This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Sunday," September 9, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: I'm Chris Wallace.
President Trump calls on the Justice Department to investigate who wrote that essay in the New York Times describing resistance inside his administration.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For the sake of our national security, the New York Times should publish his name at once.
WALLACE: This hour, we'll discuss the 1-2 punch of the anonymous column.
Should all top officials take a lie detector test and would you agree to take one?
And reports of White House disarray and Bob Woodward's new work. What does it mean for the future of the Trump administration? We'll ask the vice president of the United States, Mike Pence.
Then, Judge Brett Kavanaugh faces of grilling by Democrats at his Supreme Court confirmation hearing.
SEN. DICK DURBIN, D-ILLINOIS: There are many concerns about the future of the democracy and the future of democracy. And you are asking for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land.
WALLACE: We'll ask Democratic Senator Chris Coons of his party can block Kavanaugh.
Plus, Barack Obama steps back into the political arena and unloads on President Trump.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause. He's just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years.
TRUMP: I watched it but I fell asleep.
WALLACE: We'll ask our Sunday panel how the Obama-Trump face-off will shape the midterm election.
All, right now, on "Fox News Sunday".
WALLACE: And hello again from Fox News in Washington.
Any concerns President Trump has had about leaks and disloyalty inside his administration were confirmed this week by that anonymous column in the New York Times and Bob Woodward's new book. Top officials openly admit they work against presidential directives they consider dangerous.
And add to that, Barack Obama back in the political spotlight hammering President Trump in the run-up to the midterm elections.
On Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence invited us to his residence on Embassy Row in Washington to push back against stories of an administration in disarray.
WALLACE: Mr. Vice President, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: thank you, Chris.
WALLACE: Let's start with Barack Obama's return to the campaign trail, accusing President Trump of practicing the politics of fear and resentment. Your reaction?
PENCE: Well, it was very disappointing to see President Obama break with the tradition of former presidents and become so political and roll out same tired arguments that he and liberals have made over the last eight years.
The truth is the American people in 2016 rejected the policy and direction of Barack Obama when they elected President Donald Trump. Look, we inherited an economy that has grown a little bit more than 1 percent.
In the last quarter our economy is growing at 4.2 percent. Four million new jobs. Unemployment at a 50 year low.
And to have President Obama come out and tout his policies that resulted in less than 2 percent growth, saw tax increases, Obamacare regulation and doubling the national debt, I think was -- it was very disappointing but frankly I think it just illuminates the choice the American people had in the midterm elections.
WALLACE: Let's look, though, at some of President Obama specific charges. He talks about actions like the president calling on the Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate who wrote that anonymous article in the New York Times.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This should not be a partisan issue to say that we do not pressure the attorney general or the FBI to use the criminal justice system as a cudgel to punish her political opponents.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: What are the national security grounds to investigate that article? What law did the writer break?
PENCE: Well, we'll find out if there was criminal activity involved, if something will be inappropriate --
WALLACE: What criminal activity could there be. There was no classified information.
PENCE: Well, we'll see. I think the president's concern is that this individual may have responsibilities in the area of national security. And if they have no published anonymous editorial that says that they are misrepresenting themselves, that they are essentially living a lie within this administration, and trying to frustrate and subvert the agenda of the president was elected to advance, that's an important issue.
WALLACE: Political disloyalty, it certainly troubling. It's not illegal.
PENCE: Well, but there's another part of it though. You know, every senior official in any administration takes an oath to the Constitution. The Constitution of the United States vests all executive power in the president of the United States.
To have an individual who took that oath, literally say that they work every day to frustrate the president advancing the agenda was elected to advance is undemocratic. It's not just deceitful, but it's really an assault on our democracy and that person should do the honorable thing, step forward and resign.
WALLACE: I want to get into the question as to whether they are trying to thwart the will of the president in the moment. But I want to look at -- because President Obama mentioned this as well. The president's tweet earlier this week basically chastising, rebuking Attorney General Sessions for bringing the prosecution on charges of corruption against tow GOP House members.
The president tweeted: Two very popular Republican congressmen were brought to a well-publicized charge just ahead of the midterms by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job, Jeff.
The president is saying, play politics. Protect members of Congress even if they have committed acts of corruption before the election.
PENCE: No, I don't think that's what the president was saying at all, Chris. Look, the Department of Justice, as you know, has long-standing guidelines through the success of the administration that says whenever possible, the Justice Department should avoid taking actions that may impact an election. Now, the president was referring to that and the difficulty --
WALLACE: These are two people, one supposedly committing an insider trading and the other one who was living high off campaign funds. Are you saying that they should be protected because we are close to a midterms?
PENCE: They are all very serious allegations and they ought to be pursued, but I think the president was referring to the long-standing tradition in the Justice Department to avoid unnecessarily impacting election outcomes and perhaps preventing other men and women from stepping forward and filling those slots in the future.
But, look, I think one of the virtues of this president, one of the reasons why we've been so successful over the last 18 months is because he speaks directly to the American people. You don't have to wonder what President Trump is thinking almost on any given morning because he tells the American people what's on his mind. And it's that energy --
WALLACE: -- doesn't mean it isn't troubling.
PENCE: Well --
WALLACE: When he says -- I mean, again, just forgive me, sir. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time, good job, Jeff. Should the attorney general be worried about that?
PENCE: I think -- look, this is a president that was elected by speaking directly to the American people and being candid with the American people in expressing what he's enthusiastic about, what he's frustrated about and the American people understand that.
WALLACE: This gets to the theme of both the anonymous article and also Bob Woodward's book, that some officials within this administration, within this White House feel that they have to act in effect as guardrails to protect against some of the president's more impulsive actions.
Case in point, first story in Woodward's book, September of 2017, Gary Cohn, the chief economic advisor, walks into the Oval Office and sees a letter on the president's desk that would blow up the South Korean free-trade deal and jeopardize one of our most important alliances and he takes it away so the president won't sign it. Do have any doubt that happened?
PENCE: I have every doubt that that happened. I really do. And the president renegotiated the South Korean free trade agreement in a way that put American jobs and American workers first. But, look, I --
WALLACE: If I may just stay on this point for one minute because Bob Woodward didn't just quote somebody. He has the document here. This is the letter that he took off the president's desk mark September 2017 in which the president if he had signed it would have terminated the South Korean trade deal.
This isn't just talk. He's got the goods here.
PENCE: This is a president who puts people around the table, around the resolute desk in the oval office that bring him all of the options. They put on the table everything that he could be doing. He invites a vigorous debate around the desk and then he makes a decision. That's how it really does work.
And I have to tell you, this entire narrative that I get from what I've read about the book that came out in the narrative in the rhetorical is totally foreign to me. And when the president and I are both in town --
PENCE: Chris, I spend about four hours a day with the president and we are both in Washington, D.C., every day. In and what I see is a tough leader, a demanding leader, someone who gets all the options on the table, but he makes the decisions and that's why we've made the progress.
WALLACE: But here's what anonymous sees. He writes in that article in the New York Times: That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump's more misguided impulses until he is out of office.
Woodward describes what he calls our nervous breakdown inside the Trump administration.
PENCE: It's absolutely absurd. And I have to tell you, I'd be honest with you, Chris. Sometimes I watch a little bit of TV in the morning and then I go to the White House and I feel like I'm in a parallel universe. I walk into a White House where there is a president behind the desk, he is in command, he is constantly driving forward on delivering on the promises that we made to the American people and then I go home at night and I see cable TV talking about all of this stuff about disarray in the White House and it's just not my experience.
I mean -- but I tell people, look at the results. You look at the passage of historic tax cuts for businesses and individuals and the way that jobs are coming back and investment is coming back. The renegotiation of trade deals. Our allies contributing more to our common defense.
All of that is happening because we have a president of almost boundless energy who comes in every day, regardless of what's happening in the Washington media culture and says what are we doing today to deliver for the American people and I think that's why I see such enthusiasm as I travel across the country and that's why I believe the American people are going to vote reelect Republican majorities in the house and Senate this fall.
WALLACE: Do you think you know who anonymous is?
PENCE: I don't. I don't know, but I do know that they should resign and leave this administration.
WALLACE: Should all top officials take a lie detector test and would you agree to take when?
PENCE: I would agree to take it in a heartbeat and would submit to any review the administration wanted to do.
WALLACE: Do you think the administration should do that?
PENCE: Well, look, that would be a decision for the president. But, look, I think the honorable thing to do here is for this individual to recognize that they are literally violating an oath. If they are that senior administration official, that they are violating an oath not to the president, but to the Constitution.
PENCE: Look, it's un-American and I think that's why using Republicans and Democrats condemn this. The American people vote for a president. They fully expect the president to be able to surround themselves with men and women who will work with them in advancing their agenda.
But to have someone who literally celebrates coming in every day to frustrate the agenda that the president and I were elected to advance, it really is an assault on our democracy and it should be universally condemned.
WALLACE: One of the more unusual words in the essay is "lodestar:, which it turns out, people have looked, is a word that you have used many times.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: Must again be our lodestar.
With vigilance and resolve as our lodestar.
It really was the lodestar.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Do you think someone purposely put that in the essay to try to set you up?
PENCE: Yes, I wouldn't know. I wouldn't know.
And I really do believe whether it's the book, whether it's the anonymous editorial, whether it's President Obama's speech this week, it's all an effort to distract attention from this booming economy and from the president's record of success.
And it's all very predictable. We have important midterm elections coming up. I get all of that, but I -- but the American people should know President Trump and I are going to remain absolutely determined to reelect this Republican Congress so we can continue to build on the momentum that's putting Americans back to work.
WALLACE: What did you think of the confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh? What did you think of some Democrats who decided to break the rules into release what were committee confidential documents, and how confident are you that Kavanaugh will be on the Supreme Court when it resumes in October?
PENCE: Judge Brett Kavanaugh distinguished himself. Many Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee embarrassed themselves. That's the truth of it.
PENCE: What the American people saw in Judge Brett Kavanaugh is a jurist just like President Trump promised to appoint, someone of profound intellect. A judicial philosophy to interpret the laws of this country as written, interpret the constitution as written. But they also saw what was at times a circus in that Judiciary Committee. People shouting behind them and histrionics in Judiciary Committee among Democrat members.
You saw a judge with the temperament to make it through this 12-hour hearings with such dignity. And we had every confidence that before the Supreme Court convenes in October, Judge Brett Kavanaugh will be Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
WALLACE: Finally, Syria. The U.S. has warned Syria, Russia and Iran not to launch a final assault on Idlib province, home to more than 3 million people. They indicate that they intend to go ahead. Will the U.S. intervene militarily to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe there?
PENCE: We are watching it very closely and we have made it very clear to the regime in Syria, to Russia and Iran that the United States and our allies will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons against civilians in that province. There will be swift --
WALLACE: Let's say it's not chemical weapons. Let's say it's barrel bombs, let's say it's conventional weapons, are we going to let hundreds of thousands of people die there, sir?
PENCE: Well, we all know what happened in Aleppo. We're watching it all very closely. But what's different with President Trump from President Obama is this president drew a redline and enforced it on chemical weapons.
President Obama drew a redline and said you can't use chemical weapons and then allowed Assad and Syria to go forward and victimize countless civilians.
WALLACE: But, sir, dead is dead. I understand -- I take your point about the chemical weapons.
PENCE: I want to make it very, very clear. There's a wider world watching, is that the United States of America and our allies will take swift and decisive action against any use of chemical weapons in Idlib province. Beyond that, I will tell you that we are watching very carefully as resources are being marshaled along the border of the Idlib province.
And I'm confident there will be a decision by the president of the United States, but I'm confident that we will be monitoring that very, very carefully to ensure that we don't see another humanitarian catastrophe like we did before.
WALLACE: Mr. Vice President, thank you, sir.
PENCE: Thank you, Chris.
WALLACE: But even as the vice president and I were speaking, Syrian and Russian warplanes bombed the southern edge of Idlib province.
When we come back, we'll hear from Democratic Senator Chris Coons. What about administration officials working to undercut their own president? Will Barack Obama help or hurt Democrats in November? And do Democrats do anything to slow down Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court?
WALLACE: This week, President Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Brett K, faced two days of grilling by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, but did they do anything to slow down his confirmation to the court before it starts its new session in October?
Joining us now, Senator Chris Coons, a leading member of that committee.
Senator, I'll get to that in a moment but I want to start, you just heard my interview with Vice President Pence. Your reaction to his defense of President Trump against critics, some of those critics inside his own administration?
SEN. CHRIS COONS, D-DELA., SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, what I heard the vice president say was that he was deeply disappointed and that he bought the critic within the administration who wrote the op-ed, the anonymous op-ed in the New York Times should resign.
I agree with that position. I think the honorable thing to do is to resign and to go public with the author's concerns about the president's fitness to serve.
WALLACE: And what about just the fact that between the anonymous essay and the Woodward book, you have so many top officials saying that they feel they have to act as a kind of guardrail against some of President Trump's impulsive actions?
COONS: Well, that does raise a concern that I also made the focus of my questioning of Judge Kavanaugh, Chris. I focused on ways in which Judge Kavanaugh has written, has spoken, issued decisions that suggest he has a very broad view of presidential power. Given our current context, that could lead to a shield for President Trump from accountability by the special counsel's investigation and that's something that I tried to make the real focus of my questioning of Judge Kavanaugh.
I think that ought to be a concern for everybody watching, Republican, Democratic, independent, because whether it's this administration or a future one, I think all of us have an interest in the rule of law and in a president who is not above the law.
WALLACE: Well, I want to double down on that because I want to ask you about some comments by the president this week and I'm asking you as a moment member of the Senate Judiciary Committee on the question of the rule of law. The president, as I pointed out to the Vice President Pence, chastised Attorney General Sessions for the prosecution of two Republican congressmen so close to the midterm election.
And then there also was this comment from the president about investigating who wrote the anonymous article.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would think Jeff should be investigating who the author of that piece was because I really believe it's national security.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
WALLACE: Question, Senator, is there any legal basis on the question of national security for a criminal investigation of who wrote that op-ed in the New York Times?
COONS: Not that I'm aware of. I think you asked the vice president exactly the right question. What's the basis in law for investigating who wrote this editorial?
Look, the real issue here across all of these concerns is that we have a president who, in his tweets, and in his statements and speeches suggests that he thinks the Department of Justice should act more like the in-house lawyer department or legal department to the Trump Organization rather than what they are, the independent agency charged with defending our Constitution. The independence of the Department of Justice and its prosecutorial decisions from presidential or political interference is one of the bedrocks of our democracy and the ways in which President Trump continues to harass and to tweet against Attorney General Sessions, as you just cited, this last week criticizing him for the investigation and the indictment of two close allies of the president should be very troubling to all of us.
And the comments from senators, both the Republican and Democrat, that this is a very troubling, very inappropriate break with traditional norms by President Trump.
WALLACE: But, Senator, let's look at the larger picture of this question that we saw this week from the book, from the essay, about resistance to the president inside his own administration. Donald Trump is the duly elected president of the United States. No one voted for Gary Cohn. No one voted for Defense Secretary Mattis and there are stories in the Woodward book of both of them ignoring, or in the case of Cohn, as I pointed out to the vice president, taking a letter that the president could have signed off his desk.
Who are they to thwart the will of the duly elected president?
COONS: Chris, that's right. This does raise some serious concerns.
Every presidential administration has vigorous debates, disagreements on policy priorities, but this is a different sort of thing. This is folks who are alleged to have taken direct action to prevent the president from carrying out some of his worst instincts or worse decisions.
And that should raise some concerns, particularly given the anonymous editorial in the New York Times. I will remind you that the writer of that editorial makes it clear that he supports the president's policy agenda, that he supports tax cuts and deregulation and building of the military and he self-describes as not part of the deep state, but the steady state, someone who's trying to keep this president on course and delivering on his policy agenda.
But it does, as you say, Chris, raise troubling concerns. If we have a president so mercurial, so unable to stick to a decision within one day that his own senior aides think they are called upon as folks who have sworn to uphold the Constitution to prevent the president from carrying out some of his worse decisions. This really does concern me.
WALLACE: I want to move to another development this week, and that is former President Obama returned to the campaign trail and took the opportunity to blister President Trump. Here's just one example.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause. He is just capitalizing resentments that politicians have been fanning for years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator, is that smart politics for the November election? Yes, there's no question that Barack Obama is popular with and will fire up the Democratic base, but isn't there also a risk that he will fire up the Republican base?
COONS: Well, Chris, my hope is that this election is going to be about the real needs and concerns of average Americans in districts and states across the country where there's going to be important elections to determine the future of our country. I do think that President Obama respected long-standing norms and how he handled the transition of power. I think he conducted himself graciously in the inauguration of President Trump and he has stayed completely on the sidelines for 18 months.
From what I heard of President Obama, former President Obama's speech, his core message was that we need to do a better job of listening to each other, respecting each other and honoring our institutions and traditions and I think -- not to speak for him but I think former President Obama, because of the ways in which President Trump over the last 18 months has challenged, has broken some of our long-standing traditions about respect for the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, the independent media, that he felt compelled to speak out at this point.
WALLACE: Let's turn to your day job and to the Kavanaugh hearings. Some of your Democratic colleagues on the judiciary committee released documents that the committee had deemed confidential, and no one was more dramatic about it then your Democratic colleague, Senator Cory Booker. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CORY BOOKER, D-NJ, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I did willingly violate the chairs roll on the committee confidential process. I take full responsibility for violating that, sir. This is about the closest I will ever have in my life to an "I am Spartacus" moment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: But, Senator, Booker knew and you knew that when he made such a big fuss about releasing those documents, in fact the Judiciary Committee had already cleared those documents for release. So, wasn't this just a pretty blatant stunt?
COONS: Chris, I have to be careful what I say here because I'm the vice chairman of the Ethics Committee and in that role I can't comment on anything that may or may not come before the Ethics Committee.
Let me just say this about the whole dispute we had on the committee about documents. I do think that this was an unprecedented process in which significant amount, the overwhelming majority of the documents relevant to Judge Kavanaugh's service in the Bush administration as staff secretary were blocked from review by the committee. And there was a strong disagreement between the majority and the minority.
WALLACE: But, Senator, that's not up to individual senator --
COONS: Overall, I agree with that concern.
WALLACE: But that's not up to individual senators to just unilateral -- I mean, otherwise, it's chaos. If the committee deemed something confidential rightly or wrongly, can individual senators say, no, I'm not going to play by those rules?
COONS: I really can't comment to whether or not this was breaking the rules of the committee.
WALLACE: I just have to ask you because you brought this up, is this a matter that the Ethics Committee is now considering, Cory Booker's behavior?
COONS: I can't comment on that, Chris.
WALLACE: Why not?
COONS: The rules of the Ethics Committee prohibit any member of the committee on commenting on whether a matter is before the committee or not.
WALLACE: So you cannot deny that this issue of what he did in releasing these documents is not before the committee?
COONS: I can't comment on that, Chris.
WALLACE: OK. I have a final question, and that is a general one about the Kavanaugh nomination. Does the president deserve deference from the Senate when he appoints -- he is elected, he won and he appoints someone to the Supreme Court who is clearly within the judicial mainstream?
COONS: Well, Chris, as I said in a hearing, I've known Judge Kavanaugh for 30 years. And I know him to be an intelligent, decent, thoughtful person, good father, husband, neighbor. We heard a lot about what a good high school basketball coach he is and how he volunteers at a homeless shelter with his parish. All of those are admirable qualities.
I am concerned, as I said before and as I made the focus of my questioning of Judge Kavanaugh, that he is well outside the judicial mainstream. That in a decision he rendered just this year, he refused to follow settled precedent and he made it clear that his views on executive power would lead to a dangerous rewriting of the core policies -- the core constitutional traditions and decisions of the court around presidential power.
I'm going to take advantage of the opportunity today to send some questions for the record to Judge Kavanaugh. I'm going to continue to look over his writings, his speeches. But in the time that I was able to spend over four days with Judge Kavanaugh and with other witnesses in front of the committee, I remain gravely concerned that he's not inside the judicial mainstream on several really important precedents that, Chris, would have a real impact on individual rights and liberties of Americans and on presidential power. And I think Americans of all parties, particularly given our current context, should be concerned about Judge Kavanaugh's decisions on presidential power.
WALLACE: Senator Coons, thank you. Thanks for your time. And we'll follow your committee's vote on the Kavanaugh nominations scheduled for 11 days from now.
Thank you, sir.
COONS: Thank you.
WALLACE: Up next, we'll bring in our Sunday group to discuss those shocking stories of Trump appointees working against the president's directives when they think he's acting impulsively.
WALLACE: Coming up, President Trump pushes back on this week's damaging revelation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The so-called resistance is angry because their horrible ideas have been rejected by the American people and it's driving them crazy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: We'll ask our Sunday panel about any lasting effect on the Trump administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For the sake of our national security, the New York Times should publish his name at once. I think their reporters should go and investigate who it is. Unelected deep state operatives who defy the voters to push their own secret agendas are truly a threat to democracy itself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: President Trump at a campaign rally criticizing the anonymous senior official who wrote that New York Times op-ed as a danger to the nation's security.
And it's time now for our Sunday group.
Katie Pavlich from townhall.com. Columnist for The Hill, Juan Williams. Liz Marlantes, politics editor of The Christian Science Monitor. And Josh Holmes, Mitch McConnell's former chief of staff and now a GOP strategist.
So, Katie, where do you come down on the revelations, both from the anonymous essay and also from Bob Woodward's book, that there is a resistance inside the administration, people acting to thwart the president's directives and, overall, how damaging do you think this week has been to the president?
KATIE PAVLICH, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, politically I don't think it was damaging at all. I think that people actually have look at this story and said it's more of palace intrigue. We don't know this person is. If they're not willing to put their name on it, then we're not going to necessarily be concerned with what they have to say.
Inside the White House it is a huge distraction. However, when it comes to what this New York Times op-ed said, they said that they were trying to thwart the president's worst intentions or instincts. Well, define what that is because based on my conversations with White House officials and off the record conversations with President Trump himself, he actually likes to listen and invites debate from a number of advisors and then tends to make his own decision. So are his worst instincts simply something that these advisors disagree with? Define what that actually means.
When it comes to the damage that's been done politically, again, I don't think that it's really going to have an impact. But inside the White House, certainly all of the suspicion, everyone looking over their shoulder, a number of offices and agencies coming out with their own op-ed saying it wasn't me, that certainly creates a hostile working environment that is not contingent to moving the president's agenda forward.
WALLACE: Juan, is Bob Woodward right, is this presidency serving -- suffering a nervous breakdown?
JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: A nervous breakdown? I'm a journalist, like Woodward, and so here's what I see, Chris. I see a White House that cancels meetings in a flailing manner and then convenience to try to find this anonymous source within the White House. I see a president that issues are totally inappropriate call for the Department of Justice to somehow go after finding this anonymous person and I guess prosecuting them on the basis, and this is even stranger, of the national security violation simply for criticizing the president. That's totally inappropriate and wrong. I don't know what's going on in the president said.
WALLACE: But what -- what about this -- this larger point, though, that Katie was talking about, that you have, according to Woodward's book, senior administration officials, Gary Cohen, national economic adviser, taking a document off the president's desk. The president tells Defense Secretary Mattis lets assassinate Assad after a chemical weapons attack and as soon as he gets off the call Mattis says, we're not going to do any of that. Is that -- is that insubordinate or is that responsible?
WILLIAMS: I think it's responsible if the people inside, and here I would go along with what you heard from the vice president in her interview, as well as Senator Coons, which is that the person feels that they have to do this. Maybe they should come forward. They mention the 25th Amendment.
But I must say, Woodward's book fits with what we've heard from Michael Wolff, what we've heard now from the anonymous columnist, what we heard from Omarosa. It all fits of a White House where there is an unstable president and you see a White House that's uncertain and at times easily pushed off target. And so at that point you start to wonder, what is going on in their?
JOSH HOLMES, FOUNDER, CAVALRY: Well, you know, I think a lot of this is overblown in terms of the amount of attention that we've -- the American people are far ahead of where the pundit class in D.C. is on evaluating where is president and where this administration is. I think there's not a lot of people sitting around suffering under the delusion that somehow the president is up all hours over his briefing books, right? That's not why they love him.
HOLMES: Why they love him is because he goes with his gut, right? You either love him or you hate him. And the folks that hate President Trump see what Bob Woodward had -- had written and see this New York Times op-ed as more evidence of what they suspect is an administration run amok. For those who love them, you know, this is kind of what you voted for. You voted for somebody who's going to vote out -- or operate outside of the box.
Now, we can now have our arguments about whether or not that's appropriate in these context, but, you know, taking a memo off the president's desk, some of us just call that staffing.
WALLACE: Well, quite -- I think that -- as a former chief of staff to Mitch McConnell, some of us are going to wonder about this. You may get a call from him.
I want to pick up on -- because it wasn't just that. There were new controversies this week, Liz. The president sent out a tweet, I think it was on Monday, basically chastising the attorney general for the prosecution of two Republican congressman saying they -- these guys are running. It's the midterm. These are safe seats. Don't mess around with that. And then, as Juan points out, at the end of the week, say on a national security grounds, he's -- he thinks that Attorney General Sessions should investigate who wrote this.
Does that help him or hurt him, those kinds of things?
LIZ MARLANTES, THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: I mean, again, to Josh's point, I think most voters now have an opinion. And this is going to either reconfirm the opinion they already have or, you know, on either side.
In terms of the -- you know, having a Department of Justice investigate the anonymous op-ed, I went back and look at the pool report of Trump's comments and he was asked that by a reporter. He didn't introduce it. A reporter actually said, do you think that Session should investigate? And he said yes. And I -- you know, I am -- I am not one to defend the president in terms of his attacks on the media, but I do think sometimes the media plays a little bit of a roll here. They actually kind of put that idea forward and he said yes, you know, I think Sessions should. So we'll see what happens with that. There is, as far as I can tell right now, no legal basis for it. It was not a leak of classified information.
WALLACE: Katie, lost in all of this is the fact that we had more great economic news this week. Two hundred thousand new jobs created, wages up 2.9 percent. But because of all of this noise, all of the statements, all of the tweets, all of the controversies, that gets lost.
PAVLICH: It may get lost in conversation. But when it comes to how people are feeling out in middle America, the rest of the country, you don't have to tell them when they see more money in their paychecks. You don't have to tell them what a new job becomes available in their town because regulation has been pulled off that was previously put in during the Obama administration, for example. So while there is a lot of noise politically for the president, as we've seen in the past, as these controversies have popped up, his approval ratings has actually gone up in a lot of cases because people are seeing results while at the same time there is controversy here in Washington, D.C.
Now, as we get --
WALLACE: But would the president -- would the president be wiser to focus on the good news?
WALLACE: You know, accentuate the positive?
PAVLICH: Sure. Yes.
WALLACE: Eliminate the negative?
PAVLICH: Yes. Yes, absolutely. It would be great if he could only focus on the economy. But that is something we've been saying since he started running for president in 2015. That is not going to happen. He's going to focus on all the issues of the day, including being involved in these controversies.
MARLANTES: I just would say, you know, his poll numbers actually have gone down a little bit lately.
WILLIAMS: That's what I've noticed.
MARLANTES: It's -- it's unclear if this is the start of a new trend or if this is just sort of a bad couple of weeks. But there has been -- actually been -- and his poll numbers have been remarkably stable.
PAVLICH: Right. That's my (ph) point.
MARLANTES: They haven't been great, but they've been remarkably stable throughout most of his presidency. But there has been a dip just in the last couple weeks that we're starting -- we're watching.
WALLACE: Well, the Manafort -- the Manafort-Cohen week was a bad week.
WALLACE: All right, panel, we have to take a break here.
When we come back, the return of Barack Obama to the political spotlight and what it means for the November midterms.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: This is not normal. These are extraordinary times. And they're dangerous times.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Barack Obama blistering President Trump in an attack by a former president against his successor that is also not normal. And we're back now with the panel.
Josh, what do you make a former President Obama's return to the political spotlight? How effective do you think he was in going after his successor, President Trump? And how do you think his involvement will play in terms of the November midterms?
HOLMES: Well, you just knew that President Obama wouldn't be able to resist the bright lights in the midterms, right? I mean you watched President Bush go through, after his administration, largely stay dark, start largely outside of the controversy, particularly when it came to campaigns and elections. You just knew President Obama couldn't do that.
But I think they have -- Democrats actually have a real problem here in that what we know about the election based on the special elections is that Democratic enthusiasm is at an all-time high. They don't need any more enthusiasm. They are right where they need to be.
The problem is, if Republicans are right where they are, you know, in the states that matter, particularly in the Senate, it negates any advantage they might have. And there is nobody, other than perhaps President Trump, who motivates the conservative electric quite like President Obama. So I think there's some danger in here, particularly if he continues this, and that kind of rhetoric out in the Midwest, particularly states like North Dakota, Indiana, West Virginia, Missouri, Montana, all of those states have more Republicans than Democrats and if they show up Democrats have a real problem.
WALLACE: Juan, I want to pick up on precisely the point, because I -- Democrats have wanted this to be a referendum on Donald Trump. Do you like Donald Trump or are you troubled by Donald Trump and do you want a check by Democrats taking back the House and/or the Senate? To the degree that Barack Obama becomes the face of the Democratic Party and the opposition this fall, yes, of course, he mobilizes a lot of people, especially minorities, young people, but he also may mobilize a lot of conservative voters who don't want to return to the days of high taxes and regulation that Barack Obama represents.
WILLIAMS: Well, I think you have to understand that President Obama is doing this quite strategically. Josh is on target. There are places where, in fact, you could anticipate that he would energize a conservative base that I think never got over the election of the first black president. But, remember, Obama's going to Illinois. He's going to California. He's going -- he's doing a lot of fundraising that is basically private.
WALLACE: But he -- but he's also getting national exposure when he helps out.
WILLIAMS: Yes, he gets national attention because he's the former president. But I would say this, that, in fact, historically in midterms, it's the Democrats who have a problem with turnout. And I think there's the fear among Democrats that you don't want to count your eggs before they're hatched. Remember what happened with the polls and the 2016 presidential race. And so they want to make sure they are energizing their base and critically reaching out to white suburbanites, mostly women, in critical congressional districts, this is for the House, which is really the goal that the Democrats have this time around, which is to capture the majority of the House.
WALLACE: Katie, the fact is, though, if you look at Barack Obama's record, he is a great vote-getter for himself. But when his name is not on the ballot, and you look at the 2010 and 2014 midterms, it doesn't transfer.
PAVLICH: And the 2016 presidential election with him campaigning at the last minute for Hillary Clinton (INAUDIBLE) --
WALLACE: well, in fairness, I -- I think you've got to blame that on Hillary, not on -- on Obama.
PAVLICH: Correct, but he endorsed her and came in at the very last minute hoping to get her over the finish line with a number of groups and couldn't get the job done. Now, that is a reflection of her, but it's also a reflection of his endorsement falling through.
Barack Obama essentially burned the Democratic Party to the ground by losing a thousand seats in the local to the federal level while he was in office. He didn't do enough with the DNC. The Democratic operatives that you talk to are very disappointed in how he really only focused on his operation to get re-elected as president and let these other seats go by the wayside.
And the thing about what he said during his speech is he wasn't just attacking President Trump. He was specifically attacking in the Republican Party, trying to talk about, you know, how voters are essentially bigoted and they have all these fears of people who look different than them.
Barack Obama got elected twice in America by a majority. And for him to go out now and continue to lecture the country about those issues when we have come so far really rubs people the wrong way. And, finally, when it comes to whether he's going to be able to get back to his community organizing ways and be successful, I'm actually not so sure that Barack Obama is far left enough for this new Democratic Party. He talked about the founding fathers as being people we should have followed who did good things for the country. On the far left wing of the party, they're talking about taking down the Washington Monument, taking down any kind of remembrance of those kinds of principles. And so we'll see how he fits into this new socialism while he's, at the same time, potentially backing Joe Biden for 2020.
WALLACE: Liz, Obama help or hurt the Democrats in the midterms?
MARLANTES: I think on the whole, he's probably going to be a help. I think they are going to use him strategically, as Juan said. In fact, you know, that one speech was -- was the most sort of political of the speeches that he gave. He gave a -- he went the next day and gave a speech that was way more toned down in terms of, you know, not attacking President Trump by name, that sort of thing. So I think -- I think they'll be careful. They'll use him. They have a lot of first-time candidates. One of the sort of downsides potentially of a lot of enthusiasm is it got a ton of new faces, new first-time candidates. And some of those candidates might benefit from having the gravitas of the former president standing next to them.
WALLACE: In a normal week the big news would have been the confirmation hearing for Judge Brett Kavanaugh to be a new Supreme Court justice and to swing the court to a solid conservative majority.
Here is Kavanaugh this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I am not a pro-plaintiff or pro-defendant judge. I'm not a pro-prosecution or pro-defense judge. I am a pro-law judge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Juan, how do you think Kavanaugh did, and it Democrats do anything to derail his nomination?
WILLIAMS: No. So if we're -- if you want the bottom line, the final score, Chris, I think he looks like he's on his way to being confirmed as the next Supreme Court justice and giving conservatives a solid 5-4 majority on that court for as long as we can see. The man's in his early 50s.
But in answer to your question to whether or not damage was done, the critical issue for me is the impartiality of the court, trust in the court by the American people. We see that going down. This is not a popular candidate, by the way.
So what you have -- and not popular among Democrats or Republicans, I might add. And what you saw the Democrats do was say, you know this guy was a political operative. He worked for Ken Starr. Remember, he was involved in the Florida recount in 2000. He was involved with torture memos in the Bush White House. This is a guy that's been on the court, but he's a political player. And I think that hurts his credibility going forward and hurts the credibility of our Supreme Court.
HOLMES: I think the only thing that was noteworthy this week is how Senate Democrats handled themselves. In particularly Senator Cory Booker, which is just incredibly odd behavior and the I am Spartacus moment, as if he's trying to convince Democratic 2020 primary voters he's some sort of a bad boy. I mean that's kind of bad boy behavior that gets you (INAUDIBLE).
WALLACE: Well, and also when he -- also when he said, if you want to try to kick me out of the Senate, bring it.
HOLMES: Yes, which is just all contrived and, of course, completely ridiculous. But, you know, at the end of the day, I think Vice President Pence said it best, Kavanaugh acquitted himself quite well, but I think the Senate Democrats honestly set themselves back. They reminded the American people what the dangers of a Democratic majority in the Senate might be.
WALLACE: But -- but this gets to the -- to the point that -- that Katie was making, which is that the Democrats have moved so far left, does that kind of behavior actually win some support? And -- and in what's going to be a very crowded field, get him out of the -- of the chorus line?
HOLMES: Yes, I mean that's clearly the calculus that Cory Booker took. And I think Kamala Harris, Senator Harris as well. I mean the two of them were sort of climbing all over each other to try to get further to the left and more caustic in their approach to Judge Kavanaugh. In the end, it's going to be Justice Kavanaugh, right? I mean we're going to -- he did everything he needed to do in those hearings to get himself confirmed as the next Supreme Court justice.
WALLACE: I got a little over 30 seconds. And let's get to -- to Juan's bottom line. Your work for Mitch McConnell. You're a vote counter. They did raise some issues about where he has on presidential power. They did raise issues about where he is on abortion.
WILLIAMS: Gay rights.
WALLACE: Thank you.
Is there -- do you sense, from what your sources in the Senate, that they did anything to shake the support of Republican moderates, particularly pro-choice moderates like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski?
HOLMES: You know, it's a good question. But in particularly I think they set themselves back by mischaracterizing. In one sense, Judge Kavanaugh prevented the views of the plaintiffs while providing the answer to Senate Democrats, totally mischaracterizing what happened. So I think he's actually in a better place now.
WALLACE: Thank you, panel. See you next Sunday.
And we'll be back with a final word.
WALLACE: For the latest on accounts of resistance inside the Trump White House and the search for that anonymous official, please stay tuned to this station and Fox News Channel.
And that's it for today. Have a great week and we'll see you next "Fox News Sunday."
Content and Programming Copyright 2018 Fox News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.