Trump administration blocks taxpayer-funded family planning clinics from providing abortion referrals

This is a rush transcript from "The Story," February 22, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, HOST: Thank you very much, Bret. Good evening, everybody. And breaking tonight. We are getting brand new information on the charges against Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots and singer R. Kelly. Both facing some stunning charges tonight related to sexual offenses.

And there heat also on labor secretary Alexander Acosta for his questionable handling of another very high-profile sexual impropriety case. On a Friday night, a breaking news on “The Story.”

But first tonight, the message from presidential candidates who supported former "Empire" star Jussie Smollett, is that regardless of whatever happened, they say it should not detract from this.


SEN. CORY BOOKER, D-N.J.: We know in America that bigoted and biased attacks are on the rise in a serious way.


MACCALLUM: Kamala Harris, agree. She wrote this. "We must speak the truth. Hate crimes are on the rise in America. Just last year, the FBI released statistics that revealed a 17 percent increase in the number of hate crimes in America."

Smollett is hardly the only hoax perpetrated on the public in the name of gaining the aura of what is now referred to as victimhood chic or convincing the public that Trumpism leads to bigotry.

Here are just a few of the examples of similar acts since President Trump was elected. Indiana, Hitler references and gay slurs spray-painted on St. David's Episcopal Church right after the election. Trump backers were blamed.

But it turned out that it was the organist at the church. He was a gay man who said that he was fearful about the outcome of the election and he wanted others to "be scared with me."

In New York, 18-year-old Yasmin Seweid shocked the city in 2016 with a terrible story about Trump supporters who had screamed at her on the subway and tried to rip off her hijab. Two weeks later, she admitted she had made the whole thing up.

And in Michigan, when graffiti saying KKK and leave n-word, kept showing up over the course of a month at Eastern Michigan University. It turned out that it was coming from a former African-American student who had gone there.

And, of course, the recent Covington high school boys, who Nathan Phillips claimed were attacking four black individuals on the plaza in Washington, D.C. But then the tape later revealed that it was actually the opposite. Members of the Black Israelites were, in fact, taunting the boys, calling them incest babies among other things.

My next guest has written extensively about hate crime statistics as they actually exist in this country. Robby Soave is the associate editor at Reason, and the author of the upcoming book Panic Attack: Young Radicals In The Age of Trump. Robby, good to have you here tonight.

ROBBY SOAVE, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, REASON: Thank you for having me. Good to be here.

MACCALLUM: It's so important in these situations when there are these statements that are thrown out there is just sort of articles of faith that we drill down and we do take a look. What is actually going on in the country, is it something to be concerned about? Is it epidemic? What have you found when it comes to hate crimes?

Absolutely. If you look at the data that the federal government specifically, the FBI compiles relating to hate crimes, you find that, well, yes it would appear that there was a slight increase from 2016 to 2017.

Actually, many more police agencies submitted data in the latter year. So, what looks like arise could just be the fact that now we have more municipalities being counted.

I went that all the way back to 1996 and found actually the number of hate crimes total overall was higher than even what they counted today with all the additional police office's submitting data.

If you look like in the long term, you see kind of fluctuations year to year. But they don't really connect to anything they're just it happens to do with who's submitting data and how good a job they're doing. It does not support this kind of narrative that the country is getting more frightening and more horrifying for black people, gay people, et cetera.


MACCALLUM: All right. What do you say though to those who would -- who would look at that and listen to you tonight and say, you know, a lot of these go unreported that they hear so much anecdotally, and that they are concerned that these tensions that they trace back to the administration that they are clearly on the rise out there, what do you say to them?

SOAVE: Well, I mean certainly, this is a country of -- you know, hundreds of millions of people. So, of course, there are -- you know, bad things happening every day. But anecdotes are not a substitute for a more holistic view of what's actually happening of looking at the statistics.

Because unfortunately, some of these anecdotes like with Smollett, when you -- when you look at what actually happened, they don't stand up to scrutiny. We don't know what percentage of the total are like that. But I've -- you know I've investigated a lot of campus incidents that are often not criminal, hate incidents but just bias incidents.

And many of them are unsolved but the ones that do get solved, you do see quite often that there's more to THE STORY or its outright fake. Which is not to diminish -- you know, anyone who was the victim of something terrible because it does happen.

MACCALLUM: Absolutely, no. Absolutely, not. One of the other things that you read, when you look into these numbers on hate crimes and what people are saying about it, is that anti-Semitism is on the rise in this country. And we -- you know, remember, obviously, the horrible killing at the synagogue in Pittsburgh. What are your numbers tell you about that?

SOAVE: Right, the media has been all over this statistic that there's been a 57 percent spike in anti-Semitic hate. This was from the Anti-Defamation League. But I look specifically the statistic, actually anti-Semitic violence was way down since Trump's election. The increase had to do with bomb threats made by a single person, a teenager who is crazy who lived in Israel. That he made against Jewish institutions. Which is terrible, don't get me wrong.

But again there's -- this is not -- there's no evidence there that this is some actual increase in violence and that it has something to do with our current political situation. That's a -- that's a drawing connections that the media sometimes does that are not warranted by what the actual data shows.

MACCALLUM: Yes, interesting piece. Robby, thank you very much. Good to have you back tonight.

SOAVE: My pleasure.

MACCALLUM: So, my next guest writes in USA Today. "Jussie Smollett's alleged plan to manufacture outrage diminishes impact of real hate crime."

James Robbins is a member of USA TODAY's board of contributors and an author. The author of Erasing America: Losing Our Future by Destroying Our Past.

James, good to have you with us tonight. You know, first of all, your reaction to that conversation and this idea that we are being constantly told that hate crimes are epidemic and that they are rising at a quick pace in this country.

JAMES ROBBINS, COMMENTARY WRITER, USA TODAY: Well it's an article of faith among the left that -- you know, the era of Trump has unleashed all of this hate. The Trump voters are racist and everybody who supports the president is sort of ready to go to commit violence against minorities, and that's simply not true.

I mean, the data don't support that. If you look not only at the different municipalities that are reporting these things. But also what they report, each state defines hate crimes differently. What's a hate crime in one place may not be in another.

And it's important to point out that during the Clinton-era -- you know, the 1990s, hate crimes were being reported in a much higher rate. So, how can this be Donald Trump's fault?

MACCALLUM: Interesting. What, what -- you know, I think one of the most disturbing thing is, and those are isolated instances that I mentioned on the way into the show tonight about these hoaxes. But I should also point out that, that where we -- the article that we got them from was in the New York Post, there were probably 25 that were listed.

We only put about five of those or six of those hoaxes into the beginning of the show. But what it -- the disturbing thing that it says to me is that people know that it's going to work. That they will get the attention that they want if they blame this kind of attack which no one wants to see in this country on Trump supporters. You know, that -- that's discouraging at best.

ROBBINS: Right. Because the hoaxers know that they have all these enablers out there. Whether they're in the media, whether they're politicians or people on Twitter or bloggers or whoever they are.

People in Hollywood, who are going to repeat these claims, they're going to expound on them. They're going to repeat the stereotypes of the Trump voter or the Trump supporter. And then, they're going to analyze them in the context of the Trump-era, what's wrong with America. And a bunch of other things that simply not only aren't they true, but they damage the political dialogue in our republic because they tell people that, "Well, you know, you are presumed guilty."

We heard Jussie Smollett talking about the presumption of innocence while all of the Trump supporters are presumed guilty of racism, sexism, homophobia, and so forth.

MACCALLUM: You know, and it's -- what does it say about this young man? And he -- you know, Jussie Smollett, obviously, you know, I mean as we've pointed out, the Chicago police have laid out a pretty persuasive case. Obviously, the process has to play out from here, and he will have his moment in court and that, that will play out.

But -- you know, when you look at the reason that he did this, and you look at this idea that John McWhorter wrote about in The Atlantic, of victimhood chic. That to be successful to have a role on a very successful T.V. show, "Empire" is not enough. You know, that to be admired is almost -- it's almost aspirational, in this case, to be a victim. I mean, that it is so backwards in terms of what we -- what we think about when we think about the way things should be in this country.

ROBBINS: Oh, definitely. I mean, victimhood -- I mean, he was looking for a way to make victimhood pay because he's $100,000 an episode. You know, if it's true that he was looking for a pay raise, well that wasn't enough.

$100,000 in episode is pretty good. I don't think he's going to get a lot of sympathy for this. But, you know, he's an actor. He works in a world of make-believe.

And so, it probably seemed very reasonable to him to come up with this sort of make-believe scenario with these cartoonish villains. And then he plays the -- you know, the poor victim. And he goes out there and publicize of it.


MACCALLUM: Yes. And as you say, he signed the check, he signed a personal check. I mean, yes, as someone said last night, he should have watched an episode of Colombo, maybe, when he was done with the "Empire" if he wanted to get this -- if he want to figure out how to pull this thing up more effectively.

James Robbins, great piece today. Thank you very much for being here tonight.

ROBBINS: Thank you.

MACCALLUM: Good to see you. So, he and Tom Brady have six Super Bowl rings. Seems like they have it all, right? But now, the Patriots' owner, Bob Kraft, is said to be involved in a prostitution ring.

He says that is not what happened. The police say that there's a video. So, we bring in Attorney Mark Eiglarsh, next.


MACCALLUM: So his team just clinch their six Super Bowl title, but it's not been a happy Friday probably for Patriot's owner Robert Kraft now shockingly on the list of Johns in a human trafficking investigation. Police in Jupiter, Florida charged the prominent NFL owner with two counts of going to this place, the Orchids of Asia Day Spa to solicit prostitutes on two occasions they say.


ANDREW SHARP, DETECTIVE, JUPITER FLORIDA POLICE DEPARTMENT: The question was, does the video contain Mr. Kraft inside receiving the alleged acts, the answer to that is yes.


MACCALLUM: A Kraft spokesperson says we categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. President Trump, Kraft's longtime friend said this today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the charges against Bob Kraft --

TRUMP: Well, it's very sad. I was very surprised to see it. He's proclaimed his innocence totally and but I'm very surprised to see it.


MACCALLUM: Here now Mark Eiglarsh, criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor. Mark, good to have you here tonight.


MACCALLUM: So the NFL put out this statement. The NFL is aware of the ongoing law enforcement matter and will continue to monitor developments, they said. They also -- we also have their conduct policy. It is not enough to simply avoid being found guilty of a crime. We are all held to a higher standard and must conduct ourselves in a way that is responsible, promotes the values of the NFL and is lawful which I guess some people would find interesting given some of what we've seen.

But your thoughts on this case because there's the NFL side of it and then there's, of course, the legal side of it.

EIGLARSH: OK, so let's talk legal. He's alleged to have gone in on two separate occasions and they claim that he received a sexual act on each occasion. They charged him with two misdemeanor counts, could get up to 60 days in jail as the highest possible penalty. That's not going to happen. They'll offer him diversion like any first-time offenders or pay a minor fine.

What he's not charged with, Martha, and it's important for people to understand that. He's not charged with human trafficking. It's alleged that the girls were trafficked but there's no allegation that he knew or should have known that they were.

MACCALLUM: Yes, that's a very important point and it was part of a sweep of a human trafficking investigation and apparently they are you know, really going at this hard as they should be in Florida, and they're looking at a lot of these different places. This one was a spa, you know, probably the like a strip mall spa, like the kind of place people go to get their nails done and that kind of thing and they said where the girls were sleeping there and eating in the back backdoor and not leaving, never, never leaving the building, Mark.

EIGLARSH: So two things that I wanted to point out. First, it's ironic that in the window at the very bottom, it says no soliciting. The second thing I wanted to point out is that they let these girls engage in these acts for a long period of time. Again, we have 25 separate people who are arrested not just Mr. Kraft. So if they don't want to be performing these acts, and they are they are being trafficked, I'm questioning why they let them do these acts for a period of time to be able to arrest 25 people.

MACCALLUM: That's a great question. That's a great question. I mean, obviously, the concern is that there are people who are underage and that there are people here who are against their will. That's really -- so during the course of this investigation, you would think they would have swept in and busted people very quickly in that situation right?

EIGLARSH: Right. You would think. So now what, the argument is well, we needed to build up a case. What, against people like Bob Kraft who will literally pay in the worst case scenario, assuming he's guilty of both charges and I don't know what the evidence is, he'll pay a fine like most first-time offenders, big deal. So the answer is you want to protect the victims but they engage in at least 25 separate acts. You got 25 different John's and they didn't want to do that.

MACCALLUM: There's you know, a couple of very high-profile people also involved. John Childs is also on the list. This reporting came out late this afternoon. He's the founder of a private equity firm. John Havens who's the former Citigroup president chief of operation.

I mean, I think a lot of people look at this list and they just wonder what -- you know, why would these people be in this place in the first place? But I guess that goes to the just some deeper questions that we don't have the answers to here tonight, Mark, right?

EIGLARSH: Well, yes. And again, they're presumed to be innocent. And it's not going to be a slam dunk too. They have -- they have video but you're going to need some people to testify as to what was going on. And that means these gals are going to have to testify. I don't know if they will.

MACCALLUM: Yes. Mark Eiglarsh, we'll watch it. Thank you very much. Coming up here tonight on THE STORY Governor Huckabee and news just breaking out of the White House as the president makes a major nomination moments ago when we come back.


MACCALLUM: Just a short time ago, President Trump announcing that he will nominate Kelly Knight Craft, Ambassador to the United Nations. Correspondent David Spunt in Washington with what we're learning about her and about this nomination tonight. Hi, David!

DAVID SPUNT, CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Martha! Good evening. Big news. The President made the announcement via Twitter just about an hour ago praising Kelly Knight Craft, the current U.S. Ambassador to Canada. Trump tweeted "Kelly has done an outstanding job representing our nation and I have no doubt that under her leadership, our country will be represented at the highest level. Congratulations to Kelly and her entire family.

Now, Kelly Knight craft took the diplomatic post back in October 2017. She is the first woman to hold this position. Originally, coming from Kentucky, she served in a diplomatic role overseeing U.S. engagement in Africa under President George W Bush. She's married to Joe Craft. He runs Alliance Resource Partners. It's the third largest coal producer in the United States.

Now, this is a position the President has been waiting to fill for several months after former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley announced at the end of last year she was returning to private life. And Knight-Craft's nomination comes after Heather Nauert, State Department spokeswoman and our former Fox News colleague announced she was withdrawing her name for personal reasons just last week.

But now the focus is on Kelly Knight Craft who won't just walk into the position, shall face Senate confirmation, and the Trump administration wants to get her up to speed and up to the U.N. as soon as possible. Martha, no word yet on her replacement as Ambassador to Canada just yet.

MACCALLUM: David, thank you.

SPUNT: Sure.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT: And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth. All children born and unborn are made in the holy image of God.


MACCALLUM: That was from the State of the Union. Today President Trump announcing a new rule that will take millions of dollars away from Planned Parenthood. You can no longer take federal funds if your counseling includes any information on where or how to get an abortion. Opponents call it a gag rule and supporters are cheering the President on.

Here now former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, also a Fox News Contributor. Governor, welcome. Good to have you with us tonight. You know, obviously, there's going to be a lot of pushback on this because it really undercuts a tremendous amount of the federal funding that Planned Parenthood is supported by.

MIKE HUCKABEE, CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the fact is Planned Parenthood shouldn't be getting a dime of any federal funding. They're the largest abortion provider in the United States. It's abominable what they do. They've been exposed as having sold babies body parts which is just unthinkable. The fact is the President has fulfilled yet another promise to protect human life and I think this is a very important one.

I wish Congress would take all funding from Planned Parenthood because it's pretty much a fraud that they provide all these services when the fact is they're pretty much an abortion machine and make a lot of money doing it.

MACCALLUM: Well, I mean that this is exactly the way to carve out money from Planned Parenthood because they say they refer and that business goes to them and to their bottom line ultimately as you accurately point out. Here's what Nancy Pelosi said. Jay Inslee, also the Washington Governor has also said that several states, 14 I think are going to get together and try to push back on this legally.

She says, "This outrageous assault on the healthcare of vulnerable and underserved women and families would choke off their access to affordable contraception, critical health information, and preventive health care gravely undermining the health and strength of America." So who would fill that role, Governor?

HUCKABEE: Well, there are a lot of community health centers that can do it. There's enormous numbers of hospitals. But this is such a ridiculous thing for Nancy Pelosi to talk about this as health care. There's nothing healthy about killing a baby. I mean the baby certainly doesn't come out better on this. And I think it's disingenuous for any of the Democrats whether it's Jay Inslee of Washington or Nancy Pelosi to somehow pretend that all that Planned Parenthood is out there to do is to provide contraceptive services and to help women have better health.

It's an abortion clinic. That's basically what they do. And most of the other things, even pap smears and mammograms, they don't actually do it at Planned Parenthood. They simply are the middleman and they refer it to someone else. Why don't we get the middleman out of it and let people get those services? We all think that's a good thing. But let them do it directly from the people providing it which is not Planned Parenthood.

MACCALLUM: Obviously it's going to ignite quite a battle. And as you say, the President promised that he would do this and he's following through on it. This is an -- I mean, just take a look at this poll. I mean, this is where the United States is on pro-life and pro-choice. Pro-life 44 percent according to the latest Fox News poll, pro-choice 46 percent, and it really has become -- it used to be that there were people of both of these persuasions on both sides, Democrats who were pro-life, Republicans who were pro-choice. That is just not the case anymore.

Neither side seems to allow anybody who is not aligning with them on this to be part of their party anymore, governor.

HUCKABEE: I think it's going to be a defining issue in the 2020 elections. And if people think that abortion any time any place is fine, they'll vote Democrat. If they think we ought to protect human life especially in the latter stages of pregnancy, they're not going to have a choice, they'll need to vote Republican. It'll come down to that.

MACCALLUM: Yes. And a very permissive new law passed in Vermont just this week as well. Governor, thank you. Good to see as always, Governor Huckabee.

HUCKABEE: Thank you, Martha.

MACCALLUM: So coming up is Bernie Sanders running into the same buzzsaw that he hit last time around started by his own party.


REP. GREGORY MEEKS, D-N.Y.: Bernie Sanders is not a Democrat. If in fact, you want to be the Democratic nominee, you should be a Democrat. If you are not a Democrat, you should not run. You should run as an independent.



MACCALLUM: So, we have free college, the green new deal, Medicare for all, higher taxes. These are some of the campaign promises that we've heard so far from the 2020 candidates for the Democrat side.

But Bernie Sanders, the godfather of a lot of these ideas, is now facing a head wind from the party that he is running to represent. Here's long-time Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks.


MEEKS: If he wants to be a Democrat, he should register in the Democratic Party. And then you can talk about running and to be my representative. I want a Democrat to be my representative as president of the United States.


MACCALLUM: Joining me now Michael Knowles. Host of the Michael Knowles show on the Daily Wire, and Austan Goolsbee, economic professor school at University of Chicago Booth School of Business and former chief economist under President Obama. Gentlemen, welcome. Great to have both of you with me tonight.

So, Michael, let me start with you. You say despite the fact that Bernie Sanders had a pretty impressive initial haul of money, you think that he is actually going nowhere in this race. How come?

MICHAEL KNOWLES, HOST, THE MICHAEL KNOWLES SHOW: I think the money bum means nothing. People forget that Ron Paul raised precisely the same amount of money and precisely the same amount of time 12 years ago. Ron Paul will never get his party's nomination nor will Bernie Sanders. Though actually for opposite reasons.

I think the argument that the congressman just made that Bernie Sanders is not a Democrat and, therefore, he shouldn't run as a Democrat is ridiculous. Who cares how he is registered?

Bernie Sanders has redefined the Democrat Party according to his radical ideological lines. All of these Democrat candidates now are spouting the sort of policy proposals that Bernie Sanders in his 2016 campaign embraced.


KNOWLES: And so, the question is because of Bernie's success, why would anybody vote for him now? An old white man when they have so many more attractive candidates for an identity obsessed already radicalized Democrat Party?

MACCALLUM: Well, we'll see. That maybe one of the reasons that some folks are pushing out videos like this of him back in 1985. Take a quick look at this and then we want to hear from Austan.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, I-VT: You know, it's funny, sometimes American journalists talk about how bad a country is. That people are lining up for food. That's a good thing. In other countries people don't line up for food. The rich get the food and the poor starve to death.


MACCALLUM: So, it's good we have bread lines. Austan, what do you make of this whole Bernie Sanders? I mean, how do you think he is going to fair in all of this? He had I think a stronger start than most people thought he was going to.

AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, FORMER CHIEF ECONOMIST FOR PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Yes and no. You know, last time in 2016, he was the obvious receptacle of the anti-Hillary segment of the party. And so, you know, it felt like it went forever. And he was kind of the hot, fresh pizza and now the pizza has been sitting there for four years and I do think Michael is right.

Look, you got candidates from New York and candidates from California. There's a bunch of different parts of the Democratic Party let's say that each person is representing. Here's an old white guy from Vermont and I don't know that it's at --


MACCALLUM: You guys are really picking on the old white guy. That's not a very popular phrase in a lot of quarters. But, you know, when you take a look at the chances, though, you know, of who can -- whether or not President Trump can be beat, Michael, let me get your thoughts on this. Put up this Fox News poll, excellent 19 percent. Good 36 percent. And President Trump's favorability rating is down around 43 percent right now.

So, you have got a pylon from a number of people including Donna Shalala and then you've got the AOC spokesperson Corbin Trent who says that they refuse to endorse Bernie for 2020. We're excited to see many progressives in the race who are not thinking at all about the next election.

You know, it raises a lot of questions about who will -- who will be ordained and just how far left that person is likely to be in the end.

KNOWLES: This is the trouble of the Bernie Sandersization of the Democrat Party is I think a generic Democrat absolutely could beat President Trump in 2020. The trouble is there is no such thing as a generic Democrat. And when you have all of these individual candidates, with all of their individual weaknesses --


MACCALLUM: What about Joe Biden?

KNOWLES: Joe Biden is not yet in the race it certainly seems that he is going to run. But if we're talking about stale pizza as Austan used the phrase I think Joe Biden has been stale since 1988.


MACCALLUM: I love it when Austan call Bernie Sanders a fresh hot pizza. You went from being an old white guy a fresh to hot pizza. Austan, thank you. We're going to be talking about Bernie Sanders, I think, for some time to come. As we watch all of this. Thanks, guys. Good to see you tonight.


MACCALLUM: So, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta in hot water tonight for letting billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein who was linked to many powerful men off easy. Steve Hilton is fired up about this case and he is next.


SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Again, we are looking into the matter. I'm not aware of any changes on that front.



MACCALLUM: So, watching this one. The White House now says that they are quote, "looking into" the role of Alexander Acosta in the case of billionaire sex offender Epstein, Jeffrey Epstein.

A judge ruling that the prosecution team Acosta headed broke the law in their plea deal with the well-connected billionaire, who is accused of molesting dozens of underaged girls who were never permitted to tell their story.

Trace Gallagher has the back story for us tonight from our West Coast newsroom.

TRACE GALLAGHER, CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Martha. What's paramount in this case is that some 80 women came forward claiming that from 2001 to 2006 they were molested and abused by billionaire Jeffrey Epstein.

FBI and court records also show that Epstein put together a network of underaged girls and forced them to perform sex acts at his Palm Beach mansion and he was suspected of trafficking minors from overseas to various sex parties at his homes around the world.

Bottom line, he was facing a 53-page indictment and a life sentence in maximum security prison and, yet, ended up serving 13 months in a private wing of the Palm Beach county jail allowed to leave six days a week to go to work. How is that possible?

Well, that's where Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta comes in. In 2007, Acosta was Miami's top prosecutor and accepted a deal called a non- prosecution agreement, which allowed Jeffrey Epstein to plead guilty to prostitution charges in state court and get immunity from federal charges.

The deal also protected Epstein's accomplices meaning if ever well-known influential people were also having sex with minors they would not be prosecuted. And to top it all off, the alleged victims had no recourse.

In fact, the victims' attorneys say it's as if Acosta allowed Epstein to write up the agreement. But now a federal judge in Florida says prosecutors led by Acosta broke the law by signing the deal with Epstein without notifying his sex abuse victims.

The Labor Department is now defending Acosta's actions saying the decisions, quote, "were approved by department leadership and followed departmental procedures."

Three House Democrats Jackie Speier, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Lois Frankel are calling on President Trump to demand Acosta's resignation and today the president said this. Watch.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT: I really don't know too much about it. I know he has done a great job as labor secretary. And that seems like a long time ago, but I know he has been a fantastic labor secretary.


GALLAGHER: Meantime, many of Jeffrey Epstein's victims and alleged victims who felt shut out of the legal process have brought civil cases against him. Martha?

MACCALLUM: Yes. Trace, thank you very much. Here now Steve Hilton, host of The Next Revolution. There are a lot of people, Steve, who do not want this story to see the light of day again.

STEVE HILTON, HOST: That's exactly right. But it's really important that we do for exactly those facts that Trace laid out there so brilliantly.

This is a really outrageous example of something that people have been complaining about more and more over the last few years. We hear it all the time the rigged system.


HILTON: And I'd ask people to think about it like this. Everyone who thinks that Hillary Clinton, for example, and the Clintons, the way that they have been treated by the justice system means that there is one rule for the rich and the powerful and the well-connected and one for everyone else, it's exactly the same here.

For this monster, and that's what he is. He is a pedophile monster this guy Epstein. And it turns out because he got friends like Alexander Acosta in your pocket back then in Florida you get away with a sentence that no one else who didn't have that wealth and those connections would do. And this is one rule for the Clintons should be the same here. He should go.

MACCALLUM: All right. It's pretty incredible. Thirteen-month sentence and he was allowed to leave six days a week.


MACCALLUM: So, he pretty much had free reign to do what he wanted when he was supposedly incarcerated. This is a statement from Mr. Acosta back in 2011 on this case.

He says, "The bottom line is Mr. Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire served time in jail and is now a registered sex offender. He has been required to pay his victims restitution, though restitution clearly cannot compensate for the crime."

But there is some really great reporting that was done by the Miami Herald on this story. And they spoke to a lot of these women and what their concern is --


MACCALLUM: -- that they were never told that a deal was being made. And they feel like they never got their day to tell their story before he was sentenced.

HILTON: That's exactly right. And that's what's been investigated now and it looks like -- that itself was a crime on the part of the prosecutors. They didn't follow the rules.

So, in that statement from the Labor Department saying he followed -- it was all agreed by the high ups and he was just following procedure. First of all, it's disgusting to hide behind the kind of bureaucratic fine print in that way and not take responsibility.


HILTON: Because secondly it doesn't even look as if it's true. And there's another thing I'd say, fine, he may be doing a good job as labor secretary. I don't have any reason to doubt that. I mean, we obviously we got a very good economy. People are getting jobs. That's great.

But honestly, if there is no accountability here. If something like this can happen, if a monster like this can get away with this, and people can see all the facts, and see that nothing is done about it and that Alexander Acosta just sails on without taking responsibility it will further undermine everyone's confidence in our entire system of governance.

MACCALLUM: Great points. And worth pointing out also that Senator Ben Sasse is opening an inquiry into this whole situation as well and is he committed to staying on it, so we are going to see where this goes, fascinating case. Thank you very much. Good to see you tonight, Steve Hilton.

HILTON: Thank you, Martha.

MACCALLUM: So, coming up, a special edition of ladies night coming up next.



EDDIE JOHNSON, SUPERINTENDENT, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT: As I looked out into the crowd, I just wish that the families of gun violence in this city got this much attention because that's who really deserves the amount of attention that we are giving to this particular incident.


MACCALLUM: What a great point that was. Chicago police blasting Jussie Smollett for distracting from the actual gun violence epidemic in that city. Smollett dominated the headlines ever since orchestrating and reporting a fake hate crime last month. He is he not the only subject though, of intense scrutiny tonight.

Also breaking today New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has been charged with soliciting - two counts of soliciting prostitution. Rapper R. Kelly has been indicted on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. Those rumors have been around for a very long time with regard to him.

And as we await public testimony from the woman accusing Lieutenant Governor of Virginia Justin Fairfax, this whole situation is still hanging around out there and going to get a lot more heated in the days to come because she says that the two women say that he sexually assaulted them.

Joining me now Lisa Boothe, Jessica Tarlov, and Susan Li. All, I mean, it's just unbelievable. You get which is the next shoe to drop. But with regard to Jussie Smollett which I should mention which was not in that intro he is claiming that he has been wronged that due process has not been carried out for him.

And I just want to be on the record saying that he, you know, this process is ongoing although it is pretty easy to say that it looks not so good for him.

LISA BOOTHE, CONTRIBUTOR: It is ongoing but I think for the Chicago police to come out and speak the way that they did, I think they feel pretty confident about the evidence they have against him. Otherwise, I don't think they would come out in that strong of terms.

And just think of how selfish he is and also smart in a way to exploit the existing biases that exist within both the media and then also on the left. And what I see is both with the Covington kids' story and this you have so many people on the left, so many people in the media willing to believe the worst narrative about Trump supporters.

And what I think that says about them, it says more about them and their own biases and their own intolerance and the way that they viewed 63 million Americans. And so, I say shame on them.

MACCALLUM: Yes. I just want to bring up this woman Carmia Tang because she represents so many other people in Chicago who are fighting to have their cases be the focus of attention. Her son was murdered, shot in Chicago, shot and killed in Chicago. Where is his national media attention, she says. Parents and families of gun violence matter, too. Can we please get the same efforts and national media attention that Smollett got with his alleged attack?

You know, Jessica, there comes a point obviously a big story, people are interested in it across the nation. But there comes a point where I almost don't want to -- I don't want to say his name anymore because it is horrible that he has gotten more attention than these stories.

JESSICA TARLOV, CONTRIBUTOR: And I think that's what the team behind "Empire" felt when they cut him out of the last two episodes. Not only was this very upsetting for the cast and crew members they are part of the "Empire" family. But I think they were trying to do their part to remove this from the national consciousness because it has been so difficult.

I agree with Lisa that the Chicago Police Department must feel that they have an ironclad case here against him for them to come out so passionately. And I would say as well, people should look at the interview that Rahm Emanuel gave.

He was very emotional there talking about what they have done in that city to try to tamp down on gun violence and to change the narrative about Chicago and the damage that this has done because of it.

And I think it's also important when you look at the Chicago Police Department to think about what happened with Laquan McDonald, for instance, a story that got all of our attention --

MACCALLUM: Absolutely.

TARLOV: -- and what steps they have taken with body cams and hopefully bettering the situation there to be the focus rather than a celebrity story which is what this is panning out to be.

MACCALLUM: Yes. Pathetic attempt at attention-getting is what it appears to be, Susan.

SUSAN LI, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, he was making $125,000 an episode. He did this to boost up his salary. He already made $7 million and he was trying to rival the stars of the show like Terrence Howard and Taraji Henson who are famous before they got to "Empire."

This to me is entitlements and he's pretty much ruined his career because Disney bought off 21st Century Fox. They don't want anything to do with bad press. They are very image conscious and I think this is probably the worst career move he could have made?

MACCALLUM: Yes. What about this Robert Kraft story? I mean, you know, on top of the world one minute, six Super Bowl rings and now he's being associated with two counts of prostitution and the police say they have a video.

BOOTHE: Well, he is also allowed due process. If you have a video pretty hard to disprove that, I think the one good thing about these different cases that we are seeing this week with R. Kelly also with Justin Fairfax some of that getting attention and then also with Robert Kraft is the fact that law enforcement is involved in all three of these incidents.

My understanding is with the Justin Fairfax case Vanessa Tyson has gone to the Suffolk County district attorney. So, the good news is at least they are going to a place where --


MACCALLUM: Absolutely.

BOOTHE: -- law enforcement can get involved.

MACCALLUM: Yes, I totally agree.

BOOTHE: And they will all be given due process as well.


TARLOV: It was definitely surprising that news broke during Outnumbered where we're all sitting on the couch and everyone had a collective like huh? You know, you have six-time Super Bowl champion team. You have a 30- year-old girlfriend, wife now.

LI: Thirty-nine.

TARLOV: But listen, due process, let's hear it out.


MACCALLUM: This is potentially a human trafficking ring.

TARLOV: Right. This is how they have been watching for months.

MACCALLUM: I mean, these young men have been sleeping and eating at this place the oasis of -- orchid of oasis, whatever the heck it it's called. You know, Susan, this story gets uglier it sounds like.

LI: Absolutely. These are women that are trafficked from outside of America from Asia, apparently.

MACCALLUM: Yes, orchids of Asia.

LI: Yes. So, it does get ugly. And it talks about entitlement and privilege once again and just, you know, people of power. Men of power just probably just, I guess, given to their worse inclinations, due process, I agree. But, if true, it sounds pretty awful.

TARLOV: Also, it adds human trafficking and sex trafficking specifically has been one of the biggest bipartisan issues that we've seen both the Senate and the House. So, I imagine THE STORY is going to get a ton more attention --


MACCALLUM: Yes. That's too hard for everybody to be against --

TARLOV: -- that Robert Kraft is going to want.

MACCALLUM: Thanks to you, guys. Great to see both. So, before we go tonight and e-mail that we received from a viewer named Carson. It said this. "I was watching your show last night with my mom and I notice an error on the screen when Martha goes to commercial breaks. And there's an error on the keyboard and a z is where the y should be. I seem to always notice details," Carson says like this. "And I thought Martha would want to know, too.

And Carson, you could not be more correct. He says, "I try to write to her but I'm not allowed to have a social media account yet," which means you have a very smart mom, Carson. "I'm only 12 years old. Thank you, and have a good night. I have to get back to my homework now."

Good catch, Carson. I am a stickler for typos of any kind. So, you and I are on the same wavelength. We are so happy that you corrected that and please let us know, Carson, if we get anything else wrong. Thank you.

We read all of your e-mail and you are about to see we listen. This is for "The Story" tonight on a Friday night. We will see you back here on Monday. Tucker is up next but first, watch closely, Carson, we fixed it. I promise.

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