White House loses labor nominee, taps new security adviser

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," February 15, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. PATTY MURRAY, D-WASH.: There is some good news today for
workers and women and families in America. Back on the campaign trail,
President Trump promised to put workers first, but from the start it's been
pretty clear that his nominee for secretary of labor, who has now
withdrawn, was a clear signal that President Trump had no intention of
keeping that promise.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: That is Senator Patty Murray on the Senate floor talking about the
withdrawal of cabinet nominee for labor secretary Puzder. He released a
statement today as he pulled out of this consideration, "After careful
consideration and discussions with my family, I am withdrawing my
nomination for secretary of labor. I want to thank President Trump for his
nomination, also thank my family, my many supporters, employees,
businesses, friends, and people who have voiced their praise and hopeful
optimism for the policies and new thinking I would have brought to America
as secretary of labor. While I won't be serving in the administration, I
fully support the president and his highly qualified team."

It simply came down to a matter of numbers and Republicans were leaving
this vote in droves. Let's bring in our panel from Washington and start
there on a busy day: Jonah Goldberg, senior editor of National Review; Mercedes Schlapp, columnist for the Washington Times, and Amy Walter, national for The Cook Political Report.

Amy, I want to start with you and how this kind of evolved as far as the
nominee pulling out of consideration.

over the last couple weeks some warning signs. The first was that the
nomination, the hearing for it kept getting pushed back and back and back,
and so there was starting to be some rumblings about what's going on. Why
isn't this moving at the same pace as some of the other nominations?

And then came the concerns about Puzder's personal life, whether it was
hiring someone that he didn't pay taxes for. Then of course we just
learned earlier this week about his ex-wife and comments she made on the
"Oprah Winfrey Show," even though she was disguised at the time. And so it
was just a piling up of problems. And if you are Republicans now on
Capitol Hill, you are already dealing with stories about the White House in
tumult, the chaos about the Russia leaks, Flynn resigning. Did you really
want to go and find out this which could lead to another few days of really
bad stories in what has already been not a great week?

BAIER: Yes. Mercedes, Charles mentioned earlier, there is usually one,
almost always one nominee who doesn't make it through for one reason or
another. I mentioned Tom Daschle in 2009. Does this put a speed bump,
another speed bump in addition to the Flynn resignation and the calls for
investigations into the Russia connections into the early push that the
Trump administration really wanted to make to get things done?

presents a roadblock for the White House. I think part of it is a bit of a
lack of vetting of Puzder. I think that that was a problem as well. We
knew there was -- when the information started coming out about his ex-wife
and the undocumented immigrant, that he failed to pay taxes, it started to
build up this opposition research case against Puzder.

And then you have to remember that on the committee, really you had two
liberal Republicans, Senator Murkowski, Senator Collins, and several other
senators, Republican senators very much concerned about this nomination.

So with that being said, you have to remember, Puzder is coming from the
business community. These senators have no loyalty to this man. As we
know with previous administrations, President Obama there were five of his
cabinet -- three cabinet nominees that didn't go through. President Bill
Clinton, there were three -- there was five of them.

So I think that, look, this is going to happen. Unfortunately it piled on
this week and they didn't want to have another fight like we saw with Betsy
DeVos. They didn't want to bring in the vice president so obviously this
nomination process fell apart.

BAIER: Jonah, the NSA will turn to Vice Admiral Robert Harward, who is
really well respected across the board both side of the aisle in the
intelligence community, in the military, has a big resume. But there are
still now calls for investigations, sometimes calls for Republicans for
investigations into these Russia connections. Take a listen.


SEN. ROY BLUNT, R-MO.: There are lots of questions there, and of
course we need to know who leaked. We need to know what we need to do to
be sure that that doesn't happen in the future. And more importantly we
need to know what we're doing to be sure that the rights of private
citizens are protected.

SEN. BOB CORKER, R-TENN.: There are the issues. I know you all have
been talking earlier about leaks, and no doubt that is a sub-issue that
needs to be dealt with. And we need to make sure the information that
bureaus are taking in is being handled in the appropriate manner. But the
big issue right now is dealing with the Russian issue, making sure that it
doesn't destabilize our ability to move ahead as a country and deal with
important issues.


BAIER: Jonah, your thoughts?

country can walk and chew gum at the same time. I think both issues need
to be investigated. I think this is one of the places you get to when you
see sort of democratic norms being all shaken up or disputed. Everyone
thinks that they can play the game of disrupting norms, too.

I think these leaks are a big deal. This is a kind of stuff you see in
places like East Germany. They are outrageous what they are doing and
they're really unprecedented, to a certain extent, the actual nature of the
material that has been leaked.

At the same time, the allegations about Russian interference in our
election are a big deal too. And it seems to be that both deserve to be
investigated. I think all the transcripts of the leaks should be released
so the people themselves can judge, and I think that Congress needs to
figure out what exactly is going on with Russia.

So far none of the reports from "The New York Times" and CNN that we've
seen so far really advance the story very far. We knew that there were
people in the Trump campaign, or at least it was reported, had some
involvement with Russia. Donald Trump has now lost three aids because of
allegations having to do, involving with Russia, but even "The New York
Times" concedes that there is no evidence of coordination or any of the
more paranoid stuff that we've been hearing.

BAIER: Right. So, Amy, there are people yet, even though there is not
direct evidence yet, calls for investigations. But people like Dan Rather
said this has the potential to be bigger than Watergate, and others saying
that this investigation is going to last all the way through the Trump
administration. Do you see that?

WALTER: I don't know that we know how long this is going to last. It's
clearly a cloud that's going to continue to linger. And the question is,
how many more leaks are going to come out? We don't know what people are
sitting on and how desirous they are of putting this stuff out there.

Now that Michael Flynn is gone, was this really about him or was it about
the Trump administration in general or the president himself? We will have
to find that out. And the other piece comes from the pressure being put on
Republicans themselves. Right now you saw a couple people that you put up
there, Roy Blunt from Missouri, Bob Corker from Tennessee. These are folks
who are conservative Republicans but who take their job of being United
States, protecting the United States interests very, very seriously. They
are in a very different position than a House member who is hearing from
their constituents and is up in the next election.

I think if those folks start to get overwhelmed with phone calls, if we
start seeing these town halls turn into a focus on, quote-unquote, "do your
job, go and start asking these questions," the pressure may build enough on
other Republicans to demand some sort of hearing or at least an open
discussion in a way that makes it harder for the administration just to
push this out to the side and blame it on leaks. But that pressure is also

BAIER: Mercedes, really quickly. Can the administration get back on track
with these big rollouts that are coming soon? The tax reform rollout, the
infrastructure rollout, these are things that the American people said they
wanted in elections, and the same people who were saying, or some of them
who were saying this is going to be the end of the Trump administration are
the same people who said he was never going to win in the first place.

SCHLAPP: The Trump administration cannot afford to lose any more political
capital. I think this is part of the organizational process that they have
in place. They need to put in a director that is going to be able to help
organize these campaigns. They are rolling out so much, whether it be
regulations or deregulations or executive orders, and they're not being
covered. And so I think you have to build campaigns around the type of
work that you're doing. This is why you're going to start seeing President
Trump maybe taking some trips. We know he's going to South Carolina on
Friday. I think, Bret, we need to see him take control of his team, of the
message. Right now we are seeing too many messages coming out from too
many messengers.

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