How can WH, press corps get relationship back on track?; Voter fraud probe unnecessary or long overdue?

This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," January 28, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

PAUL GIGOT, HOST: Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.

A busy first week for Donald Trump, with the White House issuing a flurry of executive orders on everything from trade to infrastructure to immigration.

We begin with immigration and the fulfillment of a campaign promise with the president signing orders to start construction of a U.S./Mexico border wall and cut federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities.

Here is President Trump on Wednesday.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: A nation without borders is not a nation. Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its borders, gets back its borders.

I just signed two executive orders that will save thousands of lives, millions of jobs, and billions and billions of dollars.


PAUL: Let's bring in Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; columnist, Mary Anastasia O'Grady; editorial board member, Joe Rago; and Washington columnist, Kim Strassel.

So, whatever you think of the start of the Trump administration, Kim, you can't say it's slow.


So, starting with the wall, he's following through on a campaign promise, but is this going to pass Congress?

KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: Look, he is following through on a campaign promise. And Republicans at least for the moment seem to be behind him on this. I think there are some Republicans in Washington who even think, look, even if they don't agree with this idea, they don't think a wall is necessarily the fix to our immigration problem, they believe that if they were to get behind, put it up, maybe it would take some of the poison out of this debate, they could move on to other things, you know?

But President Trump is making it very difficult for them by simultaneously beginning, potentially, a trade war, an angry exchange with one of our closest neighbors.

PAUL: All right. We're going to talk about Mexico.

But, Joe, what's the cost of this if you built the whole wall?

JOE RAGO, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: What Congress is talking about right now, it's about $15 billion --

PAUL: $15 billion.

RAGO: -- for border enforcement. You know, it's about $16 million a mile.  It's a 2,000-mile border. There's about 650 million miles of wall or -- 650 miles of wall or fencing up, right now. The cost is really going to be dependent on the details. A lot of the border is the Rio Grande. Are we going to build a wall in the middle of it or block views of it? The specifics still need to emerge here.

PAUL: And there's a question of whether or not the wall is really the way to solve the immigration issue, because, in fact, most people who stay here illegally now are not coming over the border, they're coming in legally and just overstaying their visas, Mary.

MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY, COLUMNIST: Yeah, that's true. I mean, most people arrive at the airport, then they disappear, and you never find them.

PAUL: Right.

O'GRADY: To Joe's point, there's a lot of ways to secure the border.  There's a lot of modern electronic surveillance and so forth. President Trump seems to like to use "the wall" as a metaphor for this kind of keeping Mexicans and foreigners from south of the border out of our country. And I think he relies heavily on that metaphor for his political theatrics. Were he to get into the details of it, it wouldn't be nearly so powerful for his base.

PAUL: But it is something he did have to do, Dan.


GIGOT: I want to go to the sanctuary cites issue, which is the cities basically saying we're not going to help the government enforce federal immigration law. And we have a couple of clips here I want to listen to.


MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL, D-CHICAGO: We're going to stay a sanctuary city.  There is no stranger among us. We welcome people, whether you're from Poland or Pakistan, whether you're from Ireland or India or Israel, and whether you're from Mexico or Moldova, where my grandfather came from. You are welcome in Chicago as you pursue the American dream.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, D-NEW YORK CITY: We're ready to challenge, for sure.  If there is action taken under the executive action taken to take away funding from New York City, we'll be in court an hour later.

The executive order is vague, contradictory in many ways, and something we feel we can fight.


PAUL: There's a long history, Dan, of cities and states resisting federal law, and some of it heroic. On the Fugitive Slave Act, some northern states refused to enforce it before the Civil War, honorably so. And historically, that looks like the heroic thing to have done.

In this case though, the thing you have to do is they can cut off funding.


PAUL: And if you're going to do that, you're not going to enforce federal immigration law, then you've got to maybe accept that the federal government's going to cut off funds.

HENNINGER: Yeah. I think the president is on stronger constitutional grounds here. It is a federal law, which they are refusing to comply with.

And the other thing, these mayors are talking about protecting immigrants.  Well, look, there are immigrants and there are immigrants. The law is applying to people who are here illegally, right?

PAUL: Right. That's correct.

HENNINGER: And this is the main complaint that a lot of conservatives have with the presence of these people, that they're breaking the law. That's separate from the issue of whether they're contributing to the economies of places like Chicago and New York, and whether they're taking jobs that Americans would be willing to accept other side.

PAUL: And I think, Kim, to the president's credit, what he does do is he's focusing in this early order at least on criminal illegal aliens. That's where they say they're going to focus their deportation and arrest enforcement focus.

STRASSEL: And that was another campaign promise. You know, he came out very strong in the beginning, but as soon as he got closer to taking office, he said that, look, we're just going to focus on the really bad elements. And that's something that actually does resonate across broad swaths of the political electorate.

O'GRADY: I agree with Kim on that, but I do also think that it would help if he coupled this with a pledge to overhaul the Immigration and Naturalization Services. Anybody will tell you that if you try to apply legally, it'll take you 10 years to get residency in this country. We -- the reason we have so many Mexican immigrants is because we needed the labor. And we need to have a system whereby we can take in that labor legally.

PAUL: I agree with you.

But the hope would be that somehow the you enforce the border and look like you're doing it, maybe as Kim suggested some of the poison comes out, the polarization comes out of the political debate, and you end up with more willingness to do what Mary described.

RAGO: The politics of immigration right now are stuck. So, the hope is that focus on enforcement, first, get the economy growing again, people feeling better about their individual lives, and then maybe we return to this issue in a couple years when things are under control.

PAUL: All right, Mary, let's talk about the Mexican flap. Pena Nieto, the president of Mexico, canceling the visit after Donald Trump said, no, you'll pay for the wall, after he invited the Mexican president here. Did he have any choice but to cancel?

O'GRADY: Oh, he had absolutely no choice. In Mexico, you know, there's also a domestic political environment, and Mexicans feel that President Trump is belittling them, humiliating them, making them agree to pay for the wall, which they have no intention of doing. The wall is an insult to them.

But more broadly, they also feel that the North American Free Trade agreement is good for both countries, and they're trying to say to President Trump, tell us what you want to negotiate, because it's not clear. He says he wants to open NAFTA, but it's not clear what he wants, other than to get them to pay for his wall.

PAUL: And another issue, Dan, extreme vetting of immigrants, particularly from countries like Syria and others. He's going to follow through on that with --

HENNIGNER: Well, I think, you know, extreme vetting, I think, is essentially a total ban on people coming from those, because the extreme vetting is that they're going to allow them or make the basis of entry their ideologies, whether they're involved with honor killings and whether guilty of bigotry and hate, essentially Islam. And I think we have to understand that is what they are talking about. They aren't totally banning people from Syria. But I think Yemen, Libya and the rest is effectively putting a total ban on immigrants from those countries.

PAUL: All right. We're all going to try to catch our breath after this first Trump week. And we have a lot more to talk about.

When we come back, the Trump administration and the media. The relationship is, no doubt, off to a rocky start. So, what can get it back on track? We'll ask former White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, next.



TRUMP: I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth.




TRUMP: Right?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Some members of the media were engaged in deliberately false reporting. This kind of dishonesty in the media, the challenge in bringing about our nation together is making it her difficult.


PAUL: The new administration's relationship with the press corps off to a rocky start as the president and his spokesman tangle with the media, on everything from the size of inaugural crowds to claims of voter fraud. So, what will it take to get the relationship on the right track.

Ari Fleischer was White House press secretary during the George W. Bush administration.

Ari, welcome. Good to have you here.


PAUL: Let's step back a bit and call on your experience and tell the audience how do you define the job of a press secretary?

FLEISHER: Well, there's two key parts to it, and they're in order. First and foremost, you are responsible for representing the president. You need to know what he's thinking and reflect him, for better or worse. The second is you're responsible to help the press corps.



PAUL: Those are often in conflict.

FLEISHER: It's a tightwire between the two, and there's no net underneath you. But your job is the reflect both, but, first, the president.

PAUL: The first priority is to speak for the president?

FLEISHER: No question. Your job is to speak for him and to explain what he's doing and why, to elaborate.

PAUL: So if he sends you out to say, you're going to tell the press corps the following, and you say, yes, sir, and you go tell the press corps that.

FLEISHER: That's correct. And it's your job to buttress what the president believes as you do research to find facts, statistics, others who agree, and that's the crush and the rush of being the press secretary.  You've got an hour to do it, the briefing's coming up, you better get your homework done fast.

PAUL: What happens if what he tells you to say simply isn't true, or at least at the very minimum controversial?

FLEISHER: Well, controversy comes with the territory. Every day it's going to be controversial. That's the nature of the job, that's fine. The issue is if you're ever sent to say something that's not true, and can you can't do that.

PAUL: You can't do that?

FLEISHER: No. But there's a difference between statistically or factually not true and something that's reflective of a controversial belief. When a Republican says, cutting taxes stimulates growth --


PAUL: Right.


FLEISHER: Everybody in the press is going to say there's no truth to that, no facts. Well, you can walk in armed with facts to rebut the press, and that's your job.

PAUL: OK. So, you've been watching Sean Spicer and trying to adjust to his job. It's a difficult job because the, you know, as you heard here, President Trump likes to use the press as a foil.


PAUL: Is, what advice do you have for Sean Spicer?

FLEISHER: Reflect your boss. That's your job. Your job is to be true to the president of the United States, who put you in that spot, to reflect what he's thinking and why he's thinking it. Stand your ground. Do so respecting the press, but don't be afraid to clash with the press --

PAUL: Don't be afraid to push back

FLEISHER: Absolutely. Trust in the press is at a historical, all-time low. The press has brought a lot of its problems on themselves.

PAUL: Did you have to bring that up, Ari?


FLEISHER: Well, yes, I did.


It's a serious sign of a weakness in something we should want to have trust in. I'd like to pick up a newspaper and say I accept categorically what's in it. But reporters, mostly because of ideological bias and because of their desire to conflict everywhere, have changed the rules of the game and have allowed people in the government to push back on them and have the country accept the pushback.

PAUL: I've got a paper you can pick up and trust, Ari --


-- called the Wall Street Journal.

But can you recall -- you've been around for a while -- can you recall as hostile a relationship between the press corps and a new president?

FLEISHER: I can recall a hostile relationship at the end of the Nixon administration --

GIGOT: That's where I was going to go. And maybe even in the midway in the Nixon, but at the start of an administration.

FLEISHER: No, this is peculiar.


PAUL: And it presents peculiar problems?

FLEISHER: That's right.

GIGOT: All right.

FLEISHER: Face it, Donald Trump is a double-barreled issue for the press.  They don't like him personally or ideologically, and he's happy to return the favor. So, they clash. My advice would, they're not going to listen to this, but take the briefing off of live TV --


PAUL: This is White House --

FLEISHER: I'd tell the White House that, yeah, take the briefing off of live TV, let it be embargoed, so you can use TV and use clips after it's over, but don't make it a TV show, in and of itself.

PAUL: Wouldn't that lose something? Wouldn't that hurt the White House in the sense they get that advantage of getting the White House spokesman, getting the White House argument out? What's the advantage of that from the White House point of view?

FLEISHER: Because I think it's too hot, and it's raising the briefing to a level where it's a performance art. It's how can the press secretary fight, how can reporters fight. And one TV reporters know they're going to be covered live, boy, do they turn up the heat on the press secretary.


PAUL: Because they get praised by their colleagues for being tough.


PAUL: And, they, boy, that was a hell of a good question.

FLEISHER: And it makes everything look like a fight. As press secretary, it's not always a fight. Often, it's a respectful conversation with a reporter where you're trying to convince them, no, you've got that wrong, don't go with that, your source is bad. That's should be a respectful conversation. It's not always a clash. It doesn't have to be.

PAUL: And what's your advice to those of us in the press corps, if we really want to do our job, which is to explain to our audiences and the American public what's going on?

FLEISHER: I'm old-fashioned. Be neutral, be accurate, be fair.

I've got to tell you, Paul, I think because of bias and self-selection of who goes into reporting, it's too liberal, it's too culturally un- understanding of much of America. And I don't think this current press corps in the mainstream is capable of do that. They're too biased.

PAUL: And that gives an incentive to the White House to use alternative means, which they're using on social media. And that's part of Trump's secret, is it not? And every president from now on is going to use social media and other mechanisms to go over the head of the press.

FLEISHER: And every president since Richard Nixon has tried to go around the mainstream press corps. There's so many better ways for a White House to do it, but --


PAUL: Did you do it?

FLEISHER: Oh, of course. We would talk to local reporters in local cities, you call the Minneapolis reporter, the reporter in Des Moines directly, you go around the Washington bureau.

PAUL: Thank you, Ari. Pleasure to have you here.

When we come back, President Trump resurrecting two pipelines that his predecessors left for dead. So, is the move good news for the economy, or will protectionist impulses sink the projects?



TRUMP: We've issued executive orders to build the Keystone and Dakota Pipelines --


TRUMP: -- and issued a new requirement for American pipelines to be made with American steel and fabricated in the United States.


PAUL: President Trump making good on another campaign promise this week, signing executive orders reviving the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines but insisting that the pipes be made in America with American steel.

We're back with Dan Henninger, Mary Anastasia O'Grady, Joe Rago and Kim Strassel.

So, Joe, good move on the pipelines?

RAGO: Definitely. These are projects that have been blocked for years, in some cases decades purely out of political reasons. So, it sends an important symbolic message that the administration is going to move forward, reduce regulatory delay for infrastructure, and they're focused on getting private capital off the sidelines.

PAUL: Yeah, this is a free lunch for the taxpayers. And some of the job estimates vary, 20,000, 40,000 for the Keystone Pipeline, depending on who you listen to.

But there's no question that this is going to create jobs for the U.S. economy, Kim.

STRASSEL: Oh, yeah. And this is also, too, it's sending a great message.  Washington's very excited about it as well because this is potentially a way forward on all of Trump's infrastructure commitments as well, too. If you can do these by sort of getting private entities to step up and do some of this, these projects, and invest, or even engage in sort of public/private partnerships, that is something that also saves taxpayers a lot of money. And this is a model for that kind of approach.

PAUL: Kim, what about the idea that this also splits the Democratic coalition between its environmental wing, which has opposed these pipelines because they don't want any -- they want all fossil fuels to stay in the ground -- and, of course, oil is a fossil fuel, so it flows through pipelines -- and the union part of the Democratic coalition who, of course, want to put their folks to work?

STRASSEL: One of the most important moments this week was Donald Trump on Monday having all of those blue-collar trade union leaders in there. There was not a single one from the service sector industry, the trades -- I mean, the unions from that thing like SEIU or AFL-CIO. These were all blue-collar unions. And they came out full of praise for Trump. And, yes, that that's a potential big split for Democratic Party.

PAUL: All right, Mary, it looks like the made-in-America steel means you might have to pay more to build the pipeline.

O'GRADY: How sad, because here Donald Trump had the opportunity to do something that was very free market, good for wealth creation in the United States, and instead, he's saying capital cannot be allocated to its highest use. And, of course, that's how a country gets richer. He should know that. He's allocated lots of capital in foreign countries through his businesses, so he knows the importance of that. Saying that the steel has to be made in the U.S. is -- undermines the larger point.

HENNINGER: That's what he ran on, OK?


I mean, what the heck.


So, he's going to try to fulfill some of these campaign promises. Whether the steel actually gets made here or not is another question altogether.


PAUL: Right. And that's right, because Russ Gerling may just decide -- who runs TransCanada -- may just decide we're going to build it however we think.

HENNINGER: Yeah, exactly.

But there's a larger issue here, the infrastructure, the Democrats proposing a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill. They say they are going to close for it by closing tax loopholes. Trump's advisers, Peter Navarro and Wilbur Ross, say they're going to do it with tax credits --

PAUL: Private/public partners.

HENNINGER: Private/public, but also with tax credits. But whether it's tax credits or loopholes, you're talking about the infrastructure bill beginning to impinge on the tax reform bill. That is all going to go through there. And I think the tax bill's becoming hostage to these other goals like --

PAUL: Well, but let me push back on that, because if the infrastructure spending becomes a lure to get Democratic votes for tax reform -- in other words, you say we're going to take some of the tax repatriation money that comes back, or let's say we're going to put a 10 percent tax on money stored overseas, and then you've got that -- it's a trillion dollars, OK?  That's $100 billion. You take that money and say we're going to allocate that to infrastructure, Democrats. And, by the way, how'd you like to support our tax bill? That's not a bad deal.

HENNINGER: It's the kind of bargaining that supposedly will go on here, but I'm worried when you start talking about things like tax credits and closing loopholes or even, as Trump has suggested, paying for the wall with an import tax on Mexico, that this is all kind of turning the tax bill over to the lobbyists. There'll be a rush to try to get all these special interests, something this there for them and will kill the basic point of the tax bill, which is to give us a stronger economy than the 1.9 percent we had in the fourth quarter.

PAUL: How big do you expect the infrastructure program to be overall, Joe?  Because some of the Republicans in Congress aren't are thrilled with what the Democrats want, which is just direct spending, as much as a trillion dollars over 10 years.

RAGO: Yeah, I don't think it's going to be direct spending at all. I don't think that can get through Congress.


PAUL: You think it's going to be more like Wilbur Ross --


RAGO: They propose a fairly innovative tax credit. The truth is there are infrastructure projects that, if vetted by the private sector, can pass a cost-benefit test, whether it's water projects in California, building a tunnel under the Hudson River. I mean, there are things that will add to economic growth. And if they keep it limited, I think this could really be a success.

PAUL: OK. Thank you all.

Still ahead, Donald Trump's trade retreat? The president pulls out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but is the move a win for America or for China?



TRUMP: We've also withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, paving the way for new one-on-one trade deals that protect and defend the American worker. And believe me, we're going to have a lot of trade deals. But they'll be one-on-one. There won't be a whole big mash pot.


GIGOT: President Trump this week promising to negotiate one-on-one trade deals following his withdrawal Monday from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Trade pact, a deal negotiated and signed by President Obama, but opposed by both Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign.

So, Dan, another promise, campaign promise fulfilled. There's no surprise here.

But pulling out is the easy part. Now you have to deal with the fallout and the consequences. What are some of those likely to be?

HENNINGER: Well, a couple of consequences is that some of our trading partners are going to pursue trade deals on their own, like TPP. Prime Minister Abe of Japan has said that he would like to pursue a TPP-type deal with the European Union. And then the Chinese are offering a similar kind of bill, trade bill called Reset (ph).  And Abe says he would like to talk to the Chinese about that.

PAUL: That's being, that's moving along, and that includes southeast Asia.

HENNINGER: Right. And the prime minister of Australia has said similar sorts of things.

Donald Trump is saying explicitly, I do not like these comprehensive, multi-nation trade deals. In the future, the United States is going to do bilateral trade deals. That raises a host of questions about the efficiency of these trade bills and their benefit. But that's what he wants to do, mainly because, as he has said, we will have a provision in there that allows us to pull out within 30 days and renegotiate any bilateral trade deal. Whether that's the best way to do trade or not, we are going to find out.

PAUL: We have a troupe of prime ministers through our office, and many of them from these countries. They have said, hopefully, this goes through, because if TPP fails, it'll send a signal in Asia that the U.S. is retreating from Asia, which they were already worried about with President Obama.

So, does the president, President Trump, now have to do these kind of bilateral deals, particularly, say, with Japan, to repair some of the damages.

O'GRADY: Yeah, I think it would be a matter of urgency. The U.S. has 5 percent of the world's population. It has to trade with the rest of the world.

Now, the fact that he wants to do bilaterals is actually something that is promising. It's not the best-case scenario, but at least he's not completely closing the U.S. off.

But if he doesn't get out to Asia -- I mean, the rest of the world is modernizing, the rest of the world is -- has been a growing middle class, growing access to technology. They will trade amongst themselves. I mean, Mexico, for example, has bilateral and other trade deals with many, many other countries in the world. So, you know, it can turn to Australia and say, well, you know, maybe we could buy our agricultural products from you or from Canada, even though, right now, it's a huge buyer of U.S. agriculture products.

PAUL: So, Joe, one question I always get is, hey, if this is such a -- if this this is so damaging economically, killing this deal, why is the stock market at 20,000? You know, what's the answer to that?

RAGO: Well, I think part of it is Trump's larger agenda that investors are looking at and saying this is going to be pretty good for the domestic economy --


PAUL: Tax reform, deregulation, energy production, those things.

RAGO: Right. But it's always, I think, going to be in tension with his trade opposition. And -- but the question is really, what does a Trump trade deal look like. When he was in our offices a couple years ago, we asked him, what do you look to for trade deals as a model. He couldn't -- he didn't cite anything. So, I think we're going to have to see in practice what a good deal Trump -- how Trump views a good deal.

PAUL: Kim, I want to return here to the Mexican fight that we had this week, because relationships with Mexico, a friend, an ally, really have gone sour here in the first week of this administration. How serious is the damage, and is it something that you think the White House wants to repair, or does it really want a fight with Mexico to be able to blow up NAFTA?

STRASSEL: Well, you know, Joe said, what does a Trump trade deal look like. I think another question is, who does he do trade deals with? We had Theresa May, the British prime minister, offering to do a trade deal, and that would be something.

But you look at the way in which he's been dealing with Mexico, there's a very good chance, indeed, that NAFTA does just get blown up, and then maybe the Trump people can blame it on Mexico and, thereby, sort of fulfill a campaign promise.

But also, those countries that were in TPP, none of them are very happy the United States is withdrawing. Are any of them willing, do they really want to do a trade deal with the United States? European countries that were expecting a sort of pan-European trade agreement as well, which Trump is not going to do, are they willing to do bilateral trade deals? You have to have two partners here, and he's managing to offend a lot of people.

PAUL: Briefly, Mary, there's an argument some people say, oh, well, NAFTA's no big deal economically. That's not true.

O'GRADY: You know, 40 percent of imports from Mexico originated in the United States. For every dollar that the U.S. imports from Mexico, 40 cents was made in the U.S. That's because goods are shipped across the border, value is added in Mexico, and it's shipped back. With Canada, it's 25 percent. That's much higher than the rest of the world. With China, it's 4 percent. So Mexico is an important relationship because it allows the U.S. to be globally competitive. It builds part of what it finishes here and then exports.

PAUL: And about six million American jobs depend on trade with Mexico.

O'GRADY: Right.

PAUL: More to come as we look ahead to next week's much-anticipated Supreme Court announcement. We'll preview President Trumps' short list next.


TRUMP: We have outstanding candidates, and we will pick a truly great Supreme Court justice.



PAUL: President Trump is set to make a much-anticipated announcement next week on who will replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. The president has reportedly narrowed his list of potential nominees to just two or three, down from the more than 20 names he released during the campaign.

Wall Street Journal editorial board member, Colin Levy, joins us with a look at the short list.

So, give us the big three names, Colin, and who are they.

COLIN LEVY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: OK, Paul. The big three names are 10t h circuit, Neil Gorsuch; 11th circuit --

PAUL: William Pryor.

LEVY: Williams Pryor, thank you.


LEVY: And 3rd circuit, Tom Hardiman. These are all three extremely good judges. And it really is a reflection -- you know, Trump launched off with this list of 21 at the beginning. I think it was a huge success for him.  It was a situation where, you know, a lot of conservatives were looking for something very reassuring during the campaign. And exit polls actually showed one in five conservatives said the Supreme Court was their number- one issue for voting. So, I think he has a list of really good names.  These are all winners.

PAUL: And that's one of the reasons he's likely to pick somebody from the list, even if he goes off of these three, because he views --


GIGOT: -- it as a political success for him.

LEVY: Right, for sure. And, you know, I think of these three they're all solid conservatives. We know they're all Textualists, they're all people who really believe in interpreting the Constitution based on its original meaning.

And I think the other thing is that they all have very long records.  That's something that's also important to conservatives here. You're going to -- you know what you're going to get. You're not going to end up with sort of a stealth liberal on the court.

Neil Gorsuch, in particular, has a record on religious freedom that a lot of conservatives are really going to like, and, you know, they should feel good about that.

PAUL: Here's another thing, they're all relatively young. Neil, I think, is 49, Thomas Hardiman, 51, William Pryor, 54. Given the fact that these are lifetime appointments on the Supreme Court and the stakes have become so high, you know, there's probably tougher if you get to be toward 60 to get a job on the Supreme Court.

LEVY: Yeah. No, that's for sure, true, and many people think that may be why Diane Sykes sort of fell out of the running here, because, you know, there's --


PAUL: She's from are the 7th circuit, and she is 59 years old.

LEVY: Correct, correct. And all of these judges are young. But, again, they have very strong records -- religious liberty, the administrative state, you know? So, those are -- those are all important issues.

PAUL: It means that they're willing to limit the administrative state, when you say that, and they're willing to be more skeptical of regulation.

I want to ask particularly about Thomas Hardiman. He serves on the 3r d circuit, you know who else does? Donald Trump's sister. And I would be willing to bet one of the reasons he's bubbled up to the top here is because she's recommending him. And do you think that gives him a leg up?

LEVY: Well, I think it's certainly a reason that he's in the top three.  Look, he also has a very appealing personal story. He's the first in his family to have gone to college. He drove a taxi. He's sort of a good blue collar, working guy. A lot of people can compare his jurisprudence to Sam Alito. So, I think there's something on a personal level that really may appeal to Donald Trump there.

And for sure, I mean, the fact that his sister is a fan can't hurt. We know that Trump very much values the opinions of his family when it comes to some of his political --


PAUL: A question on William Pryor, because some people on the right have been picking -- have been looking at some of his past opinions and saying, look, you attacking him because he enforced federal law and a contempt citation, in particular, against the Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, is that fair, the criticism?

LEVY: No, it's -- it really isn't fair at all, Paul. I think what's happening with William Pryor right now is really an unfortunate thing on the right. This is something we've long criticized on the left, the tendency towards the left really favoring results-oriented jurisprudence, picking the kinds of judges that are going to uphold certain policies.

GIGOT: Right.

LEVY: The conservatives have always valued picking their judges based on the way they interpret the Constitution. And the way that Pryor was behaving, there was absolutely upholding federal law. He was attorney general at the time.

He's also been criticized for another case that he decided, called Glenn v. Brumby, in which he basically said a transgender woman could sue for sex discrimination in the workplace. He's been criticized for that decision but he was very much upholding precedent from the Supreme Court. This is something conservatives should be very comfortable with from a circuit judge.

PAUL: Kim, briefly, is there any chance that with any of these judges that the Democrats will not oppose them?

STRASSEL: No, there is no chance.


I mean, Chuck Schumer has just been straight out there saying that any person, any of these 21 on this list are going to get the ire of Democrats.

Now, the question is whether or not that does hold for some of those Democrats in states that Donald Trump won, who are up for re-election in two-years' time. Chuck Schumer may not speak for them.

And Republicans are going to try, at least in the beginning, to get the 60 votes. But Mitch McConnell has also made clear, if Democrats obstruct, he will get a nominee one way or the other.

PAUL: Right. He could nominate St. Francis of Assisi, and he would get opposed by most of the Democrats.

When we come back, a closer look at President Trump's claims on voter fraud. Is the investigation unnecessary or long overdue?



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Does President Trump believe that millions voted illegally in this election?

SPICER: The president does believe that. He has stated that before. I think he's stated his concerns of voter fraud and people voting illegally during the campaign, and he continues to maintain that belief.


PAUL: The Trump White House not backing down from claims of widespread voter fraud, with the president himself saying this week millions of votes were cast illegally in the 2016 election.

John Fund is a columnist for National Review and co-author of "Who's Counting: How the Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk."

Welcome, John. Good to see you again.


PAUL: So, what about the claim that there were millions of fraudulent votes in this election? You've covered this issue for a long, long time.  Is there any evidence that's really true?

FUND: I do not believe that three to five million illegal voters participated in this last election. I do believe that for eight years the Obama administration has actively played hide the ball, covered up all kind of questions about our voting systems, and we don't know the answer to how much voter fraud there is. It's certainly more than there should be, because anytime you have somebody cast a fraudulent vote, it cancels out someone's legitimate vote. So, I say after eight years of the Obama administration refusing to provide states and private citizens with the records that would tell us how big the problem is, it's overdue.

PAUL: So you think there is cause for an investigation to find out exactly how much fraud there is or at least get closer to the actual number. Would you make this an official government investigation? Or could this be something that's done outside in a commission?

FUND: Actually, it could be done by the states, in large part. You know, the federal government is required to give the states information so they can conduct their own investigations and law enforcement activities. But for eight years, the Department of Homeland Security, the IRS, the various other entities of the federal government have refused to give the states the lists they have, for example, legal and illegal immigrants to this country who may be on voter registration rolls. And we know this is a potential problem. There was a private group that did just a small survey in Virginia in eight counties. They found a thousand aliens on the voter registration rolls, and several hundred of them had voted.

PAUL: What was the private group there, John?

FUND: Christian Adams' public-interest law firm.

PAUL: OK. There are anecdotes out there. There are examples of voter fraud, you know, 10, 15, 20 different, you know, votes here or there. In this case, as much as a thousand. But is there any example that you know of in which fraudulent voting, particularly with illegal immigrants, turned an election result?

FUND: In 2008, Al Franken, after six months of court battles, was declared the victor in the Minnesota Senate race by 314 votes. After he was seated, it was discovered there were 1200 felons who had illegally voted in that election. A survey was done by FOX News in Minneapolis, going out and interviewing a whole bunch of those people. 90 percent said they voted for Franken. It turned out Al Franken was the 60th vote, Paul, to pass Obamacare. The Democrats needed 60 votes, and no Republicans were backing them, to pass Obamacare. If Al Franken hadn't been seated, I think illegitimately, we wouldn't have Obamacare as we know it today.

PAUL: OK, what about illegal immigrants? Have they turned any election?  You wrote a piece for us not too long ago with a fellow from the Heritage Foundation, which suggested that, mentioned a case in 1996, I think it was, a former Congressman, lost his seat by a thousand votes. They looked into it, and more than 600 of those votes turned out to be, turned out to be illegal immigrant votes. Now, he still would have lost, but it would have been closer.

FUND: Right. And there were several hundred votes beyond that that were in question. We don't know the answer to that because this has been fogged up by political-correctness problems. A lot of people say you cannot go into this issue because it's racist, it's discriminatory to ask questions.  Look, I'm in favor of immigration, but I believe if you're in this country, we cannot blur the distinction between citizenship and non-citizenship. If you're a citizen, you can vote. If you're a non-citizen, you can't vote.  And California, for example, has gone way beyond what it should. They have given out a million driver's licenses to people who are illegal immigrants, and many of those people use that to potentially vote and do other things.

PAUL: I guess the bigger question is, Donald Trump, you won fair and square, you won with the electoral vote, why have all of this focus on fraud in an election that you won?


FUND: I think Donald Trump is very sensitive to anything that questions his mandate, and he did lose the popular vote. He's very sensitive. Even though I think he's going overboard, I'm glad we're having this investigation. It'll answer a lot of questions that have been nagging us for a long time. The Obama administration did not want them answered.

PAUL: All right. Thank you very much, John Fund.

FUND: Thank you.

PAUL: We have to take one more break. When we come back, "Hits and Misses" of the week.


GIGOT: Time now for "Hits and Misses" of the week.

Colin, first to you.

LEVY: Paul, as you know, the state of Illinois is generally inclined to tax anything that moves.


This week, Democrats in Springfield have proposed taxes on everything, raising the income tax, a soda tax. They've proposed a business opportunity tax for what one lawmaker called the privilege of doing business in Illinois. But they did find one tax that they wanted to cut and that's a tax on strippers, specifically a surcharge on venues that have adult entertainment. So, you know, I'm all for tax cuts but the state doesn't need a loophole for strippers when they're raising taxes on small businesses.

GIGOT: Yeah, Chicago stripper capitol of the United States.


RAGO: Paul, you mentioned it early, but it hit this week for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which crossed 20,000 for the first time. The rally this time has investor confidence and maybe the animal spirits are returning to the economy with the new administration. Investors are also concluding that the world is getting less risky, not more. And let's hope they're right.

GIGOT: That's very interesting.


STRASSEL: Paul, a big miss to "Saturday Night Live," a writer, Katie Rich for her incredibly offensive tweet about Barron Trump, the president's son.  But also, a big hit to the millions of Americans from all sides of the political aisle who criticized her for it. There is a hard-and-fast rule political kids are off limits. And it was good that someone reminded even the comedy world that they should follow it.

GIGOT: Thank you, Kim.


HENNINGER: I will get a miss to President Trump for retaining James Comey as director of the FBI. By the end of the election, Paul, Mr. Comey had lost the confidence of Republicans and Democrats for his handling of Hillary Clinton's e-mail servers. But that's not the real reason for the miss. The real reason is that Director Comey and his poor judgment damaged the credibility of the FBI in the eyes of the American people. And retaining him is not going to restore the FBI.

GIGOT: Yes, I think the question is, can you really -- when he comes up and makes a decision, you want it to be done based on the law and the merits of the case. Can you trust that with Comey? That's what the problem I have.

HENNINGER: And that's what the American people expect the FBI to do.

GIGOT: And remember, if you have your own hit or miss, be sure to tweet it to us, @JERonFNC.

That's it for this week show. Thanks to my panel. Thanks to you for watching. I'm Paul Gigot. Hope to see you right here next week.

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