Border wall battle fuels shutdown showdown

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This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," April 24, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


ATTORNEY GENERAL JEFF SESSIONS: Whenever the government shutdown, people blame the Republicans. But let me tell you. It will be the Democrats were shut this government down to block the funding of the wall.

HOUSE MINORITY LEADER NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF.: The Republicans have the votes in the house and Senate and White House to keep government open. The burden to keep it open is on the Republicans.

TREASURY SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN: The president is working hard to keep the government open and addressing various issues. The president is very determined that we can get to sustained economic growth of three percent.

WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY SEAN SPICER: We'll move forward on tax reform, health care, on immigration, on trade. It's been a hugely successful first 100 days.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: It's Monday. It's a busy week ahead as we get ready to close in 100 days, this arbitrary deadline, but it is a deadline of sorts. As you take a look at the President Trump campaign promises from candidate Trump, out of 55 individual promises candidate Trump made or he committed himself to action within the first 100 days of his presidency, as you can see, he's completed 18, made some progress on 11, failed to produce on 26.

And then you look at the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, 100 day accomplishments, a great deal/good amount, 42 percent. There you see not anything, nothing, not much, 56. But then you compare that to President Clinton, for example, 37, 63. So in this poll, President Trump is doing better than that.

Let's bring in our panel: Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist; Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Mollie, I guess the focus right now is the government funding towards the end of the week. And it seems like the border wall is going to be the issue as we close in on Friday.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: It's an interesting thing. Democrats have done a great job with obstruction thus far. They don't have a lot of power. They've done a really good job using whatever power they have to cause some problems for President Trump. And this is a not unwise strategy. But this is a very curious issue for them to obstruct on because I think in general while people might not want a literal wall, they definitely care about border security and enforcement. These are areas where there should be some negotiation that could please on all sides.

BAIER: Mara?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Yes, I agree with that. The wall as a big metaphor. I think if Donald Trump can get something in the government funding bill about border security, he can claim victory and the Democrats can say they didn't vote to fund the wall. He is already said he doesn't want a government shutdown. He's kind of already backed up the final negotiating position. If he really wanted the Democrats would do something, has to be willing to shut the government down in order to get it, but he's not. So I think this is going to be worked out in some way that both sides can say they won.

BAIER: Here is the attorney general and the House minority leader over the weekend on this issue.


SESSIONS: The Democrats are fighting a desperate rearguard effort to stop this barrier. They will talk about fixing the border again and again and again, but when the chips are down, they back off. Let me tell you, we are this close.

PELOSI: The president I think talking about the wall is expressing a sign of weakness. He is saying I can't control our borders. I have to build a wall.


BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: If you noticed in the sound bites, Sessions used the word "barrier." Pelosi used the word "wall." I think the Democrats have cleverly tried to label it a wall. Of course, Trump himself had called it a wall as a candidate, which I think doesn't help him. People have a visceral reaction to a great big wall. It looks ugly, looks like a prison. Whereas a barrier, people accept the notion of a barrier.

We have a triple redundancy barrier, meaning wires down in San Diego, which has had something like a 90 percent reduction in illegal immigration. The Israelis have what is part wall, part triple wire fence. People accept the barrier idea, but if you look at the polling on the wall, I think the Democrats have the advantage. I don't particularly understand why anybody would object to a barrier of any sort at the border, even if it is marginally effective.

But nonetheless, as a political issue, I don't think it's going to work very well, particularly since Trump has offered a $1 for $1 deal. Every dollar that the Democrats would allow to go to the wall he will contribute to keeping Obamacare alive. Obamacare has risen in the polls by about 10 percent. The wall remains unpopular. It's not a good deal.

I think in the end, particularly because Trump said again and again, absurdly, but he said it again and again that it wouldn't cost us a penny, that the Mexicans are going to pay for it. Here he is, he's going to shut down the government, or at least that's the way it will be portrayed, over something that he said the Mexicans would pay for and we wouldn't have to, that would be a comedown. I think in the end if he wants to prevent a shutdown of the government, he's going to have to give in on it.

BAIER: Short-term, though, Mara, the reality is we're likely to get another continuing resolution that continues this funding.

LIASSON: Very possible they are not going to get it together by Friday night. They will give themselves another week. But everything a party in this negotiation has said they do not want a government shutdown. That means nobody is willing to go to the wall, so to speak, for the wall. And that's not going to happen.

BAIER: All right, let's turn to health care. Everything we are hearing is that it's just not going to come together again for part two this week. But still, soon.

HEMINGWAY: There was some progress over the weekend as people got more information about the text of the legislation. We have also learned they are not going to go public with a vote until they actually have the votes, which seems like a wise course of action given the debacle of the last time. But I think there is still pressure to do it soon, just not this week.

BAIER: What do you make of all of this characterization of this 100 days and what we will see from Monday until the weekend?

HEMINGWAY: I think people want to see a legislative victory, because if you look at things other than legislation, this has actually been a pretty successful first 100 days for the president. He used executive orders wisely in terms of both putting forth his own ideas and rescinding some ideas that were unpopular with president Obama with the exception of the immigration issue. The Gorsuch nomination was everything, and it might be the only thing many of his voters cared about for his entire first term. You saw effective use of the Congressional review act. You saw some interesting moves in terms of foreign policy.

But there remains to be seen whether they can be any legislative action, whether this president could use his bully pulpit effectively. And that's why we will have to see how things go for the rest of the week.

BAIER: But he is going to push health care first before tax reform because he said he needs the $900 billion.

LIASSON: He says he's going to come out with some kind of parameters, guidelines, principles on Wednesday about tax reform. We have heard he wants a 15 percent rate for corporations, doesn't care if it adds to the deficit. What interesting to me is how artificial the 100-day deadline is. He knows it. But he has kind of fallen for this hook, line, and sinker, and is desperate to get good reviews about the 100 days.

BAIER: We heard a bit of a teaser from the treasury secretary today in the briefing room about tax reform.


MNUCHIN: Middle income tax cut, a priority of the president, simplification. The average American should be able to do their taxes on a large postcard. Business tax reform, we need to make business taxes competitive, and we expect with doing that we will bring back trillions of dollars from offshore. The tax plan will pay for itself with economic growth.


BAIER: This is the Holy Grail, when you talk to business leaders, this kind of equation, with more specifics, obviously, is what they are looking for.

KRAUTHAMMER: I think this is the single most important initiative, legislative initiative for the Trump presidency. I think health care reform is much more of a Congressional deal. It preceded Trump. But Trump is the one who ran on this. He ran as a businessman. And also this is his one chance, and I think it will be a good chance, to actually stimulate the economy, to get the three percent or near three percent. And that would make his presidency.

I think the whole 100 day thing is absurd. Does anybody remember what Obama accomplished in 100 days, or George W. or Clinton? Nobody remembers. All that matters is in your first term, and the key is going to be tax reform. If Trump has to answer on the first term, I think he simply says Gorsuch, Keystone, Dakota Access, deregulation, and around the world he's put the world on notice that America is back. It's willing to act. I think those are major achievements.

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