This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," May 27, 2021. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS HOST: Welcome to Washington. I'm Bret Baier.
Breaking tonight, the White House is scrambling to come up with answers about why it's only now seriously pursuing the origins of the coronavirus that has obviously raged across the planet for more than a year.
The theory that the virus escaped from a Chinese lab once mocked as a fringe conspiracy theory continues to gain credibility tonight.
We have Fox team coverage with new details. Jennifer Griffin at the Pentagon with concerns about Chinese cooperation in finding the truth. But we begin with White House correspondent Peter Doocy and where things stand tonight from the North Lawn. Good evening, Peter.
PETER DOOCY, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Bret. President Biden spent a lot of time talking about ways he thought he could help the United States recover from the pandemic until recently. Now he is starting to look back to the beginning of COVID-19.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's the origin of the coronavirus?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I knew that, I wouldn't ask for a 90-day review. I don't know.
DOOCY (voice-over): Within 90 days, some are skeptical new evidence will emerge from an event more than a year and a half ago.
SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): It's not time to kick the can down the road and ask the Intelligence Community to look for 90 more days what they've already been looking for for 18 months.
DOOCY: And at least some intel about a possible lab leak was in a March version of the presidential daily briefing or PDB.
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Following that PDB he made clear -- he asked them to see if we could declassify that information, make it available to the public.
DOOCY: The declassified intel came in this rare public statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It says spies have coalesced around two likely scenarios: either it emerged naturally from human contact with infected animals, or it was a laboratory accident.
But some lawmakers allege an accident is just what China wants the world to think.
REP. BRIAN MAST (R-FL): They're doing everything to hide it. They wouldn't be doing that if it was an accident.
DOOCY: We'd know more if China was more forthcoming early on, according to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS: Once this virus started appearing, there seems to have been a fair amount of activity or cover-up or lack of transparency, probably the best way to put it, and all of that is disturbing.
DOOCY: If China covered up or created COVID, next steps are unclear.
Will the president seek to punish China?
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: We're not going to go there just yet.
DOOCY: Some Republicans wish they would.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): If President Biden does not work with the Congress to put sanctions on China to make sure they cooperate with the international community, then China's going to get away with it.
DOOCY: The lab leak theory was dismissed as unpostable by Facebook until now. An official explains, in light of ongoing investigations into the origin of COVID-19 and in consultation with public health experts, we will no longer remove the claim that COVID-19 is man-made from our apps.
COTTON: If these big tech censors, companies like Facebook hadn't gone into overdrive to protect their -- all of their liberal friends, maybe we would have gotten in this reckoning a year ago.
DOOCY: All can read the intel in August.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you pledge to release the report in full after 90 days?
BIDEN: Yes, that's -- unless there's something I'm unaware of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOOCY: China coming out to say they were done cooperating with the World Health Organization threw a wrench into the president's plan to let this COVID investigation be led by the World Health Organization. A group President Trump pulled the country out of and President Biden rejoined, Bret.
BAIER: Peter Doocy, one more thing. We learned something about the president son Hunter, introducing him to international business partners.
That was the question in the campaign, do we know anymore?
DOOCY: Bret, this allegedly happened in 2015 with a party of 14 here in Washington D.C. The New York Post has published an e-mail -- a series of e- mails that appear to show the president's son Hunter e-mailing one associate to tell him that this dinner was ostensibly to talk about the World Food Program, but it's not clear what they wound up talking about.
So, these e-mails could undercut a claim the president made to me early on in the campaign that he never spoke to his son about his overseas business dealings now that there was apparently this dinner at Cafe Milano in Georgetown with Hunter's overseas business partners, Bret.
BAIER: Don't know the status of that investigation, right, as far as the DOJ is concerned?
DOOCY: No, the last update that we got is it's an investigation into Hunter Biden's tax affairs being run out of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Delaware.
BAIER: All right, Peter, thank you.
Back to China, while the U.S. is now seeming to push this new investigation, China, as mentioned is definitely not on board.
National security correspondent Jennifer Griffin has that part of the story from the Pentagon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNIFER GRIFFIN, FOX NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):
When China announced this week at the World Health Assembly the decision- making body of the WHO that it did not plan to cooperate with any more investigations into the virus origin.
Fox News has learned that triggered the Biden administration to announce that U.S. Intelligence agencies would accelerate the declassification of its COVID investigation and report back to the president in 90 days.
ZHAO LIJIAN, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY: The U.S. side does not care about facts and truth, nor is it interested in serious scientific origin tracing, but wants to use the pandemic to engage in stigmatization and political manipulation. It undermines the global anti-epidemic efforts.
GRIFFIN: But more and more experts are raising questions about the Wuhan Institute of Virology and whether work being done there may be the source of the pandemic.
Daniel Lucey, a professor of infectious diseases at Georgetown has served in China on the front lines of every pandemic since SARS in 2003, as well as Ebola in Africa in 2014. He flew to Hong Kong at the start of the pandemic, but was too late, China had already closed access to Wuhan.
He wrote in a recent scientific abstract about a Chinese report from a year and a half ago that suggests the outbreak began earlier than the official timeline given to the WHO by Beijing. He says the first cluster of cases may go back to October of 2019.
DR. DANIEL LUCEY, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: WHO team really wasn't authorized or empowered or part of the terms of reference to do a proper investigation of the lab origin hypothesis. So, I think that that should be done now.
GRIFFIN: Josephine Ma, the editor of the South China Morning Post wrote in March 2020 that the internal Chinese government report referenced by Dr.
Lucey says 266 people had what was thought to be COVID-19 infection between November 17th and December 31st.
LUCEY: It's not cited by any of the WHO independent panels that are presenting their findings to the World Health Assembly today. So, that's quite a few more patients than we otherwise have heard about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRIFFIN: Suggesting the first infections may have occurred the first week of November or more likely October, which is not in the WHO report, Bret.
BAIER: Jennifer Griffin at the Pentagon. Jennifer, thank you.
The death toll among victims at California rail yard is up to nine tonight.
We're learning new details this evening about that employee who went on the shooting rampage.
Senior correspondent Claudia Cowan is in San Jose again tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLAUDIA COWAN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Authorities say it was a methodical carefully planned ambush by a longtime employee at the Valley Transportation Authority. The gunman firing 39 rounds, killing five people in one building, two in another and fatally wounding two others before taking his own life.
LAURIE SMITH, SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA SHERIFF: I think he was a coward who decided to go out in a blaze of glory and there's nine victims and families affected, it's terrible.
COWAN: 57-year-old Sam Cassidy had worked for the VTA since 2012. But according to his ex-wife, he often resented his job assignments and decades ago talked about wanting to kill his co-workers. She never thought he would.
Arson investigators and police bomb squad are still coming through the gunman's house, which authorities believe was rigged to catch fire after he left for the rail yard, armed with several semi-automatic handguns and 11 loaded magazines.
SMITH: There were a lot of employees in a certain area. He said to one person who was not an employee, I'm not going to shoot you and then shot others.
COWAN: Amid the violence, there were acts of heroism. One employee pushed several others into a room getting them to safety before he was shot to death.
Christina Gonzalez says her cousin Michael Rudometkin is among the dead.
CHRISTINA GONZALEZ, COUSIN: he loved his job and just always stood up for everyone's rights. And he was just a very good person.
COWAN: While Terra Fritch is mourning her husband Alex, who was kept on life support so he could donate his organs and died in her arms overnight.
TERRA FRITCH, WIDOW: The nurse came in because he was deteriorating. And she said he knows you're here, he's crying. And he took his last breath but his heart stopped. Right then and there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COWAN: Just heartbreaking stories of these essential workers who kept the buses and trains running during the pandemic, who kissed their loved ones goodbye yesterday and never came home. They'll be honored at a vigil tonight at San Jose City Hall, Bret.
BAIER: Painful story. Claudia, thank you.
More than half the respondents to our Fox poll believe the coronavirus is still a major threat to the stability of the U.S. 55 percent feel that way.
31 percent considered a minor threat. 14 percent say it's no threat at all.
President Biden delivered a speech today in Cleveland and some lawmakers up on Capitol Hill considered an attempt at damage control amid concerns about the U.S. economy in general and specifically about inflation as he works to pass a massive tax and spend piece of legislation.
Correspondent Rich Edson reports tonight from Cleveland.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICH EDSON, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Biden economy, four months into his administration, President Biden is taking responsibility for the state of the American economy and making the case to reshape it.
BIDEN: America is coming back. America's on the move and that wasn't an accident.
EDSON: For this address, the president chose a community college in Cleveland, a city the White House describes as a proud blue-collar Union City that built our country into the world's industrial powerhouse.
The administration touts economic reports showing falling jobless claims and an economy ricocheting off a global pandemic and growing. What the White House friends as a political asset, Republicans present as liability.
They point at an economy featuring projected inflation that in some sectors is already arriving, and lackluster hiring after more than 20 million jobs evaporated during the pandemic.
SEN. ROGER MARSHALL (R-KS): Thanks to inflation, COVID is no longer the top of the mountain for Americans' concerns and problems. I remember the inflation of the 80s was the most challenging economic times of my life.
EDSON: The Biden vision, $6 trillion in spending next fiscal year alone.
Adding $1.8 trillion to the national debt. That's according to a New York Times report on the budget the White House will release tomorrow.
Biden is also calling for tax increases on wealthier investors, those earning more than $400,000 a year and businesses to pay in part for spending on health care, education, green energy and infrastructure.
The White House is negotiating with Republicans in an attempt to reach a compromise on infrastructure. Republicans have offered more than $900 billion for what they consider core infrastructure, like roads and bridges, much of it financed from unused pandemic relief funds.
The White House objects to shifting COVID funds and says the Republican counter also falls short on spending for health care, rail, lead pipe removal and clean energy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
EDSON: Like that infrastructure proposal, much of President Biden's budget would need approval from Congress, where it likely faces significant Republican opposition, Bret.
BAIER: Rich Edson in Cleveland. Rich, thanks.
Up next, what educators in one suburban Washington School District are teaching students about race and how parents there are reacting. We'll bring you there.
First, here's what some of our facilities around the country are covering tonight. Fox 4 in Dallas has authority say three police officers escaped major injury after they faced a barrage of gunfire during a standoff at home. Officers were responding to a call of a suicidal person when the 60- year-old man opened fire on them. The gunman surrendered after a SWAT team fired tear gas into that house.
Fox 5 in Atlanta as Republican Governor Brian Kemp says he will sign an executive order restricting Georgia public schools from requiring any students, teachers or staff members to wear masks.
However, Kemp says he will not stop parents from having their children wear masks or teachers from masking up in classrooms if they so choose.
And this is a live look at Cleveland. We were just there with that story from Fox 8. The big story there tonight, a Southwestern Ohio woman is the first winner of the state's $1 million Vax-a-million vaccination incentive prize.
A Dayton area teen is the first winner of the program's full-ride college scholarship. The governor introducing that incentive program May 12 as a way of boosting participation in Ohio's vaccination efforts.
Tonight, California is offering $116 million in prize money to encourage coronavirus vaccinations.
That is tonight's live look outside the Beltway from SPECIAL REPORT. We'll be right back.
BAIER: Senate Republicans appear ready to deploy the filibuster to block a commission on the January 6th Capitol riot. That could revive pressure by Democrats to do away with the procedural tactic.
The mother and girlfriend of the late Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick met with several Republican senators today to try to persuade them to approve the creation of the special commission. President Biden says it should be a no-brainer, but Republicans disagree.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MIKE BRAUN (R-IN): I think this largely has a heavy political overtone, and that's why I don't think you're going to see much support on the Republican side of the fence. Most of this should be put on whatever the FBI comes out with.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can't imagine anyone voting against establishing the commission, on the greatest assault since the civil war on the -- on the Capitol.
But anyway, I came for ice cream.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: President making that comment at ice cream stop following his speech in Cleveland.
We have new information tonight on how one suburban Washington school district is teaching critical race theory, an exploration of how race has shaped public society to its students. Many parents are outraged by this.
Chief Washington correspondent Mike Emanuel takes a look tonight from Bethesda, Maryland.
MIKE EMANUEL, FOX NEWS CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Montgomery County, Maryland just outside Washington, the public school system spent $454,000 so an equity consultancy could perform an anti-racism audit. Fox News has obtained slides from the school system of a middle school social justice program where students were taught that the phrase, Make America Great Again is an example of covert white supremacy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELISSA KING, MONTGOMERY COUNTY PARENT: It's racist in itself because it divides our kids into tribes of these supposed oppressors and victims and teaches them that hard work and success are actually bad or wrong.
EMANUEL: Montgomery County, Maryland schools responded to Fox in a written statement, "Our schools are having important conversations on the impact of racism on students and their families." One recourse for upset parents could be to take on the school district in court.
TOM FITTON, PRESIDENT, JUDICIAL WATCH: When you search targeting school children based on their race, you're going into very dangerous legal territory that I think is prohibited by law.
EMANUEL: Congress allocated nearly $200 billion in COVID relief funds for
K-12 schools intended to help reopen schools and minimize learning loss.
President Biden's Department of Education is encouraging local districts to spend some of it on free anti-racist therapy for white educators.
The guidance booklet for spending COVID relief money on students' social and emotional needs includes the disruption of whiteness and spread of critical race theory.
In Northern Virginia's Loudoun County, parents angered by the focus on race in the classroom fired back at the school board this week.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't tell my daughter what to think. Don't tell my daughter what to say. That's not your job. That's not the school's job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
EMANUEL: The Montgomery County school system says part of its role is providing the necessary resources and safe spaces to address racism challenges. Some parents say its mandate should be educating children not teaching them to be activists. Bret.
BAIER: Mike Emanuel in Bethesda. Mike, thank you.
Republican senators are outlining a $928 billion infrastructure spending proposal tonight as a counteroffer to the president's plan. That would increase spending by tens of billions of dollars on roads, bridges, water resources, rail, and broadband.
GOP lawmakers want to procure unused COVID relief funds, an idea the White House is already dismissing.
President Biden says he will meet with West Virginia Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito next week to discuss the legislation.
Meantime, Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren is not in a compromising mood.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): We were in a crisis before the pandemic hit.
It only got worse during the pandemic. This is our chance to expand our idea of what infrastructure means.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Warren says the Republican proposal is not a serious counteroffer.
Stocks were mixed today. The Dow gained 142, the S&P 500 finished ahead, five. The NASDAQ lost two.
BAIER (voice-over): Up next, law enforcement using heavily armed gunboats to try to deal with the immigration surge along the southern border that the president's people insist is secure. We'll take you there live.
BAIER: Our new Fox poll indicates growing support for building a border wall with Mexico. 50 percent of those responding like the idea. That's up six percentage points from December of 2019. As you see there, 46 percent do not.
48 percent believe immigrants help the country. 39 percent disagree. 11 percent say it depends.
We have a new video tonight of Texas state law enforcement officials using heavily armed gunboats to try to deal with the continuing immigration crisis and surge along the southern border.
We're also seeing chases and apprehensions on the ground along the border.
All of this happening as the Biden administration continues to claim that border is closed.
Correspondent Bill Melugin reports tonight from Rio Grande Valley, Texas.
BILL MELUGIN, FOX NEWS NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Exclusive video from the Fox flight team shows illegal immigrants fleeing from border patrol in La Joya, Texas early Thursday morning after they rushed the U.S.
border. It's a scene we have witnessed happening almost daily here in the Rio Grande Valley.
Our Fox cameras also on scene this morning in Grand Llano where border patrol tracked down and apprehended another group of runners that had climbed over the border levee and ran four miles inland before trying to hide from agents in the brush unsuccessfully.
On Wednesday, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas tripled down, insisting, yet again, the border is secure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: The border is closed.
MELUGIN: But Texas Governor Greg Abbott pushing back today, saying his state troopers are having to do the federal government's job here at the border. We saw heavily armed Texas State trooper gunboats patrolling the Rio Grande in Mission, Texas.
Abbott says state troopers have arrested 1,100 criminals and 33,000 illegal immigrants during this surge.
GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): The border security policies changed overnight under the Biden administration. One was the elimination of the Remain in Mexico policy, and the other was the clear message that they were going to be welcoming in everybody.
MELUGIN: Meanwhile, in Texas' Del Rio sector, border patrol reports agents apprehended 10 convicted sex offenders who crossed illegally in just one week. And in Hidalgo, we encountered this group of Guatemalans apprehended by Border Patrol after hiding in the brush next to a U-Haul store.
This man told me this was his fifth time trying to cross into the U.S. and he paid a smuggler $10,000 to do so.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We beg the president to have pity on us, to give us an opportunity, as adults, to progress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELUGIN: And Bret, we mentioned in that report how some of those illegal immigrants were able to literally climb over the border levee wall.
Take a look, this is how they did it. They left this behind. They made this makeshift hook in ladder system made out of rope and PVC pipe.
Look, there is a ring on it. What they do is they put a long stick or pipe on -- in it. They use it to lift it up, raise it -- raise it -- raise it, clip onto the levee wall, it hooks on, it laches, and they just climb right on up. One of the many ways they are able to get across. We'll send it back to you.
BAIER: Happening every day. Bill Melugin along the southern border. Bill, thanks.
Now, to the northern border, it remains closed tonight despite progress made against the pandemic. And that, believe it or not, may actually be costing you and your family a lot of money.
Correspondent Gillian Turner shows us how tonight from the White House.
GILLIAN TURNER, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.S. border with Canada is still closed for business a year and a half into the pandemic.
Though it's costing the U.S. at least $400 million per year in lost tourism, the press secretary aboard Air Force One today confirmed the White House is in no rush to reopen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think a decision has been made.
TURNER: There is no real change from 10 days ago when the Biden administration banned Canadian travel for yet another month.
PSAKI: We are certainly always assessing as it relates to travel, borders, et cetera. What we need to do and keep in place in order to keep the American people safe.
TURNER: Now, lawmakers say the U.S. just can't afford it any longer.
REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): So much of our local workforce on the U.S. side is tied to that U.S.-Canadian -- both tourist relationship and economic trading partnership.
TURNER: The closed border is causing major problems for Alaska.
SEN. DAN SULLIVAN (R-AK): Right now, if you want to get to Alaska, on a cruise ship, or drive up, you can't.
TURNER: It's also causing problems for North Dakota's travel industry.
SEN. KEVIN CRAMER (R-ND): It's a really big deal for North Dakota to not be able to welcome Canadian visitors, which amount to a million or more per year.
TURNER: It's even causing problems for Democratic states commerce, where anxious lawmakers say families, neighborhoods, and whole towns remain fractured.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): Like a store where they have two cash registers, one for Canadian money, one for U.S. money. They are just almost shutting down.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TURNER: Canada has had its side of the border shut to the U.S. for over a year now, but just yesterday the nation's chief public health official said changes are coming soon. She cited the fact that nearly 58 percent of Canadians have now had at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot. Bret?
BAIER: Gillian Turner in the White House briefing room. Gillian, thank you.
Now to overseas, indications tonight the fragile cease-fire may be cracking between Israelis and Palestinians. "The Jerusalem Post" reporting tonight Palestinians are calling for a day of rage tomorrow. Those social media calls come as Egyptian led peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians commence. A cease-fire to that 11-day conflict went into effect late last week.
Meantime, "Haaretz" newspaper is reporting the Israeli military is preparing for possible renewed Gaza fighting tonight.
Up next, the panel with the latest on the investigations into the coronavirus origins and what comes next. First, Beyond our Borders tonight.
A Spanish court imposes prison sentences ranging from eight to 53 years on three surviving members of an extremist Islamist cell that killed 16 people, injuring 140 others during attacks in and near Barcelona in 2017.
The three convicted by Spain's national court were accused of forming part of the cell or aiding it, but not of directly carrying out those attacks.
More than 150,000 people are homeless in the aftermath of a cyclone that unleashed storm surges in eastern India and Bangladesh. Heavy rains are hampering relief work there in some low lying coastal areas. At least five people have been killed.
Hong Kong authorities are banning the June 4th candlelight vigil to commemorate the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square for a second year in a row. Organizers say police had objected to the event in light of social distancing restrictions which prohibit large gatherings.
Just some of the other stories Beyond our Borders tonight. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you pledge to release the report in full after
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, unless there is something I'm unaware of.
ZHAO LIJIAN, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY (through translator): The U.S. side does not care about facts or truth, nor is it interested in serious scientific origin tracing, but wants to use the pandemic to engage in stigmatization and political manipulation, and to shirk its responsibility.
DAVID ASHER, HUDSON INSTITUTE: The data disproportionately stacked up as we investigated that it was coming out of a lab or some supernatural source.
To say this came out of a zoonotic situation is ridiculous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Well, the president says 90 days, now 89, for this investigation into the origins of the coronavirus. Meantime, what had changed in the beginning until now, and what comes next. Let's bring in our panel, Ben Domenech, publisher of "The Federalist," Morgan Ortagus, former State Department spokesperson, and Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio. Morgan, we should caveat, obviously you were part of the Trump administration back in those days at the end when the coronavirus origins were a big part of this. As you see this develop, what's your perspective?
MORGAN ORTAGUS, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: So the last few days of the administration we were working on releasing the document that everyone saw publicly. And there was a very intense declassification effort to make sure that we could get this information out. It's important to note that nothing we released wasn't anything different than what Mike Pompeo and others had been saying for a year, which was there was no smoking gun on any particular theory, but that we all had a lot of skepticism about whatever the Chinese Communist Party's first excuses or whatever their first theory is of the case.
The Chinese Communist Party at every turn has stopped independent investigations. In fact, when you look beyond the United States, when you look at Australia, they dared last year to simply call for an independent investigation, and the Chinese Communist Party enacted trade retributions against them for doing so. And they have silenced one by one every critic, starting especially with the WHO. The WHO parroted Chinese talking points for over a year. They have already had one investigation of the whole world had to admit wasn't credible. I don't know how anyone could trust them to have another one that would be critical.
And the loser in this is everybody, the 600,000 Americans that died of COVID, and everyone around the world who has suffered, because we will never be able to fully stop the next pandemic without understanding the true origins of this one. And the Chinese Communist Party has shut that down over the past year. They likely have destroyed evidence, and we may never know.
BAIER: At the beginning, when the administration, the last one, put out that white paper, Mara, obviously there was a lot of talk about -- talk of that being a conspiracy theory in where the media collectively was. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Wuhan Institute of Virology was made famous by these Trump officials who allege without much concrete evidence that the COVID virus leaked from the labs in its facility.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certainly, pinning something on China, that would be a made-up but politically opportune development, is something he would love to see.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The World Health Organization says this lab leak theory is extremely unlikely.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That office said they weren't sure yet, that they were still investigating it. And so the president is winging it, just like he wings it every day on China.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the conclusion at this stage is that there are an awful lot of people with a lot of theories and not a lot of evidence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: And it seemd to jump on. Now there is this kind of change in that a lot of people are saying, well, they were saying it was a bioweapon. That's not what was being said at the time.
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: No, no. The two theories that have been around the whole time was, one, that it was some kind of animal-to-human contact, maybe in one of these Chinese wet markets where people buy certain kinds of wildlife, or that it was a lab accident where there was a facility in Wuhan that was investigating, researching these kinds of viruses.
The problem is that the Chinese have not been cooperative. U.S. officials have testified to that in both administrations. They haven't been transparent, so it's going to be really hard to figure out the origin of the virus.
But we do know that the Biden administration, after saying that the WHO should be the lead investigator on this, has changed its mind, and now Biden has given the intelligence community 90 days to see if they can figure out if it was animal-to-human contact or a lab accident. Those are the two theories that they are pursuing.
BAIER: But aren't you curious to wonder why they changed?
LIASSON: I think they changed because there is perhaps new evidence. We had that "Wall Street Journal" story about three researchers who got sick.
BAIER: But that was in the white paper put out by Morgan and the Trump administration.
LIASSON: Yes, yes. Well, I think that they just feel that there is more likelihood now that it might be a lab accident. They want to see if they can figure that out. And they should.
BAIER: Well, here's the next question, is if it comes to pass, Ben, what the punishment should be. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would the president seek to punish China?
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: We're not going to go there just yet. We have to go through the 90-day review, and once we have the 90 day review, we will be able to reassess.
SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): We can take away their most favored nation trading status, one of the things they covet most. We can revoke their status at the World Bank in which they get special loans from the World Bank. We could take away all the visas of Chinese Communist Party officials and their children who they love to send to American schools.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: It seems pretty farfetched to think that the Biden administration is going down the Tom Cotton road no matter what they find at the end of 90 days. Ben?
DOMENECH: Regardless of whether you agree with Tom Cotton's approach or not
-- I happen to in this instance -- I do think this is a situation that really is only happening because we have had this shift in power, because frankly we knew all of these different elements, thanks in part to the team that Morgan was a part of, months ago.
And to me, the fact that it took this long for Facebook, for instance, to come out today and say we will now allow people to openly discuss this, after you saw so many people who were shut down, silenced, had their video taken off of YouTube, we're able to discuss this in a way that would have been beneficial, I think, to the public conversation. Instead, this was treated as a conspiracy theory. And I think we see within this instance the dangerous power of these -- of big tech and of their ability to shut down conversations that ought to be happening.
And also I think, unfortunately, a media that was so biased against the former president that they dismissed everything that he was putting out or that anybody around him was putting out there as being conspiratorial. That John Heilemann quote seems ridiculous in retrospect. This is absolutely something that we ought to be talking about because we want to prevent these kinds of things from ever happening again in the future. Whatever it takes to achieve that, including any kind of sanctions, any kind of crackdown on the Chinese Communist Party, I think it ought to be on the table, under consideration. And we need to be honest about the way these things happen as opposed to shoving things under the rug that maybe politically inconvenient for our media and for the Democratic Party.
BAIER: Last thing, quickly, Morgan. We are talking about investigations.
Should Republicans say, you know what, let's do an investigation of January 6th?
ORTAGUS: Oh, sorry, you are switching topics. Yes, related to January 6th, I think that's an incredibly difficult one for a lot of Republican voters because the question will be, should -- is this going to be looked at in a manner that is fair, that looks at all of the events that happened last year. I think that Republicans are going to have a very tough time if they vote against it explaining why. Clearly from the P.R. perspective many in the Democratic Party have been able to make that case to the American people that there should be an investigation. Those of news Washington know these are often political.
So if it's fair, if it's like the 9/11 commission, if it's bipartisan, which it hasn't shown to be yet, then I think more Republican will consider it.
BAIER: All right, panel, stand by. Up next, the Biden economy, what he is saying about it and what the numbers show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO (R-WV): What we are looking at today is $928 billion package over eight years. It sticks to the core infrastructure features that we talked to initially.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I haven't had a chance yet to go over the detail of the counteroffer made by Capito. We are going to meet sometime next week, and we will see if we can move that.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We're going to keep talking. And I understand the president is willing to keep talking. And we think, actually, the president is a good deal more reasonable than some of the people surrounding him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Well, that is a talking point from Republicans who have met with the president as this negotiation is ongoing on the infrastructure legislation, that they hear good things from President Biden, but perhaps his staff is not where President Biden is, or there is some gap there.
Meantime, the economy seems to be improving. Indications are that it's almost super charged. As far as people's feeling about the economy right now optimistic, 51 percent in our latest polls. Asked the Biden administration's increase in government spending, is it too much, 47 percent say it is, about right, 33 percent. Threat to the stability of the country when asked about socialism, now, 49 percent up 10 points from September of 2020, a major deal, minor, 23 percent. Just some of the indications there.
Mara -- we're back with the panel -- Mara, what's your take on the negotiations here and the president's pitch today in Cleveland?
LIASSON: Yes, I think that the negotiations are a lot of kabuki theater. I think both sides have an interest, a political interest in showing voters that they tried to be bipartisan because that's what voters like. On the other hand, if you look at these two offers, they are not apples and apples. The president wants $1.7 trillion of new spending, he has come down from $2.2 trillion. The Republicans who now say they're at $928 billion, most of that, the vast majority of that is re-purposed COVID relief funds or money that's already been appropriated.
And they haven't agreed on the pay-fors. The Republicans say don't change the 2017 tax cut bill, and Democrats in the White House say we want to raise taxes on corporations and people over $400,000 to pay for this. So I think they're still really, really far apart. But, yes, I think Joe Biden sincerely would like an infrastructure deal that's bipartisan. I just don't know if they are going to be able to get there.
BAIER: What about that talking point, part of the kabuki theater, as Mara describes, Ben, of Republicans saying they like talking to President Biden but are not sure his staff wants him to be where he is?
DOMENECH: Mara is correct that this is kabuki theater. One thing, though, that I think that we shouldn't pass by in this is that the reports are that Joe Biden's budget, that his proposal includes the expected sunsetting of those Trump tax cuts, not just for high earning Americans but for low and middle income Americans as well. It includes an expectation of the highest debt to GDP ratio that we have ever seen in American history. This is not a plan that is in any way approachable in terms of a bipartisan deal to be cut. They are just too far apart.
And one of the other aspects of this, obviously, is the redefinition of infrastructure under the Biden administration, which now apparently includes all manner of social programs within blue state budgets and the like. And that's something that Republicans are never going to be willing to accept.
Unfortunately, I do think that this is a situation where a President Biden who was surrounded by different people or perhaps had a different Democratic coalition to work with would be willing to come to the table with Republicans, but he is really standing alone in this regard. And so because of that, I don't think we really have an option when it comes to any kind of ultimate bipartisan deal.
BAIER: And Morgan, we are talking big money here. "New York Times" lead tomorrow, Biden's budget would push federal spending and debt to record highs, first budget request proposes spending $6 trillion according to document the "New York Times" obtained. It would be the highest level of sustained spending since World War II.
ORTAGUS: Yes, and a lot of people on your show have made the point over the weeks, Bret, that it's hard for Republicans to criticize the spending because of the spending that happened under the past four years. And while I do think that's a valid point, I think someone has to look and say we can't continue to throw out $1 trillion here and $1 trillion there and sort of glade over it as if this stuff doesn't have real meaning, consequences, and effects.
I think where the American people are going to feel it is if this inflation trend continues and commodity gas prices, food prices continue to go up. We haven't experienced real inflation in 40 years. And if we start to experience that, that's when people are going to understand about these trillions and trillions that are being spent.
BAIER: Larry Summers and others saying it's time to stop emergency spending. That's a signal to somebody.
Panel, thank you. Stand by, when we come back, tomorrow's headlines tonight.
BAIER: Finally, tonight, a look at tomorrow's headlines tonight with the panel, and I am going to start. And that is a headline from "Reuters" just crossing. Facebook confirms it will resume political donations through its political action committee but will not make contributions to lawmakers who voted against Biden's certification. That from a spokesperson. I don't know how many headlines that will make, but it's breaking now. Back with the panel. Morgan?
ORTAGUS: My headline for tomorrow is Donald Trump finally endorses George Bush, P., that is, as in George P. Bush in Texas. "Politico" reported today that the two of them had a phone call because George P. is considering a run for attorney general in Texas.
BAIER: All right, that's the headline. Mara?
LIASSON: That's a great headline. Mine is pretty pedestrian. Despite movement on the numbers, two sides still far apart on infrastructure.
BAIER: And there we go. We got that one in the show. Ben, your headline for tomorrow?
DOMENECH: Forty-nine Senate Democrats totally cool with weird human-animal hybrids. They all voted against banning funding for that today on Capitol Hill in a very weird "Island of Dr. Moreau" like situation.
BAIER: Wow, that's pretty weird, too. In the time of cicadas.
DOMENECH: Very weird.
BAIER: And I see they have infiltrated Capitol Hill, by the way. I saw some live shots that we're infiltrated.
DOMENECH: They're everywhere.
BAIER: OK, panel, thank you very much. Tomorrow on SPECIAL REPORT we'll find whether it's constitutional to fine members of the House who refuse to wear masks. That's still a thing.
Thanks for inviting us in your home tonight. That's it for this SPECIAL REPORT, fair, balanced, and unafraid.
There is this show, FOX NEWS PRIMETIME. It's a great show, rotating hosts, this week hosted by Lawrence Jones, very interesting. And I'm going to toss him 15 seconds of this precious time. Lawrence?
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