Chief of staff Kelly is in it for the long haul

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," July 31, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I've got no reason to be doing this other than my sense of service to the country. That's my number one motivation, always has been for my whole life.

It is the most important thing I've ever done in my life, because if the administration fails, if the president of the United States is uninformed one time and makes the wrong decision, that's on me. And those decisions at his level are so critical that people's lives obviously depend on it. So, I'm in for the long haul.


BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS HOST: Chief of Staff John Kelly here on 'Special Report.' Despite stories like these from "The New York Times," how long can John Kelly hang on, CBS News, may be on the way out. NBC News, basically he's leaving, and "The Wall Street Journal," as well as some reporting that we had here on Fox that he may be leaving, John Kelly is staying on according to the White House. The president asking him, one-year anniversary yesterday, tweeting out "Congratulations, but asking him to stay on 2020," and sources say he has said yes.

Let's start there with the panel, Jonah Goldberg, senior editor at "National Review," Mara Liasson, national political correspondent for National Public Radio, Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at "The Federalist," and because he's a good egg, we've got Greg.


BAIER: Co-host of "The Five," Greg Gutfeld, whose new book "Gutfeld Monologues," is out today. It's retribution.

GUTFELD: It was a good rhyme, Bret.

BAIER: Thank you, thank you very much. What happened to Dana?

GUTFELD: I don't know. No, no, I think the whole segment should be about what happened to Dana. Oh, my God.

BAIER: All right, let's get back to that in a second. John Kelly, Jonah, staying on, it's like heads are exploding in Washington. What has happened?

JONAH GOLDBERG, SENIOR EDITOR, "NATIONAL REVIEW": The rumor mill was very, very strong. The reporting seemed to be pretty clear about this. And I don't know. It seems to me that at the very minimum we can say that this kills the story for a little while.

But the president has said he has full faith and confidence in various other members of his cabinet who haven't endured much longer than that. I would still be surprised if John Kelly is actually there through 2020, but it seems like they wanted it to be the end of the story.

And John Kelly, my understanding is that John Kelly does not function like a normal chief of staff. Normally a chief of staff funnels the information and personnel who get to see, who get to the president. He's more like a senior advisor who does manage down, but doesn't manage up the way traditional chiefs of staff do. So it's interesting. I don't have a great theory about why this got a 180.

BAIER: Mara?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: First of all, if he does make it all the way to 2020, and we really have no idea if you will, that will be a very long time.

BAIER: That would be the longest.

LIASSON: I think John Kelly managed to bring some order and discipline to the White House, but the president doesn't want to be managed in the way a normal chief of staff -- a typical chief of staff would do. He likes free-wheeling conversations. He likes to talk to whoever he wants to whenever he wants to. So Kelly's efforts to kind of control the information flow to him, that's where he didn't succeed.

BAIER: But you know, Mollie, the president also likes to break up White House narratives or Washington narratives, like just say that's not true.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE FEDERALIST": We could not have had more anonymously sourced stories saying that this man was on his way out within hours or minutes or days. Certainly, he wouldn't last past the end of the summer. We had so much reporting saying that. So, at the very least this story, which also is sort of anonymously sourced but the White House is not knocking it down. They always knocked on those other stories, they always call them fake news. They are not doing that in this case. I do think that's significant.

But maybe the real lesson is that we should care less about palace intrigue and more about the actual policies that are coming out of this White House and the fact that there are people who support these policies that make it more effective.

BAIER: Greg?

GUTFELD: Mollie is absolutely right. The loser here is the person who keeps saying sources say, or in that sentence that begins with "We hear." Every time I read "We hear" or "sources say" I know it's wrong. And the great trick here, what Trump is doing is that the assumption is not just that John Kelly is going to be there through 2020, but so is Trump, because he's basically making you think past, OK, he's not going to be impeached. He's going to be around. So it's pretty cool.

And Kelly is part of that good cop, crazy cop framework like "Lethal Weapon" where Mel Gibson is Riggs and Kelly is what's his name, Murtaugh, the Danny Glover character, because it makes America feel good to see those guys in that office, to see Pompeo, to see Mattis, to see Bolton, and to see Kelly, because they kind of counter this impulsive rogue Mel Gibson- like president.

BAIER: So do we get a 'Special Report' monologue? Is that the second iteration of the book?


BAIER: Mara, I want to talk about the shutdown back and forth. Take a listen to this.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: It's completely concerning to us. It's consternation, I think frustration at this point as to why Congress won't do its job and pass meaningful immigration reform.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R—K.Y., SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I'm hoping we are going to be able to resolve this issue. We know it's important to him. Most Republicans including myself agree that we ought to fund the wall.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D—N.Y., SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Leader McConnell and I have had almost daily conversations about the appropriations bill, and we are making very good progress. The fly in the ointment here of course is the president. Whenever he gets involved he seems to mess it up.


BAIER: Now there seems to be this kind of walk back that he has told staff he is not talking about a shutdown before the midterms, but then tweets out I don't care about the political ramifications.

LIASSON: This is a threat he has made before about how he is willing to shut down the government in order to get what he wants, funding for the wall and other immigration measures. But this one was diluted pretty quickly. First of all, he said he didn't have a red line in terms of how much money he wanted for the wall. It wasn't clear whether he was talking about pre the election or afterwards. And Congress is actually passing appropriations bills for the first time, so he would have to veto a lot of them if he really wanted to shut down the government.

So Congress doesn't want to shut it down. I think he's trying to send a message to his base, I care so much about these immigration issues that I'm willing to do something drastic like shut down the government, but everybody I've talked to doesn't think it's going to happen.

BAIER: Does it move the needle electorally, Mollie?

HEMINGWAY: I think this is an issue where you are seeing huge division particularly on the Republican Party. You have the donor base that very much wants to continue the immigration policy as it has been. You have a voter base that has gotten rather sick and tired of continuing those things and not dealing with some of the systematic problems with our immigration policy. So it's hard to see how it plays out because you have a divided repair, the donors versus the voters.

BAIER: Speaking of the elections, the Koch brothers, now in the sights of President Trump. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because of new tariffs, our farmers' livelihoods are at risk, carmakers, factory workers, and manufacturers too. Farmers want trade, not aid. Tell the administration and Congress open markets and end tariffs.

RONNA MCDANIEL, REPRESENTATIVE NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR: They are ideologues. They are not just supporting Republicans. They are also supporting Democrats. We are not going to equivocate on who we are going to support. We are supporting Republicans, we're supporting majorities that are going to help this president pass his agenda.


BAIER: The president tweeting "The globalist Koch Brothers have become a total joke in real Republican circles, are against strong borders and powerful trade. I never sought their support because I don't need their money or bad ideas. They love my tax and regulation cuts, judicial picks, and more. I made them richer. Their network is highly overrated. I have beaten them at every turn. They want to protect their companies outside the U.S. from being taxed. I'm for America first and the American worker - - a puppet for no one. Two nice guys with bad ideas, make America great again!" Strong letter to follow, Jonah.

LIASSON: I was going to say that, strong letter to follow.

GOLDBERG: The simple fact is, first of all, the Koch network, 96 percent of the candidates that they backed in 2016 won their races. Seven out of eight senators they backed won their races. They are still a very effectual thing. A lot of this has to do with the data that the AFP, which is one of the offshoots of the Koch network, collects that they are not sharing.

But this idea that we heard even more stridently from Steve Bannon recently that the Kochs need to shut up and get with the program, the Kochs have been in favor of drug legalization, for criminal justice reform, they were against the Iraq War.

BAIER: They are libertarian.

GOLDBERG: They're libertarian and they have $40 billion apiece. I don't want to sound like Dana Perino, but there's a certain amount of screw you money that allows them to live up to their principles and their ideals in a way that is going to run crosswise. Of course, Ronna McDaniel should 100 percent support every Republican. She's the head of the Republican Party. But that's not the Koch network's job.

LIASSON: And they were very slow to embrace Donald Trump, but when he started doing things that they approved of like the tax cuts and deregulation, the judges, they liked that. But they have certain principles. Trade is one of them. And they have so far decided not to support Kevin Cramer in North Dakota.

GOLDBERG: My guess is a lot of donors in that network will end up supporting Cramer.

BAIER: Greg?

GUTFELD: I like the Koch brothers because they drive the left crazy. The left portrays them as these evil power demons. I think this is just a fight among parents. What's the best meal to have tonight? And the kids should just let it go. I don't think it's that big of a deal. His tweets are just getting longer, that's the real problem.


GUTFELD: They enlarged these tweets, and he still is going past the limit. That was like a short novel. Dana could teach him a thing.

BAIER: We are not going to talk about Dana in the next panel.


BAIER: Next up, it appears North Korea is still working on its weapons program, and Iran says, you know what, no thanks on talks.

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