Trump doubles down on response to Charlottesville

This is a rush transcript from "The Fox News Specialists," August 15, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

EBONI K. WILLIAMS, THE FOX NEWS SPECIALIST HOST: Hey, everybody. I'm Eboni K. Williams along with Kat Timpf and Guy Benson. This is The Fox News Specialists. Just a short time ago, President Trump unloading on the controversy around his response to this weekend's racist violence in Charlottesville, his remarks coming amid an infrastructure policy announcement, it was intense.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement, was a fine statement. But you don't make statements that direct unless you know the facts. It takes a little while to get the facts. You still don't know the facts. There was no way of making a correct statement that early. I had to see the facts, unlike a lot of reporters. Unlike a lot of reporters. I didn't know David Duke was there. I wanted to see the facts. The driver of the car is a disgrace to himself, his family, and this country. And that is -- you can call it terrorism. You can call it murder. You can call it whatever you want. I would just call it as the fastest one to come up with a good verdict.
That's what I would call it.

I watched this very closely, much more closely than you people watched it. And you had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent, and nobody wants to say that, but I'll say it right now. You have a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit, and they were very, very violent. I've condemned neo-Nazis. I've condemned many different groups. But not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacist by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue, Robert E. Lee.

So -- excuse me. And you take a look at some of the groups and you see, and you know if you're honest reporters, which in many cases you're not, but many of those people were there to protest the taking down of that statue of Robert E. Lee. So, this week it's Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week, and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?


WILLIAMS: All right, Guy Benson, I will start with you and quickly come to you, Kat Timpf. I heard the president in those remarks, Guy, really doubled down, to me, on his initial response, his Saturday response to this tragedy that happened in Charlottesville. Obviously, I said my piece yesterday, I will double down on it. What struck me the most, and there were a few things. When the president says he didn't know David Duke was there. But then we see David Duke just moments ago on twitter saying, thank you, President Trump, for your honesty and courage to tell the truth about Charlottesville, and condemn the leftist terrorists and black lives matter and Antifa. My thought, Guy, is if the president wants to kind of play dumb around the David Duke issue, that's one thing. But when he says he doesn't know he was there, and David Duke clearly knows who President Trump is, at this point, how long does that narrative even remain something that we can entertain and really not flat out laugh at and reject?

GUY BENSON, THE FOX NEWS SPECIALIST HOST: I mean, look, there's a lot to unpack, and what we just watched there from the president. And I've been scrolling through twitter and seeing some of the reaction, and some in the press I think are reaching for the smelling salts over everything that he said. And I think there were some points that he made that were legitimate and totally defensible. Where he really lost me was when he was saying and objecting, saying there were some fine people in that protest in Charlottesville on the alt-right. He was trying to draw out this distinction between neo-Nazis and white supremacists and some of the good people, quote-unquote, but this was a white nationalist rally. He was talking about the torch evening, right? They were chanting things like Jews will not replace us. There's nothing good about that.


BENSON: Let me say this, there are people in America, many of whom I'm sure are watching us right now, who may object to or have qualms about taking down these statutes, who are good people and who are not racist.

WILLIAMS: Absolutely.

BENSON: But they were not at a white nationalist rally, which was what occurred on Friday night.

WILLIAMS: We'll get to that. Kat, something else -- initial part of President Trump remarks this afternoon, he said he wanted to get all the facts, and he wanted to preserve judgment until he had more facts. I have to say this might be the first time I've heard President Trump show that level of restraint around fact gathering.

KATHERINE TIMPF, THE FOX NEWS SPECIALIST HOST: It's honestly crazy for me to have to comment on this right now, because I'm still in the phase where I'm wondering if it was actually real life what I just watched. It is one of the biggest messes that I've ever seen. I can't believe it happened.
He -- if there's any sort of car attack -- normally, I'm surprised that he didn't come out and say that it was a terrorist, instead of, you know, waiting to say something.

WILLIAMS: Islamic terrorism.

TIMPF: This was clearly an Islamic terrorist, because he's done that before, before he had all the facts. He's not measured in his criticism.
He goes after people as soon as had the inkling. To take 48 hours, that is something he has never done before. And, yeah, it shouldn't be some kind of bold statement to say, yes, a gathering full of white supremacist, Nazis, doesn't have good people in it. Those are all bad people, period.
And the fact that that's controversial, make me -- I don't know if I should just like laugh. So, I have too much eye makeup on to start crying right now. It's disgusting.

WILLIAMS: Yes. I will say I made a personal plea to President Trump yesterday. Obviously, he did not take that to heart. I asked him to call out David Duke by name. He said he doesn't know he was there. Well, David Duke certainly knows who you are and what you stand for. We'll now meet today's specialist. She is a former CIA Middle East analyst, a former senior state department official in the Obama administration, and a Fox News contributor, her specialty, though, rooting for Ohio State football, Marie Harf is here.


WILLIAMS: Oh, man. And she is a criminal defense attorney, has 11 years of trial litigation experience, and has represented numerous individuals in federal court cases, but she specializes in collecting sea glass from Florida shores, Whitney Boan is here. Thank you ladies for being with us.
So again, so much to unpack. What stood out to you, Whitney?

WHITNEY BOAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Oh, gosh. You know, I'm with Kat. I had a hard time trying to keep it together just watching that press conference because it devolves so quickly from good points, like Guy said, it was points like, you know, I would like to have all the information before I say something. I'd like to encourage that for President Trump.
Like you said, this is a new phenomenon, if that what's happening.
However, it was really troubling as this became more about -- you know, we're concerned about statues, and we're concerned about permits. Than we are concerned about the fact that we have neo-Nazis, white nationalists, threatening the safety of Americans based upon their race or their ethnicity or their religion.

And that's where it went, and he refuses to acknowledge that. It's almost like stealing victory from the jaws of defeat, because this would have been really easy from a PR perspective if from the beginning President Trump had just said Nazis are bad, and this isn't OK. It's not OK. And is never going to be OK. And I don't support this. And I don't care if they have shirts on with my name on it, or they're carrying banners with my name on it. And it's irresponsible for him to say, like you said about David Duke, in terms of when David Duke comes out and says I'm encouraging white nationalist and KKK members to carry out President Trump's agenda of making America great again, and this is what it means. And then to stand there and be like, you know, I didn't know that David Duke was there. It's irresponsible. Disappointing.

MARIE HARF, FOX NEWS CONTRUBUTOR: I'm with everyone else that already weigh in on this. I think he's doing this moral equivalence again. And we saw it on Saturday. He got a lot of pushback for that. Yesterday, a lot of people said he finally did the right thing, even though a lot of us thought it was too little, too late. Everything he did yesterday was just undone. I mean, that was an epic meltdown. And if we -- you know, I don't know why he's so hesitant to criticize the alt-right, like we all have -- and Nazis, I think we all have series on that.

But Kat's right, he fires off tweets. After the Merck CEO, he took him what? Fifteen minutes. And then he said, well, but I need to get all the facts. I can guarantee you if that have been a Muslim in that car, he would have said something right away, and it would have been much more inflammatory. He would have gone after that person. And I think we have to -- in this country, there's clearly a lot going on right now about these statutes, right? Not just in Charlottesville. In Lexington, in Gainesville, Florida, across part of the south.

You know, I went to UVA. I know what's going on there. We need a leader who can help our country navigate through what is a really tough, difficult, complicated set of issues, and we don't have that in our president. And that scares me and it makes me sad. And for every Republican that complaint that Democrats like me say the party now is in bed, in part, with the KKK and Nazis. The leader of the party, president, is not doing anything to make people believe otherwise.


WILLIAMS: I'm just going to say, real quick, Guy. Those pictures we we're just showing were in Durham, North Carolina. And I use to practice law in front of that court room and walked past that statue every day. So I understand and I grew up -- so it's a deep-seated, intense, divisive, powerful issue. Go ahead, Guy.

BENSON: So, just a few points in response, Marie. I think that what the president's defenders would say watching that press conferences was he did repeatedly specifically attacked Nazis and white supremacist. He called the driver of the car a terrorist and a murderer. That's just happened today. My problem that I said at the beginning was sort of lumping in all of these alt-right people together and trying to separate who are good people and.

HARF: Right.

BENSON: Who are bad people at a white nationalist rally. But to say that he did nothing to dissuade Americans that the right doesn't stand for Nazism, I don't think that that's not fair. To your other point, quickly.

We've talked about navigating these difficult issues on the statues, for example, the monuments. I don't think the media necessarily helps when immediately -- when he's making the point about Washington and Jefferson being slave owners, and where do you draw the line about who statues you take down, people with blue checkmarks on Twitter are saying, oh, my God, he's comparing Robert E. Lee to George Washington. That's not a fair assessment of what he's saying. So, if we want to have a reasonable discussion about some very tough issues, we shouldn't intentionally mischaracterize some of the more reasonable things that he's saying, while correctly calling out the last reasonable things that he said.

BOAN: The problem with that, though, it's because of all the crazy things he says, the reasonable things just get lost. And he loses credibility to even be a thought leader, if you can even use that term about President Trump on this issue. And I think that while he -- yes, said bad things about Nazis, he tried to balance it on those remarks and said, well, there were some good people there. And guys, the alt-left which is a term I think he just invented because I've never heard it, the alt-left is just as bad as the alt-right.

BENSON: The alt-left exists.

HARF: But I don't even -- I don't know where to start with that.

TIMPF: Well, they are bad, and they have done bad things. They have been violent. And that's very bad and that should be condemned when it occurs.
However, somebody was murdered at this rally, and it was not done by someone on the alt-left. Think about if someone that you love was killed and the response was, yeah, a lot of people murder people and it's bad every time. No, you condemn this specific murder and their motivation and you examine that issue.

WILLIAMS: Whitney, let me get your take on this, because you said -- Guy, correct me if I'm wrong, that the president and these recent remarks did unequivocally called out the driver as being -- what you said called him?


BENSON: Terrorist and a murderer.

WILLIAMS: OK. So -- terrorism, he said -- I think he said you could.


WILLIAMS: You could call it a murderer. I'll call it the quickest to a verdict, whatever. But this is also what President Trump tweeted out a year ago. Anyone who cannot name our enemy is not fit to lead our country.
Anyone who cannot condemn the hatred, oppression, and violence of radical Islam lacks the moral clarity to serve as our president. For me, Whitney, that sounded like a lack of moral clarity, pretty much in the president's own words.

BOAN: I mean -- and that's problem here. The president keeps breaking this down into moral equivalence, where -- and to Guy's point, you know, when he -- outcries and says this person is a murderer and he may be engaging in terrorism. What the problem becomes is he lacks any real authority. He lacks any real passion or belief in a way that Americans are looking for in terms of stand up against hate when it's always followed with, but. It's always but. It's always -- he's a murderer, but there were other bad people there, and those people are alt-left, and those people are liberal, or whatever. It lacks any firm statement. And so, Eboni, yes, I mean, what we need is a president who can stand up and say something that's even consistent with what he said a year ago in terms of people who he believes are terrorists on domestic soil, or people who he believes are terrorists on foreign soil.

HARF: Well, the FBI in the past year has put forward a number of reports about the fastest growing threat of homegrown terrorism in the United States is from these extremist white nationalist groups.

WILLIAMS: Guy, go ahead.

BENSON: Yeah. And that's a real concern. Then you also look at situations like the shooting at the baseball field with Steve Scalise that the FBI, for some reason it boggles my mind.

WILLIAMS: Also domestic terrorism.

BENSON: They called it not domestic terrorism.

WILLIAMS: No, it was though. It's absolutely -- you're right, that's the hypocrisy. You're correct, Guy. There's hypocrisy there.

BENSON: When you're gathering statistics, if you're not including the Scalise shooting as an act of domestic terrorism, people say, well, what the hell is that about? So, my thing is this, you can very unequivocally condemn what happened in Charlottesville, condemned the violent hatred of the white nationalist and neo-Nazis, and then put a period on the sentence and end it there, but if we're going to have later a conversation about political violence in this country, you cannot airbrush the violent left out of that conversation.

WILLIAMS: I think that's fair.

BENSON: They're part of it.

WILLIAMS: I think that's fair. And I will say this as well, when it comes to this conservative Republican thing. I think you're mentioning this Marie. I would never -- and now that you did -- I don't put this on Republicans, I don't put this on conservatives, I don't put this on people that hold conservative beliefs, because I think that's a miss- categorization of their politics. I think it's a sad day in America that for many, that distinction has become unable to be clear. And I think that this rhetoric is a large part of that.

HARF: And it's also because the leader of the Republican Party is so wishy-washy. I mean, we've all heard what Bob Dole said when he accepted the nomination. We've heard George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, every leader of the Republican Party when the KKK and white nationalist had tried to make common cause during elections have said very clearly we don't want any part of this, until Donald Trump. And I was really heartened by all these senators who came out over the weekend, by the Republicans like Ted Cruz, Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, but the leader of the party and the leader of our country isn't doing the same thing, and that's a problem.

WILLIAMS: Yes. Up ahead, a serious potential blow to the conclusion and the allegations in the Russia probe. Stay with us.


TIMPF: A new Russia leak might actually be delivering some good news for the Trump administration. The Washington Post reporting that a former low- level campaign staffer, George Papadopoulos, have repeatedly tried to set up meetings between campaign and Russian officials, including a sit down between Trump and Vladimir Putin. However, the report which cites campaign emails that have been turned over to congressional committees, said that staffers efforts were met with alarm by numerous campaign officials, including then campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and ultimately rejected.
On top of that, new reporting by Politico shows that the Obama administration was warned multiple times by national security officials that Russia was moving to disrupt the U.S. political system. Those warnings came as early as 2014. Guy, you wrote about this today, right? I want to get your take on it.

BENSON: Yes. So, I think that when we're considering the Russia issue and the narrative about collusion, it's very important to follow the facts.
That's one of the reasons why I've supported the special counsel investigation. That's why I was very tough on team Trump when the Donald Jr. email chain came out, which I thought look bad and contradicted bunch of what they've said previously. This, on the other hand, is good news for the Trump campaign. It is countervailing evidence. It got far less attention than some of the other bombshells got.

But this shows high-level people in the campaign repeatedly being offered opportunities to meet with Russian officials, all the way up to Vladimir Putin. They said no. They said these are concerns that we have. There could be Logan Act violations involved here. We should talk to our allies in NATO before we do anything with the Russians. It looked like a responsible campaign making sure that they're adhering to protocol. So this is not unto itself vindication for the entire story from the vantage point of Trump, but it is a data point that it's helpful to their contention that there was no collusion.

TIMPF: Eboni?

WILLIAMS: I want to talk to the fellow counselor here, Whitney. He said a little expletory to Guy's point, something that kind of can rebut some of the really damning narratives around the collusion presumption. And to Guy's point, I think you're absolutely right. At the very least, it kind of points this in another direction.

BOAN: Yeah. No, as a criminal defense attorney, I loved reading this today. And seeing that there was actual paper document or electronic form where they were doing the right thing. They were saying, you know, this is not only whines about idea, but let's not let D.T. do this. Let's not let Donald Trump do this. Somebody makes sure he doesn't. And it was well thought out and it helped. I think that, again, it doesn't paint the full picture in terms of the entire investigation, and that's not done yet, but it's certainly a good point for Trump.

TIMPF: Now about -- I want to ask you, Marie, of course, about the Obama administration.


TIMPF: Knowing about Russians potentially being interested interfering in our elections. Why wasn't something done? Do you have any take on that? Was it not considered a serious threat, or what do you think?

HARF: Well, we were getting warnings as early as 2014, which you folks remember when Russia went into Ukraine. It was very clear they were trying to meddle in other countries' affairs, we should say. So we were getting warnings that there's cyber activities were ramping up. We saw this in Eastern Europe. We saw this across Europe. And we knew they were trying to look at our election system. But we didn't have credible, specific warnings about how they were going to do it, right. We didn't know they were going to target the DNC, for example. We didn't know they were going to work with WikiLeaks to target John Podesta, right.

So, we didn't have a lot of specific information, we were concerned about it. We raised it with the Russians privately a number of times. We try to reinforce our own cyber protection for the government. But this is a really tough problem. And I read that article thinking, I wonder today if the Trump administration is maybe learning some of the lessons and putting in place procedures so this can't happen again. I've heard from a number of people that are still in that because they don't consider the Russia investigation a serious issue, that they're not doing maybe all they should be to prevent it from happening again.

WILLIAMS: I don't know. From where I'm sitting, it sounds a little weak that they didn't know specifically.

HARF: Well, it's true.

WILLIAMS: I was saying the facts, but we have to know the nitty-gritty and the absolute specifics to know that any presumption of involvement or the possibility, rather, of involvement is still a serious problem.

HARF: No, and you're right. And we knew it was a serious problem and we were taking steps. I mean, in the cyber world, a lot of these steps you don't see publicly, right. We were taking steps. We knew in 2014 they were doing things in Ukraine. They were doing things in Crimea. We were doing things behind the scene, but it is difficult when you don't have specific threat information. So this idea today that some people are saying the Obama administration should've been able to stop this, that's not fair.

TIMPF: Now we have people on the left speaking passionately about it, Guy, which almost makes it looks like perhaps they became interested because now it's politically advantageous for them to be interested.

BENSON: Right.

TIMPF: So it's more of a political issue about their party rather than country, which, quite frankly, always makes me sick. So, I don't know.
What are your thoughts on that?

BENSON: Well, this is an administration that was very weak, vis-a-vis Russia, throughout their entire time on office. Even before the president took office in 2008, he was week on the invasion of Georgia. He mocked Mitt Romney, and ridiculed him ruthlessly in 2012 from being right about Vladimir Putin. He was invested in the reset bottom. He was invested in the Iran deal, which he needed Russia's help on. So there were quoted sources within the Politico piece saying maybe they knew about stuff, maybe did a few things, but their actions were not nearly robust enough. They were too lax about it, and part of it may have been they decided that it was within their interests to soft pedal.

HARF: As someone that was in the administration and who did actually have to work with Russia at times, I would very strongly disagree with the notion that we didn't take it seriously because we somehow wanted better relations with Russia. And I would take very, very strong exception with that as someone who lived through it. And for everyone who's concerned about Russia, we now have a president who is even softer on them, who won't criticize them over anything. So I can debate the Obama administration until my face turned blue.

BENSON: Was your boss wrong about Russia in 2012, and what he said to Mitt Romney? Wasn't he wrong about that?

HARF: You know, I honestly think that 2016 is very different than 2012. And yes, Russia.

WILLIAMS: Was it yes or no, Marie?


HARF: I don't think he was wrong. Look, would we have phrased it differently? Maybe. OK, I will grant you that.

BENSON: So Russia not so bad in 2012, super bad in 2016.

HARF: In 2012, Russia was not our top geopolitical foe, which what Mitt Romney said. Honestly, I don't think it was. Four years later, they've done a bunch of really aggressive things. They pushed out into Eastern Europe. They were in Ukraine. They were in Crimea.

BENSON: They were in Georgia.

HARF: Which happened under George W. Bush. It's not Barack Obama fault.

BENSON: But he was very weak and not really condemning it, right? So.

HARF: But he wasn't president.

TIMPF: It's almost as if this issue is too complicated to completely flush out in one block. Up next, the Justice Department is demanding data from a major Trump resistance website and it's sparking a big legal showdown. Don't go away.


BENSON: Welcome back. Thanks for being here. So the Justice Department squaring off with a Los Angeles tech company over anti-Trump protesters. A federal judge has granted a search warrant to the DOJ allowing it to gather data on everyone who visited one of the major websites used to organize anti-Trump protests during his inauguration. The DOJ wants the data to help track down people from Antifa and other far left groups who participated in rioting that day. But the company fighting back, they're saying this warrant is over-broad and unconstitutional, resisting in court.
And yes, I'm a layperson; I'm not an attorney. Let's go to the attorney straight away.

One point three million people caught up in this. They want data. They want IP addresses of everyone.


PEARCE: In an effort, they say, to crack down on illegal rioting. Overbroad is a word that absolutely comes to mind for me. What do you think, Counselor?

WILLIAMS: Yes, I think -- let's back it up. Classic constitutional law now, right? And I'm going to toss to you, too, in a second, Whitney. So you've got public safety, which is the all-important threshold around any Constitutional analysis, really: making sure people in this country are safe. Versus Fourth Amendment rights against improper and illegal searches and seizures. So this kind of gathering of information and jeopardizing people's privacy rights.

I would think, certainly, you want to make that we're balancing that, Whitney, in a way that is most narrowly tailored, to use some legalese, right? And certainly, I don't think there's anything narrowly tailored about this request that we are currently seeing from the DOJ.

BOAN: No. Two words come to mind for me: fishing expedition.

WILLIAMS: There you go.

BOAN: And prosecutorial overreach. That's another two words.

WILLIAMS: Bringing me back to all those glorious law school days, Whitney.

BOAN: But I think, you know, the issue here, too, is not just the Fourth Amendment, and it's not just, you know, governmental interest in terms of public protection.

The other interests here are also the First Amendment and exactitude in terms of the language that is in this warrant that needs to be scrutinized by a court now in terms of the challenges that's been raised by DreamHost.

Because this is -- it seems very broad to be like, 'We need all of your records about everything ever about this website, including every user, even if they deleted a message. Their pictures, anything and everything.

That's a fishing expedition, because there's no rational relationship between everything anyone's ever done on that website and them needing to protect the public.

WILLIAMS: Now, Kat, how this could probably look different, I was going to say, is let's say there was a particular instance of violence that we can know and point to that came about from these particular riots from President Trump's inauguration. And that individual, if they wanted to have a fishing expedition, so to speak, around that individual's behavior, the websites they visit, I think then you're getting closer to something that could survive Constitutional scrutiny.

TIMPF: Perhaps. This is, like, really freaky. I don't know why there hasn't been more people being more freaked out by this. Because pretty much everybody, I think, could agree that no one could look at what you do on the Internet and think you're a good person. We all look at weird stuff on the Internet. Everybody does.

BOAN: True.

TIMPF: An unofficial survey, 99 percent of people said they don't want people to know what they're doing on the Internet. The other 1 percent said 'What's a computer?' There's no -- I'm serious. I mean, come on. Because there's no reason for this.

And if this is allowed to actually happen, I'm terrified for the future of the country, period. Civil liberties are dead if this is allowed.

HARF: This is -- I agree: this is insane. And I'm not a legal scholar, but I want to hear some more outrage about it. I agree with Kat. I don't know why people aren't more upset. And I have imagine if this had happened in the last administration, a lot of people would have been very upset, if Barack Obama's DOJ had gone after millions of people that signed up on a, you know, to protest him. So I want people to get fired up about this.
This is insane.

WILLIAMS: I think that's the sad thing thing, and you talk about it often, Kat, and I think very rightly so. The intersection between actual policy or Constitutional integrity and outrage, versus the politics. The politics overrides everything nowadays, and it's a sad day.

TIMPF: Absolutely, and we have to be very careful not to just destroy our own liberty by attempting to say, 'Oh, for security, for security.'

BOAN: And security purposes are legitimate.

TIMPF: I don't feel very secure knowing the White House looks at my browser activity. That makes me feel less secure than anything.

PEARCE: Tailor it. Tailor it narrowly.

WILLIAMS: Good job, Guy.

BOAN: Constitutional issues are not fully explored or appreciated by the American public. You're right. I mean, people need to know about that.

PEARCE: Yay, good consensus on behalf of the Constitution. That's the way -- good to leave it.

And straight ahead, the Mooch telling Stephen Colbert that it's time for Steve Bannon to be shown the door at the White House. Is a fresh shake-up imminent? We'll discuss when we come back.


WILLIAMS: Welcome back to 'The Fox News Specialists.' Our specialists today are Marie Harf and Whitney Boan. Now let's continue the conversation.

Recent reports are fueling speculation that Steve Bannon, the chief White House strategist, could be out of a job soon. Anthony Scaramucci, the ousted White House communications director, poured gasoline all over that during an appearance on Stephen Colbert's show last night.



ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Let me explain. I said he was. And I obviously got caught on tape saying he was, so I have no problem saying that.

COLBERT: OK. But is he going to be gone in a week?

SCARAMUCCI: That's up to the president.

COLBERT: What do you think? What do you think? What does the Mooch think?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, if it was up to me, he would be gone.


SCARAMUCCI: But it's not up to me.


WILLIAMS: All right. The White House is under intense pressure from Democrats and other critics to fire Bannon in the wake of the Charlottesville violence. Just today the leaders in four minority House caucuses sent a letter to the White House, demanding the removal of Steve Bannon, along with two other prominent White House aides, Stephen Miller and Dr. Sebastian Gorka. This afternoon, the president responded to what may be ahead for Bannon's future.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I like him. He's a good man. He is not a racist, I can tell you that. He's a good person. He actually gets a very unfair press in that regard. But we'll see what happens with Mr. Bannon. But he's a good person, and I think the press treats him, frankly, very unfairly.


WILLIAMS: All right, Guy, I'm going to let you just run with that.

PEARCE: I think the formulation, 'We'll see what happens with Mr. Bannon,' is probably not one that augers particular well for the future of Mr.
Bannon at the White House.

I could be wrong. We all thought that Sessions was on his way out, and you know, he's ensconced in that position right now.

I also want to take a step back. If you're Anthony Scaramucci, right, you just went through...

WILLIAMS: How fun, by the way.

PEARCE: ... maybe the most epic flameout in recent political memory. You go on Stephen Colbert's show. And Colbert can eat people for lunch. I thought he was sharp, self-deprecating, funny, likable, made some good points, poked fun at himself. I thought it was a good, effective performance from Scaramucci.

And I was nervous for him. I was actually anxious. I couldn't watch it live or, you know, as it aired. But he did very well.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Mooch, I wasn't nervous for you. I knew you'd kill that. I knew you'd kill that, Mooch.

Kat, so what I feel certain of, that if Steve Bannon is to go, it will not be because of pressure from Democrats and it will certainly not be because of presumptions about whether or not he's a racist. But perhaps if he is the leak, and that is certainly what the Mooch and other people have insinuated. Then possibly that might read for something bad for his future.

TIMPF: Possibly. However, we all have those friends who we keep around, because they know too much. Right? You know, a little bit. I have three of them at my birthday party every year. I don't really want them there.
They might cause a disturbance. But they'll cause an even disturbance if I cut them loose.

PEARCE: Can you name them?

TIMPF: I'm sort of kidding. I'm totally kidding, guys. I'm sort of kidding.

But honestly, think about the fact that Bannon probably knows a lot, and he's been very close to Trump for a while. And if he was let go and Bannon was upset about it, with the influence that he has in the media, it could look pretty bad for President Trump.

BOAN: I agree, yes.

WILLIAMS: I noticed the president, I think very intentionally, said look, Bannon was kind of brought in at the tail end. He was kind of late to the party. He's deflecting or downplaying that a bit.

HARF: Yes, and that was very telling. Because we know that Donald Trump hates these insinuations that he didn't win this on his own. Right?
Because then he went on to say in that press conference he just gave, 'I went through 17 senators and governors before I even met -- before I brought Steve Bannon on.' Basically saying, 'I didn't need him to win this,' because a lot of the media says that Steve Bannon, his support, the support from media organizations like Breitbart are what helped him win the primary.

BOAN: Almost like he's pushing him towards the trap door. You know, he's kind of just edging him over there.

HARF: Right. But can you imagine what Steve Bannon would do in Breitbart or in the media if he gets fired? And Donald Trump has to be worried about that right now.

BOAN: Absolutely.

HARF: And I think that's what's going into some of this calculation.

WILLIAMS: I don't know. I actually think, Whitney, that if it came down to Steve Bannon and Breitbart versus Trump and his base, I think Trump wins that every time, quite frankly.

BOAN: I think that Trump thinks that Trump wins every time either way. So I don't know. I disagree, but I think that...

WILLIAMS: Really? You think Bannon and the Breitbart base will be stronger than the Trump base?

TIMPF: I think that...

WILLIAMS: We'll take it around the table. Your take. Kat?

TIMPF: No, I think that the Trump base will stick with Trump no matter what.

WILLIAMS: That's exactly right. What I think. Guy.

PEARCE: Generally, that's correct. Now, the one pushback I would give, I invoked the name of Jeff Sessions just a moment ago. There was immense pushback on the right against the possibility of losing Sessions. And that seemed to have had an impact.

So it's not like Trump's entire base is always saluting everything that he does. People are concerned if certain folks that they like are being edged out.

But I think -- I think your point to the leaks is the important one. If he's the leaker, then it's seen as him undermining Trump. And that's an unpardonable sin in the White House.

WILLIAMS: And your take?

HARF: And just to go to what Guy said, it was actually more telling, I think, that Trump didn't get rid of Sessions because of the congressional pushback. That he wasn't going to get a new attorney general. It was when all these Republicans in Congress said don't touch Jeff Sessions.

I agree with Witness. I think Trump believes he has his base no matter what, but that's a premise that I'm not sure he wants to test heading into an election year in 2018. I mean, Breitbart and the media world that Steve Bannon has his finger on the pulse of is incredibly influential. And if we don't have health care, we don't have tax reform, we don't have infrastructure, we've seen what can happen in this space. And that could be a tough election cycle if there's a divorce there. There's a divorce between Trump and Breitbart.

WILLIAMS: I think President Trump comes out on top on that divorce. But we'll see.

Coming up, Kim Jong-un retreating from his threat to attack Guam. Is President Trump's hard-nosed approach to thank? Stay with us.


PEARCE: Thanks for being with us. Kim Jong-un backing down from his threat to attack Guam despite releasing an image of Kim reviewing Guam attack plans, the rogue state saying he's going to watch America's behavior a little bit more before taking any action.

All right. Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski giving credit to President Trump for calling Kim's bluff.


COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, look, I'm not surprised by this at all. What we have seen from previous administrations for 30 years is trying to coddle North Korea, trying to work with them.

What this president said was, 'You don't want to mess with me.' He's a man of business. He and General Mattis, the secretary of defense, were very clear. If North Korea launches a missile at us, General Mattis said it will be a declaration of war.

And we are the world's greatest super power. The president of the United States was very clear that, if North Korea tried to do something against the United States, he will react swiftly, decisively, and it will be complete annihilation. And I don't think they're ready for that.


PEARCE: Yes, I think those are some fair points right there. So let's start with you, Marie.

HARF: Yes.

PEARCE: Kim blinked, right? It's very clear. He blinked first in this. So in my mind, there is some vindication here for Trump's approach. Because there was a lot of bedwetting in Washington about 'Oh, my gosh, he's saying these really incendiary things about North Korea. This is irresponsible.' It seems to have broken through, though, to the regime. Does the administration get some credit here?

HARF: Well, I think President Trump might have sort of stumbled his way into deterrence that actually is currently working. And I -- I didn't love the rhetoric, but I also didn't like it was the worst thing that had ever happened on the planet that President Trump did.

Deterrence basically works. They already have missiles. They already have nuclear weapons. Deterrence works if they know that, if they do something, we will destroy them. And they're not going to waste that on Guam. I've always said this. If they're going to have one shot at taking out an American city, striking the U.S., they're not going to lob a few missiles into the ocean next to Guam. They're going to wait to do something else.

So yes, I think for the time being, he has sufficiently scared them. They know that they will be rained down upon with fire and fury, like the president said. I think we need to be careful now going forward so we're not back in an escalatory place where it feels like it's getting out of control. I think that's where we were last week. We're definitely in a better place today.

PEARCE: Eboni, was this fear?

WILLIAMS: Yes, probably. Probably. Yes, I wasn't mad, really, at all with the president's comments on No Ko, personally. I think, you know, the strategies that we've seen before have all epically failed. So I don't believe that diplomacy -- I like it, I think it's great. I don't think it always works. I don't think you can try it with some leaders. And I think Kim Jong-un is one of those.

So I really feel that, in this moment, yes, I'm OK with crediting President Trump around this.

PEARCE: And Whitney, doesn't this bring us closer to a position where the re-instigation of diplomacy is possible? Right? The potential crisis seems to have passed. North Koreans said, 'All right. Never mind.
Uncle.' Now maybe now use the Chinese and get them to the negotiating table again. Again, it may not work, but I think we're in a much better place today than we work two or three days ago.

BOAN: I don't know. I tend to disagree. I agree with Eboni. I am 100 percent behind Trump's statements in terms of this is not a situation where diplomacy was appropriate. When we're threatened with nuclear warfare, then that was the correct response.

However, I do think the problem that we're now faced with is that it looks like, in some ways that, you know, are we going to follow up on we say things like that? If we're going to go out that hard, if we're going to go that strong and we're going to say fire and fury and hell and brimstone.

WILLIAMS: You better...

BOAN: ... we better be able to back it up. You know? It can't just be rhetoric. It has to be -- and I'm not -- I'm not saying that the thing to do in that situation was to go ahead and start a war. That's not what we want if we don't need to go there. If we need to go there, then we need to go there.

PEARCE: Yes, but...

BOAN: But I do think that, long term, I don't know how this will affect diplomacy, because those are strong words if you're not ready to back it up. Let's leave it at that.

PEARCE: And that goes to credibility.

BOAN: Exactly.

PEARCE: This is what worries me. Because there's a piece in Politico today about this, talking about containment. And we heard deterrence there from Marie.

For years, the U.S. government said it's totally unacceptable for the North Koreans to have nuclear weapons. We heard that about Iran, as well. I think Tehran is watching this and saying, 'Is America starting to pivot to containment and acceptance of something that they said forever was unacceptable?'

TIMPF: Right. You have seen that shift. It was a very strong -- if you look at Susan Rice's comments. Like, 'Oh, we can tolerate it.' I want to know what happened in the middle, from 'It will never happen' to 'Oh, yes, fine, we'll tolerate it.'

PEARCE: What happened was they got nukes.

TIMPF: Yes, in their heads, in terms of that. But I just think -- I've always said that, you know, Kim Jong-un is clearly crazy, clearly a bad dude. But he doesn't want to kill himself, and he knows that attacking us or attacking one of our territories or our allies is literally him committing suicide.

PEARCE: Assured destruction, I believe they call it.

HARF: It's not mutual anymore, because they can't destroy the U.S. In the Soviet days, we called it mutually assured destruction, because they actually could take out a lot of the U.S. North Korea can't, and they know that. And I think President Trump has made that clear to them.

And a lot of State Department or administration foreign policy people would privately say, 'Yes, publicly, we have to say it's unacceptable. They need to get rid of their nukes, while understanding they're not going to.'

PEARCE: And with that, we have to say goodbye to our specialists. Farewell, Marie Harf and Whitney Boan. Thank you so much both for being here.

And when we're coming back after this, it's 'Wait, what?' Don't go away.


TIMPF: And now for our last segment today. It's time for...




TIMPF: All right. I'm going to start. Today has been a -- you know, a news day. So I wanted to share something that's not really news.

A little, little kitty cat, a video of a little kitty cat got very, very scared. Look what happens when this Detroit Tigers foam finger is thrown at him. Look at that. I didn't even know. I have one of those foam fingers. Anybody who's, you know, from Detroit and a Tigers fan, I think, probably has about 18 of those in their house, because they give them out for free.

And you know, sometimes the Tigers have made me want to do that. But I've stayed loyal, so this kitty should calm down. And you know, look at that. That's amazing. I could watch that all day. Maybe I will to relax.

WILLIAMS: Kat, I'm sensing a pattern. I'm seeing lots of beautiful animal videos from you for 'Wait, What?' Is this your thing?

TIMPF: Animals can't really hurt you the way people can. OK.

PEARCE: Or the way -- or the way Detroit sports can.

TIMPF: That's totally all true.

PEARCE: So yesterday, Kat brought to our attention a very important story about a guy who was nabbed by authorities for robbing a drugstore, and he was identified by his very distinctive facial tattoos. And you can see, there he is. And I made the joke on the air that I have the exact same tattoos.

Well, Twitter is a magical place. And so we have to think Antivirus on Twitter who immediately, within minutes, came up with this. And I think it's a pretty good look.

TIMPF: People are going to start saying they got the wrong guy.

PEARCE: Exactly.

WILLIAMS: That's what happens when you get that makeup off, Guy.

All right. So this was amazing to me. We all know Taylor Swift was just successful in the lawsuit recently, but the best thing that came of it for me was this good, awful sketch from the courthouse. We know that they do the courthouse sketches, because this was not a televised trial.

And it doesn't really look a lot like Taylor Swift, you might be thinking.
Well, the artist came to his defense and said she's actually just too pretty to draw. Like legitimately. He said her proportions to her face are too even, too equal. It's all too symmetric, making her very, very hard to accurately draw.

TIMPF: Wow. What a terrible problem to have.

WILLIAMS: Too pretty. It's horrible.

PEARCE: I think she'll shake it off.

TIMPF: Oh, that was real bad!

All right. Well, that's all the time we have today. We thank you all for watching. Make sure to follow us on social media, @SpecialistsFNC on Twitter and Facebook. Remember, 5 o'clock will never be the same.
'Special Report' is next, and it's going to be so good. Make sure you watch it.

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