Rove: WaPo story overblown, NYT story much bigger
This is a rush transcript from "The Story," May 19, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SANDRA SMITH, FOX NEWS HOST: Breaking tonight, the American public will soon be able to hear directly from the former FBI Director James Comey, who will testify before Congress -- we are just learning in an open session. This news coming as President Trump embarks from the first overseas trip of his administration. And we get brand-new reports concerning the Russia investigation and the president's firing of James Comey, threatened to overshadow his efforts to focus on policy. I'm Sandra Smith, in for Martha MacCallum tonight. And this is "The Story" on Friday, May 19th.
Right now, President Trump and the First Lady are in route to Saudi Arabia. The first of a nine-day tour that will take them across the Middle East and Western Europe for meetings with dozens of world leaders focusing on key issues such as ISIS, Mid-east peace, and Russian aggression. But no sooner had they left, then apparent reports hit the Internet, from the New York Times, suggesting: President Trump told the Russians that Comey's dismissal ease pressure on him from the investigation. And perhaps, more significantly tonight, the Washington Post now saying one of the president's current advisors is considered a person of interest in the Russian probe. In moments, we will be joined by Karl Rove and Marie Harf, but we begin first with Chief White House Correspondent John Roberts who is live in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where the president will be touching down in just hours from now. John?
JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS CHANNEL CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Sandra, good evening to you from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. A couple of big bombshells just before the president left. Clearly, he was hoping to leave behind the controversy when he got on air force one headed for the Middle East, but the New York Times carrying that story today that in his discussions with Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, the president alleged said that the White House is not disputing this, that firing James Comey took a lot of pressure off of him in regards to Russia.
Also, allegedly referring to James Comey as a "crazy person; a nut job." Again, the White House's not disputing that language but the Press Secretary Sean Spicer just before he left putting out this statement: "the president has always emphasized the importance of making deals with Russia as it relates to Syria, Ukraine, defeating ISIS, and other key issues for the benefit and safety of the American people by grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia's actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia."
The other story that you alluded to in the Washington Post; sources telling the Washington Post that investigators have identified a "person of interest" in regard to the Russia investigation who was inside the White House and close to the president. Sean Spicer issuing this statement, pushing back against that same quote, "As the president has stated before, a thorough investigation will confirm that there is no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity."
Now, a suggestion from the Washington Post as to who that "person of interest" might be, but two newspapers in the U.K.: the Independent and the Guardian is suggesting that person is Ivanka Trump's husband Jared Kushner. Now, no one is suggesting that it is Kushner except for those two newspapers. But what we do know is that Kushner was in touch with a lot of foreign leaders during the transition and during the campaign, trying to establish relationships that they would build on when the president was inaugurated.
And among the people that he was talking to where Russian officials; we do know that he and Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who was about to become the National Security Advisor, had at least one meeting with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador to the United States. We are also expecting, also Sandra, that the president might name a new FBI Director before he winged his way east here. He did not do that, but now focusing on this big tour, very ambitious first foreign trip. When you compare it to Presidents from Ronald Reagan on, those Presidents would typically just cross the border into Canada or Mexico for their first foreign trip.
President Trump will be here in Saudi Arabia. He's going from here to Israel, then to the Vatican, then to Belgium, then back to Rome, where he'll be in Sicily for the G7. Here in Saudi Arabia, he's expected to get a very, very warm welcome. Saudi Arabia loves the fact that he wants to be tough on terror. They also very much appreciate the fact that like the many Arab States and many of the United States Arab allies, they see Iran as an existential threat.
And the president's bringing with them $110 billion arms packages to Saudi Arabia that will count as the biggest U.S. Arms deal ever. And the president may also make some history on Monday, Sandra, when he leaves Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, bound for Tel Aviv if the schedule is as it is now and doesn't include a stop somewhere between. The president may make the first publicly announced direct flights from Saudi Arabia to Israel. Sandra?
SMITH: All right. John Roberts, live for us from Saudi Arabia. Thank you, sir. All right, well, here is Karl Rove, a former Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush; and Marie Harf, a former Obama State Department Spokesperson; both are Fox News Contributors. Karl, nothing that going on in this Friday, what do you make of all this? This two bombshell reports, and then add on news now that James Comey will be testifying in this open session sometime after Memorial Day?
KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR AND FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes. Well, first of all, minor disagreement with John Roberts, who said the Washington Post story did not echo what the two British newspapers did and sort of suggested it's Jared Kushner. I disagree with him. The only White House official, current White House official, who's named in the Washington Post article is Jared Kushner. So, they're -- they didn't say he was the subject person of interest, but they used his name.
Let's be clear about this, though. Person of interest in an investigation like this means it's somebody that the FBI wants to talk to. There's a big difference and a long distance between that and being the subject of an investigation. And an even bigger distance to be the target of the investigation. So, I think the Washington Post story is a little bit overblown. Of course, they're going to talk to Kushner. He talked to Kislyak in November, he talked with officials the Russian bank that is connected to the state. He omitted these from a document that he had to fill out. Quickly told the FBI and told security officials that he had filed it prematurely and amended it quickly with these visits on it. But I think this is a relatively small ball. The New York Times story, though, is much bigger, though.
ROVE: Well, it's a confirmation of what we already knew. Lester Holt interviewed President Trump who he said; in essence, I fired him because, you know, he was a pain. But the direct connection between -- I've faced great pressure because of Russia and that's taken off? That's sort of like the Barack Obama moment of "tell Putin I'll have flexibility after the election." It just sounds unseemly.
SMITH: So, Marie, let me get to the exact words that the New York Times put in this report. Quoting Trump saying, "I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia that's taken off." How does this report, and how do these multiple reports that we're looking at tonight, how does this all change things?
MARIE HARF, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR AND FORMER OBAMA STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Well, it's just the latest drip of this Russia story that has started before the election and will continue over the 9 days that President Trump is out of the country on this really important foreign trip. And I think, it's actually -- I agree with most of what Karl said about the New York Times story. I think it's a little worse than just be, you know, "I'll have some more flexibility" that President Obama got caught saying?
This is the fact that he seems to be telling the Russians directly that I fired him for this reason and now it's taking the pressure off me. You know, I can't imagine what it's like on that plane tonight, where they're out of -- you know, out of the press world, they are leaving D.C. Getting out of the bubble here, in some ways could be good for the administration, but they will feel very far removed especially if these stories keep coming out on what we've seen now a daily basis while they are not able to respond quickly.
SMITH: And Marie and Karl, I'll throw this one to you because this is huge news -- just breaking moments ago that the former FBI Director James Comey will be testifying in this open session at the Senate Intel Committee. We're all wondering, will there be, finally, answers to so many questions that have come up since his exit from the FBI?
ROVE: Well, I suspect there will be because he'll be under oath and it will be televised, it will happen after Memorial Day. The Republicans will be asking him: if you felt this way about President Trump that was -- do you think he was trying to pressure you to drop the investigation? And if so, why didn't you alert Justice Department officials and resign? And Democrats will be trying to say, why don't you join with us in condemning President Trump and building a bill of particulars against him, like you did against Hillary Clinton even though you refused to indict her, you trashed her reputation, why don't you join us in trashing his reputation? And it'll be interesting to see how Comey reacts to it all.
I do want to say one other thing, though, before we leave the subject entirely. There's another part of the New York Times story that is troubling. These notes were taken from a meeting where they were four U.S. officials: the president, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, and the National Security Advisor. Those notes were circulated, I think Marie would back me up on this, the likelihood of that being widely circulated is small. Only a small number of people at the State Department and the National Security Council would have access to this.
And the idea that private notes from a Presidential meeting like this would be circulated. This is in violation of several laws and they better find out who's doing this kind of stuff, because just as they could leak this to the press, somebody could also leak this to an adversary -- leaked details of the White House meeting to our adversaries in private. Just as easy as they could link this to the public to the Washington Post and to New York Times.
HARF: Karl is absolutely right. I am sure that these meeting notes were not that widely given out to people. And so, I think President Trump -- and there have been reports that he's already doing this, needs to look very hard at his team, who he can trust, who he's listening to, who he's bringing into these conversations. And going back to the news that we just heard about, that Comey will be testifying, this is going to be a much watch T.V., a congressional hearing that I haven't -- I can't remember the last time there were would be so much attention on a congressional hearing. And I totally agree with Karl, we need answers. It will be very interesting to see how Jim Comey plays this hearing, how forthcoming he is, and what he actually reveals. This will be fascinating. And I think everyone will be watching very closely.
SMITH: All right. Well, that must-see T.V., we're told the committee will schedule the open hearing sometime after Memorial Day. So, obviously, that's well after President Trump finishes his trip. It is currently on. All right, thank you to both of you. Yes, Karl?
ROVE: One more quick point. It's not the president's staff that might be leaking. This could be career people at either the National Security Council or State Department who might have access to this as well.
SMITH: All right. See Marie? Karl had to get the last word. He got it. All right, thank you to you both. As we mentioned at the top of the show, right now President Trump and his team are in route to the Middle East as he kicks off his demonstrations first official overseas trip. For more on what the president hopes to accomplish; General Jack Keane is Chairman of the Institute for the Study of War and a Fox News Military Analyst. General, always good to see you. Thank you.
GEN. JACK KEANE, FOX NEWS MILITARY ANALYST AND INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR CHAIRMAN: Glad to be here, Sandra.
SMITH: All right. So, what's at stake here, General?
KEANE: Well, actually -- you know, it's extraordinary business. Certainly, for a first overseas visit by a President, given the fact it's nine days; it's two regions of the world; it's four countries involved, but clearly, in my judgment, what makes it historic is simply this: he is placing the United States back on the world stage as a global leader promoting stability and security. He's rolling for the counter on our adversaries. He's going to talk defeating ISIS, not only in the Middle East with our allies there but also with our European allies.
He's going to discuss his willingness not just to deter the Iranians and the Russians, but his willingness to confront them. And he's going to reassure our allies that the United States has got their back that the problems they had with the Obama administration are over. That is very significant. The second thing is, and it's quite surprising, and I think is a great idea on their part, is they are going to the centers of the three great religions in the world on one single visit. And at the same time, standing up and saying there's evil in the world, the evil is radical Islam, and we need your help to defeat it. And that is an extraordinary statement that I think he's making.
SMITH: General, you just heard the reports we lead with at the top of the hour, and I just wonder will that distract or continue to distract from what this President is trying to do? Particularly, as he embarks on this nine-day trip?
KEANE: I don't think so. I mean, we're -- this is fascinating for the media here, this is fascinating for a certain percentage of this population. I think most of the American people really don't care, number one; and I don't believe our allies care very much at all. They are motivated by their own self-interest. I think they recognize that this President has political chaos surrounding him. And they certainly don't want him to be weakened by that, particularly, when they recognize that they have a strong ally again in the United States. They are focused on their interest, and I think we're going to go there and talk to them about the mutual interest that we have together, and that's what's going to get their attention.
SMITH: Is it too ambitious of a trip, General? I mean, when you look at first foreign visits from other Presidents looking back at Obama and Bush, their first trips were to our borders and border countries like Canada and Mexico. Is this too ambitious? Is this a good first foreign visit for Donald Trump?
KEANE: Listen -- absolutely, not. And here's the reason, Sandra: there hasn't been a President since World War II that's facing the challenges that this President is facing. We have global security and challenges that exceed on a scale that anything we've faced since the rise of the Soviet Union. So, this President is facing radical Islam that's gone into a global Jihad. He's got three adversary countries that are trapped in our interest: China, Iran, and Russia.
We got a rogue nation in North Korea that's threatening to use nuclear weapons against our allies and the United States. And we've got a cyber- offensive attack that's using cyber espionage to take down information and also to take our intellectual property. No President has faced anything on a scale like that for some time. And the fact that he's looking at it straight in the eyes and says, "I'm going after this. I'm going right after the problem." I think, I think it's courageous and I think it's bold on his part to do it.
SMITH: All right. General Jack Keane, thank you. Always good to see you.
KEANE: Nice talking to you, Sandra.
SMITH: All right. Still ahead, more on those two bombshell reports on the Trump administration's alleged ties to Russia. And the comments the president reported made, bragging to Russian leaders about firing "nut job call Comey." We have former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, here with his reaction to the new allegations. And there could already be a problem for the president's reported top picks to replace the FBI Director; why Democrats say Joe Lieberman is not the right man for the job? Plus, President Pence? How is the Vice President gaining political capital in spite of a swirl of scandals?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And you know, Mike has been such a wise decision for me, and everybody loves Mike. He's become something very special.
SMITH: Breaking tonight. We just got word a short time ago that former FBI director James Comey will testify before an open session of congress. It comes amidst two big reports on the Trump-Russia probe, including suggestions that President Trump told the Russians that Comey's dismissal eased pressure on him from the investigation. And perhaps, more significantly, the Washington Post is now saying that one of the president's current advisors is considered a person of interest in the Russia probe. The headline is sparking outrage. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATY TUR, MSNBC ANCHOR: What more do people need other than that for there to be evidence that Donald Trump was trying to get involved and, at the very least, influenced the investigation?
MARIA HINOJOSA, LATINO USA ANCHOR AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Those leakers? Well, they're actually the great patriots, right? Though, we're actually hearing this that we wouldn't hear otherwise.
AMANDA CARPENTER, FORMER SENIOR STAFFER TO SENATORS DEMINT AND TED CRUZ: I'm troubled by the fact that Donald Trump seems to be giving the Russians the straight story about the firing of James Comey before he gave anyone else. That's really disturbing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMITH: Newt Gingrich is a Fox News political contributor and author of the book: "Understanding Trump." Speaker, thank you so much for joining us tonight. Where do I begin? There's so much happening, so much breaking. Every single night, and here we are on a Friday evening and we've got these two bombshell reports. What do you make of them?
NEWT GINGRICH, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR AND FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: They are garbage. The fact of the city is fascinated with garbage. It's a sad commentary. I mean, General Keane, we have a President going to a historic meeting with over 20 Arab leaders, but the story has no sources, no names in either the New York Times or the Washington Post. None. And yet, these are "bombshells." No, they're not. They're just more of the left-wing hatred for Trump.
Trump was clear on CBS News; he told Lester Holt, he wanted to fire Comey, he thinks Comey was irresponsible. You know, now you have the leak that says, gosh, Trump actually meant what he said on CBS. This stuff is just -- all of those are done by the left, and there's a Harvard study out that shows there is more media hostility to Donald Trump than any president in modern American industry; tonight, to note, is an example.
They could've said, the president leaves on a historic trip to bring into the Arab world to fight terrorism. President leaves on a historic trip to go to Israel and meet with both Palestinians and Jewish leaders. President goes on a historic trip to meet the Pope. Oh, no, they come up with garbage in order to smear the president as he leaves the country. I think it's disgusting. And I'm really sad that the Washington Post and New York Times have ceased to be newspapers, and purely become left-wing propaganda instruments.
SMITH: Well, they are driving the conversation, that's for sure. There are those two reports, and there's also, Speaker, the latest on James Comey, that he will now testify in this open hearing sometime after Memorial Day. What do you expect will come from that?
GINGRICH: Look, I have a simple question for Comey. If at any point, he thought the president was doing something inappropriate, he testified in public and said it wasn't true, I don't think he told his superiors. So what's the deal? Comey clearly didn't think he was pressured. He clearly didn't think it was inappropriate. But now that he's been fired -- I mean, how many people that somebody you fire turns around and decide they don't like you?
So, if Comey had a beef, didn't he have an obligation to tell Congress? He appeared before congress; he was asked questions. Has any effort then to stop this? No, there has not been an effort. Go back and look at what he said, and whatever he says when he testifies after Memorial Day, I hope people will look at what he said earlier, put them together, and ask yourself: how honest is this guy and how reliable is this guy?
SMITH: Considering all of this and everything you just said, Speaker, where does this put everything politically? You just wrote this op-ed saying that Republicans in particular at the Trump administration, are approaching a historic decision that will reshape American generations. What is that decision?
GINGRICH: I think they decide to take the news media head on. I think they've got to decide to stand up and fight. And they have to call the stuff for what it is. And Trump, frankly, of all the Republicans, Trump is the one person who has been the most willing to say that this stuff is baloney. It's not just this stuff, they've got to go back to focusing on jobs -- look at the trip he's on; this is a great moment for America that they should be emphasizing. Get rid of the junk. Let's talk about what we will accomplish in the world to try to make it a safer place.
SMITH: By the way, Speaker, I just wanted to get in there that it was announced tonight, according to a White House officials that President Trump intends to nominate your wife, Callista Gingrich, as Ambassador to the Vatican. So, we wanted to make sure we get that in there as well. Speaker?
GINGRICH: Well, I'm very proud of Callista. It is a great honor. And she will work out her heart for America.
SMITH: OK. All right, thanks for being here tonight. Go get that voice better.
GINGRICH: Thank you.
SMITH: Thanks, Speaker. All right, still ahead: new questions tonight about Vice President Mike Pence and his role in the Trump administration. As critics claim, he is trying to distance himself from the president. Plus, why many Democrats are not happy that former Senator Joe Lieberman's name remains at the top the list to take over as FBI Director. Mollie Hemingway and Zac Petkanas are here on that, next.
SMITH: President Trump, promising a great new FBI Director that could come any day now and one of his topics is former Senator Joe Lieberman, but some Democrats don't like it. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL, D-MISSOURI: I think it's a mistake to nominate anyone who's ever run for office.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY, D-CONNECTICUT: I know Joe. He certainly is somebody who can stand up to folks in positions of high power. But ultimately, you know, a lot of us may like to see rather someone who comes from law enforcement.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D-CALIFORNIA: I think that the political part of this is not the best part of the FBI. I think the FBI has to have someone that every member of that agency respects.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMITH: All right. Here now: Mollie Hemingway, a Senior Editor at the Federalist and a Fox News Contributor; and Zac Petkanas a former Senior DNC Advisor and a Democratic Strategist. All right, Zac, so is he the right guy for the job?
ZAC PETKANAS, FORMER SENIOR DNC ADVISOR: I don't think so. I mean, we have two conservative Republicans, Republican senator, Lindsey Graham, Republican senator, Chuck Grassley, who have put out test for what we should see in the next FBI director, and I think they're pretty smart. Lindsey Graham had said that we should not have a politician, someone in the political lane, and Chuck Grassley had said that we need somebody that is independent of Donald Trump, and Joe Lieberman's doesn't meet either of those test. Joe Lieberman's law firm has represented Donald Trump since 2001, and that is a very clear conflict of interest. We need somebody who has a clear separation of Donald Trump, and someone who is not a politician. I mean, I think somebody needs to pass the Graham and Grassley test.
SMITH: Mollie, you've just heard from a string of Democrats themselves that this is not the right guy, they have a problem with it. They're talking issue with him.
MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST SENIOR EDITOR: Well, if you want independence from Donald Trump, I mean, this is a guy who voted for Hillary Clinton. He was on the Democratic Party's 2000 ticket. And he has done stuff like campaign with John McCain who is a noted never Trump Republican. So I don't think the idea is that he is not independent enough from Trump. I think what's really going on is that Democrats have done a really good job of obstructing anything that comes out of the Trump White House, and they would like to keep Andrew McCabe in as acting FBI director. He's someone who has very big problems with independence, and that his wife ran for office in Virginia. She was funded by people with very close ties to Hillary Clinton's campaign. He also chose may be a little bit of a pattern in following in Comey's footsteps, slow walking this Russia probe. So that I think might be the bigger goal in Democratic obstruction of Lieberman.
SMITH: Zac, you just described a long list of what type of person should fill this role, any names?
PETKANAS: I mean, look, I think that we need to have people that follow the task that by Graham and Grassley. I leave it to people who knows this field. But in terms of actually coming up with names, I think this raises a really important point. I'm very personally very concerned by the fact that attorney general Jeff Sessions and, frankly, Donald Trump himself both who are the focus or part of the investigation into the campaign of Donald Trump, why they are being allowed to put forward names like this to run the investigation into the campaign they're a part of. I think is very problematic. There've been a couple of very elegant solutions that have been put forward in the past. For example, the senate judiciary committee coming up with names. So in terms of actually coming up with names, I'm concerned about the way that it's been done so far.
SMITH: Mollie, let me get your reaction to that.
HEMINGWAY: Yeah. I just want to crack that falsehood that is a widely shared view that Donald Trump is the focus of an investigation. This is something that former FBI director Jim Comey had told Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Chuck Grassley is not true. And yet, the media keep on perpetuating this false conspiracy theory, and it's very important that we focus on facts and not rumors, innuendos, or outright falsehood. Now it is true -- that's true, and it is good maybe to get someone with a good law enforcement background, someone like former Oklahoma governor, Frank Keating, who worked at the FBI and would understand the management challenges at the FBI.
SMITH: All right. We have to leave it there. But let me tell you what is true, the president says the new FBI director will be coming very soon. Thanks to both of you for coming on. All right. He was once a Democratic powerhouse, but his disturbing actions not only harm his marriage, the Hillary Clinton presidential ambitions. Now, Anthony Weiner faces the consequent in court. Plus, new reports that Vice President Mike Pence is out of the loop at times on some of the west wing's biggest decisions, but could that be on purpose? Chris Stirewalt, Alex Conant and Matt Bennett are here on the vice presidents end game.
SMITH: President Trump embarked on his first foreign trip. There are reports of increasing daylight between Vice President Pence and the west wing, but could that be on purpose? Chief national correspondent, Ed Henry, is live with more from the White House. Hi, Ed.
ED HENRY, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDEMT: Sandra, good evening. What's interesting is Vice President Pence's advisors say that they're frustrated, they're offended by all of this talk of impeachment among Democrats already. But also frustrated by this chatter among Republicans that may be the vice president would be a stronger conservative at the top than President Trump is. In fact, people close to the vice president telling us over the last 24 hours that all of this is nonsense, that he is focused on pushing the president's agenda on Capitol Hill where Pence has used his experience from the house to be a big help in moving forward legislation like health care reform. Though, social media was abuzz today over these pictures of the vice president showing the president and vice president and first lady off before their first foreign trip and standing there alone, staying behind, may be to run things for a few days. Because in an unusual move, Pence has just started his own political action committee, the Great America PAC. That is something that neither Joe Biden nor Dick Cheney ever did while they were in office. Pence advisor, Nick Ayers, stresses this is a way to raise money for Republicans in the 2018 midterms and help President Trump saying, quote, he wants to support house and senate members who are helping pass the president's agenda. Pence, though, could also be collecting chips for higher office beyond vice president, a topic that top Republicans like Speaker Paul Ryan do not want to engage on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WIS., HOUSE SPEAKER: I'm not going to comment. (INAUDIBLE) There's not even a point in making comment on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: But there's also pressure on Pence himself, remember he was in charge of the transition amid claims now that retired general, Michael Flynn, in January, informed that transition team that the justice department was already looking at allegations that he was secretly lobbying for Turkish interest, yet became national security advisor anyway.
Remember, Flynn was fired in February for lying to the vice president about contacts with the Russian ambassador. The vice president has remained loyal to the president, though, we should note. He declared in that speech yesterday that despite all of this noise in Washington, the president is not going to give up fighting every day for the American people. Sandra?
SMITH: All right. Ed Henry at the White House for us, thank you.
HENRY: Good to see you.
SMITH: Our political panelist is here to weigh in, Chris Stirewalt is our Fox News politics editor, Alex Conant is a Republican strategist, and matt Bennett is the former deputy assistant to President Clinton. Chris, I'll start with you first. Is he being kept out of the loop or is he staying out of the loop?
CHRIS STIREWALT, FOX NEWS POLTICAL EDITOR: I think out of the loop would be a pretty good place to be in this White House right now. That's a safer space. The loop -- a train runs around that loop and it runs people over every afternoon between 3:00-5:00. So I think if I was Mike Pence, being slightly removed from that locomotive track would be OK.
SMITH: Well, point taken, Alex. So much going on, but you read the write ups. Bloomberg, Pence take steps to build war chest as White House stumbles. Politico, conservatives begin to whisper. Is there any truth to any of this?
ALEX CONANT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No. I mean, I know for a fact that this political action committee they started is something that his aides were starting to work on back in December, so totally unrelated to all of the crises that are happening right now. In fact, I would point out to Chris' point, there are two -- the two biggest mistakes that Trump has made as president so far, hiring Flynn and firing Comey, both of those were decisions where the vice president was kept out of the loop. So I think maybe the lesson to be learned here is that he should bring Vice President Pence into the loop. Pence is known around Washington, D.C., for his integrity. He is widely respected on Capitol Hill. I think the more time that Pence can spend in the oval office advising Donald Trump and be part of these decisions, the fewer mistakes the administration is going to make moving forward.
SMITH: What about that, if he is purposely keeping him out of the loop, is that a big mistake?
MATT BENNETT, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT CLINTON: No question that it's a mistake. I've served Vice President Gore, who was a very close advisor to President Clinton. And it's not clear to me, though, exactly how far our loop you could possibly be. He was running the transition, and this is was the decision on who to hire as national security advisor, the number two most powerful person in the White House. It seems bizarre to me that the head of the transition and the incoming vice president wouldn't know anything about this candidate to be the NSA. But it is a terrible idea to cut your vice president out of the loop, particularly because the coin of the realm inside the White House for the vice president is loyalty, particularly in the first term. Many times, vice presidents will run for president, you know, halfway through the second term. But at this point, four months into this nascent administration, he better be rolling in the same direction, or else they have a serious problem.
SMITH: Well, Chris, what is his end game? I mean, he's known as a loyal guy, conservatives love him, where does this go?
STIREWALT: Well, look, I think, obviously, when you get to a point -- and there has been a lot of overheated discussion about the 25th amendment and will there be impeachment or will there be all that, but I think it's not unreasonable to say that Mike Pence probably has to think about the possibility that he might have to assume the office of the presidency for some reason at some point. They all have to think this way. Pence has to think about it in slightly more real terms than others have. So that's part one. Part two is the fact that come 2020 or 2024, he's going to be in a position where he is the automatic front runner for the Republican nomination. If Donald Trump decides not to run -- abandons his run for a second term, or at the end of two terms, Pence is the guy, he's somebody who thought about running for president in 2016, opted against it, took a ride on the Trump train, and now is in a position where that is supposed to pay off in some terms for him for his future. And it's not unreasonable for want to do it. But the caution is this, if Donald Trump gets to think that Mike Pence -- thinking he's a bigger deal, or he's against him, or whatever, you know what happens in this White House where people with the president think are not for him is a (INAUDIBLE).
SMITH: What do you think, Alex? Is that a real risk?
CONANT: Well, it is a real risk, absolutely. I mean, look, Mike Pence is a loyal guy. He and Donald Trump have been through some really tough fights over the last year and gotten through them together. And I don't think there's any reason to believe that they won't get through this together. However, if the facts go against Donald Trump here and impeachment becomes a real thing, I do think you're going to see members of congress say, look, I'm not going to vote for impeachment, but I would vote for President Pence. So I think that is the long-term threat, but we are a long way from there. And hopefully, the facts as they come out will exonerate the president from any wrongdoing.
SMITH: Bill, how is Mike Pence seen in Washington, what are the whisper about him, what do people say, generally speaking?
BENNETT: I mean, Democrats think Pence is a real ideologue. He is a rock rib conservative and true believer in ways that Trump clearly is not. So I think there's some concern among Democrats that should Pence become president at some point, and there is a rallying around him after, you know, king has been disposed, that there would be real danger that he could move a bunch of very right wing policy that would be very bad for the country.
SMITH: I'm so sorry. I think I called you Bill twice, Matt. I'm so sorry. And you know, obviously, who Bill Bennett is, and that's in my head. And so, I apologize for that.
BENNETT: Just to be clear. No relation.
SMITH: Thank you, Matt.
SMITH: And you're so polite about it. Chris Stirewalt would be like, hey, wait, hold on, you got that wrong. All right, it's Friday night. Thank you so much. Such a nice panel. Sorry about that again, Matt. All right, straight ahead, the great congressman, Anthony Weiner, now adding fell into his list of titles as he pleads guilty in the sexting scandal that reopened the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server. Attorney David Wohl and Jessica Tarlov are here next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: I have said that other text and photos were likely to come out. And today, they have. There's no question that what I did was wrong. This behavior is behind me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMITH: That was disgrace congressman Anthony Weiner in 2013, and that behavior clearly turned out not to be behind him. Today, Weiner pleaded guilty to sexting with a minor, a charge that carries up to ten years in prison. And it looks like his wife, Huma Abedin, is not standing by him any longer. Trace Gallagher live in our West Coast newsroom with this story. Trace?
TRACE GALLAGHER, FOX NEWS: Hi, Sandra. Because this was a plea agreement, the judge asked Anthony Weiner if he was pleading guilty because he is guilty. Weiner responded, quote, I am guilty, your honor. He then dissolved into tears and told the court that from the time he was in congress he had compulsively sought attention from women who contacted him in social media, engaging in both sexual and nonsexual conversation. He went on to say that he's coming to grips with the depth of his sickness.
Then in reference to his contact last year with a 15-year-old North Carolina girl, Weiner said, quoting here, I engaged in the same communications with this teenager, including sharing explicit images and encouraging her to engage in sexually explicit conduct. The guilty plea means that Anthony Weiner will now have to register as a sex offender where he works and lives, and he could face up to ten years in prison or no prison time at all. It's entirely up to a judge. But federal prosecutors say when Weiner is sentenced on September 8 he will likely get between 24 and 27 months.
For now, the former congressman is free on bail. Producers inside the courtroom say during the hearing Weiner was wearing his wedding ring, and while he was pleading guilty, he's estrange wife, Huma Abedin filed divorce papers in Manhattan Supreme Court. Our corporate cousin, the New York Post, is reporting that the filing is uncontested, meaning she's not expecting to fight over child custody or the couples' assets. Remember, it was during the Weiner investigation when the FBI seized his laptop and found a trove of emails including classified information from Huma Abedin, a top Hillary Clinton aide. The information lead to the October surprise where then FBI Director James Comey announced he was reopening the Clinton email investigation. Nothing came of the emails, but Hillary Clinton still thinks it cost her the election. Sandra?
SMITH: Trace Gallagher, thank you. Here with more, Attorney David Wohl and Jessica Tarlov, a Democratic pollster and a Fox News contributor. Jessica, this story has been difficult to follow considering it involves a minor. Today, in that courtroom and saying I have a sickness, but I do not have an excuse. He begged for forgiveness.
JESSICA TARLOV, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yeah, it was nice to hear -- I'm not sure if either of you have seen the documentary, Weiner, but it was powerful in exposing how sick this man actually is, and what a fall from grace we've seen now. You know he used to be a real hot shot on Capitol Hill, and represented his district while here in New York City, and was a big fan favorite, and potentially could have ended up being mayor of New York or maybe something bigger after that. So it's incredibly sad to see this all unfold like this. And you know, at the same time that we're discussing James Comey now every 2 minutes, it's interesting to revisit the impact that the letter had on the election.
SMITH: And it reopened that investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server. It seems like so long ago now, David.
TARLOV: I know.
SMITH: But David, you look at this time line, January 1999, this man became New York congressman. It was in July 2010 that he became -- he married to Huma Abedin. They were married. Bill Clinton officiated the ceremony.
DAVID WOHL, ATTORNEY: Yeah. What a surprise there. What an irony there. Well, you know what, there could be a big surprise waiting for him in September when he comes back from sentencing -- for sentencing because in my experience, federal judges in cases of sex offenses often deviate upward from the sentence. If you remember Jared, the subway guy, Jared for years ago, prosecutor in that case agreed to seat more than 12 years. They came back and the judge gave him 15. But the most devastating part about this case is going to be when he's released and he registers as a sex offender because that means no more political future and probably no more employment future at all. So being able to collect your life after registering as a sex offender, believe me, I've had clients in this category before and it's extremely difficult for them. It's going to be very tough for him. And why did Huma wait six years from the first -- one of the first sexting offense that he engage in when it's published everywhere. Why wait six years to file?
TARLOV: Today, she did, yes. I think, you know, was an obvious sign. You know, we're done here. And also, I don't care if I'm going to be costing you any more pain on this day, but I need out of this this. But you know love is mysterious and we can't know what was going on there at all, you know. But I wish her the best, certainly, for their young son. I mean, there's a kid involved here.
SMITH: Absolutely, great point.
WOHL: May be Hillary Clinton was her role model and, gezz, you know -- married to Bill.
TARLOV: David, I think you're going a little far here. This is not about Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton.
WOHL: Well, no, I mean the same thing. She married a guy who has proclivities for sexual misconduct and stayed married to him despite his misconduct for decades.
TARLOV: What happened with Anthony Weiner is nothing like what happened with Bill Clinton. That comparison is totally out-of-bounds.
SMITH: All right. Well, Anthony Weiner pleading guilty in that courtroom to that sexting scandal. And we will see still how that continues to play out.
SMITH: All right, David, thank you. We'll be right back.
SMITH: Thank you so much for letting us be a part of your story tonight. I'm Sandra Smith. The news keeps breaking. It is Friday night, there's so much to talk about. Thank you for joining, and join in on the conversation on twitter as well. You can tweet me @sandrasmithfox on Twitter and on Facebook as well. Love to know what you think about tonight show. Tune in every weekday, by the way, watch me on Outnumbered on the Fox News Channel. Tucker Carlson is up next.
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