Pompeo pushes back against questions of Trump's fitness
On 'Fox News Sunday,' the CIA director addresses criticisms of the president, U.S policy on Iran and North Korea.
This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Sunday," January 7, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST: I'm Chris Wallace.
An explosive new book raises questions about Donald Trump's fitness to be president.
MICHAEL WOLFF, "FIRE AND FURY" AUTHOR: I will quote Steve Bannon. He's lost it.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He said he interviewed me for three hours in the White House, it didn't exist, OK? It's in his imagination.
WALLACE: We'll talk live with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who gives the president daily intelligence briefings. What does he see?
And we'll discuss global hot spots, the deadly protests in Iran, and whether we're closer to war with North Korea.
Then, "Fire and Fury" hits Washington with bombshell allegations. And Steve Bannon's attacks on the Trump family leave the president to distance himself from his former top advisor.
TRUMP: I don't talk to him. I don't talk to him. That's just a misnomer.
WALLACE: We'll sit down with Mr. Trump's first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who continues to be a close advisor to the president. It's a "Fox News Sunday" exclusive.
Plus, new reports the FBI is investigating the Clinton Foundation, and that Mr. Trump tried to head off the Russia probe.
TRUMP: Everything that I've done is 100 percent proper. That's what I do, is I do things proper.
WALLACE: We'll ask our Sunday panel which side is in more legal jeopardy.
And our "Power Player of the Week", getting to know the nation's doctor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For my entire life, I've tried to use the gift that God gave me to improve health.
WALLACE: All right now on "Fox News Sunday."
WALLACE: And hello again from Fox News in Washington.
President Trump and Republican leaders met at Camp David this weekend to plan their legislative agenda for 2018. But that was overshadowed by a new book about the president that report some of his top advisors don't think he's up to the job.
Coming up, we'll get reaction from Corey Lewandowski, Mr. Trump's first campaign manager, who remains in close touch with him.
But, first, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who briefs the president on the nation's most pressing intelligence matters.
Director Pompeo, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."
MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: Great to be with you, Chris. Good morning.
WALLACE: Let's start with the book. The author Michael Wolff reports that almost everybody on the president's team in his cabinet questioned whether the president has the mental and emotional fitness to be the commander-in-chief. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLFF: They say he's a moron, an idiot. This man does not read, does not listen. So, he's like a — like a pinball just shooting off the side.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: As CIA director, you give the president's daily intelligence brief almost every morning, what do you see?
POMPEO: Yes, those statements are just absurd, Chris. I mean, just pure fantasy.
My personal experience — I was with the president yesterday at Camp David. I'm with him almost every day. When we talk about some of the most serious matters facing America and the world, complex issues, the president is engaged, he understands the complexity, he asks really difficult questions of our team at the CIA so that we can provide him the information that he needs to make good informed policy decisions.
And I watched him do that. I watched him take the information that the intelligence community delivers and translate that into policies that are of enormous benefit to America. Statements like the one Mr. Wolff made about how we all think about the president are just ridiculous on their face. They are frankly beneath the conversation this morning, Chris.
WALLACE: Well, but it is the conversation. So, I'm going to —
POMPEO: Only because you made it so, sir.
WALLACE: Well, no, I understand that. Well, I didn't make it, Michael Wolff did and the country and to a certain degree, the president has by responding to it. So, directly, fitness to be president.
POMPEO: Completely fit. I mean, I paused only because it's just a ludicrous question, right? These are from people who just have not yet accepted the fact that President Trump is the United States president. And I'm sorry for them in that.
We're going to move on with our mission at CIA. We are incredibly focused on keeping Americans safe and things like this book, frankly, are just passing moments in history. We'll get on, we'll do the people's work, and American will appreciate the good work that we do.
WALLACE: I want to press on a couple of more points. I promise we'll then get on to your day job. The author quotes an email that was supposedly representative of the view of one of the president's top economic advisors, Gary Cohn. I'm going to put it up on the screen.
Trump won't read anything, not one-page memos, not the brief policy papers, nothing. He gets up halfway through meetings with world leaders because he is bored.
Now, back in May, you were quoted as saying that one of the ways you keep the president engaged in your intelligence briefings is with, quote, your words, killer graphics.
POMPEO: Yes, absolutely. I love color graphics. So do you, Chris. You use them on your screen all the time here on the show, right? It's how you convey information.
This president reads material that we provide to him, he listens closely to his daily briefing. Different presidents, the previous president didn't receive his briefing in that same way. He didn't take up daily briefing from his CIA director. President Obama chose not to do that.
This president is an avid consumer of the work product that our team at the CIA produces and we do our best to convey that to him nearly every day.
WALLACE: Now, a year ago, I asked the then president-elect during the transition about why it was that he was only taking an intelligence briefing about once a week. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You know, I'm like a smart person. I don't have to be told the same thing and the same words every single day for the next eight years. It could be eight years, but eight years. I don't need that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: And yesterday morning, Mr. Trump fired back at questions about his mental fitness with this tweet.
Throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. Not smart, but genius. And a very stable genius at that that!
I say this respectfully, sir, and I understand your impatience with our dealing with the subject. The CIA does psychological profiles of world leaders routinely. What would you say about a world leader who refers to himself as a very stable genius?
POMPEO: Chris, I'm not going to dignify that question with a response.
This is a man who is leading the United States of America, and who engages with intelligence community in ways that are sophisticated. He deals with the most complex issues and has handled them in a way that I have great admiration and respect for. We're keeping America safe and President Trump is completely capable of working alongside of us and leading us in that effort.
WALLACE: I want to pick up on that last point, you say you are keeping America safe. By raising questions about the president's fitness, in a sense — and the president became part of it, making this the big topic this week — has this book weakened our country? Weakened our standing around the world?
WALLACE: All right, let's move on.
Let's turn to these protests in Iran against the government. The Revolutionary Guard says this morning that they have put these demonstrations down. One, is that true? And two, what do you make of the fact that our closest European allies failed to support us when we tried to rally around the protesters?
POMPEO: Chris, with this issue in the protest in Iran is very real. The economic conditions in Iran are not good. That's what caused the people to take to the streets. President Trump made very clear that America supports the Iranian people and is looking for them to have a voice and better economic and living conditions.
Meanwhile, the Iranian regime threatens violence. Qasem Soleimani wastes their money in places like Lebanon and Syria and Yemen, trying to foment goodness knows what, making them the world's largest state sponsor of terror.
Look, that is a backward looking regime and is a theocratic regime that is looking backwards. Instead of a regime that is looking forward to making the lives of their people better. Whether it's Rouhani, who himself 1999 crushed violent revolts or Soleimani, pick a leader, or whether it's the ayatollah, each of them views themselves as running a theocracy and the Iranian people don't want that.
So, my full expectation that you'll see the Iranian people continue to revolt against this.
WALLACE: All right. Well, let me ask you a couple of specific questions. Have the authorities, the repressive authorities of the Iranian regime, have they put down the protest?
POMPEO: So, they're still going on in a low level. There has certainly been violence that has taken place, that is the regime has used force to push back against it. But it's my expectation these protests are not behind us.
WALLACE: Secondly, the Iranian state prosecutor said that this is all the work of the CIA and he talks specifically about your top man on the Iran desk.
POMPEO: It's false. This was the Iranian people. He started by them, created by them, continued by them, demanding a better set of living conditions and a break from the theocratic regime that has been with them since 1979.
WALLACE: You have been very clear in your statements about the regime. President Trump has been, if anything, even clearer about it. Why is it that our top European allies failed to support us on this and in fact France, when we brought it up before the emergency meeting at the United Nations Security Council, joined with Russia and China and said this isn't a fit subject to bring up at the U.N. Security Council?
POMPEO: Yes, they'll have to answer for their behavior. But my sense is that we are in the same position, that is I think when I talked to my counterparts in Europe, they are with us in working to figure out ways to counter Iran's maligned behavior throughout the world and indeed we are working together with them in that effort.
WALLACE: The president faces some deadlines in the next ten days as to whether or not to stay in the Iran deal or to re-impose sanctions. Congress is working on legislation.
Could they do something over these next 10 days that would make it sensible and reasonable for us to stay in the Iran deal?
POMPEO: They could, Chris. I've only seen a little bit of this, it's not in my lane directly. They could do something. They could take some of the weaknesses from the agreement, from the joint comprehensive agreement, extend deadlines, put snapback sanctions into place where they could really happen.
So, there are set of things they could do to make that deal better and then ultimately the president will have to make the decision about whether to remain in the deal or not.
WALLACE: Now, when you talk about changes they could make, one of them would be supposedly that they would basically say that we — the firm deadline as to when we can do it. We would remove some of the timelines and say if they meet certain thresholds, then the sanctions go back in place.
POMPEO: That's right, Chris. And then there are other things. The agreement itself covered only a set of maligned behaviors, their nuclear program, there are other things which present real threats to America and to the world that I hope we can all counter together.
WALLACE: One more trouble spot: this week, North Korean and South Korean officials are going to hold their first official talks in two years to discuss relations just ahead of the Winter Olympics. This was the initial reaction, the negative reaction from our U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: We won't take any of the talks seriously if they don't do something to ban all nuclear weapons in North Korea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Are these talks a good thing, or do you see them, your best CIA estimate, as an effort — and this wouldn't be the first time — by North Korea to try and drive a wedge between South Korea and its alliance with the United States?
POMPEO: Look, the North Koreans are in a tough spot. President Trump has made very clear that the U.S. policy is denuclearization of the peninsula and that we are going to achieve that.
So, you see the North Koreans doing what they have historically done, reaching out, trying to find space, trying to come up for air when they are being strangled by a president who's made very clear that their behavior is unacceptable.
And so, yes, this is certainly part of that. We'll see how the talks go on Tuesday of this week and what they are able to resolve with respect to the Olympics. But the American position is unchanged.
WALLACE: But you sound in your answer as if you have grave skepticism about the question as to how sincere North Korea is in trying to improve relations.
POMPEO: The North Koreans are behaving out of fear, that is they are very concerned that America for the first time in an awfully long time is serious about denuclearizing the peninsula. And I think they are finding — trying to find a foothold, trying to find a place to reach out. And we'll — we'll just have to wait and see how the conversations going Tuesday.
WALLACE: Final question, Kim Jong-un, the head of the regime, in his New Year's Day statement where he reached out and talked about wanting to deal with South Korea, he also talked about the fact that he had a nuclear button on his desk and President Trump responded with this tweet.
Will someone from his depleted and food-starved regime please inform him that I too have a nuclear button, but it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his and my button works!
Question, how is that helpful to get in his back-and-forth of taunts with the leader whom you and the CIA judge as unstable?
POMPEO: This is the first time in an awfully long time that American policy has been consistent. That tweet is entirely consistent with what we are trying to communicate. We want the regime to understand that unlike before, we are intent on resolving this, and it is our firm conviction that resolving this diplomatically is the correct answer. But that this administration is prepared to do what it takes to ensure that people in Los Angeles and Denver and New York aren't held at risk from Kim Jong-un having a nuclear weapon. That tweet is entirely consistent with that policy.
WALLACE: And just quickly, how do you respond to people who are very critical of the tweet and say, you know, it lowers the threshold, it trivializes the possibility of nuclear war?
POMPEO: Yes, I just simply disagree with them. We in this administration understand the seriousness of what it is we are undertaking. We understand the threat. We speak — I speak with the president about it nearly every day.
But we are intent upon laying out a set of plans that achieve the goal that frankly previous administrations have been unprepared to engage in.
WALLACE: Director Pompeo, thank you. Thanks for your time this weekend.
POMPEO: Thank you, Chris.
WALLACE: Always good to talk with you, sir.
POMPEO: Good to talk with you, sir.
WALLACE: Up next, we'll bring in our Sunday group to discuss the Trump agenda for 2018 and the impact of a book that questions the president's fitness.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are very well-prepared for the coming year. We finished very strong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: President Trump laying out Republican plans for 2018 after meeting with GOP leaders this weekend at Camp David.
And it's time now for our Sunday group. GOP strategist Karl Rove, Rachael Bade, who covers Congress for Politico, Julie Pace, Washington bureau chief for The Associated Press, and Guy Benson of townhall.com.
Karl, I gather you, like I, was ripping through the book. I stayed up until 11:00 on Friday night. What do you make of the book and what does it tell you about President Trump and his team in the White House?
KARL ROVE, FORMER BUSH WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Well, if you didn't like drum, you're not going to like him any better. And if you like Trump, you're going to dismiss a lot of the book. But not since that Vietnamese monk poured gasoline on himself in an intersection in Saigon in 1963 and lit a match have we seen someone immolate themselves as Steve Bannon did in this book.
It is clear that this book was based on a large number of interviews taped with Steve Bannon by Michael Wolff, including chapter 21, where all of these ugly things that he says about Trump's family are at a dinner with Wolff in his apartment in Arlington and there's clearly a tape recorder running. So, the biggest victim of this book, by the book itself is Steve Bannon. His glory hopes of organizing a movement, raising millions of dollars, backing candidates against every Senate Republican incumbent against Ted Cruz and maybe running himself for president in 2020 if Trump didn't run, if all of these desires and dreams poof, up in smoke.
WALLACE: Briefly, because I want to bring in everybody else in — Bannon, whatever you think of him, one would think he's a rational guy, why would he do this?
ROVE: Because he's got a gigantic ego.
Let me say one other quick thing. The problem for the president is not this book. It's his own quotes. It's — it's not — it is not the book, it's his behavior.
And going out and issuing a tweet saying I have — I'm a very stable genius and I'm like really smart was not helpful. It elongated the book, drew more attention to it, and dominated the conversation when there were better things for him to talk about than — when we say something like that, it caused people to say, well, why are you so defensive about it? And the question is, why did the president feel compelled to be defensive about this book?
WALLACE: Well, I want to pick up on that with you, Julie, because this book comes out just as the president was riding pretty high with the passage of the tax bill, with a long list of good economic news. How much has the book and the president's reaction to it thrown them off their game as they prepare for what's going to be a tough month, very tough month, we'll get to it in a second, but the government running out of money in 12 days and a very challenging midterm election year?
JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: It has overshadowed everything that Republicans on the Hill and White House advisors had hope to spend this week talking about. There was no effort made, no serious effort made by the White House this week to sell the public on the tax overhaul, which is pretty unpopular right now. And they're going to have to bolster its popularity if Republicans hope to run on it in the fall.
There was no effort to lay the groundwork publicly on a spending bill. Very little public conversation about immigration and DACA or the border wall.
And to Karl's point, this book based on the content of it was always going to be news, but it would not have reached this level if it not had been for the president coming out and putting out a statement, going after Steve Bannon. If it hadn't been for the tweets yesterday, so much of the coverage of this is driven by the president's own action. That's something that's fully within his control and he cannot avoid a fight.
If he sees somebody going after him personally, he feels like he has to get in there, he has to mix it up. He does not feel like as president, he is above squabbling with even a former advisor.
WALLACE: Not to mention something that was almost unprecedented, which is having his lawyers threatened to sue Steve Bannon and the publisher and Michael Wolff, the author, which again was just like, "thank you, Mr. President", if I'm the publisher of that book.
As I said, the first key government deadline is to find a way to keep the government funded in 12 days or else we're going to have a shutdown. Democrats say no deal on spending unless there is a deal on DACA and the Dreamers, and yesterday at his meeting with Republican leaders at Camp David, President Trump laid out his conditions for that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We want the wall. The wall is going to happen or we're not going to have DACA. We want to get rid of chain migration. Very important. And we want to get rid of the lottery system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Rachael, Democrats say, OK, we can go for border security but we're not going to go for a while and we found out in the last couple of days that the administration is saying the cost of the wall just for the first phase would be $18 billion over ten years. So, how in the next 12 days can they make an agreement to keep the government funded when you've got all these conditions about yes, DACA, no wall, yes, there has to be a wall?
RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: I think everybody on the Hill is asking the exact same question right now. Democrats saying they want this done before they agree to a long-term budget deal. The problem here is that the president wants something that they are not going to be able to approve or vote for.
We heard this week that two Senate Republicans in this bipartisan working group that everybody thought would come up with a bipartisan DACA deal actually walked away from the table, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, James Lankford of Oklahoma. They left because they said Democrats are not willing to give anything on border security.
Meanwhile, you have the president sort of doubling down on his partisan rhetoric in terms of demanding a wall. I'm not sure how this is going to come together. I am skeptical, however, that Democrats are going to take the shutdown in late January because they had a chance to do that before in December and they blinked. And they voted for a short-term spending bill.
I'm skeptical that they're going to hold the line on this. We'll just have to see.
WALLACE: So, I just want to be clear here, because the immigration people and the Hispanics are saying you — this is your time for leverage. You've got to get this as part of a spending deal. You're suggesting the Democrats won't do that?
BADE: You know, they said that they were going to do this as part of — before Christmas, that they were not going to support any kind of spending deal or agreement before they left for the holiday break and yet there were a number of Democrats in the Senate who voted for short-term spending bill. So, I think that there are a lot of Republicans who thought this was the hill that Democrats were willing to die on and they would have to cave to Democratic demands on DACA. The sense I'm getting now from Republicans is that they think maybe they could push this off, get a spending deal and deal with it later in March.
WALLACE: Guy, there's also a split that we saw this week within the Republican Party. You have House Speaker Ryan who continues to push for welfare reform, but the reports this week that the president and Senate Leader McConnell had cooled on that and want to lead with infrastructure.
Do you have any sense of the order that's — with the priorities, and what are the chances particularly because you're going to need Democratic votes for any serious legislation this year?
GUY BENSON, TOWNHALL.COM: Well, much better chance for Democrats to hop on board in infrastructure bill than spending reform bill or welfare reform. So, when I was talking to top House Republican sources prior to the New Year, they were saying, oh, yes, you know, we are doing the tax cut, it's going to be a great deal for the American people and then we need some fiscal discipline. We're going to get to welfare reform next.
And I was always skeptical saying, hey, the president's appetite for that sort of things has always seemed very limited. He came out on the campaign trail hard against entitlement reform. Is he really going to follow up a tax bill with something like welfare reform? And it seems like he's really backing off of that with Mitch McConnell being his conduit on Capitol Hill saying, let's talk about infrastructure spending instead. That might be an easier lift in an election year.
WALLACE: Which raises another question, Karl, the first midterm election for the party that has the president in office is always tough with the exception of you in 2002 with George W. Bush. How much trouble are Republicans in as they had towards the midterm in 2018 in November?
KARL ROVE, FORMER BUSH WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Big trouble. President's approval rating is in the high 30s. And the Republicans are 24 seats in the House away from losing their majority. As a result, I think we're going to see two Republican agendas in 2018. We're going to see the unified Republican agenda, House, Senate and White House, which is going to focus on infrastructure and maybe a DACA deal and a couple other things.
And then we're going to see a House Republican agenda in which they do tackle things like poverty and welfare and reform so that the members have the ability to go home and say, we passed it, I voted for it and it's now bollix up in the Senate.
There's always been a tension between the House and the Senate. This year, the House Republicans are going to use that tension creatively in order to say we're working, they aren't. Vote for the Republican — me, your Republican congressman, and the Senate can go to heck.
WALLACE: I'm glad you cleaned it up that way.
All right. Thank you, panel. We'll see — take a break here. We'll see you guys a little bit later.
When we come back, Corey Lewandowski, President Trump's first campaign manager and still a top outside advisor on the controversial new book, and Steve Bannon's sudden fall from power.
WALLACE: Coming up, the White House pushes back on claims of that new book, "Fire and Fury."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: He said he interviewed me for three hours in the White House. It didn't exist, OK? It's in his imagination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: We'll talk with President Trump's first campaign manager and still outside adviser, Corey Lewandowski, next.
WALLACE: A look outside the beltway at Savannah, Georgia, after its heaviest snowfall in three decades.
Back now to the fallout from Michael Wolff's book on the Trump presidency.
Joining us from Manchester, New Hampshire, President Trump's first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who is now chief strategist for America First Action, a pro-Trump super PAC.
Corey, what do you think of the book and how accurate is it?
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, CHIEF STRATEGIST, AMERICA FIRST ACTION: Well, Chris, let me first say Happy New Year.
And let me be very clear, this is a book of fiction. Not only is it not accurate, there are so many misrepresentations in this book that it shouldn't be taken seriously. And if you look at the critics of Mr. Wolff, his contemporaries, his colleagues, The New York Times, CNN, clearly not people who have been friendly or supportive of this president or his administration, they have called into question the simple facts that are in this book as factually inaccurate. And Mr. Wolff himself claimed at the very beginning of the book that it looks like he's taken liberties to put things in the book that may not have happened, but he lets the reader decide. That is not journalistic integrity and this book is a complete application.
WALLACE: All right. But here's one excerpt of the book were Michael Wolff describes your relationship with the president's two sons, Don Junior and Eric, and also Jared Kushner. Let's put it up.
"Lewandowski regarded both brothers and their brother-in-law with rolling on the floor contempt. Not only were Don Junior and Eric stupid, and Jared both supercilious and obsequious, the butler, but nobody knew a whit about politics."
The fact is, you didn't think much of Don Junior, who helped force you out as campaign manager.
LEWANDOWSKI: You know, Chris, it's very important to know, Mr. Wolff and I never spoke about this book. So where he comes up with these assertions of what I think of the Trump kids or — or Jared Kushner are completely made up. I've never spoken to him about this. And so let me be as clear as I can be.
And, look, I talk about this in my book. I think Eric and Don are fantastic advocates for their father. I have a very close, working relationship with Jared Kushner. I respect what he has done by leaving his business and coming to government service. So these, again, are made up accusations from a person who never spoke to me about my opinion of anybody in the Trump orbit or the Trump family.
WALLACE: Well, OK, but — but one could argue that your views of some of these people we just talked about were known to other people. I have a lot of respect for you, Corey, but your discretion and your — and your — your lack of giving your views is not one of the things that I necessarily agree with.
Let me ask you another question. Honestly, did you ever refer to Jared as "the butler"?
LEWANDOWSKI: Look, Chris, I've never done that. And that's such — you know, that's such conjecture. It's such speculation. It shouldn't have ever been printed.
And — and — and like I heard on the entire chapter that this guy wrote about the CPAC event, he never called Matt Schlapp and CPAC or anybody else to talk about it. He never called me. I never sat down. So for him to say I called anybody anything without talking to me is an injustice to the integrity of — of publishing a book. The guy's a liar is what it comes down to and I don't think anybody who looks at what is in this book can take it honestly.
So, look, Chris, I've been very clear, I don't think I should have been fired by the Trump campaign after helping to steer the candidate through 38 primaries and caucuses and help him get more votes than any candidate in the history of the Republican Party. But the family made a decision to have me moved out in June of 2016, and that was a decision that we now live with.
But the bottom line is, I never spoke to Wolff. And whether — you know, was I disappointed in June of 2016? You bet I was. But have I done everything humanly possible from that day to make sure the Trump agenda moves forward, whether it was right after that — right after I left the campaign on television or this day on the outside? You bet I have.
WALLACE: You also think that if you hadn't been fired, Trump would have won more than 306 electoral votes.
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, look, you know, I'd love to say that I could have maybe helped deliver New Hampshire because selfishly I wanted to see him win my home state and I wanted to see him win Nevada. It was an amazing election victory that Donald Trump gets all the credit for. But I do think there could have, obviously, been a role for me at that campaign had I not been asked to leave.
WALLACE: OK. Let's get to the central point here.
Michael Wolff basically says that all the people around the president question his fitness to be the commander in chief. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL WOLFF, "FIRE AND FURY" AUTHOR: The one description that — that everyone gave, everyone has in common, they all say he is like a child. And what they mean by that is, he has a need for immediate gratification. It's all about him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Your reaction?
LEWANDOWSKI: Chris, I spent 18 hours a day seven days a week for almost two years next to candidate Trump and I've had the high privilege of continuing to speak to the president as he has assumed that office. And I can tell you this, never have I seen anything like this. Michael Wolff hasn't spent any time with a candidate. He wasn't with us on the campaign trail. He hasn't been next to the president while he's been in the Oval Office making decisions. And if you look at what this man has achieved throughout his lifetime, it's not instant gratification, it's long-term success, whether it has been books or television or running for office.
You know, it was two years ago this very week — three — excuse me, three years ago this very week I joined the Trump organization, the Trump team, to start planning that run for president. That's not instant gratification. And what Donald Trump achieves in that campaign was unparalleled success against an amazing field of Republican candidates. That took two long years of dedication and hard work by candidate Trump to do something nobody ever thought he could do and Wolff wasn't anywhere near that.
WALLACE: All right. Look, I want to make it clear because I've talked a long time to you and you say it was two years ago that I did a "Power Player" on you. We've talked often since then. I've read your book. And clearly your admiration for Donald Trump is there and in no way do your question his fitness. In fact, quite the contrary. You basically say he's — he's kind of a genius. I don't know — I forget whether you used those words or not.
But you also do talk about some behavior that is questionable. And I wanted — I wanted to discuss that, because that's also part of your description of him. You say that four major food groups on Trump force one were McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, pizza and Diet Coke. And here's what you say about what happens when the president often, or then candidate, would lose his temper.
"The mode that he switches into when things aren't going his way can feel like an all-out assault. It'd break most hardened men and women into little pieces. Around the campaign we'd call it getting your face ripped off."
Corey, you talk about one instance when the president got so upset, he's in a helicopter, you're — I think you're in the helicopter with him, that he orders the pilot to fly it down so low that he can get cell phone service so he can chew out Paul Manafort.
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, Chris, look, having your face ripped off by the president, as we describe it, is because we failed as a staff. This is a man who woke up every day and put 18 or 20 hours a day in every day on the campaign trail. And when something didn't go right, it wasn't because he wasn't giving 125 percent effort, it's because the staff failed him. The microphone didn't work properly. Something that we should have had done for him wasn't right and that's the accountability. He expects, demands and deserves the best, and he should have that. And when I failed as a campaign manager, he let me know. It makes me a better person for that.
I didn't take it personally. I wanted to work harder because I saw what he was doing and I forced our staff to work harder so that he gets the very best. There's nothing wrong with that, Chris. I took that as a level of professionalism that forced me and my team to be better because that's what he deserved.
Chris, you have to remember, at the significant early stage of this campaign, there were four or five people against the Republican juggernauts, right, against the Bush campaign —
LEWANDOWSKI: The Walker campaign, the Cruz campaign, where they had hundreds of people. We were doing this with a much smaller team. And so what we had to do is we had to y be perfect every day. And when we weren't, he held us accountable and that's the right thing to do.
WALLACE: OK. I've got about two minutes. I want to get into one last subject with you. Let's talk about accountability. Steve Bannon. You have generally gotten along with him. How do you explain him accusing Don Junior and Jared of treason for their meeting with that Russian lawyer in June of 2016 at Trump Tower, and also suggesting that some of them may have been involved, including Jared, in money laundering? How do you explain him being so indiscreet?
LEWANDOWSKI: Look, I can't explain it. There's no justification for that whatsoever.
I know Don Junior. I know Jared Kushner. They're American Patriots. Don loves his country. Jared loves his country. They have given up so much to help this country be better. And so —
WALLACE: I'm not talking about them. I'm talking about Steve Bannon. Why would he do that?
LEWANDOWSKI: Look, I can't justify what Steve said. If that's what Steve said, then he owes — he owes Donald Trump, he owes Donald Trump Junior, he owes Jared Kushner and the entire Trump family an apology if that's what he said. And if that's what he said, then shame on Steve Bannon because that is so out of bounds to accuse somebody of treason. It's so out of line. So out of character for a guy like Steve Bannon that I have a hard time believing what Wolff wrote. But if that's what Steve said, then shame on Steve for doing that because that is way out of line.
WALLACE: Final question because here was the president at Camp David yesterday on both the author Michael Wolff and also on Steve Bannon. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, I never interviewed with him in the White House all. He was never in the Oval Office. We didn't have an interview. Sloppy Steve brought him into the White House quite a bit. And it was one of those things. That's why sloppy Steve is now looking for a job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: The president says he and Bannon are done. The Mercers, conservative billionaire backers, said they've got no more dealings with Steve Bannon. Thirty seconds, what is Steve Bannon's place in Republican politics now?
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, look, Chris, the only person that's the head of the Republican party is the president of the United States, Donald Trump. And people — 60 million people voted for him and they didn't vote for Steve Bannon or Becca Mercer or anybody else to be the president of the United States. They voted for Donald Trump.
So if Steve Bannon wants to get on the Trump team and join with the president to make sure that we hold the House in 2018, and we hold the Senate or expand our majority, then he'll be welcome to do that. But if you want to run an agenda, which is antithetical to the president's agenda, then there is no place in the Republican Party for you because Donald Trump is the head of the Republican Party. He is the head of our country.
LEWANDOWSKI: And his is the agenda that the American people voted for.
WALLACE: Corey, thank you. Thanks for getting through the snow in New Hampshire — I know it was a tough slog — to talk with us today, sir.
LEWANDOWSKI: Thank you very much.
WALLACE: Coming up, President Trump denies he did anything wrong in trying to stop Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself in the Russian investigation.
And guess who else is still under investigation. Yes, Hillary Clinton. The panel returns next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Everything that I've done is 100 percent proper. That's what I do, is I do things proper. Everyone found that after a year of study, there's been absolutely no collusion. There's been no collusion between us and the Russians. Now, there has been collusion between Hillary Clinton, the DNC and the Russians.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: President Trump denying any wrongdoing as the special counsel's Russia probe continues. And taking obvious pleasure in reports the FBI is still investigating Hillary Clinton.
And we're back now with the panel.
Well, Guy, let's start with the news that the FBI apparently resumed its investigation of the Clinton Foundation and allegations of pay to play more than a year ago and now GOP senators want the FBI to take a look at possible criminal investigation of the man, Christopher Steele, who was behind the so-called Russia dossier.
What do you make of that and the fact that it looks like Hillary Clinton is back as a possible target of FBI investigation?
GUY BENSON, TOWNHALL.COM: Well, on the Steele point, the allegation from the senators, the Republican senators, is that there's some evidence that he may have lied to federal officials and the FBI. And if he did that, that, of course, would be a crime.
As for Mrs. Clinton —
WALLACE: You think part of what they're saying is, hey, if you're going to go after George Papadopoulos —
WALLACE: And — and Michael Flynn —
BENSON: If going to the FBI is a problem for Trump world people, it should be a problem for anyone else.
BENSON: That would be a consistent position.
As for Mrs. Clinton, I think that what you're going to hear from Democrats is, this is just going back and re-litigating an old fight because the president is having tantrums on Twitter and so the Justice Department is responding in a political way. That's what they're going to say.
What Republicans will point out is, there were allegations in 2016 reported by CNN, by The Wall Street Journal, that there were FBI agents and FBI officers, four field officers in fact, that were looking into the Clinton Foundation and those efforts were quashed by Obama-era Justice Department officials.
So there may be something there that was never fully investigated properly or probed properly. And so Trump defenders and Clinton critics will say this is legitimate.
WALLACE: Meanwhile, Rachael, under heavy pressure from House Republicans, the FBI has finally agreed to turn over documents and also to allow witnesses to testify in the FBI's conduct of both the Clinton and the Trump investigations. And they've met up — went up to Capitol Hill, met with House Speaker Ryan and he demanded that they cooperate with these investigations on The Hill.
RACHAEL BADE, POLITICO: Yes, top Justice Department officials went and talked to Speaker Ryan specifically about narrowing document and witnesses — witness increase to try to bring them to Capitol Hill. They didn't want to turn over all those documents. But Speaker Paul Ryan, you know, stuck with the chairman on this and he said, no, we need this information from you guys and it's Congress' duty to oversee the executive branch, so we have a right to do this.
I think this was sort of a tentative truce. Even just two days later, we saw Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley come after the FBI and say specifically that they think they should be investigating the author of the dossier that sort of triggered a lot of this Russia scandal investigation. And that's not small potatoes there. I mean Grassley and Graham are not particularly seen as partisan hacks. These guys are oversight bulls who a lot of people on both sides of the aisle really respect.
We also saw to conservatives, Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, say that they want Jeff Sessions to step aside because they don't like the way the FBI is handling the Russia probe.
So this is just going to continue. It's a partisan mood swing right now. And, you know, the fight between the FBI and the Republicans on The Hill is going to get uglier.
WALLACE: And, meanwhile, the Democrats who originally had no love loss for Jeff Sessions are saying, no, he's got to stay there and we can't leave this because they don't want to see anything that interferes with the special counsel.
Which brings us to you, Karl, and the special counsel because we learned this week that the White House apparently lobbied Attorney General Sessions not to recuse himself in March of 2016 — or 2017 when all of this was coming out that he had meetings undisclosed with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
When you look at that, the lobbying of Jeff Sessions, when you look at the firing of James Comey, when you look at the president's role in helping to write that Air Force One statement that turned out not to be true about Don Junior's meeting with a Russian lawyer, how close are they getting to a case of obstruction of justice?
KARL ROVE, FORMER BUSH WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: On the first two instances, firing Comey and encouraging Sessions not to recuse himself, I don't think they have any problems. I'm not a lawyer, but every lawyer — most every lawyer I've talked to says they don't see how there could be a case made there unless there's an underlying criminal intent.
On the third question of the statement being drafted on Air Force One, everybody who was in that room who was involved in that statement — in drafting that is going to have to answer questions at the FBI and see if they square with earlier statements they made about it.
But the point about Jeff Sessions — let's be clear about this. In 1978, the Congress passed an ethics law 74-5 in the Senate, 307-23 in the House requiring that the memories were still fresh of Bobby Kennedy as JFK's attorney general, and John Mitchell as Nixon's, and specific rules were required by that law for recusal. And as a result, in 1982, the rules were set down, no employee of the Justice Department shall participate in a criminal investigation or prosecution if he has a personal or political relationship with any person or organization substantially involved in the conduct that is the subject of the investigation. Political relationship means a close identification with an elected official or a candidate arising from service as a principle adviser there too.
Jeff Sessions was the first senator to endorse Donald Trump and a senior adviser to him throughout the campaign. Now, I know lawyers may disagree, but I read that and say, he had no other course except to recuse himself.
WALLACE: Julie, the president's lawyers have been saying for some period of time, this is going to go away. It was going to go away at Thanksgiving. Then they were saying, it's going to go away early in 2018. They also say the president is completely in the clear. As all of this continues to come out, are they quite so confident?
JULIE PACE, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: They remain confident in the president not having done anything wrong, either on collusion in the campaign or with Comey's firing or pushing Sessions to recuse — to not recuse himself. They are less confident at this point that this is now an investigation that's wrapping up, in part because all of these targets that they keep setting, all of these deadlines that they keep saying all pass. And the president gets frustrated with that.
And you can understand why. He's a client and if your lawyers are telling you that this investigation is wrapping up and then it doesn't, it becomes quite frustrating. They now expect that this is something that they will be living with for another period of time. Realistically, when you talk to people — lawyers for other people who are being probed here, they expect this to be quite a lengthy investigation, something that could continue perhaps through the end of this year. So that's two years of the Trump administration that could be tied up in a pretty complex investigation.
WALLACE: Well, that — anybody I've talked to who is familiar with special counsel investigations tells us there's never any timeline. And these guys take whatever time they feel they need. So why were the lawyers saying that — the only reason I can figure is because they felt, well, let's — we'll keep the president controlled by saying, oh, it's — it's — just wait a couple of more weeks, Mr. President.
PACE: Right, which is a confounding strategy because when you actually put a couple of deadlines on there, I mean the calendar turns and you know that Thanksgiving has passed, Christmas has passed, the end of the year has passed and the investigation is still going.
I think one thing to watch this year is how the president responds when he comes to the realization that more people around him are going to be called in to talk to Bob Mueller, that this investigation is not wrapping up any time soon.
WALLACE: Karl, as the one person at this table, I think, who's actually been the —
ROVE: (INAUDIBLE) give him some advice from having been through this.
ROVE: Stay focused on your job. Compartmentalize this. Put it aside. Stay focused on your mission. And don't be expecting it to wrap up soon or wrap up quickly. And to the degree that you keep focused on it. To the degree that the president is obsessed with this. He is not serving himself or the people of America well. Stay focused on the job.
WALLACE: And we should point out that no charges were brought against Karl —
WALLACE: Which is why he is here today.
Thank you, panel. See you next Sunday.
Up next, our "Power Player of the Week." The nation's top doctor and his plans for battling our most pressing health issues.
WALLACE: Health care is one of the most divisive political issues in our country, but one man here in Washington is all about ratcheting down the debate and working for solutions. Here's our "Power Player of the Week."
DR. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: I think of the role of the surgeon general as being one who leads with the science, who promotes health and prevents disease.
WALLACE (voice over): Dr. Jerome Adams is the country's 20th surgeon general, in charge of the 6,500 officers of the public health service. But more important, he is the nation's doctor. In the '60s, Luther Terry warned about the danger of smoking. In the 80s, C. Everett Koop fought political opposition to inform the country about AIDS.
C. EVERETT KOOP, FORMER SURGEON GENERAL: Let's stop the rumors and commiseration about AIDS.
WALLACE (on camera): Sometimes in your job science bumps up against politics. How do you balance those?
ADAMS: Science has got to be the key for the surgeon general. But there's a saying, Chris. People need to know that you care before they care what you know.
WALLACE (voice over): Adams believes instead of a zero sum game where one side wins and the other loses, public health is about building partnerships. On climate change —
ADAMS: We know the science says that man is having an impact on the climate, but we also know that people are dying from not having jobs, not being able to feed their families.
WALLACE: Whether gun violence is a public health issue.
ADAMS: Gun control, I think, in and of itself, is a term that turns people off. I'm interested as the surgeon general in gun safety.
WALLACE: But the most pressing problem now is the opioid crisis. Ninety-one people a day dying from overdoses. The nation's life expectancy declining for the second year in a row.
Back in October, President Trump declared it a public health emergency.
TRUMP: We will defeat this opioid epidemic. It will be defeated.
WALLACE: But so far the Trump administration has not kept its promise to ask Congress for more funding.
WALLACE (on camera): Drug addiction is personal for you. Your brother is in prison.
ADAMS: My younger brother, Philip, suffers from addiction. It's painful to share, but it helps people understand that if this can happen to the surgeon general and his brother, it can happen to anybody.
So help me God.
WALLACE (voice over): Vice President Pence appointed Adams as Indiana's health commissioner when he was governor.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was Dr. Jerome Adams who led from the front.
WALLACE: And he saw how the doctor dealt with an outbreak of HIV in a deeply conservative, rural county.
ADAMS: Needle exchange programs are extremely politically controversial.
WALLACE: But Adams convinced the law enforcement and business communities.
ADAMS: That we cared about the same things that they cared about. About resolving this epidemic and shared with them how the science could lead to that outcome.
WALLACE: So Dr. Adams may sometimes have to walk a tight rope in his job, but he says always in pursuit of the greater good.
ADAMS: For my entire life, I've tried to use the gift that God gave me to improve health for individuals. And I get excited each and every day that I get to come to work and feel like I had a small impact in improving the health of this country.
WALLACE: Dr. Adams is now working on a surgeon general's report on the link between public health and a stronger economy.
And that's it for today. Have a great week and we'll see you next "Fox News Sunday."
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