This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," May 4, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Rudy is a great guy, but he just started a day ago. But he really has his heart into it. He is working hard, he's learning the subject matter. And he's going to be issuing a statement, too. But Rudy knows it is a witch hunt. He started yesterday. He will get his facts straight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS: President Trump on his way to Dallas today, talking about Rudy Giuliani, offering him praise and a little bit of a correction as well.
Let's bring in our panel now: Charles Hurt, opinion editor for The Washington Times; Susan Page, the Washington bureau chief at USA Today, and Jason Riley, Wall Street Journal columnist and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. So we got that clarifying statement from Rudy Giuliani not long after at the president spoke. In part Giuliani said "There is no campaign violation. The payment was made to resolve a personal and false allegation in order to protect the president's family. It would have been done in any event whether he was a candidate or not." Giuliani seeming to be walking back or clarifying the statement he made on FOX yesterday where he said imagine if all that had come out in the last debate with Hillary Clinton what would have happened.
JASON RILEY, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Ironically Giuliani was brought in to help speed along the Mueller investigation, wrap this thing up quickly He might have just extended it. I don't think it was a slip of the tongue. I think it was a strategy. They seem to be walking a back a little bit right now.
But politically, what it has insured is wall-to-wall coverage of the president and the porn star through the weekend and beyond perhaps. And that is a problem politically. We're not talking about these great job figures, some of the lowest unemployment numbers in the post World War II era, John. And nobody is talking about that. And unemployment across the board, women, minorities, teenagers. And we are not talking about that. And I think if you are a Republican out there, typically a Republican up for reelection, this is not what you want to be talking about.
ROBERTS: We were talking about the Russia investigation earlier in the week because there seemed to be a new momentum around it, Susan, but this just kicked it into an orbit somewhere past Jupiter.
SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY: I would disagree that Giuliani was brought in to bring the Mueller investigation to more of a conclusion. I think he was brought into change the kind of campaign against it that the White House has been waging. I think Ty Cobb had a view that you dealt with the investigation and you tried to cooperate. You agreed to testify. And the Giuliani approach seems to be let's fight it in the streets. Let's fight it not in the courtroom, let's fight it out on cable TV and public opinion. I think they are laying the groundwork for if there is a very negative report by the special counsel, if there is even an indictment, that they are going to try to undermine the credibility of the FBI, of the court to the investigation.
ROBERTS: I spoke to Rudy about this at midnight on Wednesday after he made the comments. I said, why did you do this? Did you have some reasonable expectation that prosecutors who raided Michael Cohen's home have evidence that payments were made? He said, no, because nobody knows what was seized from Michael Cohen's office. But Cohen knows. You have to wonder if they have bank records. There has got to be some record of these payments, Charles.
CHARLES HURT, WASHINGTON TIMES: Yes, and obviously political speaking it is a firestorm right now. But we are not talking about politics. I think that we are talking about here is legally, and clearing that up from a legal standpoint was very important for the president and the president's team.
ROBERTS: You think this clears it up?
HURT: The fact that he paid for it as opposed to somebody else paying for it and failing to file the proper FEC documentation, that is a good thing for the president.
But I also think that it suggests that at least the best information the president has is the best case they have against him is an FEC violation, is this case. And if that is the best that Mueller has against the president, that is not that bad.
ROBERTS: But there is that little detail of, OK, so you were paying Michael Cohen a retainer. Did you know where the retainer was going? And the president on the way to Dallas kind of gave us a little insight into it. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, you are going to find out, because we are going to give a full list, and people know, and virtually everything said has been said incorrectly. And it has been said wrong or it has been covered wrong by the press.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: So do you have to make a leap of faith, Jason, to think that the president is giving all of this money to Michael Cohen and not getting any kind of itemized bill?
RILEY: I think that the president is taking his supporters for granted to some extent here. He said he knew nothing about to these payments. He was very clear about that. His daughter was out there defending him. Sarah Sanders was out there defending him on that. And now that has changed. And I am worried that people may be able to trust their president on the big stuff, North Korea, Iran, so forth, and he is showing them -- he is questioning whether he should be trusted on things like this. It's a problem.
ROBERTS: Does this hurt him in terms of trust?
PAGE: Oh, yes. "The Wall Street Journal" has been pretty supportive of President Trump. "The Wall Street Journal" ran an editorial this morning that was critical on the question of whether he is leaving people to not be able to believe what he is telling them.
ROBERTS: Let quickly in the time we have left jump into another issue that is in the same vein, Virginia judge T.S. Ellis in the Manafort case today excoriated the prosecution for bringing him the case, basically saying, we said that this was what -- we said this was what the investigation was about, but we are not bound by it, we were lying, come on, man. He basically is saying to Mueller, why are you bringing me this case? This goes so far outside of the bounds of your jurisdiction.
HURT: That was a pretty amazing development today, because already you have sort of, obviously the executive branch is not pleased with this investigation. You have powerful people in the legislative branch not pleased with this investigation, and now you have the judicial branch. The guy actually accused prosecutors of going too far, and their response to this was we have these secret powers that are laid out in the document, but we can't let you have -- and he says, no, I want to see what the parameters are. It is a very tough situation for the prosecutors.
ROBERTS: This document is --
RILEY: That is why this really goes back to Rod Rosenstein. Mueller is taking advantage of whatever rope Rosenstein has given him to expand this investigation. And the buck is supposed to stop with Rosenstein. So I agree. Mueller's power is not unfettered, but if you want to blame someone here, it should be Rosenstein for letting this get as broad as it has gotten.
ROBERTS: Susan, the president took great comfort in what Judge Ellis was saying today. Does this blow a hole in Mueller's case if a federal judge is saying, I don't understand why you are doing this case from 2006, what does this have to do with the Russian investigation?
PAGE: Let's see what happens. It should give Americans some comfort, Americans of all stripes, that we have separation of powers, we have independent power centers including the judiciary that is going to take a look at things. So whatever happens, I think it is a good thing when the institutions of American government are willing to stand up to each other whatever the final outcome might be.
ROBERTS: That sure happened today.
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