This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," June 21, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT: Nothing is greenlighted until the very end, because things change. I said, how many people are going to be killed? Sir, I'd like to get you back to that. Great people, these generals. They said -- came back and said, sir, approximately 150. And I thought about it for a second. I said, you know what? They shot down an unmanned drone, plane, whatever you want to call it. And here we are sitting with 150 dead people. That would've taken place probably within that half an hour after I said go ahead. And I didn't like it. I didn't think it was proportionate.


SHANNON BREAM, HOST: Let's bring in our panel to see what they think, Jason Riley, "Wall Street Journal" columnist and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at "The Federalist," and Jeff Mason, White House correspondent for "Reuters." Welcome to all of you. Happy Friday. OK, I want to start with a soundbite here from Congressman Adam Smith, a Democrat, his response by those remarks by the president.


REP. ADAM SMITH, D-WASH.: He should not be saying stuff like that publicly because it gives the impression of a level of indecision that I don't think is helpful to us. I wish he was more discreet about what he shared with everybody.


BREAM: Mollie, he is very transparent, whether it's his Twitter or talking with journalist, he's going to say what is on his mind.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE FEDERALIST": He is very transparent, and he also made what I think a lot of people think was a pretty good decision. So you have to pick what you are going to do to get upset about, and so people are picking these tangential issues.

But I also think there's an issue that maybe not everything that was tweeted or not everything that was reported is the whole story. You have a couple of options here. This reminds me a bit of what Bill Clinton did when he had the planes in flight going to Haiti, and then a deal was brokered at the last minute, the planes come back around. Reuters reported that was a message sent from Trump to Tehran saying they are about the to strike and they'd like to hear from them as soon as possible. It suggests that maybe they did hear that as soon as possible, and that would be good. We need to see some diplomatic roots to tempering down this escalation that we've seen.

It's also just possible that he was getting advice from people who have had a lot of power in this town for many decades who make decisions about intervention that he just came to his senses and rejected. I don't think he's going to make the same mistakes that some previous presidents have made about getting involved into an intractable conflict in the Middle East.

BREAM: And the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, says that he seemed to be giving the president some credit on this whole thought process, saying "I don't think that people should be jumping down the president's throat for wanting to think this through and make sure that neither side miscalculates and we don't inadvertently end up in a war with Iran."

Jason, that's not going to be a full embrace of the president by a Democrat, certainly not the chair of House Intel, but he's saying give him some credit it sounds like here.

JASON RILEY, "WALL STREET JOURNAL" COLUMNIST: Iran is testing our resolve is what they're doing, and this has been escalating over at least the past month. And I don't think that these provocations are going to stop until Iran receives a response that is a serious response and a forceful response. I think it's the nature of these authoritarian regimes to poke and poke and poke and see what they can get away with it.

Why is Iran doing this? They're hurting right now, their economy is hurting. It shrank by about four percent last year. It's going to shrink by another six percent this year. they're saying if we can't oil no one should be able to export oil. And that's why they're making trouble here in the Strait of Hormuz, and I think they're going to continue to do this until they get a forceful response.

I know President Trump wants to bring our troops home, he doesn't want us involved in more overseas conflicts, but when you are the leader of the free world, you don't always have that luxury. Around 30 percent of the world's oil passes through that straight, and if Iran is doing things like this, shooting down U.S. drones in international space, they cannot get away with that behavior.

BREAM: And Jeff, you and I last night as this news was breaking during the 11:00 hour on "FOX News at Night," there's a lot we didn't know at that point. We have a lot more information now. But there was this discussion about that there was a feeling across the aisle from a lot of folks that they thought some kind of forceful reaction needed to be meted out by this administration or it may embolden not only Iran buy others like North Korea. So let's play a little bit of the two sides of this debate, the House Speaker and also Congressman Adam Kinzinger who is a veteran himself.


REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF., HOUSE SPEAKER: De-escalate, de-escalate, de- escalate.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER, R-ILL.: Am I disappointed today? Yes. It's a judgment call and I will leave that judgment to him, but I do think there has to be a reaction. And whether that militarily or anything else, I will look at what that is if it happens.


BREAM: So that conversation now continues in D.C. today.

JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: It does. And I think the disappointment that the congressman is just suggesting is shared by the people around the President Trump. Many of his advisors, in fact, one source told me today that all of his advisors including the military, despite some reports that the Pentagon was not on board, believed unanimously that it was the right thing to do to hold some kind of a strike and a proportionate response to Iran.

So when the president decided late last night, probably before we were on the but not too long before, the people around him were disappointed, and they ended up going home disappointed, but they accepted his decision because it was his call to make. But those people will continue to be watching the threat from the Iran, and one of the sources who I spoke to today made clear that the threat from Iran has not changed, and, in fact, it has tried before to shoot down a U.S. drone, and this time it was successful.

BREAM: And Mollie, we hear so much about the president surrounded by hawks and that he's going to be influenced in ways the left does not want to see him be influenced. He talked yesterday in the Oval Office about the fact that he campaigned on getting out of wars and he keeps repeatedly saying, I don't want to go to war. What do you make about this public discussion, we don't know about what's really happening privately between these different factions?

HEMINGWAY: It really is interesting. We have a town full of people who generally are interventionists, and we have decades of foreign policy to show where that has led us to. Donald Trump did campaign successfully on a claim that he would not be like that, that he saw the errors of those things.

Yesterday his rhetoric was actually still along the lines of what we'd heard during the campaign, but we were hearing that there was going to be this strike. It is true that Iran needs to be dealt with. It is true that it is an aggressive country and that they are a serious threat. There are so many things that can be done without risking actual war. There are so ways to retaliate against some of what's been happening, and I would assume we are doing some of those a little bit more sub rosa than risking a complete confrontation.

Iran is not Syria or even Iraq, it's not Libya. It's a very serious country with a serious military, and people contended -- they almost sound cavalier about what it would be like to go to war. And it is good that we at least have one person in this administration, even if he seems to be alone sometimes, at the top who is a little bit more reticent to get involved in yet another Middle East conflict.

BREAM: He is the commander-in-chief, and the decision lies with him alone.

Panel, stick around. Up next, the Friday lightning round. Joe Biden tries to win over African-Americans in South Carolina, and the Supreme Court on a murder case that just will not go away.



SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, D-N.Y., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need a Democratic leader and a presidential nominee who is going to understand that the kind of language that we use around issues of race actually matter.

REP. JOHN LEWIS, D-GA: I don't think the remarks were offensive. During the height of the Civil Rights movement.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, D-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Joe Biden needs to apologize. It's incredible to me that he's puffing up his chest and doubling down and saying I have nothing to apologize for.

REP. JIM CLYBURN, D-S.C., HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP: I'm not a big tennis player, I'm a golfer. But I know what an unforced error means. And that is what I would call an unforced error, just in choice of words.


BREAM: We are back with our panel. It's a big weekend in South Carolina where almost all the Democrat candidates are there to mingle at some important events. And we want to put up the polling in South Carolina right now, where it stands for Democrats there. Joe Biden with a monstrous lead at 41 percent. Bernie Sanders second, very closely followed by Elizabeth Warren and then the rest of the tier there.

Jason, he's had to explain and re-explain, get into it with Senator Booker who is also running against him. It's interesting we see members of Congress who aren't running for the nomination saying he could've done better with the words, but I know him, he's been a civil rights champion. But the rest of the field is not going to let this go.

RILEY: They're not going to let it go because of the extent of his lead, and that's what this is really about. I don't think any of these Democrats really think that Joe Biden is a racist, but he is leading the pack and they want to chip away at that support, and particularly his black support. I think he's got a lot of good will in the black community based in his years as President Obama's vice president. And so he's going to ride that, and they're going to try and chip away at that.

We should also keep in mind that Joe Biden knows how to play the race card when he wants to as well. I remember Joe Biden saying back in 2012 to a mostly black audience that Republicans want to keep you all in chains. So he can play this game too.

But I think the larger point of what Biden is doing here is showing, listen, I don't think people want a Democratic brawler to replace a Republican brawler like President Trump. I am someone who can work together with people that I disagree with politically and get things done. And I think that was the broader context of the remarks that he was making, and I think they were pretty obvious at the time.

BREAM: OK, let's be a little bit more lightning roundy.


HEMINGWAY: The theory of his race is he's kind of running in the general. He's just starting to run against Trump. What the danger is here is that he has so many gaffes and he has such a history and legacy of gaffes, he might be chewed up and spit out long before you get to the general. So it's just another example of how these mistakes might mean that he is not as unstoppable as people think.

BREAM: The number two slot in most of the polling is Bernie Sanders, Senator from Vermont. Here's the back and forth with what the president has to say about him, and the senator's response.


TRUMP: Bernie looks like he's had it. Bernie looks crazy, but he always did, but he looks like a tired crazy right now.



SANDERS: In a sense, in a sense, we do exactly the opposite of what Trump does. Trump demonizes immigrants and tries to bring people against them so that he can get a few more votes.


BREAM: So Jeff, Senator Sanders clearly in most places in the two position, although Elizabeth Warren has clearly gained on him. So what do you make of the next tier of candidates in their back and forth?

MASON: Number one, I think they have two targets. The one is Joe Biden because he is doing so well in the Democratic primary race. And the other is President Trump. And that's partially because they've seen Joe Biden do so well just taking him on directly instead of the other members of the Democratic team or slate so far. So I think we'll see exactly what you just saw with that clip with Bernie Sanders, people attacking the president and trying to distinguish themselves from him, but also going after Joe Biden next week when there is a debate. This is a chance to do that.

BREAM: Let's get two winners and losers before we're out of time. Jeff, we'll start with you.

MASON: Winner, Xi Jinping, the president of China. After this week, Vice President, not the former vice president, current Vice President Mike Pence decided not to give a speech next week which would have been critical of China and human rights. This is right ahead of a meeting between Trump and Xi in Japan. That's a big win for China.

BREAM: Your loser?

MASON: And the loser side, John Bolton. He's a big hawk, and he did not succeed in getting President Trump to start some kind of retaliation against Iran.

BREAM: Jason, next to you.

RILEY: My winner are the Alabama Democrats. I think Roy Moore's decision to run again for the U.S. Senate is everything they could hope for. It's going to make it harder for Republicans to take back that seat.

BREAM: Your loser?

RILEY: My loser are the House Democrats for the reparations hearing this week. I think the time for that has passed. All the slave are gone, all the slave owners are gone. I'd also say that this idea that we are going to follow racial inequality by sending out government checks is mistaken. If that was going to work, it would've worked by now.

BREAM: Mollie, we saved you for last.

HEMINGWAY: Great. My losers are the 2020 candidates who were asked about comfort foods and apparently don't know what comfort foods are.

BREAM: Oh, my goodness, or they don't have one.

HEMINGWAY: Vegan cupcakes, beef jerky, ice tea, vegetables. Perhaps, most disturbing of all, Marianne Williamson saying she has no comfort food.

BREAM: And winner.

HEMINGWAY: And my winner is Charles Krauthammer. It has been a year since he died, and he continues to leave a wonderful mark on the world, and it was an altar to know him and work with them and talk baseball with him, and we all continue to miss him every day, and are just so thankful for him.

BREAM: Yes. And every one of us who knew him or had a chance to work with him are all better because of it. So we miss him greatly. Thank you, all.

When we come back, "Notable Quotables."


BREAM: Finally tonight, "Notable Quotables."


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: Here is what Iran needs to get ready for it. Severe pain.

TRUMP: I said, how many people are going to be killed? Approximately 150. I didn't think it was proportionate.

REP. ALEXANDRA OCASIO-CORTEZ, D-N.Y.: The United States is running concentration camps on our southern border.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Congresswoman AOC needs to apologize not only to the nation but to the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Illegal immigration is illegal. Duh.

JOE BIDEN, D-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is not a racist bone in my body.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I sit here as the great grandson of a former slave.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y., SENATE MINORITY LEADER: What a shambles, what a mess the administration's national security and foreign policy is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chill, chill, chill, chill.

MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY., SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Members have a lot of things going on at the same time. It sounds to me like he's looking for some way to take offense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel stupid. This is a huge misunderstanding. I didn't know that they were busy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Canadians are gracious in defeat, and even more gracious in victory. I put together a little bit of Raptor swag.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG, D-IND., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would imagine we've probably had excellent president who were gay. We just didn't know which ones.

TRUMP: If I deleted one email, like a love note to Melania, it's the electric chair for Trump!

SANDERS: I just had the extremely unpleasant experience of actually watching Donald Trump in action for an hour-and-a-half.

TRUMP: I sleep fine. I sleep very good.


BREAM: That is so much fun every week. And by the way, our senior Capitol Hill producer Chad Pergram who fell down there and then was helped up by the prime minister of Canada, he's going to tell us more about that story and a little behind-the-scenes scoop. And I love how he was still asking a question even as he is getting back on his feet. He's going to be on with us tonight.

That's it for “Special Report” tonight. I'm Shannon Bream in Washington. I will see you at 11:00 p.m. eastern.

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