This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," December 27, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:  We have already built a lot of wall.  We are building a lot more just through the normal budget.  But we just gave out a contract that when it is all completed out, it will be
115 miles.  That is a lot.  We're talking about 500 to 550 miles.  And this will be just as one contact 115.  I am going there.  I assume you are coming with me on probably the end of January.

We have a problem with the Democrats because Nancy Pelosi is calling the shots, not Chuck.  And Chuck wants to have this done.  I really believe that.  He wants to have this done.  But she is calling the shots.  And she is calling them because she wants the votes.


BRET BAIER, HOST:  Still try to get the details of that contract on the border wall, the president talking about that and border security while traveling to see troops overseas, tweeting out, "Have the Democrats finally realized that we desperately need border security and a wall on the southern border?  Need to stop drugs, human trafficking, gang members, and criminals coming into our country.  Do the Dems realize that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats?"

Also tweeting out, "There is right now a full-scale manhunt going out in California for an illegal immigrant accused of shooting and killing a police officer during a traffic stop.  Time to get tough on border security.  Build the wall!"

That is, in fact, true, there is a manhunt underway.  The sheriff's deputies say the suspect was seen on camera, security footage, buying beer at a convenience store.  They believe he is in fact an illegal immigrant and he shot and killed an officer, Officer Singh, Wednesday after being pulled over in a gray pickup truck.  That is all the backdrop to which this partial government shutdown continues.

Let's bring in our panel, Jason Riley, "Wall Street Journal" columnist and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at "The Federalist," and Amy Walter, national editor for the "Cook Political Report." Jason, your thoughts on the context here on the big picture on all of this?

JASON RILEY, WALL STREET JOURNAL COLUMNIST:  The Democrats seem to be pushing for Trump to abandon any wall funding, which I think is very unrealistic, Bret.  I think the smarter move would be for Democrats to offer some funding in return for something they want, such as amnesty for the Dreamers who are very popular with people from both parties.

In the short run I don't think that this shutdown is really hurting the president.  His supporters want it.  He campaigned on it.  They want him to fulfill a campaign promise.  And I think Trump has become convinced that if he doesn't continue to push for this wall and show some progress on this front he will hurt his standing with his base, and he could be right about that.

I think the argument for him doing something now versus next year is that I think he has the stronger hand right now.  As you mentioned earlier in the show, that $5 billion that was approved earlier this month, that goes kaput in January.  And when Nancy Pelosi writes a new spending bill with her caucus, it will almost certainly contain less than $5 billion for a wall.

BAIER:  Amy, this hunt for this illegal immigrant who shot and killed a police officer, the sheriff's office out there talking about the officer who was killed.  Take a listen, Randy Richardson.


RANDY RICHARDSON, NEWMAN, CALIFORNIA, POLICE CHIEF:  Yes, he was a police officer, but what needs to be known is that he was truly just a human being and an American patriot.  Ron was not born in America.  Ron was born in Fiji.  He came to this country with one purpose, and that was to serve this country.


BAIER:  Thirty-three-year-old Ron Singh killed in that shooting.  We have seen these incidents before, Amy, the Kate Steinle case out in California, that affected the broader picture on border security in one way or another.  
Is this one of those moments?

AMY WALTER, NATIONAL EDITOR, "COOK POLITICAL REPORT":  It is a really horrible and tragic story.  And you're right, Bret, to note that we have had a lot of stories like this.  We've had a lot of discussion about the wall.  We've had the caravan, we've had an election, we've had politicization of the well throughout the last two years.

And when you look, though, at opinions of the wall, they literally have not changed since the 2016 campaign.  I went back and I looked.  The Quinnipiac poll in November of 2016, support for the wall, 42 percent, opposition, 55 percent.  Two years later, now we are in December of 2018, support for the wall, 43 percent, and 54 percent disagree with the idea of a wall.

So the reality is that we have over these last two years, we've not seen any minds changed on the opinion of the wall despite all of the other things that are going on around it.  And instead what we are getting, instead of broadening coalitions for either side, they are just hardening and deepening.

BAIER:  Mollie?

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SENIOR EDITOR, THE FEDERALIST:  And you are seeing that in this shutdown of the government.  Both sides seem to think that they have the upper hand.  I think that Democrats really believe that denying Trump a victory on border wall funding is absolutely key.  They know that this was something he campaigned on.  They know that this is something that does have a lot of support, 40 plus percent of the American people wanting a wall is something that has a huge backing for it.

And even more than a wall, there are greater concerns about border security, which I think is a much more compromised position that people on both left and right care deeply about.  But at the same time, Trump thinks he has a strong hand because 75 percent of the government is funded.  He thinks that it shows that he cares about this issue, that he is willing to get credit for shutting down the government, that he cares so much that he is willing go to that extent.

And so there is this intractability in this fight.  I do think that while the wall itself might be with numbers that Amy is talking about, concern about border security is a long-standing concern that goes back decades, and that there is a lot of frustration that the government has done so little to ensure the security of our borders.

BAIER:  We saw Peter Doocy up on Capitol Hill, basically the only person up on Capitol Hill, Jason.  It seemed like there were tumbleweeds going down the hall.  And they'll be there until Monday.  Meantime, the blame game continues, Republicans and Democrats.  Take a listen.


REP. MARK MEADOWS, R-N.C.:  The needle has moved towards a very long shot down just because of the impasse that we are seeing on the unwillingness of Democrats to actually engage in meaningful dialogue.

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY, D-VA:  Nobody likes the stress of the uncertainty Public servants want to go to work.  They don't want to be idled.  And they certainly don't want to think this could go on for weeks.  
It is a great thing to this administration and to the outgoing Republican Congress that we've arrived at this kind of points.


BAIER:  Just the past minute, Jason, the president tweeting out, "This isn't about the wall.  Everybody knows that a wall will work perfectly.  In Israel the wall works 99.9 percent.  This is only about the Dems not letting Donald Trump and the Republicans have a win.  They may have the 10 Senate votes, but we have the issue, border security.  2020!"  That was tweeted a few minutes ago.  Jason?

RILEY:  I think the president is right, that this is about the resistance not wanting to give him any quarter on any issue, including this issue.  
But I think that in the larger sense, the public is with the president in the sense of caring about border security much more than Democrats seem to care about border security.  We see this not only in their opposition to physical barriers, we see this in their attack on ICE, abolish border enforcement of any kind, their support for sanctuary cities and so forth.  
They just are not -- they don't look serious about border security of any kind, regardless of whether we're just talking about a wall.

BAIER:  But Jason, why didn't that work for the midterms?  Why didn't it work in the districts that were suburbs outside of big cities?  Why didn't the issue work, because obviously the president was hitting it hard in the lead up to the midterms?

RILEY:  I think there were other concerns that people had in their mind.  
And I think that the public did increase the Republican majority in the Senate, while it turned control of the House over to Democrats.  But I don't know -- I think Trump felt if he didn't harp on this, the losses would have been even greater than they were.  That is difficult to prove, but I think that is his thinking on this issue.

But his base is with him on this, Bret.  In the short run, I really don't see him feeling a lot of pain on this.  In the long run perhaps if this goes on and on and on, then perhaps maybe you will see some negative response to Trump on this issue, but not right now.  I don't think it's been going on long enough.  And we're so far away from 2020 that I don't think it's going to have an impact on that either.

BAIER:  Short answer Amy, then Mollie, do we get a deal in the next days after Monday?

WALTER:  We're not going to get a deal until the new Congress is in place, and even then we're going to have a debate for a little while longer.  But at some point there are no winners in this.  They are only losers.  It is just a question of who looks less bad.

HEMINGWAY:  I actually think there is room for a win here in that Democrats can bring back DACA and talk about resolving that issue without having the courts settle everything.  And you can get border security, and it seems like it would be a great time for people to get a little bit of what they want on both sides.

BAIER:  We shall see.  Next up, looking ahead to 2020, who can compete in the next presidential election?  We'll take a look.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I'm going to bring up John Kasich and I'm going to bring up Arizona Senator Jeff Flake.

GOV. JOHN KASICH, R-OH:  I'm not trying to be coy.  We are seriously looking at it.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE, R-ARIZ.:  I do hope that somebody does run in the primary against the president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They said they might run against you in 2020.

TRUMP:  I think I have the greatest base in the history of politics.  I have people that I love and that love me, frankly.  That includes a lot of women.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.:  For all of you that are going to ask you about 2020, no I am not running for 2020.  I can promise you what I will be doing is campaigning for this one.


BAIER:  There are some Republicans talking about possibly running against, primarying President Trump.  But the big focus is on the Democratic side.  
There are really a cast of thousands.  If you look at the picture, you have got a lot of people who have talked about it or are considering it.  And the decision is coming up very soon.

If you look at "The Des Moines Register" recent polls for the Democratic side, Joe Biden is the biggest hopeful that gets the most attention, find him favorable 82 percent.  Bernie Sanders is next at 74 percent.  Elizabeth Warren at 64.  Beto O'Rourke, 53 percent.  There you see Kamala Harris and Cory Booker at 49 percent.

What about all this?  I know it seems like it's early, but we are back with the panel.  It's not early.  All these decisions, Amy, are happening right now.

WALTER:  That's right.  And I have my own list now of over 30 serious Democratic candidates.  And all those candidates as they're looking at this, they also have to compete for staff, money, organizational support.  
It is happening right now.  People are going to start announcing within the next month that they are running for president.

And I think the biggest challenge right now for Democrats in terms of figuring out who gets the nod, as I said you have a crowded field.  But you have a number of other things.  You have the fact that the calendar is different.  You highlighted this in the show today, that California has moved out.  That and their early voting means people may be voting in California before the results are known in Iowa and New Hampshire and some of the other early states.

We know that fundraising, a lot of these small dollar donors made a huge difference for Democrats in 2018, people like Beto O'Rourke.  They made a huge difference for Bernie Sanders in 2016.  What kind of role are going to they play?  And who are they going to coalesce around?  We have got a long time to figure this.  It's going to take a long time to narrow this field, but for now Democrats are willing to give all of these folks a look.

BAIER:  Mollie, I've seen a lot of columns already were Democratic columnists or left-leaning columnists are saying, focus, people, because you need to beat President Trump.  You can go down one road, but that is what should be the goal.  And it's going to be fascinating to see what the Democratic Party does.

HEMINGWAY:  Right.  And some people view it when you see all of these candidates, that that is a real sign of weakness for a party.  I think it also can show a real sign of health.  This reminds me a lot of the 2016 feel, the Republicans, they all felt that the field was open to them.  
There was no incumbent they were protecting.  They knew they were going to be running against someone who was pretty unpopular.  And so it has a lot of the similarities.

And I think that let the voters weigh in here, indicate who they might get behind, and we'll see how it goes.  I did notice that one poll, while it showed a lot to favorability for various candidates, still showed the highest favorability to be named later.  They would still like someone else who isn't even yet named as potentially running.

BAIER:  Jason?

RILEY:  It may be a cast of thousands, Bret, but it seems like right now an awful lot of them are falling over one another to get as far to the left as possible.  It's pretty crowded over there with Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker and Kamala Harris and those folks.  I am not sure that the country will be looking for a sort of leftwing populist bomb-thrower to replace Donald Trump.  The path for the Democrats may be more middle ground, and I don't mean in terms of policy necessarily, but in terms of temperament.  
Someone boring, a governor like a Hickenlooper in Colorado or even a Cuomo in New York, or even a Joe Biden type, someone who can won the states that one for Obama and then went for a Trump, your Michigans, your Ohios, your Wisconsins, and so forth.

The problem with those men I just named is that they are men and they are white, and you have a left right now obsessed with identity politics.  And one thing they'll have to determine is whether they want a politically correct candidate or a candidate with a realistic chance of winning.

BAIER:  We did a series 16 in 16.  We were going to think about 20 in 20 for Democrats, it might 30 in 20 by the time we get in there.  Panel, thank you.

When we come back, something to chew on as you wind down from the holidays.


BAIER:  Finally tonight, if you are about to get rid of your Christmas tree, there is a unique way to recycle it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We have people that call us and ask us, hey, do need some Christmas trees to feed the goats?


BAIER:  Employees of a tree stand near Tucson, Arizona, are donating their trees to local animal sanctuaries and petting zoos.  The manager says the pine from the trees is actually very good for pigs and goats and their digestive system.  The stand started donating their trees five years ago, and they say it has become a nice way for animals to get their own Christmas dinner.  So there you go.  Didn't know that.

Thanks for inviting us into your home tonight.  That's it for this "Special Report," fair, balanced, and still unafraid.

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