2020 Democrats working to qualify for first Democratic presidential debate

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," May 9, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT: I have no idea what is going to happen. I did get last night a very beautiful letter from President Xi. Let's work together, let's see if we can get something done. But they renegotiated the deal. You can't do that. We've been losing $800 billion on trade, $800 billion. We are going to stop that, and we've already started.

GAO FENG, CHINESE COMMERCE MINISTRY: We oppose the unilateral increase of tariffs. There is no winner in a trade war. It does not serve the interests of China, the U.S., or the whole world.


BRET BAIER, HOST: A lot of anxious people, especially on the markets here in the U.S., globally, as you look at the Dow today. Concerns about really this, this meeting that's happening right now, just wrapping up, actually, the most important dinner in Washington tonight, what happens with the U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators.

The Chinese news agency is moving a story saying that the Chinese vice premier says China believes raising tariffs not a solution to U.S. China problems. He's been saying that. It doesn't give us any indication of what's happening behind closed doors. If we get it, we'll bring it to you.

But let's bring in our panel, start there, Charles Hurt, opinion editor for "The Washington Times," A.B. Stoddard, associate editor at Real Clear Politics, and Matthew Continetti, editor in chief of the "Washington Free Beacon." Matthew, it seems like President Trump is continuing to talk tough. It doesn't seem like the Chinese are refiguring things, at least not the indication we are getting at.

MATTHEW CONTINETTI, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "WASHINGTON FREE BEACON": I think there is a lot of focus on the stock market, Bret. But the fact is, there is more to this than the stock market. This is really a fight over who defines the 21st century, the United States or China. So we're in the midst of a trade war. It began a couple of years ago. But the trade war is just one component of a quickly emerging second cold war that has military dimensions, espionage dimensions, cyber dimensions, and ideological dimensions. So this fight is just getting started. It's nowhere near being concluded.

BAIER: Does the president on Capitol Hill, A.B., have the backing? Obviously, he has Chuck Schumer on his side.


BAIER: Yes, bedfellows. But does he have the backing of his own party?

STODDARD: Everything Matthew just said is true, and it's just a question of how long a game President Trump can play. The political pressures and the timing of this, if you've noticed, the Republicans on Capitol Hill about NAFTA in 2017 and about tariffs in 18 were pretty quiet in their discussions with the president. They waited about six months after the midterm elections, but started -- Senator Grassley, the Finance Committee Chairman, is starting to talk about pushing back on Section 232 authority, the way you impose tariffs and our national security criteria, the beginnings of more public rumblings.

Now they are about to lose it. So the timing is right when we thought the Chinese really were at the table, and then he threatened these new tariffs, now the deal really is falling apart. They are running out of time on the electoral calendar. The farmers are hurting. The retaliatory tariffs on steel and aluminum against us are so devastating to political constituencies for Republicans that I think unless he brings the Chinese back to the table, they are going to start to pushing loudly and publicly to roll back this deal on aluminum tariffs.

BAIER: We should point out, we are about five and a half hours away from the next tariffs, $200 billion on Chinese imports. And the president talks like, hey, the tariffs are working.

CHARLES HURT, OPINION EDITOR, "WASHINGTON TIMES": And if you read the statements from Chinese officials, they make it very clear that these things do hurt. And as bad as I think that they probably are, nobody likes tariffs, or if you like free markets, you don't like tariffs. But they are bad for China too. And I talk to farmers a lot about this. And A.B. is right, they are taking it in shorts right now. It is, across the country, it is an enormous pain for them.

But at the same time, the next thing they say is that they also do want better markets. And this is what got Donald Trump elected I think more than just about anything except for immigration. This is an important issue. And if Donald Trump can come up on the other end and make China squeal and get the concessions that Trump wants and a better trading environment, those farmers are going to be very happy in the long run.

BAIER: It's always good when we can have a panel that brings up taking it in the shorts. Thank you for that.

HURT: What's what I'm here for.

BAIER: We'll put it in the lower third. Speaking of that, Iran is doing the same with their economy. The president talking about Iran today, and the U.S. military and the tensions there. He was asked about it, if this is going to be a military engagement. He came back with this.


TRUMP: What I'd see with Iran, I'd like to see them call me. John Kerry speaks to them a lot. John Kerry tells them not to call. That's a violation of the Logan Act. And frankly, he should be prosecuted for that. He's been talking to Iran and has been, has many meetings and many phone calls, and he's telling them what to do.


BAIER: John Kerry, obviously the former secretary of state, former Democratic nominee. His office released a statement, "Everything President Trump said today is simply wrong, end of story. Secretary Kerry helped negotiate a nuclear agreement that worked to solve an intractable problem. The world supported it then, supports it still. We hope the president would focus on solving foreign policy problems for Americans instead of attacking his predecessors for theater."

Who is right here, Matthew?

CONTINETTI: I think there are concerns about some of the meetings that John Kerry may have had with the Iranian foreign minister and what exactly the content of those discussions were. Of course, this takes place in the context of Iran really struggling under the latest round of sanctions, the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization. And now Iran is threatening to exit the Iran deal and telling Europe that they are going to start spinning the centrifuges again if Europe doesn't play. That's nuclear blackmail, and it's exactly the reason why the United States left the deal a year ago this week.

BAIER: By the way, for anybody who doesn't know, the Logan Act, the definition, is any citizen of the United States wherever he may be who without authority of the United States directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof with the intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government of any other officer or agent thereof in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both." That's how it reads. It was mentioned about Michael Flynn, and the president mentions it now.

STODDARD: Yes, the Democrats accused Michael Flynn in the transition in December, of 2017 -- of 2016, I'm sorry -- of speaking with the Russians about the Obama administration sanctions policy and expelling diplomats.

BAIER: Although he was incoming national security advisor.

STODDARD: Right, but at the time he was accused by Democrats of violating the Logan Act. And so this is obviously there have been discussions, and they apparently, John Kerry has informed Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, about his discussions. I'm sure they are still a major irritant to the president.

But right now, if you look across the board, I think the great news is that Mr. Shanahan is going to be the secretary of defense. He has been nominated to be no longer acting after five months. We're in three wars and two potential other conflicts.

BAIER: Longest interim ever.

STODDARD: And that's really important that some civility comes there. There's reporting out of NBC today that there was a secret meeting at the CIA about Iran with John Bolton and General Dunford and Gina Haspel and Mike Pompeo. And we are not really sure with the White House's message that they've intentionally gotten out at his displeasure with John Bolton's stance on promises on Venezuela what the policy on Iran is right now. And I think the world is watching and are listening to these mixed signals. And the administration needs to find a way to speak with one voice and they are being accused by Democrats of provoking a war with Iran.

BAIER: You are chuckling over there.

STODDARD: He usually is.

HURT: Yes. But Donald Trump, he has a way, he likes to remind people who it was that got us in bed with Iran in the first place. That's why he brings up the thing about John Kerry. But he's always campaigning. And I think he always understands that Chinese and Iran, they are both wondering, OK, does this guy win reelection, or can we possibly wait him out? And I think instinctively he understands that he wants this to be part of the next campaign. And so he's campaigning on it right now.

BAIER: Part of the message allegedly about John Kerry and Joe Biden oversees is, hey, give us some time. Wait it out. It's going to be another Democratic president soon.

HURT: And if that's not a violation of the Logan Act, I don't know what is.

CONTINETTI: It's not our behavior that's being provocative. It is Iran's behavior in the region, and this new intelligence that came in. They are the ones that are implicating this.

STODDARD: I'm just saying, as he stands accused of provoking, and he and his officials like Bolton provoking the Iranians, I think they should have an answer about what their goal is. Is it regime change like it is in Venezuela? I think we should know soon.

BAIER: And we still don't know. This is going to be a lightning round in the next panel. We kind of went long on this one. But next up, 2020, Joe Biden veers left.



TRUMP: We've got some real beauties. Crazy Bernie. We have a choice between sleepy Joe and crazy Bernie.


TRUMP: And I'll take any of them. Let's just pick somebody please and let's start this thing.

JOE BIDEN, D-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The only thing that I'm going to be talking about in this campaign is not responding to his early morning tweets and the like, but just telling people who we are.


BAIER: President Trump going through an litany of candidates, including Buttigieg, as he said. This as the Democratic candidates re trying, all 22 of them, to get on the debate stage in June, the first debate.

The qualifications are as follows. As right now, these are the candidates who qualified with polls and donors. These are the DNC guidelines, 65,000 individual donors. These are ones who have qualified with polls as they stand, and the ones not yet qualified. So that'll be a big debate stage in June.

Meantime, a lot of focus on this health care question from Biden. Listen.


BIDEN: Anyone who is in a situation where they are in need of health care, regardless of whether they are documented or undocumented, we have an obligation to see that they are cared for.


BAIER: Here's the question. Matthew, was he saying emergency rooms for illegal immigrants? It was unclear. But then he started talking about clinics. So if he is talking about coverage, actual coverage for illegal immigrants, that's in a different place.

CONTINETTI: If it's coverage he's talking about, then we are in Bernie land. And this is the problem with Joe Biden, you don't actually know what he's going to say at any given time or what trouble he's going to cause by his words. He's doing very well now in the Democratic primary. The problem is in two weeks, the past two weeks, he's delivered two statements that are going to cost some real trouble in the general election. The first one was when he said that the people who have imprisoned a million Uighurs and are waging economic and political warfare against this country, the government of China, are good people. And the second gaffe came today when he left it open that he is for possible health insurance for illegal immigrants, which I am sure would be unpopular in a general election.

BAIER: A.B., is he trying to left? Obviously we heard from Amy Klobuchar last night, she's trying to play that center lane.

STODDARD: I think that there's a difference. First of all, I think she did very well. I think she was affable, accessible, she had an answer for everything, very senatorial. There's always a bill. But the audience responded. They were clapping throughout and really engaged with her, and I think she was her at her best. But no one is hungering for a moderate. The reason they're hungering for Biden is they think he's going to win and they're terrified.

So in the course of trying to keep his competition at bay and remain the front runner, he's definitely going to dip into left rabbit holes. And on immigration, the whole party is -- or the driving energy in the party is prioritizing immigrant rights in way that's totally out of step with the mainstream of the country.

BAIER: And that's their biggest --

STODDARD: And I think that is going to -- I don't know if it was accidental, but that is going to be --

BAIER: It could be the biggest Achilles' heel in the general.

HURT: Absolutely. All of this could come back in the general. And the conventional wisdom around here is that Biden is the perfect match up against Trump, but I think what we are seeing, we're being reminded. He is gaffe prone. He tries this folksy thing, but he's says a lot of stupid things. And while Donald Trump says things that shocks people around here, he's pretty good at staying on message and saying the same thing over and over and over again, and not giving up the field.

BAIER: We'll have a little time to talk about this Democratic field, I think. I think so.

When we come back -- panel, thank you -- making a lifelong dream come true.


BAIER: Finally tonight, a baseball team welcomes a special new member.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've pitched the ball some, but not like this.


BAIER: Ninety-five-year-old Ernest Thacker crossed an item off his bucket list on Tuesday. Thanks to the help of his caregivers, the World War II vet and former preacher was chosen to throw out the first pitch at the Cleveland Indians game. The tribe was missing two of its starters for the game. Thacker said he was prepared to stick around if the Indians needed his help. Cleveland could have used that help, losing two to nothing. But that World War II vet was the big winner, just days from the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Congratulations.

Thanks for inviting us into your home tonight. That's it for the “Special Report,” fair, balanced, and still unafraid.

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