Macron pitches Trump on fixes to Iran nuclear deal

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," April 24, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


FRENCH PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON: I believe the discussions we've had together make it possible to open the way, to pave the way for a new agreement, an agreement on which we will work, and beyond our European partners we would like to involve the regional powers.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It is essentially that the responsible nations of the Middle East step up their own contributions to prevent Iran from profiting off the success of our anti-ISIS effort. They have to step up tremendously, not a little bit, but tremendously their financial effort.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: President Trump and the French president today taking questions, talking a lot about the Iran deal. The president calling it a decaying foundation, the deal has a decaying foundation, and wants a new deal. And you heard that from the French president as well. They talked about Syria, and obviously out of that press conference, a love news about the V.A. secretary nomination.

We'll talk about it all with the panel: Tom Bevan, Real Clear Politics co- founder and publisher; Mara Liasson, national political correspondent for National Public Radio; Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist. Mara, let's start with the international stuff. Some news on the Iran situation. Clearly they have a personal rapport, these two presidents. There were air kisses.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Flicking dandruff off shoulders, yes.

BAIER: But they also seem to have, or see eye-to-eye, even though there are differences, on moving forward with something new.

LIASSON: Something new. Macron worked really, really hard to sell Trump on this idea of using the Iran deal as a foundation and building on it, and he came about with three pillars that would address Trump's concerns. So in addition to stopping Iran from developing nuclear weapons in 10 years which the current agreement does, you would add on something that would prevent them from doing it permanently. You add something on ballistic missiles. You add something on stopping them from interfering in Yemen and Syria and Iraq.

He wants to use the existing agreement as the foundation. Trump was talking about something a little different. He was talking about starting a whole new foundation. So I don't know exactly how it works if on May 12, as I think Trump hinted today, he wants to scrap the deal.

BAIER: Yes. Mollie?

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: In addition to those problems that Trump has, he also doesn't like the deal because of its lack of ability to inspect the program and its inability to deal with ballistic missiles, and his idea that this is just a bad deal at the outset that really greenlit their nuclear program and doesn't match our interest.

It makes sense that Europe likes this program. It makes sense they see some good in being able to trade with Iran and in the stability that the deal gave Iran and Europe, but it doesn't match the U.S. interest. And that was one of the things that came through in this press conference, this discussion about making sure that things are in the national interest.

I was really struck by when President Trump said we spend $7 trillion in the Middle East and we spent 17 years there. We don't have a lot to show for it. He is asking for regional allies to step up and start doing what's in their interest rather than us bankrolling everything with money and with our soldiers.

BAIER: At the same time that also factors in with Syria. Here's an exchange with the two leaders on Syria.


TRUMP: As far as Syria is concerned, I would love to get out. With that being said, Emmanuel and myself have discussed the fact that we don't want to give Iran open season to the Mediterranean. But we're going to be coming home relatively soon.

MACRON: When you are probably much more at the end of the war, you have to adapt to the enemy and the reality on the ground. But for sure what we want to do now is to finish this war with our troops, and we want to fix on the long run the situation.


BAIER: So Tom, thoughts on that? Obviously differences but it seems like they've come together on that too.

TOM BEVAN, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Correct. And the Syria strike Trump was talking about, how well they worked together, what a success it was. And clearly he wants to be out of Syria. He didn't want to even go back there in the slightest. So Trump will be putting pressure, I think, as Mollie said on France and other allies in the region to step up and make sure that there's a solution in Syria that will allow us to withdraw, because he has wanted that for a long, long time. It was one of his original campaign promises. He does not want to be stuck in the Middle East.

BAIER: Big focus today ended up being the Veterans Affairs secretary nomination of Ronny Jackson. Take a listen.


DR. RONNY JACKSON, WHITE HOUSE PHYSICIAN: I am looking forward to rescheduling the hearing and answering everyone's questions.

TRUMP: I haven't heard of the particular allegations, but I will tell you he's one of the finest people that I have met. Now, I know there is an experience problem because lack of experience.

I would definitely stand behind him. He's a fine man. I will always stand behind him. I would let it be his choice.


BAIER: And as of tonight, Mollie, the White House is saying they are standing behind him and he is going to continue forward with this nomination.

HEMINGWAY: It's interesting hearing the president talk that way because it seemed like he was giving him a way out. If you don't want to put up with this, you can get out. Yet Dr. Jackson says he's absolutely intent on going through the hearings, which suggests also that we might need to learn a little bit more about what these allegations are. Are they a disgruntled former colleague talking about something, or is there something legitimate there?

But the fact that so many administrations have worked with his doctor and praised him and so many people sing his praises regardless of political affiliation says something. The issue is, again, I think the issue people should focus on is whether being a good doctor and being beloved by all these administrations means you can handle the very serious problems at the V.A.

BAIER: That's the real question for veterans groups in that it's one of the largest, I think the second largest agency, 370,000 workers.

LIASSON: It's one of the biggest health systems in America.

BAIER: And that is really the question. These statements from President Obama and President Bush obviously tell to the character of Dr. Jackson and his ability.

LIASSON: The patients he has treated in the White House, all the White House staffs and all these different presidents, they love him. The complaints apparently that have gone to a committee are about his staff and problems there.

BAIER: There was an internal dispute against an opponent.

LIASSON: We don't know what they are. We don't know if they are true. We don't know if the White House was aware of them.

BAIER: That hasn't prevented Capitol Hill from just spewing out all kinds of stuff.

LIASSON: That's right. But the interesting thing to me today, and I was in the press conference, is Donald Trump did repeat many, many times, if I were him, I wouldn't go through with this. That really struck me. He talked about giving him an off-ramp. I thought he was almost opening the door for him.

BAIER: Until he got to the end of the sentence, I thought this was literally the end.

LIASSON: I said to him you don't need this. If I were him, I personally wouldn't do it.


BEVAN: Historically, delays are death for nominations. It gives the hyenas a chance to circle around and pick away. But the fact that Dr. Jackson has said I am moving forward. I'm eager to go up there and answer questions, would he do that if it was going -- if he was going to embarrass himself and more things were going to come out. I suspect we are going to find out some of these allegations are probably unsubstantiated, or he's going to deny them and it's going to be a he said, whoever said.

BAIER: It could be an ugly ride after the Pompeo situation where you had Democrats who voted for him as CIA director and voted against him for secretary of state nominee. Is there a sense, do you think, that Democrats simply just want a scalp of some kind?

HEMINGWAY: Right. This is not something that just Democrats do. Republicans also.

BAIER: Of course, both parties.

HEMINGWAY: But there is this sense that there is -- failure to get one guy so now we're going to go for the next guy and then we're going to go for the next guy. And it does mean that the public loses interest sometimes or lacks confidence that these complaints are necessarily as legitimate as people claim.

BAIER: And lacks context. We will try to provide that. Panel, thank you.

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