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The Battle to Replace Justice Scalia; The Dean of Debates Weights In On 2016 Race; The Trump Show and Media Supporters. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired February 14, 2016 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:16] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Hey, good morning. Happy Valentine's Day. I'm Brian Stelter and it's time for RELIABLE SOURCES -- our weekly look at the time the story behind the story of how news and pop culture get made.

This hour, we begin with news no one expected to be covering 24 hours ago, the voice of the leading conservative on the Supreme Court silenced. Justice Antonin Scalia passed away in his sleep at age 79. We all learned the news yesterday afternoon and now the flags at Supreme Court are half-mast.

After his death, CBS rewrote the questions for the GOP debate last night in South Carolina, and we're going to analyze the debate and New Hampshire primary results with legendary CBS newsman Bob Schieffer later this hour.

But let's begin with the press's sudden pivot to Supreme Court politics, because, of course, before Justice Scalia has been laid to rest, the battle over his replacement is already well underway.

Joining me here now in New York, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and constitutional law expert Floyd Abrams.

Thank you both for being here.

We'll bring some other guests as we keep talking here this hour, but I want to ask you first, Mr. Abrams, about your relationship with the late justice because you actually recommended him for the post.

FLOYD ABRAMS, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW EXPERT: I did. When he was nominated -- and I remember, that was a different time in American history. He was confirmed unanimously. But at the time he was nominated, he needed some support from Democrats and from people that were viewed as liberals.

And he and I were friendly, and he called me up and he said, "Floyd, you know me. They're saying I'm an ideologue. Could you do a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee." And I remember smiles to myself because I thought he was supremely qualified but he did have very strong ideological views and orientation.

STELTER: And your views -- (CROSSTALK)


ABRAMS: Yes, but I was very glad to write the letter and as many other people did, and as I said, he was confirmed unanimously. Unthinkable today.

STELTER: Do you regret the fact that's unthinkable today?


STELTER: That this all has become so polarized?

ABRAMS: Yes. The idea the president can't even send in a name now of a successor without being told they won't even consider it is only one example. I mean, we've moved to a point now where every nomination, not because they're unimportant, they're very important, but every nomination becomes a furor of charge and countercharge in a way that did not occur within living memory.

STELTER: Is this an example, Jeff, of how things become controversialized? In this case, politicians and perhaps their partisan supporters in the press, in this case, the conservative press, have controversialized an idea that previously wasn't considered to be controversial.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Ii have more mixed feelings than Floyd does, because, you know, the stakes of these Supreme Court nominations are immense. Is abortion going to be legal in the United States? May a university consider race in admissions? Are we going to regulate campaign finances?

Those are decisions decided by the Supreme Court. That's really important. Those are ideological decisions.

We should care about the people in those positions and, you know, sure, everybody's smart. But, you know, maybe it's appropriate to weigh the ideology of the people who are up for these jobs.

STELTER: I just have to wonder if in some ways this battle that's now setting up is a culmination of seven or eight years of battles in Washington between President Obama and Republicans. I think about Mitch McConnell and other Republicans in Congress, in late 2008, early 2009, saying, we must oppose this president in every pass, in order to regain power, regain the presidency.

There was a choice to be an obstructionist sort of position, and this all comes to a head now, comes to pinnacle of some sort with the Supreme Court situation, with Democrats of course saying the president should nominate right away and they should be confirmed right away, and with essentially all Republicans saying the opposite.

TOOBIN: Well, the presidents are elected for four years. He's got about a quarter of his term left. That's a big chunk of time.

STELTER: I've heard on TV some people say, he only has a few months. That's technically not true.

TOOBIN: Right, and keep in mind that this is not a retirement from the Supreme Court. This is a vacancy on the Supreme Court. And the Supreme Court is not designed to function with an even number of justices.

So, this is a time where in most of American history, there would be a consensus that you can't leave the Supreme Court vacant for a year or two.

STELTER: Should cable news be creating their constitutional crisis graphics, getting music ready? Is this a special event situation?

TOOBIN: I'm always for breaking news.

[11:05:00] So, sure. But --

STELTER: You're saying it's not a crisis.

TOOBIN: It's not going to bring the country or even the Supreme Court to a halt. But it's going to be yet another institution in Americans life that does not function as intended.

STELTER: Certainly, you have to wonder, Floyd, what Democrats, what progressives would be saying today if this were a Republican president in power for 11 more months and there was a liberal Supreme Court justice who suddenly passed away?

ABRAMS: I think it's a combination of two things. One, what you raise right now, which is bipartisan and so some extent began with the Bork nomination, with the intensity of the opposition and I was in it. I'm just saying that did change things.

The combination of that and what Jeff is talking about -- which is the level of antipathy to President Obama and the unwillingness to sometimes treat him as president -- come together at a moment like this. And it's depressing, I think.

STELTER: Let me add another voice to this conversation, Steven Brill, a journalist, lawyer, the founder of Court TV, and the founder of "American Lawyer" magazine. He's joining me now on the phone.

Mr. Brill, I wanted to get your assessment of the situation and why you feel the media should be covering something as complicated as the Supreme Court nomination situation. Do you feel that the press has to sort of do Supreme Court 101 talking people through the basics? Because as we know, many Americans probably can't name even one Supreme Court justice.

STEVEN BRILL, FOUNDER, COURT TV (via telephone): Well, I think it's, this has been a problem were a long time and probably an inevitable problem. The Supreme Court is the only important organ of our government which does make its decision in secret, and with the exception of Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong in the 1980s, and Jeffrey a little bit, more recently in his book, they're able to keep their decision making secret and therefore, we don't know much about them.

The way that ends up, yesterday, I actually heard Chris Matthews on MSNBC trying to steal the air by explaining that he was a Catholic Irishman growing up in Philadelphia and he's in his mid-60s and therefore, he understands people like Justice Scalia who were Italian Catholics growing up in queens. At first, I thought I was tuning into "Saturday Night Live", but that is the way the press really struggles to understand the court.

STELTER: Jeffrey, do you agree?

BRILL: It was just comic.

I think a lot of the decisions, the analysis and the decisions other than the scholarly announces gets written really doesn't reach the level of how we analyze how government makes decisions in the executive branch and certainly in the legislative branch. So, we're going to see that play out as we analyze, well, what's going to happen with the court, what are the justices thinking when in fact we don't know what they're thinking. Maybe that's good. Maybe that's bad.

There are like Nina Totenberg who thinks more of a good thing that a bad thing. But as a journalist, I really wondered about that.

STELTER: (INAUDIBLE) in a moment.

I'm sorry. Jeffrey, go ahead.

TOOBIN: Certainly, no one in American life has done more to help public understanding of the law that Steve Brill, through the "American Lawyer", through Court TV.

But let's remember, the United States Supreme Court for the most outrageous inappropriate reasons refuses to allow its arguments to be broadcast on television.


TOOBIN: And that contributes in a significant way to the mystification about what they do. I mean, I acknowledge that a lot of what the Supreme Court does is arcane and hard to explain. But they make it harder because they effectively keep their proceedings in secret.

STELTER: I'm curious. Steven, do you think that will ever change? Is it possible cameras will be allowed in Supreme Court in our lifetimes?

BRILL: It's really one of my pet issues. Now that I have no economic dog in that hunt -- if you think about it, I'm pretty sure everybody whose on this program has been in the court. It is the most impressive display of government in action anywhere.

No matter what you think about it, how decisions get decided, it is majestic, the nine justices care about what they do. They're honest people. We watch them think through issues. The idea there is no camera there, the impression Americans have of the injustice system, the O.J. Simpson trial is just a terrible thing for the rule of law and the civil society.

I talked individually with all the justices back in the '80s and '90s, including Justice Scalia, who was actually more open to this than you might have thought.

STELTER: Interesting.

BRILL: Justice Rehnquist, who was actually pretty open to it. But there were some who said, well, we're never going to have cameras because as one of them put it -- one of the justices said to me, I said you read this quote elsewhere, I couldn't go to the super market without people knowing who I am if you have cameras in the courts -- well, you know what, you're a public official in the United States, people ought to know who you are.

[11:10:18] STELTER: I remember the one time I was there the Aereo case a couple of years, with David Carr of "The New York Times", my goodness, all I wanted to do is take videos and take pictures and show people what it's like in that majestic room.

ABRAMS: And, you know, one of the things it's hard to forget, many of the justices, when they testify at their hearings are asked about television --


ABRAMS: -- and the answer is generally, look, I've had a good experience. I was on the first circuit, we have some television, et cetera. Soon as they get on the court, no, no, impossible, off the table. Not worthy of discussion. It really doesn't speak well for the court.

BRILL: (INAUDIBLE) Chief Justice Rehnquist who was sort of open to it tell me he would only do it if there was a 9-0 vote in favor. I thought, gee, I thought the court decided things by majority rules, where I go wrong here? And he said, well, not this one. Anyone who wants to veto it, that's it.

STELTER: Steven Brill, Jeffrey Toobin, Floyd Abrams, thank you all for being here this morning.

Steven, you mentioned Nina Totenberg, I want to go to her next, NPR's famed legal correspondent. She's with me on the phone as well.

Nina, I'm curious about your experience a little bit behind the scenes here. I think people are interested in how the journalism is made sometimes. When this news broke yesterday afternoon and you first heard that Scalia had died, did you believe it? What was your reaction? Because this was so out of nowhere, this was so unexpected.

NINA TOTENBERG, NPR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, I'm sorry to tell you, but we are talking -- I'm talking to you from Portola (ph), where I was spending Valentine's Day weekend with my husband. STELTER: I'm sorry you're working now.

TOTENBERG: So, I was exceptionally surprised about this. And fortunately, in our business, we do a lot of prep in advance and there was an obituary and news spots prepared, and then I did a live hit in the second hour on "All Things Considered" and my morning today has been spent dealing with what our next steps are going to be on NPR.

But this is one of the times when you're glad you do a lot of homework, that you can call into your brain when you absolutely have to and the minute I heard this, I should have knew this was going to be a horrible political storm because it came at an extremely inopportune time, probably more for the Republicans than the Democrats. The Democrats will make hay out of this and the Republicans will try to block it. Of course, if they don't win the presidential election, it won't have made any difference.

STELTER: I know your view is that the court is the only thing in Washington that still works. Do you believe this will cause the court to essentially stop working?

TOTENBERG: Oh no, this court will not stop working. They take mini- steps instead of bigger steps that they had been thinking about. There are many, many important cases on the docket for this term and probably for next term as well. And they will probably be very cautious about what they accept now for the next term.

But for all the cases potentially five to four cases, they now may be four to four cases, tie cases, or they may be five to three cases or rather four -- yes, five to three, and maybe won by the liberals or conservatives, whoever gets Justice Kennedy's vote.

But the place will be very different. And, you know, in 2005 and early '06 when Chief Justice Roberts became chief justice and Justice Alito was not confirmed until late February, so there was quiet a period of time where they didn't have an eight person court, they had a nine person court because Justice O'Connor agreed to stay. But they weren't doing anything that was major. They really took mini steps.

And there are ways they could get out of some of these cases. I don't know what you do about cases that have been decided or that where he had the opinion to write, but they will figure it out.

And earlier when you said we don't know what they're thinking, guess what? I bet you, they don't know what they're thinking. This is a break period for the court.


TOTENBERG: They're not all there. They will now be talking on the phone, coming back to Washington and trying to figure this out themselves -- what's best for them as an institution, for the law and for the country.

STELTER: It's a very good reminder to have. I'll let you get back to Valentine's Day. But, Nina, thank you for calling this morning. TOTENBERG: Thank you.

STELTER: I appreciate it.


STELTER: Coming up here on RELIABLE SOURCES, who better to talk to about this news and about last night's debate than Bob Schieffer, the legendary CBS anchor and moderator of several debates. He'll join me after a quick break.


[11:18:40] STELTER: Welcome back.

A week like was so much happening at the intersection of media, news and politics calls for some perspective from someone who has seen it all, someone like Bob Schieffer. He has been covering Washington for more than 40 years -- 24 of them as a moderator of "Face the Nation". He also moderated three presidential election debates and he is now a CBS News political contributor. He joins me from Washington this morning.

And, Bob, before we talk about the presidential race, let me ask you about the stunning and tragic news about Justice Scalia. It's not very well know, but I think it's well known for you in Washington that sometimes you do see the justices -- even though there's a veil of secrecy over the court. Did you ever interact with Justice Scalia and what are your memories of him?

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I met him once at a party. That's the extent of my personal contact.

But, you know, he was truly an intellectual giant. And there's no getting around that. One could disagree or agree with him, but he made his mark.

But I got to tell you, Brian. You know, I woke up this morning and looked at my iPhone and there was the headline on "The Washington Post" story that says "Scalia's death spurs partisan clash." I thought, my God, they haven't dug the poor man's grave yet and here we are already talking about a partisan divide brought on by his death.

[11:20:01] But it's kind of where we are in American politics today.

STELTER: We can argue about whether it's good or bad that the country is so polarized, but it certainly has changed. In your many decades in Washington, do you feel it's a positive or negative change?

SCHIEFFER: I think it's negative. I mean, I think there's a wider divide than there has ever been.

Think about this -- Gallup just had a poll out that said there are fewer people who now call themselves Democrats than any time in history. They're at a low point. On the other side, you have Republicans almost at the lowest point when people call themselves Republicans.

And I think that's what we're seeing here. This divide is wider than ever and I think it's too early to say this, but we might be seeing the end of political parties. I mean, you can see the Republican Party right now tearing itself apart over who it is and what it wants to be. That's on one side of the aisle.

On the other side, you have a Democratic Party so weak that it managed to come up with only one legitimate Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, whose being challenged by someone now and being given an arousing challenge by someone who had never before sought any office as a Democrat.

That tells me that these parties are weaker than ever. There's something's changing here. It may not sort itself out this time, but we may be on the verge of seeing a break up of these parties.

STELTER: How much -- about the polarization point, how much blame do you put at the feet of the news media or of the Internet, of the digital age? Justice Scalia, for example, said to the "New York Magazine" a couple of years ago, he used to subscribe to "The Washington Post", but he couldn't take it anymore. It was too shrilly liberal so he stopped subscribing. He did read "The Washington Times" and "The Wall Street Journal", which have conservative op-ed pages.

Do you put some of the blame or much of the blame on media athletes that have become more partisan?

SCHIEFFER: You know, I -- the problem here, look, if Justice Scalia didn't want to read "The Washington Post", he had plenty of other things he could read.

STELTER: Yes, that's right.

SCHIEFFER: But I think that's one of the problems we have now. People are basing their opinion now on different sets of facts, on different data. We're not all basing our opinions anymore on the same data.

You know, when I was growing up, you had three networks, you had a pretty good newspaper in every town, you might not agree with the editorial policy, but you generally conceded that they wouldn't put something on a front page if they didn't think it was factual, you didn't think it was true.

What's changed now as we have all this information bombarding us, some of which is totally, totally false. Recently, you know, Barack Obama is going to settle 200,000 Syrian refugees in the United States. Totally made up of whole cloth, totally without foundation.

A story not so long ago, a couple of weeks ago, that Donald Trump in 1996 told "People Magazine", "Look, if I decide to get into politics, I'll run as a Republican because they're the dumbest people in the world and they believe everything they hear on FOX News." Totally false. There was no such interview. He never said anything like that. And that's what's different this time, Brian. All is the totally

false information that you have to kind of sort your way through to figure out what the truth really is.

STELTER: Yes, you know, yesterday, I got a tip about Justice Scalia's death from someone -- it came out of the blue, it turned out to be true -- but when I heard it, I thought it was a prank. I just didn't believer it. I passed it along to CNN D.C., they were able to confirm it.

I think you and I would both appreciate the facts that the first news outlet to break this tragic news was a Texas newspaper. You, of course, got your start at the Texas "The Ft. Worth Star Telegram", right?

SCHIEFFER: Uh-huh, yes.

STELTER: This was a San Antonio paper that was able to first confirm the news, through multiple source, which goes to show, even in this digital age, the value of on-the-ground local journalism.

I want to ask you something about something we talked about in May, when you were retiring from "Face the Nation". Let me play what you told me then about why you were stepping down?


SCHIEFFER: I wanted to leave while I thought I could still do the job. I mean, I've seen too many people in Washington that have to be led by the hand of the stage as it were, and I didn't want to be one of those guys. I feel like I can still do it. CBS is doing very well these days. "Face to Nation" is doing well and I thought this was a good time to do it. It had to come sometime. So, I did.


STELTER: That was before Bernie Sanders, before Donald Trump entered the race. I wonder -- given this incredible primary season, do you have any regrets about stepping down from the chair?

SCHIEFFER: No, I really don't. Listen, when I saw John Dickerson last night, who I got -- I'm bias -- but I thought he did a terrific job in the way he kept control on that, but still gave all those people a chance and gave us a chance to get a feel for who these people really are.

[11:25:06] You know, debates are not always just about answers. They're about getting a sense -- a better sense of who these candidates are.

And I think last night's debate was very, very telling. I think we learned a lot about those candidates, whether what we learn second degree going to prove good for the candidates is another question. But I thought that debate and the way it was handled was just terrific.

But, I'll tell you --

STELTER: To your point, go ahead.


SCHIEFFER: Yes, go ahead.

STELTER: The question that Dickerson asked about impeachment, should President George W. Bush have been impeached? What a provocative question in order to get conversation going on that stage, to your point about questions as well as answers.

So, what's been the biggest surprise for you this primary season ever since May?

SCHIEFFER: Well, I guess Donald Trump would be, you'd have to say, is the biggest surprise.

I from the very beginning -- I've been doing a fellowship up in Harvard and one of the things I said early on is you better take Donald Trump seriously. His result of the frustration and anger and the disillusionment with government, that people on both sides feel. Well, I got a lot of eyes rolling and people said, "How can you possibly believe that?"

I think I was right about that. What I have been wrong about is every time he said one of these things, John McCain is a loser, what he said about Megyn Kelly, what he said about that handicapped person that worked at "The New York Times", every time he said something like that, I thought, well, that's it. He's done himself in on that.

But somehow, the people who are hard core Trump supporters, I'm not sure they hear what he's saying. I think they're just happy that he's saying it. That he's someone willing to speak out in language they can understand. In some kind of ways, you know, it's -- they wish they had to nerve to say to their boss what he's saying out loud and I think that may be part of his appeal.

But it was very different debate last night, it seemed to me. He was booed time after time last night. Now, he was also booed in New Hampshire, but it's hard for me to evaluate whether he's helped or hurt by that.

We have a CBS News poll that's out this morning that shows him with a 2-1 lead over Cruz, but that was taken before last night's debate. I'm kind of anxious to see what the result of this debate is going to be, because as I say, every time I think trump has done something wrong it turns out it either helps him or doesn't hurt him at all.

STELTER: Bob Schieffer, you said it perfectly -- thank you for being here this morning. Great to see you.

SCHIEFFER: Great to see you, Brian. Thanks so much.

STELTER: He mentioned fact-checking, Trump fact-checking, we're going to do that right after the break. Plus, the ratings are in for last night's boisterous debate. We'll have a first look at the numbers right after this.



STELTER: Welcome back.

It's being called a demolition derby, a WWE match. I even saw comparisons to Jerry Springer. Last night's debate was maybe the wildest yet. And I have just received the ratings, which show it was the highest rated debate of 2016 so far. That means it's even higher than last week's ABC GOP debate that was also on a Saturday night.

Now, well before Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire primaries on Tuesday , this race has been confounding political pundits and journalists who have been covering politics for decades. We have just heard Bob Schieffer acknowledge that a few minutes ago.

This is an election where none of the old rules seem to apply.

What are political reporters missing, and how can our coverage better inform and reflect the electorate?

I have the perfect guests to talk about that, James Fallows, the national correspond with "The Atlantic," and Douglas Brinkley, CNN presidential historian and a history professor at Rice university.

Thank you both for being here.

I wanted some historical context for this election, especially after the New Hampshire primary.

And let me start with you, Mr. Brinkley.

What is the takeaway from a Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump win New Hampshire? What can we learn from history what about happened on Tuesday?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, I think New Hampshire tells us that this is, as we have been saying, the year of the outsiders. The question is, is Bernie Sanders going to be seen more as a Eugene McCarthy, Pat Buchanan kind of figure, somebody who stirs up a lot of trouble and makes a name for himself in history and then sort of fades away?

I think Hillary Clinton is still looking very strong as she's retooling in South Carolina. Donald Trump is the phenomena of 2015 and he's continuing in 2016, because he ratchets up the angry language all the time and people still seem to like him. Not only did he win New Hampshire. He has a 2-1 edge going on in South Carolina right now.

STELTER: Right. Right. You have these six candidates. They were much higher rated, probably

12, 13 million viewers for last night vs. eight million for the PBS- CNN broadcast the other day. Let me ask you, James, your "Atlantic" cover story. I think it's a really important read. We can put it on screen for a moment.

It's about your trip across the country. You say, can America put itself back together? With that in mind, when you watch these debates, on the Democratic and Republican sides, does it sound like an entirely different America from the one you have traveled to?


And what has impressed me and my wife, Deb, over the last couple of days, as we travel around, is the disconnect between an era in national governance and national politics where there's no room for compromise, where one party now is saying it would rather the Supreme Court not function for the next year than they lose influence there -- we know just kind of the polarization and anger of the rhetoric -- and the way it seems at sort of a state and local and regional level in the United States where people are practical-minded, innovative.

And I think recognition that the federal government is not really going to work the way that we would like it to work for the foreseeable future has made people all the more inventive at the state and regional level.


So, reporting on a country that in relatively good shape, while its national level politics is in bad shape, has been the main point we're trying to get across.

STELTER: I know you were frustrated last night watching the debate. Donald Trump saying he had hundreds of friends die in 9/11. He also repeated his comment that he was against the Iraq War from the start.

Now, according to PolitiFact and others, including our own John King, who mentioned this on the air earlier this morning, there's no evidence, no public record that Trump was actually against the Iraq invasion in 2003.

Do you feel the press is doing a sufficient job trying to hold Trump and other candidates accountable for their comments on these stages?

FALLOWS: I guess the press is trying. And some of other candidates are trying too.

But we have seen, as you were mentioning earlier with Trump, there's a kind of a honey badger effect here where it seems not to matter. I know for certain, having covered the Iraq War story very carefully myself and writing against it in 2002, there's no evidence that Donald Trump was against the war before it started.

But I can feel I can say that, you can say that, and it just doesn't matter. So, presumably, at some point, this will shake out. Right now, this is a uniquely sort of truth-immune phase of politics in my depressingly long career of watching these things.

STELTER: Well, let me ask our historian.

Doug, do you think it's uniquely truth-free?

BRINKLEY: Well, look, all campaigns have people that make up stories that track.

I remember in 1972, the writer Hunter S. Thompson started doing gonzo journalism. And he said Ed Muskie was on Ibogaine, a weird drug from South America. And all the straight press stated reporting it for a few days, as if this was a real story.

There are these fake kind of stories that come in. But I agree with James Fallows completely with the honey badger idea. Nothing Donald Trump says -- he can make up stories, but Ronald Reagan use to fabricate stories.

STELTER: Fabricate?

BRINKLEY: Yes. He would tell stories about Disneyfied America, things that -- he may have been a movie about the Holocaust, but suddenly he had a direct experience with it in World War II.


BRINKLEY: And it never stuck to Ronald Reagan in any way. And I see it's not sticking really to Donald Trump right now.

STELTER: Let's talk a bit more in detail about the debate last night.

There was such an interesting exchange between the moderator, John Dickerson, and Ted Cruz. Just to summarize, it was about justice appointments to the Supreme Court, confirmations by the Senate. We saw Dickerson intervene, interrupt Ted Cruz with the facts, trying to get the facts straight.

I thought it was a pretty assertive moment for the moderator, wasn't it?

BRINKLEY: Very assertive moment, but he was right.

STELTER: Dickerson was right.

BRINKLEY: Dickerson was right.

And if you're going to insert yourself into a debate -- it's a dicey thing to do, but you better come off on top. And in that fact, he did. Cruz had it off by one year, so point for CBS news on that.

STELTER: Let me play one more moment from the debate. This is some sound we put together this morning. Of all the comments from the audience, the booing, the cheering, let's take a look real quick.




TRUMP: The World Trade Center came down during the reign of George W. Bush. He kept us safe. That's not safe. That is not safe.


TRUMP: I only tell the truth, lobbyists.


STELTER: James, I saw a lot of comments online last night, people saying maybe there shouldn't even be audiences. Where do you stand on this?

FALLOWS: I think, yes, the audience adds to the World Wrestling Entertainment effect of all this.

Trump again, who knows how this will affect him? I did think -- you were mentioning earlier John Dickerson. He was appropriately pressing on facts, as opposed to some other moderators sort of pressing just to kind of stir things up.

Also, it's remarkable to have Donald Trump call out this bizarre line from Jeb Bush he kept us safe about his brother. Yes, he kept us safe except for that one time. It's strange how Jeb Bush has made it the claim, and Trump just went right into it. And we will see how it plays out for him in the GOP.

STELTER: It was almost disorienting to hear 9/11 relitigated in that way on that stage last night.

James Fallows, Douglas Brinkley, thank you both for bringing your insight this morning.

FALLOWS: Thank you.

STELTER: With six days to go now until the next votes are cast in South Carolina, all six remaining Republican candidates will be back here on CNN for back-to-back town halls. These were announced last night. That will be on Wednesday and Thursday night, Anderson Cooper hosting at 8:00 p.m. each night here on CNN.

Coming up here on RELIABLE SOURCES, his campaign has been called anything from a stunt to a sideshow. But now that Trump is moving to prime time, so to speak, with the New Hampshire win under his belt, he's forever changing the way we cover presidential politics. We will talk in depth about that with David Zurawik when we come back.



STELTER: Welcome back.

You know, when Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president on June 16 of last year, some people wrote it off as a sideshow. Too many talking heads dismissed it.

But now he has won the New Hampshire primary. He has a commanding lead in South Carolina. And he continues to dominate the news cycles.

Let's talk about that with David Zurawik, the media critic for "The Baltimore Sun," who joins me now from Washington.

David, I wanted to start with the cursing. We know that Trump says he's not going to curse anymore. But let's take a look at how television has kind of handled his vulgar language in the past.


JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC: I have actually called him up. And I said Donald, listen, you need to speak in complete sentences in debates. And he goes: "I'm up 30 points, Joe."

And I'm like, "Good point, Donald."


SCARBOROUGH: After the second debate -- I hope we don't have reporters here.


SCARBOROUGH: After the second debate, Peggy, I walked down to his office. I said, "Donald, do you know how to read?"

And he stared at me and said, "What do you mean?"

Mika got very nervous. And she was like, "Yes, Joe, what do you mean?"

I said, "Can you actually read?"

And he said: "Yes. Why?"

I said, "You should read before a debate. Read, Donald."

He goes, "I don't have to."



STELTER: All right, that was my mistake. David, I think we played the wrong thing for you.

But let's talk about that first, "Morning Trump," because that's Joe Scarborough speaking there at 92Y actually many months ago. But our colleague Dylan Byers wrote about it for CNNMoney earlier this week. He's been all over this really important story, which is the Donald Trump-Joe Scarborough relationship.

What we see sometimes on air is a very cozy relationship between the two men. And, in fact, I have seen the name "Morning Trump" being used to describe "Morning Joe" recently.

I want to get your take on whether this is appropriate or inappropriate, because, certainly, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, others at FOX News have close relationships with Trump. What do you think of this Scarborough-Trump relationship?



ZURAWIK: And if I had any hair, it would be on fire as I said it.


ZURAWIK: Listen, even somebody like a morning show host plays a role, at least a quasi-journalistic role -- I would argue it's journalistic -- plays a role in setting the parameters of the national conversation around these candidates.

You shouldn't be so involved with them that you're going down and giving them tips. I love the video you just showed. I'm so happy it got played, because it shows how unashamed Scarborough is, how proud he is of the fact that he's in the tank for him.

Back in August, I wrote about this relationship, and it was unbelievable, because it was just before the Alabama open-air rally that Trump was going to hold. And Scarborough was talking about Trump letting his brother, who I guess lives in Florida, on his plane when it landed in Mobile.


ZURAWIK: And then, the next day, he was on Facebook saying how great it was that Trump let him on the plane. And then he started talking rapturously about what a great candidate this is, and it's the future of American politics.

He doesn't even know how damning that is to the credibility of MSNBC that, almost every morning, this guy gets out and behaves that way. And, hey, what about the executives at MSNBC that don't call him in and say, stop it? What's going on with that? This is outrageous.

Now, certainly...

STELTER: I did ask for a new comment from MSNBC this morning. And I didn't hear back. Dylan Byers has a great story online. I do recommend reading it.

What's interesting to me is that when Dylan's story came online, Scarborough attacked CNN and he pointed out "Morning Joe"'s ratings, which is very Trumpian thing to do...


STELTER: ... kind of like pointing to poll numbers.

I do think there's others in media that are giving advice to Trump, like Bill O'Reilly perhaps. But this "Morning Joe" relationship is intriguing. I think it's going to keep getting attention.

Let me ask you about the bleeping I was trying to talk about in the beginning there. We heard Trump last night say: I'm not going to curse on stage anymore.

But just think about the networks bleeping him and having to treat his words very carefully. Do you think it's worse in some ways to bleep him because it actually sort of hides what he's saying or maybe makes it worse than it is?

ZURAWIK: Yes, bleeping is problematic, because I think oftentimes people think he's saying something worse than it is.


ZURAWIK: However, there's a couple -- there's a couple of other cuts to that, Brian, that I think are important.

One of them, when Trump does that, I think, to a lot of people, certainly to his supporters, it says, this is not a guy lying to us. This is not a guy talking to us in high-sounding rhetoric, talking to us about listening to our better angels, who behind the scenes is dancing with the devils and getting rich while we send our sons and daughters to war. This is a guy who talks the way we talk in America.

And I'll tell you, more importantly, Brian, it is...


STELTER: It's one of the reasons why I'm transfixed by his speeches, yes.


And it's also the language of social media, especially Twitter, that he has mastered. You and I have talked about him as a TV candidate. And, indeed, he is. I think he's the apotheosis of the TV candidate, if you start in 1960 with John Kennedy. This is as high as it gets. This is actually a TV creature running for office.

But what's missing -- and you have covered this as well as anyone -- is the social media aspect. This -- just as our dominant media is moving from television into digital, and especially into social media, Trump is the only candidate who is using Twitter brilliantly in this campaign.

When CNBC called his campaign in that debate a cartoon or -- campaign...

STELTER: Right. ZURAWIK: ... they couldn't have been more wrong. It's a brilliant


He doesn't have to pay for TV ads, and he uses Twitter. And what's so fascinating about it is, he has an authentic voice for Twitter. And you know what it is? It's hectoring. It's nasty. It's profane. It's all the things that people on Twitter actually talk about.

And, by the way, this is what we used to keep from the American people in media. LBJ talked this way. Harry Truman talked this way. John Kennedy, all of them talked -- God, once we heard the Nixon tapes, our heads exploded.


STELTER: Let me...

ZURAWIK: So, he's just doing it out there for the folks, in a way. And I think it doesn't hurt him.

STELTER: David Zurawik, thank you so much for being here this morning.

ZURAWIK: Thank you.

STELTER: And one more note on Trump: He settled his lawsuit with Univision this week. He says he's ready to be interviewed by Jorge Ramos. So, we will keep an eye on that for you.

Coming up after the break, a valentine for all of you. Stay tuned.



STELTER: We talk about new media on this show, tweets and likes and shares.

But CNN is celebrating Valentine's Day using a very old media platform, voice-mail. The social media team asked people to pick up the phone and record their love stories. It's a great example of audio storytelling and user-generated content.

Valentine's Day is my absolute favorite holiday. Can't help it. So I wanted you to listen to this voice-mail love letter.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's the love of my life. And it was just a chance meeting and he was Mr. Right for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw this beautiful girl walking ahead of me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I looked up and he came walking into the room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And she steps on to my subway car and she ends up sitting next to me. We started talking.

And one thing leads to another, and we ended up spending the next few hours talking together and the next few days. We ended up sitting at the bar the whole evening and talking and enjoying one another's company.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just knew he was the one, looked at him and said, kiss me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know this is crazy, and I have only known you for a few days, but I'm in love with you, and you just needed to know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He makes my heart melt. He absolutely makes me nervous in a good way, that I'm falling in love with him.


STELTER: Log on to, listen to the rest.

And we will be right back.


STELTER: We're out of time here, but I'll see you next week.