'Special Report' panel on Russian indictments, FBI's apology

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," February 16, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL ROD ROSENSTEIN: The grand jury in the District of Columbia today returned an indictment presented by the special counsel's office. The indictment charges 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies for committing federal crimes while seeking to interfere in the United States political system, including the 2016 presidential election, with the stated goal of spreading distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.

Now, there is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.


MIKE EMANUEL, FOX NEWS: A rocking news day here in Washington on a Friday. Let's bring in our panel: Byron York, chief politics correspondent of the Washington Examiner; Marie Harf is a former spokeswoman at the State Department, and Matt Schlapp, contributor with The Hill. Gentlemen, lady, good evening. Your reaction to what you heard there, these indictments today.

MATT SCHLAPP, THE HILL: It's rather shocking. Everything about it is shocking. It's shocking to see to see the deputy attorney general to me making that announcement. It didn't come specifically from the special counsel's team. It is shocking that what they are saying is that these -- it's really interesting they said these Russians were spreading discord. These are serious charges but that was a strange word it seemed to use. It's weird that they said they have been doing it for a number of years maybe even before this election cycle.

It didn't seem like that ingenious a plan to get on Twitter and start to, you know, to say bad things about Hillary Clinton and other candidates. And I think for a lot of Republicans, they are kind of singing that song. After all of this is that all there is? And if that really is all there is, the American people are going to want to move on.

EMANUEL: Marie, you have a diplomatic background. How surprised were you by what you heard today?

MARIE HARF, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: I don't think that's all there is. I think this is the latest round and it's clear that Bob Mueller is pulling at a lot of different threads here. And it really outlines for the American people the extent in this one piece of Russia disinformation campaign. The American people should be concerned that they may have seen social media posts that were disinformation from Russians, that they may have attended rallies organized by these Russians bots.

And I think for a lot of the people it underscores the people that this is not a hoax. The Russian meddling was real and is real. This week you had the intelligence chief up on the Hill saying they are still trying to do this in 2018 and 2020. It is a serious ongoing threat that needs to be treated that way by the administration.

EMANUEL: There's another revelation today that the Russians were so sneaky they were doing events for and against candidate Trump. Take a listen to this.


ROSENSTEIN: After the election the defendants allegedly staged rallies to president-elect while simultaneously staging rallies to protest his election. For example, the defendants organized one rally to support the president-elect and another rally to oppose him, both in New York on the same day.


EMANUEL: Both in New York on the same day. Byron, your reaction to what you heard today?

BRYON YORK, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: I think actually what Rosenstein just said there supports this idea that they were -- there was really twofold, disrupt our system, to sow discord, and to mess with Hillary Clinton whom they thought was going to be the president. And so there were lesser targets. Bernie Sanders, they wanted to support him, and Jill Stein they wanted to support her. But, again, that was all kind of Hillary-focused just as their support of Trump was.

Then the unthinkable happens. Trump wins and they just begin to disrupt in a different way, putting on two rallies in New York, one a pro-Trump rally and the other is Trump is not my president rally. So I think it just supports the idea that they were just messing with things the whole time.

EMANUEL: Marie, what do you think the reaction was in Moscow to this?

HARF: It's probably not surprising. None of these people that were charged will ever see a U.S. court. Russia will not extradite them, I don't think. But it put them on notice, and for a lot of people, some of what's been concerning to some about the fact that President Trump keeps calling this idea that Russia meddled a hoax, right, that he doesn't seem to accept the intelligence community's assessment is because what they need to be doing right now is planning to prevent it next time.

And that testimony this week from the intelligence chief should be very sunny to Americans. They are still doing this stuff. And yes, it's just Facebook and Twitter. A lot of Americans get their news from Facebook and Twitter.

SCHLAPP: This is rather absurd. This is like Rocky and Bullwinkle kind of stuff. When I think of Russian collusion in our elections, I am offended. I think it's repulsive. Is this what it was? It was 13 guys having some rallies?

HARF: There is going to be more. This isn't it.

SCHLAPP: This is clearly their shot. Acting as bots on social media, someone might have read Facebook post that was incorrect, that's what this was all about? It's repugnant. It shouldn't have happened. Obama should have stopped it. But by the same token this is not a worth a year of the country's time over everything else we have to deal with in this country, and these charges of Russian collusion has clearly been ridiculous and not true.

YORK: It's not a surprise either. The intelligence committees in Capitol Hill have known almost everything that is in this indictment. A lot of it has actually been reported in the press. And remember there was just a huge excitement over the Facebook ads a while back with the intelligence committees which really added up to very, very little.

SCHLAPP: Most of them ran after the election.

EMANUEL: I want to get to the other bombshell news today regarding the FBI, that they got a tip about this young man and it fell through the cracks. As a dad I find that particularly devastating. Your reaction to that, Matt?

SCHLAPP: Yes. No, I mean, look, law enforcement they have a tough job. And they're not going to catch every bad person that wants to do harm to this society. That being said, I think this is just not acceptable to the American people to know these were not just somebody saying something bad about a guy. This is calling the FBI and telling them chapter and verse why this person was a threat.

EMANUEL: Marie, he worked at high levels of our government. Does somebody lose their job for this?

HARF: Someone probably should. And I don't think it's just one person though. This has to be a systematic look at how we go about this because we have always heard if you see something, say something. There are bad people out there. But you go to the FBI because you trust that they will act on it. We need to take a look top to bottom at how this was handled. Someone probably should lose their job over this, but we can't just blame it on one person. We need to take a look at this. We need to look at gun laws, we need to look at mental health, all of it in the wake of something like this because we have to prevent this from happening again.


YORK: And for the FBI itself, a lot of Republicans have been very critical of the FBI's handling of highly politicized investigations, the Clinton email investigation, the Trump-Russia investigation. But at the same time, praising the work that the FBI does and fighting crime around the country. And to have this horrendous mistake happen is just really bad.

EMANUEL: A lot of folks behind us on Capitol Hill warning about undermining the FBI. But this is a few at the FBI undermining the agency itself.

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