Clinton and Trump spar over Russian relations

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," September 9, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility. Yes.

HILLARY CLINTON, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I wanted to present you with a little gift, which represents what President Obama and Vice President Biden and I have been saying and that is, we want to reset our relationship. We worked hard to get the right Russian word.


CLINTON: I got it wrong.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: That's President Obama talking about working after the election. He'll have more flexibility, and Hillary Clinton on the reset button.

Now word from Geneva that Secretary Kerry is working closely with his counterpart, Lavrov, and they've reached a deal on Syria that the U.S. and Russia can work together to strike ISIS forces on the ground in Syria. A ceasefire is set to start at sundown on Monday in Syria.

This, of course, as Donald Trump is coming under increasing criticism for praising Vladimir Putin and talking about working with Russia on that front as well.

Let's bring in our panel tonight: Steve Hayes, senior writer for the Weekly Standard; welcome, Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune columnist and member of the Tribune Editorial Board; Lisa Boothe, columnist with the Washington Examiner, and syndicated columnist, Charles Krauthammer.

Listen, there's a lot of focus on -- and criticism about Donald Trump and what he's said about Putin. The reason we ran those other clips is that the administration has obviously had their own issues in dealing with Russians.

STEVE HAYES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes, no question. I mean, it's important to note that what Donald Trump has said recently about Vladimir Putin has sort of benefited the comments on Vladimir Putin are not new.

This is something we've seen from Donald Trump now over the course of several months. I remember in an interview that he gave to Joe Scarborough in which he praised Vladimir Putin and Scarborough called him on his praise for Vladimir Putin, and reminded Trump that Putin routinely killed journalists and finally got him to back down on his praise.

I think it's untoward for the Republican nominee to be praising Vladimir Putin in this way. Having said that, if you look at the Obama administration's record with respect to Russia.

You report on this new deal, this diplomat breakthrough, supposedly on Syria, with Russia, it's just a couple of years ago that the Obama administration was promising that the United States and its international partners would isolate Russia, because of its aggression in the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine.

And those promises, those pledges from the Obama administration disappeared almost within weeks as the United States tried to forge diplomatic consensus on Syria. If you're not going to keep the promises, don't make the promises.

BAIER: Clarence, your thoughts?

CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Well, I agree. I think it's a serious situation for the Obama administration to the end, but a serious situation to the point that they've got to have cooperation in order to get any kind of progress. Although I'm surprised to hear about this breakthrough today.

I hope it holds. But there are still questions about Trump's own relationship, financial relationships with Russian businesspeople. His son has indicated they're rather extensive.

And until Mr. Trump releases his income tax returns, we're not going to know just how extensive. But, it makes me wonder, though, because he has a very -- he really likes Putin a lot for a guy who he's never actually talked to, as far as we know.

BAIER: Lisa, what about Clinton's attacks on this front? Today she said she wasn't surprised that he was on Russian television, but disappointed, that this is unseemly, and judging by her past and the reset button and the administration's efforts, does this work for Clinton on this front?

LISA BOOTHE, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, Hillary Clinton certainly has her own vulnerabilities in dealing with Russia, as you mentioned, the failed Russia reset. Also the fact that Bill Clinton gave a speech in Russia not too long ago, got $500,000 from the speech in a personal thank you phone call from Vladimir Putin himself.

She has her own weaknesses in regards to Russia. That is why Donald Trump should not be giving interviews to Larry King and to Russia today, because what it does is takes the focus away from Hillary Clinton and President Obama's failed policies.

And it feeds this fodder that she's putting out about this close relationship between Putin and Trump and so I think that sort of a bad move on his behalf because he's feeding the narrative and it's not a narrative that he should be feeding.

BAIER: Here's what Kellyanne Conway said this morning about this interview that ended up airing on RT, Russian Television.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: He actually did an interview with Larry King, a personal friend of his, and he said he was doing it for his podcast, didn't know it would be on Russian TV.


BAIER: Larry King put out a statement late today saying that his company, his show, rather, is produced and owned by Orra Media, and they're solely responsible for it and RT, the Russian -- RT America is one of several dozen companies licensed to run it. Still a problem for Trump?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, whether or not he knew where it was going to appear, I think, is irrelevant. It's the content of what he said. Look, four years ago, the Republicans nominated in a year when they could have, should have run against Obamacare, would have been their strongest issue.

And they nominated the one guy in the country who couldn't bring it up, because he created it in Massachusetts. This time, they have an opponent in Hillary who is clearly vulnerable on Russia. The reset was an embarrassment. It was clear at the beginning. It was hopelessly naive.

The Russians would take advantage of it. Putin has played Obama for a fool over the four years. Obama actually thinking even four years ago, as late as then, that he could deal with Putin, be a tough guy, after he's re- elected, on every front.

But the Republicans end up nominating the one guy who can't make this case, because of his repeated express administration for a guy who kills his political opponents, jails his opponents, the ones he doesn't kill, took over the press, controls it, and invades sovereign countries. So we have an issue that is no longer an issue that can be used.

BAIER: Meanwhile, North Korea tests what we believed to be its strongest nuclear weapon yet. I think we have a sound bite from Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump today on that issue. Maybe. Maybe not. Some days you don't. Some days, it's just everything doesn't come together.

KRAUTHAMMER: But basically, it was done in secret.

BAIER: Yes, it was done in secret. Basically, Trump says that this is the fourth of five nuclear tests and four of them happened under Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. Thoughts about this and the seriousness of this issue?

HAYES: Look, it's a very serious issue. We've seen North Korea with missile tests periodically over the past year, going back even further than that, but these nuclear tests are much more significant, obviously.

And if you want to criticize the Obama administration, criticize that approach, generally, you can point out that the same person, Wendy Sherman, who originally negotiated the agreed framework back in the 1990s, under President Clinton, which Hillary Clinton has embraced and touted as a model for diplomacy, was also responsible for the Iran deal.

This is what failed diplomacy looks like and Donald Trump ought to be hitting this I think in every speech he gives, in every conversation he has, from now until Election Day.

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