William Barr defends President Trump's comments on Mueller investigation

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," May 17, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, D-MINN., PRESIDENT CANDIDATE: These guys are setting us up, using women as political pawns to set this up for a case to go to the Supreme Court.

SEN. CORY BOOKER, D-N.J., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All men, we need to lead on this issue with women.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, D-N.Y., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Federal law should supersede harmful state laws that take away women's reproductive freedom.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG, D-IND., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think that you are free in this country if you're reproductive health can be criminalized by government --



BRET BAIER, HOST: 2020 candidates, and this in an atmosphere where a lot of states are passing abortion laws. If you look at this map, you've got in the red states that signed abortion bills into law, seven states, various levels in different weeks in which they say abortions are illegal. The yellow states here are fetal heartbeat ban legislation is still pending, that's nine states there. And obviously the abortion issue played in the last cycle with President Trump and evangelical support.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT: It's terrible. If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby. Now, you can say that that's OK, and Hillary can say that that's OK. But it's not OK with me.

ROBERT JEFFRESS, FIRST BAPTIST DALLAS PASTOR: President Trump in the final debate eviscerated Hillary Clinton over the abortion issue, showed that she would put no restrictions on it whatsoever, and I believe that's what tipped evangelicals into President Trump's camp and keep them there right now.


BAIER: So what about this issue as it plays in 2020? Let's bring in our panel, Jonah Goldberg, senior editor at "National Review," there -- no. There he is.


BAIER: You didn't tell me you've changed. Leslie Marshall, Democratic strategist, and "Washington Post" columnist, also known as Jonah Goldberg, Marc Thiessen.


BAIER: Jonah, what about this issue, how it's playing, and with this environment with states really stepping in with aggressive laws?

JONAH GOLDBERG, SENIOR EDITOR, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Yes. In a lot of ways this is anticipatory, prepositioning with both sides thinking there is a shot that Roe v. Wade to go. And one of the things it's doing is it's accelerating a phenomenon that already exists, which is that the party positions -- this is a political analysis, not a right or wrong or moral thing, are at the extremes, while the mainstream of American public opinion is very much like western Europe's public opinion. Most Americans are in favor of the right to an abortion in the first trimester. And then most Americans think abortion after the first trimester is something, depending on how late it goes, close to a moral horror.

And the problem is that Roe and Doe and then Planned Parenthood v. Casey established an abortion regime in this country that says that Donald Trump was basically right, that it is possible, Constitutionally, to have laws that say you can kill the fetus seconds before birth. And that is causing some states to -- what is amazing is how the Democratic Party has embracing an extremist position where they literally want to say now that that's good, it's no longer safe, legal, and rare, and the Alabama is to say essentially no abortion whatsoever. And it will be interesting to see who wins in the battle of turning off the most voters with all of this.

BAIER: Leslie?

LESLIE MARSHALL, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I think that Democrats are going to win with this, and the reason I think that they are going to win is when you look at the numbers, there are many people, women especially, who will say that they are pro-life, but they still support a woman's right to choose. And most states do uphold the law.

Yes, there are those, myself included, who are very uncomfortable with an abortion past a certain point, and a lot of people who call themselves pro- choice feel that way. But this is becoming beyond extreme, to have no exceptions for incest or rape, as in the case of Alabama, we're seeing more states do this. I think we're going to see more women particularly jumping to Democrats and voting for Democrats. And I think politically this will backfire --

BAIER: To Jonah's point, Leslie, on the progressive side, and I know you've written about this, is on the issue of gun control, the message is if you save one life, this is what we need to do. On the issue of health care reform, if you save one life, this is what you need to do. But on the issue of abortion, it's not that message, even when you get to late-term abortion. And does it play both ways on the bases of these parties.

MARSHALL: The extremism isn't going to help anybody left or right. And if you talk about the extremism on the left with people saying there should be absolutely at no point where you can say no to an abortion, you know my husband is a physician, and even though he's not an OB-GYN, my mother-in- law is a retired OB-GYN, and I spoke to her about this many times. Not only are OB-GYN's trained to do this, but it is so very rare, like you said, that people don't even like to talk about the numbers because it is so very rare for somebody to make that decision medically --

GOLDBERG: According Guttmacher Institute there are more late-term abortions in the United States than there are gun homicides. The way we talk about gun homicides, if it saves one life, it's worth doing. When we talk about late-term abortions, Bernie Sanders said in his town hall with you, it's so rare, the few cases where you are killing viable babies, it's not worth getting into. It's a total cognitive dissonance on these issues.

MARC THIESSEN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: And on top of that, the Guttmacher Institute also says that the reason for those late-term abortions is not these horrific abnormalities or anything. It's because the mothers decided they were afraid of the child, or they couldn't financially support them or something. So it's this myth that late-term abortions are happening in these rare cases where you have a fetal abnormality is just not true.

BAIER: But on the flipside, the Republicans who have spoken out about these laws, some of them have said they've gone too far. Take a listen.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, R-CALIF., HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I defend my pro-life position for my whole political career. But in my whole political career, I also believed in rape, incest, or the life of the mother. There was exceptions. That's exactly what Republicans have voted on in this House. That was our platform says.

RONNA MCDANIEL, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRWOMAN: Personally, I would have the exceptions. That's my personal belief. But we are a party that is a broad tent. If you agree with us 80 percent of the time, I want you to be a Republican.


BAIER: Marc?

THIESSEN: Look, the life of the mother is the exception that every pro- life person accepts because you are not intending to take the life of the child, you're intending to save the life of a mother. In the case of rape or incest, which is a very small fraction of these cases, you don't have that situation. It's a horrible thing for anyone to be raped, but killing -- a second evil doesn't make that any better.

But there's a little bit of a false argument taking place over here, because first of all Republican legislatures have been passing laws restricting abortion for over a decade now because during the Obama years, Republicans had an unprecedented takeover of state legislatures. This is more Republican governors, more Republican legislatures at any time since the 1920s. And so when you pass pro-life governor and you elect pro-life super majorities they are going to pass pro-life laws.

The difference is that they were afraid to challenge -- they were doing an incrementalist approach because they Anthony Kennedy was going to strike down anything they did. Now you've got Brett Kavanaugh on the court and they're becoming emboldened and putting off this incrementalist approach.

But unfortunately, I think these laws are actually not going to get to the Supreme Court anytime soon, because the courts doesn't have to take them up. If a federal judge says this is unconstitutional, they can just choose not to do it. And also there are a lot of these incremental laws that are teed up for the court. So the court doesn't want to rule on Roe v. Wade. They are not going to be forced to by a state.

BAIER: But a big issue in 2020.

MARSHALL: I'm going to agree with you on the court because I don't think the Supreme Court is going to touch it because Kavanaugh and Roberts specifically have said they're going to stand with precedent, so I don't think they are going to touch it. And this is political. That's what bothers me even more so about this, Bret, that this is political.

I'm sorry, this is not about saving babies. I don't buy that. Because they look at the composite of the court and they say we have a possibility to overturn Roe v. Wade. Teen pregnancies have declined, abortions have declined. If they want to save babies, then why not prevent the pregnancy? Why not prevent a pregnancy with education and birth control? Why not work on prevention rather than trying to stop abortion, which --

THIESSEN: I totally accept that you don't believe it's a human life --

MARSHALL: You don't know what I believe.

THIESSEN: If you accept it's a human life --

MARSHALL: When I was eight-and-a-half months pregnant and my son was dying and they told me to abort him, I did not.


MARSHALL: So how does that play out?

THIESSEN: What I'm saying is stop questioning the motives of people who want to save children. Accept the fact that they believe it's a child and they are trying to save lives. They're not trying to hurt women, they're not trying to control women --

MARSHALL: This is politically motivated by the state of Alabama.

THIESSEN: That's so wrong.

BAIER: And obviously it will be an issue that we talk about again.

GOLDBERG: No, we settled it.


BAIER: Oh, we settled it.


BAIER: All right, next up, the very lightning Friday Lightning Round.


BAIER: The abortion discussion continued at the break. We're going to continue that now -- no, we are not. We're actually not going to. We're not going to do that.


BAIER: Bill Hemmer had an exclusive interview with the attorney general in El Salvador. One of the parts we didn't hear earlier.


WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: If you were the president I think you would view it as a witch hunt and a hoax, because at the time he was saying that he was innocent and that he was being falsely accused. And that's -- if you are falsely accused, you would think that something was a witch hunt.

And I have to say, when you step back and look at this, two-and-a-half years of administration, three years of Trump, the campaign and then the first part of his administration, he has been hammered for something, for allegedly conspiring with the Russians. And we now know that was simply false. I think if I had been falsely accused, I would be comfortable saying it a witch hunt.


BAIER: It's a fascinating interview. He says he's going to get to the bottom of the beginning of the investigation. Quick thoughts on that before winners and losers, Jonah?

GOLDBERG: I think he should get to the bottom of the investigation, to clear the air. There are lots of people who have theories about the Russia stuff. There are lots of people who have theories about launching the investigation. Let's just get the facts out.

MARSHALL: I agree 100 percent with that, just put it all out there and let the American people decide left or right.

THIESSEN: Bill Clinton wasn't falsely accused, and he called the Starr investigation a witch hunt, and he actually did it. But of course, if you were accused of a crime and then someone spent millions of dollars and two years of your life investigating, you'd be pretty upset about it, and you'd call it a witch hunt.

BAIER: All right, you can see that full interview online. Bill Hemmer did it. It was great.

Winner and losers, winner first.

GOLDBERG: My winners are the people of New York City because they're not going to have to deal with Bill de Blasio nearly as much. My losers are the people of Iowa, who will.


BAIER: As he is running for president now. All right, Leslie?

MARSHALL: Can I flip it? OK, my loser is, no surprise, Alabama, because they are going to but doctors away longer than they will rapists in the case of rape. My winner is Grumpy Cat. I know Grumpy Cat has gone on to a better place, but millions of followers on social media and has eight more lives to come.

BAIER: Oh, wow. Grumpy Cat is gone. OK.

THIESSEN: My loser is Beto O'Rourke, who is running the Seinfeld of campaigns, a campaign about nothing. And if you want to get, if you're not getting taken seriously and you're falling in the polls, what do you do? Livestream your haircut and talk about your ear hair. Karen Tumulty suggested we better watch out when his colonoscopy comes around.


BAIER: The ear hair was really disconcerting.

THIESSEN: Yes it was. Very gross.

BAIER: You guys were really lightning there. We skipped over Iran. I know you had something to say about Iran.

THIESSEN: Yes, which is --

BAIER: Wait, you have a winner.

THIESSEN: I have a winner.

BAIER: My bad.

THIESSEN: That's all right. My winner is Iran.


THIESSEN: My winner is Gene Simmons of Kiss who came to the Pentagon this week as a part of the Know Your Military Initiative to connect people with the United States military. He told a very moving story, and that's me taking my kids to a Kiss concert.

BAIER: Wow, that's equally disconcerting.

THIESSEN: Hopefully not equally.


MARSHALL: That's Jonah Goldberg.

BAIER: That's Jonah Goldberg. That's Jonah.


THIESSEN: But he talked about his member who is a holocaust survivor who brought him here to America. And he said they came from Israel, but this is the real promise land. He's a real patriot.

BAIER: There you go. We'll save Iran for a different day. It was much better with Kiss. Kiss was much better.


BAIER: All right, when we come back, "Notable Quotables."


BAIER: Back to the abortion topic -- no. Finally tonight, it is Friday, and that means it's time for this week's "Notable Quotables."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I apologize to the women of Alabama for this arcane law that we pass.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We fundamentally do not seek a war with Iran.

TRUMP: There's going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens, I can tell you that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's kind of a calming feeling I always tell folks that when I think of the holocaust, and the tragedy of the holocaust --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think most fourth-graders know what the holocaust was, and she apparently doesn't.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you can't face the FOX audience, you can't face the U.S. It's that simple.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wielding tariffs like a cudgel because it makes the president look tough, that only hurts American families.

TRUMP: We are the piggy bank that everybody likes to take advantage of or takes from.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: I'm trying to put a dent in the smoking business and keep kids from going on a journey that has to be helped.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Redacted, redacted, redacted, redacted, redacted, redacted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. That's a nicer reception then I get on Capitol Hill.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now they have an investigation of the investigators who are investigating.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, D-CALIF., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that Joe Biden would be a great running mate as vice president. He's proven that he knows how to do the job.

TRUMP: I've got Buttigieg. Beto, four weeks ago, he said I was made for this. He was made for it. He was made to fall like a rock.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, D-NYC, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Bill de Blasio, and I'm running for president.

CROWD: Liar! Liar!

TRUMP: Most people aren't into that, so I wish him luck.


BAIER: That is one week.

Thanks for inviting us into your home tonight. That is it for this “Special Report,” fair, balanced, and unafraid. Don't forget, this weekend a special town hall with Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Chris Wallace heads to New Hampshire at 7:00 eastern on Sunday. You don't want to miss that. It is before the "Game of Thrones," so you are fine.

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