This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," April 2, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT: Obamacare has been such a catastrophe. I want to put it after the election because we don't have the House. When the plan comes out, which we will be showing you at the appropriate time, it's much better than Obamacare.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y., SENATE MINORITY LEADER: President Trump confirmed that he will hold Americans hostage through the 2020 election when it comes to healthcare. He promises reelect me, and maybe you can take a peek at my backup plan after that, which they don't have.

What a ruse. What a shame. What a disgrace.


BRET BAIER, HOST: Usually it's Republicans pounced on x, y, and z. Today Democrats pounced over the past few days on the healthcare issue after the president essentially announced that he would wait until after 2020 to roll out a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. The last year full stats for health insurance, 2017, you see the massive number of private insurance, almost 198 million people. Obamacare itself, 12.2 million, and uninsured still stands at 28.5 million in the U.S., roughly, depending on what the numbers are in 2018.

So let's start there with the panel, Guy Benson, political editor at, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent for National Public Radio, and Ben Domenech, publisher of "The Federalist."

OK, Mara, obviously Democrats saw a lot of political upside 2018 on the issue of healthcare, and now they're looking again at it.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Absolutely. Republicans were pretty happy to drop the issue after November, and now Donald Trump had some other ideas. But he did decide to back off of this plan to present an alternative to Obamacare after he got a phone call from Mitch McConnell who said we don't really want to be doing that when we had all three branches of government and we tried and failed.

I think the big problem for the Republicans is that Trump decided to weigh in on this lawsuit from Republican states attorneys general, saying Obamacare in its entirety should be declared unconstitutional, including the popular parts, like pre-existing conditions, staying on your parents' plan until 26. That's what --

BAIER: Primarily the mandate, and some judges have upheld that.

LIASSON: Yes, yes. And those things are unpopular. But people like parts of Obamacare, and now the Democrats get to say they are going to take away all those things you like.

BAIER: Here is the Senate majority leader and Senator John Kennedy.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY., SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I will not be doing comprehensive in the Senate. We don't have a misunderstanding about that.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY, R-LA: Some of my colleagues need to go online, check Amazon, see if they are selling spines at a special discount this week. And grow some guts, and let's tackle one of the problems that moms and dads in America worry about at night when they lie down and can't sleep. And I think the president is absolutely right. It may be lousy politics, but it's good for the American people.


BAIER: The problem with that argument, Ben, is that they don't control the house.

BEN DOMENECH, "The Federalist": Of course not.

BAIER: And they can't get something massive through both chambers.

DOMENECH: And I think that what you are ultimately going to see is pressure from House Republicans who are going to, I think, cave on any pre- existing conditions proposal that's put forward by Democrats ultimately. There is no spine on this issue within the Republican conference. The problem is you are caught between a party among Republicans who aren't sure what they think about healthcare anymore. Obamacare has now effectively become a conservative position compared to what the Democrats who are running for president are proposing with Medicare for all. And there is a real unwillingness I think on their part to deal with the cost issue, which should be at least a portion that they could bite off and deal with in a smaller way.

There are 2.5 million people who dropped off of the exchanges in the last year, 2017 and 2018, because of the cost issue, which is something that should come before any of these other conversations about regulatory reforms that need to happen, bigger questions that need to be resolved, and that won't be resolved until after 2020.

BAIER: Guy, but on the flipside, to Kennedy's point, why not get the think tanks cooking, start putting out your plan ahead of 2020. We know that there is some leeway, some bipartisanship on drug prices for example. So that's around the edges. But on the big issues, why not lay out a plan?

GUY BENSON, POLITICAL EDITOR, TOWNHALL.COM: I think so. You can make an argument, and I think it's a pretty sound one, that the president endorsing this lawsuit was a tactical blunder and a gift to the Democrats. But he may have blundered into something quite important, which is something to offer the American people on healthcare in 2020. It's a top two issue. So the Democrats have their very serious problems with single payer healthcare and the tax increases associated with that and outlawing 180 million people's private insurance. Those are very unpopular things. They are delighted to ignore those and pivot to the Republicans and pre-existing conditions.

I think it's in the president's own self-interest to offer the American people something digestible, maybe not a specific bill, but a plan, because opposing something with nothing didn't work out very well for the Republicans in 2018.

BAIER: Mara, it's better to say --

LIASSON: They had everything. They had control of everything. They didn't come up with anything.

BENSON: I agree. I agree.

BAIER: And the president often points to that on the campaign trail, how close they were.

DOMENECH: But part of the issue there is what they did come up with was completely unsatisfactory. The skinny repeal bill would not have actually achieved any of the real aims that Republicans espoused. And the fact is they are going back to a lot of the same people who all had plans. In this case they're going to the Heritage Foundation, to the Mercatus Center, and to the Hoover Institution, all of whom have various very smart people who have worked in health policy, who I have worked with and published in the past.

But the fact is that if you get a plan like that in front of a politician, there's always going to be choices that they have to make, tradeoffs that exist with any kind of competitive marketplace. And I have never seen the wherewithal among leading Republicans to go out on this issue and go in the face of any kind of opposition to the degree that they are willing to do so whenever it's their turf, where they are willing to pass a tax bill, and even when all the polls say people are opposed to it because they are confident about what it will do for the economy.

BAIER: I want to turn to the border, but Mara, isn't it more accurate to say single payer than Medicare for all? That's kind of a package that everybody says Medicare is great. But really it's single payer.

LIASSON: The people who want Medicare for all do want single payer in terms of getting rid of the private health industry and substituting a government plan. But there a lot of Democrats who merely want Medicare buy in at 50, or some kind of public option. This is a debate that's ongoing. But in the meantime, since it hasn't been resolved, Donald Trump can stand up and say they are all for socialized medicine.

BENSON: A lot of them are. More than roughly half of House Democrats have endorsed specifically a single payer plan that would outlaw private insurance, and a number of Democrats running for president have done the same. They are hugely vulnerable on that point. The Republicans, though, as I said before coming back at that with, well, we don't like that but, what?

BAIER: Yes. So we used to have Jim Angle here who covered all things Obamacare. We are going to dig into the weeds, because I think people like to know what's out there as far as possible plans.

I want to turn quickly to the border, and that is the president, Mitch McConnell, and a congressman up on the Hill.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT: Security is more important to me than trade. So we are going to have a strong border or we are going to have a closed border.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Closing down out border would have potentially catastrophic economic impact on our country.

REP. HENRY CUELLAR, D-TX: There is $1.5 billion of trade every day between the U.S. and Mexico. There's 5 million jobs that depend on this trade between the U.S. and Mexico. You name every single state in the United States and they have trade with Mexico. It will be an economic disaster if he does that.


BAIER: OK, quickly down the row here, a lot of talk about the economic disaster if he closes the border. But also, Democrats now getting to crisis mode about what's happening on the border.

DOMENECH: Well, I think that there is a growing awareness of the degree of which the crisis is real on the border. And what we should understand is that it's our own asylum laws that are driving that. That's something that we are going to have to deal with in a much more comprehensive way than just an arbitrary shutdown. There are going to be negative economic effects. But the president is just trying to send a message here about how severe the problem really is.

BAIER: Mara?

LIASSON: Yes, but every time he tries to send a message like that, the administration has to scramble and figure out, whoa, how are we going to do this without ruining the goose that laid the golden egg, which is the economy. That's the thing that they're going to run on. So now there's talk about, gee, we can close the border, somehow exempt trade from that? I don't know how do you that.


BENSON: It's nice to see Democrats moving from manufactured crisis to real crisis. That's been the reality now for some time. Ben is exactly right. This requires an act of Congress and a very thoughtful one on a very tricky subject, and I will not hold my breath.

BAIER: Next up, Joe Biden whether he is killing the Me Too movement, plus a new controversy surfacing.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't expect that kind of intimate behavior, you don't expect that kind of intimacy from someone so powerful and someone who you just have no relationship whatsoever to touch you and to feel you and to be so close to you in that way.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF., HOUSE SPEAKER: I don't think it's disqualifying, because I think disqualifying is with what your intention is. It's important for the vice president and others to understand this. It isn't what you intended. It's how it was received.


BAIER: Well, the first tape there was a pro-Trump super PAC that's now out with an ad calling Joe Biden "Creepy Joe." There you hear the House Speaker. A second accuser now talking out about the former vice president's first statement about all of this.


AMY LAPPOS, FORMER CONGRESSIONAL AIDE: I was pretty grossed out by his statement. I was actually more offended by his statement that what he did, because I feel like that is, a, not accepting any responsibility, b, we all know that he does that.


BAIER: OK, so where are we? This is two days of this story. Now there is another story. We will get to that. We're back with the panel. Mara, is this having an effect? Is it changing the dynamic?

LIASSON: I don't know if it's changing the dynamic. There's two parts of this. One is if the Democratic Party is the zero-tolerance party, what is it they have zero-tolerance for? Clearly sexual harassment or assault, yes. But do they have zero-tolerance tore a peck on the head? Do they have zero-tolerance copping a feel in a rope line? Clearly they did. Al Franken got kicked out for that. So they have to decide that.

But the second thing this is about is the huge vacuum that Joe Biden has created. Where is Joe Biden? He's issuing some statements. But he is not in there giving speeches, doing anything that would fill this vacuum. This is what has become the kind of preamble to the Biden campaign, and I think that's bad for him.


BENSON: This seems to me like a warning shot from the left, certain elements of the left, against Biden, basically saying if you are going to get into this thing, prepare to have a very unpleasant time. And the fact that he has said absolutely nothing in front of a camera I don't think is really helping his case all that much here.

I do feel like there is -- look, the video footage that we played there is very uncomfortable to watch. There is a creepiness there.

LIASSON: That's also slow motion with the music.

BENSON: That's true. But we have seen these exchanges in the past. It's creepy. It's not, I think, appropriate, especially these days. There is a difference, I think, between that and some of the Me Too actions, that this is now being weaponized against him in a way that a lot of voters would say that's not the same thing.

DOMENECH: First to Mara's point, I think that the Democratic Party has a zero-tolerance attitude, excepting the commonwealth of Virginia.


DOMENECH: But, when it comes to Joe Biden, let's step back and look at the fundamentals of this situation, because I think we all anticipated this would be an issue that would come up when and if he gets into the race. Joe Biden has an enormous base of support of from the African-American voters within the Democratic coalition. They view him as being Obama's guy who worked well with him. He is by far the most popular candidate among them. I personally do not believe that's just because of name I.D.

And I think that what you are going to see play out within this Democratic presidential primary is a conflagration between what you might describe as the woke progressive whites and the black voters, particularly in the American south and South Carolina and elsewhere, who are going to have a real tension between them about what they want in a leadership candidate. And it's interesting to me to see whether this kind of issue and other issues about Biden's past, when it comes to criminal justice reform and others, are used against him.

BAIER: Let me get to one more, one more. From "The Hill," John Solomon started this report, we followed up with our own. But Ukrainian officials telling them that there is one crucial piece of information that Biden must have known but didn't mention to his audience when talking in Ukraine. The prosecutor he got fired was leading a wide-ranging corruption probe into the natural gas firm Burisma Holdings that employed Biden's younger son Hunter as the board member. Here is that speech he's referencing on Ukraine.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I said you are not getting the billion. I'm going to be leaving here, I think it was what, six hours. I looked and I said, we're leaving in six hours. And the prosecutor is not fired. You are not getting the money. Well, son of a --


BIDEN: He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid.


BAIER: So this prosecutor was investigating Hunter Biden, apparently, and his firm he was working with.

BENSON: And the company that he was attached to in some way. Look, I think it's sort of an abstruse issue, and there's some moving parts to it, but if Democratic voters are concerned about shades of the Clinton Foundation and double dealing and that kind of thing, this is certainly something that Biden is going to have to explain.

BAIER: All I know is that it's coming fast and furious.

LIASSON: And this is what it is to run for president.

BAIER: When we come back -- thank you, panel -- a very honorable discharge.


BAIER: Finally tonight, a special birthday gift for an American hero.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's finally discharged!



BAIER: World War II veteran Weldon Reed turned 95 last week and was officially relieved of duty. You see, 73 years after he began his service, he was finally recognized for his work as a minuteman in the state of Maryland, part of a militia charged with defending against an invasion. Reed's discharge papers were signed in 1945, but they were never sent out. He is believed to be the last surviving member of the Hampstead Minutemen. Congratulations on your discharge. Thanks for your service, and happy birthday.

Thanks for inviting us into your home tonight. That's it for the “Special Report,” fair, balanced, and still unafraid. "The Story" hosted by Martha MacCallum starts right now.

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