Next phase of impeachment inquiry set to begin during Trump's NATO visit

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

[BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS]

SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO: I regret that they've chosen to hold these hearings at the same time that the president and our entire national security team will be traveling to Europe, to London, to work on these important matters. It's very unfortunate.

REP. JOHN YARMUTH, D-KY.: Well, there's nothing that keeps him from sending a lawyer there to question these experts just because he happens to be in London.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: -- the do-nothing Democrats decided when I'm going to NATO -- this was set up a year ago -- for them to be doing this, and saying this, and putting an impeachment on the table, which is a hoax to start off with.

DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE JOE BIDEN: It's going to take someone with a proven ability -- that's the president calling me. Tell him I'm busy.

[LAUGHTER]

BIDEN: He wants to know who our new allies are. He hasn't figured it out.

[LAUGHTER]

[END VIDEO CLIPS]

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Joe Biden on the trail, there, talking about NATO. The president did land in London. He is ahead of this NATO meeting, the 70th anniversary. Before he left, he talked about some news out of Ukraine.

[BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS]

TRUMP: There was breaking news today: the Ukrainian president came out and said, very strongly, that "President Trump did absolutely nothing wrong." That should be "case over."

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY: I mean that we have independent country and independent general security. I can't push anyone. I didn't ask him. I didn't push him. That's --

[END VIDEO CLIPS]

BAIER: President Zelensky talking to Time, saying -- quote -- "I never talked to the president from the position of a quid pro quo. That's not my thing. I don't want us to look like beggars. But you have to understand, we're at war. If you are a strategic partner, then you can't go blocking anything for us. I think that's just about fairness. It's not about a quid pro quo. It just goes without saying."

So, where are we on the impeachment situation? What's next? Let's bring in our panel: Charles Hurt, opinion editor for The Washington Times; Michael Crowley, White House correspondent for The New York Times; and Chris Stirewalt is politics editor here at Fox News. The hearings in the Judiciary Committee start Wednesday, Charlie. Ahead of that, the White House has essentially said we're not playing with this operation because the process has not been fair.

CHARLES HURT, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: Yeah, and I think they have a pretty good leg to stand on in making the argument that the process hasn't been fair up to this point and, therefore they don't want to play in any more of these games. But, also, I think it's a reminder of why Nancy Pelosi didn't want to go down this road in the first place, because I think that -- and you know, big picture, you step back from what, you know, all the ins and outs that we're talking about here, politically, it doesn't look terribly good on the -- what everybody around here likes to call the split-screen. You have President Trump over in Europe, in NATO, at NATO, talking about, you know, important issues. And then, over here, you have this impeachment process that is ultimately, I think, most people agree, isn't going to go at least not beyond the Senate. And it makes Democrats look like they're playing sort of ridiculous political games while the president is trying to get things done.

BAIER: On a perception look, Michael, does -- do Democrats go in with a strong hand because of the hearings or a weak hand because of what they're seeing in the poll numbers across the country?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I think we -- look, I think both things are true. I think the Democrats feel like the hearings went well for them, in terms of getting the witnesses they wanted to say -- tell the narrative that they wanted. They felt like they presented the evidence in a very compelling way. I think they are a little bit disappointed in the poll numbers, that the hearings didn't really move the polls. And it's hard to see what will move the needle, at this point. I mean, this is just yet another example of the way this country is so incredibly polarized. And I think that new facts tend to sort of fortify people in the beliefs that they already have. It's really hard to push those numbers very far in one direction or the other. I will say that, on the question of perception, you know, I take Charlie's points. I think Democrats would say President Trump attacks them when he travels around the world. And that it seems like, increasingly, throughout our politics now, the lines -- the old adage of politics stopping at the waters' edge -- it really doesn’t hold true anymore on either side. So, there may some risk for them to do this, but there's never going to be a time -- if they want to go ahead with impeachment, there's never going to be a quiet moment where they're not going to be able to do it. So, if they're going to do, it's hard to see them stepping back right now.

BAIER: Twitter doesn't seem to have a lot of water.

[LAUGHTER]

BAIER: No edge.

CHRIS STIREWALT, FOX NEWS: Pretty dry in there.

BAIER: No, it's pretty dry in there.

STIREWALT: Pretty dry.

BAIER: Chris, as we look towards Wednesday, the first witnesses are, basically, law professors to talk about impeachment and articles of impeachment.

STIREWALT: Right.

BAIER: And is this an example of that?

STIREWALT: Well, look, on the one hand, it's a safe place to start, right? You put it -- you always put a chump game at the beginning of your season, no offense to James Madison. The -- you always put an easy team at the beginning of your schedule. They're going to try to be nicey-nice at the beginning. And they're going to see how this goes. Nadler has a really tough job on his hands because aside from lacking some of the restraint sometimes, that maybe he should have, Schiff had a successful outing. Whatever you -- whatever anybody thinks about Schiff, he kept it together, he ran effective hearings, he got it done. Now, Nadler has a different group of people in that room with a different set of rules. And he's under the obvious direction from Nancy Pelosi to try to make it look fair. He's got to try to make this look fair. And they've got to try to entice the administration to participate.

BAIER: Okay. Meantime, Lisa Page, the former FBI lawyer, giving an interview to The Daily Beast, saying, "The President of the United States is calling me names to the entire world. He's demeaning me and my career. It's sickening. And when the president accuses you of treason by name, despite the fact that I know there's no fathomable way that I have committed any crime at all, let alone treason, he's still somebody in a position to actually do something about that to try to further destroy my life." She references the rally in which he's mentioned Lisa Page and Peter Strzok numerous times. Thoughts about this and her kind of speaking out before this IG report comes out.

HURT: Yeah. Well, the timing, of course, is very curious or, perhaps, not curious at all. It may be very obvious that she's concerned about that and wants to get her side of the story out. Whatever, that's fine. But the whole concept of her sort of throwing this pity-party for herself is exactly why so many people lined up to vote for a guy like Donald Trump, I think. Donald Trump isn't the one who dragged this whole situation into the political arena. She did and her buddy, Peter Strzok did by writing those texts. And if you -- and you go back and you look at them, it's very clear that, you know, we can debate about how much, how effective they were at guiding the investigations that went on. The investigations did go on and it went on with -- and along with the very conversations that were revealed by those texts. And those conversations were had at the highest levels of the FBI. So, people -- yeah, people and, of course, you have all of that lined up against a guy like Donald Trump, he's going to make political hay out of it. And he -- it is going to be -- you know, I don't think he dragged it into the political arena, but he's certainly going to fight it loudly.

BAIER: Yeah. And, you know, next week we will get the IG report. And there's been all kinds of reporting in your paper, other papers, other places about kind of laying the groundwork for what's coming. But we really don't know until we see the whole report, and it's likely to be detailed. But in the previous I.G. report on the FBI/DOJ actions in 2016, this is from June of 2018, looking back at that, they were troubled by the Strzok and Page text messages and said that it potentially indicated or created the appearance that the investigative decisions were impacted by bias or improper considerations. Kind of -- you know, for an IG to look at those and say they were problematic, if not criminal.

CROWLEY: Right. Look, and it's a nightmare for the Justice Department to have this perception that there is any political bias within the department, much less driving decisions. But of course, people there are going to have personal opinions. It was not a great idea for the two of them, first of all, to be having an affair. Second of all, to be texting like that, I mean, I think we, everyone in Washington knows now you've got to text as though it's going to be on the front page of a newspaper the next day, same with an email. But the key point I think here, Bret, is that, so there could be, understandably, some public concern that these kinds of conversations are happening. But the key point is that there has not been any evidence that showed that they influenced, tampered with, corrupted the investigation in a way that diverted it from any evidentiary basis. I mean, the investigation happened because of things like Carter Page's contacts with sketchy Russians in his past, contacts with sketchy Russians going back several years that were really alarming to the Justice Department. There's no sign -- or George Papadopoulos talking about having learned about Hillary Clinton emails being stolen by the Russians. That's where this come from. And who knows what this next I.G. report will show.

BAIER: But --

CROWLEY: But right now, there's no line between those opinions and the investigation into the Trump campaigns contact with Russia.

BAIER: -- yes, but the big article doesn't really get into what the insurance policy is, doesn't get into the text and the substance of it. She says they were taken out of context. Well, okay, explain the context. That's it.

STIREWALT: I suspect that the report will -- look, if you want to opine, people want to opine, if partisans want to opine, Lord knows there's -- we've tried. There's no amount of facts or dearth of facts that will ever keep them from doing it. They're going to have opinions. They're going to say stuff. I have a strong belief here that based on Horowitz's track record and how he has conducted himself, and the esteem that he is held in on both sides of the aisle that, look, this isn't going to be a mink muffler for anybody. Everybody's probably going to be a little unhappy when you get down to the end of it. But he'll probably walk away clean.

BAIER: Not only that, but you've got John Durham behind that and what that will show, we don't know.

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