President Trump renews attacks on Rep. Elijah Cummings, Baltimore

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," July 30, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, D-MD, CHAIRMAN, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: You feel like you're doing a great job, right? Is that what you're saying?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are doing our level best.

CUMMINGS: What does that mean? What does that mean when a child is sitting in their own feces, can't take a shower? Come on, man.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT: It was a horrible thing the way he spoke to the head of Homeland Security the other day. These people are working hard. They are getting no support from the Democrats. The Democrats refuse to fix the loophole. They refused to fix asylum. Those two things would make it 95 percent easier.


BRET BAIER, HOST: President Trump says that's what started this whole tweet fest back and forth with Elijah Cummings and talk about Baltimore is that exchange that Cummings had with the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security about border security and border conditions.

Let's bring in our panel, Guy Benson, political editor at and the host of "The Guy Benson Show" on FOX News Radio, Susan Ferrechio, Chief Congressional Correspondent for the "Washington Examiner," and Josh Kraushaar, political editor for "National Journal."

OK, Guy, this is, again, as we've seen in multiple weekends, tweets over the weekend have kind of evolved into news stories that have lasted several days, and now all sides piping up.

GUY BENSON, POLITICAL EDITOR, TOWNHALL.COM: Yes. And the president admitted today just straight up that he doesn't necessarily have a strategy here, but one of his superpowers, Bret, is the ability to create an opposition that has these kneejerk reactions reflexively to everything he does, including a lot of overreach.

So we're not just talking about certain tweets anymore. We have presidential candidates, the top tier on the Democratic side going to bat for, praising, singing hallelujahs about Al Sharpton, for example, and then talking about what a wonderful hero he is for race relations in this country, which is really just an extraordinary thing given his toxic conduct over the years, Sharpton's, that is.

So it seems like when Trump occasionally fires off a tweet or makes a statement it might seem ill-advised or unproductive to many people, and sometimes it is, but in many of those same cases, his opposition proves time and again to be one of his greatest assets.

BAIER: Susan, the president says he is just speaking facts. He doesn't have strategy, as Guy mentioned. Democrats and Republicans take different view. Take a listen to Dan Kildee and Tim Scott.


REP. DAN KILDEE, D-MICH.: The president, I think is bringing race to this conversation in a really destructive way when what he ought to be thinking about is how he as president can deal with those constituencies of his.

SEN. TIM SCOTT, R-S.C.: There's no doubt that I don't find his tweets to have been racially motivated. I think we should take the high road and spend more time talking about how to deal with the failed policies of the left, frankly, major metropolitan areas throughout this country.


BAIER: What about that, Susan?

SUSAN FERRECHIO, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": What Tim Scott was saying, and the other part of his comments too in that great interview was that he talked about the president's accomplishments on behalf of people who have long been ignored, people at the lower end of earning incomes and minorities. He's talked about reforming the criminal justice system, helping the economy so that people who are earning so little can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel, just policies that are working for people who the Democrats, frankly, were not able to help as effectively.

And Trump's problem is when he gets in his Twitter wars and these big fights with the Democrats, and in this instance, he gives them this platform to accuse him of racism. He didn't bring up race when he was having that exchange with Cummings initially, but people accuse him of racism in part because he gives them the platform to do that. Even if you can go back and forth on the argument whether you think it was racist or not, he steals away from his own accomplishments and changes the subject in a way that doesn't help them.

BAIER: Not only that, there was this giant speech today, Josh, that he delivered in Jamestown, the site of the first legislative assembly in Virginia. In there he talked about African-Americans, the success of African-Americans in this country. He talked about American exceptionalism. Take a brief listen.


TRUMP: From the first legislative assembly down to today, America has been the story of citizens who take ownership of their future and their control of their destiny. That is what self-rule is all about, everyday Americans coming together to take action, to build, to create, to seize opportunities, to pursue the common good, and to never stop striving for greatness.


BAIER: We covered a little bit in this show earlier. If you read the speech, it's a pretty great speech as far as speeches go for the president, but largely overshadowed by this back-and-forth about forth about Baltimore.

JOSH KRAUSHAAR, POLITICAL EDITOR, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": Right, and also that it speech was interrupted by a protester who happened to be a Democratic member of the Virginia House of Delegates who just screamed and interrupted the speech. And it reminds you the Trump always seems to bring out the worst in his opponents. So when Trump plays to his base, when Trump tweets impulsively, you have Democrats reacting in a very extreme manner, as we saw in Jamestown today.

But from a political point of view, I don't think there's any grand strategy behind what Trump is doing. The one thing that unites Republicans and Democrats by and large is they would like to see the president tweet a little bit less and focus a little more on policy, focus more on talking about the economy. So I do think there may be a little bit of a method to what Trump is doing, but even he said today there is not strategy. I just say with all my mind. And maybe that will help him politically, but I don't think this is part of any grand White House tactical game plan going on.

BAIER: I mentioned it with Senator Scott earlier, and that's Bob Johnson's comments about the economy, specifically about minority communities. I thought I would just play it since I referenced earlier. Take a listen.


ROBERT JOHNSON, BET FOUNDER: I think the economy is doing absolutely great. And it's particularly reaching into populations that heretofore have had very bad problems in terms of jobs, unemployment, and the opportunities that come with full employment. So African-American unemployment is at its lowest level. So I give the president a lot of credit for moving the economy in a positive direction that's benefiting a large number of Americans.

We still have some issues to deal with with the China trade negotiation issue. But overall, if you look at the U.S. economy, you've got to give the president and A-plus for that.


BAIER: An A-plus from the founder of BET. Panel, we'll end it there. Next up, the Democratic presidential debates, what tonight may bring.



SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, D-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He and I have been friends forever, since long before I ever got into politics. And I think that the upcoming debate is a chance for everybody on that stage to talk about their vision for America.

FAIZ SHAKIR, SANDERS CAMPAIGN MANAGER: You can be for Bernie Sanders on the merits. You don't have to be against Elizabeth Warren, against anybody else. You can before Bernie Sanders.


BAIER: And they are hoping that you are for Bernie Sanders, because he works for Bernie Sanders.

The debate tonight in Detroit, the first of two nights, and the stage is packed, 10 candidates on the stage, the big draws this time, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. We're back with the panel. Preview her tonight, Josh?

KRAUSHAAR: I wouldn't expect a big show down between Senator Warren and Senator Sanders, one because Senator Warren does have a good relationship with Sanders, but there's also a political strategy going on. It's always risky to attack someone who you're competing with closely, and you could get hurt even if you take the other candidate down. And I think Sanders and Warren are more likely to team up against some of the more moderate candidates on stage Klobuchar, Bullock, the governor of Montana. I think this is going to be moderate versus progressive type of debate. I don't know if Warren is really ready, or if she really even needs to take on Sanders. He's already losing ground in a lot of national and state polls.

BAIER: Susan?

FERRECHIO: Not yet. Not yet. It's still early here. There's plenty of time to play nice, especially if you know you're guaranteed entry into the next several debates. They're leading in the polls. Where it's going to eventually get ugly is when this field narrows, and then there's going to be a fight for the lead. And watch when we get close to Iowa, and then you're going to see people not playing nice anymore. That's how it typically goes with these primaries. And so I do expect tonight for there to be not too many punches thrown, especially because you had Warren come out ahead of time and say I'm not going to do that. I'm going to play nice for now. This is going to be something that, as time goes on, you're going to see this detente fray, I think.

BAIER: The president wanted to weigh in today on the South Lawn.


TRUMP: I think right now it will be sleepy Joe, I think. I feel he'll limp across the line. That's what I think. So what I think doesn't mean anything, but I know the other people, I know him. I think he's off his game by a lot.



BENSON: Pundit in chief as well. And that analysis isn't too bad, I don't think. What's been interesting, Bret, in the last week or two, it's very clear that Bernie Sanders is spoiling for a big fight with Joe Biden, coming after him hard. That's not going to happen this week because they're not on the same stage together. I really think that viewers and voters would be better served if they tiered these two debates with people who are in the top tier, who have earned that in terms of polling, and then others who aren't there yet, because I think we would like to see the top vote getters, at least in terms of the polls go head-to-head, as opposed to this randomizing that they've done. But we'll get there eventually.

BAIER: Josh, really quickly, one of the developments is some of these candidates still need to get onto that stage in September, and that's what they're fighting for.

KRAUSHAAR: Yes, they need to raise money, and they need to get at least one or two percent in the polls. And look, if you're not one percent, if you're not at two percent, there is a real question about your viability for the long term. We're only about six months away from the Iowa caucuses. So the Democratic Party, it's not in their interest to have candidates that have no chance of winning the nomination be on stage with the Elizabeth Warrens and the Joe Bidens of the contest. So there's an interest in the Democratic Party to make sure we have future debates with really the top contenders competing.

BAIER: Is it really six months? Wow. A long time to go. All right, panel, thanks. When we come back, our favorites, another surprise homecoming.


BAIER: Finally tonight, an emotional rollercoaster.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome home to his family, Navy Seabee Chief J. Cunningham.



BAIER: U.S. Navy Seabee Chief J. Cunningham returned home from his final 14-month deployment to the Middle East Sunday. Cunningham's children thought they were taking a preplanned film shoot at Busch Gardens in Virginia. They were unaware their father would be joining them there. After reuniting, the family took a rollercoaster ride, enjoyed the rest of the day at the park with dad. Pretty cool.

Thanks for inviting us into your home tonight. That is it for the “Special Report,” fair, balanced, and unafraid.

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