WH adviser is reportedly person of interest in Russia probe

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," May 19, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, D-MD.,: We have an election that was interfered with by the Russians, whether there was some type of collusion, whether there was a cover-up.

HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER KEVIN MCCARTHY, R-CALIF.: He has no evidence that Comey asked for the resources, that all the resources were there.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The entire thing has been a witch hunt. And there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign. But I can only speak for myself and the Russians -- zero.

DEFENSE SECRETARY JAMES MATTIS: This week alone I have probably been on the phone with or hosted here in Washington nine or eleven foreign counterparts or spoken with the secretary general on the phone in all. The issue has never come up.


JAMES ROSEN, FOX NEWS: And as President Trump boarded Air Force One en route to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the steady stream of leaks and allegations trailed him like exhaust fumes from the plane itself. "I just fired the head of the FBI" the New York Times quotes the president as having told a Russian delegation. "He was crazy, a real nut job. I face great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off. I'm not under investigation."

The Times added "the White House document that contained Mr. Trump's comments was based on notes taken from inside the Oval Office and has been circulated as the official account of the meeting. One official read quotations to The Times.

Then there is The Washington Post which reports the law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest, showing that the probe is reaching to the highest level of government according to people familiar with the matter. The senior White House adviser under scrutiny by investigators is someone close to the president according to these people.

Let's break it all down with a panel, Lisa Boothe, columnist with The Washington Examiner; A.B. Stoddard, associate editor at Real Clear Politics, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, unindicted co-conspirators all.


ROSEN: Lisa, this Washington Post story about a senior adviser close to the president, which seems like language calculated to make a stink of Jared Kushner, if this is true -- putting aside if it's Kushner or not, but if it's true that there is such a person in the White House who is now a person of interest for this investigation, should the Trump White House regard that as a significant escalation in this story?

LISA BOOTHE, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Potentially. But I think everyone should take what is printed with a grain of salt. We've seen a lot of this information that has surfaced been incorrect. If you remember even in regarding to The New York Times article with President Trump's conversations with the Russians, we've seen there was a report with speaking to the Mexico president, that there was a threat from President Trump. The spokesperson for the president came out and said that was not true. Same thing with the Australian prime minister. There was a report saying he hung up on him. He said that was not true. We've seen reports regarding Comey be incorrect as well. So I think that everything should be taken with a grain of salt these days.

ROSEN: OK, let's listen to or just hear from the White House press secretary Sean Spicer who assuredly has had better weeks than this one. He offered a pair of rebuttals to these stories. On The Times story about what the president told the Russians, Spicer said, and I quote, "By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia's actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia. The investigation would have always continued and obviously the termination of Comey would not have ended it." Once again, Spicer said "The real story is that our national security has been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified conversations."

A.B., here we have notes taken inside the Oval Office. And they said an American official --- meaning a current official -- sitting on the phone and reading those quotes from this official document, chronicling this meeting with the Russians to a Times reporter. That doesn't bother you?


ROSEN: OK, my apologies. That was a tendentious --

STODDARD: That was not my story. That was the New York Times.

ROSEN: You're quite right. But should we not be bothered by the leaking? Address if you would Sean Spicer's comments that the leaking is the most salient feature of this.

STODDARD: Well, the leaking is a problem. The leaks were a problem for President Obama, as you well know, James. They're going to be -- I think they are really facing a great fear of the leaks because at the rate of which they basically, the rate at which they seem to come now at even sort of a more rapid speed regarding this investigation. I think it is going to cause them great stress. It is obviously a huge part of this story. Much of this is not legal.

But people are doing it because they believe the president is doing something wrong. And the potency of these reports and these accounts are going to cause him great political peril even if in the end, let's say, from the Washington Post story, the person of interest is not a target, not be charged with anything criminal or anything, it creates another dramatic story line about the Trump West Wing and the way that Trump behaves about the Russian investigation, how he fired Comey, why he fired Comey, and the way that he talks with Russian officials when he thinks no one is listening.

So I always come back to everything is through the prism of Congress for me. This puts an enormous amount of pressure on people who have had a tough week in his party to try to keep saying you'll just have to talk to Bob Mueller, the special counsel. These are really, really tough stories to try to come around and defend.

ROSEN: I will not lead into you with a negative construction like that again.


ROSEN: You were quite right to object.

On The Post story about the Russian probe potentially ensnaring a current White House official, Sean Spicer said, and I quote, "As the president has stated before, a thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity." On this panel just a few days ago, Charles, you called this a scandal in search of a crime. Do you still hold that position? Does The Post story asserting that there is somebody very high up in the White House right now who is now a person of interest in the investigation, are you disturbed by that?



KRAUTHAMMER: No, I'm not disturbed by it at all. A person of interest means somebody who knows. It doesn't mean somebody who did something wrong or illegal. I think here they are protesting too much. And Spicer's protest that the real issue here is particularly with the Russian thing, the Russian -- Trump talking to the Russians about the Mueller firing, this is an issue of a leak is inadvertently self-indicting, because after all, the idea that journalists are going to receive leaks, it's a constant. Journalists are always ready to pick up the phone.

If he is saying we have a real problem here with leaks, what we are talking about -- what's unusual is the Niagara of leaks coming out of this White House. As you said, this had to have been somebody in the room, somebody who took the notes, somebody who called The Times, who picked up the phone and read the notes. So the problem here is an inner circle of people who have lost faith or betrayed or whatever. But it's certainly not a leak problem that ought to interest us. It's a loyalty problem inside the White House.

ROSEN: To be clear, the four American officials who were in the Oval Office for that meeting with the Russia delegation were the president, the secretary of state, the White House national security adviser, and his deputy Dina Powell.

TRUMP: Somebody who had access to the notes.

ROSEN: They took the notes, but the notes were then put into paper form for a chronicle of the meeting. And more people will have access to that, and that's one of the leakers here, correct?

KRAUTHAMMER: Those people are inside the White House. In other words, this is not NSA, FBI, enemies in the deep state trying to undermine the president because he's an outsider. This is inside people. And what Spicer is saying, that's the real story. Well, if that's the real story, it's the administration, the White House's problem.

ROSEN: All right, we just got a bit of breaking news. And we'll head to the commercial break with it, just to tell you that the former FBI director James Comey has agreed to testify in open session before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

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