For the Record with Greta, Transcript 2/27/2017
Show: For the Record with Greta
Date: February 27, 2017
Guest: Joe Crowley, Doug Collins, Shawn Henry, Alan Dershowitz, Catherine Rampell, Jonathan Alter, Jason Bellini
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOR THE RECORD HOST: This happening, a special
prosecutor? Well, tonight, new pressure on congress and the Trump
administration to settle unsettling questions about Russia and the Trump
campaign. The president calls it fake news. But not only are Democrats
demanding answers, but now even some Republicans are. Should and will
attorney general Jeff Sessions name a special prosecutor. Plus, now as
former president Bush 43 breaking with the Trump administration on the
travel ban and on whether the press is the enemy. And Rosie O`Donnell,
she`s about to take on President Trump again. She`s headed for Washington
to protest at the front gate of the White House. Yes, Rosie O`Donnell is
back. My thought, brace yourself.
We are 27 hours from President Trump mile ride from the White House
Pennsylvania Avenue to the U.S. Capitol for his speech for a joint session
of congress. We know he`s preparing, but what about the elephant in the
room? Questions dogging him about his campaign allege ties to Russia. And
this key questions circling Capitol Hill tonight, should a special
prosecutor be named to investigate. Well, today the man in charge of
leading a house investigation congressman Devin Nunes, held an unexpected
40 minute press conference, in part responding to this Washington Post
report saying the Trump administration asked him to counter Russia stories
to challenge reporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEVIN NUNES, U.S. CONGRESSMAN: We still have not seen any evidence of
anyone – from the Trump campaign or any other campaign for that matter
that`s communicated with the Russia government. As of right now, I don`t
have any evidence that would of any phone calls, that doesn`t mean they
don`t exist, but I don`t have that. And what I have been told is – by many
folks is that there`s nothing there.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Why not name a special prosecutor to take away the
notion that this could be tainted by politics.
NUNES: Well, I mean, look, this is – we`re the legislative branch of
government. We`re elected. I think the history of special prosecutors is
mixed. And at this point what are we going to appoint a special prosecutor
to do exactly. But there is at some point we have serious crimes being
committed it would be supplemented be consider, but at this point we don`t
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Later the top Democrat and the house intelligence committee
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADAM SCHIFF, U.S. CONGRESSMAN: The committee reached no conclusion on
whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, Russian officials, or any
Russians contacts, nor could we. We have called no witnesses thus far. We
obtained no documents on any counter intelligent investigation, and we have
yet to receive any testimony from the FBI on the investigation of potential
links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Also today, the president was asked if there should be a
special prosecutor on Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, do you support a special prosecutor on
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, do you support a special prosecutor on
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, take care.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I haven`t called
Russia in ten years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: But there are growing calls for a special prosecutor. Top
Republicans say there is no need, but one Republican disagrees.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: We`re going to ask the intelligence committee in the
house and senate to investigate within these special areas .
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Now we have independent prosecutor.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: You cannot have a somebody, a friend of mine, Jeff
Sessions, who was on the campaign and who is an appointee, you`re going to
need to use the special prosecutors statute and office to take not just to
recuse, you just can`t give it to your deputy, that`s another political
appointee. You do have to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: And NBC`s Pete Williams reporting tonight, attorney general
Jeff Sessions says he did not know in advance about the White House effort
to get the FBI to knock down some news reports about the investigation of
Russia`s alleged influence on the election. Sessions saying, the FBI and
the justice department have to remain independent and they will do so, but
not every contact is improper. Now asked if he knew about the contact in
advance, he said no. With me congressman Joe Crowley, Democrat from the
great state of New York, and chairman of the house Democratic caucus. Nice
to see you, sir.
JOE CROWLEY, U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Thank you, Greta. Great to be with you
VAN SUSTEREN: So, I`m sure you know all the controversy that`s been going
on, swirling around – whether it should be investigation or not about a
possible potential allegation of Russia`s ties with the Trump campaign. So
where do you stand on the issue of whether there should be a special
prosecutor named or not?
CROWLEY: Well, I think first of all, that the attorney general Sessions
needs to recuse himself at the very least at the very start. But I would be
in favor of a special prosecutor. I think there needs to be an independent
look into all the layers that have been going on here for many months now,
VAN SUSTEREN: If there is a special prosecutor named – by virtually naming
one, attorney general Sessions would be out of the picture – are you
saying he should be the one to name the special prosecutor? If not, who
should name that person?
CROWLEY: Well, whatever the chain of command would be after that. I think
he has been too involved in the election of this president, as well as
working with Michael Flynn. I think there are just too many personal
connections here to do this in a fair and balance way. And I think he needs
to remove himself to give creditability to whatever it takes place after
that, whatever processes that the special prosecutor that would be
appointed. But I do think the American people want to have a full
investigation as to just what the links are of our president to the
government of Russia.
VAN SUSTEREN: Are you saying you have confidence in Capitol Hill doing that
CROWLEY: Well, apparently, so far, Mr. Nunes the chair of the intelligence
committee here is saying there`s nothing to look at. You know he`s look to
all of it and sees no evidence of any substantial link. You know, I beg to
differ that there`s needs to be a more substantial investigation into this.
There`re too many red flags. Literary, red flags.
VAN SUSTEREN: Like what? What`s your biggest red flag?
CROWLEY: Well, I think the fact that – what is for me that the president
has never yet criticize Vladimir Putin. He`s criticized Hillary Clinton,
Democrats. He`s criticized the intelligence community, but never once he
has flat out criticized the Russians for one. We know that Manafort, we
know that Carter Page had direct – as well as Mr. Flynn had direct
conversations – on-going conversation with the Russian government,
Russians officials during the campaign and post campaign. So to me those
are incredible red flags that need to be investigated. Given that we know
that the Russian government, Putin himself, no friend of the United States,
did involve himself in – 17 intelligence agencies have said did involve
himself in our electoral process.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Turn to tomorrow night I assumed you intend to go.
Do you know and Democrats who do not intend to go, who might be for
whatever reason, you know, not happy with the White House not attending. Do
you know anyone like that who is not attending.
CROWLEY: I can`t think of any Democrat who right now who is happy with this
CROWLEY: But, Greta, I haven`t heard of anyone specifically at this point
who is not attending.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. In terms of the reception that the president is
going to give, I assume you`ll get a warm reception from the Republican
side of the aisle. Do you expect him to get a warm reception from the
Democratic side of the aisle?
CROWLEY: I think that he`ll get a polite reception to the office. The
respect that we all have for the office of the presidency will get that
polite response. But I think Democrats will show when they don`t agree by
sitting down or not applauding, just like Republicans did to Barack Obama.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do we have any guidance from leader Pelosi?
CROWLEY: No, at this point there`s not. I think the leader is respectful of
the office of the president. Has a lot of disagreement as I do with this
particular president himself, for the first month of the actions that he`s
taken. The executive orders. But we do have incredible high regards for the
office of the presidency and the system that we have.
VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman Crowley, thank you very much for joining us, sir.
CROWLEY: Thank you, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman Doug Collins, Republican from the great state of
Georgia, who`s also vice-chair of the house Republican caucus and serves in
the house judiciary committee joins us. Good evening, sir.
DOUG COLLINS, U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Hi, Greta. How are you tonight?
VAN SUSTEREN: I`m very well. Your thoughts on whether a special prosecutor
should be named or not to investigate the allegation of ties between the
Trump campaign and Russia?
COLLINS: I think not at this point. I think the intelligence committees on
both the house and senate have just begun that process. I think Chairman
Nunes today actually discussed that. There are differences on how fast or
how slow this process is going. But I think the proper for starting places
and within our house intelligence committee access to classified briefings,
access to the things that they need to do, and began to look at this. And I
think it does need to be something we need to look into it. It`s part of
the oversight that we need to be a part of. But let`s take the process that
is starting right now and let`s begin to work that process first.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you fear any sort of criticism though that the house –
because the house is run by Republicans that they`ll slow walk this. The
intelligence committee does most of its hearings and investigations behind
closed doors. And you`ve got the problem that at least 53 percent in a
recent NBC-Wall Street Journal poll from February 18 say that 53 percent
say that U.S. congress should investigate. They didn`t say special
prosecutor, but that there is at least significant number of American
people who are curious about this, and do you not want to swiftly put this
to rest and satisfy everyone.
COLLINS: Well, I think sometimes we have to look at it. I think you do need
to look at this. I think the issue is how you swiftly is are you taking
swiftly just to come to a predetermined conclusion, or are you taking
swiftly to actually look in to it, actually looking at the details, not
take the headlines, and not take the rumors, and the innuendo, and you take
it and actually look at it. Look, we`re dealing with not just the house in
this, but we`re dealing with the senate as well. So when you both beginning
to look at it with both Democrat members and Republican members looking in
to this, I think the issue is not an issue of time, the issue is are you
doing it effectively. We`ve seen too many times on the hill when you do it
quickly and don`t get a proper result, and I think we need to do that
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. One Republican has suggested the special
prosecutor name only one, I can see that – Democrats don`t – the
Democrats want a special prosecutor named. All right. Do you believe that
they`re doing that for political reason? Do they have distrust of the
intelligence community or why do you think they`re doing that?
COLLINS: Well, I think what else they`re going to talk about right now. I
think they`re not happy this administration, they`re not happy that the
Republican majority is moving forward on the things we`ve promised on
healthcare and also looking towards tax reform and regulatory reform. I
think the interesting thing here is also when you listen to the comments –
my friend Joe Crowley just a second ago said that one of his main emphases
for making sure that we investigate this is the fact that the president
never directly confronted or made any disparaging comments about Vladimir
Putin. Well, I don`t think – I`m not sure I have to go back and check, but
I don`t think I ever made any disparaging comments about Joe Crowley, but I
wouldn`t vote for Joe Crowley. So, I mean, I think we`ve got to be very
careful on how we`re going about this. And I think what we`re doing is in
the proper way, and looking for – keeping it within the context of what is
fact or what is fiction. And we move forward on giving the American people
the result. If I was in the Democratic Party without the agenda with the
defeat from last November, I think they`re searching for anything to try to
delegitimize this president and to slow the Republican majority down for
doing the things we`ve promised to do.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you expect tomorrow night that he will get a warm – as
Congressman Crowley said a polite reception from all the Democrats.
COLLINS: I think – Congressman Crowley and I could probably agree, I think
he`s going to get a nice reception – good reception from the Republican. I
think there will be a polite reception from the Democrats. I think this is
just the kind of speeches that placed themselves out that way in which
you`ll have the positives and the negatives expressed in applause and also
VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, thank you very much for joining us. Hope you`ll
COLLINS: Greta, I look forward to it. Take care.
VAN SUSTEREN: The White House pushing back on reports of ties between
associates of President Trump and Russia. Here`s what White House
spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESWOMAN: Well, look, I think –
easy answer here is that the FBI is already said this story is B.S. Those
are theirs words. So I apologize to my mom. But literary those are the
words of the FBI that the story is B.S. That came to us, they approach us.
We`re putting that story out there. I think the American people deserve to
know the truth, and that`s exactly what it is that there`s nothing here.
Just because reporters say something over, and over, and over again,
doesn`t start to make it true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: The FBI has not publicly commented on this story. Shawn Henry
is former executive assistant director to the FBI. Nice to see you, sir.
SHAWN HENRY, FORMER FBI EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Hi, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you have any problem with the deputy director of the FBI
pulling Reince Priebus chief-of-staff aside and saying that the story that
is in the New York Times making allegation about Trump campaign having a
contact or ties with Russian intelligence that that was B.S.
HENRY: Well, I don`t know is that happened. I`ve heard what the White House
spokesperson said. I think that to the extent that there` is a criminal
investigation, and that`s actually not been determined at this point
officially. But to the extent that there is, there should be a separation
naturally between the FBI and the White House. The FBI is an independent
collector of the facts. They are not by policy to discuss any ongoing
criminal investigations with the White House. It`s supposed to be
independent. They work through the department of justice. So anything or
any appearance of discussion could be deemed to be improper, and certainly
is not the right perception to maintain that level of independence, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: you know, there`s a part of me that understand if someone
pulled me aside and said that some story about me or something that is very
concern about or somehow connected to me in the New York Times was false or
B.S. Is that there would be something in me that would really want to
correct it fast. Not just say, oh, OK, that`s nice. And I know that
everyone said that the White House, quote, knock down – was trying to get
people to know down the story. I sort of interpreted a little bit
differently if the facts are as we`ve learned them or heard them so far. I
thought it was like trying to correct the record. I want the right things
said about me.
HENRY: Yeah, you know, obviously, if there`s this false allegation, we`ve
heard comments about leaks and the likes. You know, the FBI had been
involved in investigations for over a hundred years. That level of
independence is critically important. I know that that`s come into question
in the last six months or so. But when I was there in the bureau, there
really was a impartiality, it was a political organization, and we follow
the facts to where they lead. And when we uncovered facts, we presented
them to a prosecutor to get an opinion if we were to go further. The bureau
needs to maintain that level of persistence and ensure that they maintain
the appropriate appearance and handle things effectively and efficiently,
VAN SUSTEREN: But now we are where we are. Why do you think that statement
was made? You know, what would be I think is a political reasons or
assuming that this all happens as we keep reading about it. I mean, why
would the deputy A.G. make that statement to the chief of staffs?
HENRY: You`re talking about the deputy director was the comment. Look, I
don`t know if they`re at a cocktail party or if they`re at an informal
function and somebody says something.
VAN SUSTEREN: It was after a meeting. What I understand that the deputy
director of the FBI said it after a meeting at the White House. Pulled them
HENRY: Right. I don`t know – if in fact he said that, why he would have
that. If it was an offhand comment. If it was misinterpreted. I don`t know
why he would have said that. If he did in fact hear something or was aware
that certain comments were inappropriate. You know, perhaps he made an
offhand comment. I don`t know why he did that. I know that it`s critical
that the bureau maintain that level of balance, and that impartiality that
provides credibility to the American public that they`re handling
investigations in a way that the public should be proud off, and the public
quite honestly deserves.
VAN SUSTEREN: Sir, thank you very much for joining us. I hope you`ll come
HENRY: Thanks, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: What does former president, George W. Bush, think about a
special prosecutor and how it will work? Alan Dershowitz joins me next. And
President Trump versus the media, fallout from the president skipping the
White House Correspondence Dinner, we are live at White House. And Rosie is
coming to town. Now she and Donald Trump, the president, have been longtime
foes. What is Rosie O`Donnell planning outside the White House tomorrow?
And President Trump has a theory on why the Oscars made an epic blunder.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Would you like to see a special prosecutor appointed to
look into in to this once and for all, and give the American people
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Well,
first of all, I think we all need answers, whether or not special
prosecutor is the right way to go or not, you`re talking to the wrong guy.
I have great faith with Ricard Burr, for example, he`s the head of the
senate intelligence committee, really good guy, and an independent thinker.
And, you know, if he were to recommend a special prosecutor and then I
could – I`ll be – you know, then it would have a lot more creditability
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: The former president, George W. Bush, saying we all need
answers. But the former president did not go so far as to suggest special
prosecutor should be named to investigate allegations of Trump campaign-
Russia`s ties. Alan Dershowitz is a constitutional law scholar and
president-emeritus at the Harvard of Law School and joins us. Nice to see
you, Alan. And, OK, there`s a lot of suspicious swirling around Washington,
across the nation, in fact, whether or not there was ties between the Trump
campaign and Russia in any fashion. How would you resolve this for the
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Well, the Democrats are right, there
has to be a full and independent investigation, but they did wrong when
they call for a special prosecutors. Special prosecutors are supposed to
come only when there`s significant evidence of criminal conduct. In this
case, George W. Bush happened to be right about that. We need an
investigation but not by a special prosecutor, at least not at this point.
I have seen no evidence of any criminal conduct. Yeah, the Logan Act may
have been violated. That has not been prosecuted since 1803. What we`re
seeing here is very serious policy issues that the American public have a
right to get to the bottom of. And now the Democrats are right, they don`t
trust the Republicans to conduct the investigation. So what we need is a
third way, not a special prosecutor, not a congressional investigation, we
need an independent investigation the kind that was conducted on 9/11, and
many others times in our history. Where you get independent people with
subpoena power, not related to congress, not related to the justice
department, not special prosecutors, let them probe this to the depth, if
they see evidence of crime then you can have a special prosecutor. I doubt
we`ll find evidence of crime, but I wouldn`t be surprise if we found some
evidence that will make the American public very uncomfortable about the
relationship between the Trump campaign and the Trump administration and
the adminstration of the Russians or the Putin.
VAN SUSTEREN: OK. So how do you create that commission? Who picks the
commission so that the American people are satisfied that`s fair?
DERSHOWITZ: It`s very hard to do. And we do it generally when there was a
consensus like after 9/11. Everybody knew there have to be a commission. I
think pressure has to come from the people. The pressure has to come from
the media. We do need an investigation. I think that`s clear. And I think
the other two things that are clear is we can`t get it from the congress,
and we shouldn`t get it from an independent prosecutor because there`s no
evidence of crime. That, by the way, will be appointed by the attorney
general or one of his deputies anyway. We need a bipartisan commission to
look at this from an American point of view, not a Republican point of
view, not a Democratic point of view, but it`s America who suffers when a
foreign country interferes with our election. So I think we need to put
pressure on congress to appoint an independent commission to investigate
this, not the usual way through congressional investigation which would be
partisan, or special prosecutor which is too (INAUDIBLE) at this point.
This is no evidence of crime.
VAN SUSTEREN: Apparently, this is – of course, the deputy A.G., the FBI
pulled Reince Priebus aside after a meeting at the White House and said
that the New York Times report was B.S. That was the term that was use. And
then, of course, Reince Priebus, depending on who you talk to. Some saying
he tried to knock down the report. And, you know, frankly, I think he
probably was trying corrects the record. At least get the truth out if this
is New York Times story was wrong. Where do you stand on this whole sort of
Reince Priebus and the White House talking to people trying to get the
truth out to – at least their version of the facts out to the American
DERSHOWITZ: Look, the FBI shouldn`t be talking to the White House. They`re
regulations about that, but there`s law about it. There is no criminal
statute about it. They`re regulations. And this is not Richard Nixon. This
is not trying to get the CIA to cover for criminal conduct. This is a four
on a scale of ten politically, and a zero on a scale of ten legally. So
let`s keep it in perspective. Let`s take a deep breath. Let`s have the
investigation, but let`s not turn it into a partisan attack by the
Democrats or partisan defense by the Republicans. The American people are
entitled to a fair and full and complete investigation. And then, let`s us
judge, and let`s us use our judgment in deciding who to vote for in future
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Since now you`re an emeritus at Harvard, I assume
that when you`re not writing books you`ve got more extra time. Would you
chair this commission?
DERSHOWITZ: I`m too old to do that. But, of course, I would serve – look,
I will serve on any commission. I`m a loyal patriotic American. If my
country calls on me to serve a commission, I would serve on a commission. I
think what it needed is people from both party, people with non-party,
independence, people with prosecutorial, people with defense experience,
people who can get to the bottom of this, and tell the American people the
truth. We`re entitled to know the non-partisan truth.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Maybe I`ve gotten you a job on your retirement,
Alan. Anyway, thank you, Alan, nice to see you.
VAN SUSTEREN: Still ahead, President Trump comments about winning wars and
a budget plan that could put him on a fatal collision course with Speaker
Paul Ryan. Plus, former president, George W. Bush, saying what he thinks
about the Trump travel ban and the media. And brace yourselves, the return
of Rosie O`Donnell and her famous feud with the man who is now president.
VAN SUSTEREN: President Donald Trump promised a massive increase in the
military budget, and today his administration announcing plans for $54
billion increase defenses spending to be offset by reduction in foreign aid
and other domestic spending. The president saying the United States has to,
quote, start winning wars again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We have to win. We
have to start winning wars again. We never lost a war. America never lost.
And now, we never win a war. We never win. And we don`t fight to win. We
don`t fight to win. We`ve either got to win or don`t fight it at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Joining me, Catherine Rampell, opinion columnist for the
Washington Post, Jonathan Alter a columnist for the Daily Beast, and Jason
Bellini, reporter from the Wall Street Journal. Catherine, first to you,
the president says we`ll start winning wars again.
CATHERINE RAMPELL, THE WASHINGTON POST: It`s an interesting observation
given that, you know, he said that when he was in high school or college we
have never lost a war. I`m not exactly sure where things stand with Korea.
VAN SUSTEREN: It`s still ongoing.
RAMPELL: It`s still ongoing. The war of 1812, according to many historians
was sort of a draw. So I`m not exactly sure that that observation in of
itself holds up. Beyond that, I mean, I think it`s a bit of an insult to
our military to say that we`re not fighting to win. The whole language of
like we need to start winning again there`s – it`s something about that
framework make me a bit uncomfortable. You know, we should be fighting for
peace, right? Not so much about land grabs and oil grabs in that sort of
JONATHAN ALTER, THE DAILY BEAST: I mean, you know, the point of a big
military is deterrence.
ALTER: We don`t want our presidents being bellicose and talking about
fighting wars. He came to office claiming that, you know, he thought the
Iraq war was a bad idea and he didn`t want us to get into war so why is he
talking about wars. It makes one a little alarmed. And then also when we
did have trouble in Iraq and Vietnam, it was not because the defense budget
wasn`t big enough.
It was because we didn`t use our military power properly in coordination
with political efforts and diplomatic efforts. And so the idea that, you
know, we have trouble in the world because we haven`t had a big enough
military doesn`t really (INAUDIBLE) scrutiny.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOR THE RECORD HOST: Well, go ahead Jason.
JASON BELLINI, REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, I was going to say, he
may have a victory, a onetime victory on his watch in Mosul. He kicked out
ISIS. If that`s successful enough maybe weeks, months away and –
VAN SUSTEREN: He will take that as his victory, believe me. If they push it
on, he will take credit for that.
BELLINI: He probably doesn`t want to get on an aircraft carrier with a
mission accomplished sign on that and when dealing with Islamic state.
VAN SUSTEREN: But (INAUDIBLE) where is he, I mean, this is the – I don`t
where the money is coming for any of this. I mean that`s the one thing that
we know, we ever keeps talking about. Maybe we do need to spend this more
money or don`t but we just don`t have a lot of this money.
BELLINI: Well, the plan is announced today as you take it from one pot, one
discretionary pot that`s been shrinking and shrinking and put it into other
to the tune of $56 billion.
VAN SUSTEREN: But we also got to pay for the wall. We got to pay for 15,000
ALTER: Cutting, you know, the national endowment for the arts or whatever
they want to cut is not going to pay for these big defense increases. It`s
true that they`ve been way behind on maintenance in the F-18`s and some
other important aircraft for our defense but they – that`s because of what
they call the sequester under Obama –
VAN SUSTEREN: Which is another mess?
ALTER: – bad policy making over the last 10 years or as a private defense.
VAN SUSTEREN: Now to former president George W. Bush this morning answering
questions from Matt Lauer in the “Today” show about President Trump`s
travel ban and whether President Trump can unify the country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it`s very
important for all us to recognize one of our great strengths is for people
to be able to worship the way they want to or not worship at all. I mean
the bedrock of our freedom – a bedrock of our freedom is the right to
I am for an immigration policy that`s welcoming and that upholds the law. I
think you have to take the man for his word that he wants to unify the
country and we`ll see whether he`s able to do so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Catherine, he wants to unify the country and I think every
president wants to do that but he`s going to have a tough road ahead of
him, at least tomorrow night.
RAMPELL: Well, certainly George W. Bush know something about, talking about
unification and then landing in a position where there is a lot more
division, right. He branded it as a uniter not a divider himself. I would
argue that Trump has not done a lot to show good faith in terms of trying
to unite the country –
VAN SUSTEREN: Let me just say one thing though. He`s brought more people
into the Oval Office that I think that President Obama did. He`s had labor
in there. He` had people from all walks of life in there. I`ve got to him
credit for –
RAMPELL: Well, OK.
ALTER: I think that`s a myth about Obama. He had plenty of people in
VAN SUSTEREN: The head of the teamsters was in my office about two weeks
ago. He said can you believe that I was in the Oval Office. I was never in
the Oval Office when President Obama was president.
RAMPELL: But my – what I was going to say is that, you know, there are
parts of Trump`s agenda that do have strong bipartisan appeal, the things
that he talked about during the campaign, things like paid family leave,
VAN SUSTEREN: Now we get back to the money again.
RAMPELL: But my point is that he`s instead prioritizing things that are
just us expensive, if not more so that do not have appeal to the other side
of the isle. So there is room for him to stay true to his agenda and reach
across the isle.
ALTER: I was really struck just to focus on Bush for a second. So, remember
after 9/11 he went to a mosque, he understood that going to war with more
than a billion Muslims was not a good idea. It was not good for our
intelligence. It was not good for defending against terrorism because we
need the help of other Muslims nations and Trump doesn`t seem to understand
And Bush also understands that immigration has made America great and that,
you know, he wanted immigration reform when he was president. So it`s a
reminder of some of the areas in which George W. Bush was much more
moderate and I think much more sensible than Donald Trump.
BELLINI: Well, I think the moment from the Bush interview today was when he
said that power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive in the
context of why the media is so essential and it seemed like a bit of a
swipe up to the current president right now. It was actually nice to see
the former president looking so relaxed. And there`s some funny comments
from people like George Takei who said, “You know things are bad when
George W. Bush start sounding like a member of the resistance.”
VAN SUSTEREN: President Trump is about to give his first speech to Congress
and an uninvited guest has shown up outside the White House, and it`s not a
And we all saw the epic fail at the Oscars. How did it happen? President
Trump says he knows what went wrong.
VAN SUSTEREN: Rosy O`Donnell is taking her famous feud with President Trump
to his doorstep. Tomorrow, O`Donnell will help lead a protest right outside
the White House and just hours before the president hops in the
presidential limousine to go up to Capitol Hill to deliver his first
address to a joint session of Congress. O`Donnell today tweeting, quote,
“Watch the protest before in front of the White House.” It`s a showdown
that has been brewing for a while.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROSIE O`DONNELL, ACTRESS: I just think that this man is like sort of one of
those, you know, snake oil salesman in “Little House on the Prairie.”
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I mean I`ve always felt to
myself, I`ve always felt she`s a degenerate.
O`DONNELL: There his hair (INAUDIBLE)
TRUMP: Well, I said very tough things to her and I think everybody would
agree that she deserves it and nobody feels sorry for her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Back with me, Catherine Rampell, Jonathan Alter and Jason
Bellini. Jason, I`ll let you take the first shot. What do you say?
BELLINI: Well, is she baiting him because so far –
VAN SUSTEREN: Is she?
BELLINI: Well –
VAN SUSTEREN: Is there a question?
BELLINI: – but he hasn`t. To his credit, he has not taken the bait. If
he`s been – if the president said watching –
VAN SUSTEREN: Have you seen her twitter account the last hour? I don`t
know, we`ve been on the air so I don`t know.
BELLINI: Well, but not so far but I think she`s after him calling him, you
know, an orange slug. She kind of held her fire until the election. She
didn`t think he was going to win but since then, if you look back to an
audit of her tweets about Donald Trump, a lot of them, you know, really
VAN SUSTEREN: Is this conviction or is this getting even? Any political
BELLINI: I think I don`t doubt her sincerity but I think that –
VAN SUSTEREN: So this is conviction (INAUDIBLE) not just like a feud.
RAMPELL: I don`t think it matters. I think whatever her convictions are
it`s going to be perceived as vengeance and I don`t think she`s the avatar
for legitimate grievances about what present administration is doing for
that for that reason.
ALTER: A lot of his tweets he says sad – that`s the way he ends his
tweets. To me this is sad, you know, 11 years ago this ridiculous feud
started and it was kind of bread (ph) and circus thing. It was
entertainment for the American public and now it`s at the very center of
our system of government and it`s a joke.
VAN SUSTEREN: How did that happen?
ALTER: How did that happen?
VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, how did it happen?
ALTER: That`s question historians are going to ask is how a dopey celebrity
feud not only went national and global but actually, you know, started to
infect our democracy.
VAN SUSTEREN: What would you tell that historian?
ALTER: That history can sometimes play as farce.
VAN SUSTEREN: I still have no explanation for it, but I will, you know,
watch it carefully. Anyway, Press Secretary Sean Spicer today previewing
the president`s speech before Congress saying President Trump will layout
an optimistic vision for the country
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The theme will be the renewal of
the American spirit. He will invite Americans of all backgrounds to come
together in the service of a stronger and brighter future for our nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: This is President Trump`s approval rating. It lingers at 44
percent in the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. It`s a record low for
newly inaugurated president. Jason, tomorrow night, do you expect him to
sort of be, you know, what we call presidential. He`s not going to pick a
fight. He`s not going to trash the media. He`s not going to trash Rosie.
Would you expect this from him?
BELLINI: Even though there are reports that there may be some undocumented
migrants who are to be brought by members of Congress in the audience, but
I think that we watch whether he`s going to go from the platitudes that we
heard again and again and again during the campaign and we heard again and
again and again since he`s been president to actually a plan particularly
on health care.
What is he going to say? He`s had tough leaders in congress in within
trying to push their idea. Is he going to give us something that we can
really analyze where we can put some numbers on it or we`re going to get –
and all of the issues that are relevant right now.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, Catherine, I think this is up to a pivotal point
for him because I think that he`s got a chance to like grab the attention
of the American people and sort of focus at the way a little bit less from
the feuds and maybe towards the problems and potential solutions which we
will disagree upon of course. Everybody will, but, and nonetheless, at
least we`re talking solutions to serious problems.
RAMPELL: Yes. I will be listening for examples for any indication as to
what he`s looking for in an infrastructure package, in a tax overhaul. Will
it be actually tax reform as oppose to just tax cuts? You know, there`s a
difference between the two.
Will he layout anymore details for his vision for a replacement for the
Affordable Care Act. So far he has basically made lots of sometimes
contradictory promises about what the law will look like once Congress is
through with it. So I`m very interested to hear what his solutions are and
whether he puts any meat to the bones of his outlines.
ALTER: He said he wouldn`t talk about the media. I`m not so sure. He is
trying to use –
VAN SUSTEREN: I said I hoped he wouldn`t.
ALTER: Yes. I mean he`s trying to use us as a scapegoat and to deflect
attention from his other problems. He generally sticks with the themes he
feels are working for him and I think there will be a little bit of a jab
at us at some point in the speech. I`m looking to what he says about
Medicaid. Medicaid expansion – that`s the core of Obamacare.
It`s insured more than ten million people. The governors just came in and
told him, many of them including many Republicans that they want to keep
their ability to get this Medicaid money from Washington. But conservatives
on Capitol Hill want to scrap that. We don`t know yet where the White House
is on that critical issue.
VAN SUSTEREN: I`m hoping that, you know, somehow it would be a moment when
we all sort of take a deep breath and give everybody a chance, but that`s
pretty (INAUDIBLE) of me. Anyway, thank you all.
And finally the president speaking out about the Oscars and now the
infamous mix-up with the Best Picture award in the interview with
Breitbart, the president said, quote, “I think they were focused so hard on
politics that they did not get the act together in the end. It was a little
sad. It took away from the glamour of the Oscars.” That`s your sad there,
right. It was sad, the Oscars.
ALTER: I didn`t think it was sad. I think it was hilarious. I loved the
whole thing. You know, again, he is trying to deflect something that goes
with his particular view of things. What happened was a stage hand gave
Warren Beatty the wrong envelope.
VAN SUSTEREN: The wrong one. Oh, brother.
ALTER: That`s it. End of story.
BELLINI: That`s dishonest.
ALTER: Rigged. Rigged.
RAMPELL: I think rigged is the word of the moment.
VAN SUSTEREN: That`s pretty bad though. I mean, come on, let`s face it.
That was pretty bad.
VAN SUSTEREN: It was great. (INAUDIBLE) that, but anyway – and still he
never miss a chance to speak up, never.
BELLINI: Let`s be sure of it. What`s is the state of the union, that`s what
we`ll find out tomorrow. Is it great again yet?
VAN SUSTEREN: Well it`s not technically the state of the union so he
doesn`t have to say that.
ALTER: No, he`s claiming credit for the January figures even though Obama
was president for most of January. He`s using it a general economic figures
to put on his ledger.
VAN SUSTEREN: Anyway, thank you.
President Trump versus the media and fall-out for deciding to skip the
annual correspondents` dinner. The president of the White House
Correspondents` Association joins us live.
VAN SUSTEREN: And now three stories you may not now. Number three, the
brick is back. The famous Nokia brick phone is back on the market 17 years
after its first release. It got its name from its thick design but now it
some modern touches including a new interface where everyone`s favorite
cellphone game, Snake.
Number two, it turns out bees, they`re pretty smart. New studies shows that
bees can learn to perform complex task. Scientist taught bumblebees to walk
backwards while dragging a ball using a fake bee as a teacher. And once
they learn that task, the bees were also able to train their fellow bees to
do the same thing.
Then number one, the technology company Space X announced today that late
next year they will fly two private citizens on a trip around the moon. The
civilians will launch into the space in a craft that runs completely on
autopilot. That`s right, there will not be a trained astronaut aboard. Have
fun whoever wants to do this one. So there it is. Now you know.
And President Trump busy again tweeting. That is how he dropped the social
bomb that he will not be attending the White House Correspondents`
Association dinner this year. It comes two weeks after the president called
many news organizations fake news and the enemy of the American people. And
then this morning former president George W. Bush talked to Matt Lauer on
the “Today” show about whether he had ever considered the media to be the
enemy of the American people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy. That we need
an independent media to hold people like me to account, I mean, power can
be addictive and it can be corrosive and it`s important for the media to
call to account people who abuse their power whether it be here or
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: And like today, new comments from President Trump on the New
York Times saying, “The intent is so evil and so bad I call them the
failing New York Times and they write lies, they write lies.” Now Jeff
Mason is the White House correspondent for Reuters and president of the
White House Correspondents` Association. Nice to have you back, Jeff. I
take it you have not heard anything further from the White House about the
White House Correspondents` Dinner and whether the president may decide to
change his mind?
JEFF MASON, PRESIDENT, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS` ASSOCIATION: No, I
haven`t gotten any indication that he`ll change his mind. I have talked to
a couple of officials about it today, but on Saturday, it was surprise. We
didn`t have a heads up that that was decision he was going to make or that
he was going make it now two months before the dinner.
But the dinner will go on. The dinner will celebrate the first amendment.
It will celebrate the good work of our journalist members who have covered
politics in the White House over the last year and it will celebrate the
next generation of journalists through our scholarship program where we`ll
be giving scholarship to students. That dinner is not about the president
of the United of the States. The dinner is about journalism and that`s what
we`ll be highlighting on April 29th.
VAN SUSTEREN: It`s a little bit more though. It`s also sort of a roast and
it`s a roast of the president also and you know, the president at least in
prior dinners have gotten – when he was there as a guest – have gotten
roasted pretty heavily and he wasn`t even on the desk. Can you understand a
little bit why he might not want to come and spend the evening with the
MASON: I can understand that there`s tension between the president and the
media. We can`t be na‹ve about that. When you have a president of the
United States who is calling the media the enemy of the American people,
naturally there`s going to be some tension there and of course we reject
that characterization and I would echo and underscore what President George
W. Bush said in the quote that you just played, that the media is
indispensable to a healthy democracy.
But you`re right. The dinner does have jokes. There`s no question. We have
an entertainer who makes some jokes and usually the president makes jokes
as well. But the overall mission of that dinner is to do – to uphold the
principles that I just described.
VAN SUSTEREN: The president now has upped the ante calling the “New York
Times” evil. I don`t think he`s ever called them evil before but that`s
latest to a news organization today. You know, and he said something about
lies and lies. If the “New York Times” was wrong in that February 17th
article in which it said that there was evidence that there had been Trump
campaign connections to Russian intelligence, would you understand why he
might be upset with the “New York Times?”
MASON: You know, I can`t speak about the “New York Times” or comment about
a specific story or news organization. I will say that I think journalists
have the responsibility to tell and report the truth and if you make a
mistake in your story it should be corrected.
.For sure that is a basic tenent of good and responsible journalism. And
that is also frankly an important thing if you`re a public figure. If you
say things that are wrong and find out later that you did then you should
correct that as well.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, I`ve called them up for saying this fake news
business where he makes this sort of blanket and he says, like, everybody
at all these news organizations are doing here are fake news. So I`ve
certainly called him out about that, you know, I`m just (INAUDIBLE)
sympathetic about it. If we can isolate a mistake and the mistake doesn`t
get corrected, that`s where I go, but these are broad generalization –
VAN SUSTEREN: But these broad generalizations, you know, don`t enhance
anything. What`s it like down at the White House with the Press Corps and
MASON: Well, you know, we have sort of a rough day on Friday which we
talked about before with the gaggle where many news organizations were not
included. But today Sean was back at the podium and briefing on the record
and on television so that`s a good thing and I`m hoping that that`s the
trend that will continue and the White House Correspondents` Association
will continue working on that and on our relationship with his press team.
But there, yes, there is tension. There`s tension between the press and the
White House, but the press is doing its job and that`s what we`ll continue
to do regardless of the rhetoric that comes from either the president of
the United States or others.
VAN SUSTEREN: The White House has been critical of the anonymous sources.
Are people in the administration – I want you to name names, but are they
making comments to the press and refusing to be identified?
MASON: Yes. I mean, I have said this before, a journalist would almost
always prefer to have a name source in your story. I certainly would but
this White House along with many other White Houses often gives information
out that is on background. And on background means not attributable to
somebody by name.
So if this White House starts giving all this information on the record I
would certainly welcome that and I think journalist would welcome that. But
I think it`s also important to know that having an unnamed source does not
mean that source is wrong or inaccurate. A lot of officials sometimes can`t
speak on the record and it`s still important to give the information out
that they have.
And that has been done for years and you look back at some of the amazing
journalism of the last few decades. Not all of that is based on the record
sources but generally, I agree. It`s always better to have it on the record
VAN SUSTEREN: Jeff, thank you for joining us.
MASON: OK, my pleasure.
VAN SUSTEREN: And when we come back, what baseball has to do with President
Trump`s big speech tomorrow night. That`s a tease.
VAN SUSTEREN: “For The Record” years ago I sat next to baseball great
Franks Robertson at an Orioles game and he showed me much that baseball is
so much more complex than just watching the ball and the swings. So o the
diamond there are things that are done to spook the opponent like who`s
warming up, the conversation between the catcher and the pitcher and so
So it occurred to me, President Trump`s address to Congress tomorrow night
is a bit like that where you may think the sole action is just the
president speaking, there`ll be so much more going on in that political
chamber that`s intended to spook political opponents so don`t be surprised
if during President Trump`s speech he deliberately says certain things like
make America great again, because he knows all the Republicans will stand
And what do the Democrats do if they sit there, they`ll look like they
don`t want America to be great. That would be awful for them. That`s right.
And so that plays right into Trump`s game plan for the night. Or how about
if Trump says this, bring the jobs back to America. If Democrats sit
through that one while Republicans stand and clap, the Democrats will look
like they don`t want jobs for fellow Americans. Oh brother, right. The
games go on, don`t they? Oh yes, a bit like that baseball diamond. So much
going on and so many traps set.
Thank you for watching. I`ll see you back tomorrow night at 6:00 p.m.
eastern in Washington, D.C. right then before the big speech. Good night
from New York.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2017 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2017 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.