This is a rush transcript from “Fox News Sunday,” April 15, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: I’m Chris Wallace.
The U.S. and European allies strike the Assad regime for using chemical weapons to murder its own people.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster instead.
WALLACE: We’ll discuss the decision to hit Syria again. What it means for the civil war there, and the president’s message to other countries supporting Assad.
TRUMP: To Iran and to Russia, I ask: what kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children?
WALLACE: Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations live, only on “Fox News Sunday.”
Then, the FBI raids the president’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, raising questions whether Mr. Trump will fire special counsel Robert Mueller.
TRUMP: Why don’t I just fire Mueller? Well, I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on. We’ll see what happens.
WALLACE: We’ll discuss the latest developments with Trey Gowdy, chair of the House Oversight Committee.
Plus, former FBI Director James Comey’s new book lashes out at President Trump and the White House responds.
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: The intelligence community does intelligence. The White House does PR and spin.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Comey will be forever known as a disgraced partisan hack that broke his sacred trust with the president of the United States.
WALLACE: We’ll ask our Sunday panel if there are bombshells in the new book or just a political food fight.
All, right now, on “Fox News Sunday”.
WALLACE: And hello again from Fox News in Washington.
The strikes on Syria by the U.S., France and Britain are a show of Western resolve, meant to punish Bashar al-Assad for his latest chemical weapons attack on his own people. The Pentagon describes the strikes on three targets as precise, overwhelming and effective. But what happens if Assad uses chemical weapons again and where does this leave U.S. policy for dealing with a civil war and terror threat in Syria?
In a moment, we’ll speak live with the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley.
But, first, to national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin with the latest on the military operation.
JENNIFER GRIFFIN, FOX NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Over 100 U.S., French and British missiles all hit their targets successfully landing simultaneously within just a few minutes, despite being launched from military assets deployed from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf.
JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Clearly, the Assad regime did not get the message last year. This time, our allies, and we have struck harder.
GRIFFIN: The three targets included a research center near Damascus, a chemical weapons storage facility near Homs, and a weapons bunker a few miles from that second site.
Russian and Syrian state media claim they shot down dozens of the allied tomahawks and missiles, but the Pentagon says the Russian guns remain silent, adding Syria fired 40 surface-to-air missiles wildly into the air, after the U.S. missiles had already hit.
DANA WHITE, PENTAGON CHIEF SPOKESPERSON: What happens next has everything to do with what the Assad regime decides to do?
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: I spoke with the president this morning, and he said if the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again, the United States is locked and loaded. When our president draws a red line, our president enforces the red line.
GRIFFIN: U.S. intelligence has only concluded at this time that chlorine was used in the most recent chemical attack. They suspect sarin but don’t have the proof yet, leaving many to wonder if use of chlorine bombs in Syria is a new red line for the U.S. and its allies and the possibility of future military actions, Chris.
WALLACE: Jennifer, thank you.
Joining us now from New York, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley.
Ambassador, I want to start with President Trump’s tweet after the military action against Syria. Here it is: A perfectly executed strike last night. Could not have had a better result. Mission accomplished!
A lot of people say that echoes President Bush 43’s premature claim of mission accomplished back in 2003. Isn’t President Trump’s claim of success just as premature?
HALEY: Well, first of all, mission accomplished is a military term, and as a military spouse, I know that mission accomplished means you have one task currently in front of you and when it’s completed, it is mission accomplished.
Politically, mission accomplished means something broader. And I think the president was referring in military terms. We, of course, know that our work in Syria is not done. We know that it’s now up to Bashar al-Assad on whether he is going to use chemical weapons again. And should he use it again, the president has made it very clear that the United States is locked and loaded and ready to go.
WALLACE: Yes, I want to pick up on that because obviously you have no idea how Assad is going to respond to this attack, although I suspect you think that he got the message. And to add a little bit to this confusion, President Trump and Defense Secretary Mattis sent very different signals on Friday night about the campaign. Take a look at both of them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.
JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Right now, this is a one-time shot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: So, which is it? A one-time shot or a sustained response?
HALEY: That is totally up to Assad. What I can tell you is the president has made it very clear when it comes to weapons of mass destruction, we have no tolerance for it. We are going to watch out for the best interests of the American people.
And so, he made a point and hopefully Assad gets it. If Assad doesn’t get it, it’s going to hurt. And I think what General Mattis was saying the strike happened basically responding to their continued use of chemical weapons. But, of course, if Assad continues to go forward, there will be more and it will hurt and I think that he has a lot to think about.
WALLACE: I want to pick up on that because there are certainly indications since the first strike in April of last year that Assad had used chemical weapons and there had been no U.S. response. This particular case last weekend was especially egregious and horrific.
But are you saying that going forward any use of chemical weapons by Assad will trigger an immediate U.S. response?
HALEY: Well, I think first of all you said it. This last one was egregious. It was barbaric and it was disgusting. So, I think what you saw was there had been a cumulative wave of constant use of chemical weapons. Assad knew that Russia had its back. Assad knew that Russia would cover for him at the United Nations, and Assad got reckless and he used it in a way that was far more aggressive.
We have to be very conscious of the fact that we can’t allow even the smallest use of chemical weapons. That’s why you saw the president strike this past weekend. That’s why you saw him expel 60 Russian spies after the attack in Salisbury. This very easily could happen in the United States if we’re not smart and if we’re not conscious of what’s happening. This was a message sent to Assad. We’ll see how smart he is.
WALLACE: But to press my point if I may — are you saying that going forward, there is zero tolerance? Any use by Assad of chemical weapons will trigger a military response?
HALEY: Well, I don’t think there’s any way that I can answer that. I mean, we don’t know what he’s going to do, the level he’s going to do or anything else. I will tell you that the president is watching and I think the national security team is ready.
So, basically, we will watch his actions. He now dictates his life and he dictates what happens between the United States, our allies and his regime. And so, hopefully, he has gotten the message. It was a pretty strong message.
Not only did we go after their absolute strongest research facility, we went after their storage units where they hold the products and we went after their production. So, we put a heavy blow into their chemical weapons program setting them back years. And I’m sure it’s going to take them a lot to recover from it.
WALLACE: Ambassador, here is a question that a lot of people have. You have spoken very movingly about the slaughter of civilians in Syria, and we are seeing pictures right now of the attack in Douma. But doesn’t the president’s policy allow the mass murder of women and children to continue as long as it’s carried out with conventional weapons and not chemical weapons?
HALEY: Well, I think that’s just a very unfair question. In what respect are you asking that?
WALLACE: Well, what I’m saying is we’re saying that any use of chemical weapons we’ll respond to, but we’re not saying that about conventional weapons and Assad has slaughtered hundreds of thousands of his people. Why are we drawing a distinction and saying to Assad, it’s OK to do it with conventional weapons but we’re going to object if you do it with chemical weapons?
HALEY: I don’t think we’ve ever said it’s OK, period. There is no way that any American or the president would ever say it’s OK to kill women and children.
I think that we have a lot of issues in the world and I think we’re trying to put out as many fires as we can. We can’t control what a country does to its people. We can condemn it, we can acknowledge it. We can try to do everything at the United Nations.
I think what you’ve seen is the president has used a lot of sanctions whether it’s in Venezuela, whether it’s been related to Syria, whether it’s related to Russia and human rights. There’s been a lot of things that we have done and taken action. We’ve never sat back and watched bad things happen.
We do wait and use military force as a last response to that. But we’ve always acted in every way related to every incident in some form just to let them know how much the United States condemns it.
WALLACE: I want to ask you about U.S. actions and how we’re responding, though, when it comes to the displacement and the torture of the Syrian people. I want you to look at some State Department numbers on how many refugees have come into this country over the last three years. In 2016, more than 15,000 Syrian refugees came into this country. Last year, 3,000. So far, this year, 11.
On humanitarian grounds, how do you justify that?
HALEY: I will tell you, we have spent well over $6 billion on the Syrian conflict. I personally went to the refugee sites in both Jordan and Turkey and spent time with refugees, whether they were in camps or whether they were out. I talked to them about the situation at hand.
I will tell you from a humanitarian standpoint, the United States has been a massive donor to this situation but also when I talked to the refugees, what I talked to them about, they want to go home. And there is a mountain that they look over and know it is on the other side and know that Syria is in shambles and they are prepared to rebuild it.
But not one of the many that I talked to ever said we want to go to America. They want to stay as close to Syria as they can so that when, god willing, this fighting stops and when there is finally stability and peace in that area, they want to go rejoin their family members. They back to go to what they remember.
The kids talked about where they used to play and what they used to do. The adults talked about the fact that that’s where they were born, that’s where they were raised. There was a real emotional string to Syria and I think we need to be conscious of the fact that’s really where they want to go.
WALLACE: Let’s talk about the overall strategy for Syria because a couple weeks ago, President Trump talked about a very fast pull-out of our troops there. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We’re knocking the hell out of ISIS. We’ll be coming out of Syria very soon. Let the other people take care of it now. Very soon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: President Trump reportedly wanted to get all 2,000 U.S. troops out within 48 hours and had to be persuaded by folks at the Pentagon to keep them there for a couple of months which raises the question — what is our goal in Syria? And what is our strategy to get there?
HALEY: Well, I can tell you because I was in the National Security Council meetings with the president when it came to discussing Russia and he had three major goals that he wanted to accomplish.
He, one, wanted to make sure that chemicals — chemical weapons were not used or weapons of mass destruction were not used in any way that could harm American national interests. He wanted to make sure that we defeated ISIS completely and wholly, to make sure all of that threat was gone, because it is a threat to American national interests. And he wanted to make sure that we had good grounds to watch what Iran was doing and they weren’t making a lot of aggressive headway in terms of that, because Iran is a national threat to American interests.
And so, I think that no, he never thought he would get out in 48 hours. Yes, it is all of our goal to see American troops come home. But we’re not going to leave until we know we’ve accomplished those things.
What he has done is talked to our allies and said they need to step up more. They need to do more. It shouldn’t just be us doing it. I think that’s the right approach. But be very clear, if we leave, when we leave, it will be because we know that everything is moving forward. We’re very invested in the political process in Geneva and invested on a political solution and those talks continue.
WALLACE: One area where there has been a dramatic escalation in the last week has been in the direct verbal attacks by the administration on Russian President Putin. Here is a tweet from President Trump this week: President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing animal Assad.
And here you are at the U.N.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HALEY: History will record that on this day, Russia chose protecting a monster over the lives of the Syrian people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Ambassador, has our relationship with Putin and Russia changed this week?
HALEY: Well, I think it’s been changing over time. This is a very strained time between the United States and Russia. I mean, if you look at what Russia is doing, they continue to be involved with all the wrong actors. I mean, whether it’s their involvement in Ukraine, whether you look at how they are supporting Maduro in Venezuela, whether you look in Syria and their way of propping up Assad and working with Iran, that continues to be a problem.
There is multiple issues we have with Russia right now and what they’re doing, whether it’s the chemical weapons use in Great Britain. That was another issue.
So, what we’re doing is we’re letting Russia know this is not something that we want to be a part of. It’s not something we’re going to tolerate and they’ve got to make a decision. Right now, they don’t have very good friends, and right now, the friends that they do have are causing them harm.
I think they’re feeling that, whether it’s been with the fact that we’ve sanctioned just recently the Russian oligarchs which made their stock market plummet, whether it’s the fact that we gave arms to Ukraine, which makes them realize that their life is about to get harder in that region, whether it’s us sending 60 spies home to let them know that we’re not going to put up with you using a chemical agent anywhere, or whether the sanctions that are continuing to happen which you’ll see again on Monday. That lets them know this is not good behavior.
So, everything that has strained this relationship has been on the side of Russia. The military strikes did not have to happen if Russia had not covered for Assad. Six times, they vetoed chemical weapons resolutions related to Syria and this last resolution that they had they only had three votes out of 15.
The international community is telling Russia that either you make a decision on how you act and when you act, or the rest of us will make a decision in isolating you.
WALLACE: So, in 15 seconds, how would you characterize U.S. relations with Putin and Russia right now?
HALEY: Very strained right now. But our hope is always to make sure we can get a better relationship with Russia. It’s in our best national interest to do that. But we’re not going to put up bad behavior to get it.
WALLACE: Ambassador Haley, thank you. Thanks for taking the time with all you have going on right now. We’ll stay on top of the latest developments.
HALEY: Great. Thanks so much.
WALLACE: Up next, we’ll bring in our Sunday group to discuss the situation in Syria and where the U.S., our allies in Europe and our adversaries in Russia and Iran go from here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. GEN. KENNETH MCKENZIE, DIRECTOR, JOINT STAFF: We accomplished our military objectives route material interference from Syria. I’d use three words to describe this operation: precise, overwhelming and effective.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, director of the joint staff at the Pentagon, describing Friday’s strikes on Syria.
And it’s time now for our Sunday group.
Jonah Goldberg of the National Review and author of the new book “Suicide of the West”. Charles Lane of The Washington Post, Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin, doing double duty today, and former press secretary to Vice President Pence Marc Lotter.
Jen, let’s start with the strike. There are reports that there was some dissension, even a battle inside the president’s war Cabinet that Ambassador Haley and the new National Security Adviser Bolton wanted a tougher, more aggressive response, that Defense Secretary Mattis wanted a, quote, “show strike” and that he prevailed with the president. Is that true? Was there a difference in terms of how they should respond Friday night?
GRIFFIN: I think there is a natural tension between the Pentagon officials, Defense Secretary Mattis being in the lead and other national security officials. The Defense Department doesn’t want to broaden this. When they go in present options they want to know, what is the strategy? Are we now going to step in to the Syrian civil war?
What are the — what are the chances of hitting Russian bases or Iranian troops. I mean, they’re all interlaced there. So, I think what Secretary Mattis pushed back on was anything that was broader, that was going to suggest regime change. They obviously all of the top leadership at the Pentagon has a lot of experience with regime change and it hasn’t gone well in either Libya or Iraq.
WALLACE: Jonah, I want to pick up on the president’s tweet, “mission accomplished”, and he responded today saying, I was talking in military terms, not political terms. He is political — he is the commander-in-chief, but, obviously, it does have a political resonance.
What is the mission and what did we accomplish?
JONAH GOLDBERG, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I mean, I think it remains unclear. I thought your question to Nikki Haley — and I should fully disclose, my wife works for Nikki Haley — was interesting in the sense that she didn’t have a great answer to the question of, was it OK for Assad to slaughter civilians with conventional weapons but we’re going to step in with — if you use chemical weapons? Which I think is very small solace to the victims of Assad.
And I think in many ways that the mission here was in some ways defined by the fact that we had video. I mean, Nikki Haley at the U.N. said there had been 50 other chemical weapons uses, which we did not respond to. And I think that one of the things that Donald Trump has made clear is that when there’s video of kids suffering, he responds to that. That’s his red line.
I’m not sure that is a super coherent strategy going forward, because, first of all, let Assad continue to wipe out his domestic enemies and it doesn’t really change the status quo on the ground.
WALLACE: No, and she did not even commit that if there were other chemical weapons attacks that the U.S. would necessarily strike. She said it depends. So, it isn’t a red line when it comes to chemical weapons attacks. It comes to chemical weapons attacks that —
GOLDBERG: Have video attached. I think that might be the case.
WALLACE: All right. Here is what President Trump said announcing the attack on Friday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The evil and the despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children thrashing in pain and gasping for air. These are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster instead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: But I want to pick up on this discussion that I had with the ambassador and I just had with Jonah. The president seems to be saying, one, that if it’s conventional weapons, it’s OK. We’re going to accept it. Maybe not that it’s OK, we’re not going to do anything about it, but chemical weapons, we will.
And to further slice the meat, it depends on how bad the chemical weapons attack.
Can you argue that it is a reasonable policy to say, look, we’re not going to get sucked into this civil war, we’re not going to get on the ground, we’re not going to stop all the slaughter, but we are going to enforce the principle, no chemical weapons?
CHARLES LANE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: If we have a policy, that must be it, because that is the only political objective that is even conceivably related to this strike. And, of course, the strike, the general described it in very glowing terms but it’s very limited. Three targets, they made sure the Russians were safely out of the way before they engaged in it.
So, it was, you know, I guess if you use that term pinprick strike, maybe it’s a little more than that, but it’s not some kind of overwhelming attack. And at the same time, it’s extremely ironic, we have a president who came into talking about American first, very contemptuous of all the alliances and international law that entangles that United States.
And yet, this use of military force, now the second one he has done in Syria, has been to uphold a humanitarian international norm. I happen to think it’s a norm worth upholding actually that you shouldn’t use chemical weapons against civilian populations. But it is interestingly, it’s not what he came into office to do. I think that’s why there’s going to be continuing tension.
His instincts are to get out and as you said, let other people handle this. But he has now committed to this minimal objective in Syria, which is, whatever else happens, you aren’t going to do it with chemical weapons.
WALLACE: So, Mark, you have heard criticism of the president’s actions, his tweets, his strategy. As the former top advisor, a top adviser to Vice President Pence, your response?
MARC LOTTER, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the one thing we need to note is that this is a different attack than what we saw last year. Last year was mostly focused on the delivery and the methods used to deliver the weapons. This time, they took the additional step by reducing Syria’s ability to produce the weapons. And that’s — so it was a targeted response to degrade their ability to use these weapons in the future and not just how they delivered them like they did last year.
So, I think it was a furthering reducing likelihood that we’re going to see attacks like this in the future. There will be residuals, we can’t guarantee that there won’t have any left. But this definitely degrades that capability.
WALLACE: And what do you think of the criticism of the lack of a strategy and the idea that it’s OK — OK is the wrong word, I’m going to stop saying it — that we will turn a blind eye to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands, maybe a half million civilians unless it’s chemical weapons and unless there is video of it that the president sees.
LOTTER: I think that’s — where you do find that broader issue there in terms of, are we going to get drawn into a civil war? Are we going to get into regime change, nation-building? Which is what this president has firmly said we are not going to do that.
He’s drawn a red line on the use of chemical weapons, he has now acted twice because of that. But it’s a much different story when you’re going to have to go in and try to, A, also confront Russia, also confront Iran and what they’re doing to support that regime. And I don’t think that is a line the president is willing to commit to.
But we do have to take steps in minimizing the use of these weapons. We’ve done it with North Korea. We’ve done it with Russia. We sanctioned. We will continue to do sanctions on Syria, and I think that’s where the president’s leadership is that we are going to respond.
And in this case, we had allies with us.
GRIFFIN: I think there are two points. Lieutenant General McKenzie did say that these three spots that were hit does not prevent Assad from firing chemical weapons in the future. There are more spots that they chose not to hit because of the fear of civilian casualties. I think what we have to look at is the OPCW, those of those inspectors and what Syria signed onto.
WALLACE: Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons —
GRIFFIN: Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
WALLACE: — which is supposedly on the ground right now in Douma.
GRIFFIN: They’re on the ground right now. But what Syria signed onto in 2013 when they were supposed to give up their chemical weapons, did not include chlorine. So, the question now for the president is, the use of chlorine bombs in the future, is that the red line and is the U.S. and are its allies required to respond military if he uses chlorine bombs?
GOLDBERG: Yes, just to switch gears slightly, I do think John Bolton’s position is one that we need to give some credence to or not credence to, at least acknowledge insofar as there is — John Bolton is not a neocon. He’s not for nation-building and democracy spreading, but he is America firster, but an interventionist America firster.
He sees the Syrian civil war as a way to bleed Russia resources, a way to bleed Iran’s resources, a way to diminish their role in the region. And I think that’s one of the reasons why he was more eager to get involved in this as a way to sort of push back on Iran.
WALLACE: How do we bleed Russia’s resources, Iran’s resources without bleeding our own which we have seen in Afghanistan and Iraq?
GOLDBERG: That’s the pickle.
GRIFFIN: I think it’s by having limited strikes and that is why Secretary Mattis pushed for such limited, targeted strike.
WALLACE: Yes. But couldn’t you argue that this morning, as Putin wakes up at the Kremlin, as Khamenei wakes up in Tehran, as Assad wakes up in Damascus, they all think, oh, that wasn’t so bad.
GRIFFIN: They didn’t pay a price. No. From that point of view, Russia and Iran did not pay a price. But I think what it did was it set a line that the U.S. will not get involved in the civil war but there are certain red lines.
WALLACE: All right. We have to take a break here. We’ll see you all a little later.
When we come back President Trump has other pressing business to deal with — the criminal investigation of his personal lawyer, the Russia probe, and former FBI Director James Comey’s new book. Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy joins us to break it all down, next.
WALLACE: Coming up, James Comey’s new book is causing quite the stir, but not everyone’s impressed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The American people see right through the blatant lies of a self-admitted leaker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: We’ll ask Congressman Trey Gowdy what the Comey book means for President Trump, next on “Fox News Sunday.”
WALLACE: Normally the decision to launch a military strike would fill the plate of any president. But this weekend, President Trump has plenty more to deal with. The criminal investigation of his personal lawyer, a special counsel continuing to breathe down his neck, and now a damaging book by the former head of the FBI.
Joining me to discuss all this, South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy, chair of the House Oversight Committee and a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, let’s start with the FBI raid on the home, the hotel, and the offices of President Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, which raises obvious questions about possible violation of attorney/client privilege.
As a former federal prosecutor, are you convinced that this raid was appropriate or at least on its face not inappropriate?
REP. TREY GOWDY, R-SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, here’s what we know. We know a neutral detached federal magistrate had to sign off on the search warrant. We know that it requires the highest levels of DOJ permission to seize attorney/client records. And by that I mean the attorney general or the deputy attorney general. And we also know it must have nothing to do with Bob Mueller’s probe, either directly or indirectly, or he would not have referred it.
What we don’t know is what the basis of the probable cause was, what was searched and what was seized. But — so — so we know a little bit. We don’t know a little bit. I think the most important thing we know is that a neutral detached federal judge, that has nothing to do with politics, signed off on this warrant.
WALLACE: I — I want to pick up on — on one of your points, which is that you — you noted that Special Counsel Robert Mueller referred this to prosecutors in Manhattan.
And here was the president’s furious reaction to that and it led to this exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why don’t I just fire Mueller?
TRUMP: Well, I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on. We’ll see what happens. But I think it’s really a sad situation when you look at what happened. And many people have said, you should fire him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Question, do you still think — we talked several weeks ago — do you still think it would be wrong, it would be a serious mistake to fire Mueller? And given the growing calls to fire the deputy attorney general, do you feel the same way about firing Rod Rosenstein?
GOWDY: Well, let me take Mueller first. I don’t know what Mueller was supposed to do other than what he did. When a prosecutor comes in contact with information or evidence of a crime, what are you supposed to do, other than to refer it to the appropriate jurisdiction?
Now, if Mueller had kept something tangential or unrelated for himself, then I’d say, fine, you can criticize him. But he came in contact with potential criminality — potential criminality. He referred it to the U.S. attorney’s office of jurisdiction. And he did so with the permission of Rod Rosenstein. I don’t know what else he could do.
As for Rod Rosenstein, I — I don’t see a basis for firing him in his handling of this probe. Now, he’s the one who drafted that original jurisdiction for Mueller. So if you think it’s too broad, you’ve got to direct your criticism towards Rosenstein and not to Mueller. If you’re upset with Rosenstein because he’s slow walking document production to Congress, take that up with him. But — but how this is Mueller’s fault just defies logic to me, Chris.
WALLACE: Yes, but here’s the — the point. And Steve Bannon, the president’s former and apparently exiled adviser has suggested this. If you fire Rosenstein and you put a new guy in there as the deputy attorney general to oversee the Mueller investigation, then you don’t have to fire Mueller, but you can restrict him. Are you concerned about that?
GOWDY: So this is the same Steve Bannon that accused the president’s son of an act of treason. The same Steve Bannon that did something no one else in the world can do, which is elect a Democrat in Alabama. I don’t know who the hell would take advice from Steve Bannon. And if I were to president, I’d say go get advice from anyone else in the world other than Steve Bannon.
WALLACE: But — but just to make it clear, while you — you rule out flatly the firing of Mueller, you’re leaving the door open to firing Rosenstein?
GOWDY: It depends. It depends. I mean, look, the president is the head of the executive branch. He doesn’t — I mean he doesn’t have to run his hiring and firing decisions by us. So if he’s upset with Rod Rosenstein because Rod Rosenstein is not producing documents to Congress, that’s a legitimate thing to be upset about. If he’s upset with Rod Rosenstein because he wants to get at Bob Mueller and that’s the way he’s going to do it, taking the advice of Steve Bannon, which I would strongly recommend against, then, no, I don’t think that’s appropriate.
Does he have the power to get rid of Rod Rosenstein, yes, he does. Do I think it’s wise, I don’t.
WALLACE: In the midst of all this, this week, the president pardoned Scooter Libby. He, of course, is the former Dick Cheney aide who was convicted of lying to the FBI in the outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA undercover officer case.
Given the timing, congressman, are you at all concerned that the president is sending a message to people, associates who may be under fire from Bob Mueller, just listen, if you protect me, then I will protect you with a pardon if it comes to that?
GOWDY: Well, I would hope most of the folks involved in this already know the president has the power of pardon. He’s already proved that with Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona.
So I’m not a big fan of pardons. I’m a prosecutor. Most of the commentary I’ve read, Chris, on Scooter Libby’s pardon is that they thought that it was an overzealous prosecutor. OK, there’s a way to deal with that. Don’t hire overzealous prosecutors.
But he was convicted, if memory serves me correctly, of a false statement and obstruction of justice. Those are things that you want to dissuade people from doing all the time. I think everyone knows the president has pardon power. So I don’t know if he needs to send this signal, except to really slow-witted people.
WALLACE: I want to turn to one of your big issues now, and that is the way the FBI has handled the Clinton investigation and the Trump investigation. Former FBI Director James Comey has a new book out. You may have heard of it. And one of the questions — he’s going to have an interview on ABC tonight. You may have heard of that as well. One of the questions is what he told the president-elect when he talked to him at Trump Tower in January about the Steele dossier and the fact that it had been paid for by the Clinton campaign.
Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: No, I didn’t — I don’t think I used the term Steele dossier. I just talked about additional material.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Did — but did he have a right to know that?
COMEY: That it had been financed by his political opponents? I don’t know the answer to that. I — it wasn’t necessary for my goal, which was to alert him that we had this information.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Congressman, what do you think of Comey’s answer and what do you think of Comey’s book?
GOWDY: Well, as for his book, Chris, I’m disappointed. I had — I hold prosecutors and law enforcement officials to a higher standard. So I think the book is sad.
Let’s don’t kid ourselves. Jim Comey now complains that President Trump is untethered from the truth. He’d still be the FBI director if he had his way. So all of the complaints he had about President Trump, he was willing to put those aside so he could keep his job.
The reason he wrote his book is because he got fired, not because he thinks President Trump is untethered from the truth, not because President Trump’s ties are too long, not because he thinks he wears tanning bed goggles. It’s because he got fired.
Now, as for whether or not he should have told the president the source of this salacious opposition research, would you want to know? I mean that’s the first question you ask is, where did you get that from so you can judge the credibility.
I’m more concerned about the fact that they didn’t tell the FISA court. That’s what I’m really concerned about because President Trump doesn’t sign off on warrants. The FISA judge did. So I think he should have told President Trump, but I know for a fact they should have told the FISA court.
WALLACE: Well, let me — let me pick up on this because we learned this week that you and the chair of the House Intel Committee, Devin Nunes, have now read the original FBI memo that launched the whole Trump investigation in the summer of 2016. Having read it, are you persuaded that they had a legitimate reason to launch this probe?
GOWDY: I’ve always been persuaded. I — I didn’t have to read the — the initiating document. I mean you’ve got George Papadopoulos, you’ve got a meeting at Trump Tower, you’ve got an -email from Cambridge Analytica, you — you’ve got reasons to look into what Russia did and who, if anyone, did they do it with. So this origination document is important to me, though, because it goes to the credibility of those who launched the investigation. Was it because of George Papadopoulos? Because this initiation took place months after George Papadopoulos had his little conversation — drunken conversation in a bar. Or was it the dossier?
So that’s important to me to know. But you’re going to have a Russian — I mean Russia — someone hacked the DNC server. Someone hacked John Podesta’s e-mails. Someone played games with the American people, whether or not there’s a dossier. So I’ve never thought that discrediting the dossier did away with the Russia probe.
WALLACE: All right.
One final question. I want to switch subjects.
In your role as chair of the House Oversight Committee, you wrote a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt this week seeking formal interviews with five of his top aides. Why and how much trouble is Pruitt in?
GOWDY: Well, I don’t know how much trouble he’s in. The reason the Oversight Committee wants to know whether or not the EPA is a good steward of taxpayer money is because Congress created the EPA. We fund the EPA. So, it is entirely legitimate for us to ask, are you being good stewards of the American taxpayer dollar? And it’s also appropriate because we have jurisdiction over the Office of Government Ethics to look into his lease.
I didn’t hire him. I’m not the one contemplating promoting him or demoting him or getting rid of him. That’s all for President Trump. But Congress does have a responsibility to provide oversight. And I think the responsible way to do it is gather the documents.
Look, we’re not having a prime time hearing, I’ve got, you know —
WALLACE: But let me just ask you, because I’ve got 30 seconds left. How troubled are you by this raft of reports that he spent too much money on his desk, his office, the planes, the security detail, that there are some serious ethical questions here about Mr. Pruitt?
GOWDY: I’m concerned about both what you cited and the explanation for it and whether or not it is credible.
Look, if you sit first class, you’re guaranteed to come in contact with everybody else on the plane. If you really want to avoid people on the plane, sit in the last seat, not the first seat. I’d be shocked if that many people knew who Scott Pruitt was. So the notion that I’ve got to fly first class because I don’t want people to be mean to me, you need to go into another line of work if you don’t want people to be mean to you. Like maybe a monk, where you don’t come in contact with anyone.
WALLACE: Yes, a monk who sits in the last seat in the plane. I — listen, I’m going to have to consider that.
Congressman Gowdy, thank you.
GOWDY: Yes, sir.
WALLACE: Thanks you spending your weekend with us. Always good to talk to you, sir.
GOWDY: You too. Thank you.
WALLACE: When we come back, more on the FBI raid of the president’s personal lawyer and Mr. Trump’s ongoing face-off with the special counsel.
Plus, what would you like to ask the panel about former FBI Director Comey’s new book? Just go to Facebook or Twitter @FoxNewsSunday and we may use your question on the air.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It’s a disgrace. It’s, frankly, a real disgrace. It’s a — an attack on our country in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: President Trump venting his anger over the news his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was raided by the FBI.
And we’re back now with the panel.
Jonah, what do you make of the president’s — I think it’s fair to say — furious reaction to the raid of his long-time personal lawyer, some say fixer, I guess Cohen likes to call himself a fixer, Michael Cohen, and the fact that he left in that same event, left open, wide open the question of whether or not he’s going to fire Robert Mueller?
JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW: Yes, I mean, in the Trump Organization, they actually refer to him as Tom, as a shorthand for Tom Hagen, the character from “The Godfather.” So he’s owned this fixer persona for quite a while.
WALLACE: May I simply say, having known Michael Cohen and having seen “The Godfather” movies —
GOLDBERG: He’s no Tom Hagen.
WALLACE: He’s — he’s no Tom Hagen.
GOLDBERG: Fair enough.
I think — I’ve always been a deep skeptic of the Russia collusion narrative. This idea that Trump conspired with Vladimir Putin to steel the election. I still want to find out what Mueller finds out, but I’ve always thought that his biggest objection to the Mueller probe was he was afraid of what else they might find. And if my theory is true, then this has to be the most terrifying thing that could happen to anybody who has something to hide is to have your fixer’s entire world seized by the FBI and gone through with a fine tooth comb.
And so I completely understand why he’s — he’s livid about it. At the same time, I do not think that this is a violation of all that America stands for. The — as Trey Gowdy explained, you had to get a warrant. You had to go through all these loopholes, all these hurdles at the FBI and the DOJ. And the test will be what they actually find there. My hunch is, is that they’re going to find a lot.
And we should also — one last point. Donald Trump and Michael Cohen both publically say that Michael Cohen was not working for Donald Trump when he did the — fixed the Stormy Daniels situation, which means he was not his lawyer at the time, which means there is no attorney/client privilege at stake at that.
WALLACE: That’s why you shouldn’t talk, right?
The reaction from top Senate Republicans to another round of will he fire Robert Mueller was strong and fierce. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK GRASSLEY, R-IOWA SENATOR: It would be suicide for the president to want to talk about firing Mueller.
MARCO RUBIO, R-FLORIDA SENATOR: I don’t believe he’ll fire Mueller. And if he does, it will be a terrible mistake.
CORY GARDNER, R-COLORADO SENATOR: Well, look, I think it would be a mistake, a great mistake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Jennifer, at least on Capitol Hill, among Democrats and especially among Republicans, no appetite for the idea of firing the special counsel.
JENNIFER GRIFFIN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: No appetite, but Sarah Sanders, White House spokesperson, raised eyebrows when she said that — on Tuesday at the briefing that the president has the right to — or believes he has the right to fire Mueller. That’s why you’ve seen in the last 24 hours an open letter from 245 former DOJ officials calling on Congress to act to protect Mueller. So clearly there is a sense that the president may act.
And, in fact, you heard reports this week that Rod Rosenstein has been telling his close associates that he feels he may be fired. Because the president really has two choices and the legal advice he’s getting is that, well, maybe you can’t fire Mueller, but you can fire Rod Rosenstein. And so — so I think you have to really watch, what does the president say about Rod Rosenstein in the coming (INAUDIBLE).
WALLACE: You know, I — just to give you a sense of — of the frenzy about all of this, one of our top people on Capitol Hill put out an alert to us on Friday night saying he’d gotten from a close Trump source that Rod Rosenstein was not going to be fired tonight. So, I mean.
Anyway, let’s turn to the new book from James Comey, the former FBI director. You may have heard about it. Here’s what he says about President Trump’s preoccupation with the Steele dossier and it’s contention that he spent time with prostitutes in Moscow.
Here is Mr. Comey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Honestly, I never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I don’t know whether the — the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013. It’s possible, but I don’t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Things that we never thought we’d have on the air.
We ask you for questions for the panel and we got this on Facebook from Hal Widsten, is there any new information in this book or is it just Comey, as a disgruntled former government employee, attacking President Trump?
Marc, how do you answer Hal?
MARC LOTTER, FORMER VP PENCE PRESS SECRETARY: I think there’s not a lot that’s new in this book. One of the things that I found unique was the fact that the former director actually talked about there being classified information that we still don’t know about relating to Attorney General Lynch that would have compromised her, which also influenced his decisions in the — in the Hillary Clinton investigation.
Now, if those are unsubstantiated, that’s very reckless for him to actually throw his former boss under the bus in a — in a book like that. And if they’re true, then I think we need to know what is actually out there that compromised her and helped prompt his decisions, in addition to political (INAUDIBLE).
WALLACE: But what do you make of what he has to say about the president, both factually and also his opinions?
LOTTER: I think the one thing that has brought Washington together in the last year and a half is everyone at one point or another has — has questioned Jim Comey’s credibility, his disservice to the FBI and wanted him to lose his job. And I think he just continues that narrative of flip-flopping his stories and having not a lot of credibility in the book.
WALLACE: Chuck, on a scale of one to 10, 10 being Woodward and Bernstein, how damaging is this book to Donald Trump?
CHARLES LANE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, my expectation was somewhere in the seven, eight, nine range. And I think it came much more in the four or five or maybe three range.
Look, people — it’s like everything else, people who are already predisposed to think ill of the president are going to think ill of him, and vice versa. And so what you’re looking for in this is some real powerful nugget of brand new information, not just the atmospherics about how I felt like maybe I was listening to a mafia don. We — you know, that’s atmospherics. And I don’t yet see a blockbuster new fact in here.
What — what is interesting is this revelation of Comey kind of admitting, you know, I was thinking about politics as I was going through some of these decisions regarding what I would say about Hillary and he’s sort of confessing that he got that wrong or — you know, and what that tells me is, this is a guy who’s kind of bad at spin, says he shouldn’t do spin because it’s inappropriate to his role, and then keeps trying to do spin. And, in a way, he’s — he’s — I wouldn’t dismiss him as some kind of disgruntled (INAUDIBLE). It’s much more important than that. But he is still trying to effect his legacy in the public eye.
I’ve got to say just one final thing, how we all have to sort of sit back and think how extraordinary it is the former director of this large police law enforcement agency is calling the president of the United States somebody he thought of as a mafia boss, on the one hand, and the president responding calling him a slime ball. This kind of interaction between these kinds of people is just — I mean it is really a bad show for democracy. It’s totally unseemly.
WALLACE: Jonah, your thoughts about the Comey book, both the facts and his characterizations of the president.
GOLDBERG: Yes, no, I largely agree with Chuck. I was always skeptical that he could have real blockbuster news in this because it would be outrageous for a former FBI director to sit on damaging news so he could monetize it a year after he, you know, is firing. If he had anything truly damning, he has to give it to Mueller and he can’t say anything. So I expected the book to be mostly atmospheric.
I do think that the problem for Comey is that he is basically trying to get down on Trump’s level on the one hand, while seeming above the fray on the other. That is a hard look for a polished politician and he just doesn’t pull it off. And I think it — it leaves him diminished.
GRIFFIN: It actually reminds me of — during the Republican primary, when — when the candidates —
WALLACE: Marco Rubio.
GRIFFIN: They didn’t know whether to go high, go low. When they would go low, then it’s when the president — when Trump, the candidate, had them and knocked them out of the ring.
WALLACE: We’ve got less than 30 seconds.
What impact could this have? His clear animus and the fact that he’s told his story, if he ends up being a witness, does it just — hypothetical in a case, on the issue of obstruction of justice, has he damaged his credibility?
LANE: Well, obviously, this president’s lawyers were going to go after him as a disgruntled former employee no matter what. I mean the book doesn’t change that.
WALLACE: All right, thank you, panel. See you next Sunday.
And we’ll be right back with a final word.
WALLACE: For the latest on the crisis in Syria and the U.S. response, please stay tuned to this station and Fox News Channel.
And that’s it for today. Have a great week. And we’ll see you next “Fox News Sunday.”
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