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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
Inside Donald's Mind With Three Trump Biographers; Trump Leads to Conservative Media Crackup; Interview with Glenn Greenwald; Trump Attacking Integrity of the Elections; NBC Negotiating Billy Bush's Departure; Previewing the Final Presidential Debate. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired October 16, 2016 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:02] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, good morning. I'm Brian Stelter and it's time for RELIABLE SOURCES -- our weekly look of the story behind the story, of how the media really works, how the news really gets made.
And we have a lot to analyze this morning. Donald Trump is making up a massive media conspiracy, falsely claiming that we are rigging the election. He even wants "Saturday Night Live" canceled. I'll have a response coming up.
Plus, Glenn Greenwald is live in New York is to discuss the WikiLeaks dump of stolen Clinton campaign e-mails.
And we'll have the latest on the outgoing "Today Show" co-host Billy Bush. He, of course, is one half of the fallout from that vulgar "Access Hollywood" tape.
Imagine in your mind for me a row of dominoes. So many of those dominoes have fallen since that tape was leaked nine days ago. New allegations keep surfacing as more and more women come forward accusing Trump of unwanted sexual advances.
So, with that in mind, take a journey back in time for a moment. These tabloid sex scandals help fuel the media rise of Donald Trump as a playboy, as a reality TV persona decades ago. But could these same sorts of stories derail his chances of winning the White House?
And is the Trump we're seeing of today the same Trump from the '90s? What can his past tell us about a potential Trump presidency?
This morning, we have the perfect panel to ask those questions. Joining me now: three men who know Trump pretty much better than anybody. They are Trump experts and biographers.
Michael D'Antonio, the author of "Never Enough: Trump and the Pursuit of Success", Tim O'Brien, author of "TrumpNation" and executive editor of Bloomberg View, and Brad Thomas, author of "The Trump Factor: Unlocking the Secrets Behind the Trump Empire."
Great to see you all. Brad, let me start with you. You were with the Trump campaign on
Friday. You've been paying close attention to how Trump is engaging here. Are you surprised by his recent behavior saying that Hillary Clinton should take a drug test, saying there is a massive media conspiracy against him? Based on what you know about him, are you surprised by this?
BRAD THOMAS, AUTHOR, "TRUMP FACTOR: UNLOCKING THE SECRETS BEHIND THE TRUMP EMPIRE": No, I'm not, Brian. I believe that -- you know, I was at the rally in Charlotte on Friday. I've attended quite a few rallies over the last year or so, and I'm seeing these voters really start to gain more energy. Donald Trump has really energized this campaign. And so, what you're seeing in terms of the media has really energized his campaign but also energized his brand.
STELTER: The polls this morning, newly out this morning, show that enthusiasm for Trump is actually waning. Are you trying to take the anecdotes from the campaign trail and say they actually apply to the whole country?
THOMAS: You know, Brian, I haven't really looked at the polls in detail. I don't really cover the polls. I think -- you know, the market is ultimately going to decide what's going to happen.
And we are three weeks away from this election, and I think the two most important things are the fundamentals today that are driving this campaign, which are security and financial security. I think that's what the voters really want to hear from in the next three weeks.
STELTER: So, you're saying he should stop talking about the accusers, stop attacking these women?
THOMAS: You know, what I'm saying, Brian, is I think that the voters want to hear what the president -- what he's running on, same for Hillary. And I think that those are the two most important things that really voters want to hear about right now.
It's the fundamentals of this country focusing on the financial security of this country and focusing on security of this country. Those are the two most important things. We are three weeks away from this election. Three weeks.
STELTER: With that in mind, Tim, let me ask you. Do you think the press has overplayed these stories, these accuser stories? There has been wall-to-wall coverage of sexual assault allegations against Trump for the past almost week.
TIMOTHY O'BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG VIEW: Well, look, we know this got started because of the tape that got leaked.
STELTER: And then the debate question by Anderson Cooper --
O'BRIEN: In which Trump essentially challenged the media. He said, I've always been about words, Bill Clinton has been about actions. He sort of threw the gauntlet down to say, I dare anyone -- any people out there who've been assaulted by me. And lo and behold, the floodgates opened.
And I don't think you can have too much coverage about this. We -- women being feeling free and comfortable about coming forward about men sexually or physically abusing them is not a long tradition in this country. I think for a lot of women, you know, the issue comes up, wow, it was 30 years ago. Why are they talking about it now?
And we've seen in the Bill Cosby case and in the Roger Ailes case, I think women sometimes need other women to come forward to feel empowered themselves to speak about abuse.
STELTER: Michael, your most recent book before the Trump book was about abuse in the Catholic Church. Do you see parallels between that story and this one?
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR, "NEVER ENOUGH: DONALD TRUMP AND THE PURSUIT OF SUCCESS": Absolutely. This is the way these things work, and I'm almost shocked to see that no one in the Trump campaign seems to understand what's happening in this area since the 1990s. Whenever an abused person finally gets the courage to come forward, others with experience come forward also.
And none of these predatory figures have just one victim.
[11:05:00] You know, I think what's interesting, too, and it's consistent, is that they always have the same age victim, the same rough profile of appearance and they also conduct the same behavior.
STELTER: Trump's denials this week, they have been flat denials, a number of statements from the campaign, a number of comments at the rallies. Is this consistent with his behavior over the course of decades?
D'ANTONIO: Well, his rule is to never admit anything. Deny everything, and then fling an accusation back at the other person. So, you can often hear what he's worried about by seeing what he criticizes people for.
So, if he says, let's do drug test because I think Hillary lost energy at the last debate, it's because at the first debate, Donald ran out of gas and everybody was saying, why did he lose energy?
So, we should expect he's going to accuse Hillary of almost anything because he feels under attack, and he's not going to come clean and say anything honest about these charges.
STELTER: Let me ask Brad.
Brad, where do you think Trump's conspiratorial mindset comes from?
THOMAS: You know, I would really say that, Brian. Look, you know, this is -- this is a businessman. I have visited every property in the world that Donald Trump owns. I've met with all of his employees. I started writing my book over three years ago.
So, you know, I've got a pretty good knowledge and perhaps probably the best knowledge of Donald Trump's businesses than anybody on the planet, including Donald Trump. And when you say conspiracy, I really -- I don't understand what that means.
STELTER: Let me tell you what it means. If Trump is a billionaire businessman, then he knows there is not a massive corporate conspiracy against him. He knows that's not possible because he's an elitist, he's an insider. He knows how it really works.
STELTER: That's what I mean, Brad, by conspiratory, by a conspiratorial mind. What he said on Thursday, talking about the banks and corporations and globalists, it came awfully close to anti- Semitic language. I'm just asking you, based on your experience with him, where does that come from?
THOMAS: I really don't. This is a guy who has created his brand and his followers because of his bold demeanor. And he comes across as a very tough, strong individual. And that's how he's been able to really grow his brand over the years to become this successful businessman.
Again, Brian, I wrote a book about Donald Trump's businesses. I didn't write a book about Donald Trump's politics. I covered all the businesses in very granular detail. So, I'm certainly can speak more about -
STELTER: That's why I'm surprised he's claiming these conspiracies that don't exist.
Tim, let me ask you about legal threats, because of the strangest parts of this week, incredibly strange week, was Donald Trump threatening to sue the "New York Times", also his aides saying he might sue "The Palm Beach Post" because they published accounts from several of these women. Now, there has been no lawsuit filed. I don't think there will be a lawsuit filed.
But he did sue you.
O'BRIEN: He did.
STELTER: So, what's your insight into when he actually takes action and what happens when he does sue a journalist?
O'BRIEN: Well, let's unbundle in the two things. I think the issue with Donald this week saying there's a conspiracy, the elections are rigged, you have an individual who's losing badly in the polls. It looks like he's going to get -- lose badly in the general election. So, he has no problem saying it's rigged, I will blow the whole thing up for self-preservation reasons, you know?
And he's finding conspiracies everywhere, because if there is a conspiracy, it doesn't mean it's his fault that he lost.
STELTER: It's an awfully selfish thing to do, isn't it?
O'BRIEN: It's a destructive and dangerous thing to do. It's beyond being selfish. You have someone question important institutions of the United States to serve his own needs and it's very dangerous, very dangerous moment in American politics.
I think the issue on him trying to sue the media or threatening to sue the media -- he sued me for libel in 2006. He lost that case. He sat through a discovery that was very troubling for him, a discovery process. Should he sue the media now around these allegations for women that he's a sexual predator? He's going to go through a very brutal discovery process in that.
But more importantly, he's making these threats to sue, I think, to try to chill the media. I think the media was slow to report aggressively on the Trump phenomenon, but once it got its footing, the media has been a very important force in this election in terms of outing some of the things the public didn't know about Donald Trump and should know. And he's now using threats of lawsuits to chill the media.
STELTER: Michael, do you agree that that was the intent of his claims?
D'ANTONIO: Oh, sure. Intimidation is the name of the game with him. And I think one of the things that's important to note is that if Donald built his business on his personality, examining his personality and his personal behavior is absolutely essentially.
I'm also quite privy to good data on brand equity. And I'm hearing in the last two weeks his brand equity is plummeting. He's also perceived as boring, not by the elites but by the middle class.
[11:10:00] And actually, when you poll Republican households without a college education, they're turning off to his brand. Now, they may still vote for him, but this is really doing long term damage to his business.
STELTER: Very interesting. If the three of you could stick around, please. I have to bring you back later in the hour. Lots more to discuss.
Up next here, more on this media conspiracy idea, whether the alt- right website Breitbart's relationship with the Trump campaign is leading to a crack up of conservative media. You've got to hear what we have to say about that right after the break.
STELTER: Hey, welcome back.
Donald Trump taking his media bashing to a new extreme this weekend. He's replacing his birther conspiracy theory with another, even grander, conspiracy. Yes, he is claiming that global elites, the banks, politicians, and, of course, the media, are all conspiring against him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The election is being rigged by corrupt media pushing completely false allegations and outright lies in an effort to elect her president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Corrupt media. In Trump's world, journalists are really just Clinton campaign workers in disguise, collaborating with her in an attempt to rig the election.
This is not just false, it's ludicrous and it's damaging. But you know what? His current conspiracy theory is ripped from these pages, the pages of the right wing website Breitbart News.
[11:15:00] It says right there, the press is colluding to elect Hillary. That might pop up in your Facebook feed, you might share it with friend, and it starts to become believed.
You know, these are strange, strange times. Trump even cancelled on his friend Sean Hannity this week. He's giving no interviews. And, by the way, neither is Hillary Clinton as Clinton prepares for Wednesday's debate.
So, what are the consequences of this conspiratorial talk?
Joining me now, David Frum, a senior editor at "The Atlantic" and the former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, and Margaret Sullivan, media columnist with "The Washington Post."
Margaret, what do we even say? How do we prove that we are not all conspiring?
MARGARET SULLIVAN, MEDIA COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Brian, I'm not sure how you prove it. It's an absurd claim. I've spent decades in the newspaper business. I worked at "The New York Times" and the "Washington Post." Nobody is sitting in a room with each other and planning to, you know, do anything evil to a candidate. It's just -- it's just not the case.
And I also think that this idea that there's something called the media, my colleague at the "Washington Post," Paul Farhi, wrote a great piece about how there is really no such thing. I mean, there are media outlets, there are newspapers, there are cable TV stations, there are network news, but there is no sort of little group called the media that gets together and decides to do terrible things to Donald Trump.
How do you prove that?
STELTER: Especially --
SULLIVAN: It's a reality check.
STELTER: Especially now that we're all media makers. Now that we're all Snapchatting and Facebooking, we are all making media.
And I would say, the traditional media, we are competitive. We're market driven. I compete with you, Margaret. I want to beat you to stories. That's the kind of thing that discourages what Trump would call collusion in the media.
David, is this the moment where we're trying to cover up something crazy and try to treat it like it's sane?
DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Well, I think Donald Trump is in a more fundamental problem than that. He's in the situation -- remember that scene in the "Austin Powers" movie where Austin Powers assures Elizabeth Hurley, this isn't my bag, baby, and the officer then produces a book with Austin Powers picture on it that says, yes, this is my bag, baby, by Austin Powers.
FRUM: I mean, you've got the videotape. So, that makes -- if his claim is that people are inventing these terrible stories about me, the stories are all verified and agreed and approved and endorsed and proven by his own words and face.
So, one of the things he's doing here, it's a little about the scammed Nigerian e-mails, they're deliberately incredible because the scammers don't want to early on weed out anyone with any skepticism. So, if they sent you a proper note that really looked like it was from Citibank, you might pull in some people who would jump off the train later. Whereas, if you make it stupid from the start, then you know you're dealing with real suckers, and that's what Donald Trump is looking for.
STELTER: And the issue is, how do we persuade that, say, 40 percent of the country that is inclined to believe Trump when he says the media is colluding?
Let me give you an example, Margaret. You were the public editor at "The New York Times." Did you ever find evidence that "The Times" reporters would make up sources the way Trump is alleging?
SULLIVAN: No. I mean, there is no reason to think that. I mean, I was critical of "The Times'" use of anonymous sources, but I never thought that they were made up.
So, let's talk about the conservative media crack up that's happening partly as a result of this. We're witnessing this unprecedented divide between the GOP establishment over Trump and it's also fracturing conservative media.
David, what happens to FOX News, for example, after Election Day? How is this affecting conservative media?
FRUM: Well, FOX News, of course, is reeling from its own internal trauma, the departure of Roger Ailes. And FOX News, it's confronting that fundamental existential question that is always hovered at FOX News. In part, it is a genuine news division, news entity with some very capable people.
FRUM: You see that at 6:00, you see that with many, many of the people who work at FOX News. And then there's also this other part which exists in sort of mainlining fantasy into the conservative bloodstream. I said in 2010 that Republicans, that we began by thinking that FOX worked for us, and then we discovered we all worked for FOX.
I took some heat for that at the time, but that has become half of the FOX identity, not the other half. And the question for that network is going to be, what do they -- do they want to be a trusted news source, or do they want to be a fantasy bubble for people --
STELTER: A fantasy bubble.
FRUMP: -- a safe space, a refuge, from political reality?
STELTER: Breitbart as well -- Breitbart's role sort of bringing conspiracy theories into the mainstream.
Margaret, you wrote about Steve Bannon, who was the Breitbart boss, now the Trump campaign boss. What has his role been you think this week with Trump's behavior?
SULLIVAN: Well, you know, when I saw the use of the Clinton accusers at the debate, you know, it certainly seemed to have the name Steve Bannon written all over it. It's the kind of theater that he specializes in. And I think that he is a huge influence on that campaign, and the distance between Breitbart and the Trump campaign is virtually nothing at this point, and we've seen that from certainly for many months.
[11:20:06] STELTER: And Breitbart, its idea that publishing is a form of warfare, media is a form of warfare, and that's what we're seeing, with Trump pretending like there's no difference between reporters and campaign aides.
David, one last thought for you. We're going to have the debate, the last debate on Wednesday. It's going to be moderated by Chris Wallace of FOX News. It's the first time FOX News journalist has ever moderated a general election debate.
Do you think liberals are right to have any concern about Chris Wallace and about Roger Ailes' former role at FOX affecting this debate somehow?
FRUM: They're completely wrong about that. Who's a better interviewer in America than Chris Wallace? He'll do a fantastic job.
STELTER: Margaret, do you agree?
SULLIVAN: I think Chris is pretty tough. I was concerned when he said that he didn't believe in so-called truth squading or fact checking. That bothered me, but I think he, in general, is tough, aggressive interviewer and it should be -- it's a hell of a job at this point.
STELTER: I think he might have an even harder job than the first three moderators.
Well, David, Margaret, thank you very much.
Margaret, please stick around with me. Back later in the hour here.
Up next on the program, Glenn Greenwald is here. We're going to talk about the one issue conservative media can agree up, is that the mainstream press is ignoring the WikiLeaks release of Clinton campaign e-mails. So, we're going to talk about those e-mails in depth with Glenn right after the break.
[11:25:32] STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.
Donald Trump is heaping praise on WikiLeaks, while the Clinton campaign condemns the publication of stolen e-mails from Clinton chairman John Podesta. WikiLeaks is publishing new e-mails every day.
Now, despite Trump's claims that the media is ignoring the trove of e- mails, this kind of document dump is irresistible to journalists. It is providing a glimpse into the inner workings of Clinton's campaign, confirming a lot of what we thought we knew, and showing efforts to control and shape favorable news coverage.
So, what are we learning and how newsworthy are these, really?
Joining me now is someone very familiar with reporting on leaked and hacked information, Glenn Greenwald, the co-founding editor of "The Intercept", who helped break the Snowden leaks wide open. This, of course, was a number of years ago.
And, Glenn, your relationship to WikiLeaks has changed. How so?
GLENN GREENWALD, THE INTERCEPT: Well, ironically, WikiLeaks was one of the most vocal critics of how we reported on the Snowden archive. They were indignant about the fact that we didn't just take it and indiscriminately dump it all on the Internet.
GREENWALD: But instead curated it, tried to protect people's personal information into this day, and not only us, but all news organizations that had documents still haven't disclosed all of them or even near all of them because of the effect it would have on innocent people. So, we very much believe that when you get a large archive of information, your responsibility as a journalist is not just to dump it on the Internet for anyone to dig through but to protect people's privacy, to protect people's reputation. Only publish that which is in the public's interest.
STELTER: Now that WikiLeaks has dumped these Podesta e-mails, journalists are scouring through them. Is it ethical to report on stolen information?
GREENWALD: Not only it's an ethnical, it would be incredibly unethical if journalists ignored it. Many of the most important stories in the history of American journalism come from stolen materials, whether it be the Pentagon papers, whether it'd be the Manning and Snowden files, whether it'd be sources that take classified information and give to Dana Priest at "The Washington Post" so she can uncover CIA black sites, or the Bush warrantless eavesdropping program.
So many these acts that lead to the best journalism are grounded in illegality. No journalist has a right to say, I'm only going to report on information as long as the source is morally upstanding. No real journalist would think that way.
STELTER: Watching FOX News coverage of this leak this week, this stolen trove this week, I've gotten a sense they believe they are bombshells. Let me put on screen a few examples of what Sean Hannity said, what stood to him.
Examples of media collusion between the Clinton campaign and journalists. CNBC's John Harwood offering advice to the Clinton campaign. "The New York Times" in one case allowing edits to quotes of Clinton. "The Boston Globe" pumping up the campaign. Univision pressured to attack Trump. Campaign bragging about media support, and Donna Brazile receiving a leaked town hall question.
Are these isolated examples, Glenn, of journalistic improprieties are they evidence of collusion?
GREENWALD: I they're examples of -- at least some of them. Some of them are just sort of normal standard back and forth, jockeying between campaigns and journalists. Others, though, are I think examples of serious impropriety. I think Donna Brazile leaking, getting a hold of town hall question and only giving it to the Clinton and not the Sanders campaign is an example of cheating.
STELTER: Let's put that headline up on screen. I wrote about this earlier this week on CNN.com. And just explain to our audience at home what happened here, what seems to have happened here. This was a CNN TV 1 town hall back in March. Sanders and Clinton both on stage.
There is an e-mail in this document dump that shows then CNN contributor and DNC vice chair Donna Brazile emailing a question that seems to be a town hall question to Jennifer Palmieri at the Clinton campaign. The next day, a version of that question was read on stage at the CNN TV 1 town hall.
Now, CNN has just flatly denied ever sharing any question, and to be honest, I've been inside one of these debate preps. I'd never -- I can't imagine a question leaking out. Then again, somehow it did.
CNN suggested that TV 1, Roland Martin, his partner, was maybe the person that sent the question to Donna Brazile. He hasn't really responded to that. He sort of denied it.
GREENWALD: But then she's the one who passed it to the Clinton campaign.
STELTER: That's right. And the point is, it's still a mystery. You know, no -- we haven't gotten an exact answer to how the heck this happened. Trump has taken this to say, oh, Clinton is being given debate questions, using the plural, using questions, right? So I feel like he's taken a grain of truth and turn it into a lie.
GREENWALD: So, let me just take a couple of things. First of all, there is this massive transparency disparity in this election because we have unprecedented transparency into one campaign, the Clinton campaign. She has released her tax returns, financial disclosure documents with the Clinton Foundation. We read her e-mail as secretary of state, not all of them, but many of them, and now, the hack into her Clinton campaign.
On the other side, you have almost no transparency into Donald Trump and his business practices and his campaign because he won't even release his tax returns. So, it's incredibly hypocritical for him to act as though there's these scandals being hidden, when he is hiding essentially everything about himself.
That said, I think there are extremely interesting aspects of these e- mails which, maybe to political junkies or reporters, seem like business as usual, but to the ordinary person, it sheds real light on the kind of games that get played, the kind of manipulation of public opinion that, even if it's common, is still really disturbing and, therefore, deserves lots of attention.
STELTER: When you say manipulation of public opinion, what are examples you have seen in these e-mails of that?
GREENWALD: I mean, there's things where the Clinton campaign talks openly about the fact that their public messaging is completely at odds with what Hillary Clinton really believes, about ways to mislead Sanders supporters into believing that they're getting concessions that in reality are inconsequential.
There's an e-mail that talks about how the regime of Qatar, one of the most repressive regimes on the planet, was promising to give $1 million to the Clinton Foundation for Bill Clinton's birthday in exchange for five minutes of meeting time with him.
So, this is the kind of stuff that Clinton partisans will say, oh, it's no big deal, it's not shocking. But that's not the standard of newsworthiness. Lots of things that are newsworthy are not shocking.
I don't think it's shocking that Donald Trump is a serial groper of women, but it's still extremely newsworthy. And that's what I would say is the same for the kind of tradeoffs and kind of money transfers and media manipulation that is taking place as evidenced by that e- mail archive.
STELTER: And yet, when I was in the car yesterday listening to news radio, all I heard about was Trump. I didn't hear about Clinton.
Do you think conservatives are right to say there has been an unfair imbalance in the coverage of the WikiLeaks revelations vs. Donald Trump?
GREENWALD: So, I think it's -- there's two sides of that.
I think it is simply the case that the political and media elite of the United States are virtually united behind Hillary Clinton and against Donald Trump.
But the other side of that is that Donald Trump is so off the charts in terms of convention and what's normal and what's acceptable, that, even if it may not be justified, it's just inevitable that you put your eyes on this sort of explosion and this extreme amount of deviation from what's normal and pay attention to it and talk about it more than a sort of conventional campaign like Hillary Clinton's.
STELTER: Off the charts, that's a good phrase to keep in mind.
Glenn, great to see you. Thanks for being here.
GREENWALD: Great to see you as well, Brian. Thanks.
STELTER: And up next: talking about Trump's conspiracy theories, for example, about election rigging, and why are they so dangerous, so off the charts.
We will be right back.
STELTER: Donald Trump's biggest lie is about the election itself, the integrity of the election.
He is alleging a massive conspiracy, thereby creating a massive challenge for the news media. Trump has been planting seeds for over a year, warning supporters not to trust the government, the polls or the media, because it's all rigged, he says.
In April, he started saying this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But the system, folks, is rigged. It's a rigged, disgusting, dirty system.
(END VIDEO CLIP) STELTER: That was a response to Ted Cruz winning delegates in that convoluted primary process.
But, as we all know, Trump prevailed, so I guess the system wasn't disgusting after all? Well, guess again. In August, Trump began to talk about the general election being stolen from him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And I'm afraid the election is going to be rigged. I have to be honest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: The subtext here is that Trump is a winner, and he can't possibly be a loser, unless it's somebody else's fault.
So, he kept planting more and more seeds, like right here on Sean Hannity's show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS CHANNEL)
TRUMP: And I'm telling you, November 8, we better be careful, because that election is going to be rigged. And I hope the Republicans are watching closely, or it's going to be taken away from us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: The first couple of times that he said this, it was news. It was very disturbing news. It got a lot of attention.
But, over time, the repetition, Trump's lies about election rigging, have become a form of background noise, more of the same. And this is a propaganda technique, whether Trump knows it or not.
If you say something often enough, if you plant enough seeds, people start to wonder, will my vote matter? Will it actually count?
Now, you probably didn't hear this next Trump seed, because it's from Monday of this week, just one day after the second debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Even the polls are crooked.
We have to make sure that this election is not stolen from us and is not taken away from us.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: And everybody knows what I'm talking about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: "Everybody knows what I'm talking about." He's in the suburbs of Philadelphia there. Now, if you read right- wing Web sites that wrongly claim there is widespread voter fraud in places like Philadelphia, then you might know what Trump is talking about.
But that remark, "We have to make sure the election is not stolen from us," mostly escaped scrutiny.
CNN only played the clip once up until now. Now, the anchor who did play it, Brianna Keilar, to her credit, did not let Trump supporter Peter King dodge her question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: I don't know if there's no evidence or not. I'm just saying I do know there have been instances in the past where there have been voter...
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, there isn't.
KING: No, there have been instances where there have been serious allegations of voter fraud.
KEILAR: He's talking -- he's talking about widespread voter fraud that would swing an election in a state where polls show he is down considerably. I mean, what he is saying has no basis in reality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Brianna is right, and we need to keep saying it.
We, as a country, cannot allow ourselves to become numb to this. We, as a media, cannot shrug it off as old news, because the real danger here is that, when Trump lies to his supporters about the others who are trying to steal the election, some of his supporters believe him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our lives depend on this election. Our kids' futures depend on this election. For me personally, if Hillary Clinton gets in, I, myself, I'm ready for a revolution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Mike Pence was on stage, and he did try to temper her concerns. Watch what he said to her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MIKE PENCE (R-IN), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's a revolution coming on November the 8th. I promise you. There's...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are we going to do to safeguard our votes?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: So she said there, "What are we going to do to safeguard our votes? "
This is the whole ball game, and this is what I really want to say. I'm proud that journalists are standing up, individually, speaking up in ways that we rarely see. They're not anti-Trump. They're pro- democracy.
Julie Pace, writing for the AP today, says: "Trump's claims about vote-rigging made without evidence undercuts the essence of American democracy."
Ashley Parker, writing for "The New York Times," says: "We haven't seen a candidate from one of the two major parties try to cast doubt on the entire democratic process and system of government since the brink of the Civil War."
Now, I know Trump supporters claim to dismiss those sources, so that is why conservative journalists have to play a role here, and conservative commentators, too.
On the day after President Obama's reelection, Sean Hannity accepted the result.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS CHANNEL)
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY": And, tonight, the 2012 race for the White House has been called in Obama's favor. And the voice and the will of the people were heard and felt last night.
America wanted Barack Obama for four more years. And now we have him.
By the way, good look with that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Let's remember that sound bite. Will Hannity accept the results if Clinton prevails three weeks from now? Will he?
What is happening right now is a test. It's a test for our voting system, run by the states, by the way, not the federal government. Our voting system is run by Republicans and Democrats, with thousands of volunteers and layers of oversight.
When there's voter fraud, when it rarely happens, it's investigated. So, it's a test for our system. But what's happening is also a test for journalism. There is a lot the media can do to instill confidence in our election system.
This might include phone banks or online tools on Election Day giving people easy ways to report possible fraud or voter intimidation. This should also include frequent reminders that voter fraud is rare and that it is investigated and prosecuted. I think, right now, in this dangerous moment, we have an obligation to
you, the audience, because, actually, Trump has peddled this stuff before. On the night President Obama was reelected, Trump threw a tantrum on Twitter.
And he said: "This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy."
The next day, he tweeted four words that we have all come to know. Listen to this. He wrote, "We have to make America great again."
Mr. Trump, think of your children. America is great partly because everyone accepts the results of elections, for decades in the past and hopefully for decades to come. Inventing a conspiracy theory is no way to make America great again.
Coming up here on RELIABLE SOURCES: the intimate departure of Billy Bush, just part of the fallout at NBC News over its handling of that infamous Trump "Access Hollywood" tape -- new reporting right after the break.
STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.
Developing this morning, NBC negotiating Billy Bush's exit from the network. And it will probably cost the network millions of dollars. His departure could be announced as early as Monday.
And that's all a result of that leaked "Access Hollywood" tape. Of course, it came out nine days ago showing Bush and Donald Trump making lewd and sexually aggressive comments about women.
Because it leaked before NBC broadcast it, "Washington Post" media columnist Margaret Sullivan says NBC's explanations about what happened still don't add up.
And Margaret rejoins me now from Margaret.
Margaret, what are the unsolved mysteries of this tape and its release?
SULLIVAN: Well, the whole thing still seems rather strange, that the -- NBC now says that they were planning to let their entertainment side, "Access Hollywood," actually break that story and that the news division would follow.
And they're not really clear on when that was going to happen. You know, they were sitting on a huge story, and, understandably, they had lawyers looking at it. That's completely understandable. The legal implications were bigger for NBC than they would be for "The Washington Post." It was their material.
But once the lawyers signed off, it seems as though you would want to get that on the air very fast, and that didn't happen.
STELTER: It seems like NBC has had a tortured relationship with Trump. Right? They had that Matt Lauer interview that was pretty easy on him. They had Fallon playing with Trump's hair on the entertainment side.
They have also got Seth Meyers, who has been very critical. I have heard that Trump and his aides think this was the head of NBC out to get him by leaking this tape.
Do we have any evidence about who might have possibly leaked it to "The Washington Post"?
SULLIVAN: I have no idea, Brian. I can -- I'm not hiding anything. I just don't know.
STELTER: It's a mystery.
SULLIVAN: It is.
STELTER: Let me also ask you about a big development this week, the Committee to Protect Journalists issuing an unprecedented statement, saying that Donald Trump is a threat to press freedom.
What did you make of this statement, and does it start to prove Trump supporters right when they say the media is out to get this candidate?
SULLIVAN: That was a big deal for the Committee to Protect Journalists, Brian.
In fact, it's the subject of my column that will publish tonight into tomorrow. I talked to the chairwoman of CPJ, Sandy Rowe, about it. They just don't get into politics, not nationally, not internationally. But they felt so strongly that Trump is a threat to the First Amendment and to press freedom and to journalists that they just had to say something. And they made a very strong statement.
STELTER: We will look for your column tonight.
Margaret, thank you for being here this morning.
SULLIVAN: Thanks, Brian.
STELTER: And we will be right back with our panel of Trump biographers. Stay tuned. We will be right back.
STELTER: All right, let's end where we began this morning, bringing back our roundtable of Trump biographers, Timothy O'Brien, author of "TrumpNation." He's also the executive editor at Bloomberg View. Michael D'Antonio, the author of "Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success," and Brad Thomas, author of "The Trump Factor: Unlocking the Secrets Behind the Trump Empire."
Brad, let me start with you.
The debate on Wednesday, the final debate, first of all, do you think it will be the highest rated debate yet, or are people just sick and tired of this stuff by now?
THOMAS: Brian, I'm predicting this will be a record turnout.
I think we're really getting closer and closer. And, you know, I really think three weeks away, we have seen all the media. You have covered it great on the show today, by the way.
THOMAS: And I think what we're going to see is, you know, voters really wanting to focus on the most important elements of this election.
And really, obviously, we're hearing all the media every day on both sides of the ticket. And I think what voters really want to see from this debate are the most important things, the security of this country and the financial security of this country.
And those to me are the two most important things. And I hope that is what we're going to see this coming week.
STELTER: Michael, let me ask you.
I sort of in the back of my mind always thought that Trump might bring up Bill Clinton's accusers at the third and final debate, that he was kind of keeping that in his back pocket. Since he did that at the second debate, are you expect something else, something lower?
D'ANTONIO: Well, he is the king of stunts, so I wouldn't want to predict what he might do.
I think they are looking for something to pull off. This is the last ditch for him, the last stand. And I don't think that he has anything to say in terms of policy or politics that are going to matter. This is a personality-driven affair. It always has been. So, if there is something, he's going to use it. That's for sure.
STELTER: Does it matter, Tim, that it's a FOX News moderator, Chris Wallace, this time?
O'BRIEN: I think FOX actually has done a good job throughout the debates.
I thought Chris Wallace and Megyn Kelly were aggressive inquisitors in the very first debate.
O'BRIEN: I think -- and it's a tough job, as everybody knows.
I think the issue is, you have got a candidate now who is essentially a flamethrower. He's really ready to just burn it down with the media, with the political process. I do hope, if he continues with the media, that the courts step in, in an authoritative way and bounce any of these frivolous lawsuits that he files, because we're at a moment where institutions have to stand up for themselves, the media, the courts, the political process, and say, we have someone on our hands here who is willing to blow it up to serve himself.
And it's a dangerous thing.
STELTER: He is acting like an arsonist. And I don't we should shy away from saying that.
STELTER: What do you think the media then should do on an institutional basis, right?
It's one thing for individuals to say it or the Committee to Protect Journalists. Are there things you think the media should be doing, without playing into his hands and acting like they're colluding?
O'BRIEN: I think generally what the media has always done. I know the media is not the most favored institution in the minds of voters or the GOP. There's a long history of that.
But what the media should do is report the facts, stay on the trail with Donald Trump, stay on the trail with Hillary Clinton, report it through, and really do -- continue to do a service to the American voter, which is to analyze Donald Trump for what he is, not what he says he is.
D'ANTONIO: I think the facts also include the attempted intimidation of the reporters at these rallies.
I think it's time for the cameras to be turned on these people who are snarling at reporters, who are threatening them physically.
STELTER: There was a sign left at one of the rallies with a swastika and the word "Media" on it. Reporters who are on the trail every day tell me, the vitriol does seem to be increasing. It used to be that when Trump would attack the media, that's when the crowd would boo at the journalists. Now it's the crowd that is starting to boo the journalists before Trump even arrives.
D'ANTONIO: I think it's a matter of safety.
STELTER: You do?
D'ANTONIO: These people are at risk. I have experienced it in past campaigns, but this is worse.
STELTER: Let me ask Brad about that, if you don't mind, because, Brad, you were at one of these rallies on Friday.
What was your sense of the crowd's treatment of the media? Did it make you uncomfortable?
THOMAS: No, it really didn't.
And, again, I don't consider myself, Brian, actually media. I'm a business analyst. I cover real estate.
STELTER: But when you're watching the crowd boo and when you're hearing them chant "CNN sucks," let's state, they are allowed to say whatever they want. And that's what I love about it.
But when you see that, when you hear the vitriol, does it worry you about consequences, even violence?
THOMAS: Honestly, I would not consider myself harmed or be compromised if I were sitting back there with some of the media.
You know, I don't really think -- I would not feel harmed in that way. I have been to a number of rallies. And I feel very secure in these rallies. Again, I have probably attended 20 or 30 rallies over the last year, and I do not feel insecure at all.
STELTER: So, Michael, it sounds like you're more concerned than Brad is about the potential for violence at these rallies.
D'ANTONIO: If you're not in that so-called press pen, and you don't have the faces, the spitting, angry faces turned toward you with fists raised, you're not going to feel threatened.
But these are -- some of these reporters are young and they are vulnerable. And I think, even just walking into these events, the reporters I know who cover them, they Hear stuff that, you know, you wouldn't hear in a locker room, to use a Donald Trump expression.
STELTER: That is absolutely the case.
Michael, Tim, Brad, thank you all for being here this morning. Great talking with you.
D'ANTONIO: Thanks, Brian.
STELTER: That's all for this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES.
But our media coverage keeps going all the time at CNNMoney.com. I have a brand-new article up right now about how Trump is equating the media to Clinton and why that's wrong.
You can sign up for our newsletter, our RELIABLE SOURCES newsletter, delivered to your inbox every afternoon, every night, really. So, subscribe.
And I will see you next week.