'Special Report' Panel: Jamal Khashoggi Strains U.S.-Saudi Ties


The Saudi regime denies knowledge of what happened to missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Mollie Hemingway, Mara Liasson, and Matthew Continetti discuss with host Bret Baier.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Mike Pompeo is leaving literally within an hour or so. He is heading to Saudi Arabia. We are going to leave nothing uncovered. With that being said, the king firmly denies any knowledge of it.

I am literally sending him just to find out really firsthand what happened.

It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE, R-ARIZ.: I wouldn't be surprised to hear different explanations coming out of the Saudi government very soon. The explanations, frankly, won't make much sense, that was done by lower-level folks.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: In fact we are getting reports from The Wall Street Journal and others that the Saudis are considering putting out a statement that this was a killing by accident in an interrogation. We have yet to see that. The president says it is early. The secretary of state is now heading to Saudi Arabia.

We begin there with the panel: Guy Benson, political editor at Townhall.com; Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist, and Josh Kraushaar, political editor for National Journal. Nice. I couldn't say it last week.


BAIER: Guy, this seems like it is heading into a different direction that we've heard for the past two weeks.

GUY BENSON, TOWNHALL.COM: The Saudi government lied about this brazenly. And the old adage in and politics is the cover-up is always worse than the crime. I would say the crime here morally looks quite terrible, but the cover-up geopolitically is worse because the Saudi government spent a lot of time telling a lot of people all over the international community, no, no, you've had it all wrong. And now to so dramatically change the story and try to make it seem like it is an accident, there will be a lot of dubious skeptical people again. And you are seeing already the repercussions globally for the Saudi regime because of this series of events.

BAIER: And I guess what the question becomes is what does the administration do in response?

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: I think even though -- I already, Guy, you might be going too far with this in that the Saudi government is full of warring factions. It has different members of the family who are saying different things. It's entirely possible that one sector of the government did something and another sector of the government doesn't know about it yet. We have so much that we need to find out, namely, this report is based off of anonymous sources. We don't even know what nationality these sources are, if they're American, Saudi.

BAIER: Sure, we put the caveat on. But I'm saying what comes next for the administration?

HEMINGWAY: I think sending Mike Pompeo is a really good thing to do. It tells the government of Saudi Arabia how seriously we are taking this and that we are demanding answers and that we are going to be motivated based on actual facts and not just conjecture or speculation as so many people in the media seem to be doing.

BAIER: Josh?

JOSH KRAUSHAAR, NATIONAL JOURNAL: The Saudi government wants to blame this on some rogue elements within the government, and it seems like the Trump White House is trying to find some way out. And I think it is important that Secretary of State Pompeo is going to Saudi Arabia perhaps on a diplomatic mission. There are so many geostrategic stakes, the stakes are very high. I think they want to lower the temperature and give some safe, face-saving way for the Saudis to get out of this without any serious political penalties.

BAIER: We will follow all those steps. Take a listen to the president and Elizabeth Warren.


TRUMP: Let's say I'm debating Pocahontas, I'm going to get one of those little kits, and in the middle of the debate when she proclaims that she is of Indian heritage we will say, I will give you $1 million to your favorite charity, paid for by Trump, if you take a test that shows you are an Indian.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, D-MASS.: The president likes to call my mom a liar. What are the facts say?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The facts say that you absolutely have a Native American ancestry in your pedigree.

TRUMP: She owes the country an apology. What is her percentage, 1/1,000?


BAIER: The percentage according to The Boston Globe now the recalculated, 1/64th to 1/1024th Native American. The Cherokee nation issued a statement that was devastating today. A DNA test is useless to determinate tribal citizenship. Current DNA tests do not even distinguish whether a person's ancestors were indigenous to North or South America. Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee nation or any tribal nation even vaguely is inappropriate and wrong. It makes a mockery out of DNA tests and its legitimate uses while also dishonoring legitimate tribal governments and their citizens whose ancestors are well- documented and who heritage is proven. Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage," strong letter to follow. Josh?

KRAUSHAAR: This rollout did not go as Elizabeth Warren expected. First, we know she wants to run for president really badly, but she is stepping on the toes of the midterm elections. And there are a lot of Democrats that don't want Elizabeth Warren front and center a few weeks before November.

It also it doesn't deal with the central issue at hand which is that she checked a Native American box when she applied to Harvard Law school, but even according to her own DNA test the relation was very distant, six or seven generations ago. So she is not helping herself politically, I don't think.

BAIER: Jim Messina, former campaign manager from President Obama, tweeting, "Argue the substance all you want, but why 22 days before a crucial election where we must win House and Senate to save America? Why did Senator Warren have to do her announcement now? Why can't Democrats ever stay focused?"

HEMINGWAY: Maybe she thought she was burying the news by doing it at this point in time. It is not great news for someone who has had her ethnicity changed from white to Native American when she was at the University of Pennsylvania, who Harvard Law trotted out as an example of how good they were with diverse hiring, who said that her mother couldn't marry her dad in a normal wedding ceremony because her grandparents were aghast about how Native American, how Cherokee her mother was.

So as far as her actual stories go, this rollout that she did today completely blows up everything she has ever said about the matter. She was not saying that she had roughly the same percentage of Native American ancestry that any other average white American does. She was saying that she was Native American, and not just Native America, but Cherokee. This does not help that.

BAIER: And the stats, the average European American has actually more than the potential of what she says.

BENSON: There is a very real possibility that Donald Trump is more Native American than Elizabeth Warren. I think he should take the test himself and just troll here if that is the case, because it is possible. Going to Jim Messina's complaint, though, I think it is pretty clear why she did this now. She wanted to rip off this band-aid as soon as possible. This is an embarrassment. It's an embarrassment for her. It's an embarrassment for anyone in the media who tried to pretend like today's news was good news for her. She wants to get this off the front burner as soon as possible so that when they 2020 race heats up it is already old news, because there is no good spin on it.

And secondly, if you see the way that she did it in the video, she is pitting herself against Trump. She is telling Democratic voters, either believe my ludicrous bed or you are with Trump. She took a shot at FOX News in her tweet. She is appealing, ironically, to tribal politics.

BAIER: Tribal politics, there you go.

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