This is a rush transcript from "The Story with Martha MacCallum," September 30, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
MARTHA MACCALLUM, ANCHOR: Breaking tonight, there is a very pitched battle that is underway between the president and those who want to see him taken down.
And tonight, there are a lot of new salvos flying back and forth. Good evening, I'm Martha MacCallum.
So, tonight, The New York Times and the Washington Post breaking stories that add new layers to the ammunition against the president, and there is pushback from the administration. We are going to break it all down for you and help you navigate the incoming here so that you can see what is going on, on all sides.
Also tonight, the Wall Street Journal reporting that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on the call with the Ukrainian president, which raises questions that no doubt will be put to Secretary of State Pompeo about his interpretation of that phone call.
So, all of this fuel for the fire as Democrats are ramping up their timeline, hoping perhaps to be done with this impeachment process even by the end of this year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The president well understood that it was illegal to seek foreign assistance in a campaign. And immediately, after Mueller testified that is exactly what he was back at doing again.
SCOTT PELLEY, CORRESPONDENT, CBS NEWS: Your Republican colleagues say, well, the call is the call, but there's nothing here that rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA): Well, they're wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: So, a Quinnipiac poll out today shows that the American people are evenly split on impeachment. 47 to 47 and that's a big narrowing of that number since just a week ago.
So, when asked if the push to impeach is based on facts or is it based on partisan politics, 56 percent said the latter. Let's bring in Ronna McDaniel, exclusively tonight chairwoman of the Republican National Committee. Ronna, good to have you here.
Obviously, your job is to look, you know, up and down the chain, from the White House, all the way through the Senate to Congress, if there is a vote to impeach in the House. And then, that moves to the Senate. Senate Majority Leader McConnell has said he will take that up. Which means he would put it into the process on the Senate side. How do you see this whole thing playing out?
RONNA MCDANIEL, CHAIRWOMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I think, Republicans recognize that this is just another attempt by Democrats to overturn the election of 2016.
And I want to be very clear Martha, this is frightening for our democracy.
They want to have a government takeover of health care. They want to have a government takeover of education. But now, they want to have a government takeover of elections. And they want to negate the voices and the votes of the American people that elected Donald Trump.
They've done it for three years, there is no there, there. There is nothing that rises to the level of high creams crimes and misdemeanors. I don't think this will go anywhere in the Senate. It is ripping our country apart and is preventing from Washington doing anything for the American people.
MACCALLUM: All right.
MCDANIEL: The president is not going to let that happen.
MACCALLUM: So, I want to ask you, you know, specifically about the politics of this. You've got Jeff Flake, who -- you know, no surprise has never been a fan of President Trump, coming out today, saying, "My fellow Republicans, it is time to risk your careers in favor of your principles.
Whether you believe the president deserves impeachment, you know he does not deserve reelection."
Your thoughts on that and whether or not there will be an effort to peel away some senators who might be in difficult elections.
MCDANIEL: Well, first of all, the president still enjoys unprecedented support with our party. Over 90 percent -- 94 percent of Republicans support this president because he's gotten things done with wages up jobs coming back. They see this for what this is. This is just another attempt by Democrats to overturn the election. They didn't like Donald Trump being elected. They did the Mueller report that didn't go anywhere, and now, they're rushing to judgment on this. They even started the impeachment inquiry before they read the transcript, before the I.G. report.
It's really frightening for our country. Listen, sometimes we lose elections.
MCDANIEL: You don't get to use Congress and the power of Washington to overturn the will of the people. And that is exactly what the Democrats are doing.
MACCALLUM: I think you're hitting on something that is very potent and that people feel very strongly about. This is such a high bar and you have to have the evidence to meet that high bar. You know, this is not tiddlywinks, this is a moment to really ask the question about whether or not there is anything here that meets that bar of high crimes and misdemeanors, or whether we're going to risk putting ourselves into a cycle where it's elect, attempt to impeach, elect, attempt to impeach.
And to tear that will away, we're going to talk more about that with Bill Bennett in just a moment.
Now, with regard to Texas, which is, you know, a state that -- you know the Democrats feel maybe could come into their -- you know, into their arms a bit. Today, Mac Thornberry became the sixth Texas Republican to announce that he is not seeking re-election in 2020.
This is what Nancy Pelosi said about turning Texas blue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: Texas is our hope for the future. When Texas goes blue and people have to pay attention to everything that happens here and the views of people here, that's going to be very, very wholesome for our nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: What do you think?
MCDANIEL: I am -- I am very comfortable about where we stand in Texas.
I've seen the president's numbers -- a Governor Abbott won overwhelmingly.
John Cornyn is going to run a great race.
Listen, Democrats want to turn everything in their favor. They've talked about getting rid of the Electoral College, changing the voting age to 16, stacking the Supreme Court, and now, they're trying to overturn an election through Congress to this ridiculous impeachment inquiry.
What I'm going to say to Nancy Pelosi is we're coming for these Democrats in districts where President Trump won. We're starting an ad campaign.
Many of these Democrats said they wouldn't vote for a Nancy Pelosi, they lied to their constituents that way, and now they said -- and then, they said, we're going to go work with Republicans or work with this president.
And now they're backing this phony impeachment inquiry.
So, we -- we're doing ad campaigns and we're going to put pressure on these Democrats because we're going to take back the House, keep the Senate and reelect the president.
MACCALLUM: Yes. I know it's been -- a lot of money raised in the Republican Party over the last -- you know, several days during all of this impeachment discussion.
MCDANIEL: A lot of money made.
MACCALLUM: Look into your crystal ball a little bit here. Do you think that, you know, because we're talking tonight about this battle that is going on in the media, in Washington, all across America over this issue, do you think it ends up being a positive? Does it -- does it galvanize support on your side?
MCDANIEL: I think that what the Democrats have done overall is a negative for our country. But for Republicans, it's energized our base, we've raised over $15 million since this started.
We're seeing massive enthusiasm our volunteers are energized. They recognize what the Democrat party is doing. And I think, in the end, it's going to help us win the election.
But it's sad for our country, it's sad that Nancy jumped the gun, it's sad to see Adam Schiff come out and make a false statement, and make a fictional opening statement as something is serious as an impeachment inquiry.
This is not what the American people want. They want Washington to work for them. President Trump's done that day in and day out and Democrats all they have done is obstruct, resist, and now, try to investigate. And they have done nothing to help the American people that they represent.
MACCALLUM: Yes. So, Hillary Clinton did a big interview over the weekend.
She's still -- you know, going back to 2016 and talking about what happened. Let's play that, I want to get your thoughts on that before we let you go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What could happen in another four years of the Trump administration?
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't accept that. I don't believe that will happen. I believe that there were many funny things that happened in my election that will not happen again.
And I'm hoping that both the public and the press understand the way that Trump plays this game.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Your thoughts?
MCDANIEL: Again, it's really frightening to see Democrats continue to undermine our democracy and undermine the election of 2016. And this has been their playbook. Let's undermine the legitimacy of President Trump's win.
I, was the chair of Michigan when President Trump won our state in a historic win. There were no shenanigans here. What happened is Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate, she didn't show up in our state and she didn't have a message that resonates.
And Donald Trump gets to go into 2020, saying, your wages are up, jobs have come back, our country is on the rise again because of tax cuts and deregulation.
MCDANIEL: And Democrats have fought me every step of the way.
MACCALLUM: All right, we will see. It's heart-wrenching, as you say, in so many ways. And also going to be quite interesting to see how the people across the country respond to all of this.
Ronna, thank you very much. Good to see you tonight.
MCDANIEL: Thanks, Martha.
MACCALLUM: Going to bring in Marc Thiessen now, AEI scholar and Fox News contributor. Marc, good to have you here tonight.
MARC THIESSEN, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Good to be with you, Martha.
MACCALLUM: Just a top-line thought, you know, from you about what you -- because this is a 24-hour cycle and a lot has happened since the last time we talked. What do you think?
THIESSEN: I mean there's just so many things that are be conflated here that is just ridiculous. I mean, you had the report up there before about how -- you know, Barr may have -- the president may have talked to the president -- prime minister of Australia about cooperating with Barr.
THIESSEN: And now, all the Democrats are rolling out, oh, and he did it in Australia, and he did it in this country, and he did it in that country.
No, no, no, no, no, that's not true. So, you have to conflating two different things. One, there is an investigation by Rudy Giuliani as -- in his capacity as Trump's private lawyer into Hunter Biden. And then, there is an official Justice Department investigation being led by a career prosecutor named John Durham, who's looking into the origins of the counterintelligence of investigation into the Trump campaign and the Mueller probe.
THIESSEN: That it is completely legitimate for the president of United States in a phone call with a foreign leader to say, I want you to cooperate with an official Justice Department investigation.
THIESSEN: And Americans want to know -- you know, we spent two years and tens of millions of dollars chasing a conspiracy theory, and Americans want to know how did we get there, and why did this happen? Because we were told the president of the United States was a traitor and a Russian agent, and it wasn't true.
MACCALLUM: And it's worth -- you know, pointing out that the president has not hidden any of this part of the equation. And right now, I just want to be very clear, we're talking about the looking backward 2016 investigation into the origins of the Russia probe.
MACCALLUM: Under which there are very -- many legitimate lines of inquiry and questioning, and which was not touched at all during the two years of the Mueller investigation.
So, here is the president back in May talking about that. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Attorney General is one of the most respected people in this country, and he has been for a long period of time. So, what I've done is I've declassified everything. He can look, and I hope he looks at the U.K. and I hope that he looks at Australia, and I hope he looks at Ukraine, I hope he looks at everything.
Because there was a hoax that was perpetrated on our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: OK. So, that's in May.
MACCALLUM: Very open about what he wants to do, and which countries he wants to talk to there.
MACCALLUM: The Department of Justice has put out a statement tonight.
Saying that the attorney general requested that introductions be made and that that's what the president did to open that line of communication with those countries.
I mean it sounds to me that this is -- this part of this story is -- you know, quite forthcoming.
THIESSEN: Completely aboveboard. And look, what you're seeing is, there is a people on the left, some in the media, some of the Democrats conflating these things. You know, you kept hearing over the weekend and all the Sunday shows that he said, do me a favor, investigate Hunter Biden.
No. He said, do me a favor and cooperate with the -- with the Justice Department investigation into the origins of the Mueller probe, which is a complete and -- look, for you -- for two years, Democrats told us that Donald Trump was working for the Russians, and in Swalwell's -- Congressman Swalwell's words that he -- that there was an --
MACCALLUM: The Russian agent.
THIESSEN: Russian agent. That there was -- they had seen proof that there was collusion. And that all was false. And so, Americans, you know, if you look at the polling right after the Mueller probe, Americans number one -- a majority of Americans think that there was bias against the president and the FBI. And two, the one investigation they do support -- not this -- not this impeachment effort, they want to get to the bottom of how they were lied to for two years and how our country was wrapped up in this unbelievable conspiracy theory for two years of his entire presidency tied up in it.
MACCALLUM: Yes, and --
THIESSEN: And they've -- and they deserve an answer.
MACCALLUM: I mean, if and this is a big if. If the president had not mentioned Joe Biden at the end of that conversation, and get only mentioned --
THIESSEN: Such an -- such a stupid thing to do.
MACCALLUM: And he had not mentioned Rudy Giuliani.
MACCALLUM: And if he had only mentioned Barr and what he wanted on the 2016 election, that would be consistent with all of this that we've heard.
MACCALLUM: So, but you know, the other issue obviously, we continue to raise questions, and we will continue to talk about it. Marc, thank you.
Good to see you tonight.
THIESSEN: Thank you, Martha. Good to be with you.
MACCALLUM: So, President Trump, today is saying that he wants to know exactly who is behind the whistleblower complaint.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, we're trying to find out about a whistleblower. When you have a whistleblower that reports things that were incorrect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: As some in his administration alleged a deep ties story -- a deep state story, I should say, under all of this. Geraldo Rivera and Chris Hahn fired up to talk about it. Coming up next.
MACCALLUM: All right, so one of the questions here is who's behind all of this information? Who is the person or persons behind the leaks about the phone calls between the President and the foreign leaders because that person told the whistleblower, right, he or she? And now they say that they are in fear for their safety.
The President says he believes for his part that he deserves to be able to face his accuser but there were others who tipped off the whistleblower, as I said. And then you have these new leaks about the Australian Prime Minister's conversation. So who is talking about that and putting all of this out into the atmosphere? And what about the two calls back at the beginning of the administration with foreign leaders?
These are important questions. House Intel Chairman Adam Schiff confirms the anonymous whistleblower will testify on Capitol Hill and will do so in a way that protects his or her identity. But some of the members of the Trump administration are not buying this whole thing. They say they know what's going on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR ADVISOR, WHITE HOUSE: I know the difference between a whistleblower and a deep state operative. This is a deep state operative, pure and simple.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: And of course, Chris Wallace, push back on that. And joining me now Geraldo Rivera, Fox News Correspondent-at-Large and Chris Hahn, former aide to Senator Chuck Schumer, and syndicated radio host. Good to have both of you with us tonight.
Geraldo, you know, you heard what Stephen Miller said. He believes that there is -- has been sort of a vendetta against the president in the intelligence agencies that's gone on since before he was elected, and certainly after he was elected, and that some of that is an element at work here. What do you think?
GERALDO RIVERA, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT-AT-LARGE: Well Stephen Miller is not my cup of tea, Martha. I don't like his draconian policies on immigration way too cruel. I think he puts the president in bad light. It doesn't mean he's wrong here. I think there is zero percent that the source here, the whistleblower, doesn't know some of the famous names that we've been talking about for two-plus years, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok.
You know, I bet they chat with each other all the time. I'm sure there's a -- you know, I've been hanging out -- I'm hanging out with cops all the time with DEA in D.C and in Virginia, you know, you get around the bar. I have no doubt that this guy is the deep state guy in the sense that he's part of the permanent government. And I think they what he has done is extremely destructive.
And for him to now worry about his identity being revealed going to witness protection, you're threatening the presidency for only the third time in 243 years, this is a big deal. You've taken on a lot here. You don't even have first-hand knowledge of it. I think the President has the right to know who you are.
MACCALLUM: So, Chris, Geraldo races this you know, working theory based on a lot of you know, information that is out there, that that there's sort of a cabal, you know, that this isn't just one person, that this is a group of people who have, you know, we've heard from for a long time. That there are people that were holdovers from the Obama administration who are in the intelligence agencies who hate the president who would love to bring him down, and that this is sort of all part of that. What do you say?
CHRIS HAHN, SYNDICATED RADIO HOST: So what debunks that and everything Geraldo just said is that the President handpicked Inspector General for the Intelligence Community deemed this threat credible and urgent. And he went through some witnesses and he talked to the whistleblower him or herself and found it credible.
So you know, we could talk about deep state all we want, this inspector general was appointed by the Trump administration.
MACCALLUM: That's right.
HAHN: Reports up through Bill Barr. So there's a you know, look --
MACCALLUM: But it seems to me when he -- when he was talking -- I hear what you're saying that's true. But it seems to me, you know, when he was talking, he was very careful to sort of say, this met the bar that told me that I had to put this through the process, that I thought it's the right thing to do.
HAHN: Yes, credible.
MACCALLUM: That the whistleblower brought a complaint forward. That's 00 -- I think that's sort of separate from what we're talking about here.
HAHN: I don't know. It met the -- it met the bar of being credible and urgent. Those are two things, credible and urgent.
RIVERA: This was the plan -- this is the plan you guys had, this plan from the Russia collusion days.
RIVERA: I remember your passion, you and Speaker Pelosi, and Adam Schiff, and Jerry Nadler and everybody, oh, the world was going to end. Trump is a traitor. Oh, my God, this Russia collusion is the worst thing ever happened to the republic. For two and a half years you wasted time and now here we are again.
HAHN: Look, you know, respectfully, the President of the United States is on a phone call with a foreign leader asking that foreign leader to work with his outside private political attorney to dig up dirt on his opponent.
That's from what the President himself released.
RIVERA: Let me give you -- let me give --
HAHN: That in and of itself is impeachable by me. That is something that the American people --
MACCALLUM: All right, I got --
HAHN: (INAUDIBLE) to get dirt on his political enemy.
MACCALLUM: All right, let Geraldo respond. Go ahead.
RIVERA: Here's Trump -- here's Trump talking to the -- to Zelensky, the president of Ukraine. He's got a checklist and said, Hi, Mr. President, how are you doing? I got a checklist here. How's -- are you doing in Crimea? How's the war on the Eastern Front? What about this military aid?
And what about this corruption business? You know, that Hunter Biden, how did he it get 50 grand for a month for you know, guys --
HAHN: Yes, and walk with my political hack to figure out.
RIVERA: -- who got all these problems with alcohol and got thrown out of the Navy. What's that?
HAHN: Work with my political hack to figure it out because that's cool, right? That's cool when you're sitting behind the Resolute Desk. That's cool. The American people will not stand for that. This is over.
RIVERA: Well, I think what is over is that the President can no longer have a private conversation with the head of state because of the snitches that now infiltrate the --
MACCALLUM: All right, you know what, guys -- all right, I got to leave it there. I got to leave it there. And I can tell you this. At least according to one poll, 47 percent of America agrees with each side of you so we're going to see who ends up pulling more to the other side as this whole thing goes forward. Thank you very much.
HAHN: Thank you.
MACCALLUM: So coming up next, THE STORY investigates tonight. How far is China going to spy on the United States? Wait until you see what is picked up in this hidden camera in a hotel and what the DOJ is doing about this guy from China, an American citizen tonight when we come back.
MACCALLUM: This is quite a story. The FBI calls it their top counterintelligence priority, launching elaborate sting operations to go after operatives who are here in the United States, acting as spies on behalf of China.
Now, the DOJ announced an arrest today of 56-year-old Edward Peng, a sightseeing tour guide in the San Francisco area, an American citizen who agency was captured on this hidden camera receiving and removing classified U.S. national security information and then delivering it back to China as part of the Chinese government's MSS or Ministry of State Security.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID ANDERSON, U.S. ATTORNEY, NORTHERN CALIFORNIA: Peng would rent and then occupy a hotel room, tape an envelope containing cash to the underside of a dresser drawer in the hotel room, and then leave the room key at the front desk.
The double agent would remove, would retrieve the key, retrieve the cash and take the SD card to the same place where the money had been left. Then later, Peng would return to the hotel room and recover the SD card.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Here now John Demers, the DOJ's Assistant Attorney for National Security and leader of the Justice Department's China Initiative. John, welcome back to the program. Good to have you here today.
JOHN DEMERS, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: Great. Thank you very much.
MACCALLUM: So how -- you know, how -- is he part of a larger operation?
This was a sting operation.
MACCALLUM: Do you have any sense if he had been doing this beforehand, and that's why he was chosen?
DEMERS: Well, we allege conduct from 2015 to 2018 in that allegation.
He's partly -- he's certainly part of a much bigger picture about Chinese espionage efforts here in the U.S. both on the political espionage side, like we have here and on the economic espionage side, like we've had in so many of our other cases. And they're mainly run by the Ministry of State Security, which is the main Chinese intelligence agency that was at work in this one.
MACCALLUM: I mean, when I -- when I watch this, it makes me think of, you know, of the Americans and Russian spies during the Cold War, making the drop, picking up the chip, you know, dropping off the money. But you say that this is mostly -- you know, in that case, back then it was about, you know, defense plans --
MACCALLUM: -- figuring out the Cold War --
MACCALLUM: -- in terms of defense. This is much more about getting into the American economy, right?
DEMERS: Yes. This is everything. So, this is both the traditional Cold War style espionage like we're talking about that's this case as those allegations but then more broadly, it's about getting ahead economically, developing technologically for them. And so, they've got this 10 areas where they're going to go out and be number one.
In the 21st century, that's their goal. And to do that, partly they do R&D but a lot of it is stealing from American companies and other companies that are already number one in those areas.
MACCALLUM: And it includes critical structure against external threats, including foreign direct investment. So, some of this investigation goes to figuring out if China is behind, someone who is investigating in our infrastructure as sort of the shadow financier.
DEMERS: Right. Some of our work does. This case is about, you know the political espionage that was going on here. But, yes, absolutely. Some of the work is on the foreign direct investing side. So, it's one. People that are investing in this country that they're buying companies, that they're buying technology, are they really who they say they are. Right?
And if they are in fact Chinese, what do they want to do with this technology what do they want to do with this data and protecting ourselves against the acquisition sides.
DEMERS: Because what you can steal sometimes you can buy.
DEMERS: And so, we have to be careful on both ends of that.
MACCALLUM: All right. Before I let you go, a piece in the Wall Street Journal cited you. You are quoted in this piece but it talks about this issue with the Ukrainian phone call. And says that you were contacted by the top floor at the CIA, and basically the next day, you know, who had an anonymous concern about this phone call, the next day it says you went to the White House to review a rough transcript of that call. When you reviewed that rough transcript, were you troubled by it and then what did you do?
DEMERS: Well, I'm not going to comment about that. That's part of an ongoing inquiry right now.
MACCALLUM: All right. Can you confirm that you at least went over there and look at the transcript?
DEMERS: No, I think we've said as the department what we're going to say.
MACCALLUM: All right, John Demers --
DEMERS: Thank you.
MACCALLUM: -- we thank you. We thank you for being here. Very interesting story on China's espionage.
MACCALLUM: And obviously, we're going to keep watching that.
MACCALLUM: And the rest of these stories as well. Thank you, John. Thank you for coming to the program tonight.
DEMERS: Thank you very much.
MACCALLUM: California governor signs -- sends a bill that says that colleges -- college athletes in his state can hire agents and can make money from endorsement deals. Pro-NFL player Benjamin Watson here exclusively on that straight-ahead.
MACCALLUM: It has been more than two years since the launch of the Me Too movement. And now two of the men brought down in its midst are facing a new wave of allegations.
Chief breaking news correspondent Trace Gallagher with the very latest. Hi, Trace.
TRACE GALLAGHER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Martha.
And the new accusations are coming in, while the old accusations are still being dealt with. For example, Al Franken says the reason he stepped down from the Senate instead of defending himself against several allegations of sexual misconduct, is because he was put in a, quote, "untenable situation," saying he was under tremendous pressure and did not have a choice.
He also says that he has gotten support from eight of his former Senate colleagues who say they regretted their decisions to push him out of office. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. SEN. AL FRANKEN (D-MN): They just basically all said that I deserved due process. I believe I do too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GALLAGHER: For the allegations themselves, Franken acknowledges tat he must have been doing something wrong so now he is much more mindful of his interactions with people. And right as Al Franken's new radio show is set to debut on Sirius XM, another woman has come forward to accuse Franken of sexual misconduct.
Franken's ninth accuser says back in 2006 when she was photographed with Franken at a political fund-raiser, he repeatedly squeezed her buttocks. The woman claims the reason she didn't initially tell anyone is out of embarrassment and eventually decided making the accusation might hurt her chances of getting her dream job. A cabinet position in a Democratic administration. No word of Al Franken has issued a comment about the new allegation.
And speaking of new accusers, Ronan Farrell who wrote many of the Me Too stories is out with a new book on October 15th and it includes a group of women who make new sexual harassment claims against former Today Show host Matt Lauer.
The exact number of ne accusers is unclear but the woman whose initial complaint to NBC led to Matt Lauer getting fired is also coming forward in the book to tell her story.
Our corporate cousin the New York Post is reporting that Matt Lauer has hired a team of powerful lawyers ahead of the book's publication. Martha.
MACCALLUM: Quite something. Trace, thank you very much.
MACCALLUM: So, coming up next, NFL player and former college athlete, Ben Watson on whether students should be allowed to profit in college off their talents as California now says they can.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be able to have moments like this where we got the governor California signing a bill to allow athletes in college.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's do it, man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: All right. Breaking moments ago, new information that appears to contradict the so-called bombshell report published in the New York Times tonight that's getting quite a bit of attention. That report claims that President Trump, quote, "pressed the Australian prime minister to help Attorney General Bill Barr investigate the origins of the Russian probe."
That information as we showed you before was not really knew, the president said it himself back in May to reporters. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The attorney general is one of the most respected people in this country and he has been for a long period of time.
So, what I've done is I declassified everything. He can look and I hope he looks at the U.K. and I hope he looks at Australia. And I hope he looks at Ukraine, I hope he looks at everything. Because there was a hoax that was perpetrated on our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: So, now, Fox News has obtained a letter that was sent in May by the Australians to Attorney General Bill Barr in the wake of those comments by the president. It says, "We stand ready to provide you with relevant information to support your inquiries."
Suggesting that Australians were not, quote, "pressed" perhaps as the Times reports. So, stay tuned. This is going to continue to unfold throughout the night in the coming days. And this story for you tonight as well.
In a move that could upend college sports, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that will allow college athletes NCAA athletes in the state of California to hire agents and to make money off their name and likeness through endorsement deals. And that was set to begin in 2023.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): I don't want to say this is checkmate, but this is a major problem for the NCAA. And it's going to change college sports for the better by having now the interest finally of the athletes on par with the interests of the institution. Now we are rebalancing that power arrangement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: So that's Governor Newsom's take on all of this. The NCAA for its part agrees that changes need to be made, they say, but they think that this new California law will only create confusion for current and future athletes, for coaches, and administrators.
Let's bring former college football player and current New England Patriots tight end, Ben Watson. Benjamin Watson, good to see you tonight, sir. Thank you very much for being here.
BENJAMIN WATSON, NFL PLAYER: Thank you.
MACCALLUM: So, what's your take on this?
WATSON: Well, I agree with the governor, I think this is a step in the right direction. We're at a time where, you know, the (Inaudible) bringing billions of dollars, we know that. We know that student athletes obviously are able to play their sport at a very high level many of them and they're able to receive scholarships.
We also know that there are adults and as adults they should be afforded the life any other adults have which is to profit off of their notoriety profit, off of their ability whether that's from signing autographs or from getting endorsements from jersey sales or whatever that may be.
I think this is a step in the right direction. And also, I think that obviously it's going to take some time for this to become law. But this could set a new standard that I think it's beneficial for the NCAA, and also beneficial for the athletes.
MACCALLUM: So what about the divide that it creates between the athletes who are able to get these kinds of endorsements, and you know, the guys who are next to them on the line, the guys who are working as hard as they are but they're not the superstar, you know. What happens in that relationship?
I spoke to a former college NFL player today, you know, who basically said, look, they get a huge stage across America during these four years, and they get an education, a college education. And that is the trade-off and that's what has worked for so long. What do you say?
WATSON: Well, he's right and that's what has worked or that's what has been the status quo. But we all, Americans are interested in increasing and bettering things. And so, as the revenue goes, I mean, you know, obviously colleges and the NFL, but when you look posted salaries, many of them rival those in the NFL.
When you look at the states, (Inaudible) many of the rivals when you look at revenues. It's all pass for the same thing. And so, in my opinion these are the rules in college football but what it does do is, it allows athletes to capitalize.
And you mention the guys who are on the team that maybe don't play that maybe don't have the notoriety of some of the higher profile players. There are things such as licensing agreements where all the players are able to gain some sort of revenue from whether it's video games or whatever that may be.
There are ways to allow the masses of players whatever sport they're in to receive something from this type of the law. But also allows us players that a(Inaudible) to pursue, hey, everybody who is going to join the stadium even though they had their name, it has their number you know who's jersey it is, it's their place for them to actually capitalize more so. I think we can approach both of them and we can look out for the players, as you mentioned that may not be as popular as the other.
MACCALLUM: Yes. What about the fact that it's just California? I mean, the NCAA is saying, you know, maybe California won't be able to compete, as part of the NCAA anymore because they have separate rules. What's the impact from that?
WATSON Well, I think that's why we're seeing that this law won't take place until maybe four years from now. There are some kinks to work out obviously, but I think that California is taking a step in the right direction. My hope is that other states and other conferences will follow suit before now and then.
I know there's a lot of conversation that needed to be had but the NCAA would have meet. The NCAA would have meet that there needs to be something done.
WATSON: That it's simply not fair and it's not logical even to have athletes that cannot profit when they're making so much money off their likeness.
MACCALLUM: All right. Benjamin Watson, tight end for the New England Patriots, we're cheering you on and we'll be watching. Thank you so much. Good to see you tonight.
WATSON: Thank you. I appreciate it.
MACCALLUM: You take care. So, Bill Bennett up next on the toxic cycle of elect then impeach permeating American politics today, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Congress isn't doing anything. It's called impeachment and you don't wait. You do it now.
FMR. GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK): There is only one remedy for president who commits high crimes and misdemeanors and its impeachment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: It is a cry that we have heard from both sides of the aisle no matter which party controls the presidency and Capitol Hill. And it's a vicious cycle of elect and then impeach or at least talk about impeaching. And are we getting into a new level of that? Is that possibly could it become the new norm in this increasingly toxic political environment in which we live. And if so, how does America overcome that?
Bill Bennet, former education secretary under President Reagan and host of The Wise Guys on Fox Nation. Bill, always great to have you here tonight. You know, this is a big picture discussion --
BILL BENNETT, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Martha.
MACCALLUM: -- about where we are. Thank you for being here. Where we are as a nation and whether or not people get to the point where they think, you know, I'm going to vote for my candidate but then there's just going to be an effort to sort of overturn the election with an impeachment process based on whatever they can -- whatever they can dredge up that becomes -- that becomes the battle plan.
BENNETT: Yes, no, I think that's what's going on. And the division is very real and the people feel it. I don't want anyone to be confused where I am -- where I am on this. I think the merits are on one side and the demerits on the other. I think the Democrats have decided this is what they want to do. A priori before any facts are in.
I think that was proved, Martha, by Nancy Pelosi, Speaker Pelosi announcing they were going to go ahead with this before the transcript was even out. So, I don't think they are playing fair at all.
Nevertheless, the fact is the country is divided. This now seems to be a pattern at least occurs every so often too frequently in presidential terms now. The country is torn, it's driven.
A friend of mine, Allen Guelzo, who teaches at Gettysburg and Princeton said he doesn't think there's a -- the country has been so torn and divided since the Civil War. And I think that may be true. I'm hoping that it's just the political elites, that is just the political types and the people who were deeply engaged in politics who were feeling this way.
If you are engaged in politics, as I am, it's hard not to feel this way. Because the sense that, you know, a terrible thing is being done. But the rest of the country as a question and I fear that a lot of this is spreading to the rest of the country.
You get reports from neighborhoods around the country that these kinds of division are real. A realtor tell me, people say, well, this is a conservative or a liberal neighborhood?
BENNETT: It's not a good sign for us.
MACCALLUM: No. I mean, conservatives and liberals used to live together side by side in neighborhoods all across America and attend church together and you know, their kids went to school together, and maybe occasionally politics came up.
BENNETT: Right. Right.
MACCALLUM: Now there are people who blame, you know, sort of a lot of things leading up to how we got here. And certainly, people who don't who include President Trump in that bag.
Now you're someone who has written about virtues, about values for decades. When you looked at that original transcript, because were now we're getting a big flood of things that are coming into this whole conversation.
But when you look at that and you read what the president said to the Ukrainian president and then you saw, you know, that it goes to Biden and you know, his potential run -- the person he may run against, did it trouble you?
BENNETT: Trouble me the Biden, you know, this was not a prudent thing to bring up. But impeachable to be removed from office for it? There's an awful lot of misrepresentation going on too. You know, people are saying that he brought up the election and look into the election because I'm after Biden.
He was carrying on an investigation suggesting if they had any input on the investigation the Department of Justice was doing about fiddling with 2016 election and he was asking questions about that. The Biden thing came up later --
MACCALLUM: That's right.
BENNETT: -- that was brought up by Zelensky. I am struck, Martha, about when people talk about this with authority, they're often misquoting the transcript.
BENNETT: Are they doing this deliberately or, or I don't know, it's part of the problem we're talking about.
MACCALLUM: Well, I was listening to Brit Hume earlier he was talking about the Nixon impeachment and how sober the process was.
MACCALLUM: And then you think about Adam Schiff --
MACCALLUM: -- who went out there and as I said, you know, the transcript was all there. There's no need to do sort of like, you know, free verse poetry jam of what you think it should be.
MACCALLUM: Which is kind of what it sounded like and that is disturbing. Keeping the gravity of what we're talking about here.
BENNETT: Yes, yes, a parody of this and people tuned in on some of the news broadcasts this parody was played as if it was straight, this is what Adam Schiff said. So, people are listening saying, my God, seven times, the president did this thing when in fact he didn't do it once.
Now there's a kind of excitability and irrationality to this. It's not the sober and difficult, and I think a lot of us felt very trying times of the Nixon time. And even somewhat in the Clinton times. This one seems, we're going to get him because I think that's what the motto is of the Democrats. We're going to get him one way or another. And that's very bad. It's bad for them --
MACCALLUM: And how do you think voters --
BENNETT: -- it's bad --
MACCALLUM: I'm sorry. I'm sorry to interrupt.
BENNETT: Go ahead.
MACCALLUM: How do you think voters will react, you know --
BENNETT: No, no.
MACCALLUM: -- how do they react if the person they voted for, for those who did vote for President Trump feel like it's trying to be ripped away from them and that decision overturned by this process rather than waiting till the next election?
BENNETT: Well, maybe not a satisfactory answer but it all depends. I mean, it depends on how much attention people pay, how deeply they probe into this themselves. If you just listening to the news, that's why Nancy Pelosi very -- and her people very excited about the shift in public opinion toward impeachment, but what are people hearing 24 hours a day?
Look, the secret of democracy is courage and paying attention. And people need to pay attention to this. It's a fearful time. I'm very worried about this because the charges are excuse the expression, trumped up, and they should not lead to the to the impeachment or removal of a president by any means.
MACCALLUM: Well, we'll see where those numbers go over time than more people sort of have this --
BENNETT: Yes. Yes.
MACCALLUM: -- in front of them.
MACCALLUM: -- and the more than -- and we're trying to just make sure that people have as much of the information on all sides here as they can. So, we are going to continue to do that.
BENNETT: You're doing a great job on that.
MACCALLUM: Thank you, Bill. Thank you very much.
BENNETT: You're doing a great job.
MACCALLUM: Thanks, sir.
BENNETT: Thank you, Martha.
MACCALLUM: It's great to see you as always.
BENNETT: You bet.
MACCALLUM: Good to see you. Take care.
So that is "The Story" of this Monday, September the 30th, 2019. But as always, "The Story" goes on and on. Trust me. We'll be back here tomorrow night at seven. We will see you then.
Content and Programming Copyright 2019 Fox News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2019 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.