you know, it's hard to overstate her importance for this president -- candidate Trump and then President Trump, she has been there. I mean it's part communications director but part body man or body woman with the President.
AMY WALTER, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: She has literally been there by his side from the very beginning and a person that he trusted probably more than anybody who wasn't in his immediate family. So this is somebody in the inner, inner, innermost circle.
At the same time, I do -- I think that John's point that he made at the end there about the issue of saying that there are times that I have said white lies. I've never said anything that was outwardly false or a lie about the Russian investigation.
But your job as the White House communications director -- that's a pretty damaging piece of information to get out there that anything that is put out on the record by your White House communications director has to come through that filter of somebody who has admitted to saying things that aren't true at different times. So I do think that is a piece of it.
I also don't doubt --
BAIER: Let us be clear that White House communications director and press secretaries in the past have said things that are --
BAIER: -- clearly not accurate and not true but they haven't been quoted. Or the "New York Times" hasn't had a headline --
BAIER: -- that says Hope Hicks acknowledges she sometimes tells white lies for the President.
WALTER: At the same time, I also don't doubt that she is ready to go. Nobody can live at this level. I think most folks can make it a year or two at this pace and they are ready to go. Usually you see somebody leaving at the midterm. It's really hard to believe they can make it much longer.
BAIER: We should point out chief of staff John Kelly put out a statement as well. "When I became chief of staff I quickly realized what so many people have learned about Hope. She is strategic, poised and wise beyond her years. She became a trusted adviser and counselor and did a tremendous job overseeing the communications for the President's agenda including the passage of historic tax reform. She has served here country with great distinction. To say that she will be missed is an understatement."
Matt -- your thoughts on this and what it means for this White House.
MATT SCHLAPP, THE HILL: I think it is a big deal. I think it's a big piece of news. I think presidents put people around them who they're comfortable with, who they trust, who they have a relationship with.
And when someone who has this type of relationship leaves, it's hard for a president. Now, I think, once a little different about this president is I actually think it's not going to change that much when people who are very close to him go from inside the circle to outside the White House, he still obviously communicates with them regularly.
And I think -- I don't think her relationship will change that much but the physical proximity every morning starting off planning the day, responding -- you know, it's hard. It's hard for presidents when this happens.
BAIER: And White House communications job, a big one to fill. There is another person named Schlapp who is in that team -- Mercedes, we should point that out as you're here on the panel, who may have a bigger role now.
But it is a big job, especially for a White House under attack.
TOM BEVAN, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: It is a big job in some ways. You know, Trump is the communications director of his administration via his Twitter account.
But two things really. One is that -- I think regardless of what the White House says, the timing of this is bound to encourage speculation of the, you know, grist for the pundit and rumor mill about what really drove her to make the announcement. She's not leaving anytime soon. It's not like she is being run out of the building.
But to Matt's point Trump has lost another person. There are very few. In fact there's only one, Dan Scavino, the social media director who was part of his original team. He lost Keith Schiller, his body man. He lost -- he's lost a lot of folks that he really does trust to be in that building with him. And, you know, we will see how that plays out. But there are very few left outside of his family now inside the building with whom he has those sorts of bonds.
BAIER: I want to play, just moments ago, Senator Richard Burr was asked about Hope Hicks resigning. He obviously is the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BURR, R-N.C.: She really didn't provide for us any information on the investigation that we have. It may be that the House is investigating something different but we are looking at Russian collusion. And it doesn't fall into that --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: And basically, Amy -- both Democrats and Republicans said that she took privilege on a lot of the questions that have to do with her time in the White House. She answered questions about the transition but nine hours -- every question, every angle, every kind of combination up on Capitol Hill yesterday.
WALTER: Right. And there was -- you know, again, this is where we are at this point in politics in Washington. Democrats are going to be frustrated. Republicans are going to say she did the best of her ability. There was no possibility as Senator Burr said -- we didn't see any opportunity to say that this is about collusion.
I don't if that's -- that was certainly a big issue yesterday. But again, I think the bigger question as we move into the midterm elections and think about what's going to happen afterwards is who's going to be around the President in the second half of his first term.
Again there is normally a lot of turnover at that time but Presidents prepare for that. They know who the next team is going to be to take place. Now I don't think we have a lot of answers on which -- you know, sort of who is in that pipeline to come up -- not just for this job. But I think we are going to see a lot of turnover in much bigger jobs by then.
BAIER: But who is the Trump whisperer inside the White House now? I mean Hope Hicks clearly was one of those.
SCHLAPP: I don't know if that changes. I mean they have -- I've seen it, they have a very tight relationship. She is probably the number one staffer in many ways for the longest period of time -- worked for Ivanka before that. I don't see that relationship changing. I think he is going to reach out to her and talk to her on a regular basis.
I also think Donald -- when you get Donald Trump, his number one relationship is with his family. And he is going to continue to talk to them as well.
Many -- he has all these people he's known for a very long period of time throughout his business career. He is constantly reaching out to people and polling them and asking them and getting feedback. It's why it makes him an effective communicator because he is actually talking to people on a regular basis.
BAIER: It does come -- last thing here -- as there is this security clearance question -- Jared Kushner, the son-in-law, Donald Trump's son-in- law, senior advisor. We talked about it yesterday.
But there are many others, a few dozen, we are told who had security questions and maybe even a downgrade as far as clearance. So that is also happening at the same time. And there is a lot of things happening at this White House.
BEVAN: Yes. Look, I think John Kelly is trying to deal with the issue of security clearances sort of writ large inside the White House but the Jared Kushner security clearance issue is one that has garnered the most attention because of the portfolio that he has the proximity. Whether he can do his job without having the top-secret security clearance, I think that remains an open question.
But a lot of the speculation about I think his security clearance, we saw this "Washington Post" article the other day which I just thought was unnecessarily, you know, ominous about him being manipulated by -- I mean he is the son-in-law of the President of the United States. And certainly the President can grant him need to know authority for anything that he needs to do. So I think that's been a bit of a red herring, a bit too much made about that.
BAIER: Ok. Panel -- thank you for the early discussion. A lot of people in Middle America probably say this is Washington process but it is big news today for this White House.
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