This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," April 5, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT: I'm totally willing to close the border, but Mexico over the last four days has done more than they have ever done. They are apprehending people now by the thousands and bringing them back to their countries.
If they continue that, everything will be fine. If they don't, we're going to tariff their cars at 25 percent coming into the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ROBERTS, HOST: Let's bring in our panel now, Byron York, he's the chief political correspondent for the "Washington Examiner," Mollie Hemingway, the senior editor at "The Federalist," and Charles Lane, opinion writer for "The Washington Post," and author of the new book "Freedom's Detective" which comes out on Tuesday.
So the president, and we talked about this yesterday on the panel, taking a little bit different tact, saying not going to close the border right away. Mexico has been doing some good things. If it continues to do those good things, we are good for a year. And if not, then I'm going to impose tariffs on cars. Is this a strategy, Byron, that will work?
BRYON YORK, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": He is trying to get some sort of traction on this. There is an actual real, genuine emergency on the border. The Border Patrol apprehended 100,000 trying to cross illegally in the month of March. That gets to about 1 million a year, which gets you back to the bad old days of the mid-2000s. But Democrats are still calling it a fake emergency, and the things that he needs to do, like changing our asylum situation and dealing with this large number of people coming over, not trying to avoid detection but just turning themselves over to the Border Patrol, he can't get anything done right now, which is one of the reasons he was promoting the sections of barrier that they actually have built, quite a few miles of that.
ROBERTS: The president says, Mollie, that he is getting Mexico to act through the threats that he has been issuing about closing the border in the last few days, but will Congress ever act on this?
MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE FEDERALIST": That's what I think is interesting. People are very much focused on what the president is saying and what the president is threatening. But they also get upset when he acts unilaterally and doesn't have the support of Congress. We really do have a crisis. Congress did not want to address it seriously this year during the shutdown. They haven't wanted to address it seriously for the past several decades. This is not just a Democrat problem or Republican problem. This is a bipartisan failure that goes back decades.
So it sounds like Donald Trump is saying a bunch of crazy stuff, shutting down the border, tariffs and whatnot. What a lot of people think is crazy is that nobody is actually doing anything to address the problem because the situation is fine. Open borders policy is largely fine for a lot of the people who are elite, and so they don't feel the incentive to do anything. So I think a lot of these threats are about incentivizing people to finally make changes that they have been reluctant to do for decades.
ROBERTS: There's one part of this that I'm still trying to wrap my head around, that is the president threatening tariffs against Mexico, because there is a side letter signed in the recently signed USMCA which hasn't been ratified just yet, that says that the United States cannot impose tariffs on automobiles from Mexico or Canada up to the first 2.6 million under section 232 national security, which, I imagine, this would be. But the president says that he is going to throw all of that out the window. Listen here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT: This will supersede USMCA. USMCA is a great deal, and it's very good for Mexico. But this will supersede USMCA.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: So, Charles, if you have got that side letter that says no tariffs on cars from Mexico, regardless of the circumstances, is he undercutting his whole trade deal that he has been touting?
CHARLES LANE, OPINION WRITER, "WASHINGTON POST": Great question, John. Of course, the trade deal has not yet been approved by Congress. And last time I checked, and I checked relatively regularly, it's not making great progress through Congress. Like many other things, including immigration policy itself, it is held hostage to total bipartisan -- or partisan deadlock on the hill.
And to pick up on what Byron and Mollie have been saying about Congress, it's not just that they can't come to an agreement. It's not just that they have differences. Those differences are widening. The partisan differences are widening through this crisis such that now Julian Castro, who is one of the candidates for the Democratic nomination, has just come out with his immigration plan which is a very anti-enforcement plan which he is sort of planting the flag around that, and that is becoming the new kind of position on the Democratic Party.
So you are going to have over here the Republican position is build a wall, and over here the Democratic position is not exactly abolish ICE, but soften ICE. And it becomes harder and harder to see how we are going to get to that bipartisan compromise which everybody at least used to think is what we needed.
ROBERTS: It's been an intractable problem for decades and continues to be.
Let me switch gears here because we got a new development on the Ways and Means Committee petition to the IRS for six years of the president's tax returns. In a letter from William Consovoy, who is the president's latest edition to his outside legal team to the Treasury Department addressing section 6103 of the U.S. tax code, William Consovoy writes, quote, "While that section allows Ways and Means to obtain tax returns and return information under certain conclusions, the committee's authority is subject to important constraints. These constraints extend to the ordinary taxpayer and the president alike."
He goes on to say his request is a transparent effort by one political party to harass an official from the other party because they dislike his politics and speech. What's going to happen here, Byron? Will Ways and Means get these tax returns?
YORK: It's going to go to the courts. I think the first thing you need to say is this is actually a fishing expedition. That's the fact below all of this. The question the courts are going to have to decide is whether the Democrats have to say they have a legitimate legislative purpose in getting these tax returns, which is why when you saw the letter from Richard Neal to the IRS, he talked about reforming and streamlining and improving the audit process, so they need to see the president's tax returns to make their audit process better. Now, will courts buy that? I don't know, but it's going to be settled by judges.
BAIER: How do you predict this will go, Mollie?
HEMINGWAY: There is a legal battle but there's also a political battle. And I think that you saw the president reframe some of these fishing expeditions as presidential harassment. There is a general view that maybe going for impeachment would not help Democrats against the president. He is sort of bucking it all together whether they go for impeachment or not, just this level of presidential harassment he is trying to say this is unfitting for him to have to deal with.
They could do a lot, and I generally think Congress has the right to go for what it wants to go for, and that if people don't like it, they can take it out of the ballot box. But they need to make a better case for why they are going for this, and they haven't even tried.
ROBERTS: We're going to have to hold it there. We have got a lightning round, a big one, coming up. Joe Biden and the 2020 contenders, China trade talks, plus winners and losers. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: By the way, he gave me permission to touch him.
BIDEN: It wasn't my intent to make light of anyone's discomfort. I'm sorry I didn't understand more. I'm not sorry for any of my intentions. I'm not sorry for anything that I have ever done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Former vice president Joe Biden speaking with reporters for the first time about the controversy, but also as you saw joking about it, which brought this response from Lucy Flores, who was the first woman to accuse him of inappropriate touching. "It's clear Joe Biden hasn't reflected at all on how his inappropriate and unsolicited touching made women feel uncomfortable. To make light of something as serious as consent degrades the conversation women everywhere are courageously trying to have."
Mollie, he is close to jumping in the race here. How much of a problem is this going to be for him?
HEMINGWAY: I'm not sure uncomfortable, but it's very uncomfortable to watch. And I think it shows that there's a divide about how to handle this. Either you take it extremely seriously and you have to have Joe Biden go through some kind of struggle session. You have to ask the Obamas why they allowed this to happen while Obama was president for eight years and he was vice president. Or you allow it to be this sort of thing that you joke about which takes this issue and makes it not be taken as seriously. So I think you are seeing that people don't know how to handle it and it's very uncomfortable to watch.
ROBERTS: The 2020 contenders who are already in the race were all up in New York City today, most of them anyways, at the National Action Network. Let's listen to a little bit about what everybody said and then get Byron's reaction to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, I-VT, D-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a president today who is a racist.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, D-CALIF., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to double the size of the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice.
BETO O'ROURKE, D-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's the way that we will continue to campaign, bringing people together.
SEN. CORY BOOKER, D-N.J.: This election is going to come and go. We have a moral movement that we must create.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT: I would be happy with any of them, to be honest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Beto was not at the National Action Network. He was out in Iowa. Byron, could any of those contenders beat President Trump in 2020?
YORK: It's always possible. This gathering shows the power of Al Sharpton, the founder and head of the National Action Network. He had 12 candidates who had to go up there and sort of pay tribute and get the blessing of Al Sharpton. And for anybody who remembers the 1980s, that's really an extraordinary transformation. This is the guy from the Tawana Brawley hoax and the Crown Heights riots. It's an extraordinary transformation.
But some of them really need his help. Not Cory Booker or Kamala Harris, but Bernie Sanders. The reason Bernie Sanders couldn't progress in the Democratic primaries the last time is because he really did not appeal to black voters, and you are never going to win a Democratic nomination if you don't appeal to black voters.
ROBERTS: The one who made the most news at the National Action Network was not even a contender for 2020, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, promoting radical ideas to tackle radical problems, but saying radical is not radical. Listen here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALEXANDRA OCASIO-CORTEZ, D-N.Y.: Radical doesn't mean crazy. Radical means addressing the root, addressing the rot. And that is why we have proposed a Green New Deal for the future of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Radical doesn't mean radical, but we're going to go with the Green New Deal.
LANE: Nobody triggers conservatives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which is why nobody makes progressives jump up and shout like she does. And of course, this is just the kind of thing that triggers conservatives. I have to say, right up until the point when she says, and that is why we have proposed the Green New Deal, there is nothing inherently objectionable or even controversial about --
ROBERTS: But is she forcing all these candidates to go way left?
LANE: Not all by herself. That was going on even before she came on the scene, the party was moving left. What she did do was plant this flag called the Green New Deal which has created a little bit of a divide between those in the 2020 field who rush to embrace it and those who did not. And yet, obviously, she is not backing down off it.
ROBERTS: Let's do something quickly. Now we can't do China and get to winners and losers. So let me ask you this question. By the time we get to 2020, are all of these Democratic contenders going to be so far left that to get back to the middle would be almost impossible?
HEMINGWAY: I don't know. I think you might see people start taking different lanes as they try secure the nomination. You might see some people making strong pushes in that moderate lane. We'll see.
ROBERTS: All right, winners and losers. Mollie, you go first.
HEMINGWAY: I'm going to with Chris Beard for me the winner. He is the coach of Texas Tech. He was the A.P.'s national coach of the year. He's taking Texas Tech to the Final Four for the first time in their history. And my loser is Twitter, which has already been under fire for censoring conservative speech. And they went against this account for a movie called "Unplanned" which is about a person who worked at Planned Parenthood who became pro-life. They removed the account. They suspended the account. They wouldn't let people follow it, and they took all these actions against it. And it just bolsters that idea that they are not fair to conservative speech.
YORK: I'm going to go with MacKenzie Bezos. Divorce is hard, but the soon to be ex-wife of the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will walk away from their marriage with $35.6 billion.
ROBERTS: Which takes a little of the sting out of it.
YORK: Not even half of his fortune, but still enough to become the fourth richest woman in the world.
The loser is Michael Cohen. We have heard that before. He is headed to jail in 30 days, still desperately trying to get out of it, now trying to tell the House that he has got some really super, duper stuff on the president if they will just let him stay out of jail to give it to them.
LANE: My winner of the week is premised on the theory that if there has been a big election and somebody won it, that person is the winner. So Lori Lightfoot, who gets to be mayor of Chicago, the first African-American woman, first openly gay mayor. The only problem now is she has to run Chicago, which seems like more fun than it is it really.
My loser is the Federal Reserve, which is now looking at not one but two Donald Trump appointees who are of very questionable qualifications, Herman Cain and Stephen Moore. The institution is under a lot of pressure politically from the White House.
ROBERTS: Panel, great to see you. Thanks for coming in. Have a great weekend. When we come back, "Notable Quotables."
ROBERTS: Finally tonight, "Notable Quotables."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We're now treating this like a massive cat five hurricane disaster.
TRUMP: If you want to climb that, you deserve whatever can you get.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The potential of my sister and 156 others driven straight into the ground because of Boeing's greed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's our responsibility to eliminate this risk. We own it, and we know how to do it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's not issue a subpoena for the Mueller report. Let's issue one for Bob Mueller.
TRUMP: I hope they now go and take a look at the oranges (ph), the oranges (ph) of the investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think that passes the smell test.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have been accused of all different types of things, and all those things have turned out to be false.
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Really, what is next, putting nuclear codes Instagram DMs?
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y., SENATE MINORITY LEADER: What a ruse, what a shame, what a disgrace.
SEN. JOHN KENNEDY, R-LA: Go online, check Amazon, see if they are selling spines at a special discount this week.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to vote for myself.
TIM RYAN, D-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My name is Tim Ryan, and I'm running for president of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the hell was he thinking?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there is no charges and nobody goes to jail, then obviously the law doesn't mean anything to anyone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lori, Lori, Lori, pay for my tuition, Lori.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: If anybody just types in "creepy uncle Joe video,s" you come up with a treasure trove.
JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I shake hands, I hug people. I grab men and women by the shoulders and say you can do this.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF., HOUSE SPEAKER: I just pretend you have a cold, and I have a cold.
TRUMP: You know I will do it. I don't play games.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: That was quite a week.
And that's it for “Special Report” tonight. I'm John Roberts in from Washington. "The Story" hosted by Martha MacCallum starts right now.
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