tv Reliable Sources CNN September 22, 2019 8:00am-9:00am PDT
it's time for reliable sources. this is our weekly look at the story behind the story of how the media really works, how the news gets made and how all of us can help make it better. ahead this hour, two new york times reporters who were at the center of a controversy about brett kavanaugh will join me live. plus the impact of trump's anti-media hostility as it spreads throughout his party. and later something you will only see on "reliable sources." from a top editor in australia who spent time watching trump this week in the united states, she is reminding us these are not normal times, and we can say that again and again. confusion is in the air right
now. this time it's not because of russian hackers. it is not a bot army waging information warfare on facebook. this time the person leading a disinformation campaign is president trump. he is confusing the public and telling people his political opponents are dirty. he's gone on a twitter storm all weekend long smashing the media and democrats while smearing this whistle blower that we still don't know much about. it seems he's backed into a corner about this issue with ukraine, which we will get into in detail. this was first reported days ago by the washington post. a call trump made to the ukrainian leader. >> this is a punk, a punk who is snitching. >> someone that is part of the deep state. >> spying on the president of the united states. >> the trump whistle blower may not be a whistle blower at all. >> that's the rhetoric.
that's what's happening on the right. this shows how polluted our information environment is. scoops do breakthrough. scoops have been breaking through all week long. trump and his media wing men will do anything to deny, deflect and distract. that's what's happening right now. they are smearing a person whose secret complaint. some are saying the whistle blower story is a bust. but we still haven't seen the complaint yet. it is like william barr coming out and spinning the mueller findings before any of us were allowed to read it. the press needs to provide clear explanations of what is going on. this is a very complicated story. but here is the big picture from the washington post this morning. he wrote this on the front page of the post. the president asked, encouraged or demanded that the leader of a foreign government undertake an investigation designed to produce info that could damage a
potential 2020 campaign rival. in other words, a president abusing his powers for political gain. so what is going to happen now? this is a very big story. the press has got to meet this moment. there is new calls for impeachment and so much more. we have a big show ahead. we have an all star panel standing by. let's begin in washington with one of the washington post reporters who broke this story. and also joining us, former washington post journalist, karl bernstein is with me. shane, what is the very latest on this whistle blower complaint. it amazes me and shocks me congress still hasn't seen it. is this an ongoing act of -- >> there certainly is a very full effort by this administration and i think by this white house to block that whistle blower complaint from getting to congress. we reported this week in the post that the white house counsel has always gotten
involved in this and it's safe to say they are considering what options they have to make sure this doesn't go to the congress because it is executive prif lemg or outside of the purview because the activity happened at the white house. but now this phone call that trump had with the ukrainian president, which seems to be at the center of this allegation, in that call reportedly he pressed the president of ukraine eight different times to investigate joe biden's son. here we have some very good reporters at "the wall street journal" an account of the president engaging in this kind of pressure on a foreign leader we think is at the heart of this whistle blower complaint. this picture is developing very quickly. >> how hard has it been to get information about this, shane, given this is a sensitive national security matter. how are you getting sources on this story? >> it is always hard to get pieces out. and they often will come out as
pieces of a puzzle that you have to put together. but what we have been trying to do is dig in as much as we can on what is the substance of this whistle blower complaint. and importantly we have broken it. it involves ukraine, some kind of promise or negotiation that president trump made, but this has really been difficult, particularly because this individual whistle blower obviously has not gone public. and i think it's safe to say in the way this complaint was transmitted, was trying to do this very much in a closed channel. and i don't imagine that he anticipated that it might become this explosive story it has. >> i see. so let's take trump out of this, if that's possible. let's play this out as any president who is caught on the phone doing this kind of dealing for his own domestic political benefit. what should the reaction be? >> well, i think the first thing is to find out exactly what has
happened here. and if the reporting of shane harris and "the wall street journal" is accurate and it seems to be it clearly moves toward a grievance abuse of power by the president of the united states. i keep getting asked are there echoes of watergate in this? and there are in the following ways, watergate was an attempt by richard nixon to undermine the electoral process in the united states our basis of democracy by trying through political espionage and sabotage to nominate through political dirty tricks its weakest candidate instead of its strongest candidate who nixon didn't want to run against. and something in the same thing seems to be happening here, where biden who trump and his people said they fear the most
in terms of being an opponent has been an object of these perhaps dirty tricks and abuses of power. one thing nixon never did was engage a foreign power to investigate a candidate running for office in the united states. it is a big offense if this is what happened and it seems to be. >> how do you recommend they figure out what's going on? this is a very complicated story. i think a lot of viewers need to be caught up. what should we be reading? what sources should we be going to for more information. >> you mentioned dan's column this morning which does distill for people what the essence of the allegation is. and why it's important when we think about the office of the presidency and the enormous power that that office has, this ultimately just comes down, while it is complicated to a
fairly straight guaforward allegation which is that the president of the united states used his office to leverage a foreign government into investigating and hurting his political opponent. that is the crux of what we're talking about. the whistle blower is part of that, but that's really the core game here. >> we have to give everybody in this story fairness, including the president. karl, the president has exhausted his benefit of the doubt a long time ago because of the constant lies and deflections. i want to show you three examples this week that stood out to me. trump said something crazy and the white house doesn't try to back it up. he said the government used mountain climbers to test the border wall. the white house wouldn't explain. then trump on twitter said that obama's netflix still should be investigating. maybe there is something crooked there.
they didn't want to respond about what laws may be broken. so take a look. i asked white house press secretary what laws is he seeing were broken? what statutes have been violated? obviously she has not responded to my request for comment. she doesn't know what to say. there is no illegal partnership. i guess my point is the white house claims these tweets speak for themselves, but the tweets make no sense. what does it reveal about the situation we're in, especially with regard to this ukraine scandal that the president's words can't be taken seriously? >> this has been the case for two years and i think we spend too much time on those particular examples. what we have in front of us here now with the ukraine story is a huge event that is going to play itself out in this campaign. what the president said in one
of those tweets there about the press, the idea that this is a conspiracy between the press, the fake news, et cetera, let's look at not only shane harris's great reporting in "the washington post," great reporting, something to be proud of as a washington post alum, let's look at "the wall street journal" owned by rupert murdo h murdoch. in fact, it is the journal that has given us great detail on top of shane's reporting about these eight mentions of supposedly in the whistle blower's complaint in which pressure was applied supposedly on the president of the ukraine. this is a rue pepert murdoch pa. i think we really need to look at that. we also need to look at this whistle blower question. there is a major republican, senator burr, who has been a
great defender and introduced whistle blower legislation, defended whistle blowers, and it is time for burr, a senior republican on the intel committee and chairman of the intel committee in the senate to say we need to see all of this correspondence. we need to release under the whistle blower act what occurred here. we need the transcript. and the president of the united states says, oh, this was a beautiful conversation. it was fine and it was all above board. let the president release the transcript if that's the case. >> we can't take his word seriously. he comes up with this b.s. all the time. he says things like that. we can't take those words seriously. that's my point. it is very frustrating. tell me your point about cover-up. >> well, this would be, once again, an apparent attempt at covering up and trying to move
to other questions and muddy the waters of what the president of the united states has done. also, the idea that this is about the conduct of a whistle blower as opposed to the conduct of the president of the united states is absurd any more than in watergate it was the conduct of our source deep throat who was the issue, who was a high justice official who we were in contact with. as if deep throat for the issue in watergate and not the president of the united states and his illegal and abusive power, his conduct. that's what we got to keep our eyes on here. and also there is this whole question about the children of presidents of united states and vice presidents. in this case hunter biden. hunter biden is a legitimate story to be looked at in terms of his role in this ukrainian gas company. there is nothing that i'm seeing that substantiates mr.
giuliani's or the president's allegations about crooked prosecutors dropping charges because it was biden. but if anybody has a history of terrible conflict of interest by his children, it is this president of the united states. and we ought to be looking at all of these questions about the children of presidents and vice presidents of the united states in conflicts of interest. >> all the children. thank you both. quick break here and then some fresh reporting about joe biden's campaign is doing to respond to all of this. that's coming up next.
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learn more at medicare.gov/fraud. back now on "reliable sources." we are talking about this ukraine scandal the president is handling of the matter. this mystery still at the heart of the story. what did the whistleblower hear or allege? let's bring the panel in now. by the way, an apprentice contestant back in the day. and national security adviser under obama now, a cnn national security analyst now. the joe biden campaign has been trying to figure out how to respond to this mess. these questions about hunter biden. let's look at how he responded to a question about his son. >> mr. vice president, how many times have you ever spoken to your son about his overseas business dealings? >> i have never spoken to my son
about those. >> well, that seems very, very hard to believe. obviously a father is going to talk to his son about the business. let's continue here. here is how biden continued to talk to the fox reporter. watch. >> here is what i know. i know trump deserves to be investigated. you should be asking him the question why is he on the phone with a foreign leader trying to intimidate a foreign leader, if that's what happened. that appears what happened. you should be looking at trump. ask the right questions. >> ask the right question. this has become a chant of sorts on social media. biden supporters love this moment, samantha. do you think he has a point? >> i'm not part of the biden campaign. i do work at the biden institution at the university of delaware, and i think he does have a point. there is a series of false equivalencies purposefully being set up by the trump team, rudy giuliani and perhaps some members of the media. there is bad behavior we're learning about because of the
reporting associated with the trump team and their actions through rudy giuliani and potentially by the president himself. it is hard to keep track of the potential abuses of power that the president engaged in and the fact that rudy giuliani went to ukraine and demoted his security team to try to get dirt on vice president biden. it may be looked at further within the united states. but that is very different, again, than the myriad of potential abuses by the media. and we cannot fall into the trap of falling for president trump's false equivalencies. he does it whenever he's under pressure. he mixes apples and oranges. and we have to be more clear than that. >> the biden campaign is trying to diffuse this story. addressing the press, it says
any article that doesn't state at the outset is misleading readers and viewers. that is a message from the campaign. is the campaign doing enough? look, i asked a spokesperson to come on this program and speak today. they declined. biden never sat down for a sunday show interview all yearlong. i wonder if they're doing enough to combat trump. >> first of all the trump strategy and you talked about it, and you talked about it brian as well, is deny, deflect, attack. we have moved into the attack phase. so their strategy is now to try to put the onus on joe biden to, in fact, distract and attack. so i think that joe biden's campaign does need to be aggressive. i think they could be more aggressive. and i think you will see them being more agresive. they are vn sitting down to come up with a plan understanding that what this strategy is and to make sure they respond
effectively and more aggressively. you are seeing that's kalation of more aggressive response. >> i'm always amused when wall street breaks a big story and his fox news stars try to tear it down. look at friday evening, for example. there is a white house state dinner. maria is invited by the white house, so the lou dobbs and the head of fox corp. what do you think is going on in this complicated media dynamic? >> i think that one of the issues is that "the wall street journal" has good reporters who have broken a lot of big stories. they broke the story about stormy daniels last year. this came from "the wall street journal." "the wall street journal" has done good work. fox news audience is conservatives and republicans that have propelled donald trump to the white house. it is a base that donald trump
was a part of. he was regularly on fox news. but it is a different audience. and fox news is very aware of who they are talking to. >> you want to say, shawn, is "the wall street journal" fake news. >> obviously you are not going to make any headway with shawn hannity because his loyalty is to president trump. he endorsed president trump prior to the election. shawn hannity is put forward by fox news as an opinion journalist, but he is obviously someone that is on president trump's side. >> it feels 100% like that all over again. and the trump administration and particularly those people around him, the communication strategists, consultants, all of these people are master manipulators of the media. they're going to keep working that formula until -- until it doesn't work anymore. i will tell you this, a lot of these -- what people have to
also realize, a lot of the leaks that we're getting all of this information is coming from trump's very own people. >> and that's a problem. that's a problem. >> it is his administration that is actually exposing him. it is not as if democrats -- remember, he's obstructing democrats in congress. they're not turning over documents. everything we know, all of the reporting is actually coming from inside the house. >> this playing out in front of the media is an imperfect solution. there is a whistleblower process, particularly with the intelligence community, that guaranteed protected disclosure because this relates to classified administration. the administration stone walling is leading to more security risks because people with knowledge of this situation feel like they have no other resource than by going to the media. it should be shared with congress rather than through the media. >> thank you so much. more on this in a moment. quick break. and then i have a message for corey lewandowski.
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press, so much venom it is as if they don't recognize the purpose of the press at all. this is not just about president trump. yes, he sneers and jeers at the media trying to cover up his own messes, but it is not just him. it trickles down to guys like corey lewandowski who said this. >> i have no obligation to be honest with the media. they're just as dishonest as anybody else. >> honestly, he's just saying what many people in trump's inner sickle abocircle actually. look at trump himself. now, i don't know what corey learned growing up. but i was taught ethics in school and in church. that is what seems to be lacking. i get it. he used to be a cnn commentator, but he should be called out for this kind of dishonesty. when i think about the swampy
practices around trump's property, secretary of state mike pompeo thinks all of these questions about possible corruption is just punch lines. >> this is such a beautiful hotel. the guy who owns it must be successful somewhere along the way. that was for the washington post in case the -- in the back. >> an easy way to get a laugh, i guess, mocking the washington post for caring about potential corruption. i get it. reporters are not here to win popularity contests. we should be able to take the heat. i think most of us can. look at chris cuomo. >> it is sad to watch what happened to you. >> watch what happened to me? i'm a sell out? you are telling me i'm a sell out? >> that's how to do it. just move on, get back to the news. that's the way to go. but just remember this. the politicians and partisans trying to tear down the press are doing it on purpose.
they are doing it for moments just like this one, moments when the press exposes shady, possible illegal conduct by the president. that's another thing i learned growing up. it is what we all learn in school, even you, corey lewandowski. the press is not perfect, but it serves to hold government accountable. they begrudgingly respect it or at least they pretend to. witness on tuesday when the world of journalism and politics mourns the death of roberts. her razor sharp reporting and deced decen decency. it made me think about the mutual respect that is sadly in short supply right now. within minutes of roberts passing, george w. bush praised her for being talented, tough and fair. barack obama honored her and called her a trail blazing figure. those are presidential statements from former
presidents. that's the way it should be. and then there was trump's comment. he said to reporters in air force one, quote, i never met her. she never treated me nicely, but i would like to wish her family well. she was a professional, and i respect professals. have you ever seen evidence that president trump respects professional reporting? all right. let's talk more about this. david is here the media critic for the baltimore sun. it got me thinking about this loss of mutual respect, this loss of a sort of willingness to see each other as human beings between the press and politicians. it seems to me the venom is getting worse every year that the trump era goes on. >> it is, brian. and with trump and individual remarks, you never know whether it is the impulsive act of arrested and adolescent psycho paths acting on impulse or a
calculated plolitical strategy. there is a long-range strategy here. it's deride and conquer. deride, mock, make us a laughing stock. this week he said we're a laughing stock internationally. that's a little bit of projecti projection. i think our president is the person who is laughed at internationally. but then he called us a joke. the idea is to do to the press what trump and his team have managed to do pretty much to the democratic house of representatives in mocking them. remember back in may when william barr was with nancy pelosi at an event and he said, have you brought the handcuffs h madam speaker and then laughed, mocking their abilities to back their threats of citing him for
contempt or their subpoenas. they now marked the house. corey lewandowski spit in the face of the house and there is nothing to happen to him. if you read the right wing media, he was a hero. they want to do that to the press. if they can do that to the press and mock us to the point that people don't take us seriously and we don't back up our effort, if we don't show integrity, if we don't have some teeth in our reporting they will do it. and, brian, we will the last best hope between trump and an imperial presidency. the book was based on fdr lbj but wrote during the nixon administration and said they have expanded the powers of the presidency so far beyond what the framers of the constitution intended that they're trying to make him into the king. the last thing the framers wanted was king george if you remember. that's what's going on here. when trump said this week that he said nothing inappropriate in
that conversation with ukraine, he said highest level, highest level, never inappropriate or always appropriate, that's him. and, you know, he's got william barr, his attorney general in his ear, a guy that has spent his life writing about the powers of the presidency should be expanded. that's where all of this is going. that's the long game. short game he needs an enemy during this campaign to get re-elected and he doesn't have welcome. and his talk about the radical democrats socialists on the left isn't going so well. he gets automatic praise from his base when he pounds the press and fights with us. brian, as you have said on this show, it is only going to get worse. it's going to get awful in coming months. >> david, i would talk to you for years. maybe we will. but we're out of time for now. the view from outside the u.s. how foreign journalists see
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el fleen. welcome back to reliable sources. in journalism a fresh set of eyes is always help to have. that's why an op-ed has gone viral. she describes a visit to the united states where she was struck by the way american reporters write about president trump. reporting about this president can mask and normalize trump's
incoherence. she is back in sydney and joining me now. when did this strike you? when did you realize this? >> i was just in my hotel room in new york and listening to the news, listening to cable news. there was a full press conference of the president down near the border opening or talking to a new section of renovated border wall. and i was kind of transfixed because he was so meandering. i was surprised how he jumped from what it was made from, discussing how power. the concrete was, how there were 20 mountain climbers who tried to climb this wall and hadn't been able to. he was jumping around a lot. >> when you write a story or tweet about the president's comments, a lot of stuff around the edges is left out, isn't it? >> yes. so i guess as reporters and
editors, our job means making sense of and editing down and crystallizing what people say. but i realize in this sense by doing that we're kind of masking or normalizing what is often equipment rambling prose or incoherent statements. i just wondered if that was doing our readers or our listeners a disservice. >> the people that bring up the president's fitness for office or his mental health are watching these long rambling exchanging and wondering about him. when the president had another one of these q and a's with the always tra australian miaprime minister, h said, is this always like this? yes, it is always like this. >> yeah. i think some of the reporters that are traveling with our prime minister, who really has
got the red carpet treatment in the united states from the president, for fluk moxed in trying to figure out what the president said. he casually mentioned that australia might join a coalition of the willing in iran. no one had talked about that before. in the same context he started talking about nuclear weapons. i was looking around saying is he serious? is he announcing something. by the end of the day, he hadn't made a request for australia to join a coalition of the willing and he was back to talking about the need for restraint. i think if you are not used to that type of dialogue, it is quite hard to know how to interpret it and you realize that in interpreting it, you are e editing out a lot of the actuality, a lot of the reality. that's what i was really thinking about. but i don't pretend to have answers or to have some wild expert opinion. i know in the 2016 campaign season a lot of networks were really criticized for taking
some of then candidate trump's rallies just straight and showing them front to end. and, so, i think we do have to edit. we do have to parse. we do have to analyze and fact check. i guess i was just wondering whether we also should sometimes show our listeners and readers an unedited section of transcript or type of footage so that they can make up their own minds about what they think about the way the president communicates. >> i have been thinking the exact same thing this week watching these events. here is an example from friday when the president looked at reporter in the oval office and attacked them. >> the media of our country is laughed at all over the world now. you're a joke. okay. what else? >> so you are halfway around the world in sydney, australia. is the american media being laughed at around the world? >> absolutely not. i think the american media is doing, by and large, a good job
in very difficult circumstances. i think what we're talking about here today is an example of the dilemma of reporting on a president that doesn't respect the institution of the media. it is a real problem. but, no, i don't think that the american media is a joke or being laughed at around the world. >> flying home from the united states, were you worried about america? were you worried about president trump? >> yeah, yeah, i was a bit. i'm worried about democratic institutions. i'm worried about the whole way that the world has been organized and the extent to which that's going to continue. yeah, i was quite worried about that, actually. >> uncomfortable to hear you say that, but i'm glad to hear you say it. thank you so much. >> thank you. >> so it is not just a line. it is also the incoherence, something to think about. up next here, the authors of that brand-new book at brett kavanaugh are here to address what went wrong with their new
york sometimes excerpt from the book. that's next. times excerpt from book. that's next. times excerpt from book. that's next. times excerpt from book. that's next. times excerpt from book. that's next. " excerpt from the book. that's next. "new york times" excerpt from the book. that's next. i had a heart problem. i was told to begin my aspirin regimen, is is
authors of the book. the book is "the education of brett kavanaugh." this is a fascinating book. there is so much nuance in this book if people buy it and read it in detail. but it left out information about new accusations about brett kavanaugh. it said the book reports of a female student who was at the center of this, declined to be interviewed and friends say she does not recall the incident where he harassed her. what went wrong here? it seems to be you set a narrative that there is new damning evidence against brett kavanaugh. >> yes. we think it is unfortunate that has up staged the new claim and the work we have done in this book in presenting a new and complexed account of these events that fly by in real-time last year. we had a line in the book where
we did name the victim, and we also had the fact that her friends say she doesn't remember it. the editors felt it was best to take out because we don't typically name victims in "the new york times." when we realized that, they put it back and wrote an editor's note and acknowledged the admission. >> when you say victim, others would just say accuser. >> the alleged victim. >> it is worth noting that a television reporter spotted her at her house and asked her about it. she said, if you have questions, ask brett. so it has been redirected back to him by her. and we feel like this is a valuable new piece of information that we're trying to put there. the reason we thought it was credible is we have a credible witness, a washington person named max who runs this good governance organization says he saw this and reported it to the senate and fbi last year. so we urge people to actually read the whole thing. but obviously that was a regrettable omission.
>> she says ask brett. you all tried to speak with cavanaugh. he set terms for an interview and what happened with that? >> we just couldn't come to an agreement about the ground rules. we wanted to talk to him on the record for the book or at least in some could inform the book. it was important we say he declined to be interviewed and we couldn't do that if there was going to be a conversation at all about what was in the book. >> if a source wants to talk to you only in secret you cannot then say he declined to talk? >> certainly not at the center of the book. >> i think we all know, brian, we have sources we talk to on background and off the record and they inform our reporting. this was a different case where he's the subject of the book to talk to him and say we didn't talk to him felt dishonest. >> just to jump in on something here, we feel all this stuff this week while valid issues raised and address ready a distraction from all the reporting we did and new material that we have. it's really sort of an attempt to discredit the messenger and
avoid the conversation about the facts, the evidence, the type of thing you've been talking about on your show the media becomes a punching bag. for example, one thing that has gone on, interesting stuff in our book about leland keyser the friend of christine blasey ford alledgedly at the party. she gives us her first ever interview. interesting and worth a read and very much a part of the behind the scenes drama going on last year which is coming to light. however, we still find christine blasey ford credible in the end and you will see why. kaiser's claims don't rebut blasey ford's claims and kaiser has memory issues discussed which relate to the way memory functions for all of us and because she has a history of substance abuse she acknowledges. i think it's important for all of these things to be seen in the full context. we wanted to share it all with readers. >> trump is using the misstep against a battery round against the no times and people on fox
news. >> what does that feel like? >> it's kind of amazing because you hear about it all the time and certainly our colleagues have been subject to it, but it really points out how all of these facts are kind of taken out of context and weaponized for people's own political ends and we think it's really unfortunate because it obscures the hard work we're doing to put the facts out there so people can make an assessment on the merits. >> one thing that's become clear, brian, the fbi investigation in the view of many americans and many people who care about fair process was too short and too limited in scope. you have shelden whitehouse calling for a further investigation into the investigation, you have jennifer ruben of "the washington post" calling for something similar. a desire to make sure, number one, we have information about kavanaugh and more in our book than anybody has seen, but to make sure the senate judiciary process, the nomination and confirmation process to the supreme court in this country is fair and thorough and -- >> everybody should want that.
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before we go a note about the loss of another television news legend on the same week cokie roberts passed. sander best known for his role as one of the four panelists during the first presidential debate in 1960 between richard nixon and john f. kennedy. you know, van oaker had a storied career and said to a group of journalists a while back and resonated with me, he said in a 2004 address at stanford i'm a strong advocate of freedom of the press as long as they have something to say. what a wonderful sentiment and a great challenge for today's generations of journalists. use the powerful freedoms we have and have something important to say. we'll see you back here this time next week. i'm your cat. ever since you brought me home, that day. i've been plotting to destroy you. sizing you up... calculating your every move. you think this is love? this is a billion years of tiger dna just ready to pounce.
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foreign interference. president trump prepares to meet with the ukraine leader as we're learning the president pushed him to investigate a rival. >> it doesn't matter what i discussed. >> how will congress respond? i'll speak exclusively to house intelligence committee chairman adam schiff next. >> plus maximum pressure, as world leaders gather at the u.n., tough talk between the u.s. and iran raises global fears. >> if they misbehave, they're on borrowed time. >> are the two countries getting any closer to a deal. treasury secretary steve mnuchin joins me to discuss in moments.