News and Commentary

Steve Scalise Battles Fox News Host Chris Wallace; Trump Fires Back In Tweet
US House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, Republican of Louisiana, speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, October 22, 2019.
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

President Donald Trump slammed Fox News host Chris Wallace on Sunday after Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) battled the Trump critic on “Fox News Sunday,” saying that the interview was “dumb and unfair.”

Trump tweeted: “@SteveScalise blew the nasty & obnoxious Chris Wallace (will never be his father, Mike!) away on Chris’s lowest rated (unless I’m on) morning show. This kind of dumb and unfair interview would never have happened in the @FoxNews past. Great job Steve!”

Wallace took issue with Scalise correctly noting that the witnesses who testified last were the witnesses that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff selected to testify.

Wallace also deflected from talking about the whistleblower when Scalise broached the subject, saying, “We’re not talking about the whistleblower.”


Transcript from Steve Scalise’s interview on “Fox News Sunday”:

Chris Wallace: Joining us now from Louisiana, the number two Republican in the House, Congressman Steve Scalise. Congressman, welcome back to Fox News Sunday.

Steve Scalise: Chris, good morning. Good to be back with you.

Chris Wallace: And we’ll talk about that Louisiana election in a little bit, but I want to start with David Holmes. He’s the official that Kevin just mentioned — the American official in Ukraine who says he overheard a conversation between the president and Gordan Sondland on July 26th, the day after President Trump and President Zelensky spoke. Holmes told members of Congress in his sworn testimony he asked whether the president cares about Ukraine. He says, “Sondland told him Mr. Trump only cares about big stuff that benefits the president, like the Biden investigation.” Doesn’t that contradict the president’s story, sir? All the president cared about was going after the Bidens.

Steve Scalise: Well, if that was the case, then President Trump wouldn’t have done all of the things that he’s done to help Ukraine stand up to Russia. And in fact, on the original Zelensky phone call that was released, President Zelensky was thanking President Trump for the things he’s done — like selling the Javelin missiles — which helped them stand up to the Russian aggression and the tanks. By the way, Barack Obama and Joe Biden would not sell Ukraine those same Javelin missiles —

Chris Wallace: Sir —

Steve Scalise: — and would not give that same kind of aid.

Chris Wallace: Sir, all of that — all of that is true. I mean, your statement of the record is accurate. But the differences between the April phone call and the July phone call — President Trump had suspended military aid, $391 million in aid — that the U.S. Congress, you, had helped — had authorized. The president suspended that, and the question is, did he suspend it because all he cared about was investigating the Bidens?

Steve Scalise: No. And in fact, part of what Congress appropriated had language attached to it that required that the administration make sure that Ukraine’s rooting out corruption, because there were elections during that same period you just mentioned. And so Zelensky got elected on a platform of rooting out corruption, which we’re glad about, but nobody really knew if that was what he was going to follow-through. And because of Ukraine’s history of corruption, the law required that before any taxpayer money go to Ukraine, the president had to ensure that they’re rooting out corruption — which, ultimately they did —

Chris Wallace: But —

Steve Scalise: — and the money was released. And then he got the money needed.

Chris Wallace: But sir, both in the April phone call and in the July phone call, President Trump never mentions the word “corruption.” What he talks about is investigations, investigations of the Democrats, possible interference in 2016, investigations into the Bidens and Burisma. And the phone call that David Holmes overheard on July 26 — he says what the president asked was, “Is he going to do the investigations?”

Steve Scalise: Well, and again, we can talk about second, and third, and fourth-hand information of people who ultimately are going to testify. You can hear it from them on Wednesday. But what the facts are — did the money actually go to Ukraine — and even on the phone call with President Trump and President Zelensky, they talked about the steps that Ukraine is taking to root out corruption. It was something that Zelensky got elected on, a platform of doing — everybody knew that Ukraine had problems with corruption going back to possible interference that Russia also was involved in, in the 2016 election.

Chris Wallace: Well, you’ve set up the big witness this week, which is on Wednesday. Ambassador Gordon Sondland is going to testify. So far, Republicans have complained — and they’re right — that all of the evidence has been secondhand or thirdhand. “Somebody who talked to the president told me” or “somebody who talked to the president told somebody, who talked to the witness” — but that’s not true for Gordon Sondland. According to an NSC official who testified — and we saw the transcript yesterday — Gordon Sondland met directly with the president at least a half-dozen times during this period. If he — and here is what he said. He corrected his testimony on September 1st with a top aide, in which he said, “I said that resumption of U.S. aid would not — would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks.” Congressman Scalise, if Gordon Sondland, who met with the president a half-dozen times this summer testifies on Wednesday yep, the president said to me we’re not releasing the aid until they announce they’re going to investigate the Bidens and Burisma, doesn’t that blow a hole in the president’s defense?

Steve Scalise: Well, the president’s defense is that those things didn’t happen and it’s not just the president’s word. President Zelensky himself said that the aid wasn’t conditioned and there was no pressure and then because of some of these innuendos that you’re talking about, the foreign minister of Ukraine just a few days ago released another statement saying that there was never a link between aid and investigations and once again there were only two people that participated in that phone call. It was Donald Trump and President Zelensky. Both of them were very happy with the phone call. Zelensky said there was no pressure.

Chris Wallace: But sir, I have to —

Steve Scalise: And the real bottom line is he got the money. Ukraine got the money, Chris.

Chris Wallace: Well, first of all, a dozen people listened in on the phone call and a number of them were immediately upset because what the president said about Burisma.

Steve Scalise: Well, those were Schiff’s witnesses.

Chris Wallace: If I — but wait a minute. No, sir. They’re career foreign service officers and these are people who worked in the Trump administration.

Steve Scalise: They’re Schiff’s witnesses. There are other witnesses —

Chris Wallace: You had a woman yesterday — Sir, you had a woman yesterday who was on Vice President Pence’s staff. She said it was inappropriate. You had Tim Morrison, who was on the NSC staff who said that he — alarm bells immediately went off for him. Alexander Vindman immediately went to see — these are all people you said they’re Schiff’s witnesses, they all were working in the Trump administration. But let me get back to my —

Steve Scalise: Well, no, some of them — they were not all Trump administration folks.

Chris Wallace: Are you saying that the person working — Alexander Vindman wasn’t part of the national security commission?

Steve Scalise: The inspector general said — the inspector general said that the whistleblower had political motivations.

Chris Wallace: We’re not talking about the whistleblowers.

Steve Scalise: In fact had some serious concerns about him.

Chris Wallace: We’re not talking about the whistleblower.

Steve Scalise: We’re talking about all of these people that are —

Chris Wallace: We’re talking about Tim Morrison and we’re talking about the Trump —

Steve Scalise: We’ve — you’ve seen our list of who we’ve asked to testify.

Chris Wallace: I’m asking you about these people who worked in the Trump administration, who worked for the Trump national security council or worked for the vice president’s office.

Steve Scalise: Well, Chris, this is the — this is an important point, Chris. There are a lot of people who worked in the Trump administration who have very countering views to that and they’ve not been allowed to come forward. So, it’s nice that some people can say one thing about a thirdhand information phone call. There’s something else that other people can counter that with and they haven’t been allowed to come forward, but ultimately, President Trump and President Zelensky were the ones on the call. Both of them said there was nothing wrong. The foreign minister of Ukraine just came out a few days ago to clear some of this up to say there was never a link between —

Chris Wallace: He incidentally was not on the call either, but let me — if I could go back to Gordon Sondland, if Gordon Sondland says the president told him “condition aid to Ukraine on investigating the Bidens,” are you going to say that he’s wrong? That he’s lying?

Steve Scalise: Look. I know you’ve been asking and others have asked hypothetical questions. Let’s talk in reality. Why don’t we look at the three witnesses who actually did testify this week? All three of them were asked by — whether it was John Ratcliffe or whether it was Chris Stewart, all three of them were asked, “Did you see any impeachable offenses? Did you see any bribery? Any of that?” Not one of those things were mentioned. Not one person said he saw a crime committed.

Chris Wallace: Sir, with all due respect —

Steve Scalise: That’s what this is about, isn’t it?

Chris Wallace: With all due respect, that very badly mischaracterizes what they said. They were asked, William Taylor, for instance, the acting ambassador in Ukraine, was asked whether or not these were impeachable offenses. He said, “I’m there as a fact witness. I’m not there to pass judgement.” But he made it clear what he thought about what the president was doing. Here he is.

William Taylor: To withhold that assistance for no good reason other than help with the political campaign made no sense. It was counterproductive to all of what we had been trying to do. It was illogical. It could not be explained. It was crazy.

Chris Wallace: He said withholding military aid to help with the president’s political campaign was crazy.

Steve Scalise: And the problem with that is it didn’t happen, Chris. The Ukraine foreign minister, based probably on some of that testimony, said it didn’t happen. Zelensky said it didn’t happen. Those are the people directly involved. You can bring out people that have third and fourth-hand information. I thought this was supposed to be about finding facts and if they’re going to try to impeach a president of the United States, shouldn’t it be based on something that actually happened versus one person’s opinion of a third-hand conversation?

Chris Wallace: Well, okay. Alright.

Steve Scalise: That’s really what this is all about.

Chris Wallace: You raised the question that I had raised in a hypothetical and I think that’s fair, sir. Are you saying, though, because Gordon Sondland was a direct witness he spoke to the president in the oval office? Are you willing to abide by whatever Gordon Sondland says happened?

Steve Scalise: Abide by Gordon Sondland? I abide by what the president did and what President Zelensky actually received. President Zelensky received the money. Barack Obama wouldn’t give that money, by the way.

Chris Wallace: But sir, I mean, —

Steve Scalise: President Trump did —

Chris Wallace: You’re right. The president — President Trump has been much tougher in terms of dealing — in terms of giving aid to Ukraine than President Obama was, but President Trump released the aid two days after the whistleblower complaint went public.

Steve Scalise: Well, President Trump released the aid after he made sure by law, by the way, and Pelosi voted for that law, Schiff voted for the law that requires that he ensure that corruption is being rooted out before taxpayer money goes to a country like that.

Chris Wallace: Okay. I got two more questions. I got two minutes so I’m going to ask you to squeeze if you can. We mentioned at the top, the president’s decision on Friday to clear three members of the military who had been accused or convicted of war crimes. Senior Pentagon officials advised the president against it, said that it would undermine the military justice system. Clearly the president is the commander-in-chief. He’s well within his rights. Do you have any problem with this decision to clear these three men?

Steve Scalise: No. I think there have been a lot of concerns expressed over the years that many of our men and women in uniform that were out battling terrorists in the battlefield were being put in a position where they had to think about whether or not if they returned fire, if they defended themselves, some of these people mentioned that were killed were terrorists, bomb-making terrorists, and yet our men and women — men in uniform in this case, were in jail for 25-plus years for killing a terrorist in the battlefield. I think our troops — morale is much higher amongst troops I’ve heard from because this has been a concern. I’ve heard from our men and women in uniform in battlefield for years that they felt that they were sidelined because they needed a team of attorneys before they could return fire on a battlefield.

Chris Wallace: Okay. Now, I got one minute left. You had an election yesterday in Louisiana and the Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards, was reelected. President Trump was in there campaigning hard, multiple times, and said look, if Eddie Rispone, the Republican doesn’t win it’s going to make me, Trump, look bad because I don’t have any coattails. Does it make him look bad?

Steve Scalise: What he said was he’d be made to look bad whether he came in the state or not. Eddie Rispone made up about a 22-point disadvantage over the last month because of President Trump’s involvement. So, Eddie Rispone was at about 27 in the primary. He ended up at 49. So clearly President Trump’s involvement made a big difference at helping close that massive gap and look, the governor’s polling showed he was above 50 before President Trump first started getting involved. That forced a runoff.

Chris Wallace: Congressman Scalise, thank you. Thanks for your time. Always good to talk with you, sir. Please come back.

Steve Scalise: Great being with you. Go Tigers.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Steve Scalise Battles Fox News Host Chris Wallace; Trump Fires Back In Tweet