tv David Farenthold Discusses Coverage of the Donald J. Trump Foundation CSPAN March 2, 2017 9:58pm-11:04pm EST
>> "washington journal," live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. friday morning, news mass media incorporated ceo discusses donald trump's presidency so far and the white house's relationship with the media. journalistonal health care correspondent discusses the division among republicans on how best to repeal and replace the affordable care act. then, anti-defamation league ceo and national director discusses the ongoing threat against jewish community centers and schools. watch "washington journal," beginning life that 7:00 a.m. eastern, friday morning. join the discussion. >> earlier today, "washington farentholdter, david
sat down to discuss the relationship between the donald trump ministration in the media. >> i get asked the question often in my work as a journalist. is there anything good we can say that has come out of the first five weeks of the trump administration? and my answer is, yes, believe it or not, there is something good. i believe that we can think donald trump for the best investigative journalism that we have seen since watergate.
[applause] since bob woodward. and it is mainly the "new york times," i believe, and our own "washington post," and at the "washington post," nobody is better than david farenthold. if you think about some of the big stories you remember about the trump administration and it was a big fundraiser for veterans that has allegedly raised $6 million, but didn't. foundationbout a that did not even have the certification to operate in new york state and were shut down by the a.g. if you think about all those stories about the huge sums that this philanthropist had given to charities throughout his career, if you think about the story about actually, donald trump
spent a lot of foundation money on himself, purchasing big paintings of himself that he would hang in his own property. and if you think about a certain tape of bragging about certain activities with regards to women, all of those scoops were the work of david fahrenthold. [applause] bill: and as ronald reagan would say, you ain't seen nothing yet. so david, congratulations. good to have you. usually we celebrate pulitzer prize winners after they get the award. i think tonight we are celebrating in advance of a well-deserved pulitzer prize winner, david. and his colleagues at "the post," which i'm sure you would be the first to admit. let's go back -- i want to ask a question that sean spicer would ask if he were here.
are you just out to get donald trump? is that your motivation? david: well, no. i started covering trump's charitable giving sort of by accident. i was in iowa following him around at this big rally in waterloo, iowa, and he stopped the rally and said, local veterans groups, come on stage and i will give you a big check. he gave them this golf saidament sized check that "donald trump foundation" on the top and "make america great again" on the bottom. he gives them a $100,000 check, they leave, and they say what a great guy he is, and he goes back to his rally. it raises a couple of questions in my mind, not can i bury donald trump? not, is that illegal? and that was money that had come out of the $6 million he said he had raised for veterans. the question was where is the rest of the money. we set out to prove trump right, that he really had raised the money for veterans.
that was the impetus going in, not, let's get donald trump. let's see how he did this thing he told us he already did. it spiraled from there. in every case we were trying to find evidence that he was telling the truth, often not finding it. bill: i was going to say, did you ever find evidence that he was telling the truth? when you looked into this one fundraiser of how close to the $6 billion did he come and how much did he actually pump in. david: well, i set out thinking this would be a two or three day story. call the trump campaign, and there is no way anyone would screw over veterans in the middle of a presidential primary. of course, you must have given the money away. it didn't happen like that. it didn't happen in a day, didn't happen in a week, didn't happen in a month. four months later after the initial promise he was going to give the money to veterans, at the end of may i was trying to figure out one piece of it,
donald trump said he would raise $5 million for veterans from other people and he gave $1 million from his own pocket. i could not find anybody who would gotten $1 million from his own pocket. corey lewandowski, now a washington lobbyist, then trump's campaign manager, called me and said "mr. trump has given the way the $1 million to veterans, but i cannot tell you who got it or when or what amount, but you should know for sure that he give the money away." i didn't want to just take him at his word, obviously. this is a big promise. you want evidence you have followed through. i was looking for not all $6 million, but the tip of the iceberg. can i find somebody that says "yeah, i got $50,000 from donald trump," or $100,000. so you know the money might be out there. used twitter queries of two big veterans organizations. i used his handle in the tweed.
so he would see it when he searches his own name because we know he searches his own name, and other veterans groups would pick it up and spread it around. we learned that trump had not given $1 million away. when corey lewandowski told me that, it was a lie. it was only after i spent my day searching for it publicly and embarrassed him that he gave the $1 million away that night in one fell swoop to a veterans group that he knew. he called me to tell me that. bill press: he called you? [laughter] david: he called me at work to say he had done it. i said, well, why did it take you four months to give this $1 million away? he said, "i had to vet the group i had given to." the marine corps law enforcement foundation, a real charity. i happen to know that they had given him a lifetime achievement award a year earlier at the waldorf-astoria. i said, you had a big gala with these people and you had to vet them after that? he said, "oh, yeah, that's true." [laughter]
david: and i said, would you ever have given us money way if i had not asked about it. and he said, you are a really nasty guy. you should be ashamed of yourself. he did not answer the question, but that is where we left off. bill press: david farenthold, nasty guy. sad! [laughter] bill: so that was your only conversation? david: i talked to him when he endorsed romney in 2012. by the end of that event, we were trying to get away from donald trump because he was telling us about the marble in the lobby. it was a funny event because the first time you meet him you are like, oh, well, donald trump, but five minutes later he is back again and he is like, "did you know we got five stars," and six times out of that you are like, all right fine. i'm done. i talked to him by phone a couple times for other stories, not about charity, early on in the campaign. bill: so how did they go from this veterans event that he held in lieu of going to the debate
he didn't want to go to because they were all going to beat up on him, and your story about the missing the $1 million, to the whole foundation enchilada? david: well, after donald trump gave the $1 million away, there was still a lot of money people gave him that he had not distributed. $5 million of that was not distributed. there was a press conference at trump tower. he was really angry and lashed out at the media and he insulted jim acosta of cnn and other folks, and that is when he described giving the rest of it away. he gave the rest of it away so hastily that one of the groups he gave money to, if you google it one of the top three results is they were a scam. he gave them the money anyway. they were called the foundation of a veteran americans, something generic. he give the money away and he was so angry to do it when all he had done was fulfill a promise he had made himself on national tv. around the time i saw marty baron, our executive editor, on
the elevator going down to leave, and he said, "you should really look beyond this veterans thing. you should look at the trump foundation, this charity he has run a long time, and the charities over the years." if he is going to try to screw over veterans in a presidential campaign, what is he doing when no one is looking? that was the genesis of months and months of coverage after that. bill: how many organizations did you try to track down? david: 450. trump over the years had promised a number of times to give money out of his own pocket to charity. trump, when he was a celebrity, had this weird dichotomy -- on one hand he told people he was so rich he could not use all money. that was in "the art of the deal" in 1987, "i'm so rich i don't need more money." on the other hand, he was always asking you for your money.
to square the contradiction, he would often say, i am going to give the money to charity. stakes, trump university, he rented to moammar gadhafi one time. "i'm giving it all to charity." did he actually do that? that is what those 450 calls were for. i tried to call the charities most likely to get money from him and i called them to see if they ever got a personal check. bill: and? david: between 2009 and 2015, i could find one gift out of his own pocket, and that was for less than $10,000. i'm not even sure that is real. that may be bad bookkeeping. according to this one group, they got less than $10,000 from trump. bill: how much total money did they bring in and disperse to these organizations? david: you mean the trump foundation? the trump foundation is an interesting case. almost anybody else who is rich and has a foundation with their name on it, it is their money.
you put it in the foundation and you get the tax break right away and then you give it away as time goes on. trump's was not like that. he stopped giving money to his own foundation. after 2008 he gave no money to his own foundation. it was all other people's money that came in and to give it away , often to people who thought they were getting donald trump's money. he didn't even give money to his own foundation during that time. bill: one of the first rules of politics is opm. if you are running for office, other people's money, not your own. but usually a foundation, you are expected to spend your own money and put it in and you get money from other people but you put some of your own. david: one interesting thing about this is most people who are very wealthy you would think would spend money to save time and hassle. trump would be the other way around -- he would go to a huge amount of hassle to spend somebody else's money and not his own. one thing we found is there was a group in palm beach called the palm beach police foundation and
they pay donald trump $275,000 every year to rent out mar-a-lago, his club. for one night. he wants to give them money but he doesn't want to give his own money so he calls a friend of his who is deceased and he asks the widow, i am gathering money for the palm beach police foundation, would you like to donate, to add to the effort from your husband's foundation? she says sure. he says, don't send it straight to the palm beach police foundation, give it to me. and i will give it to them. i think they give him $200,000, which he then takes and gives it to the palm beach police foundation without adding anything from his own. just makes their money into his money. then he gets a giant crystal palm tree, a whole gala in his honor, for his generosity. all other people's money. that was the kind of thing he was doing to make him seem generous rather than being generous. bill: is this what he calls the art of the deal? david: yes, if you can swing it. but it is a lot of work.
if you are a billion or, why not just spend the money? : was that your next question for donald trump. ok, so the videotape, how did you discover that? david: well, i didn't really explain that. bill: billy bush was your story. david: we were not expecting it. it is not something we knew existed before it showed up. there were rumors of a tape from "the apprentice," this low-light reel of bad behavior from "the apprentice." we searched for and searched for it. i think a lot of other people did and never found it. this tape we did not know existed until we had it. we got it at 11:00 in the morning on a friday, it is about a five minute video. in the beginning you just see andbus, and you are trump billy bush, but you don't see their faces. and after about two minutes of them talking, they get off and they meet this soap opera actress who has come to be their
tour guide, and the next two minutes is a very boring tour of the backlot -- here's the cafeteria -- trump was appearing on a cameo on "days of our lives" that day. we can see it and you can hear the audio -- all the bad stuff happens when you can't see their mouths moving, you just hear them. we could take this video -- we need to subtitle it, we need to cut it down to only the interesting parts, and talk to our lawyers before we can publish it. that will take us until 3:30. that is my timeline. i want my story ready in four and a half hours. my job was to call -- it was not that hard because it was just a transcript of what he said. i had to call billy bush, had to call nbc, because "access hollywood" is an nbc show. were they going to sue us for broadcasting something they might have a claim to? were they going to say it was a hoax, that the voices of trump and billy bush were dubbed in?
and call trump, if he would say it was a hoax. and to call the soap opera actress and nancy o'dell, billy bush's co-host from "access hollywood," who the two of them were talking about in the beginning. trump said he took a woman furniture shopping, nancy o'dell. those were my phone calls. nancy o'dell, billy bush, in the soap opera actress never got back to me. it is a fastening contrast between washington publicists and a hollywood publicist. you can not get a senator on the phone right away but you can get a senator's spokesman on the phone right away. in hollywood, it is a grievous loss of face if the publicist speaks to you when you call. you have to leave a message and they call back three days from now to establish they have better things to do. bill press: they are busy. david: right. i call, dear god, do you have any idea what is going to happen to you, and they didn't call until days later.
nbc did not call back on the record. that they had a chance to tell us they would sue, and they didn't. billy bush didn't call back. and trump, we send in just a transcript, not the full videotape. they said, "it doesn't sound like mr. trump. can you send us the videotape?" after talking to the editors, we sent them the videotape and we told them, we will push it back until 4:00, but at 4:00, we will publish. the lawyers were fine with publishing without trump's comment. as closethis ais as you are going to get to a stop the presses moment in the digital era. the clock strikes 4:00. one of the editors walks back to the desk to hit the button to publish the story, and trump's people call as she is in transit , the 40 yards or whatever. they say, hold on, we are going to send a statement. the statement arrived and i was surprised because their strategy had been deny, attacks, don't respond. they said basically, yes, it is
him, locker room talk, 10 years ago, bill clinton said something worse, but yes, it is him. i yell stop and we added that into the story and published it at 4:02. we were worried nbc would beat us on the story. bill press: they could have. david: they had it in their archives. we learned later that they had it for a week. 4:06.eleased it at we beat by four minutes. which is great. we get all the credit and we are not the only person on a limb reporting it. the hardest part for me for the whole thing was newspapers are still very fusty about bad words, and usually if you want to get one bad word in the newspaper, it takes a huge amount of effort, all these levels of approval. i once got b.s. in the people when the police chief charles ramsey said it. bill press: for if the pope
says it. david: right, if the pope says it. this story had all the curse words. we never had that kind of challenge, a very important person saying a lot of terrible things. a lot of it was getting the editors to rule on which words we could spell out, which to use asterisks. it was very talmudic -- all the thinking about which one is -- george carlin would have been proud. [laughter] bill: we were all proud, actually. what was the reaction from the trump people once the story hit? david: well, i didn't hear anything from them. that night as you recall he produced the sort of hostage video where he apologized more fulsomely and said now back to the work of the campaign. but i didn't hear anything from them after that and i thought maybe we would get from him some threat to sue, sue somebody over it. never heard from them again.
bill: so mr. trump is now the president of the united states. you were saying earlier that before, he was certainly using his position to make a lot of money and spend as little money as he can. certainly now that he is president of the united states, he is not still making money. david: well -- so, i wanted -- bill: what are you working on now, is what i am getting at? david: i am on a team that is working on trump and his business interests. i have a piece on the golf clubs and mar-a-lago, and somebody else has merchandising. so, ivanka's merchandising and things like that. he has stepped away from the day-to-day control of the businesses, but he still owns the businesses. they all report to one trust, which is owned by him. he could choose not to exercise the control he has but legally he is the person who controls them and the person who benefits.
bill: a certain percentage of every dollar spent at every trump property goes in his pocket. david: that's right. bill: is that legal? david: well, in a general sense, yes. there is no conflict -- conflict of interest laws in the same thing that would apply -- we saw the labor secretary drop out, the army secretary drop out, the number two person at commerce may drop out because of the difficulties of divesting himself. those laws do not apply to the president. he does not have a responsibility to divest himself. it is not illegal for him to make money. there is a couple of clauses in the constitution that apply, the foreign emoluments clause that says the president cannot accept a gift or emolument -- a 1700s word whose exact meaning in this context is debatable, never tested in the courts. he cannot accept an emolument from a foreign government. his people contend that that doesn't mean the government of saudi arabia rented out a
ballroom or the belgian ambassador ordering a beer at a trump hotel, that doesn't count, they say that the emoluments should only apply to outright gift. there's something called the domestic emoluments clause which means that he in theory cannot raise his own compensation as president beyond the allotted salary. if he uses the u.s. government's resources to pay himself more, that could also be a violation. the problem is most presidents have tended to stay miles and miles away from this kind of conflict, there is not any good case law. when they have case law made as a result of trump -- it is not clear who enforces this. did the framers intend for congress to enforce through impeachment, or the courts? we will find out more about that -- there is a couple of lawsuits about emoluments going on. bill: it has never been tested legally yet. david: no. in trump's -- i
don't know if this is a defense or not, but the closest parallel to what he is doing is lbj. his family owned a bunch of radio stations in texas while he was president and theoretically that was a blind trust, but biographers have found that lbj used special phone lines to call the person running the blind trust and tell him what to do. if trump were to take day-to-day control of his businesses, that would not be the first time it would happen. bill press: there is another benefit of donald trump we can actually thank him for. how many of you have heard of the word "emoluments," or knew how to spell it? [laughter] there areis amazing, professors out there who spent their whole lives studying the emoluments clause not knowing it would ever be important, and this is their moment. bill press: this is their day. you mentioned legal challenges. there was one almost day one of his presidency filed by the citizens for responsibility and
ethics in washington. the group exists, believe it or not. we are not sure how much responsibility and ethics exists in washington. crew -- what do you know about that lawsuit? do they have standing? is that going anywhere? david: the first problem is going to be the issue of standing. obviously, you cannot just sue the government if you don't like what the government is doing because if we all sued the government, the courts couldn't work. they need to prove some unique injury as a result of trump taking emoluments, and their argument is that they are an ethics watchdog and by being unethical, it causes more work for them. it is possible that will stand. it is all theoretical, but law professors think that the best case might come from if you were, say, a rival hotel in washington, the hilton or someplace like that, and the government gave you business and took it away and gave it to trump, you might be able to sue, but a lot of these hotel chains
are foreign-owned, and the ones that are not, you are asking them to take on the president of the united states in kind of a longshot lawsuit. so far nobody has been willing to. bill: isn't he in violation of the law every day from day one because of the trump international hotel -- not because of the money he is getting, but because of the lease? david: the lease says elected officials of the government cannot be owner of the lease. he is owner of the lease and president. they are talking to gsa about that. i thought that would be resolved more quickly but -- i have heard rumors, everything from he is just going to change the lease. or, he is going to put ivanka and sell the hotel to ivanka and eric and don. i have heard a lot of theories, but nothing concrete has happened. bill: i guess a lot of these questions will be answered once donald trump releases his tax returns. [laughter] bill: now, why did everybody laugh?
david: any day now. the folks who did the of emoluments, the ethics crew, it was a bad thing to say in public because this is not how lawsuits work -- but they said that they hope the lawsuit at least gets the discovery phase so that you through discovery get his taxes. but the judges may not like the idea that he is being used as an avenue for discovery and not a real lawsuit. bill: we will never see them, will we? david: he will never surrender them voluntarily but i can imagine an investigation of congress or a court case produces them. all of these russian investigations -- i don't know if they will, but you could see that getting to a point where they request it. certainly if democrats held congress right now they would be. bill: you and your group at "the washington post," there was no doubt that a lot of the rest of us are part of this group, but you are at the front line and the enemy of the people.
how should the media deal with that when you have the president of the united states saying that you are the very, very, very dishonest media? enemy of the american people is a loaded phrase. i think "the post" reported this week that even nikita khrushchev said when he took over that that is a phrase nobody should ever use. david: he was not really an advocate of the free press, either. bill: so how should the media respond? by getting angry and striking back, or just ignoring it as another rant? david: i will say two things. one, trump is somebody who sees the media as basically his main constituency. so much of his self-worth and his image and his view of what the presidency should be about is the media and how he is reflected in the media. the reason he says things about
the media is he spends all of his time watching television and he cares much about how the media portrays him. i think the phrase "enemy of the people," people hear it and think he is somebody who is going to crush the media and clamp down, and who knows what he will try to do in the future, but he sees the news media as the most immediate way of validating that he is doing a good job in the presidency. think of how often he watches "morning joe" or fox news or reads the newspaper watches cnn and responds to it. so much of his life is lived in the media. that is one thing. the other thing is -- bill: and he is a creation of the media. david: that is one of his best skills, manipulating and getting good publicity. he is very dependent on the media. he is not somebody that exists personally or politically without the news media. that is one thing. second thing is our executive editor, marty baron, had a
really good line about this. bannon calls us the opposition "we are atrump says, war with the media." marty says we are not going to war, we are going to work, doing the same job we have always done explaining to people and holding powerful people to account. whatever they think is irrelevant to that. our attitude towards them cannot be colored by the idea that we are at war with them because that makes you make all kinds of decisions about -- it slants your judgment and leads you to be more reckless in terms of what you believe and write about. we are not at war with them. we are writing about them because they are powerful. their attitude is a little irrelevant in that case. bill: his words do have an impact. when you look at some of the public polling, the media comes maybe right behind or just slightly ahead of members of congress in terms of approval rating.
and so if -- i think marty has got the answer, right? you don't go to war, you go to work. continue to tell the truth and do our jobs. do you think eventually the public will say, all right, the media, they are right and trump is wrong? david: i think we are already seeing people become much more interested in politics and turning to news media sources in a way they had not been before, and sort of seeing us anew, seeing us as a valuable resource they had taken for granted. in general the media is like congress -- everybody hates congress but like their congressman. they hate the media but they like the news sources they use. we want to be that, we want to be the news source they use. i actually have to say, i never experienced a time in which people are sort of praising us and "the new york times" and the mainstream media in the way they have now.
people say -- you always have people who unsubscribe or cancel a subscription because of you. i've never had people say i subscribed because of you except the last six months. things like, even today -- bill: you have seen that at "the post"? david: yeah. i don't know about "the times," but their numbers have gone up. they and "the wall street journal," and i think us, to a subscribers -- every time trump attacked them and us -- he attacks them more than us, but anytime he attacks any one of us, interest goes up. did you see today that tom hanks sent the white house press corps an espresso machine? [laughter] [laughter] david: if he is watching, we want a keurig machine at "the post." i don't know how to use an espresso machine. bill: the problem with the
espresso machine, we don't have room for it. and i know we are getting time for your questions but it is such fun to get a chance to talk to david fahrenthold. have you ever seen a white house where there were more leaks? i mean, it is great, but what does it say about this white house? you know they are coming from the white house. david: i must say, i am not giving away any secrets because i am only seeing this as a reader and colleague. i'm not part of the white house team so i don't see this up close. but yes, what we are seeing now -- bill: it is driving them crazy. david: yeah, but it is of their own doing. any other white house, there is a sense of a coherent message. when the president speaks, when one of his aides speaks, in the past you could assume it would be factually accurate and that it would reflect some larger policy. it wouldn't be a one-off thing. if the president says x, that is
his strategy and he will say x tomorrow. it mattered that the president said something. it was a predictor of actions to come. that is totally out the window with his white house. the president will talk about anything and forget about it and never come back to it. 3 million people voted illegally -- now it is forgotten. i am going to send the feds into chicago, now it is forgotten. all these things he said that people at the time said, oh my god. we believe he will be like other presidents and do something about this. and he doesn't. that is one thing. and there are so many named white house officials on the record saying things that are not true or predicted things that did not come to pass. michael flynn has the full confidence of the president -- kellyanne conway said that like six hours before he was fired. sean spicer said jeff sessions will recuse himself of what? five hours later sessions recuses himself. they hurt their own credibility. and there's not a sense that
your opinions are being listened to and your thoughts are passed through official channels and you are looking for other ways of getting your point across. mike pence learned that michael flynn lied to him because of the "washington post" reporter. they were in the same building and he did not know until "the washington post" reported it. and today trump said he didn't know sessions had talked to kislyak until "the washington post" reported it. if you're in the white house and you think, i want to get a message to the president don't , tell your boss. tell us. that is how he learns. [laughter] [applause] bill: power of the press. power of the press indeed. i have to use this, since i brought it. i brought my copy of the united states constitution, and the california constitution, by the way, and it is open to the 25th amendment.
people did not know about and emoluments, the emoluments clause, and not many people knew the 25th amendment existed until now. people suddenly read it and say oh, my god. there is a way short of impeachment if someone wanted a change. david: right. bill: does it work, and what do you think the chances are? david: i am not that familiar with it. i know it would involve asserting infirmity, mental or physical infirmity, inability to carry out the job. bill: if the vice president and a majority of the cabinet wrote a letter to congress saying the man is unfit to function, can't function, the vice president becomes the president. and if the president then says, oh no, i'm ok, nothing wrong with me, they are wrong, then if they write the letter again, a two-thirds vote of each house of the congress could depose the president, in effect.
this dates from 1967. never been challenged, never been tested. we were talking about this earlier. it was put in because when howard baker took over as chief of staff for ronald reagan at the very end of his administration, the people who were leaving the office told baker we are not sure he is all there anymore, and you better have a method where you can get the president out, because ronald reagan was starting to slip. there is the 25th amendment. david: i don't see that happening anytime soon. bill: damn! [laughter] david: i've been wrong about pretty much everything regarding donald trump's political career but i don't not see that. bill: so when is the book coming out? david: can't stop to write a book. if i wrote the book a week ago it would be outdated now. we are in the era when i go home and have dinner with my kids and
put them to bed and hours later i go to twitter and the world has changed. i have to wait until this, down a little good -- a little. bill: it is a wild ride. i picked up my phone this morning at 6:12, and the first thing i saw was the tweet from donald j. trump that went out at 6:01 a.m. at the white house. david: one of the interesting things about trump and the tweets that has been striking is there used to be a debate before he took office, like in the interim after the election, and after, how do you cover the tweets, how much energy should you devote to covering the tweets? there was a time when we were thoroughly covering every tweet. it is funny how in five weeks that debate has been resolved to you don't cover the tweets. they are repetitive, often, and often they are not part of
anything bigger. they are not a great predictor of what the government will do. i think he had this amazing pulpit during the election and right after the election where he could tweet something and we would stop what we were doing -- not america, america is not on twitter. but political journalists would stop what we were doing and write and make tv news about whatever he said. and he blew it and we are back to nobody caring. i have never seen these tweets be less relevant. that was a mistake on his part, a messaging mistake on his part. he tweeted something this morning, stock market or something. nobody talked about it at all. maybe he will regain that, but the power that he had to reach out directly and become everyone's assignment editor and reach americans directly with his words, he has managed to lose it. bill: i think that is a good sign that maybe in the media we
have grown up and don't have to report on everything. well, back to the book, here's the deal. when you write the book and finished the book, you are welcome back to the hill center and we will have a great big party. [applause] bill: and i will turn it over to you, if you don't have any questions, i have a lot more. there we go. >> as we begin the questions, speak directly into the mic, and we are happy to welcome c-span today. we are on c-span1. so wait until you receive the mic to ask the question. bill: great, here we go. just the one mic? and you are the man. >> donald trump said he wouldn't accept the salary of president. and i don't know if that was the law or the custom, and he said yes, he would accept it but would give it away to charity. do you know if he is actually doing that? david: i don't, and that is one
of the things -- there is a bunch of promises to give to charity that have been made since the election. they raised a bunch of money for the inaugural committee and said they didn't spend most of it. they were going to give the remainder to charity. his campaign accepted a whole lot of illegal campaign donations and said they would give it to charity. he said he would give his 200-something-thousand dollars salary to charity. it is part of my job to figure out if those things came true but i haven't done it yet, but i'm interested in that. i have my suspicions. bill: [laughter] add that to the list. i will just follow you -- you -- >> this is an extraordinary period -- bill: is that mic on? >> this extraordinary set of circumstances has followed a long decline of the news media, financial fortunes, having nothing to do with donald trump.
my question is, are the media up to this? david: that is a great question. i think there is a couple of answers, a couple of parts to the answer. one is that trump is actually really good for our bottom lines. you cannot ask for anything better than donald trump for the papers who cover the news -- bill: and the cable networks. david: for them especially. he has caught us at a place where we are relatively strong. you could imagine a governor or mayor going rogue and that is the place where the news media often weakest, local and state government coverage. we are better positioned to cover that than a lot of places. i think that so far i've been amazed at how much the media has risen to the challenge. to see after the inauguration, like last night was a good example, when the flynn
resignation wasn't about -- we posted a story at 8:00 and "the times" posts at 9:00 that takes it further and then "the wall street journal" posts something you weren't expecting. that moment him and level of sourcing has been really impressive. amazing thing to me is the shift -- so much of political journalism used to be not exactly theater criticism, but messaging criticism. how did the president get his message across, optics of this or that. excepting it was a show and we are going to critique the show. and so little of the coverage of trump, with the exception of his speech on tuesday night, has been that kind of coverage. it has been very investigative. even the coverage of the white house, more messaging-based , has been soverage investigative and so great. so far i've been really impressed. he caught us at our strongest
place and i'm impressed by what happened so far. >> yes, so just as an aside, thank you for your work. i am one of those millennials and i never subscribed to a newspaper and overnight at changed. bill: all right. [applause] >> my question relates to tuesday night's speech. i am under the impression that especially with this presidency, and in more recent times, things are more judged on style than substance. this phrase "the night he became president." my question is, do you think that is true? is that something that is gaining steam, that attitude to analysis -- david: that was, i thought -- i mean, it was not a great moment for journalism in general, i think, because the speech, even if you take it as a speech, there was not much in there in terms of substance. trump came in with all these big unresolved things like russia that were unresolved but also
the house -- how is the republican party going to do with health care, tax reform? things that republicans in the room were divided and they needed him to say here is what i want. i think they expected that he would be a strong force and push them in a direction and he didn't answer any of those questions. he read a decent speech, he honored the navy seal's widow, who, obviously, for reasons not having anything to do with him, was a powerful moment. it was a fine speech but it did not advance any of his agenda is very well. you're right, people were saying "he became presidential tonight." the thing i thought about that is everybody is so hard on partisan voters. people out there in the country who are hardcore republicans and hardcore democrats, and we say how do you ignore 100 facts and 99 of them don't please you, you ignore 99 of them and focus on the one you like. people say that about trump -- i didn't think he would do this
and this but i like one piece of his agenda, so i will ignore the rest of it. but that night the news media was like those people. we wanted -- not me, but people wanted to see a regular president because they are used to covering regular presidents. a guy who gives a speech and has a policy agenda, they wanted him to be like everybody else they have covered. even earlier that day he was saying that maybe the bomb threats to the jcc's were a hoax, he blamed the generals for the raid in yemen. those things were not presidential, and yet he does one thing that is presidential and everybody is like, i am going to focus on that. he is presidential because of the one thing that happened that fit preconceived notions of what i wanted. we have to be careful about that and not think that the one night that makes it seem like he is a regular president, that we will seize on that. happens a lot on the campaign, too. i think what we have seen since then, all of this reporting about trump and russia, is what i hope more of journalism is
like, about facts and what actually happened as opposed to here is my theater criticism of something everybody saw. bill: good question. who has got the mic? hi. >> i actually have two questions, if that is ok. can you comment -- as a reader and consumer of news, so many things are happening every day. can you speak to the challenges that your newspaper and other mainstream news outlets are having in terms of prioritizing that for your audience? secondly, more personally for you, and also as a voter, there were times during the campaign where i thought, well, this single thing that trump has done, he has done himself in. and i was continuously shocked to see that wasn't the case. as a reporter, were there times when you thought, this is it? and what are the frustrations in covering this so hard and i wonder if it seems sometimes that it doesn't matter, that people are reading it but they are voting for him anyway.
david: well, the first question of how do you keep up and that was really hard, especially in the first week, where sean spicer insisted the crowds were bigger and there was the executive order and the protest. i had to remind myself, because my job is not just to read the internet. i have a specific job that has nothing to do with these things and i have to be good at it. for us, so much of political journalism before was generalist. i cover politics. that meant -- there was the assumption that the president and congress would talk about health care for three months and there was enough time if you are a generalist to get up to speed. now stuff just comes out of nowhere and you cannot be generalist anymore. you have to be subject matter experts. when trump starts talking about government contracting or chicago or immigration, there is somebody who is ready to go right then. the second question about the
impact of it, during the election, i never thought that there would be one thing that sank trump because he had survived so many things before and he was so good at moving from one scandal to the next without people focusing on any of them. and he ran against a weak opponent and somebody who had the bad fortune of having this e-mail scandal resurface right before the election in a very powerful way. so he got lucky in that respect. a number of respects. the good thing is, the election is over. to me right now, that question that was always hanging over us during the campaign, is it our job to move voters and change people's minds -- there is not going to be another presidential election for four years. now it is just about what he is doing. it was never our purpose to make people vote one way or the other, but it is nice to not have that frame applied.
we are going to write about whatever he does and truthfully i don't know where he is going. i'm not trying to push in any direction because i have no idea where it is going. i would never have predicted we would be here five weeks in. you have to follow it day to day and not know what the next thing is going to be. bill: you find that "the post," jeff bezos and marty baron, they give you the freedom, the license, the time to really kind of go where the story goes? david: yes, and that has been wonderful. we are a bigger staff than we used to be because jeff bezos put money into us and cares about what we do. during the campaign, once the charity thing became a big deal , i only did that from the beginning of june until november, and that was a great luxury. i got much further down the road than i would have if i did other things. right now i'm doing the golf courses. i'm trying to build a list of everybody who belongs to mar-a-lago.
the people who were eating steak while they were reading about terrorists. that is great, that is a resource that will hopefully pay off later on. it is wonderful to have space and time. bill: are you finding surprises of the people who have memberships? 200,000 at mar-a-lago? david: so far it is a lot of rich people, what i've learned. [laughter] bill: no shit. oh, i'm not allowed to say that on c-span. where are you? >> i'm also one of those people who subscribe because of you, to "the washington post." [applause] >> my question is two parts. one is i don't understand why he lies so much, so maybe you can help us understand that. i've never seen anything like that, where he just makes things up. you expect politicians to stretch the truth a little bit, but not to make things up. that is part one.
the other part is i don't understand how evangelicals in particular could put aside the values that had been claimed for so long to follow trump. as one who is of christian faith, i feel abandoned by evangelicals for having this situational value belief that has come out as a result of this. if you could speak to the lies and how evangelicals and christians, who decided to follow him despite all of the apparent and obvious lies. david: well, the first question about his relationship with the truth -- bill: [laughter]
david: you have to think about his interactions with the media for a long time. he has been a showman and promoter and developer. for a long time when he was in those roles, he could say things that weren't exactly true or were exaggerated and nobody knew enough, because he ran a private company without releasing many details. nobody knew enough often to call him on it. and he was dealing with reporters who would come in and do their "access hollywood" segment and leave and didn't have the knowledge to call him on it. i think he got used to exaggerating or not telling the truth about the things he was doing. there was kind of this idea that maybe as a showman that was what he did. he didn't have to tell the truth. one of the most fascinating stories i did along the way is a guy with tim o'brien, who used to work for "the new york times," and in his book he had an estimate of how much trump
was worth and it was lower than what trump was saying. trump sued o'brien, which was stupid, because that gave o'brien's attorneys -- he had really good attorneys -- a chance at discovery and actually look into this black box of a company trump had been talking about all these years. they had an amazing two-day deposition that we had a transcript of where it showed that he was not telling the truth again and again and again. hours and hours of them saying, "on this day you said you sold 400 units of the trump tower. is that true?" "yes." "i have this paper that says you sold only 100. "oh, yeah." he would not tell the truth even when he had to know -- he would say a falsehood even when he was talking to somebody who he would know had the right answer, he would be called on it. it was amazing. after compiling all these
falsehoods, i called experts on lying and people who study lying, and they were amazed by them. [laughter] david: the things they said, is that most people when you lie, you lie in a way that gives wiggle room. you don't want the psychic pain of getting caught. think of "i do not have sexual relations with that woman." clinton's mind, there was an out. a definition of what it is. with trump it was specifics, i sold this many buildings, and they were surprised by his lack of fear of being caught. hen though he was caught, did not feel the psychological pain from it. that is the environment he lived in for a long time. he never felt, i think, a compunction to tell the truth, narrowly defined, the actual truth, or face any penalty. i think that is the history that
has led him to write now. -- right now. look at his campaign. how many times did he say things during his campaign that weren't true and he wasn't punished? on evangelicals, this is me speculating because i did not spend much time with evangelicals during the campaign, but i think evangelicals felt they were theyd from all sides and shared with trump a common enemy that looked down on them as bigoted. even if trump did not share the same beliefs they did, they share the same enemy and he would take the fight to them. i think they were willing to accept in -- him. he wouldn't be their pastor but would lead the fight against the people they had failed to win the fight against. that is my theory. bill: where are we now?
>> i have a question -- it is interesting you say that you finally, or the news media has finally stopped paying attention to these tweets every day. we watch tv in the morning and we don't hear "donald trump tweeted something he watched on fox news," whatever. it is interesting to hear you say that you are part of the team that is looking at this aspect of charity. are there also people who are putting aside all the chaos, putting aside all the stuff going on, and actually looking at the process of governing, how policy is being made, who are the policymakers, and how is the trump presidency, if i can use that term, how is the trump presidency going to function in the future so that the real stories, when they come out, you are on top of those stories? david: that's a good question.
the answer is yes, we have a number of folks looking agency by agency, and the best example, the most sort of proactive person that trump has put in a cabinet agency has been scott pruitt at the epa, who is proposing huge cuts on a variety of things, both the regulations and funding to enforce the regulations. we have had really good coverage of that. it is still just proposed at this point. there is a lot of fighting over whether he can roll the rules back and court cases. i think that, and we have been a little slower on financial regulations but we are catching up. we just hired somebody from "the wall street journal" to cover trump and economics. yes, there are so many things about the presidency that, because it is so fractured and different parts do different things without notifying each other, it could be that the people he puts in charge of these agencies pursue the agenda different than what trump said he would do when he was campaigning or even what he
thinks he is doing now. i think it will be fascinating, and that is an area where "the times" also has a big staff and there will be competition there. bill: if i could piggyback, one thing i have found interesting in the last week is there have been three or four cabinet secretaries that have stood up to disagree or contradict or clarify something that donald trump has said. most recently, radical islamic terrorism. whole stufflled his together and said we should not use this phrase anymore, it leads to more violence and more terrorism. he really worked strongly to get that out of the speech to congress, and obviously that was a turf war going on inside the oval office, and so when trump used this phrase, he did not just roll it out.
he wanted to make sure everyone heard it. and sebastian gorka -- david: he tweeted out that he had won the civil war that. one of the interesting things we have to geld desk yet to figure out is that when trump says something policy oriented and then someone like mike pence or nikki haley or tillerson will go out and say he did not mean it. trump said we have given up on the idea of a two state solution in israel. and nikki haley i think said that was not true. the two state solution is still our policy. he said things about nato, and then mattis would go out and say the policy is the same as it was. who told them to say that? who told nikki haley to say that?
was it tillerson, pence? i know the president said the opposite of this yesterday, but it does not matter what the president said, our policy is what it always was through the -- what it always was. i think the answer to that will tie you a lot about the white house. people say that day and it is the president, but he is with trump on those things. -- that bannon is the president, but he is with drop on those things. i would love to know was telling them to say that and making the public, because trump does not challenge it. it is not like he goes back and challenges it, i meant what i said, but it is just an interesting dynamic to be. -- to me. >> i know this might not be your beat, but i was curious about why nbc news sat on the "access hollywood" tape for as long as they did? david: i did not report it, but
, he wrote a story. athink they found it on monday. they ran the story on a friday. i think the dispute was that the entertainment division that oversees "access hollywood" wanted to do it. they wanted to do a version where billy bush's voice was not heard, it was dropped on a bus saying it to himself -- trump on a bus saying it to himself. [laughter] david: i don't know, i did not reported. bill: we will do one more here. -- >> david, thank you for all of your fake news. [laughter] >> to pick up on what we were just saying, i think we have a
president who is apparently a pathological liar and a malignant narcissist. i don't believe anything he says or tweets, nothing. that would go for a lot of his associates, as well. you really ought to only be , thatng what they do would reduce your column inches by a lot if you only covered what they did. what is the strategy for that? you could adopt a media policy that says we will not cover what anyone says because it is not credible and we will cover what they do. david: i think, without making conscious policy decisions, we are moving to a place where what they say is always part of the stories, but it is treated very differently than what the white house has said in the past. in the past, if the white house we were on the
same page. the official responses, denials, whatever from sean spicer or conway, even the ones on the record, they are not the final word at all anymore. often, they carry much less much lesswill carry force all the time of the continue to say things that are not true. it is a real problem for the white house. think about all the policy debates they want to be part of. all of the emergencies they come up with. they want to speak with a voice of authority, and if they have squandered that authority on crowd sizes and insisting mike flynn had not lied when he had lied, they will find that credibility very weak. you still have to cover what they say, that is still important, but what they say is not the news anymore. it is a part of the story, and
often a part of the story were the white house says this but it was proven wrong. it is a real challenge. it is not something we have ever covered in a white house for. there has been nothing like that. even on the the record statements are proving to be factually inaccurate. it is difficult to manage. bill: i want to suggest to all of you tonight, someday when you , read the book or see the movie made about this time, i want you to remember it started right here at the hill centeer. [laughter] [applause] bill: and so we want to thank you all for coming tonight, and personally i want to thank you for being you are in the work that you do, and in a day when there are so many attacks on the media, it means an awful lot to the rest of us to have someone like you who makes us proud to
be in the profession that we are in, to be journalists. you are the best of the best. thank you so much. [applause] >> thank you. >> tomorrow on c-span after washington journal, a discussion about the u.s.-russia relationship at george washington university. and in the afternoon, an interview with the chief advisor with the president of afghanistan live from the center for strategic international studies on c-span two. rebecca blank is a former acting commerce secretary from the obama administration. she and martin feldstein, former chair of the -- chair in the reagan administration, discussed government collected data. this runs a little