This is a rush transcript from "The Story," February 13, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
MARTHA MACCALLUM: Good to see you, Bret. So, the story tonight is the United States under attack. Chilling words today from our nation's top intelligence officials. They laid out imminent threats facing the United States. Some of the usual suspects; some you might not expect, developing right here on our own soil. Still, Democrats were laser focused this morning on the issue of Russia. Good evening, everybody, I'm Martha MacCallum. A lot to get to tonight. Also, tonight, Michael Flynn back in the news. An explosive new report asks how the FBI reported that they did not expect to charge Flynn, and then after intervention from the Obama Justice Department, that picture changed dramatically. While Flynn is seated into the lying charge at the time, he said to his lawyer that he 'had a story to tell and very much wanted to tell it.' What does that mean? Byron York wrote about this today and he joins us in just a moment. But, first this evening, today's stark intel hearing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: We face a complex, volatile, and challenging threat environment. The risk of interstate conflict is higher than any time since the end of the cold war. The United States is under attack. Under attack by entities that are using cyber to penetrate virtually every major action that takes place in the United States. North Korea will be the most volatile and confrontational WMD threat in the coming year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Chief National Correspondent, Ed Henry, live in Washington with more, and there was a lot more that happened today, Ed.
ED HENRY, FOX NEWS CHANNEL CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Martha, you're right. There was a litany of threats at these top intelligence officials just kept running through. Emerging threats; some threats that have already been there. Some that are getting worse for the United States, all around the world. And, yet, many Democratic senators at this hearing, all they wanted to talk about was Russia, Russia, Russia. And, yet, as you heard there, these intel officials were running through particularly sounding the alarm bells about North Korea being deadly serious about potentially using their nuclear weapons.
And, in fact, they were bluntly saying we should not believe the North Korean smile campaign at the Olympics despite the gushing headlines in some media outlets. They also warned about the continued threat from Islamist militants in the Middle East and added that cheaply made fentanyl being smuggled into the U.S. is now its own national security threat because the opioid crisis is killing thousands of Americans here every year. Yet, those three major threats were not mentioned until the 19th paragraph of the New York Times write up of this hearing because senators kept trying to hammer President Trump about alleged collusion in 2016 as the intel officials warned about the legitimate threat of Russia trying to disrupt the 2018 midterms.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK WARNER, D-VA.: The president inconveniently continues to deny the threat posed by Russia.
SEN. ANGUS KING, I-MAINE: My problem is I talk to people in Maine who say the whole thing is a witch-hunt and it's a hoax because the president told me.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, D-CALIFORNIA: Do you believe there is an actual or at least the appearance of a conflict of interest when the president is put in charge of declassifying information that could complicate an ongoing investigation into his own campaign?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now, CIA Director, Mike Pompeo, said in open session that the intel community under the president's leadership is taking offensive action to push back on Russian interference and promised to give more detail in classified session. That maybe didn't get that much attention, neither did the fact that these intel officials also said that right now countries like Iran, China, and North Korea are also waging cyber war. Martha?
MACCALLUM: Ed, thank you very much. Here now House Intel Committee Member, Peter King, he is also Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism. Congressman King, good to see you tonight. Thank you for being here.
REP. PETER KING, R-NEW YORK: Thank you, Martha.
MACCALLUM: You know, as you watched that today, what was your take away because it was clearly -- it became political pretty quickly.
KING: It really does. And I think the Democrats are doing the American people a disservice and they're certainly doing reputation of the House and Senate a disservice by constantly dwelling on Russia, trying to make believe something is there when it's not there. Listen, if this investigation leads anywhere, I'll be the first to acknowledge it. But so far, and I have sat in almost all the interviews of all the main witnesses, I see no evidence whatsoever showing any collusion between the president and Russia.
Now, they try to take legitimate acts that he takes as president and somehow say that's obstruction of justice. I mean, this has gone so far afield and, you know, they're talking about the commander-in-chief of the United States and talking about the president negotiating with countries all over the world, and they're doing nothing but spreading false narrative and these lies. And this whole implication, he was involved with Russia when there's no evidence of that at all.
MACCALLUM: You know, I mean, when you look at, when you listen to all of them, and I watched them this morning going through all these different threats and they're very thoughtful, intelligent people. You know you look at Mike Pompeo graduated first in his class at West Point and he's going through threat assessment. Then, you hear some of these members of Congress just constantly trying to pull it back to Russia. And it's not to say that we shouldn't be very concerned about any meddling in our elections, and as Ed Henry just pointed out, Mike Pompeo said that they are absolutely looking into all of those possibilities for the future and they take it very, very seriously. But you wonder if it's not sort of this red herring that is keeping our eye off the ball of all of these other extremely important things.
KING: Martha, I can't emphasize enough how serious these other issues are. We're talking about North Korea. We're talking about China as an emerging threat. We're talking about Russia still subverting throughout the world. And we're talking about ISIS and Al Qaeda, and we're talking about cyberattacks coming from really so many different countries -- cyberattacks. We're talking about Israel and Iran. We're talking about Syria. We're talking about what's going to happen in Iraq. These are major, major issues confronting us. And they are the ones that can mean life or death for Americans. Instead, again, once it started, we should finish it, but let's not blow it out of proportion. Let's keep in perspective. And right now, the perspective is that there's nothing there, nothing significant. I say nothing at all is there and these other threats are for real; North Korea is for real. China is really emerging as a as, again, more and more as a global power and you still have all the Islamist terrorism which can attack us over there or right here in our home lands.
MACCALLUM: You know, when you look at the Russia investigation because, you know, while all of these wheels are spinning, and we've seen a lot of investigative work done on Capitol Hill as well. Robert Mueller is plotting away day after day on his investigation. Is there any sense of how long it will take, as you point out, it's been going on for 18 months now, will we ever get an indication as to when that work might wrap up?
KING: You know, people are reading the tea leaves thinking that Robert Mueller is certainly winding it down or coming closer to the end on the Intelligence Committee. I think Democrats want us to call 87 more witnesses -- it was the number I heard. We have to finish that up. Once we have added few more witnesses, we should be ready to stop preparing the report and go with that. We owe it to the American people to resolve this, not to keep it hanging out there forever. And, again, we're not going to get any cooperation, fortunately, no cooperation at all, as I see it, coming from the Democrats. They want to keep this out there. It doesn't matter to them that they're tearing down the office of the president. And they say they're just going after President Trump. They're tearing down the office by keeping this constant pressure on when there's nothing there.
MACCALLUM: In terms of wrapping that up, what is your read on whether or not you're going to hear from Steve Bannon on the Intel Committee this week?
KING: My understanding is we are, but until we see it, I'm not going to fully believe it. I was there the last time when he said that the White House wouldn't let him answer questions. And I'm not a Bannon fan; maybe I'm the wrong one to ask but on the committee, I expect to see him come in, but I'm not going to hold my breath.
MACCALLUM: You know, in terms of negotiations, because back then his lawyers were saying that he was only going to discuss things that happen during the campaign not after the president took office. Has there been a resolution on that issue?
KING: I'm not certain if it's been fully resolved. I know they're coming close to it. First, we have the house counsel negotiating with them, then I believe the committee counsel itself got involved. And I'm hoping that he can be in this week. That was my hope. I still want to see him in there. I think that he has questions to answer. But, again, until he actually appears, and takes the oath again, I don't believe it.
MACCALLUM: But what about the -- we're going to talk in the next block to Byron York about a very interesting piece that he wrote about Michael Flynn suggesting that when Michael Flynn was questioned by FBI agents in the White House, that he didn't have a lawyer present, that he didn't see it as an investigatory discussion. And that they didn't find in that interview that he had done anything wrong. So, you know, any thoughts on how we got from there to him admitting guilt to lying to FBI agents if the FBI agents walked out of there saying that it went all right, that he was OK.
KING: Well, first of all, I would listen to Byron York. That's all I can say about the actual testimony of General Flynn listening carefully to Byron York. Secondly, is where he ended up where he was. You know, there were rumors that -- it's not rumors, there are stories that the prosecutors were leaning on his son. Also, Michael Flynn is pretty much out of money. And he was really, even though he's a man of honor, he was given the opportunity to plead to really a lesser offense. So, I think a lot of that played into it. I think it was one of those deals where they felt if they really wanted to, they could've indicted him on it, but in most cases, they probably wouldn't have. But when you have that hanging over your head, when you're running out of money, and when your son may be in trouble as well or are threatening to have your son in trouble sometimes you have to fall on your sword.
MACCALLUM: Peter King. Thank you very much, congressman. Always good to see you.
KING: Thank you, Martha. Thank you, Martha.
MACCALLUM: So, as we were just talking about, President Trump's former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, plead guilty to lying to the FBI. So, why are we learning that the agents who interviewed him, as we just talked about, told their boss, James Comey, that they believed that Michael Flynn at that interview told them the truth. Byron York broke the story, he is here to answer that burning question tonight next. And she's one of the president's more controversial hires and fires. Coming back to haunt him. Omarosa dropping a bomb that it wasn't about President Trump. It was about the second in command.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OMAROSA MANIGAULT, FORMER POLITICAL AIDE: When I can tell my story, it is a profound story that I know the world will want to hear.
MACCALLUM: It's been exactly one year since Michael Flynn resigned as White House National Security Advisor amid controversy over his contacts with Russia. At the heart of that resignation, allegations that he lied to the FBI and to Vice President Mike Pence. But, according to Byron York's new piece in the Washington Examiner, the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn did not think he had lied to them. Yet, that's what he was charged with and admitted to. When the DOJ put Bob Mueller on the case, everything changed. Byron York joins us now, he is the Chief Political Correspondent for the Washington Examiner, and a Fox News Contributor. Byron, good to see you tonight.
BYRON YORK, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR AND CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT FOR THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Hi, Martha.
MACCALLUM: I want to start with this headline that is from the Washington Post back on January 23rd 2017, which says FBI reviewed Flynn's calls with Russian ambassador but found nothing illicit. What do you make of all of this?
NAME: Well, you know, there is two actual issues here. One is whether Flynn did anything wrong by talking to the Russian ambassador back in December of 2016 when during the transition, when Flynn was the incoming national security advisor. That's one issue. And then the other issue is whether he did anything wrong when he was interviewed by the FBI about that later. I don't think there's any question that Flynn did nothing wrong in talking to the Russians. He was the incoming national security advisor. If Hillary Clinton had won the election, her incoming national security advisor would have been getting calls from around the world with officials from other countries wanting to talk to them and it would have been perfectly appropriate to do. So, that's what Michael Flynn was doing there. So, I think that the story you mentioned was the FBI's conclusion that there was nothing wrong about a national security advisor to be talking to foreign official.
MACCALLUM: So, what about the other scenario which would involve Michael Flynn talking to Russian officials and saying, you know, when we're in charge, when President Trump takes over, we'll lift the sanctions against you, you know, just wait. When we get in place, that's a possibility. Now, that was the nut of the discussion that Mike Pence thought that was not did not happen, right? That they didn't discuss anything about sanctions. So, just in the worst-case scenario, is there anything illegal about him having that kind of conversation with the Russian ambassador?
YORK: No, apparently not. I quote in the piece Stephen Hadley, who was a National Security Advisor under George W. Bush, saying it would've been completely appropriate for Flynn to talk about sanctions with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador, to the extent that he could say, well, these new sanctions that the Obama administration has imposed on Russia, don't go overboard. Just be calm. Give us a chance to look at everything when we, the Trump administration, take office on January 20th. That would not have been inappropriate.
MACCALLUM: And those new sanctions that you referred to were put in place because of what the Obama administration saw as meddling in the election.
YOTK: That's right.
MACCALLUM: And they slapped new sanctions on right at the end of the Obama administration. Now, what about sally Yates' role in all of this? Because we all remember watching her sit at that table, and she was very upset. She felt that Michael Flynn had done something very wrong and that she wanted to bring it to the attention of the Trump White House while she -- when she overlapped and was still in her position there, and she clearly felt that he did something wrong. And also, observers of this story would say, well, so did Michael Flynn, because he admitted to something.
YORK: Well, she was -- Sally Yates was essentially running the Justice Department during the transition and she was the acting attorney general for the first 10 days of the Trump administration as well. And she has reportedly thought that Michael Flynn, in that phone call, might have violated something called the Logan Act. You've probably talked about that in the past. That's 200-year-old law that has never been successfully enforced. Never. And nevertheless, Yates, perhaps, thought that Flynn had violated that or she came up with a theory that perhaps Flynn would be vulnerable to blackmail, because as you alluded to before, there was a story that Flynn had denied to Vice President Mike Pence that he, Flynn, had talked about sanctions. So, the theory was that while the Russians knew what Flynn talked about, and if he had lied to the vice president, and maybe he could be blackmailed, not many people really bought that theory. But, that theory, the blackmail theory plus the Logan Act theory were the reason that the FBI went into the White House on January 24th, just four days in to the Trump administration and questioned Michael Flynn. It was that interview that he was ultimately convicted of lying in.
MACCALLUM: And there's a lot of questions about the circumstances of that interview. Whether or not he really understood that he was being interviewed and should maybe have a lawyer in that situation. But he did admit guilt, Byron, no?
YORK: Yes. So, what happened was, after that interview, and one of the things I reported in my story is in march, as you remember, Congress was really interested in finding out what was going on. James Comey, then the FBI director, went to Congress, talked to lawmakers and told them that the FBI agents who had interviewed Flynn on January 24th, did not believe that he had lied. And that if he had said anything inaccurate, it was not intentional. That left a lot of lawmakers with the impression that, well, I guess there's not going to be any charges, at least according from that meeting against Michael Flynn. Then, the president fires James Comey; a Special Counsel Robert Mueller is appointed. And months later on December 1st, Michael Flynn pleads guilty to lying in that meeting. Exactly what James Comey said the FBI agents believed he did not do.
MACCALLUM: So, we got to go, but to be continued because the question is why he hasn't been sentenced and that keeps getting dragged out and dragged out. And is he cooperating with this investigation, and is that part of what's going on here? So, we'll pick that story up because I think Michael Flynn is going to be back in the news quite a bit.
YORK: I think so too.
MACCALLUM: Thanks for your reporting. Thank you, Byron. Good to see you tonight.
YORK: Thank you, Martha.
MACCALLUM: So, joining me now, Jonathan Turley, a Constitutional Law Attorney and Professor at George Washington Law School. Jonathan, first of all, your response to that conversation. You know, just hearing all that back and forth laid out again about Michael Flynn, your thoughts?
JONATHAN TURLEY, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW ATTORNEY AND PROFESSOR AT GEORGE WASHINGTON LAW SCHOOL: Well, it's ironic, isn't it? Because it sounds like when Comey was in charge of the FBI, Flynn was not being seriously considered for criminal charge. It was not surprising that Mueller's people when they came in saw him as an easy target. We've always talked about the thousand and one prosecutions. The ability to say that someone lied or mislead an FBI agent. What I do think is absolutely clear and I've written about this before is that there really was nothing wrong with that meeting with the Russians. And incoming national security advisor is expected to have interactions. And I also agree that to the extent that Yates was concerned about the Logan Act, it's really rather bizarre. Because the Logan Act is widely viewed as facially unconstitutional. It has never been used. It should be wiped off the books. But to say that --
MACCALLUM: Just to clarify, the Logan Act would be if a private citizen is negotiating with a foreign entity, correct? He wasn't really a private citizen in that sense.
TURLEY: Private citizens getting involved in foreign relations. It's viewed as unconstitutional in the First Amendment, it's vague, it's never been used. For that to be the basis of Yates' concern is really pretty much out there. It's like a legal boogie man, and it just doesn't really exist under your bed. Now, it's on the books, but it's never been used in a court.
MACCALLUM: So, in terms of the other piece that you wrote about today, with regard to Devin Nunes, because you say that it was a piece that was written by Lawrence Tribe and other Think Tank authors who talked about Devin Nunes and how he is obstructing justice. And you wrote a rebuttal to that, you know, sort of suggesting that we're throwing around the obstruction of justice phrase with pretty much everybody that they can hang it on.
TURLEY: Yes. It seems like the circle of people that are -- that can be charged, according to many of these experts, is widening exponentially by the day. And it's all because they're expanding definition of crimes like obstruction. And as part of the distemper of our politics, you know, this idea that Nunes could be charged with obstruction is facially absurd. And if you take a look at that article, I think it misuses historical sources, and it takes radical departures from the case law. But the thing that I'm most concerned with is how this mania has become so mainstream. You know, as attorneys, we have an obligation to try to be objective and it doesn't mean that you have to like the president or dislike the president, but we have a service to the public to try to get things right, to say what is in the realm of possibility.
MACCALLUM: Absolutely. That's exactly right. Before I let you go, John Roberts is reporting tonight that the president's attorneys are working on formulating an argument that he should not have to answer any questions directly from Robert Mueller. Do you believe that he should or not?
TURLEY: I think as a criminal defense attorney, I would not want the president to go in and do the interview. You know, as the president of the United States, that office can Trump those legal concerns but the problem here to thread this needle is that cases like espy and some other cases suggest that the prosecutors have to show that they can only get this information from the president. They don't have other sources, and then, it's limited and precise. They can force those issues. And by making other White House officials available, they might be able to narrow the scope. But at the end of the day, he's not just a witness, he's a possible target. And I think Mueller would win in pushing this issue for an interview.
MACCALLUM: Jonathan Turley, great to see you. Thank you very much.
TURLEY: Thank you.
MACCALLUM: So, she was dubbed the Ivanka Trump of North Korea, hardly. The sister of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un became an instant media sensation. But did she accomplish her mission? She got so much attention, but it turns out that she actually failed when she was there. Jack Keane, General Jack Keane joins us on why. And not many people noticed this tucked into the Trump administration's new budget proposal to stop handing out food stamps, and instead deliver to people food boxes. What do you think? Mollie Hemingway and Richard Fowler here to debate whether that is a better use of taxpayer money next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED, MSNBC: Policing what poor people eat or able to eat has long been a tradition of that end of the Republican Party.
MACCALLUM: Controversy tonight over a small part of Trump's $4.4 trillion budget proposal that is a plan to replace food stamps with food. The current program known as snap cost $63.7 billion in federal spending last year. Trump administration thinks that they can do better in this plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT: You may have heard about this already the food box program. We thought it was tremendous idea. So, what we do is propose that for folks on food stamps part, not all, part of their benefits come in the actual sort of -- and I don't want to steal somebody's copyright, but a blue apron type program. You actually receive the food, instead of receive the cash. It low lowers the cost to us because we can buy prices at wholesale where they have to buy it at retail. We also make sure that they're getting nutritious food.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Here now Mollie Hemingway, Senior Editor at the Federalist; and Richard Fowler, Nationally Syndicated Radio Talk Show Host and Senior Fellow at the New Leaders Council, both are Fox News Contributors. Richard, let me start with you. What do you think of this plan.
RICHARD FOWLER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR AND NATIONALLY SYNDICATED RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I think this plan is absurd to just -- it's absurd for so many reasons. Number one, a couple years ago, when New York City made the move to sort of ban, you know, big gulps, there was this big, big movement by the right to stop it. And now, the right is in the same business of picking winners and loser when it comes to what type of food we eat. They want to get rid of the big government and they're creating the big government. That's number one. Number two, and I think the other problem with this is that it doesn't also take into consideration what states will have to pay. So who will ship these boxes? How will they get mailed? How will they be distributed? Truth be told, the snap program currently is actually very nimble. And it actually -- it's not only very nimble but the beneficiaries of the program are loving the program, and a lot of times, winning themselves off the program because it gives them financial independence.
MACCALLUM: I don't know that they're winning themselves off the program. Let's put up some numbers here because let's compare 1968, and we talked last night about the 50-year anniversary of Bobby Kennedy's poverty tour. A lot of these programs were instituted around that time. So the poverty rate in 1968 was 12.8 percent. The poverty rate now is 12.7 percent. SNAP recipients in 1968, 2.9 million. We now have over 42 million Americans on food stamps, Mollie. What do you think of this program?
MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's not just from that long ago, but really this program ballooned under both the Bush and Obama administration and it's now 18 percent of American households are on this program. The biggest problem facing -- the biggest food related problem facing low income Americans is not actually hunger, it's obesity. And a lot of that is related to this so-called nutritional program which has people buying things that are not exactly the healthiest for them. There're some really sad statistics about this, such as that children who are in low income -- low income American children are twice as likely to be obese as other Americans. And this, of course, leads to all sorts of lifelong problems of not just the physical variety but socioeconomic problems, and a federal problem that's not doing anything to help it other than getting more people on to these roles even in recent years. This is a program that has nearly quadrupled in size since the beginning of the Bush administration, and nearly tripled in how many recipients. Not doing what it set out to accomplish.
MACCALLUM: It doesn't make any sense. I mean, during that period, the Obama administration, President Obama talked a lot about how the economy was recovering. It was growing. And, yet, more and more people were being added to this program, Richard. You know, in terms of the Big Gulp analogy, just to break that down for a moment, I mean, an individual citizen who is buying a soda ought to be able to buy whatever soda they want. This is a program designed to give people food. So why not give people food?
FOWLER: Well, a couple things, a couple things to what Mollie just said. Number one, the snap program is one that responds to economic fluctuation. So every time the economy goes down as we saw in 2008 during the great recession, of course you're going to have more folk enrolled in the program because they're out of jobs and they can't work. Not to mention the fact that SNAP programs are also used during times of natural disaster. The reason why the SNAP numbers are so high now is because had you a hurricane in Houston. You had a huge hurricane in Puerto Rico.
MACCALLUM: OK. But why not give people food instead of food stamps?
FOWLER: But, here's the problem. When the government begins to pick winners and losers and what food is purchased, that's problematic. The Trump administration said this in a decision to reject Maine's new law that would have banned junk food from their snap program. So this Trump -- USDA, Department of Agriculture said that the government should not be in the business of picking food winners and losers, and this plan just does that. It picks food winners and losers.
MACCALLUM: It gives people staples to cook with. And that it also gives them some of the rest of that money in their own disposable income so that they can choose what they want with that part of the money, Mollie.
FOWLER: I hear you, Martha. But if the box has all the apples purchased from one particular company the government picks, they are picking winners and losers.
HEMINGWAY: I mean, that's one of the reason why you would be able to save costs is that you'll be able to buy things wholesale instead of retail. But again, poor people -- they rate very low on healthy eating indexes, and this is something that if Americans care about the health of low income Americans they should care about this. And people on these programs tend to eat a lot of cookies, candies, sugary snacks, and not enough fresh vegetables and whole grains. So I'm not saying it has to be this program. In fact, I think, it should be -- that the federal government allows states to experiment with how they implement this program. But certainly, something needs to be done if you care about food related problems for low income Americans.
FOWLER: I agree with you. And I think we do have food related problems. And a lot of those problems are not because of the SNAP program and more because of the fact that in rural areas, as well as urban areas, you have what you call food dessert. You don't have grocery stores with fresh produce.
FOWLER: We can work together on solving that problem and work on stopping red lining people of color, as well as rural areas, and build grocery stores so people can buy fresh food.
MACCALLUM: Especially when they're ballooning in cost and ask if we can do it a better way. There's also a tremendous amount of food waste at restaurants across the country. And perhaps, you know, there's something that can be done in terms of produce that isn't used day of and that kind of thing. But I think to ask the question and to try to make change and to make the program work better is not a bad idea. Thanks, you guys. Good to see you both tonight.
FOWLER: Good to see you.
MACCALLUM: So coming up, Republicans, and even some Democrats, push to fund the military in the last budget battle. But did anyone ever ask the Pentagon what exactly they will do now that they have huge infusion of cash that they want according to the White House budget? Where is it going to go? And also, new tension in the Middle East tonight after strikes by the U.S. coalition fighting ISIS may have killed several Russians. The number could be as high as 200. What's the fallout between the former cold war rivals? General Jack Keane joins me next on both stories right after this.
MACCALLUM: Rising tensions tonight with Russia. Moscow now accusing the United States of acting in a dangerous way in Syria, reports that dozens of Russians may have been killed in a U.S.-backed attack in eastern Syria last week. So you can see why tensions are rising. The U.S. says that it fired on Syrian government backed troops after opposition forces and U.S. advisors came under attack. The head of the U.S. Air Force's Central Command is defending this tense encounter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. GEN. JEFFREY L. HARRIGIAN, US AIR FORCE: You know, this is executed from self-defense. There was incoming fire, and we were with the SDF hunkered down. Not provoking. And a force is massing and coming at us. So we're going to defend ourselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: General Jack Keane joins me now, Fox News senior strategic analyst and chairman of the institute for the study of war. General, good evening to you. I think a lot of people look at Syria and think we did a good job defeating ISIS, so why are there so many different factions on the ground that are still fighting and it looks like it's getting worse?
JACK KEANE, FOX NEWS SENIOR STRATEGIC ANALYST: Yeah. Well, it's a great point, Martha. The harsh reality is in Syria is that the Iranians who really run this war in Syria and dominate the civil war, something that's been taking place there, they motivated the Russians in 2015 to join the fight and the Iranians and the Russians have successfully propped up the Assad regime indefinitely. They did that as of last year. What they're doing now is trying to consolidate their gains into Syria. And they've got a major objective here. They want to drive the United States out of Syria. Actually, they want to drive the United States out of the Middle East, which, pretty much, President Obama was on his way to doing. So these attacks, while they've been smaller attacks up to now, not getting this kind of attention, these are attacks are done against our coalition forces that we've been leading that ousted ISIS. And it's in southeastern Syria that they're taking place in.
The fact that the Russians used hybrid forces about a battalion size, that's like 500 or 600 troops in a ground assault with supporting fires that is very different. They clearly wanted to oust that U.S. force that was there. They wanted to destroy it. And that did not take place because of very responsive air power that pushed back on it. But here's what's taking place here. Putin is using hybrid forces. He's got some special operation forces in there. And he's got some mercenaries, contractors and some other Russians. Kind of what he did in Crimea, and what he also did in the Ukraine. He blurs the lines between peace and war. He's really testing the United States here. He wants to determine, is the United States really going to come back at him as a Russian assault or is he going to be able to put this under the radar in a sense that these are not forces that I'm in control of? And if we don't come back at him and hold him accountable, this escalation is likely to increase.
MACCALLUM: And are we is the next question? I mean, how far are we willing to go committing our people on the ground in Syria in what looks like it's turning into a Russia-U.S. proxy war in Syria?
KEANE: Well, our strategy in Syria, I think, has been off, certainly I believe that strongly in the Obama administration pretty much did nothing to help the Syrian moderates at a time when we had plenty of opportunity to do them. And they kind of wanted to have a government similar to ours. Those days are gone. The Trump administration came in and focused, Martha, exclusively on ISIS. Never developing a strategy to deal with the much larger, much more complicated issue of Syrian at large. We're just trying to cope with that. But here's the problem. The Turks have got to front up in a northwest that they've opened up that may lead the conflict with also U.S.-led coalition forces. The Iranians are driving close to Jordan and Israel. They just encroaching on Israel recently. They want to put rocket and missile bases, Martha, in Syria, so they can fire on Israel much as they have done from Gaza strip and also from Lebanon. This is a serious problem that's taking place in Syria. And we don't have our arms around it for sure.
MACCALLUM: Not good. We'll stay on top of it with your help, I know. One more question for you. Kim Yo-jong got all this attention for being this, you know, sort of being an olive branch for North Korea, but you say that she actually failed in her mission when she went to the Olympics.
KEANE: Well, I think in terms of promoting goodwill, I think the North Koreans, certainly, accomplished some of that. But what she was really doing as an emissary for Kim Jong-un to get President Moon to come visit, and that would have been a major Olympic diplomacy victory. That did not happen. President Moon had enough sense to say no, no. He did not accept that. And he said what you should do is talk directly to the United States. So the issue of trying to drive a wedge between South Korea and the United States did not work. Even though they believed that President Moon had probably some leanings in that direction in terms of further diplomatic effort he has backed away from it.
MACCALLUM: Very interesting. General, thank you so much. Good to see you as always. Thanks for coming in tonight.
KEANE: Good talking to you, Martha.
MACCALLUM: So she is back and as promised she has a story to tell. Only Omarosa isn't going after President Trump. She is going hard after Vice President Mike Pence. The vice president's former press secretary joins me with his take on Omarosa, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OMAROSA MANIGAULT, FORMER TRUMP AIDE: Extreme. I'm Christian. I love Jesus. But he thinks Jesus tells him to say things. And I'm like, Jesus didn't say that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: You remember this in a Michigan courtroom earlier this month, a dad going after vile sports doctor, Larry Nassar who had abused three of that man's daughters. Can you imagine? Prosecutors now say that he will not face any criminal charges for trying to attack the former USA gymnastics doctor. Larry Nassar is serving life in prison.
And she's back, folks, Omarosa promised that she would not go quietly when she was let go from the White House. She's holding true to that. Now she's going after Vice President Mike Pence during her appearance on -- where else would she be? Celebrity Big Brother. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANIGAULT: You would be worried about Pence?
UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I know.
MANIGAULT: So everybody that's wishing for impeachment might want to reconsider their life.
UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.
MANIGAULT: We would be begging for days of Trump back if Pence became president. That's all I'm going to say. He's extreme. I'm Christian. I love Jesus. But he thinks Jesus tells him to say things. I'm like, Jesus didn't say that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Here now, Marc Lotter, former press secretary to Vice President Pence who I probably imagine never have thought that he would be talking about this topic, but she was hired by the White House for a year so she was there. And Marc, before -- I want to also show you Joy Behar on The View because this is pretty priceless as well. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOY BEHAR, THE VIEW: It's one thing to talk to Jesus. It's another thing when Jesus talks to you.
UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly. That's different.
BEHAR: That's called mental illness if I'm not correct. Hearing voices.
BEHAR: My question is can he talk to Mary Magdalene without his wife in the room?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Wow. Marc, what do you think?
MARC LOTTER, FORMER VP PRESS SECRETARY: Let me tell you my view -- I think before the break you said that Omarosa had a story to tell, I think she more has a story she wants to sell. And I'll be honest with you here. I'm not aware of any meeting or significant interaction she has ever had with the vice president of the United States. Just because you say something on reality TV doesn't mean it has anything to do with reality.
MACCALLUM: So the word is that she was removed, she was fired from her job at the White House because she was using the car service, which is supposed to be reserved for emergencies, pretty much as her daily chauffeur to get her back and forth from work, right?
LOTTER: I mean, I read those accounts today. I'm not aware of them. But that's a big no, no. That car service is there to take some of the top senior White House aides to meetings that they may have on Capitol Hill. It gets them to places. But it's not a service to take you to and from your home.
MACCALLUM: I mean, Piers Morgan was asked about her today. He wrote a piece about her, actually. They had done The Apprentice together. He says that she offered him a show-mance that they would have sex during The Apprentice, you know, while the show was under way and that they would make a lot of money off of that. I guess the thing that is raised when a lot of people look at this story and, you know, I want to get -- ask you about Rob Porter as well, is the judgment of having this person in the White House for 12 months working with her own office in the West Wing.
LOTTER: Well, she was brought in to be the liaison to help connect the divide and do communications for the Office of Public Liaison, which does outreach on behalf of the administration to various political groups and to minorities. And she didn't last very long at it, and many groups actually celebrated when she was let go. And so, it's an unfortunate that that's the way she has chosen to go out. Obviously, I left the White House, you know, under different circumstances, but I'm proud to talk about my service. And what the president and vice president are still doing to make America great again. And I just find it really just disgusting that she's just trying to profit off of it.
MACCALLUM: I have the feeling we haven't heard the last from Omarosa, and she will tell her story no doubt. What about in terms of General John Kelly? There is so much discussion about how he handled this Rob Porter situation. And today, we heard from Anthony Scaramucci, who I think was the first person that John Kelly fired. He said based on FBI testimony, White House chief of staff John Kelly almost certainly knew about credible allegations of domestic abuse against Rob Porter at least six months ago, then recently forced others to lie about that time line inexcusable. Kelly must resign says Anthony Scaramucci. Your thoughts?
LOTTER: Well, I mean, Anthony is someone who has some very strong opinions and voices them often. And here's the -- make no mistake, there's only one person in the world who is going to decide who the White House chief of staff is. And President Donald Trump still has confidence and faith in General John Kelly to do that job. And so, there's a lot of people out there trying to read between tea leaves in terms of what this means and what that means. At the end of the day, Rob is gone. John Kelly continues to serve as the White House chief of staff. And I think a lot of people in the White House.
MACCALLUM: Do you think he should? I mean, do you have faith in him as someone who worked in this administration, do you think that President Trump should keep John Kelly in that job?
LOTTER: I do. And I'll tell you, I was there when the transition was made between the former chief of staff and General Kelly. And the focus that he brought to the staff. The inspiration that he brought to the staff from his decades of service to our country. He is a formidable leader. He makes sure that people are marching in the right direction in service of the president. I'm not going to defend -- I don't know the behind the scenes in terms of all of these kinds of recent issues, but I can tell you he shares the focus of the president to move this country forward. And as long as the president wants him to serve as his chief of staff, I think he's the choice.
MACCALLUM: Yeah. There's a lot going on. Thank you very much, Marc, good to see you tonight.
LOTTER: Thanks, Martha.
MACCALLUM: So the Olympics, of course, are chock full of amazing stories. But up next, we introduce you to one family filled with the American spirit. What happened after their daughter won the gold might bring a tear to your eye when we come back.
MACCALLUM: Seventeen year old American snowboarder, Chloe Kim, winning gold. She qualified at 13-years-old but she wasn't old enough for Sochi. She is the third American snowboarder to win gold this week. Norway and Germany ahead in the medal count. But this is a sport that the U.S. owns right now. Chloe was born in America. Her parents come from South Korea, though. After her victory, dad reportedly pointed to himself and said American dream. Chloe says it's so cool to be here competing in my first Olympics in a country where my parents came from, it is pretty insane. I'm feeling nothing but excitement she says. It should be a fun ride. Congratulation to her, she's so cute. And we'll be watching.
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