This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," October 9, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you concerned that Erdogan will try to wipe out the Kurds?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I will wipe out his economy if that happens. I actually think much tougher than sanctions.  I've gotten him to stop virtually from the first day I was in office, but they have wanted to fight, and that's the way it is.

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKISH PRESIDENT (through translator): Together with all our commanders we will bring down the terror corridor. We are determined. Our combat is not against civilians. No steps will be taken against civilians.

SUZI QAMISHLU, SYRIAN DEMOCRATIC FORCES (through translator): If Turkey insists on attack and invasion, we will use our right to defend our lives.  We are ready to confront and respond to all kinds of attacks that could be launched against us.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: The attacks have started. Turkey has moved into the Kurdish area in northern Syria. Jennifer Griffin at the Pentagon has talked to a Special Operations forces soldier, Special Forces soldier, that's trained indigenous forces. Let's go back to the map. And she has said that he is on the front lines tonight. He says Turkey is not doing what it agreed to.  It's horrible. He is on the ground. He says this is insanity. I don't know what they call atrocities, but they are happening. They have not, the Kurds, abandoned their guarding positions of ISIS prisoners, in fact, quote, they prevented prison break last night without us. They are not abandoning our side yet. The Kurds are pleading, according to this special forces soldier on the ground, for our support. We cannot do anything.

Let's bring our panel: Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen; Amy Walter, national editor for the Cook Political Report, and Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist. OK, Marc, you heard the president defending the action, although the statement they put out today said it was a bad thing for Turkey to cross that line into northern Syria.

MARC THIESSEN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: But he gave them the green light. Look, this is a disaster. General Votel who just retired as commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East said that this literally threatens to undo five years of work fighting ISIS and damage our credibility as an ally. It is a betrayal of the Kurds.

President Trump said today that we defeated ISIS. Number one, we haven't defeated ISIS. They have more than 30,000 fighters and $400 million, so they're not defeated. But to the extent that we have beaten them back, it wasn't U.S. ground forces that did that. It was these Kurdish fighters.  So if Erdogan is allowed to wipe out the Kurdish fighters, who is going to keep the boot on the neck of ISIS. These are the people we are depending on. When you have proxies, you can't let somebody wipe out your proxy.

And then, even if they survive it, Bret, why would they help us fight ISIS?  Their enemy is Assad. We asked them to fight ISIS. And so they did that in exchange for our support. Now that we abandoned them, why would they fight ISIS for us? And why would any ally step forward to help us as a proxy when we don't want to send our forces somewhere to fight bad guys who want to kill us here at home?

BAIER: Mollie?

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: I think President Trump has been clear going back to the 2016 campaign that he has no interest my miring the U.S. in civil or sectarian conflict in that region. We did have a military objective there, which was to defeat ISIS's military capability.  We actually did accomplish that. The idea that we should stay there in perpetuity is something that clearly the foreign policy consensus in this town very much likes, but it is at odds with what a lot of people think about how we should be fighting wars, what are ideas should be about when we go into conflicts, when we get out.

And this is -- the Kurds did deserve a fair warning that we would be doing this. They didn't get that. But this alliance that we had with them does not mean that it could extend into perpetuity for all time and all place.

BAIER: Here's some more talk about the ISIS as part of this equation and what may or may not happen.


DANIEL HOFFMAN, FORMER CIA STATION CHIEF: There are roughly, estimated 70,000 prisoners, may be 10,000 of whom are those hardened fighters. If the Kurds now have to defend themselves, they may not be able to afford continuing to service as prison guards, and they will be able to free, ex-filtrate themselves, and then conduct attacks in the region and beyond.

DOMINIC EVANS, REUTERS ISTANBUL BUREAU CHIEF: Turkey has said initially what it wants to do is create a security zone that is about 20 miles deep inside Syria, and its main target has been the Kurdish YPG forces there.  But if it goes much further, it is likely to become in areas where ISIS captives are being held.

There is a lot of anger. They have described this as betrayal. They've described it as a stab in the back. As you say, for years they fought with U.S. backing against the Islamic State.


BAIER: Amy, there is a sentiment, Mollie is right, inside the American public about bringing troops home. But there is also a sentiment that says standing by allies who fought with us and the battle there is what is playing out.

AMY WALTER, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: This is one of those rare times in which, in Washington at least, all sides are unified, Democrats and Republicans are all on one side against the president.

Look, I think that the question is the short run answer, maybe that's right. The president said, I told you I was going to get out of wars and I'm pulling out. When that happens and there is a longer-term consequence, which could lead to more instability in the region and more time and money that the U.S. is going to have to spend to clean that up, then that seems to me to not be a particularly good idea.

HEMINGWAY: It seems there's a clear solution here, though. If it is true that we should be fighting Turkey on behalf of the Kurds, Congress has every ability to declare war against Turkey. It's a little complicated by the fact --

WALTER: Why would they do that if they could have just kept what we have right now --


WALTER: That would have costs so much more money. Why would we do that?

HEMINGWAY: If it is so popular to do this, to engage in this kind of --

WALTER: We are not engaging in anything. We are not engaging in anything.

THIESSEN: We're not fighting Turkey. That is not what was on the table.  If we were there, Turkey would not be in there because we control the sky.  When American troops were there, they wouldn't have gone in if Trump hadn't given the green light.

BAIER: We should also point out, we're talking about 50 U.S. --


THIESSEN: Hold on, Mollie, let me respond to you. This is this endless war canard that we're hearing from some of the isolationist right and from the left. There is no endless war because we are not fighting these wars.  We have proxies in these countries that are fighting these wars. In Iraq we have 5,000 troops, Afghanistan, 14,000 troops, Syria we have 1,000 troops. We have 98,000 troops in Germany, Japan and South Korea. What we are doing in these countries is we are arming and training proxies to fight the wars for us, and we are giving them intelligence, air support, and other things.

As far as I know Al Qaeda and ISIS have not surrendered. So somebody has got to fight them. So it's either going to be our proxies or it's going to be us. And if we abandoned the proxies and we betray them in this way, nobody is going to step up to fight for us, not only in Syria but in Afghanistan or in Africa or anywhere else around the world. You cannot betray your allies, especially if you don't want to deploy hundreds of thousands troops around the world.

BAIER: Mollie.

HEMINGWAY: I think both sides are hyping this are more important or more significant than it is. As you pointed out, it's a few dozen American officials.

BAIER: Yes. It's pretty significant if you are a Kurd on the ground in northern Syria.

HEMINGWAY: But it's also significant if you are an American military family that has been told that it's no big deal if you are deployed all throughout the world, and you have your sons and daughters losing limbs and lives and the money --

THIESSEN: They are not losing limbs and lives now --

BAIER: I understand what you are saying, Mollie. And I'm pointing out that there is an American sentiment about bringing troops home. But I am also pointing to the special forces soldier who spent the last few years working with Kurds on the ground, and he is telling Jennifer Griffin this heart-wrenching story about knowing that the people that he's worked with are going to get slaughtered.

HEMINGWAY: There are a lot of security needs that are in the national interest, and we have to figure out which ones are high-priority and which ones we cannot afford to be engaged in --

THIESSEN: ISIS is a top priority.

BAIER: Quickly, Amy, it does seem, you mentioned Democrats and Republicans. It's not unanimity. It's different parts. But there's large numbers. And Republicans do seem more emboldened to go up against the president on this as opposed to whether they want to comment on the Ukraine call or what he said on the South Lawn.

WALTER: This is much more policy. I think on policy, you have seen Republicans break from the president on different issues. I think in this case the issue will not be getting into a physical military conflict with Turkey, but what will Congress give to the president in terms of sanctions, how strong will they be, will they be enough?

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