'Special Report' All-Stars on key takeaways from Trump interview

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," May 2, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, I think what they should be focusing on is how did this mess start? How did this whole investigation start? Because I think it is corrupt as hell, and I think what has happened between Comey and McCabe, and Brennan, and all of these people, and Strzok, and his lover, Lisa Page, there's tremendous things that people want to find out. And they really want to find it out, and I hope they are going to.


MIKE EMANUEL, HOST: That new clip from Catherine Herridge's exclusive interview with President Trump done within the last hour. And with that, let's bring in our panel, Byron York, chief political correspondent for the "Washington Examiner," Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at "The Federalist," and Zeke Miller, White House reporter for the Associated Press.

So lots to chew over in that brand-new interview. Zeke, you sit there front row in the briefing room every day. What stuck out to you from this interview?

ZEKE MILLER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: His commentary on the 2020 field, just how eager he was to inject himself in that conversation. We have seen from the president all throughout this budding Democratic primary, he wants to be the center player. He is not ceding the attention. He wants to be the pundit in chief, and we saw that on display here again.

EMANUEL: Speaking of which, let's go to a clip of him speaking about former Vice President Joe Biden getting into the race.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT: Biden seems to have the lead. I would be very happy if it were Biden, sleepy Joe.


TRUMP: I think he did a bad job. I'd be running against --

HERRIDGE: So you think he is beatable?

TRUMP: I just don't think he would be a good candidate. We'll see what happens.


EMANUEL: Mollie, what stuck out to you?

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE FEDERALIST": I think that clip that you aired just before this last one where he talks about investigating how this whole conspiracy theory began. So if you look at what's been happening in the news the last couple of days, you see a lot of people in the media, people who are politicians, people who used to be in the government, who perpetuated this false story that Donald Trump was a traitor. It's worth remembering, treason is a crime punishable by death.

It turns out he was falsely accused of this, and we still don't understand how was it that he came to be falsely accused? Who was involved in this? Just today, "The New York Times" reveals that there were multiple overseas intelligence assets run against the campaign, and there's an interesting story that needs to be looked through, but it looks like this was part of a much larger operation then we have thus far been told.

We're going to have to find out a lot more. Attorney General Barr said he wanted to get to the end of the Russia investigation, let that go through unimpeded. But he also wants to know just what was happening over at the Department of Justice and FBI. And so hopefully we will start to get some answers there.

BRYON YORK, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": You do have this real division between the parties on this, on Capitol Hill, because you have the Republicans wanting to do exactly that investigation, and the attorney general yesterday dropped a big hint that he thinks there might have been more surveillance going on of the Trump campaign that we knew about.

On the other hand, you have the Democrats wanting to reinvestigate the Mueller report and stage hearings on it, and I think the reason you are seeing so much emphasis on trying to get the White House Counsel in front of cameras in the House is because Democrats in the House want to make this a television show. They don't think the American people is going to get into the weeds of a 448-page carefully written report. They want drama, and they want pictures. And so that's why you are seeing this push to get Don McGahn.

EMANUEL: Speaking of the former White House counsel, let's take a listen to that clip.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT: I've had him testifying already for 30 hours.

HERRIDGE: So is the answer no?

TRUMP: So I don't think I can let him, and then tell everybody else you can, because especially him, because he was a counsel. So they have testified for many hours, all of them, many, many, many people.

HERRIDGE: So as far as your concerned, it's really kind of done? It's done?

TRUMP: I can't say one can and the others can't.

HERRIDGE: So is it done?

TRUMP: I would say it's done.


EMANUEL: Zeke, your thoughts on the McGahn matter and whether or not he'll testify?

MILLER: I think the president just laid out a pretty clear marker that he is not going to allow. We saw earlier today also in Emmet Flood's letter to the attorney general, responding to the Mueller report, essentially arguing that the president is not going to cooperate in this investigation any further, certainly when it comes to Congressional matters, that the special counsel's cooperation that the president gave documents, allowed his people to testify, interview with the Special Counsel, that was a one- time deal, one-time offer. That is not going to be the case with these Congressional investigations. That is going to set up quite a legal showdown and certainly a political showdown. Both parties seem to want to continue this fight, and so it will be interesting to see how that plays out going forward.

HEMINGWAY: I think that is a key point, that the Republicans definitely now in a new way that you haven't seen previously, definitely want to continue to fight. They patiently waited, they said they were promised that there was treasonous collusion with Russia to steal the election. The end of that report came out, no one was indicted for collusion with Russia, no indictments for obstruction. And I think part of what you are saying on the Hill where people want to have all these hearings, is not just that they are frustrated that everything ended, they promised their constituency that not only was there treason, that they would be able to oust the president, and this report came out as a dud. At the same time, the people who were involved with it might be held accountable, and I think they are trying to avoid having those people held accountable.

EMANUEL: Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen with a bucket of KFC chicken and a porcelain chicken, calling the attorney general a chicken. You had House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today making a pretty serious charge against Attorney General William Barr. Take a listen to this.


REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF., HOUSE SPEAKER: It wasn't about technicalities. It wasn't about who wrote the letter and how he characterized the letter. That's interesting. But what is deadly serious about it is the attorney general of the United States of America was not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States. That's a crime.


YORK: Well, on the Judiciary party of it, it did kind of dissent into farce today with the fried chicken. It was all over in about 20 minutes. But what the speaker is saying is really, really quite serious. Yesterday in front of the Senate, Barr gave a very plausible explanation for his testimony on this issue that Nancy Pelosi said he is lying about. But the House controls itself. They could vote the attorney general in contempt, they could take some sort of action against him, and she clearly seems to have judged this case already.

EMANUEL: All right, panel. Next up, the leadership crisis in Venezuela.



NICOLAS MADURO, DISPUTED VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (through translator): How many deaths would there be if a civil war erupted here because of the foolishness of the coup plotters and traitors? And how many years would we last in a war if they invaded us?

JUAN GUIADO, VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION LEADER (through translator): Today, the dictator continues to usurp the power in Venezuela, but that is not going to stop the people.

TRUMP: The brutal repression of the Venezuelan people must end, and it must end soon. We will be there to help, and we are there to help.


EMANUEL: And just within the last hour, Catherine Herridge and her exclusive interview with President Trump asked the president about his red lines when it comes to the situation in Venezuela. Take a listen to this.


TRUMP: I don't want to say, but we have lots of options, and some of them are very tough options.

There's always a tipping point, but certainly I'd rather not do that. I just want to help the people. The people are dying. They have nothing.


EMANUEL: And with that, we are back with our panel, Byron, Mollie, and Zeke. Zeke, is there concern at the White House from sources you're talking to that Maduro is not gone yet?

MILLER: There's a little bit of concern. There was some hope earlier this week that momentum was building, that this would be a major foreign policy success for the president. But as every day and hour goes by, there is some mounting concerns that did the administration go a little too far, get a little over its skis in terms of supporting this uprising this ultimately seems to have fizzled out a little bit.

EMANUEL: Mollie, your thoughts on what you heard from the president on the situation in Venezuela?

HEMINGWAY: I think the administration does have to be careful not to overpromise and underachieve. This is not the first time we have been hearing that Maduro is on his way out. And Maduro is horribly oppressive to his people. It's offensive to see him talk about what a civil war would bring to his people when he is starving those people himself through his mismanagement of the government.

It is also true that when the U.S. considers when to get involved in another region, if they are doing it for humanitarian concerns, invasion is not always a way to maximize humanitarian concerns. It can lead to greater death and it can lead to prolonged unrest. So I think we should be careful and monitor. There's a great coalition of people throughout the hemisphere who are caring about a peaceful transition, encouraging it and incentivizing it without a military conflict.

EMANUEL: And our colleague from FOX Business, Trish Regan, spoke with Juan Guaido about the timing of taking power. Take a listen to this.


JUAN GUAIDO, VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION LEADER (through translator): We remain in the streets because we remain united. And the armed forces are listening to us. This message of the union, of progress, and it was very clear yesterday in the city of Caracas and the center of power of Venezuela. So as long as we are mobilized and united, we are very close to achieving our freedom.


EMANUEL: So Guaido showing great courage standing up to the dictatorship. Byron, your thoughts on Venezuela?

YORK: Unclear how much the armed forces are listening to them, because it seems like this week has shown that if you want to have a military uprising, you need to get the military to go along. You have Maduro going at 5:00 in the morning to a military base addressing soldiers of the motherland. So it has got this classic South American revolution feel to it right now.

But I was glad to see the president being cautious about this, because this could be an enormous mess, and the talk is all of, will the United States intervene in any sort of military way? And you can think it through and think of all sorts of strategies you want, but there could be very, very unpredictable events happening down there.

EMANUEL: Meanwhile, the folks I cover on a daily basis over on the Hill, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar is blaming the U.S. for some of the problems in Venezuela appeared to take to this.


REP. ILHAN OMAR, D-MINN.: I don't believe that interventions that are pushing for regime change in the best interests of Venezuela.

SEN. RICK SCOTT, R-FLA.: She ought to go down there. A lot of these people are just pure socialists. Why don't they go live in Caracas? Why don't see all these people moving to Caracas? Because you're going to starve to death -- no food, no water, no medicine.


EMANUEL: Of course, Senator Rick Scott probably get an earful from Venezuela-American constituents of his about the situation there. Byron, your thoughts on what lawmakers are saying about the situation there.

YORK: Just because things are terrible in Venezuela does not mean the United States needs to intervene militarily. So, again, what Mollie was saying about regional ideas, nonmilitary ideas, all the pressure that we can exert, we can do that. But be really, really careful about military intervention.

HEMINGWAY: And that is what I would point out, too. We have a history of entering into conflict without a very good game plan for what we want to achieve and how to exit out of that complex. There are very real concerns with Venezuela. They do have allies who are dangerous and a threat to the United States. But we need to have a plan. You hear people kind of talking this up, this idea of military involvement, and if past is prologue, we haven't had a good track record of figuring out how to get involved without getting bogged down in a situation that becomes very expensive in terms of life and money.

EMANUEL: Of course, we saw President Trump, who is not shy, didn't really want to get into red lines on the situation of Venezuela.

HEMINGWAY: I think that was probably wise, too. We saw some previous administrations issue red lines and then fail to keep them, and you want to make sure that your word is solid, which is why I think that they should be careful about what they are promising might happen there and thinking through an array of options.

MILLER: It is really important to note that so far the diplomatic effort in Venezuela is really one of the president's great successes in terms of marshalling regional and international pressure on Maduro's government in terms of the recognition of Juan Guaido opposition leadership, the work in the Organization of American States. That has been unsung here, and really regardless of what happens, is it an interesting internationalist approached by this president that we have not really seen him bring to many conflicts before.

EMANUEL: So you can count on Secretary of State Pompeo keeping up the pressure on Maduro and the regime and basically trying to marshal our allies in the region?

MILLER: That certainly seems to be the case. The question is, will that be enough?

EMANUEL: All right, panel, thanks very much. When we come back, desperate prayers answered.


EMANUEL: Finally tonight, a godsend. Two Florida teaens were celebrating a senior skip day, but a swim at the ocean turned into a fight for their lives. Tyler Smith and Heather Brown ended up two miles from shore. Weak and tired, they started praying to god and crying out for help. They were stranded for two hours before a boat named "The Amen" came to their rescue.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I cried out, was like, if you really do have a plan for us, just come on, just bring something. No other reason or explanation in the world that that wasn't God.


EMANUEL: Amen. That is “Special Report” for tonight. I am Mike Emanuel in Washington. Don't forget, you can see more of Catherine Herridge's exclusive interview with President Trump tonight at 11:00 p.m. Eastern on "Fox News @ Night" with Shannon Bream.

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