This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," June 18, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT: It's a difficult time for Pat, but he is going to take a little time up for family service and for working things out. I didn't ask him to withdrawal, but we have a great vetting process. But this is something that came up a little bit over the last short period of time.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, D-CONN.: I feel that there was possibly a deliberate concealment here. I think there ought to be an investigation by the IG and the Department of Defense.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY., SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I do think we would be better off by far to have a secretary of defense that was actually confirmed by the Senate.


BRET BAIER, HOST: Caught everybody by surprise today, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan not only pulling his name out of the nomination but resigning as of Friday, and the Army Secretary, Esper, now becomes the new acting Defense Secretary. And we'll see if he gets nominated for the big job.

Shanahan releasing a statement, saying "It's unfortunate that a painful and deeply personal family situation from long ago is being dredged up and painted in an incomplete and therefore misleading way in the course of this process. I believe my continuing in the confirmation process would force my three children to relive a traumatic chapter in our family's life, reopen wounds we have worked years to heal. Ultimately, their safety and well-being is my highest priority. I would welcome opportunity to be Secretary of Defense, but not at the expense of being a good father."

"The Washington Post" talked to Shanahan in a piece that details these past domestic violence incidents in the family, and it is a very painful read on that article. We'll start there with the panel. Let's bring in our panel, Byron York, chief political correspondent for the "Washington Examiner," Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at "The Federalist," and Charles Lane, opinion writer for "The Washington Post."

I guess the question people ask, Byron, is why is this now happening, like why didn't it come up when he was confirmed deputy secretary? And it seems like it just all came at the end.

BRYON YORK, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Well, it should have come up back then. And this is terrible, terrible story, and I think it does show you that one of the reasons -- this is one of the reasons why we have Senate confirmations and why we have this process. And the Trump administration has been -- it would be generous to say they've been casual about it. James Mattis resigned in December, so Shanahan has been the acting secretary for six months now, and they haven't really gotten a process underway.

Clearly, in a more prompt confirmation process this would have been found. He would have resigned and we'd be on our way to a confirmable secretary of defense. So when the president says they have a great vetting process, that just does not appear to be the case.

BAIER: Yes, and just to get clear here, the domestic violence incident dealt was with his wife, Kimberley, now ex-wife, back in 2010, and then an incident with his 17-year-old son also getting into an altercation with his ex-wife. Mollie, what about this?

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE FEDERALIST": Well, this is a very surprising situation, but I do think it speaks to the problems with the temporary appointment of people instead of conforming confirming. There are multiple problems with this, not just that the president has decided that he likes to have acting people as opposed to actually nominating --

BAIER: There's eight of them currently acting. We've got two pages worth of --

HEMINGWAY: There's also a Senate side problem to this, too. You have it taking forever to get confirmations through the Senate. They have all sorts of obstruction and tricks that are being deployed to keep people from getting confirmed. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has understandably prioritized judicial nominations over some of these executive branch nominations. It just seems like we've had a complete breakdown. It's a very healthy thing to have the president nominate and have the Senate confirm or reject that nominee, and we are just not seeing enough of that right now.

BAIER: Shanahan, we thought that the hiccup might have been his past time at Boeing. He was the vice president of Boeing, and there may have been some concerns about that. I asked him about all of that in an interview here on “Special Report.”


BAIER: Does the acting affect your job at all, the fact that you're acting defense secretary?

PATRICK SHANAHAN, FORMER ACTING DEFENSE SECRETARY: My mother asks me this question all the time. When are you going to be nominated? And what I tell her is, it's an honor and a privilege to serve our country. And I will serve in any capacity the president sees fit. I don't wake up in the morning and think about whether I'm going to be nominated. I do the job.


BAIER: The bottom line on that thing, he wanted the job, he really wanted it.

CHARLES LANE, OPINION WRITER, "WASHINGTON POST": And it makes you wonder looking back with the advantage of hindsight now, how much of this seeming shambolic confirmation process was just kind of an internal tug of war between him and the White House in terms of maybe he was just resisting being moved aside. We'll, I'm sure, get more reporting about that later.

It is a tragic and toxic situation in his family in the past, and it really is in addition to being very, very sad, it makes you hope for the best for his children out of this. But it is the kind of thing, particularly the part of the story in which he is, I would say accused, but the appearance is created that he was kind of protecting his son from law enforcement for a few days. His son was accused of attacking his mother with a baseball bat, very severely injuring her. That was going to create a problem for him at confirmation, a huge problem.

BAIER: But, I guess, why didn't it create a problem before?

LANE: Exactly. And so those kinds of things really should have come out in the past.

BAIER: Let's move to the issue of immigration. You have Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with a very interesting characterization of the camps along the southern border, and ICE, the ICE director pushing back hard tonight.


REP. ALEXANDRA OCASIO-CORTEZ, D-N.Y.: The United States is running concentration camps on our southern border, and that is exactly what they are. They are concentration camps. A presidency that creates concentration camps is fascist.

MARK MORGAN, ACTING ICE DIRECTOR: It's completely inappropriate. It's reckless. It's irresponsible. It's misinformed, and it's flat out wrong. There is so much oversight in these facilities. We have a I.G. report after I.G. report. I encourage the check and balance, I encourage inspections.


BAIER: And he encouraged her to come down to the border, Mollie.

HEMINGWAY: It's sad to see someone so poorly educated that they don't understand the difference between Nazi Germany housing people for the purpose of their extermination and our country detaining people who have crossed the border illegally and caring for them. That is a failure of our education system, and it's her own fault for not knowing that situation better, or knowing that these things did not begin with President Trump.

But if you do think this is a humanitarian crisis, and if you think these things are horrible and all the other humanitarian problems that are in play, I would hope that at some point our members in the House and the Senate would actually get to solving the problem as opposed to just spouting this incendiary rhetoric.

BAIER: She pushed back late today and said you can have a concentration camp that's not a death camp. And she pointed to this "Esquire" piece where this expert on camps waxed poetic about that. But if she's talking for the average man or woman, the average man or woman hears "concentration camp" and they think Dachau or Auschwitz or Nazi Germany.

YORK: They think Nazi. And the detention that does happen with people who crossed into the United States illegally is, as Mark Morgan would say, pretty carefully regulated by law. The United States can only hold people, certainly those coming in family units, for a short period of time, 20 days I believe in what's known as the Flores decision. That's been very frustrating to American officials, but it certainly doesn't -- it's not characteristic of a concentration camp.

BAIER: In the meantime, we don't know, Chuck, what exactly the president was pointing to, and maybe there was this ICE operation that is going to gather up millions of illegal immigrants soon. He tweeted about this last night, saying that it was happening. "Next week, ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in. Mexico using their strong immigration laws, they're doing a very good job of stopping people." He goes on. And we wanted to see that tweet, but I will just talk about it.


BAIER: What is this? We have not heard anything about it. The president said it's happening, but the ICE officials, we can't seem to get anything on it.

LANE: I think the ICE official line is we don't announce our removal operations in advance, right. We don't want to alert the people we are going to remove. The quote that the White House, or an administration official put out today was that there are currently approximately a million people who have been adjudicated removable. They have a judge's order that they should get out of the country. And under the priorities that the agency has, they would be the first people in line. So the idea of millions being targeted is seemingly pretty unrealistic because you couldn't even get 1 million as your first priorities.

I think it's just the president indulging in his usual kind of hyperbolic rhetoric. He's going down to Florida, he's kind of in campaign mood, and this is what he felt like saying.

BAIER: I'm sure he's going to talk about it tonight. We will obviously see that live here on FOX. It fires up the base. We'll see what comes out of it.

Next up, the latest on tensions with Iran and the trade war with China.



TRUMP: We're looking at Iran. We have a lot of things going with Iran. We are very prepared for Iran. We'll see what happens.

HASSAN ROUHANI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We do not wage war with any nation. Our opponents are a bunch of inexperienced politicians, but on our side is not just the country's officials, but the whole Iranian nation that is unanimously present in this battle.

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I think the Iranian people are being woefully mis-served by that leadership. President Trump does not want war, and we will continue to communicate that message while doing the things that are necessary to protect American interests in the region.


BAIER: Secretary of State at Central Command today down in Tampa. We're back with the panel. We'll start with Iran. Chuck?

LANE: I think probably even more significant than these somewhat scary attacks on the tankers is this news about the increase in the uranium, enriched uranium stockpile. Iran is really in a real jam here because of Trump administration has successfully gotten countries to cooperate with the sanctions on the oil exports of Iran.

BAIER: And they are feeling it.

LANE: They're feeling the pain. And I think what they are doing here is try to put pressure on Europe to maybe break ranks with the U.S. and try to cut a deal through Europe that will enable the oil exports to start flowing in, because they don't have a whole lot of cards to play, so this kind of threatening, this behaving more dangerously, this threat to break out of what it had still been adhering to in the nuclear deal is a bid to get some leverage against the U.S.

BAIER: There's no indication, Mollie, that that's happening. You had Angela Merkel saying we're in close contact with U.S. officials, you had others. No sense that Europe is breaking in on that front.

HEMINGWAY: No, although she also said that she would like to see a diplomatic way through, an offramp that enables Iran to get out of this ratcheting up of tensions. It is fraught situation, but it's been fraught for a long time. Iran was responsible for one in six soldiers deaths in Iraq. This type of behavior they are doing against the tankers and whatnot is more par for the course. They are a sponsor of terror, this is who they are.

YORK: I do think we ought to be a little nervous about this. You had the secretary of state saying the United States does not want war, and you have the president saying that United States does not want war, and we are sending 1,000 troops now, and a new fighter squadron has arrived. And we're getting a situation where we have got armed forces and a lot of armaments over there in this really troubled place. And this is not a good situation.

BAIER: Right.

HEMINGWAY: This is a problem with having war-making now be in the function of the executive instead of through Congress. It used to be that you had to make a case for any type of conflict. And particularly in this region we have seen how important it is to make sure the American people are on board with something. I think some of the pushback you are seeing from President Trump about this march toward is a recognition that that case has not been fully made.

BAIER: I think it's premature to call it a march to war, but clearly they're building up. And tensions, and stuff can happen, and things can happen that are out of their control from Iran.

In the meantime, the president tweeted "Had a very good telephone conversation with President Xi of China. We will be having an extended meeting next week at the G20 in Japan. Our respective teams will begin talks prior to our meeting." The Dow really liked that today, Chuck.

LANE: They love it every time the trade war appears to be off as opposed to on. And I must say, I thought this was an interesting little -- I wouldn't call it a victory for the president, but it seemed like a point scored because he had said that he was going to put on more tariffs against China if Xi didn't meet with him at the G-20, and now Xi is going to meet with him, although the Chinese said it was because the U.S. asked us to. There is a lot of money riding on this situation right now because the president is talking about more tariffs on a whole other $300 billion worth of Chinese goods, and the markets are aware of that.

BAIER: Panel, thank you. When we come back, a couple of very happy birthdays.


BAIER: Finally tonight, two very special birthdays. First California World War II veteran Thomas House has been visiting the same donut shop for three decades. He visits so often they have a photo hanging on the wall. They call him Pops there. His family thought Rainbow Donuts would be the perfect place to celebrate his 99th birthday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I live to be 100, next year every one of you people will get a free coffee and doughnuts.



BAIER: That is pretty good. I might come.

Another World War II veteran celebrated his 101st birthday up in the air. A spirited Southwest Airlines crew and passengers serenaded the birthday boy. They even flicked off the cabin lights after he blew the candles and made a wish.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Happy birthday to you. We're going to blow these candles on the count of three, so you've got to make a big, old wish. One, two. Happy birthday.


BAIER: That was scary there. No, but happy birthday.


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

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