Major concerns about the repercussions of the 9/11 bill

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," September 28, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On this vote the yeas are 348, the nays are 77. One voting present, two-thirds have voted in favor, the bill is passed, the objections of the president to the contrary notwithstanding. The court will notify the Senate of the actions of the House.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The concern that I have had has nothing to do with Saudi Arabia per se or my sympathy for 9/11 families. It has to do with me not wanting a situation in which we're suddenly exposed to liabilities for all the work that we're doing all around the world.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, D-N.Y.: The chief argument used by JASTA's detractors is not strong. In fact it's flimsy. When weighed against the moral imperative, we have to do right by the families of the 9/11 victims. The choice is clear.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: It was overwhelming, the override of the president's veto in Senate and the House. Firs the Senate voted, and the vote was 97 to one. Harry Reid, the Senate minority leader, was the only nay vote. In the house, also a huge number, 348 to 77.

That said, there are major concerns about the repercussions and what happens to the U.S. abroad after this. Let's bring in our panel: syndicated columnist George Will; A.B. Stoddard, associate editor at RealClearPolitics; Mercedes Schlapp, columnist for the Washington Times, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

We're talking, of course, about the 9/11 Bill, also known as JASTA, allowing the families of the 9/11 victims to be able to sue Saudi Arabia. George?

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: The unassuageable fury of the families of the victims of 9/11 is understandable as is the desire to torment Saudi Arabia, which even if it were not directly involved in aiding the hijackers, 19 of which were Saudis, it has by spreading the madrasas around the world, has been fomenting the kind of terrorism that came to our shores that day.

That said, sovereign immunity is principle that nations and governments are immune from tort liability. And the one nation in all the world who would suffer most from diluting that principle is ours because we have more activities abroad and more assets abroad than anyone else. Drones and all the rest would be an open field for people to try and sue us, during which there would be discovery processes. And discovery processes could unearth information about intelligence and military operations, and it would be just a legal nightmare.

BAIER: Mercedes, obviously the supporters of this bill and the lawyers fighting for it claim that this is narrowly structured and they don't see the threat.

MERCEDES SCHLAPP, WASHINGTON TIMES: Which is interesting because I've talked to several staffers on the Hill who are basically saying during the lame duck session they're planning to make amendments to the bill. So there is that concern. And you see several of the lawmakers, several of the senators being hesitant to moving forward. They voted on this. They knew this had to be also a bit of a political move where you're talking about an election year where you have these Democrats going up on reelection and you can run a serious ad against Barack Obama by not supporting this 9/11 bill.

So I think the Democrats were in a difficult position, but I think that they're looking to address this come the lame duck session to deal with this -- although it's going to be a narrow thing, but make changes to it through amendments.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: This is a classic case where this was a vote that would have been very hard for anybody to vote against something that the 9/11 families are demanding. I don't think it's going to make any difference other than give them some kind of outlet. I don't think there's going to be any result from this.

But I think there will be a long-term injury to us on the question of sovereign immunity. It's not I don't think the most important issue in the world. In other words, what is at stake with sovereign immunity is not irretrievable. But it is a vote that's extremely hard to take. And you know after eight years, almost eight years now, I wish the Congress had shown the same kind of spine in resisting some of the other more egregious encroachments of the executive. But this is the first and only one overridden in entire term. I wish it had had the courage to do something like this on the Iran deal.

BAIER: A.B., it was surprising, and it seemed like supporters that were arguing with the president of the concerns, not were caught off guard, but didn't have forces pushing back soon enough.

A.B. STODDARD, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Well, a lot of the concerns have been met in a rewrite of the bill at some point that allowed a lot of people to feel that they could be on board, their efforts to slow litigation and/or stop it. So what is interesting to me is politically looking at President Obama's breakdown of whatever cohesion was left between them and congressional Democrats, let alone Republicans.

You now have a situation where a 97-1 vote in the Senate to override veto and his spokesman comes out and says this is an embarrassment and calls out lawmakers who had the same concerns that George raised but still went on -- in agreement with the president, but still went on to vote for it. And actually anyone who believes that the kisses that are being blown about the lame duck session is a fool because we have no idea what the lame duck session is going to be like and what's going to happen and who is going to win the presidency and what's going to be at stake. So you can't base your decision right now on what somebody is going to promise you in December.

BAIER: Let's turn to FBI director up on the Hill again today getting grilled about these immunity deals and the Hillary Clinton email investigation.


REP. JIM SENSENBRENNER, R-WIS.: Who authorized granting Cheryl Mills immunity?

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: The decision made by the Department of Justice. I don't know for sure what the negotiations involved. I believe her lawyer asked for production immunity with respect to the production of her laptop. But, again, the FBI wasn't part of those conversations.

SENSENBRENNER: Doesn't it concern you as investigator that your piece in the Justice Department decided to become an immunity producing machine?

COMEY: I don't think of it that way. It doesn't strike me there was a lot of immunity issued in this case. My overall reaction is this looks like ordinary investigative process to me.


BAIER: George, they didn't obviously go through with any prosecution despite that immunity, and at least two people who got these deals were accused today of lying to the FBI.

WILL: It was an extraordinary hearing because you had two manifestly intelligent and experienced people, Trey Gowdy, a former prosecutor, Congressman from South Carolina, and Director Comey looking at same fact pattern and concluding entirely different things, I think, with palpable sincerity all around.

The fact that immunity was granted four or five times or whatever it was but did not result in a prosecution does not mean that something nefarious happened. It means they gave the immunity to get information. They got information, and on the basis of that concluded that prosecution was not warranted.


STODDARD: This is just such a stain on the FBI and on Director Comey and everyone involved. It's one thing for him to come out and indict her politically with this statement about her being extremely careless, which is actually in and of itself sort of soft. But then what we've learned since, it really hangs a cloud over the process. It makes it really look terrible for the entire administration, whether Obama was complicit and knew too much or whether or not they intended for this investigation to go south from the start. And it really is going to be a bigger burden on the shoulders of Hillary Clinton, even if she wins and all these staffers get to go in and join her in the White House. It's why people don't trust the government.

BAIER: Donald Trump at debate tapped into this one time.


DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: That was more than a mistake. That was done purposefully. That was not a mistake. That was done purposefully. When you have your staff taking the Fifth Amendment, take the fifth so they're not prosecuted, when you have the man that set up the illegal server take the fifth, I think it's disgraceful. And believe me, this country really thinks it's disgraceful also.


BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, it looks awful. Normally you give immunity so you can prosecute. You may lose the case but at least you prosecute. There's not even a prosecution. The impression left is, and we probably will never know, it was understood, not said, not written, not e-mailed, but it was understood we were not going to indict the Democratic candidate for the presidency, and thus everything else followed. And close aides are getting immunity as well, it looks very suspicious.

I credit Comey's sincerity but I don't know what role he played. The one thing I would say is that if she wins, I think it is possible that Obama will pardon the remaining high officials who are going to end up in office with her as a way out of this, because otherwise this could pursue her and pursue them into her presidency. Remember, Watergate came after, long after reelection. So there's a fuse here that I think will remain lit otherwise.

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