Sean Spicer on White House shakeups, CNN's feud with Trump

This is a rush transcript from "The Story," November 13, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, HOST: So breaking tonight, a better understanding now of this, from the first lady, on her Africa trip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM LLAMAS, CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Sources have told us -- sources in the White House that you are the gatekeeper. That you tell him who he can trust and who he can't trust. Is that true?

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY: Yes, I give him my honest advice.

LLAMAS: He's been in office now almost two years. Has he had people that you didn't trust, working for him?

M. TRUMP: Yes.

LLAMAS: Did you let him know?

M. TRUMP: I let him know.

LLAMAS: And what did he do?

M. TRUMP: With some people, they don't work there anymore.

LLAMAS: Do you think there are still people there that he can't trust?

M. TRUMP: Yes.

LLAMAS: Still working now?

M. TRUMP: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: So, as this story is still emerging off a rift between this deputy to National Security Advisor John Bolton, and the east-wing team of Mrs. Trump. And now over to the West Wing, as well tonight.

A judge has ordered a response from the White House to the lawsuit brought by CNN. A hearing that was scheduled for 3:30 tomorrow, all prompted by this memorable moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM ACOSTA, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Mr. President, if I was going to ask one of it.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: That's enough.

ACOSTA: The other folks had -- pardon me, ma'am.

D. TRUMP: That's enough. Excuse me, that's enough. Beto, let's go.

ACOSTA: Mr. President -- Mr. President, I've wanted -- If I may ask on the Russia investigation, and are you concerned that you may have indictments - -

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I'm not concerned about anything, what you may have an investigation because it's a hoax. That's enough. Put down the mic.

ACOSTA: That you may have indictments coming down. Are you --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: So, CNN claims if the White House is violating Acosta's First and Fifth Amendments by revoking his press pass. But the White House calls it grandstanding.

Acosta has a long history of contentious interactions with President Trump, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, and also our next guest, former Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Remember this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Whether there are contacts between the president's campaign and the Russians.

(CROSSTALK)

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Jim, I find it interesting that you, you somehow believe that you --

ACOSTA: Of course, they're going to be looking at these various --

SPICER: OK, OK. I get it. Somehow, you seem to believe that you have all of this information. You've been reading all of these things that such totally false.

(CROSSTALK)

ACOSTA: No, no. Because they can't afford it with the tax credit to provide it.

SPICER: Hold on. No, no. That is a -- No, there's not.

ACOSTA: I mean, there is an argument to the other side of it.

SPICER: Hold on, just listen. Hold on, let me explain the answer to you, Jim. Calm down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: Sean Spicer joins me now on both of these breaking story tonight. Sean, good to see you. Good evening, welcome to THE STORY.

SPICER: Great. Thanks for having me.

MACCALLUM: You remember those moment's well. I guess this lawsuit will determine or should determine where the line is, right? What is a fair question, what is reasonable behavior, I guess. And what is -- what constitutes reason for the White House to kick somebody out or take away their pass.

SPICER: Well, look, I think we need to keep focus on what you just mentioned, it's the latter not the former. It's Mr. Acosta's behavior that is the problem.

Now look, if you ask me, I wish that we could come to a middle ground here, which is to give Mr. Acosta back his pass. CNN isn't being denied their constitutional right. They've got five or six other reporters that have barred passes. So, it's not a question of CNN being able to report it.  And it's not a right to be able to go into the White House, it's a privilege.

That being said, I think that it would behoove us all to take the temperature down a moment. Say the White House, OK, look, we're going to give Mr. Acosta his pass back. But come to an agreement with all the reporters their current credentialed. And say that we will agree to them, these minimum standards of decorum and professionalism.

Things that have usually gone unsaid, but kept up over the years and it wasn't until the Trump administration, where you saw a lot of these people who wanted to not necessarily report, but to make themselves a star.

I mean, to be honest, it wasn't the nature of the question. Mr. Acosta wasn't even asking a question. He was challenging him on the premise of his use of words in his definition, and saying I disagree with you.

(CROSSTALK)

MACCALLUM: Yes, but Sean, let -- so, other folks who look at this situation, I was watching one of them talking about it just yesterday.  Basically said, "We'll know". You know, his question he was challenging the President on the definition of this caravan, and whether or not they constitute an invasion.

And their argument was that, that was a legitimate question. If it was phrased rudely, or it was handled rudely or inappropriately, that is one issue that I need to obviously be dealt with. But their contention was that the question itself was appropriate. Do you disagree?

SPICER: No, not at all. Any of the press, any member of the media, should be able to ask any member of the government anything that they want. But I -- and I don't think that's what that issue here. And I don't think the president made that an issue. It was his behavior.

He asked and answered that question twice. He then asked a series of additional questions. Frankly, it was rude to the other reporters in the room who all deserved to have a question asked themselves.

So, this isn't about the nature of the question. And I think that that's where the lines are getting blurred. This was about Mr. Acosta's behavior and lack of respect for the office of the president.

MACCALLUM: I mean.

SPICER: The president made it clear that Mr. Acosta's question was asked and answer twice. He went on asking series of additional questions. It was rude and unbecoming to his other fellow journalists more than anything else.

MACCALLUM: So, that raises an interesting point. Because, you know, the White House Correspondents' Association is standing by Jim Acosta in this situation.

SPICER: Of course, they are.

MACCALLUM: But you raised -- but you raised an interesting point. Because that's also their responsibility to some extent to say is it unfair to the other reporters in the room? Is it sucking up all of the oxygen in the room and making it all about him when there are lots of valid important questions that need to be answered in the room. And I wonder -- you know, how much potentially they get pushed back on that.

SPICER: Well, I've actually spoken to several reporters both who cover the White House, some who are much closer or served on the White House communications Association -- are correspondents' association, rather.

MACCALLUM: Yes.

SPICER: And those that are -- that are just covering it in. And I don't think they speak for anyone by any means. There is clearly a group of journalists that are disgusted and find Mr. Acosta's behavior out of line.

Then, there -- but, what happens is and I wrote about this in my book that there's a bunch of groupthink and fear about going against the groupthink that they all face in there. And so, right now they all feel compelled to come out and say. But privately, they'll tell you that they find his behavior unacceptable and doesn't bode well for their industry.

MACCALLUM: All right. So, moving on to the issue of Mrs. Trump, the first lady. And her office releasing this -- you know, sort of really kind of unprecedented statement today. Saying that with regard to the exit of Mira Ricardel who was a deputy for the national security advisor John Bolton.

Her office said, "It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House," referring to Ms. Ricardel. Is that unusual?

SPICER: Yes, very much, so. And look, I think one thing that you've seen from the first lady is she chooses her causes, her statements very deliberately. She's -- when she speaks, it's for a reason.

And I think that she gives obviously as she mentioned that interview with David Muir that you played. She gives constant advice to her husband. She is an unbelievable political strategist.

And for her to come out publicly and say this is really said something about the relationship that this particular staffer clearly has with the East Wing. And I would think that this wasn't the first rodeo or encounter that they had. You've got to really worn out your welcome for the first lady to publicly --

(CROSSTALK)

MACCALLUM: Do you think -- yes, I mean -- I mean, the suggestion is that there was -- you know, some disagreement on the Africa trip. So, that makes that sound bite that we just played from ABC, particularly, pertinent. But also that this woman may have been leaking stories about her.

This is the second person who is an aide to John Bolton to exit the White House. And apparently, the Defense Secretary Mattis was also had some issues with some of these individuals. So, does that signal to you that Mattis' position is strengthened, or that Bolton is weakened? I mean, what we know -- what can we take away from this?

SPICER: Here is my take away. Don't underestimate the first lady ever.  When she speaks, take it seriously. She's got unbelievable political instincts. Her husband takes her counsel very seriously. She is very savvy when it comes to the media and the political strategy of her husband.  So, I would never in my life cross her.

And the idea that it came to a public statement tells you that this particular person clearly didn't get the hint.

MACCALLUM: Very, very interesting. OK. Sean, thank you so much. Good to see you tonight.

SPICER: You bet. You too.

MACCALLUM: So, when we come back, we will take you live to Broward County, Florida where the drama goes on tonight. Reporters have just been told to standby for news. As election officials appear to be setting up for a press conference at the headquarters where this is all going down tonight.  We will be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRENDA SNIPES, ELECTIONS SUPERVISOR, BROWARD COUNTY: We will -- everybody can record this, we will complete the recount. There has never been a deadline that we haven't met.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MACCALLUM: President Trump battling Florida to hold the line on Senate gains for his party as that recount grinds on tonight. We're now 48 hours from an answer, 12,500 votes, less than 2/10 of one percent separate these two candidates, Rick Scott, and Democrat Bill Nelson.

With Arizona now in the lost column for the GOP, the president has turned his focus to the Sunshine State, tweeting, when will Bill Nelson concede in Florida?

The characters running Broward and Palm Beach voting will not be able to find in "enough votes". Too much spotlight on them now. But Nelson is not backing down and Senator Chuck Schumer is providing backup.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BILL NELSON, D-FLA., SENATE COMMERCE COMMITTEE: He's been using his power as governor to try to undermine the voting process. He has tried to get the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to intimidate local supervisors of election.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y., SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Trump and Scott are attempting to bully the election officials in Florida out of doing their jobs, in an attempt to win this election. It's just plain wrong, it's un- American.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: So, Phil Keating, live on the ground there where all the action is in Lauderhill, Florida tonight. Hi, Phil.

PHIL KEATING, FOX NEWS NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Martha. It turns out Florida's deadline -- recount deadline of Thursday afternoon, 3:00 p.m. may not be so firm of a deadline after all.

This afternoon, Democratic Senator Bill Nelson who trails Governor Scott by 12,000 votes filed a new lawsuit hoping to avoid the deadline for any of the 67 counties in the state which cannot and fail to complete their machine recounts by Thursday afternoon. Saying, every legal vote cast must be counted deadline or not.

Looking live tonight inside the Broward County recount operation significant news and progress today, all 300,000 early votes have now been recounted. Workers are now getting to the mail-in ballots and the Election Day votes. An official says Broward is now ahead of schedule and likely to make the deadline.

One of the races being recounted in Palm Beach County is the State House race. There, Republican Mike Caruso leaves Democrat Jim Bonfiglio by 37 votes. That's in recount territory. Well, a Leon County judge, a Democrat today ruled for Bonfiglio, giving Palm Beach County an extra five days to complete all of their recount races. Expect that ruling to immediately be challenged either for a stay or appealing it up to a federal court likely by the Republicans. The elections chief in Broward County Brenda Snipes long criticized for being incompetent and by some corrupt indicated today perhaps she will step aside after this. Jeb Bush tweeted that the time has come she should resign after the recount saying public confidence in the elections process is suffering. As governor, by the way, Bush appointed Snipes to the position.

Miami-Dade County which has the most ballots to recount is far ahead of Broward to this point and making the Thursday deadline will happen. That's because unlike Broward, Miami-Dade started preparing and sorting ballots last week back when it looked imminent that a recount order would come on Saturday, and began processing their ballots Saturday night hours later 15 hours before Broward. Senator Nelson appeared today in Washington with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHUMER: We will not have a rerun of 2000 when bullying and intimidation rules and created a rush to judgment so that to this day many Americans believe that election was unfairly decided. That cannot happen again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEATING: And the next court hearings in the Florida recount battle happened tomorrow. One is to force the governor to recuse himself from the entire recount operation since he is not only the Acting Governor of the state but his future is involved in the outcome, what -- either he wins or his political life is over. The other seeks to allow all provisional ballots were the signatures on the ballot do not perfectly match the signature on file in the county not be tossed out but instead still be counted. They say that is unconstitutional and they should be counted after all. So still a lot of action to happen in the courts around the state.

And meanwhile in South Florida in particular with most of the population these three counties, every counting continues around the clock. Martha?

MACCALLUM: Phil, thank you very much, right in the thick of it there.  Here now Florida GOP Chairman, Blaise Ingoglia who joins us exclusively tonight, and Kendall Coffey lead attorney for the Gore campaign during the 2000 Florida recount. Gentlemen, welcome. Good to have both of you with us this -- tonight. You heard Chuck Schumer, Senator Schumer -- and this for Kendall Coffey -- saying that we're not going to have a rerun of 2001 bullying and intimidation ruled and created a rush to judgment so that this -- to this day Americans believe that the election was unfairly cited. Is he trying to suggest Mr. Coffey that that's what we're going to see again here and that Floridians can't trust this outcome?

KENDALL COFFEY, ATTORNEY FOR GORE 2000 CAMPAIGN: Well, I think Floridians can trust the processes. We learned a lot since 2000. And there is a fair issue about whether more time is needed. Wouldn't we agree that voters in Palm Beach County shouldn't somehow lose a right to a manual recount simply because their election officials don't get it done on time? That kind of equal protection challenge, the standards need to be the same from County to County was actually the legal strategy that Republican lawyers successfully used back in 2000 when it was argued successfully that different standards in manual recounts in Florida made the process unconstitutional.

That part of it I think is a fair point the Democrats are raising, but otherwise, let's give this system a chance because I do think the election officials are working tirelessly to get this done on time and to get done right. And if they need a little bit more time, let's give it to them.  Let's make sure this time Florida has the right count.

MACCALLUM: Right. But it's interesting you know, in Phil Keating's reporting that we just heard, Blaise, he talked about the fact that other counties as soon as they thought that a recount was a possibility kicked in and started their process right away, started sorting everything, but Broward County didn't do that. So why were they dragging their feet and if that's the case, you know, why do we keep giving them concessions?

BLAISE INGOGLIA, CHAIRMAN, GOP FLORIDA: That's a great question --

(CROSSTALK)

MACCALLUM: Well, I'll come to you in a minute, Kendall. I just want to -- that question was for Blaise and then I'll give you a chance to respond.

COFFEY: Thanks, Martha.

INGOGLIA: That's a great question and the supervisor in Broward will be the only one who can answer that. But we've had problems with Supervisor Snipes not just this election but four previous elections also. Look at Miami-Dade and Phil Keating had alluded to this. Miami-Dade has a lot more voters and had a lot longer ballot but they were still able to do what they needed to do because they -- because they did it in advance. They were thoughtful. They knew that this was coming.

Unfortunately, you have the supervisors in Palm Beach and Broward County just basically starting to process late. They're going home early.  They're not doing what they're supposed to be doing. And unfortunately, this is the situation we're in right now.

MACCALLUM: So go ahead Kendall Coffee. I said I'd give you the chance to respond to that. Go ahead.

COFFEY: Well, I mostly agree with that. But the real question here isn't a report card for election supervisors, it's who are the real parties in interest. It's the voters. So if voters in Palm Beach County tried to vote, made markings on their paper ballot that are legally sufficient, should have supervisors, whatever reasons, be something that denies a voter a right to have their vote -- valid vote counted.

MACCALLUM: Yes, but you know, I mean, I did my ballot at home right, and there's all these instructions on it. You have to be really careful when you're filling it out. You have to fold -- you know, fold it. You've got to do everything perfectly and you got to make sure that it's in on time.  So this question of voter intent which has been raised and Marc Elias said you know, we have sued Florida in federal court to ensure that its guidelines for determining "voter intent" do not disenfranchise thousands of lawful ballots. Blaise Ingoglia, your thoughts and your interpretation on what is meant by voter intent.

INGOGLIA: Well, actually I'm going to diverge off of that. I think what's more important than voter intent is what the Democrats are doing when they filed a lawsuit the past couple of days asking for all of the vote-by-mail ballots to be accepted after the Tuesday deadline. You know, we have a law in Florida that says that you cannot cast a ballot -- a ballot cannot count if it's received by the Supervisor of Elections after 7:00 p.m. on Election Day. But the Democrats have now filed a lawsuit saying that they should accept them if they're received up to ten days after Election Day.

So while we are struggling with the voter intent, we have to deal with that lawsuit, I think one of the bigger issues from our perspective is that the Democrats clearly are trying to steal this election. Now, they're trying to change the law after an election to try to get the outcome they want because they did not like the result on Election Day.

MACCALLUM: Well, that is a -- real quick if you can Kendall Coffey. You know, I mean, it's a valid question. If that -- if the law is that it has to be in by election night, you can't change the law after the fact. You can maybe change it next time around.

COFFEY: Look, there was a lot of litigation on both sides last time, there's a lot of litigation this time. But the real parties and interest, the people who matter here are the voters, and their voters intent if it's a valid bout ought to be heard. And in fact, the Supervisor of Elections which have been our the Division of Elections which has been Republican- dominated for the last 20 years has put out pretty specific guidance on how to judge the markings in a manual recount and it allows people to be imperfect, to write the word yes by a candidate's name instead of filling out the oval, or to circle a candidate's name rather than doing everything perfectly. That's what we've got to get to.

MACCALLUM: All right, Kendall Coffey, thank you very much, Blaise Ingoglia. Good to have you with us tonight, gentlemen. We'll see where it goes. Thank you. So coming up tonight, Nancy Pelosi in New York meeting with former mayor and potential presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg today and she's also pushing back on anyone who questions her right to the speaker's gavel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF., HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I take some for lack of a better term that ass bleep in just saying women, you know how to get it done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: It now has the awful distinction of being the deadliest fire in California state history. The Camp Fire in Southern California claiming the lives of 44 people since breaking out last Thursday, and at least now we also know that there are at least 200 that are still missing out there.  The wildfire is burning across more than 125,000 acres of land and reducing nearly every structure in the town of Paradise to rubble. That is where Correspondent Claudia Cowan is standing by for us tonight with the very latest. Claudia?

CLAUDIA COWAN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: And Martha, no question the people of Paradise face a very long road to recovery. Six days later, many still don't know if their loved one survived let alone their homes. Coroner search teams are visiting dozens of addresses that belong to people reported missing since the fire. The sheriff is also bringing in cadaver dogs, portable morgues, and even anthropologists because in some cases the only remains are bones or bone fragments.

They're also using a rapid DNA analysis system so that relatives can provide samples and help identify bodies burned beyond recognition. It's all a very grim task. The only other people in Paradise are law enforcement watching out for looters and utility crews clearing away damaged poles and downed power lines, working around the clock to secure the area and restore power because only then can the evacuation order be lifted. Among those who lost their homes, 90 of the city's first responders and the entire town council including the mayor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR JODY JONES, PARADISE, CALIFORNIA: I've seen these things on T.V. before and it'll be one neighborhood, but in our town, it's the whole town.  It's 90 percent of the residences. It's just everywhere you look there's nothing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COWAN: Even so, the mayor is making a promise that this city will rebuild.  The President has declared a major disaster in California freeing up federal funds to help with the recovery, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will visit communities affected by these wildfires. He'll be here in Butte County tomorrow and in Southern California on Thursday. Quick note about the winds, much calmer today that's good for the firefight but bad for the air. On the one hand, fire crews now have the Camp Fire contained by 30 percent, Martha, but toxic smoke is literally affecting millions of Californians and even affecting school closures in the San Francisco Bay Area some 180 miles away. The winds, in this case, a really do cut both ways. Martha?

MACCALLUM: Claudia, thank you very much, Claudia Cohen, in Paradise, California tonight. And coming up here on THE STORY, a U.S.-French battle over translation essentially. What does it mean to be a nationalist? The President fires back and threatens fine French wine tonight too. Bill Bennett represents the U.S. and Steve Hilton, the allies when we come back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

D. TRUMP: I said the other day I'm not a globalist, I'm a nationalist, and they say oh, that's so terrible, terrible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TRUMP: You know, they have a word, it sort of became old-fashioned, it's called a nationalist. And I say, really, we are not supposed to use that word, you know what I am? I'm a nationalist, OK?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM:

MACCALLUM: Two world leaders in a war of words over the meaning of the word "nationalism." President Trump saying that it's about putting America's interest first, but French President Emmanuel Macron boldly disagreed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. By saying our interest first, who cares about the others.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: So, you can see why that would have rankled President Trump a little bit. So, which one has it right. I'm joined now by an American and a Brit. Bill Bennett is former secretary of education, as you know, and he's the author of the brand-new book, "The True Saint Nicholas: Why He Matters to Christmas," which we're going to have him back to talk about when we get a little bit later because I don't talk about Christmas before Thanksgiving but we're going to start with that.

BILL BENNETT, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you.

MACCALLUM: And Steve Hilton is here, host of the New Revolution and author of "Positive Populism." Both are Fox News contributors. Gentlemen, welcome. Great to have you both here tonight.

Bill, is nationalism white supremacists? I mean, that's the suggestion here at home, and in Europe, the suggestion is that it's, you know, some sort of version of totalitarianism.

BENNETT: Yes, well, I'll leave the Europe part to Steve, he knows Europe better than I do, much better travel than I am. But I can tell you on the nationalism -- look, when Donald Trump said nationalism, he is absolutely right on what he is saying.

The left criticized him and said he is a white nationalist. He didn't say he was a white nationalist, he said he was a nationalist. You know, you don't change the meaning of the word when you add a word it to it. If I say that's a nice tomato in your garden, the person shouldn't react and say you call that a rotten tomato? No, a tomato, not a rotten tomato.

Look at the beautiful Ivy, poison Ivy. When you add a word, you change the meaning. Donald Trump talked about nationalism. Nationalism is love of country, it's putting the interest of country, your country above the interest of other countries, and it's as American as it can get.

Abraham Lincoln said the principal object in the struggle -- that was the Civil War -- was the preservation of the union. There is no more nationalist figure in the American presidency than Abraham Lincoln -- may be Donald Trump.

And remember, Lincoln in 1862, some of my favorite words, he said to Congress, we shall nobly save or meanly lose this last best hope of earth. Last best hope of earth he was talking about was America. We don't sing "my continent 'tis of thee," "my consultancies 'tis of thee," "my hemisphere 'tis of thee." We sing "my country 'tis of thee."

Nationalism is appropriate, the president is dead right on this.

MACCALLUM: And where Steve come from this, saying "God, save the queen" to the same -- to the same tune. Steve, what do you make--

(CROSSTALK)

BENNETT: That's right.

MACCALLUM: What do you make of this.

BENNETT: That's music, that's not lyrics. That's music, not lyrics.

MACCALLUM: Nationalism in Macron's definition? What is he saying, Steve?

STEVE HILTON, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, I think you can tell that Macron has no real argument here because he didn't engage in a real argument, he set up a strawman. Look at the way he put it, he said this, it's about putting your country first, and who cares about the others, but that's not what it means. No one is suggesting that. President Trump hasn't said who cares about the others?

Putting your country first doesn't mean doing down anyone else, is a question of priority.

BENNETT: Right.

HILTON: If you look at President Trump's actions, he has cared about other countries than America, intervening in Syria, for example, with those chemical weapons attacks. The huge aid program we have and never mind any of that.

The fact that it's the American taxpayer that pays for the bulk of NATO, those are not the reactions of a country that -- who cares about anyone else?

BENNETT: Right.

HILTON: But still, it's valid to put your own country first. And what you are really seeing here from Macron, frankly, is a rather pathetic attack -- totally unwarranted -- purely to deflect from his own domestic woes. This is entirely about pandering to a domestic audience by attacking Donald Trump.

MACCALLUM: Yes. We are going to leave it there. Yes, but Macron, as you say his approval rating at 26 percent. He's obviously flailing, politically right now in France. And he thinks that it will be safer for him to be on the side of those who want to form, you know, more of a collective in Europe and be more supportive of the E.U.

BENNETT: Yes.

MACCALLUM: The president has, you know, perhaps people in Italy, and in Hungary, new leadership that is more on the same page that he is. And so, it's going to be fascinating to watch how this plays out. Thanks, you guys. Good to see you both.

HILTON: Good to be with you, Martha.

MACCALLUM: So, coming up next, and update on the Catholic sex abuse scandal and why some U.S. bishops are choosing or considering to defy a direct request from the Vatican.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MACCALLUM: So, the Vatican wrangling some American Catholics by seemingly trying to delay the U.S. bishops from taking a stronger stand on how to handle child sex abuse.

At this week's annual meeting of Catholic bishops, it's a very big deal, especially in this moment, it was suddenly announced that the Vatican was asking them not to vote on two key proposals to address the sex abuse within the church here in the United States.

Now this comes on the heels of a bombshell, Pennsylvania grand jury report, uncovering 300 abusive priests and more than 1,000 victims. Since then, at least 12 other states have open to their own investigations. More are coming.

And the Department of Justice is also now doing an investigation.

Trace Gallagher live in our West Coast newsroom with "The Story" tonight. Hi, Trace.

TRACE GALLAGHER, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Martha. All of the U.S. bishops who came to the three-day assembly in Baltimore were eager to address the sexual abuse crisis because at the very least they felt it would send a message to angry Catholics around the country, that bishops are taking this matter seriously.

So, when the Vatican sent a letter forbidding the bishops from talking or taking action on sexual abuse, there appeared to be a collective "what now." Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTOPHER COYNE, BISHOP, BURLINGTON CATHOLIC DIOCESE: There having some hope that we seem to be moving in the right direction, to say all of a sudden, OK, you can do everything but, actually end up with an action item at the end. It's frustrating for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GALLAGHER: Yes, clearly, the bishops are frustrated, but survivors and their advocates are furious because the primary goal of this conference was to make sure that bishops are also held accountable for complaints addressed against them.

Back in July, then Cardinal Theodore McCarrick resigned after being accused of abusing an altar boy decades' ago, and critics accused the Vatican of slow walking reform. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER ISELY, SPOKESPERSON, ENDING CLERGY ABUSE: What they are telling Catholics and the American public is basically, we care more about our organization and our princely titles and positions, then we care about children and we care about Catholics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GALLAGHER: So far, the Vatican hasn't commented, but Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the archbishop of the Galveston-Houston diocese, who actually receive the Vatican letter, and broke the news to the bishops, says the Holy See just want to wait until the global summit in February, so bishops worldwide are on the same page. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANIEL DINARDO, CARDINAL, GALVESTON-HOUSTON DIOCESE: We are dedicated to it. We absolutely want it. The bishops that I've spoken to are of one mind, depending on any of their points of view, they are all on one mind of this. So, to my mind, we are set to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GALLAGHER: Despite no action this week, the chair for the National Review board for the Protection of Children and Young People is it still asking bishops to conduct a thorough review of their diocese's files dating back to the 1950s. Attorneys general in a dozen states have already launched investigations, but U.S. bishops and Pope Francis have continually clashed on how to address this issue. Martha?

MACCALLUM: Trace, thank you very much. Here now with more, father Jonathan Morris, Fox News religion contributor. Father Morris, good to see you as always.

JONATHAN MORRIS, FOX NEWS RELIGION ANALYST: Thank you.

MACCALLUM: What's your reaction?

MORRIS: Well, just to put things in context, what Cardinal DiNardo is saying, we are set to go, meaning we are going to make some serious policy changes that would actually have oversight of the bishops, by lay people about how they are dealing with sexual abuse cases. That is a radical policy change.

And I think the bishops were on the right track for this. So, the question is why would Pope Francis intervene at the last moment and say, don't do this.

Let me tell you, there may be two possibilities here. I think those who would be defending Pope Francis' action, would say it, actually, Pope Francis want that to happen for the universal church, and that's why he has called this international meeting of presidents and vice president of bishop's conferences from all over the world to meet in Rome, and he wants a universal policy.

On the other side, others would say, no, that's just a stalling tactic, because of bishops in Africa and Asia and other parts are not ready to do what the bishops in the United States are ready to do.

So we'll find out in February. Is Pope Francis is actually saying well done, bishops of the United States, we want to make that universal, or is he saying, no, no, no, not let's not give up so much control to laypeople over what would be defense of the institutional church.

MACCALLUM: Here's what strikes me, it is the participation of anybody outside the church making a judgment on what's going on inside the church, that there is tremendous resistance to, right?

MORRIS: Well, laypeople are inside the church, and that's an important thing, right?

MACCALLUM: But they are not making judgment.

MORRIS: Well, I think laypeople should be making judgments.

MACCALLUM: That's -- and true.

(CROSSTALK)

MORRIS: Lay people should be involved in making various serious judgments.

MACCALLUM: Absolutely, but I'm saying that is what there is resistance to.

MORRIS: I believe you're right.

MACCALLUM: This idea that you are going to have, you know, sort of an outside board--

MORRIS: Yes.

MACCALLUM: -- that's going to want to see the investigation, want to see what you are doing.

MORRIS: Laypeople are in inside board. They are the church. We are the church. We are all the church. And we need -- we need mothers and fathers and professionals and law enforcement to be involved to make sure this doesn't happen.

What is this all about? There's been thousands of children over the last 70 years, I'm talking about the time basically that some of these reports have studied, thousands of children that have been abused by clerics. What is wrong with that?

And why has there been cover-up? Thank God since 2002, basically the problem of actual abuse by priests has been eliminated. Statistically. But the cover-up has not been dealt with, and that's the issue here.

MACCALLUM: Yes. Well, there were lot of bishops at this meeting who spoke out very strongly, Shawn McKnight in Missouri among them, saying that, you know, perhaps we should refuse to participate in what the Vatican is telling us. Maybe we should go our own way, which is revolutionary.

MORRIS: I think they should go their own way in the sense of deciding what is it that they believe that they should do, and then they should try to propose it to the universal church. That's the way to go.

MACCALLUM: We're going to stay on that with your help. Father Jonathan, always great to see you.

(CROSSTALK)

MORRIS: Thank you. You've done a great job on "The Story," Martha.

MACCALLUM: Thank you. Well, thank you.

All right. So, coming up here, changing gears a bit, Nancy Pelosi calls for a female empowerment in her quest to reclaim the gavel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF., MINORITY LEADER: Because I want women to see that you do not get pushed around, that you don't run away from the fight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: None of us is indispensable, but some of us who does better at our jobs than others.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: Democrat Nancy Pelosi on a mission to become the house leader once again. It appears she is using gender a bit to win her battle. Listen to what she had to say about that over the weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: You cannot have the four leaders of Congress, the president of the United States, these five people, and not have the voice of women. Especially since women with the majority of the voters, the workers in the campaign, and now part of this glorious victory.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: Joining me now, Congressman Adam Kinzinger, Republican from Illinois who served as deputy house whip. Congressman, good to have you here tonight.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER, R-ILL.: Hi. Good to be with you.

MACCALLUM: Is she right about that, would it not make sense for her not to be the speaker?

KINZINGER: How very altruistic of her, she is doing it for everybody else. A look, if you could talk to any Democrat, they'll probably tell you off the record, because they're actually kind of scared of saying on the record, that she has actually kept leadership development down.

And you look at the Democrats, they let people stay on the committee position for infinity, basically, we hold them to six years, we allow new leaders to emerge, and she has always really kept new leaders, anybody seen as a threat to her gavel or power, way.

So, look, they are going to elect her. You know, this idea that they're going to be people that aren't going to vote for her, they will not vote for her in conference and then come out and vote for her on the floor and say they made their stand but now they need to be unified.

MACCALLUM: Yes.

KINZINGER: And they have a right to pick who they want, but I don't think she is doing this because she has like, you know, some altruistic view.

MACCALLUM: It's not necessarily going to be comfortable for her, take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, D-N.Y.,CONGRESSWOMAN-ELECT: This is not about me. This is not about the dynamics of any personalities. But this is about looking the voice and the message and the fact that we need a green a new deal, we need to get to 100 percent renewables, because our lives depend on it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: So that was Ocasio-Cortez's first day on the hill, and she chose to join a protest outside of Nancy Pelosi's office about climate change. Your thoughts?

KINZINGER: I'm sure her colleagues are very happy with her right now. You know, look, I think if Nancy Pelosi does have a threat, this is kind of sad, a sad commentary and where the Democratic Party has gone, it's going to be from the left. They're going to be people that think she is not far left enough, or she is not aggressive enough, and that's the place she will have a threat.

But, you know, look, this is the party, they will unify to put her in power, and then I think over the next couple of years, they are going to have a real problem showing unity, because remember now, they can't just resist any more.

Now they're going to produce legislation, and you're going to have people further left than Pelosi say well that's not far enough left, and you have a few moderates left in the Democrats say that's too far left, and they will have the same dynamic that frankly Republicans have struggled with for about the last of six or eight years.

MACCALLUM: We'll see. A lot of moderate Democrats did win in places like Michigan and Wisconsin, so we will see.

KINZINGER: Yes.

MACCALLUM: Thank you very much, Congressman. Always a pleasure.

KINZINGER: You bet.

MACCALLUM: Thanks for being here tonight. Joining me now, Kayleigh McEnany, RNC spokesperson, and Marie Harf, former State Department spokesperson now a Fox News analyst and co-host of Benson and Harf.

You know, so, what do you think about the idea of Nancy Pelosi saying, you know, I deserve -- she doesn't say I deserve -- I've earned it, she says. And because I'm a woman, a woman has to be here to represent women, who are now over 100 represented on Capitol Hill, Marie.

MARIE HARF, FOX NEWS RADIO CO-HOST: Well, she certainly did a good job raising money and helping get Democrats elected, including a lot of women in the cycle. But I think -- and I also agree, by the way, that the argument that women should be in house leadership is a good one.

Nancy Pelosi may not be the right person to make that argument, because it sounds very self-serving, quite frankly, but she put, you know, her finger on something very important here.

Women voted for Democrats and by the largest majority that they voted for them since 1982. Women ran as Democrats, they came out for Democrats, they voted for Democrats, women should be part of our leadership team.

And look, if there is anyone who can bring together the moderates that just won that help to get the Democrat leadership of the house, with the progressive wing like you just showed with Ocasio-Cortez, Nancy Pelosi may be the person that can actually hurt all of those cats.

Martha, she doesn't have the votes as of right now, though. So, this is going to be a pretty intense leadership fight coming over the next few weeks, as Democrats try to figure out who is going to lead the next Congress here.

Democrats have the progressives, the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's of the world, but they also have all of these women, particularly who won in the Midwest, moderates like Elissa Slotkin, moderates like Abigail Spanberger in Virginia -- we have a challenge in my caucus to bring these people together.

MACCALLUM: Kayleigh?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, SPOKESPERSON, RNC: But Marie, though, the problem with that argument is the women you just named, Abigail Spanberger, for instance, said she would absolutely oppose Nancy Pelosi on the house floor if it went to a vote.

HARF: Yes.

MCENANY: You have Elissa Slotkin, who has said she would oppose her, Jahana Hayes, the list goes on, where she need to lead, these are the new Democratic women coming in, and the problem for Nancy Pelosi's argument, saying, you know, "I deserve to be here, in part by virtue of my gender," she is assuming that the 100 women coming to Washington are going to want her there by virtue of their gender, and women think as a monolith, vote as a monolith, and want Nancy Pelosi there as a monolith. It's a really flawed argument, and honestly, it's verging on sexism to assume women think in certain way by virtue of her gender and putting her in leadership.

HARF: I wouldn't say, Kayleigh, that the first woman to hold the speakership of the house is engaging in sexism here.

MCENANY: Show me a sexist argument too assume that these women think this way.

HARF: I don't think that's why she is. She is going to have to make an argument to my caucus, to my party's caucus, about why she should be the leader. And I think as part of that argument, she is going to have to promise to empower younger moderate and progressive Democrats, because she is facing a lot of headwinds right now, and she will have to tell the caucus why she deserves another two years.

(CROSSTALK)

MCENANY: But what's the argument?

MACCALLUM: I mean, the fact of the matter is that she, you know, happily went against, you know, Barbara Comstock, Mia Love, it's really, it's not about just wanting women to rise up, it's about wanting Democrat women to rise up, Marie.

HARF: Right. That's her job. And she, look, I have been critical of Nancy Pelosi, and I think the Democrats have to decide whether the negative way she is used by the other side is worth the fact that she is a really good vote counter and can keep the caucus together.

That's a political calculation we have to make as Democrats. She is going to face a challenge, though. This will be an interesting a few weeks.

MCENANY: She has a 29 percent approval rating according to Huffington Post. She lost 63 House seats during her first midterm.

MACCALLUM: I've got to go.

(CROSSTALK)

MCENANY: And she -

(CROSSTALK)

MACCALLUM: Thanks for coming for my cocktail (ph). That's "The Story" on Tuesday night. We'll see you back here tomorrow. 
 
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