This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," October 11, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
KANYE WEST, MUSICIAN: They tried to scare me to attack my own friends. But it gives me power in a way. I love Hillary, I love everyone, right. But the campaign I'm with her just didn't make me feel as a guy that didn't get to see my dad all the times, like a guy that could play catch with his son. There was something about when I put this hat on it made me feel like Superman. You made a Superman. That's my favorite superhero, and you make a Superman cape.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: That was quite something. That was quite something.
WEST: I love this guy right here. Let me give this guy a hug. I love this guy right here.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: That was quite something, the words of President Trump in the Oval Office today. Kanye West expressing his support among other things. And that is where we'll start with our panel: Josh Kraushaar, political editor for The National Journal; Amy Walter, national editor for the Cook Political Report, and Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist.
I couldn't get it out there, Josh. That was something today, in the words of President Trump. What does that do? It was a surreal moment on TV, we hadn't seen anything like that in the Oval Office. What do you think it does for President Trump or the election in any way?
JOSH KRAUSHAAR, NATIONAL JOURNAL: It certainly was a surreal moment. President Trump loves celebrity. He had Mike Love of the Beach Boys and he had a few other celebrities in the White House today. But it reminded me that this could be a lost opportunity for President Trump. If he focused on the criminal justice reform, which was why Kanye West was at the White House and the first place, that could have been an opportunity early on in his presidency to expand his coalition to win over some African-Americans to the Trump side. It really was an amazing moment where you had one of the most famous African-American celebrities really hugging President Trump, but it feels like it's little late in the game for that and doesn't feel like this came at the right time for this president.
There's certainly some opportunities as we get closer to the midterms for Trump to build some new supporters, but I don't think he is going to really move the needle a whole lot politically.
MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: What was interesting, what he just said there, something about putting on the hat gives him power. And I think there is something in our culture where there's a lot of criticism of being a conservative, a ton of criticism for being a Trump supporter. But if you can withstand that criticism, there is something empowering about it.
And I think that's what's interesting -- yes, Kanye is interesting. He is always interesting. He says things in a weird way, certainly. But I think the reason why you are seeing so much negative reaction is because of some of the things that Josh is raising. You have a very prominent black celebrity aligning himself with the president, and there's something very threatening about that, not just in terms of celebrity, but also in race issues. And you're seeing a lot of polls where you have tons of Hispanic supporting Ted Cruz, tons of Hispanics supporting Dean Heller. Donald Trump himself got more black votes than Mitt Romney. There is something that people feel very nervous about when people do not play the parts they are supposed to.
BAIER: To that point, some other commentators weighing in on what was going to happen today with Kanye West.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Kanye West is what happens when negroes don't read.
TARA SETMEYER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: But now all of a sudden Kanye, because he has put on a MAGA hat and he's an attention whore like the president, he's all of a sudden now the model spokesperson, he's the token negro of the Trump administration?
KANYE WEST, MUSICIAN: One of the moves that I love that liberals would try to do, the liberal would try to control a black person through the concept of racism because they know that we are very proud, emotional people. So when I said I like Trump to someone that's a liberal, they'll say, oh, but he's racist. You think racism can control me? That don't stop me. That's an invisible wall.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BAIER: It's such an explosive thing to talk about. But Amy, how does this play?
AMY WALTER, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: I just think we are back where we have always been in the discussion of two Americas as in a polarized America, and that's really where a lot of this discussion, I agree with Josh, it didn't spend a whole bunch of time talking about the issues that we thought were going to get raised. Kim Kardashian, his wife, of course, came in and actually talked about issues related to criminal justice reform.
Instead, this becomes about who his team are you on. Are you going to be on the red MAGA hat team or are you going to be on the other team? And the entire Trump presidency has been basically about picking your side, picking our team. And for Kanye to put the red hat on, then he literally is saying I'm going against my team, and there is a backlash to that in the same way that Republicans who have said -- or people who were normally red going to the blue team, they get the criticism for doing that. There is nothing left, there is no middle. There's not going to be a middle, and this election is just going to I think further get us into these deep, deep, deep polarized world.
BAIER: And we've been talking about tribalism for a while.
HEMINGWAY: I think it's a little bit unfair. Earlier this morning, Donald Trump called into "Fox & Friends" and he had a lengthy conversation about criminal justice reform.
BAIER: She was referencing Kanye's appearance in the Oval Office.
HEMINGWAY: It was because of Kanye coming to visit. Kim came to Oval Office and it is kind of like you're thinking, what are these celebrities doing there. She was actually very effective at getting that sentence commuted. There are conversations that people are having now, and it's good to see them on the right because criminal justice reform has been something that previously people just on the left seemed to talk about. a lot. You're seeing a lot of really good developments in terms of questions about mandatory minimums and how we adjudicate various cases. And this is happening because of this.
WALTER: The biggest impediment to this, actually, is sitting in his cabinet, and that's Jeff Sessions. Republicans want to pass this, they have the votes in Senate to pass this.
BAIER: Who may not be for long after the election.
WALTER: But the attorney general is the real reason why a lot of the stuff isn't getting done.
BAIER: I want to turn to a big international story, and that is this missing Saudi journalist and how the Saudis are dealing with it, how the U.S. is dealing with it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
TRUMP: We are looking at it. We're looking at it very strongly. We will be having a report out soon. We are working with Turkey. We're working with Saudi Arabia. What happened is a terrible thing, assuming that happened. Maybe we will be pleasantly surprised, but somehow I tend to doubt it.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: I talked to Senator Corker and Cardin and a bunch of other people, Menendez. There will be a bipartisan tsunami bill against Saudi Arabia here if they did in fact do this.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY, D-CONN.: It's very unlikely that he left alive, and it's time for the United States to actually lay down some consequences for the Saudis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: This is the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, and The Washington Post is citing intelligence sources saying that there were intercepts showing that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself ordered this action. Josh, what about this, and do you think the U.S. is going to change dramatically its relationship with what has been an improving relationship with the kingdom?
KRAUSHAAR: That's not what the White House seems to want, and I've been struck by the president's passivity in not really calling out Saudi Arabia. He says he wants to wait until more facts become available. And like a lot of foreign policy issues, you see the president leading from behind the Republicans in Congress. You see Lindsey Graham, you saw Marco Rubio, also, some of the hawks on the Senate side that really want action. They want sanctions, and they want to have some arms deals retreated.
But the White House doesn't want to do that. And Jared Kushner has had a close relationship with the Saudi leadership, and I think they have a lot, they want contain Iran, they have a lot at stake with the Saudi relationship and they don't want to jeopardize it.
BAIER: Yes. I think the message today from Heather Nauert was, let's see where this takes us, what we know to be facts. Obviously, there is intelligence that we are not seeing.
WALTER: That's what I was going to say, how are we going to know actually, are we going to feel like it is a very definitive case that can be solved? We may get more intelligence. And if so the action would really be to do the thing that, as Josh pointed out, the president does seem very hesitant to do, which is stop sales, especially arms sales to Saudi Arabia. And you could have a really tremendous impact on the Saudi infrastructure and what they are doing right now, their place in the world militarily if the U.S. did put sanctions on soon.
HEMINGWAY: I think people are very much jumping the gun. Both Turkey and Saudi Arabia are allies. They also both have many human rights problems. Turkey's Erdogan has imprisoned something north of 160 journalists.
BAIER: It's a little ironic he's talking about human rights.
HEMINGWAY: The idea that you would just take them at their word that they know exactly what is going on seems really premature. And when you are making decisions about how to deal with allies, you should always be focused on your national interest. Kidnapping or killing a journalist is a horrible thing. This happens a lot, that a lot of people get kidnapped and killed. It's not worse if it happens to a journalist and someone else, but you still have to make your decisions about what's in the best interest of your country and not get too emotional.
BAIER: I would say that I think Congress is unified on this pretty much across the board, but we will see.
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