tv David Farenthold Discusses Coverage of the Donald J. Trump Foundation CSPAN March 3, 2017 1:58am-3:04am EST
friday morning, news mass media incorporated ceo discusses donald trump's presidency so far and the white house's relationship with the media. and the national journalist 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 live at 7:00 a.m. eastern friday morning. join the discussion. >> earlier today, "washington post" reporter, david farenthold sat down with journalist and talkshow host bill press to discuss the relationship between the donald trump ministration in the media. this is a little over one hour. bill press: hello, everybody.
it is good to see you tonight and thank you coming for an exciting meeting. david and i will be in conversation for about 30 minutes and then we will open it up to all of you for a rare opportunity to question a reporter, rather than having the reporter question you. i get asked a question often in m work -- 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? um, 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 transition, it was a big fundraiser for veterans that has allegedly raised $6 million, but didn't. and think about a foundation 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. [laughter] bill: 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 tournament sized check that said "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 million 80,? the $6 billion? the $6 million? 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. i used twitter queries of two big veterans organizations. i used his handle in the tweed. -- in the tweets. 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: 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 gave the money 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: 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 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 them, 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. trump stakes, trump university, he rented a tent 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 it? 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 billionaire, why not just spend the money? bill: 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 the bus, and you hear trump and 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 -- billy bush, and the soap opera actress never got back to me. it is a fastening contrast between washington publicists and hollywood publicists. 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: 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. at 4:00, this is as close 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: they could have. david: they had it in their archives. we learned later that they had been looking at it for a week. they released it at 4:06. 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 fussy about 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. paper whenbs in the the police chief charles ramsey said it. bill: 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 -- [laughter] david: 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 gifts. 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. i should say, 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: 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] david: it is amazing, there are 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: 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 read 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 party and trump says, "we are at 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 lesser degree, 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] 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 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. 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 four --said that six hours before he was fired. sean spicer said jeff sessions will recuse himself of what? five hours later sessions recuses himself. there's not a sense that your opinions are being listened to and your thoughts are passed through channels. you look at 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 "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 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 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! 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. 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 tweet? 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 there is 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 his tweets be less relevant. that was a mistake on his part, a messaging mistake on his part. i tweeted something this morning, stock market or something. nobody talks 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 we in the media, that we have grown up and don't have to report on every one of -- 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. 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. 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: 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 is often weak, 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 momentum 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 and that. 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 coverage from has been so 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. -- overnight that changed. bill: all right. >> 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 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. 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
honoreded -- speech, he the navy seal's widow, who, obviously, for reasons not having anything to do with him, was a powerful moment. 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 hard-core 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. 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 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, we will feed 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 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. 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 -- truthfully, i don't know where -- 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. when they were reading about -- when they are all out on the steak. and eating 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." thank you. [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: heh heh. 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 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. 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 -- "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. after compiling all these falsehoods, called experts on lying and people who study lying, and they were amazed by them. [laughter] david: the things they said, like 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." bill clinton has an out. definition of what is is. trump's lies was specific. i sold this many buildings, and they were surprised by his lack of fear of being caught. even when he was caught him he didn't feel psychological pain. 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. that is the history that has led him to write now. just let them 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 time with evangelicals during the campaign, but i think evangelicals felt they were
being judged from all sides and they shared with trump a common enemy that looked down on them as bigoted. even if trump didn't share the same beliefs they did, they share the same enemy and he would take the fight to them. 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. you just watch it 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. we have been a little slower on financial regulations. i think we are catching up because 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. 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 it is radical mcmaster hadrism called his whole staff together and said we should not use this phrase anymore. he really worked strongly to get that out of the speech to congress. obviously there was a little turf for going on inside of the oval office. when trump uses the phrase, he saidt just roll it out, he , "radical islamic terrorism." an aide at the white house said -- david: he tweeted out that he
won this little war with mcmaster. there are times when trump say something policy oriented and somebody like mike pence or -- trump said we have given up on the idea of a two state solution in israel. ♪ i forget who it was, -- nikki haley said that is not true. tuesday solution is still on the table. he said things about nato. policy is the same as it always was. i want to know, who told him to say that? who told nikki haley to say that? was a tillerson? mike pence? who feels empowered? i know the president said the opposite of this, but it doesn't matter what the president said, our policy is always what it was. people say bannon is the real
president. bannon is with trump on those things. that some says has been contradicted by pence or tillerson or haley. i would like to know who is telling them to say that. it is not like trump is back and says i meant what i said about israel, china, nato. that is a really strange dynamic to me. -- in the hands of. >> i know this might not be your beat, but i was curious why nbc news sat on the access hollywood tape for as long as they did? coversy colleague who the media, he wrote a story. i think they found it friday. they found it on a monday. the dispute was that the
entertainment division, they wanted to do it. they want us to a version where billy bush's voice was not heard. [laughter] the only part, i read. i didn't report. bill: we will do one more. >> david, thank you for your fake news. [laughter] >> we have a president who is a pathological liar, extreme narcissist. we're all wrestling with this. i get to the point where i say, i don't believe anything that he says. that will go for a lot of his associates. i wonder how you discuss or propose how you meet that challenge we have an
administration where you ought to be covering what they do. what is the strategy? that says we are not covering anything that he says because it is not credible. that without making a conscious policy decision, we are moving to a place where what they say is treated very differently from what the white house has said in the past. in the past, if the white house said something, you thought there was a considered reason for that. --, the official response even things on the record. they are not the final word at all anymore. carry much less
force and much less force all of the time if they are going to continue to say thanks that are not true. if it -- it is a real problem for the white house. they willt the things want to be part of an speak with the voice of authority. if they have squandered that authority talking about crowd sizes were insisting mike flynn had not lied when he had lied, they will find that credibility weakened. i think you still have the cover what they say because that is still important. but what they say is not the news anymore. it is part of the story. and it is a part of the story where you say "the white house said this" but it is often proved wrong. record"ir "on the statements are proven to be
inaccurate. it is a difficult thing to imagine -- it is a difficult thing to manage. >> some day, not that far in the future, when you read the book, and you see the movie, made about this time, i just want you to remember that it started right here at the health center. [applause] -- it started right here at the hill center. [applause] to thank you all for coming tonight and personally, who you are in the work that you do. and in the day when there are so many attacks against the media, it means a lot to the rest of us who makes us proud. you are the best of the best. thank you. [applause] >> this morning on c-span, after
washington journal, discussion about the u.s.-russian relationship at george washington university. with live coverage at 10:00 a.m. eastern. in the afternoon, and afternoon interview with the chief of afghanistan. at 12:30 p.m. on c-span two. >> good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. afternoon, i am arthur brooks, and i am delighted to welcome you to this session. the vital role of government statistics. i've been president for the last 8 1/2 years. and i love this place for a lot of reasons. the number one reason today is because only here is a conference on government statistics more popular than the rolling stones. \[laughter] that is a great thin. this is a topic that doesn't normally get headlines.