‘Special Report’ on the Ukraine border – Fox News

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This is a rush transcript of “Special Report with Bret Baier” on February 17, 2022. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BAIER: Let’s bring in our panel early. Harold Ford, Jr., former Tennessee congressman, CEO of Empowerment and Inclusion Capital. Kimberley Strassel, a member of the editorial board at the Wall Street Journal, and syndicated radio host, Hugh Hewitt.

You know, Hugh, we have not seen in the U.N. Security Council the level of tension about pushing Russia to back off of the Ukraine border really since — I would argue the Cuban Missile Crisis in that back and forth. Here is just a piece of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTONY BLINKEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: I have no doubt that the response to my remarks here today will be more dismissals from the Russian government about the United States, stoking hysteria, or that it has no plans to invade Ukraine.

SERGEI RYABKOV, RUSSIA DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Attempts to place the blame on Russia are feudal and baseless. And this only hides the goal of shifting the blame away from Ukraine.

I must say we are very disappointed by the ostrich-like position of our Western colleagues, who are trying not to see obvious things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Your thoughts on where we are, Hugh?

HUGH HEWITT, SYNDICATED RADIO HOST: Well, after I saw Secretary Blinken make the rapid trip, Bret, to the U.N. today, Secretary Austin in Brussels with NATO, and then President Biden on his way to Ohio, all making the same kind of sharp remarks rebuking Russia, I thought it was an effort not to deter Putin, that’s failed, but to deter bad press. And they are going to get bad press because Putin has taken the measure of the president and, like in 2014, the bombardment began last night in Donbas. It’s expected to continue.

And so I view all of this as grandstanding by team Biden as a substitute for doing anything to deter Putin from taking another bite out of an ally that we have been unable to prevent in any significant way.

BAIER: General Jack Keane on our air earlier today actually praised the Biden administration for transparency through this process. Take a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. JACK KEANE (RET), FOX NEWS SENIOR STRATEGIC ANALYST: I have got to give the administration some real credit here, because this exposure of classified information right from the beginning has put Putin at time on the defensive.

Last weekend, the fact that Putin was getting close to an invasion. We called him out on it, and the next thing we knew, he threw up his hands and moved towards a diplomatic path. So, yes, this has been a good thing the administration is doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: It’s a bit of a catch-22 here, Harold. If, as expected, and as has been forecast, Putin does move into Ukraine, and the sanctions don’t really stop that, should the sanctions have been on days, weeks ago?

HAROLD FORD JR., FORMER TENNESSEE REPRESENTATIVE: First, thanks for having me on. I admire General Keane for personal reasons and for professional reasons. And I tell you, over the last two weeks, he has been critical of the administration when he believed that they were going down to a path that he would not go down. And he has been praiseworthy as he was there. Even Senator McConnell took to the Senate floor to give some credit and praise to the administration’s efforts.

Look, this is a tricky situation. I thought last night on this show Amy Walters said it well when she said the country is not in support of sending troops. Most Americans can’t identify Ukraine on a map. So you have to give, I think, President Biden, and there was a time in the country where you always routed for the president during a foreign crisis or a national security crisis. And this, I think, measures up for two reserves. One, no one wants to go to war. So this president has had to formulate, and for that matter, mobilize a coalition, and I think he has done well. Four of the last five years we gave NATO the backhand. We have been able to mobilize and fortify NATO not only for this effort, but I think efforts going forward.

I think the president has been concise. He’s been clear. He’s been resolute. He has been strong in his statements. I disagree with my, the fellow who went to my law school. Hugh Hewitt believes that this was maybe something generate good press. I think the president is playing a decent hand about as well as he possibly can.

And finally, we need not — we should not mistake, the real audience here, or perhaps the larger audience here is China. I think Russia in many ways is behaving like a de facto client of China in some ways. We saw in recent weeks reports that China and Russia have gotten together. They’ve said that there are no limits or no boundaries to how much and how willing they are to work together. If we allow this to happen without doing what we’re doing, I think it greenlights China and perhaps Iran doing even worse things going forward.

BAIER: All right, I want to turn topics here, Kimberley, and that is this new filing from John Durham. Mark Meredith is going to talk about it in just a minute, but I wanted to read it, just take time to read it. This is in the Sussmann case. And remember, his original filing, depending on who you listen to, was either blown off completely, Hillary Clinton did, or was said this could be Watergate.

Here is what Durham writes, “Defense counsel has presumed the government’s bad faith and asserts that the Special Counsel’s office intentionally sought to politicize this case, inflame media coverage, and taint the jury pool. That is simply not true. The government included two paragraphs of limited additional factual detail in its motion for valid and straightforward reasons. First, those paragraphs reflect conduct that is intertwined with and part of events that are central to proving the defendant’s alleged criminal conduct. Second, the government included these paragraphs to apprise the court of the factual basis for one of the potential conflicts described in the government’s motion, namely, that the member of the defense team was working for the Executive Office of the President of the United States, “EOP”, during relevant events that involved the EOP.

If third parties or members of the media have overstated, understated, or otherwise misinterpreted facts contained in the government’s motion, that does not in any way undermine the valid reasons for the government’s inclusion of this information.”

Kimberley, kind of unique for another filing to be put out like that.

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL, “WALL STREET JOURNAL”: Yes, so this has to do with the bit of the Sussmann indictment that claims that these tech researchers and Sussmann himself were involved in the mining of this government data and snooping on White House records. And the Durham indictment did not list a timeframe for this, and suggested it might have continued into the Trump White House period of time. The Sussmann team has said no, that’s not true, and so you only put this out there to claim that we did bad things and we were snooping on a sitting president.

And I thought that that Durham filing was very important because it basically said no, we have a duty to get out these facts. If the press gets it wrong, that’s not on us. We’re focused on getting this case right. And I do think that’s important, too, Bret, because you don’t get leaks out of the Durham team. They could be out there spinning this right, left, and center. In fact, all you’ve got is this indictment. And indeed, if the press plays it or overplays it, it’s not his fault. He is doing what prosecutors are supposed to do in keeping this under wraps.

BAIER: All right, panel, stand by. We will hear from Harold and Hugh on this.

Up next, what Hillary Clinton is saying about these revelations in the Trump-Russian origins probe, and all of the details of that new filing. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BAIER: A Texas grand jury has indicted 19 Austin police officers on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for their actions during protests over racial injustice in 2020. That’s according to the Associated Press tonight. Those protests followed the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. The indictments rank among the most against a single police department over tactics used by officers during the widespread demonstrations at the time.

Tonight, we take a look at Congress stuck in neutral. Lawmakers are struggling to get much of anything done right now. Legislation to authorize new sanctions against Russia stalled. The Senate majority leader promising to deal with the highest inflation in decades next month, we’ll see how that goes. Congressional correspondent Chad Pergram is here to tell us what’s going on up there. Not much, Chad.

CHAD PERGRAM, FOX NEWS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Bret. Senators talk a big game on Capitol Hill. Senators flex their muscles over a bill to sanction Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am in favor of action. Putin is a KGB thug.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There will be severe and serious consequences if he invades Ukraine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We, too, want to remind him there is a heavy price to be paid.

PERGRAM: But after days of talk, sanctions are stalled, even though Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez said weeks ago the bill was on the one-yard line. It’s a story of a Congress which is too little, too lame.

Take government funding. The bill is overdue by nearly six months. The Senate just approved the third interim spending bill to avert a government shutdown, Congress punting again until March.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shutting the government down doesn’t do any good. This is all part of the dance. We need to reform the system in total, where you run it like all other places run, get budgets done through regular order in committee, and get it done within the fiscal year.

PERGRAM: Even democratic primaries languish. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promised a vote on Build Back Better this year.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D-NY) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: As I mentioned before Christmas, I intend to hold a vote in the Senate on BBB, and we’ll keep voting until we get a bill passed.

PERGRAM: But that bill is going nowhere. And just this week, Democrats said they’d finally address inflation.

SCHUMER: We have solutions, and we’re going to focus like a laser on reducing costs. The new proposals and new ideas keep coming.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

PERGRAM (on camera): Schumer says the Senate will take those plans up in March. With no sanctions bill, the Senate may consider a resolution condemning a Russian invasion. Bret?

BAIER: Tight majorities, that’s what that means.

House Minority Leader, meantime, Kevin McCarthy jumping into a GOP primary. It’s pretty rare for a leader to endorse the opponent of a sitting member.

PERGRAM: That’s right, it’s rare for a leader to do just that. In Wyoming, Kevin McCarthy is endorsing Harriet Hageman over Liz Cheney. Some GOP members wanted McCarthy to kick Cheney out of the conference. The GOP bounced Cheney from the leadership last year. Cheney condemned former president Trump after the riot. The primary is in August. A Cheney spokesman says that Hageman must be desperate. Bret?

BAIER: Chad Pergram live on Capitol Hill. Chad, thanks.

Hillary Clinton is laughing off recent revelations from the special counsel John Durham investigating the origins of the Trump-Russia probe. The former Democratic presidential nominee made an appearance before New York state Democrats a short time ago as the Durham investigation continues, and we told you about that new filing tonight from John Durham. Correspondent Mark Meredith shows us.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They have been coming after me again lately. It’s funny, the more trouble Trump gets into, the wilder the charges and conspiracy theories about me seem to get.

MARK MEREDITH, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: In a speech today in New York, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton did not directly bring up special counsel John Durham’s ongoing probe, which is investigating whether Clinton campaign operatives accessed private computer data to create evidence of a Donald Trump-Russia connection. Clinton tweeted the story is, quote, “nonsense.” But Republicans say there is plenty to talk about.

REP. ANDY BIGGS, (R-AZ): I think the Republicans are looking to investigate this when we get power again, if we get power again in 2023.

MEREDITH: Today lawyers for Michael Sussmann, a former Clinton campaign associate, filed a motion to dismiss Durham’s indictment which charges Sussmann with lying to the FBI when failing to disclose his ties to the Clinton campaign. Sussmann’s attorneys accused Durham of, quote, “extraordinary prosecutorial overreach.” But legal experts tell FOX Sussmann’s request likely won’t work.

ANDREW MCCARTHY, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: It’s a common application to make pretrial, John. But it’s one of these issues that’s got to be resolved by a jury. Did he make a false statement or not?

MEREDITH: While Sussmann’s lawyers and Clinton herself argue the probe is all about politics. Republicans believe the investigation is long overdue. They want Durham to be guaranteed more time and resources to investigate.

In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, 45 GOP senators said they want Garland to, quote, “Support his important work until all those responsible for the fraud committed upon the American people are brought to justice.” Last fall, Garland told Congress he hopes to make as much of Durham’s report public as he can once it’s completed.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

MEREDITH (on camera): And as Bret mentioned in the panel, Durham is rejecting complaints by Sussmann, the former Clinton associate, that he is acting with political intent. Special Counsel says he stands by all of his previous filings and that more details are coming. He writes “Defense counsel has presumed the government’s bad faith and asserts that the Special Counsel’s Office intentionally sought to politicize this case, infame media coverage, and taint the jury pool. That is simply not true.” Bret, one way or another this fight is far from over, and this trial getting underway in May.

BAIER: Yes. And we’ll follow it all, all sides. Meantime, we’re watching something else, a legal action with former president Trump.

MEREDITH: Yes, so this is all about the judge in New York state today that basically ordered the former president and two of his children to comply with the subpoena and testify under oath in a matter of weeks. This is all tied to an ongoing civil investigation by New York’s attorney general into the Trump Organization, specifically his financial records. The subpoenas were issued back in December, but the Trump family was challenging the order. The judge today also ordering the Trumps to turn over some financial documents within two weeks. We’re expecting further appeals. Never a dull moment.

BAIER: That’s right. Mark, thank you.

Up next, the panel returns to discuss whether woke is waking up, and what the State of the Union address could mean for President Biden this year.

First, here’s what some of our FOX affiliates around the country are covering tonight. FOX 4 in Dallas as the NFL’s Cowboys reportedly paid a $2.4 million settlement to four of its cheerleaders over voyeurism allegations they made against a senior team executive. A Cowboys spokesman says the allegations were thoroughly investigated and no evidence of wrongdoing was found.

FOX 11 in Los Angeles as a former employee with the Angel’s baseball team is convicted of providing pitcher Tyler Skaggs with the drugs that led to overdose death in Texas. Eric Kay was convicted on one count each of drug distribution resulting in death and drug conspiracy. He faces up to life in prison.

And this is a live look at Tampa from our affiliate FOX 13. One of the big stories there tonight, officials say the unprecedented human effort to feed starving Florida manatees has so far provided them with more than 25 tons of lettuce. That’s a lot of lettuce. Manatees have suffered a major die-off because their preferred seagrass food source is disappearing due to water pollution from agriculture, urban, septic tank, and other sources. So they’re eating lettuce.

That’s tonight’s live look outside the beltway from SPECIAL REPORT. We’ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Don’t get distracted. Don’t let the extremes of any or either side throw us off course. Focus on the solutions that matter to voters, not the slogans that only matter on Twitter. Let’s offer an alternative vision that inspires and motivates.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Former secretary of state, former senator, former first lady Hillary Clinton talking to New York Democrats today, this on a day when there was another filing from John Durham in that investigation that she essentially laughed off today.

We’re back with our panel. I wanted to get you two, Harold and Hugh, to weigh in on that filing and big picture. Hugh, first to you.

HEWITT: Well, I agree that the media has made too much of this filing. I think I said two nights ago we don’t know anything yet because Sussmann can either go John Dean or he can go Gordon Liddy. But I noted that John Durham said there will be motions in limine coming. And Harold and I did go to Michigan Law School, and we both know one thing from our time there from great law professors — nobody knows nothing about what the prosecution has until the prosecution rolls out its indictment. I do say — Harold, over to you.

BAIER: What do you think, Harold?

FORD: I agree with Hugh. We lost one of the greats from our law school, Yale Kamisar. He was a lion and a king and a big man in the law. If he were here today, he would say exactly what Hugh just said.

As I listen to everyone about this, let the fact fall where they may, in both President Trump’s matter as well as this matter, the Durham matter, and move forward. Democrats would do better focusing on crime, COVID, inflation, and the border. That is how we are going to win the elections in November, not by focusing on the politics around President Trump.

BAIER: Kimberley, that was the message today from Hillary Clinton. Is this suggesting that she is considering another run?

STRASSEL: It’s remarkable that she is actually in the running given the thing we are just talking about. Because, while we may not know everything that Durham has against Sussmann and Rodney Joffe and others, we very much know that her campaign was behind the infamous Steele dossier which was fed to be FBI and which the special counsel has already proven to be a complete fabrication. This was an ultimate dirty trick. And it’s kind of astonishing to me that she and some of her former players are still out there in the political realm, some of them working for President Biden.

BAIER: Yes. So, meantime, Democrats are concerned about woke politics and the implications of that. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY) SENATE MINORITY LEADER: The American people need public servants to crack down on crime and defend their safety. Crack down on crime and defend their safety. Less pandering to woke mobs, more protecting innocent families.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are focusing on things like changing the name of schools, Abraham Lincoln on a school, George Washington on a school. This is not what voters care about.

If you give Republicans the ability to point to Democrats as this super woke culture focused on the wrong things that don’t matter to voters, you are going to lose. And it’s that simple. So you need to step away from super wokeness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: We talked last night about the San Francisco school board and that recall effort of three of those members. “The National Review” writes this, “The Americans rejecting far left progressivism. Americans in overwhelmingly Democratic cities are concluding that far left progressivism has not worked and is not working. The radical approach to policing was resoundingly rejected by voters in Minneapolis in November. Now the radical approach to education has been resoundingly rejected by the voters of San Francisco. If progressives can’t win there, they certainly can’t win nationwide.” Hugh?

HEWITT: Well, appeasement at home — I mean appeasement abroad and inflation at home. We’ve got an open southern border. We’ve got closed police precincts. And now we have this earthquake, this tsunami warning out of San Francisco, Bret. Democrats are going to run fast. They are going to sprint away from everything they have done for the last two years, especially with regards to kids. It’s hard to lose a recall election. Three San Francisco Democrats lost by 70 percent. And Kathleen Rice, the congresswoman from New York, retired yesterday. There is an exodus underway from the Democratic Party because they are going to get wiped out in November.

BAIER: So Harold, is the State of the Union address, March 1st, is that a pivot point for President Biden? Are we going to see, do you think, major changes that somehow change the way the Democratic Party looks at the rest of the year?

FORD: Well, I think the president would be smart to lay out where we go from here. We are at two years, really since the start of this virus. He can lay out the progress that we have made. He can lay out the results that he and president Trump helped to usher in. And he can lay out how we are going to move forward.

I think Hugh laid out well, and Kimberley as well, the kinds of things we need to be focused on. Parents, particularly parents of young kids, are frustrated. I’m a parent of two young kids. I understand it. The president has got to meet us where we are and explain in a coherent way, much like I think he has done with Ukraine, largely successfully, how he plans to make us a more perfect union and, more importantly, a more united union, and for that matter how you improve the economy, fight crime, and protect our borders.

BAIER: All right, quickly, Kimberley, but is this a pivot?

STRASSEL: I don’t think this is a pivot. And they have got a crime problem, an education problem, and an inflation problem. It’s a problem.

(LAUGHTER)

BAIER: It’s a problem. All right, panel, thank you very much.

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