Gingrich: Trump has greater negotiating ability after speech; Sen. McConnell: Protests are as American as apple pie

This is a rush transcript from "The First 100 Days," March 1, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, SPECIAL REPORT WITH BRET BAIER HOST:  -- unafraid, unlike Isaiah.  Here's Martha.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, "THE FIRST 100 DAYS" ANCHOR:  Breaking tonight, President Trump widely seen as giving the best speech of his political career, galvanizing his own party and driving Democrats apart as they try to figure out whether to get on board a car or two of the Trump train or state right at the station.  So, what do they do next?  That is the right question that we ask tonight, day 41 of the first 100.

I am Martha MacCallum.  So President Trump's presidential speech has Democrats, as we said, dispersing a bit as they phrase it, they're kind of running into a buzz saw off criticism.  As you're going to see in just a moment.  But if they don't, they may be seen as holding the country back. It's these words that have them figuring out their next move.  Watch.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Democrats and Republicans should get together and unite for the good of our country.  True love for our people requires us to find common ground.  The time for trivial fights is behind us.  I am asking all members of congress to join me in dreaming big and bold and daring things for our country.


MACCALLUM:  So when the speech ended, most of the Democrats in the room quickly headed for the exits.  In moments, fair and balanced reaction from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Clinton advisor Neera Tanden. But first, Chief National Correspondent Ed Henry gives us up to speed on how the presidential speech played across the country today.  Good evening, Ed.

ED HENRY, FOX NEWS CHANNEL CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Martha, even some liberal commentators hailed this was one of the most effective speeches to a joint session of congress ever.  The Wall Street loved it so much that the Dow closed over 21,000 for the first time ever on optimism that President Trump could enact major reform on taxes and healthcare.  And even before the speech, there was a new Wall Street Journal NBC news poll showing the American people are bullish too.

40 percent saying the nation is now on the right track, compared to 18 percent who said that last summer.  Yet, there seem to be nothing but pessimism coming from some Democratic lawmakers who were rolling their eyes and overheard hissing, raising questions about whether they are ready to work with the new president.  And then many rushed out of the house chamber before the president even finished to give a series of very sour reactions.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, SENIOR UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM NEW YORK:  The speech and reality have never been more detached than a presidential speech.  It really doesn't matter what he said.  This is like the campaign and he says one thing but as he governs it's another.

TOM PEREZ, CHAIR OF THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE:  I mean, this was Steve Bannon on steroids with a smile.  And then, you close it up with a bunch of promises that you'll never keep.

NANCY PELOSI, MINORITY LEADER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:  Well, I was very proud of the dignity with which our members listen to a speech which clearly was a bait and switch.  We're legislators.  So you want to talk, show us your proposal and we'll go from there.

HENRY:  Now, to be sure, this was a speech very light on specifics, so there will be criticism about that.  But contrast those reactions to what was said last night by Van Jones anti-Trump liberal commentator on CNN, he praise on the commander-in-chief saying when he honored the widow of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens he became president in that moment.  Yet a former volunteer for Hillary Clinton actually went on Twitter to slam Karen Owens, who received that moving and sustained standing ovation.

Former Clinton campaign volunteer Dan Grilo tweeting, "sorry, Owen's wife, you're not helping yourself or your husband's memory by standing there and clapping like an idiot.  Trump just used you."  Grilo apologized but he has now deleted his Twitter account and lost his job with the Chicago-based company.  Martha?

MACCALLUM:  Yes.  Yes, he did.  All right.  Ed, thank you.  So here with her take on how Democrats should respond, Neera Tanden, former advisor to Hillary Clinton and president of the Center for American Progress.  Neera, good evening.  Good to have you with us tonight.


MACCALLUM:  So your thoughts on all of that?

TANDEN:  Look, I actually think that the most important issue for all of us to judge us what happens now.  The rhetoric is really important, it's important to hear what the president had to say, but the reality is, we -- the test of this will be what the proposals are.  I think that's just really the reality of our people.  Number one, the president talked about healthcare, reducing healthcare costs, making it affordable for people, and ensuring people are covered.

And then then, today, we find out that Paul Ryan has a secret proposal only Republicans can see it in the basement of the house.  It's going to be unveiled tomorrow but only for Republicans.  And according to reports, it will keep millions of people, it will raise cost for millions of people and drop coverage for millions of people.  So, I think the real question here is whether congress is going to meet that rhetoric with actual reality.

MACCALLUM:  So, you know, I mean, in terms of Obamacare, which actually the president did lay out some specifics a little bit last night and talking about how he wants to approach that and there is this plan that had, you know, has been talked about in terms of tax subsidies and whether or not, you know, there will be an outlay of money or whether or not it will come in the form of a tax credit and to help people buy their own insurance on, you know, across state lines, all of that.  We heard of that last night. You know, in terms of the secretive nature of it, you know, I mean, there's a lot of proposals that get put together in people's offices in congress and then, they share them as part of that process.

TANDEN:  Yes.  Usually with Republicans and Democrats on the public and (INAUDIBLE)

MACCALLUM:  Well, there's no -- I mean, obviously, they have to show it to Democrats if they want them to vote it.  But my question for you is, do you think that Democrats last night and what should their response be?  Should the other things like infrastructure, like the child care bill that he talked about, where it would help Democrats for their own electoral future if they came forward and work with a bit?  And what are they?

TANDEN:  I think the question is, what these proposals are.  So, we had just in the last 24 hours, the White House say that it wanted to do an immigration bill and then it turns out that that's a bait and switch, which the White House itself is saying was a "misdirection."  It creates a situation where you can't really take what people say at face value. That's why you have to evaluate proposals.


MACCALLUM:  Well, I've been hearing bait and switch, bait and switch, I heard it from Nancy Pelosi, I just heard it from you, I mean, you know, the proposals are about to come out.  You know, when you look at them then you can decide what you think of them.

TANDEN:  Exactly right.  Exactly, right.  I agree with you.

MACCALLUM:  My question is this, are you willing to discuss immigration? Well, I don't know what you're laughing about.  Are you willing to discuss immigration?  That was my question to you.  On what topics are you willing to come forward and may be meet him somewhere along the road?

TANDEN:  Look, on infrastructure, that's a great example.  Democrats have already put forward in infrastructure bill.  Chuck Schumer put -- had a proposal a month ago on infrastructure.  It's a billion dollars.

MACCALLUM:  So you think they can get together on infrastructure, that is one thing.

TANDEN:  I'm not saying -- I don't know if they can get together because I'm waiting to see what the policy --

MACCALLUM:  Do you want to fix roads and bridges and that kind of thing in the country?

TANDEN:  Absolutely.  And the question is, do Republicans?


TANDEN:  Because they have to see what that proposal is.

MACCALLUM:  So, I mean, that would be something that you think that they could work together on perhaps?

TANDEN:  I, you know, I hope we can work together on a whole range of proposals.  The challenge we've had so far is that there has been a great rhetoric out there and the reality has been different.  I mean, I'm sorry that's true.  I think it is too bad that -- I think it's unfortunate that the Trump administration will say things like we want to cover everyone and then -- and then you see Republican proposal, it's not just any Republican proposal, it's Speaker Ryan's proposal, which will mean millions of people will lose coverage.  So I don't know why that --

MACCALLUM:  Well, I don't -- you said you haven't seen it, that was a secret thing in the basement, but now you are commenting on the specifics of it.  So I don't know which is the truth.

TANDEN:  It's been reported, there was a draft out last week.

MACCALLUM:  Ok.  So, it's not so secret.  Neera, thank you.

TANDEN:  There's a new draft tomorrow.

MACCALLUM:  Which one is it?  I'm not sure.  Thank you very much.

TANDEN:  There's a new draft tomorrow.

MACCALLUM:  All right.  Well, we'll look at it and look forward to hearing more about what you think about it.

TANDEN:  I hope we can all see it.

MACCALLUM:  I think all Americans want both sides to, you know, kind of at least have some language that says that they would be able to get together on some of these topics.  So, we're going to go from there.  My next guest has a brand-new opinion piece that is going up right now on on what he calls President Trump's best speech.  Joining me now, Former Speaker of The House, Newt Gingrich.  Good evening Newt.  Good to see you tonight.


MACCALLUM:  So tell me a little bit about your reaction.    I read your piece.

GINGRICH:  I can hear you.  Yes.

MACCALLUM:  I think we're having much trouble.  One more time.


MACCALLUM:  Can you hear me, Speaker Gingrich?  Do you have me?

GINGRICH:  We all hate it when this happens.  All right.  So, let's move forward here.  And so you guys -- what do you want to do?  Do you want to go to a break or you want to see if we can get Newt together?   All right. So -- all right.  So President Trump courted controversy when he talked about fighting ISIS.  Tucker Carlson is here on the fallout but we're going to get back to Newt Gingrich if we can get that audio fixed in just a moment.

Also, the incredibly powerful moment that everyone was talking about today from last night speech.  The widow of a Navy SEAL honored by President Trump and congress with a standing ovation that went on for about two minutes.  Some people actually slammed that moment.  Go figure.  Taya Kyle is here, widow of American sniper Chris Kyle is here.  We'll talk to her about that.  Tucker Carlson joins as soon as well, coming up next.

TRUMP:  Ryan laid down his life or his friends, for his country, and for our freedom.  And we will never forget Ryan.


MACCALLUM:  So President Trump's address to congress garnering praise from both sides of the isle as his best speech yet.  With my next guest, pending a new opinion piece on why that is.  And we are back again Newt Gingrich, Former Speaker of the House.  Good to have you here tonight, Speaker. Welcome.

GINGRICH:  Well, I'm glad we can -- we can hear each other.

MACCALLUM:  I'm glad we can hear each other too.  So, you wrote a great piece on this on and you talked about the moment you were -- you and your wife goes to run the Democratic side of the house and you sort of watched things changing as the speech went on.  Explain that.

GINGRICH:  Well, I think initially, the Democrats were very stiff, they were very -- they were there because they had to be.  But gradually, more and more of them applauded.  And key moments, a number of them gave a standing ovation.  And of course, when he honored the fallen SEAL and his widow, everybody -- virtually everybody -- I think maybe two or three Democrats didn't stand.  Everybody else did.  And interestingly, as you pointed out earlier, infrastructure was a big winner.

A lot of Democrats from districts that need bridges, need highways, need other kind of infrastructure.  And I would not be at all surprised to see President Trump get up to a third of the Democratic caucus voting for an infrastructure bill if they work it right.

MACCALLUM:  All right.  We'll see.  I also note that you talk about how you believed you watched him sort of learn and grow in office.  And I do think he went a long way last night with Republicans as well who feel that, you know, things didn't get off on the most solid of footing in the first month.  And they were a bit reassured last night, were they not?

GINGRICH:  Oh, I think so.  This is the best speech that President Trump has given either as a candidate or as president.  It was clear, it was powerful, it was disciplined.  He stuck to the teleprompter.  He looked and felt like a president, like a national leader.  And I think that he has more prestige today, greater ability to negotiate with congress today, then he did yesterday morning.

MACCALLUM:   I know you speak with him, what do you think has changed?  You know, when you say he's learned and grown in the office, what do you mean?

GINGRICH:  Well, I try to tell everybody who asks about this, he is one of the three or four smartest people ever to be president.  And people confuse the fact that he had a lot to learn because he hadn't been pole politics before with the speed with which he's learning.  He I think has learned a great deal about how to communicate with the country.  He's learned a lot about bringing us together.  I was very pleased that he open the entire speech talking about black history month, talking about civil rights, condemning anti-Semitism, condemning the hate crimes in Kansas City.

Those -- that was the opening of a national leader who cared about the country and who was sending some pretty strong signals about what was not acceptable in America.  And I think in that sense, with every passing week, he becomes more aware of the country, more aware of the responsibility he has as president.  And he gets a little bit better at it every week.  And I think a year from now we're going to see really a very remarkable president.

MACCALLUM:  Talk to me about the Democrats' response because it's been sort of all over the place today.  It's as if they're, you know, sort of trying to deal with -- when President Trump tweets things that are, you know, not really that on target or that have a misspelling in them or whatever the issue is, that's easy for Democrats, you know, and it's sort of has set him in a -- in a light that -- it's easy for them to criticize.  Last night made it a little tougher on all of them.  How did -- what's the dynamic? How do they reposition now?

GINGRICH:  Look, it made it a lot tougher.  I mean, the president -- President Trump gets up and says, I'm for American jobs and the Democrats don't applaud.  I mean, how can you not applaud American jobs? Forget, you know, President Trump and he go into a series of these setups where if you were watching it on television, you're seeing this whole block of people who are not responding to the most obvious --


MACCALLUM:  I thought it was particularly interesting when he said, you know, you can't lobby for five years and half the room didn't get up because they're really disappointed that they couldn't start lobbying for five years.  All right.

GINGRICH:  Plus -- I mean, but he opens up by talking about frankly helping women in science, helping women as entrepreneurs, you would've thought the Democrats would have been thrilled at that kind of language and that (INAUDIBLE)

MACCALLUM:  Newt Gingrich, thank you.  I'm sorry we had an audio problem earlier but I'm glad you stuck around. Good to see you as always.  So, we also have new fallout tonight from the most powerful moment of the president's speech which Newt Gingrich was just discussing, that moment came when he honored the life of Navy SEAL William Ryan Owens who died last month in a terrorist -- terrorism raid in Yemen.  He paid tribute to Ryan and to his widowed wife, Carryn.  Watch.


TRUMP:  We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of U.S. NAVY Special Operator, Senior Chief William Ryan Owens.  Ryan died as he lived, a warrior and a hero, battling against terrorism, and securing our nation.

The bible teaches us there is no greater act of love than to lay down one's life for one's friends.  Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom, and we will never forget Ryan.


MACCALLUM:  A very big moment, very powerful for everybody in the room and everybody watching.  Most people -- a lot of the president's tribute there. There were some critics, though, including documentary filmmaker Michael Moore who blasted that moment.  Watch.


MICHAEL MOORE. AMERICAN DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER AND AUTHOR:  She is there as a -- as a sort of an F-you to the people who are criticizing him for this. And this poor woman, this widow, who has lost her husband, she is in desperate grief right now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNC HARDBALL HOST:  She's in love with her husband still.

MOORE:  And in love with her husband.  And to use that, to put another notch on his belt and what he's thinking about?  My ratings.

MATTHEWS:  And how many --

MOORE:  Record applause.  Record -- I'm going to get an Emmy for this. Most applause for a dead soldier on my watch.  I mean, this is the sickness of this man.


MACCALLUM:  Taya Kyle joins we now, widow of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and a Fox News contributor.  Taya, good evening.  Your reaction of all of this.


MACCALLUM:  Good to have you here.  What do you think about Michael Moore had to say?

KYLE:  Oh, Hey, Martha, you know, man, I'm just listening to those clips, I have this myriad of emotions going through me.  I can tell you that when I hear the applause and I hear the words being spoken about Ryan, I'm not thinking about politics in the slightest.  What I'm thinking is that my heart is pounding and I have chills because it is truth.  Because this is a silent professional and his intensely private family, who gave everything. They never wanted recognition.

And if somebody now that he is gone wants to get up and thank him for his sacrifice, for his service, to tell the world his name, to tell the world he is out there serving, then god bless them.  And you know what, for his beautiful wife to get up there, she's so private, for her to get up there and say, I'm going to do this because I love my husband and because he is worthy of this praise, he deserves this recognition, and for once, he doesn't have to be a silent person.

For her to stand up and receive that for him is beautiful.  You know, you ask about my feelings on what Michael Moore said, it makes me sick to my stomach, it makes me angry because he is saying two things when says that to me that A, she is a fool and doesn't know she's being used and that's ridiculous.  It couldn't be farther from the truth.  And it's also saying that this wasn't warranted.  And then in some way, this has to always be political.  I get the ideas that it would be nice to say everything is a political ploy.

It totally negates though the meaning behind this.  And the meaning of it for all the people watching who cried with her is that some valiant people are out there fighting, not for Republicans, not for Democrats, they're fighting for this country and god bless them for doing it.

MACCALLUM:  Yes.  You know, it struck me so strongly.  You share so much with Carryn, so you understand how she feels, having lost to lost your husband as well.  But when he said this poor woman, I thought to myself, there's nothing poor about her.  She's incredibly strong.  And she is standing up there just -- you can see her breathing through, just trying not to cry and taking in that a moment for him, for her husband.  And for him, for Michael Moore to judge her and basically suggest that she didn't understand that she is a pawn in this game, I just -- I find it so reprehensible.  What would you say to Carryn about that?  Like, you know, what would you say to her?

KYLE:  Oh, I just feel like I know her already.  You know, we have a lot of friends in common.  And I understand that intensely private feeling, and I understand taking the courage to get out and say, you know what, this is not about me and it's not about my need for privacy, what this is about is my husband who she's always going to love.  You can see her looking up to the sky.  I can't tell you how much I can relate to that because she is looking for him, she is saying , this is not about me, babe, this is about you.

And I'm proud of you and you deserve recognition even though you never wanted it.  I get what she's saying and I could not agree with you more and I think that, you know, a lot of people at home watching feel the same way. He is a hero and she is strong.  She is anything but a poor woman or a poor widow.  She has more strength in her little finger than most people would have in their lifetime.  She's lived a life where she had to be strong and this is another step in her journey of being stronger than she wants to be.

MACCALLUM:  As usual, you nailed it in every way.  Taya Kyle, thank you for being here and expressing your feelings about this better than anyone could.  Thank you, Taya.  Good to see you.

KYLE:  Yes.  Thank you for having me.  Good to see you too.  Thanks.

MACCALLUM:  So, tonight from Republican lawmakers are cracking down on what they call a justice department slush fund reportedly used to finance left -- politically left groups.  Governor Mike Huckabee has looked into this. He's going to tell us why he, having looked at this, believes that somebody deserves to be in jail for this.  Plus, President Trump use one phrase last night that always prompt intense criticism from Democrats.

So was saying these three words a good idea?  Tucker Carlson here with his always unique take, straight ahead after the break.


MACCALLUM:  There's new reaction tonight to three words that were said just once in President Trump's speech.  Radical, Islamic, terror.  The moment it stands in stark contrast to any speech from President Obama, who consciously avoided that phrase.  But President Trump went there and the speech last night.  Here is that moment.


Our obligation is to serve, protect, and defend the citizens of the United States.  We are also taking strong measures to protect our nation from radical Islamic terrorism.


MACCALLUM:  Republicans were on their feet in that moment.  Former Obama Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes who wrote the infamous Benghazi talking points email was none too pleased with President Trump's tough talk, taking to Twitter, Rhodes argued what was accomplished by declaring war on radical Islamic terrorism, just alienating Muslim allies who we need and emboldening terrorists.  Joining me now, host of Tucker Carlson tonight, Mr. Tucker Carlson himself.  Good to see you, Tucker.


MACCALLUM:  Hey there.  You know, he did use this phrase during the inaugural address as well.  It's clearly something he's comfortable with. We heard him talked about it a lot of my campaign trail.  But there was quite a bit of backlash from Ben Rhodes and others last night.  What do you think?

CARLSON:  Well, The Ben Rhodes response is just childish.  It's like these guys have been repeating the same bumper sticker for the past 10 years and expecting that it is somehow true.  Of course.  Stuck it on bold and terrorist, they've seen bold enough.  It's not going to alienate our allies, who act out of their own interest or the perceptive and of our interest, rather down the basis whether or not they're offended.  I mean, it's silly.  I don't think that calling it radical Islamic terrorism defeats radical Islamic terrorism, which is much more complicated than that.

On the other hand, lying about it about what it is, which is what the previous administration and the one before it did, assiduously, clearly doesn't help for a bunch of reasons.  For one, you can't think clearly unless you can articulate what you're thinking clearly.  In other words, muddy language leads to muddy thinking.  And you wind up convincing yourself that Richard Spencer or the KKK are as much a threat to American national security as ISIS.  And that is just not the case.  So there is value in being precise when you describe things.

MACCALLUM:  Yeah.  And it's worth mentioning that not saying the phrase led to its expansion in countries where it never existed before under the Obama administration.

CARLSON:  Well, that's a wise point.  That's exactly it.  You can't look back at the last eight years and say the Middle East is a calmer, safer, more moderate, secular place because it is not.  And, by the way, that's not all the fault of the Obama administration.  It's not.  There are other factors.  But they didn't make it better in ways that they can brag about. So, I mean, I guess you could say whatever they were doing, it doesn't mean you just throw it all out, but it doesn't mean you should reassess it. Maybe telling the truth once in a while is worth doing maybe even for its own sake.

MACCALLUM:  Yeah.  I want to play -- I know you probably heard the conversation I've just had with Taya Kyle, and you and I were watching this together last night during the speech and it was a very moment.  And today, of course, as always is the case there some back and forth over the meeting of that moment.  But, you know, we went back and looked at whether or not President Obama has done a similar thing, and whether or not he had received any criticism for, you know, sort of using someone who had been through something horrendous as part of the state of the union.  And here's a moment where he referred to Cory Remsburg, who was a wounded warrior.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:  Over the years, he's endured dozens of surgeries and procedures, hours of grueling rehab every day.  Cory is here tonight, and like the army he loves, like the America he serves, sergeant first class Cory Remsburg never gives up and he does not quit.



MACCALLUM:  Tucker, why was there's no criticism for that moment?

CARLSON:  I mean I was there.  I didn't criticize him.  Part of the president's job is to remind American what's great about their country. And the men and women who serve are at the top of that list.  I'm kind of for him.  You could denounce him as Oprah or whatever.  But it doesn't change the reality that these are real people who have given up a lot for the rest of us.  And I think people like to be reminded of that.  It is inherently political because it is a politician saying it.  But I mean, let's all lighten up a little bit and just acknowledge the sacrifice of good people.

MACCALLUM:  All right.  Tucker, thank you so much.

CARLSON:  Thank you, Martha.

Marth:  Good to see you again.  We'll see you soon.  So breaking tonight, President Trump's speech being credited for setting a new milestone.  And pollster Lee Carter is here on some of the night's biggest moments with a dial and a look at what people responded to.  She's here in a moment. Plus, a top Obama confidant says the former president may be coming out of retirement a little bit early.  Chris Stirewalt joins us, coming up.


MACCALLUM:  So the policies outlined by the president last night maybe debated across party lines for sometimes, but investors definitely like what they heard.  The Dow Jones Industrial crossed 21,000 for the first time.  It's just been breaking record after record after record, basically since November 8th.  It's at 21,115.  So pollster Lee Carter watched the speech with hundreds of voters and electronically recorded their feedback. Here now to react to some economic remarks with Republicans in red, Democrats in blue, independents are on the yellow line.  Watch this.


TRUMP:  The stock market has gained almost $3 trillion in value since the election on November 8th. A record.  We've saved the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by bringing down the price of fantastic, and it's a fantastic, new F35 jet fighter.


MACCALLUM:  Like going up with a market there.  Joining us to discuss how the president's speech rated across partisan lines is Lee Carter, she's pollster and president of Maslansky and partners.  Good to see you.

LEE CARTER, POLLSTER:  Great to be here.

MACCALLUM:  I mean the market, obviously, have been taking off like a rocket.  And the blue line folks -- I guess they're not -- don't have a 401K or something.  I don't know what's going on there.

CARTER:  You know, the Democrats are out has been every time Donald Trump opens his mouth, the dials hits the floor.  Last night, there's only one moment where it went anywhere but the middle.  So for that it's a huge victory.  What we saw you could see the Republicans in red, the independents in yellow last night.  When Donald Trump went through his achievements of what has happened since he was elected president until today, it was a reminder of all that already happened.  And yet, we're only in day 41.  And so, he had all these achievements, but he also outlined so much of what he's going to do.  People loved this speech.  There was one respondent who said, when he went out on the stage, I still couldn't picture him being president of the United States, when he finished that speech I looked at him and said, that is President Trump.

MACCALLUM:  That's for him politically -- that's a huge accomplishment.

CARTER:  It really is.

MACCALLUM:  It's something that, you know, a hump that sort of needed to be gotten over with some people out there.  So let's take a look at another one.  This is President Trump last night talking about Obamacare.  Watch.


TRUMP:  Action is not a choice, it is a necessity.  So, I am calling on all Democrats and Republicans in congress to work with us to save Americans from this imploding Obamacare disaster.


MACCALLUM:  Interesting how locked up the independents are with the Republicans on both of those.

CARTER:  You know, all the way throughout the whole election cycle, from almost -- nearly four weeks after Donald Trump announced that he was running independents were buying to his message.  And it's part of the reason I was able to say -- we've got to take a look this, something very different is happening when they're reacting electronically than when they're on the telephone to pollster.  Because it was definitely something we saw throughout his message, reach the people.  And you could see, even here last night, when he was talking about people coming together, let's make this work again, across-the-board, even Democrats were on board, until he said this disaster called Obamacare.  And that was partisan language. It's the only time in the entire speech last night where we saw a drop, and that was it.

MACCALLUM:  All right.  Thank you very much, Lee.

CARTER:  Good to see you tonight.

MACCALLUM:  So coming up next, President Obama may be scrapping a long- standing tradition of former presidents who had stayed on the sidelines. He took a little vacation, but now he seems to be back.  Chris Stirewalt here on that.  Plus, part two of my exclusive interview with senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, and the GOP plan to bridge the divide in congress and across the country when we come back.


MACCALLUM:  Developing tonight, forget a backseat driver, just 41 days in to Donald Trump's presidency, we may already have a backseat president.  To some extent, former attorney general Eric Holder said President Obama is raring to go to get back into the mix on things.  He said he's, quote, ready to roll.  So here now, Fox News politics editor, Chris Stirewalt, who is always ready to roll with us.


MACCALLUM:  Chris, good to see you this evening.  So what is Eric Holder talking about here?

STIREWALT:  Well, Democrats better hope he's talking nonsense.  What Holder is saying there is the president is going to join him in a bid to push for redistricting on the state level to get -- essentially to get Democrats elected to state offices, so that they can in effect redistricting maps so that they can claw their way back to the majority in the house.  If that is something that the former president really is going to take a public roll on and really be a spokesman for this, this would be seriously bad news for Democrats.

MACCALLUM:  Why, how so?

STIREWALT:  Well, so far, Republicans have been overstating the role that Obama has played.  Obama looks like he's been chilling.  He has been surfing with Richard Branson, signing $60 million book deals, going to Broadway shows, he looks untroubled.

MACCALLUM:  That is what he should be doing.

STIREWALT:  Exactly.

MACCALLUM:  A lot of stress for eight years.

STIREWALT:  Being president stinks.  So being not president and being rich and famous is cool.  So he's in that phase.  So he hasn't been doing that stuff.  But Republicans have been accusing him, but he hasn't.  But if this is the truth, this is a disaster for Democrats because what they need is a forest fire that burn through every party after failure.  It clears out the underbrush, and you start to get the new green shoots.  Democrats haven't gotten there yet, and they will not get there if their former leader keeps hanging around the party.

MACCALLUM:  I mean, he came up pretty early with this statement through a spokesperson about the extreme vetting.  That was I think ten days into the Trump presidency.  Now he lives in Washington, D.C., right around the corner from Ivanka and Jared.  Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner.

STIREWALT:  We're block party.

MACCALLUM:  So, he clearly, you know, by proximity wants to be around.  I mean, it seems pretty evident that maybe, you know, the vacations aren't quite enough.  He's young, he's energetic, and he loves this stuff.

STIREWALT:  I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he really is staying for the sake of his daughter's education so that he could be here.

MACCALLUM:  Oh, that makes sense.

STIREWALT:  And see them finish.  And that's fine, that's cool.  The question is, if he really wants to start trading on his moral authority, trading on his experience, for penny-ante stuff.  I mean, really nickel and dime business here about state-level redistricting, that he is trading it too cheaply.  He'll be sorry.  The Democrats will be sorry he never left.

MACCALLUM:  Chris, we're glad you didn't leave.

STIREWALT:  Never yield.


MACCALLUM:  Thank you.  We'll see you soon.  So also, developing tonight, senate Republicans huddled behind closed doors today, trying to come up with a plan that everybody can live with to replace Obamacare.  It's not an easy task.  It is a topic that I've spoked about at length with senate majority leader Mitch McConnell just yesterday.  I asked him if he could get Democrats to sort of find some middle ground here.  Here's part two of our exclusive interview.


MACCALLUM:  In terms of those ten Democrats who are up for reelection, senate Democrats who are in states that voted for President Trump, have you reached out to them, do you feel that there is room for them to move towards you on Obamacare repeal planned?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KENTUCKY:  We'll find out because at some point they probably will be a part of the process.  We certainly know they're going to part of the process on the Supreme Court.  The president has made a stunningly outstanding appointment.  I think it will be very, very difficult to stop and shouldn't be stopped, ought to be confirmed, hopefully before Easter.

MACCALLUM:  So in terms of the timetable, you say it hasn't taken that long.  When do you think that were repeal plan will be ready?

MCCONNELL:  Well, we hope to act well before -- within the next month to six weeks, on a plan that all three of us agreed upon, the president, the speaker and myself.

MACCALLUM:  What do you think about the town hall backlash that's out there?  Do you believe that it is grassroots?  That it is people, Democrats, and independents -- some Republicans, who've come to like the healthcare plan?  The numbers have gone up and approval for the healthcare plan.  Or do you believe its manufactured Astro-turf backlash?

MCCONNELL:  My assumption is these are dedicated liberal Americans who are in support of Obamacare and they're coming out to express their opposition. There's nothing wrong with that.  I mean, if somebody is protesting in Washington every day about something.  About something.  Protests in America are as an American as apple pie.  So I'm not agitated about it.  I don't care whether they were organized or not organized, they have a right to do what they're doing.  They don't like this new administration.  What they all have in common is not a single one of them voted for people like Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell, and that's OK.  They can come out and demonstrate as long as they want to.  But we won the election.  And with winning the election come a responsibility to produce results.  And we feel that Obamacare is a disaster and need to be changed.

MACCALLUM:  How do we bridge that divide?

MCCONNELL:  Well, we are not mad at each other.  You know, we talk to each other every day.  And we're going to move through some of these early issues where we probably will be doing on Republicans only.  But when we get to the spending issue, like you were talking about, what are you going to do on defense, how much you're going to reduce domestic, the Democrats will be part of that debate.  They'll have an impact here in the senate because it will take 60 votes, not just 51.  I have 52 Republicans, to deal with some of those issues.  So they'll be at the table and we'll all be talking about it.

MACCALLUM:  Senator McConnell, thank you very much.

MCCONNELL:  Thank you, Martha.

MACCALLUM:  Good to see you.

MCCONNELL:  Good to see you.


MACCALLUM:  Coming up next, what Republicans discovered about the DOJ funneling money to left-wing political groups.  Governor Huckabee is fired up about that and he will be with us right after this.  Stay tuned.


MACCALLUM:  Tonight, some new reaction to push back from congressional Republicans to a holdover from the Obama presidency and the justice department.  The GOP is calling it a, quote, slush fund that funnels money away from those who deserve it and gives it to the former president's political allies.  So what's happening here?  Trace Gallagher, live at our West Coast newsroom to explain.  Hi, Trace.

TRACE GALLAGHER, FOX NEWS:  Hey, Martha.  When the department of justice thinks -- legal actions against corporations and big banks for bad behavior like, for example, their part of the mortgage meltdown of 2008, the banks and businesses are often eager to settle.  Some of that money goes to victims, some goes back to the treasury, and some goes to nonprofit organizations.  Now, congressional investigators say more than $3 billion went in to that nonprofit fund or slush fund, as some Republicans call it.

But the DOJ settlements don't specify exactly who gets that extra money. And the house judiciary committee said the Obama administration gave it to progressive groups like the national council of La Raza, the national community reinvestment coalition, and the national urban league organizations that promote liberal causes and push for Democratic votes.

The DOJ says because the money is donated voluntarily, that it's all on the up and up.  And the government accountability office says the fund does not circumvent congressional authority to control the nation's purse strings. But the conservative watchdog group judicial watch calls it a shake down, pure and simple, saying the money should all go back to taxpayers.  And here's what the government accountability institute told Fox late last year.  Watch.


UNINDENTIFIED MALE:  But to turn it into political activism is absurd. And, you know, if something that I think requires a congressional investigation.  And people at DOJ need to be held in to account.


GALLAGHER:  And as we said, congress is now investigating, and Republicans in both the house and senate have introduced legislation to stop the, quote, settlement slush fund.

MACCALLUM:  Trace, thank you.  So joining us to shed some light on what this really means is Governor Mike Huckabee.  Governor, welcome.  Good to see you tonight.

MIKE HUCKABEE, U.S. GOVERNOR:  Thank you, Martha.

MACCALLUM:  I mean, Volkswagen settled.  And, you know, and all the people who were mistreated by the banks, we heard so much about it.  I would -- didn't you just assume that the money was going to the people who got hurt and these transactions?  I mean, it's unbelievable.

HUCKABEE:  It is unbelievable.  Somebody ought to go to prison for this.  I mean, this is worse than a mafia shakedown because, at least, if the mafia shakes you down for protection, your store doesn't burn down.  But this is a case where the liberals have played Robin Hood.  They've stolen from the government, the taxpayers, and they've given it to their pals.  It's really outrageous.  And I think that part of it that is so frustrating, imagine, for example, if under a Republican department of justice, the department of justice allocated money to the national right to life, or if they allocated to the NRA.  Can you imagine how that would have gone over with the Democrats?  I don't think very well.

MACCALLUM:  You know, Senator Langford of Oklahoma and house judiciary chairman Bob Goodlatte are behind this stop settlement slush fund act of 2017.  I mean, this is what we talk about when you talk about draining the swamp, right?  This is pretty murky swamp here.

HUCKABEE:  Well, it's real murky swamp.  And the sad thing is its taxpayer money, money that should have gone into either to the customers of the organizations fund.  Keep in mind how simple this is, you're a bank, you get fine.  Well, instead of paying the full fine to the government or the treasury department, or giving it back to your customers, you instead make a donation to some liberal group.  Now, look, Martha, I don't care if the donation is to a liberal or conservative group.  This violates the constitution because only congress can appropriate money.  This is outrageous.

MACCALLUM:  Yeah, and, you know, when you look at the protection of the system in D.C., and they looked into it, both the government accountability office and the congressional research service concluded that the settlement agreements did not violate congress' power of the purse.  So they sort of circled the wagons on this, right?

HUCKABEE:  Well, sure.  They're projecting each other.  But I think any simple reading of the constitution says that you don't have bureaucrats who can just create money out of thin air that doesn't have an appropriation from congress.  Congress has the power of the purse.  If it is not an appropriation, I don't care if it is from state or the federal level.  The executive branch just can't go out and say we've like to spend some money. It doesn't matter whether congress has approved it.  We're going to spend it because we want to.  It doesn't work like that.

MACCALLUM:  How about paying a little bit of that down with the money?  But it has to be disbursed to different organization, unbelievable.  Governor Huckabee, it's always a pleasure to see you.  Thank you very much.

HUCKABEE:  Thank you, Martha.

MACCALLUM:  So, it is March 1, today, and it begins Women's History Month. So tonight, we're going to show you a quote from Margaret Thatcher, one of the most influential politicians of the 20th century.  Born the daughter of a grocer, she ascended the ranks of British politics, became the first female prime minister of the United Kingdom.  So, here is a gem of a quote. Pretty short one, from Lady Thatcher, who said this, being powerful, is like being a lady.  If you have to tell people you are, you aren't.  Good words for Margaret Thatcher tonight.  Thanks for watching, everybody. Great to have you here.  I'm Martha MacCallum.  We'll see you back here tomorrow night, 7:00.  O'Reilly is up next.

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