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Leaks and Falsehoods Out of the White House; Justice Department May Go After Reporters on Leaks; 200 Days Since Solo Trump Press Conference; Bombshell Lawsuit Alleges Fox News Concocted Seth Rich Story; Longtime Fox Host Eric Bolling Suspended. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired August 6, 2017 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:06] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Hey. I'm Brian Stelter. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is RELIABLE SOURCES, our weekly look at the story behind the story, of how the media really works and how the news gets made.

Several developing stories rights now.

Fox News host Eric Bolling suspended over allegations that he sent several inappropriate pics to several female colleagues.

Plus, the search for a new Mooch intensifies. Who will be the next White House communications director? Stephen Miller now said to be in the running.

Plus, we have breaking news from Vice President Mike Pence. He is calling a "New York Times" story absurd and offensive. We'll have that coming up.

But first, how leaks to reporters are revealing White House lies. Remember the emails proving that Donald Trump Jr. was willing to collude with Russia? President Trump tried to help his son Don Jr. explain away that meeting with a Russian lawyer. Were they trying to cover it up?

Now, first, one of the president's lawyers, Jay Sekulow, went all over television and denied everything. He denied that the president was involved at all.


JAY SEKULOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: The president didn't sign off on anything. He was coming back from the G20. The president wasn't involved in that.

The president -- but I do want to be clear, the president was not involved in the drafting of the statement and did not issue the statement.

Let's focus on what the president was aware of. Nothing.


STLTER: Those denials held up for a couple of weeks, until "The Washington Post" reported that in fact it was the president himself who dictated Don Jr.'s misleading statements. Members of the Trump's own inner circle were the sources for the story. And Sarah Huckabee Sanders eventually acknowledged that he had a hand in the statement.

Now, the special counsel Robert Mueller's team has issued grand jury subpoenas related to that June 2016 meeting.

Then, there's the matter of phone calls or actually claims of phone calls that never happened. On Monday, the president claimed this about the president of Mexico.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And even the president of Mexico called me. They said their southern border, very few people are coming because they're not going to get through our border, which is the ultimate compliment.


STELTER: Now, that call was false. We'll get to how we know that.

Then in the leaked transcript of the president's interview with "The Wall Street Journal", we heard Trump insisting that he, quote, got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying his speech at the jamboree was the greatest speech that was ever made to them and they were very thankful. You remember the uproar about that speech.

It turns out to them neither of those phone calls actually happened and the White House eventually had to admit it. The Boy Scouts not only stood by their CEO's earlier statement apologizing for the political rhetoric of the president's speech, the organization said they were unaware of any phone call from national leadership placed to the White House.

When it comes to Mexico, officials there were quick to respond about the alleged call to the Mexican president, saying in a statement that President Enrique Pena Nieto has not been in recent communication via telephone with President Donald Trump. So, all this statement were acknowledged by the White House.

We heard from Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying, actually, they weren't phone calls at all. Watch.


REPORTER: He specifically said that he received a phone call from the president of Mexico.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: They were actually direct -- they were direct conversations, not actual phone calls.

REPORTER: So, he lied? He didn't that --

SANDERS: I wouldn't say it was a lie. That's pretty bold accusations. The conversations took place, they just simply didn't take place over a phone call, that he had them in person.


STELTER: This matters because credibility matters. Who you can trust matters and it matters because small lies can beget bigger and bigger lies.

Joining me to dissect all of it, an all star panel. Dick Tofel, the president of "ProPublica", Jeff Greenfield, a long time political analyst and columnist, and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the director of the Annenberg Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

Welcome to all of you.

I noticed this week, a big increase in the number of times on television reporters were saying words like lie.

Jeff Greenfield, is this -- is this a change in tone, a change in tenor --


STELTER: -- when we have examples that we can pretty clearly prove were falsehoods from the White House?

GREENFIELD: That's always been a nitroglycerine type term, as opposed to falsehoods, dissembling. And I think it was "The New York Times" that during the campaign that jumped over that line. It doesn't imply, it says this was intentional, or at best incredibly reckless.

And I think it shows a steady increase in how most of the press is now trying to say to its readers or viewers, look, we know that what this was was false and there's no way it could have been anything other than liberate. So, yes.

STELTER: Kathleen, when I harped on the president's misstatements, when other journalists focused on proven falsehoods, are we just playing into a narrative that the press is the opposition to this president?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON, DIRECTOR, ANNENBERG POLICY CENTER AT UPENN: I worry about the casual use of the word lie and I worry about "The New York Times" full page, I mean, a list of all the things it's characterizing as lies.

[11:05:01] And I worry about using the word when we clearly don't know that it was deliberate. I think it's important to clarify that when something is misstated, we get accurate the information. But saying that something is a lie is really putting in an entirely different box.

What the Trump administration tends to do is move statements, when they're accused of, quote/unquote, lying, by saying, wait a minute, it actually has some basis in fact, and here it is. And to move into areas in which they can't -- you can't falsify the claim. So, note that Sarah Huckabee Sanders says those conversations did happen, they happen in person.

Well, the important question is, did they happen at all, not how they did happen? If they happened, but didn't happen by phone, I wouldn't call that a lie. I look at the substance of it and say, did they happen at all? We don't know if they happened at all because you can't falsify the claim.

STELTER: Now, what about Jay Sekulow on the shows back in July as saying that the president had no involvement writing that misleading Don Jr. statement? Dick Tofel, we learned this week through "The Washington Post" and acknowledged by the White House that that was untrue. Sekulow said it over and over again on CNN and other channels.

So, put yourself as a head of a television network. Should Sekulow be invited back on these shows?

RICHARD TOFEL, PRESIDENT, PROPUBLICA: You know, if it were up to me, Brian, I would have a one free bite rule. You tell us a lie in a venue, you don't get invited back.

I want to say in fairness to Mr. Sekulow, it's not at all clear to me following up on Kathleen's point, that that was a lie. It's possible that he asked his client, the president, what had happened, and the president told him an untruth. You know, it is -- I mean, that's not great lawyering.

STELTER: You say that's troubling as well. Yes.

TOFEL: But it's not a lie.

STELTER: Yes. We went with true and false on the screen, instead of lie, the flasher on the screen, because we wanted to have this kind of internal discussion. But, yes, on television, we're hearing the L- word more and more in general.

GREENFIELD: I'll tell you what concerns me, is that it is possible that as far as the president himself is concerned, he's never lying, and that's scary.

STELTER: Never lying. How?

GREENFIELD: In the sense that he believes that because he has said something or thinks something, it is by definition true. I'd much rather have a president who knew he was disassembling than one whose distortion of reality is so great that he thinks that he got phone calls that he didn't get, that he counted crowds that weren't there.

I'll give an inelegant example, if in my earlier life, a woman had said to me, that was fun and I heard you're the greatest lover in the history of the world, that would be more troublesome than if I was just lying to friends about had happened, I think. And on a more serious note, that concerns me about the president.

STELTER: You're getting to his emotional state. You're talking about his emotional well-being. GREENFIELD: I'm getting to whether he processes reality in a way

that, you know, I saw thousands of Muslims cheering the fall of the towers. I think he may have thought he saw that, and that's scary.


JAMIESON: Let's be careful -- yes, let's be careful. I don't think Donald Trump said Muslims in that statement. Now, we as humans tend to migrate into our narratives as we recount things. We all have, you know, the human disposition to seek things that we agree with and to find the ways to conform reality of what we'd like it to be.

But one thing that's important that happened in this last week that I think we need to flag is that General Kelly is trying to minimize the likelihood that misinformation gets to Donald Trump. So, if under Jeff's scenario, he's enveloped himself in a like-minded world in which he doesn't see disconfirming evidence and a whole lot of suspect material gets to him he's inclined to believe, then by General Kelly trying to vet everything that comes to his desk and inside his range of vision, General Kelly's doing something really important.

STELTER: So, that's happening on the one hand, according to "Politico", this attempt to improve the information the president's getting. On the other hand, he's at Bedminster for the next two and a half weeks. He has a lot of time to watch FOX News, to watch the pro- Trump shows on FOX News that feed him a very distorted (ph) narrative.

There's also this new development, just in the past hour or so that I want to show all of you. Kayleigh McEnany, who was recently a CNN commentator, seems to have joined the Trump re-election campaign. She's in a new video on Trump's Facebook page this morning presenting what looks a lot like a newscast.

Let's watch and then discuss.


KAYLEIGH MCENANY, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Hey, everybody. I'm Kayleigh McEnany. Thank you for joining us as we provide you the news of the week from Trump Tower here in New York.

More great economic news on Friday. The July jobs report added a better than expected 209,000 jobs.


STELTER: Looks like a newscast, has the graphical appearance, it sounds like a newscast. But, obviously, Jeff Greenfield, it's a promotional effort either for the Donald Trump re-election campaign or the Republican national committee.


STELTER: What do you make of it?

GREENFIELD: Not much. I mean, you look at what's behind here. Campaigns have been trying to do news-like videos ever since there was video. So, in the scheme of things, that doesn't strike me as a particularly bothersome problem.

[11:10:00] STELTER: But the president's railed against fake news. Isn't this a sign that he wants to create his own version, he'd rather make his own newscast?

GREENFIELD: Yes. All I'm saying is that one seems to me in the long tradition if not entirely noble tradition of political campaign propaganda. I think we've got much bigger issues facing us.

STELTER: All right. Dick, you agree?

TOFEL: Yes. I -- you know, if that were being done by the government, it would be enormously troubling. If it's being done by --


TOFEL: -- a political campaign, you know, I think as Jeff says it's pretty much politics as usual.

STELTER: One other development in the past hour, Vice President Mike Pence reacting to a "New York Times" story. You all saw this front page "Times" story that said maybe Pence is making some quiet preparations for a 2020 run just in case President Trump doesn't run for re-election. What was your reaction, Jeff, to that story before we get into Pence's response?

GREENFIELD: Two things. Please, can we not cover the 2020 campaign in 2017? I mean, it's like kids yelling are we there yet, when you haven't pulled out of the driveway.

But no --


STELTER: Pence is planning for it and if others are planning, shouldn't the press cover that?

GREENFIELD: You know, the one story is, well, maybe this isn't 2020. Maybe, they're getting ready for 2024.

Look, is it conceivable that the disruptive nature of the Trump presidency is creating a reality we haven't seen before, where people are hedging their bets? Yes. But I just got to tell you, if we start focusing on this now, everybody's going to be in a rest home before the Iowa caucuses begin.

TOFEL: But it is true, Brian, nevertheless, that the vice president is in a uniquely challenging situation. If the president is in the kind of serious trouble that on some days it looks like he might be, particularly with the special counsel -- the vice president, the way I would sum it up is this, the vice president needs to end up at the end of this process, if he's going to become the president of the United States, in the position that Gerald Ford was and not in the position that, for instance, Spiro Agnew might have been, had that gone a different way.

You want to be able to say if that's the way the cards fall, that our long national nightmare is over. You don't want to have been part of the long national nightmare.

STELTER: The statement from Mike Pence, and I think we can put it on screen for you, Kathleen, take a look here. It says in part: Today's article in "The New York Times" is disgraceful and offensive to me and my family and our entire team. The allegations in this article are categorically false. It represents just the latest attempt by the media to divide this administration.

It makes a lot of sense why Pence would come out and deny this story. He wants to show a united front with President Trump. The story was mostly based on anonymous sources.

Kathleen, your reaction?

JAMIESON: I wish we'd instead be focusing on the question, what is the role of the vice president in relationship to the president, what his role in formulating policy, what are his positions on the president's positions and is he doing anything to increase the likelihood that accurate, good information with alternative points of view is getting to the commander-in-chief as he makes consequential decisions.

As for what's going to happen in the future, tactically about whether he's going to run for something or not, I'd prefer to start looking at that at the point which people start announcing and not displace news time that could be used to ask more important questions.

STELTER: Meantime, a new battle begins the Trump and the press with Pence calling "The Times" disgraceful.

Kathleen, Dick, thank you very much. Jeff, please stick around later in the program here.

After the break, a lot of news to get to. Stephen Miller potentially in line for a communications job. Why one word he used at the White House press briefing this week raised a lot of eyebrows.

Plus, all the leaks we've seen from the administration. Jeff Sessions announcing a new crackdown on leaks. We're going to debate, what should be done if anything about these leaks right after a quick break.


[11:17:31] STELTER: Here's the thing about leaks. Sometimes when you try to plug one hole, you end up creating a lot more. Stephen Colbert had fun with this idea. You can see that skit right here.

But it's true in real life as well, as this poor plumber found out the hard way.

Why do leaks happen? They happen because something's gone wrong. Something's gone rotten or corroded. In Washington, they happen sometimes for petty reasons, revenge, or one-upmanship. But sometimes it's a reaction to unethical, or even illegal behavior, calling a reporter is a way to expose wrongdoing, it's a way to alert the public to problematic behavior, to blow the figurative whistle.

Now, President Trump lashes out when he hears that whistle. He wants it silenced. This is what he said on July 25th.


TRUMP: I want the attorney general to be much tougher on the leaks from intelligence agencies which are leaking like rarely have they ever leaked before at a very important level. I told you before I'm very disappointed with the attorney general, but we will see what happens.


STELTER: And we did see what happened on Friday when Jeff Sessions responded by holding an anti-leaks press event, announcing a tripling of leak investigations and pledging to prosecute leakers. The DOJ is even leaving the door open to possible prosecutions of journalists, although the organization is saying it's focused on the leakers.

Now, Sessions walked out of the event without answering a single question.


REPORTER: Mr. Attorney General, are you planning to prosecute journalists?


STELTER: Now, there are many different kinds of leaks, some are just about palace intrigue and infighting, but others are national security related. These are 18 stories based on anonymous stories and leaks just from the past week. There was a torrent of them, including two full transcripts of President Trump's early conversations with the leaders of Mexico and Australia.

That leak to "The Washington Post" was extraordinary and concerned a lot of people. Some say it crossed a line. Others say we need a lot more of those leaks not less.

Joining me now, Matt Schlapp, he's the chairman of the American Conservative Union and former political director to President George W. Bush. And Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation and a columnist for "The Guardian" and Columbia Journalism Review.

Trevor, what was your reaction to Jeff Sessions' event on Friday?

[11:20:04] TREVOR TIMM, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FREEDOM OF THE PRESS FOUNDATION: Well, I think Jeff Sessions press conference was incredibly disturbing on multiple levels. You know, as you mentioned in the opening, he said that they were going to triple the amount of leak investigations from the Obama administration. The Obama administration actually prosecuted more whistleblowers and leakers than all other administrations combined.

STELTER: That's right.

TIMM: So, I think it's incredibly concerning that he's going to even increase that amount.

But I think further, you know, he talked about how he was going to revisit the guidelines for issuing subpoenaing journalists, which is incredibly dangerous to the rights of reporters everywhere.

STELTER: Tell us why. Tell us what that would mean.

TIMM: Well, you know, there are strict rules in place in the Justice Department that prevent them from issuing subpoenas to have journalists testify except in very, very rare cases and what Jeff Sessions is essentially indicating is that he wants to call more reporters to the sand and essentially force them into jail if they refuse to testify. And then as you mentioned, they also refused to rule out prosecuting journalists directly, which is a huge First Amendment issue and would send a chill down the spine I think of any journalist in Washington or beyond.

STELTER: These officials are not saying it's going to happen, they're just keeping the door open to the possibility. Does that concern you, as well, Matt?

MATTH SCHLAPP, CHAIR, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: You know, I think what we heard from Rod Rosenstein this morning and what we heard from Jeff Sessions is that they are doing a review on what their authority is and what it is not. I do find it quite ironic that Obama can prosecute so many leakers but yet Jeff Sessions wants to continue this trend and it's a horrible travesty of the First Amendment.

STELTER: But we were very critical of Obama for doing that.

SCHLAPP: But I wasn't. I actually think --

STELTER: Why not?

SCHLAPP: Because I think -- there are leaks, there are whistleblowers and there are people that are exposing information that is illegal and sometimes criminal. And what General Kelly is coming into this West Wing and this White House is saying that you put your country first, you put your service to the president next, and understand that there are times when you are leaking information and if it's a crime, we're going to go after that crime. And I applaud him for that.


STELTER: Margaret Talev, who wrote that story is about to be on the show. She had a dozen sources quoted in her story. So, doesn't that mean that the White House aides leaked John Kelly's warning not to leak? SCHLAPP: Well, I know you guys have enjoyed the last six months of

leaks and the months before that, but for many of us around the country, we think there's too much information coming out of the West Wing in a spastic fashion, which does feed a lot of coverage. But it's really not helping them with their agenda. So, I'm a partisan. I'd like to see them succeed with their agenda.

This excessive amount of leaking to play one-upmanship with other people in the West Wing is actually hurting their agenda, it's demoralizing their supporters.

STELTER: You said you guys have enjoyed the last six months. I think journalists --

SCHLAPP: I mean the press.

STELTER: I know exactly what you mean. I think journalists no matter who they're covering, appreciate more information.

SCHLAPP: Of course.

STELTER: So it's a bipartisan situation.

SCHLAPP: You know, I read you and watch you to know what's going on in the West Wing. That's really never happened before. Usually, people who had friends working in the West Wing would know the true story. Sometimes you know the true story by reading these news accounts.

STELTER: And you're saying that's not necessarily the journalists' fault. That's the fault of the leakers inside the government?

SCHLAPP: Absolutely. Absolutely. That's the fault of the people in the administration who are putting themselves above the president's agenda.

STELTER: Let's take a look, Trevor, at something we saw from -- actually from -- I was going to say this week, but it's a daily occurrence on Fox News, on Sean Hannity's program. We decide to look at one night's program, Friday night, and how Hannity talked about the so-called deep state. Check this out.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: The deep state. The deep state. I have been warning you every night for months. The deep state. Deep state. The deep state. Deep state. Deep state. Deep state. Deep state. The deep state. The deep state. This is the greatest challenge of our time and I don't overstate this.


STELTER: Hannity says he's not overstating it, Trevor. I'm curious what you think the impact of that daily repetition from Sean Hannity is, knowing that the president is an avid viewer of Hannity's. TIMM: Well, look, I think there's two separate issues here. One, our

intelligence agencies should certainly be more transparent and held more accountable. That is held true in the Trump administration and administrations in the past.

But I think the real point here is that journalists have the ability and the right to publish classified information in the public interest and have exercised that right, thankfully, for the past four or five decades. And we have a situation here where, you know, take for example, "The Washington Post" story, which caused so much controversy this week, where Donald Trump is -- basically admitted in this transcript that one of his signature campaign promises to have Mexico pay for the wall was a complete fraud.

And people are arguing that this is damaging to national security. But there is -- if you read the transcripts, there's literally nothing in there that's even remotely sensitive.

[11:25:04] And, you know, the broader point here is that Trump is claiming that scoop after scoop by "The New York Times," "The Washington Post" is fake news. And these reporters have the right and almost the obligation when information comes their way, to publish it, to refute those lies. And I think that we have seen incredible work by these newspapers. And we have to remember --

STELTER: Did you notice that yesterday, the president tweeted a favorable "Washington Post" story about ISIS? It was favorable to him, so he shared that so-called fake news story.

Matt, last word to you?

SCHLAPP: Yes, real quickly here, Brian -- we have a 200-year history where administrations have been able to talk to reporters when our national security is at stake with information. And there have been Democrat presidents and Republican presidents who have talked to journalists, who have decided at times not to print things.

This is not carte blanche. There are times when journalists, too, have to use their best discretion. Remember, just because you get a leak from the West Wing doesn't mean it's accurate. My big test for all of you is, make sure it's accurate. I'm not judging the fact that it's always inaccurate. But when you're talking about our national security, you better get it right.

STELTER: Matt, Trevor, thank you both very much.

Speaking of leaks, this is just amazing. One of the reasons why the West Wing has been renovated, why they moved people out for a couple weeks, is because of a leak in the ceiling they are trying to repair it.

Up next, we're going to go out to New Jersey where the president's staying during the West Wing renovations? The new head of the White House Correspondents Association standing by. We'll talk with her right after this.



STELTER: Hey. Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.

One thing missing from President Trump's pre-vacation checklist was a meeting with the press.

Unlike many of his predecessors, Trump didn't hold a press conference before departing for his August vacation that he says is not a vacation at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey. In fact, he hasn't had a press conference, a solo press conference, since the middle of February.

Now, he has held some joint sessions, but, as for solo press conferences, take a look here. You can see, by 200 days in office, his predecessors had held anywhere between three and like 18 pressers, while he's only held one.

Solo press conferences are something special. Sometimes, Obama and others even held them in prime time in order to reach millions of viewers. But President Trump? He prefers rallies with his fans instead.

Joining me now from near Bedminster is Margaret Talev. She is the senior White House correspondent for Bloomberg News and the new president of the White House Correspondents Association.

Margaret, congrats on your new role.

MARGARET TALEV, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Thank you. Good morning, Brian.

STELTER: I know you have been pressing for a press conference.

Do you have any sense that the president will try to hold one at some point soon?

TALEV: Yes, I do. I'm hopeful that he will. And I think it's something that the White House actually was probably considering in this lead-up to his departure for Bedminster.

STELTER: I heard that, yes.

TALEV: I can only speculate as to the reasons -- yes.

I can only speculate as to some of the factors that may go into his preference for other formats. But you're right to say that he has done a fair number of these with the foreign leader visits and has sort of a mixed record on the foreign trips. That's another venue where there's a long tradition of solo news conferences, as well as joint news conferences.

And you will remember, on that first nine-day trip, the one that -- he was dancing with swords in Saudi Arabia and such, there was not a news conference. But they did move -- they have been moving in that direction since. So that's a good sign. We appreciate that. I think the White House

does think that he has his own way of communicating with folks. But, as President Obama found -- and he would often be sort of reluctant to do these long, hour-long news conferences -- a president is not completely on the defense in these events.


TALEV: He can also use these things to shape his own message.

And so if the president and his team feel a level of confidence that they have a proactive message to get out, that they can use these events to kind of tamp down or deal with pent-up steam, that's historically been an opportunity to do that.

So, in addition to the press obviously being like, yes, let's have a news conference, there is actually an upside to a White House that manages it well.

STELTER: You wrote about new Chief of Staff John Kelly in a new Bloomberg story this morning. Your story cited 12 sources inside the administration and around the administration.

Partly, your story says Kelly urged the staff not to leak.

So, did these aides leak to you about the order not to leak?

TALEV: OK, so I think there's a leak, and then there's a leak, right?

And I hope what the attorney Jeff Sessions -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his team are focused on are leaks of classified material that's of sensitive national security import, that is such an extreme situation that they would actually need to turn it into a law enforcement event.

Internal discussions about meetings that hundreds of people attended are not really leaks. They're just people talking on background about politics.

STELTER: All right.

TALEV: And I actually think that -- I actually think that some of the kind of high points that we were able to report on are messages that both the president and his new chief of staff probably do want out.

The idea that he's promoting country first and the president's personal political situation second is probably important, as is this question that all of us have been trying to get to, which is, will General Kelly's discipline on any way touch on the president's tweeting proclivities, or just the outside staff?

STELTER: So, let me find out how this works in my minute left.

You're there near Bedminster, but you're not on the resort grounds. Will you ever be able to see the president during this 17-day vacation? How does it work? (LAUGHTER)

TALEV: I certainly...


TALEV: I certainly hope so.

And we have urged the White House to give us at least a little bit of insight into how he's spending his time and just what the grounds look like. What does his workspace look like?

We know General Kelly and a couple of other staff, deputy national security adviser and the staff secretary, have been up at the Bedminster compound this weekend.


We expect other officials to come and go. And we are hopeful that we can show ourselves and also the American people what his work environment looks like, as he said it's not a vacation because he's working.

So, I think we would like to see his office. And I hope we all get a chance to do that.

STELTER: But, basically, isn't it that, like, golfers and wedding guests at Bedminster are the main people...

TALEV: Right.

STELTER: ... that are our eyes and ears now, because what we see on Instagram of the president in his golf cart ends up being our main information source?

TALEV: That's -- right.

And that's certainly how it worked at Mar-a-Lago. When we would be at the press hotel or out on the causeway, we would be checking Instagram to try to find out what was really getting on there.

I can't imagine that's the message the White House wants to be sending long-term, when he is planing on having these summer and winter kind of events at his properties. If they really are off-campus White Houses, then, hopefully, they will accept a tradition of coverage of them as such.

STELTER: I think you and I need to get a Bedminster membership. Can we expense that?


TALEV: I don't think so.

STELTER: That might be one solution.

TALEV: But they have really good food over at the Marriott, if you want to come hang out at the cafe here.


STELTER: All right.

Margaret, please come back frequently. We would love to talk to you more about your year ahead as the president of the association.

Thanks for being here.

TALEV: Thanks. Thanks for having me. I would love to.

STELTER: No vacations here.

Sign up for our nightly newsletter, all the biggest media news delivered to your inbox every evening. We write it six days a week for you, and you can sign up right now at

Up next here: A new lawsuit filed this week asserts that the White House helped concoct a fake news story, in collusion with FOX News. It's a strange story and we will explain of it to you right after this break.



STELTER: This weekend, FOX News scrambling to find a fill-in for Eric Bolling, the network's 5:00 p.m. host now suspended because a Huff Post story came out alleging he sent graphic pictures to female colleagues several years ago.

His lawyer denies it, but an investigation is now under way by the same law firm that looked into all the harassment allegations against Roger Ailes.

FOX's lawyers are also busy with this, a bombshell lawsuit alleging FOX News contributor Rod Wheeler was defamed back in May. The suit the Trump White House knew about the story. And there's even a suggestion that the president wrote a draft in advance.

Oliver Darcy is here to explain what this is all about. He's a senior media reporter here at CNN.

All right, Oliver, Wheeler is a former D.C. homicide detective. He was hired to investigate the circumstances around Seth Rich's murder. So, first off, who was Seth Rich?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: So, Seth Rich was a Democratic staffer who was shot to death last year as he was walking the streets very late at night.

There were some suggestions that he was disgruntled, but there's nothing really that we have to prove to those. And right when he was shot to death, there were these conspiracy theories that started circulating, saying that he was the one who leaked thousands of documents to WikiLeaks from the Democratic National Committee.

STELTER: That it was him, that it wasn't Russian hackers, that it was this disgruntled staffer.

DARCY: Right. That's exactly correct.

And it kind of circulated for a little bit and died down. But what happened was FOX News ran a story back in May which claimed to show, evidence that they had a federal investigator who told them that the FBI had looked into this and that there was evidence that he leaked the documents.

STELTER: What we didn't know at the time was that FOX News story, which was later retracted and discredited, used Wheeler -- Wheeler was quoted in the story. But what we didn't know was that this donor, this Dallas businessman named Ed Butowsky, had been helping Wheeler, financing Wheeler's work, and encouraging and to publish the story.

Now we know that. Why is that so significant?

DARCY: Well, it's significant, one, because Butowsky has some ties to the administration, right?

STELTER: To Steve Bannon, for example.

DARCY: Exactly, and Sean Spicer.

Sean Spicer took a meeting with Ed Butowsky to talk -- well, they did end up talking about the Seth Rich conspiracy theory for some time.

STELTER: Let's pause right there.

In April, in the White House, Sean Spicer and this donor and this FOX News contributor are talking about a conspiracy theory involving the DNC.

DARCY: Right.

And, actually, what was interesting was, when FOX News published the story and Sean Spicer was asked about it, he said he didn't know anything about this Democratic staffer, and he didn't get updates on them.

But, previously, he had apparently been briefed on the investigation personally by the private investigator investigating Seth Rich's death and Ed Butowsky.


And he told you it was no big deal and there was no follow-up. The lawsuit alleges that there was follow-up.

Let's keep going with this. NPR's David Folkenflik broke the news of this lawsuit this week. Let's put up a quote from his story, Folkenflik saying here that, that

Butowsky -- that the suit alleges that Butowsky was doing this under the watchful eye of the White House.

So, what evidence is there actually that the White House had anything to do with this, other than that one Sean Spicer meeting?

DARCY: Well, there's a voice-mail from Butowsky left to Rod Wheeler, the private investigator, saying that we have the White House's full attention.

And, apparently, after he sent the voice-mail, he sent Rod Wheeler a text message saying the president had personally reviewed a draft of the FOX News story.

STELTER: Which seems so farfetched.

DARCY: Right. And Butowsky told me was joking and it was all like part of the larger joke that he had with Wheeler.


DARCY: But Wheeler saying, no, it was apparently serious.

STELTER: So, this week -- actually, I think, Friday night -- or Thursday night -- I can't keep all this straight -- CNN's Chris Cuomo interviewed Wheeler.

Here's what he said about the evidence involving the White House.


ROD WHEELER, FOUNDER, ROD WHEELER & ASSOCIATES: I have no idea. All I can tell you is what Butowsky told me. And that's the fact that the White House is all over this and the president wants this out.


STELTER: So that's what Wheeler says.

What's next in this suit?

DARCY: Well, we have to wait to see kind of what happens.

STELTER: To see if there's discovery, to see if the lawyers get e- mails and stuff.

DARCY: Exactly. And they say they actually may want to interview the president of the United States, which seems farfetched.


But they're going to treat to, according to the lawyers, like any other case. And they want to interview and talk to anyone who has any relevant information. STELTER: I think the reason why this suit is disturbing, even though these are just unproven allegations, is it's not the first time the White House has been accused of using a friendly media outlet to its advantage, right?

Let's think about the Joe Scarborough example here. I think we can put on screen this claim from Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski that "The National Enquirer" was used as a weapon, that the Trump White House threatened Scarborough with that hit piece from "The Enquirer" in the hopes they would be nicer to the president.

Then there's also been reporting indicating that the White House has thought about how to use the AT&T/Time Warner merger in order to punish CNN, since CNN is a part of Time Warner.

So there's these other cases, there's other reporting involving about the Trump White House using friendly media outlets. I think that's why this suit got so much attention this week.

DARCY: Right.

And it's not unusual for a White House to go to friendly media to get a message out. But what is unusual to some extent is, in this case, you have Sean Hannity and the former president of FOX News, Bill Shine, and others dining with the president on a regular basis, it seems like.

And then you have Sean Hannity giving advice to the president of the United States. And you have Matt Drudge in the White House. So the level of -- I hate to say collusion -- but the level of collusion with conservative media to get these messages out and to discredit mainstream outlets like CNN and "The New York Times" is really something I don't think we have seen before.

STELTER: Different.

One other FOX News star who is a big fan of President Trump, Eric Bolling, I mentioned at the top here, he is now suspended. You tried to reach Bolling. What is he saying?


I sent him a text yesterday after this broke. And I didn't get a reply. And I don't think we received a reply from an e-mail as well.

STELTER: Yes. From his lawyer, the lawyer says it's untrue and unfair, but they are going to cooperate with the investigation because they want to get Eric back on television.

DARCY: Right. That's correct.

And right after this broke on Friday night, another person had come forward on the record saying that she had been subject to sexual harassment from Bolling. So it is going to be interesting to see, as this moves forward, if anyone else also comes forward. That's usually how these things end up working. STELTER: Yes. Think about it, Roger Ailes more than a year ago, Bill O'Reilly and the secret information about his settlements this spring. There is a FOX business host, Charles Payne, who has been suspended for a month because of harassment allegations, now Eric Bolling.

This may amount to nothing, or it may amount to something very big.

DARCY: What's important to note here is that FOX News did take some swift, decisive action in suspending Bolling immediately after they got word of this report.

What is important to note is that FOX News has another investigation into that Seth Rich story we talked about earlier. And they have been supposedly probing what happened for two months.

STELTER: About why the story was wrong, why it was retracted. But they have never had a follow-up.

DARCY: In that case, they have never followed up. We have no word of any disciplinary action that ever happened.

And they keep telling us that they will let us know, but so far, nothing, absolutely nothing.

STELTER: Oliver, great to see you.

DARCY: Thank you.

STELTER: Thanks very much.

You can read our stories on

And up next here, a closer view at what's being viewed now as kind of Stephen Miller's tryout for an interview in the White House communications office, and one particular word he used that is getting a lot of attention.



STELTER: Cosmopolitan bias, what does that mean?

Trump aide Stephen Miller says CNN's Jim Acosta has it.

This White House press briefing was the media heavyweight battle of the week.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This whole notion of, well, they could learn -- they have to learn English before they get to the United States, are we just going to bring in people from Great Britain and Australia?

(CROSSTALK) STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Jim, actually, I have to honestly say, I am shocked at your statement that you think that only people from Great Britain and Australia would know English.

This actually -- it reveals your cosmopolitan bias to a shocking degree, that, in your mind -- no, this is an amazing -- this is an amazing moment.

I just want to say...

ACOSTA: (OFF-MIKE) sounds like you're trying to engineer the racial and ethnic flow of people into this country through this policy.

MILLER: Jim, that is one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant, and foolish things you have ever said.


STELTER: Back with me now, political analyst Jeff Greenfield.

Jeff, you wrote about Miller's use of the word cosmopolitan for "Politico" magazine earlier this week.

Why is the use of that term and accusing Costa of cosmopolitan bias disturbing to people who have the historical ramifications of it?

GREENFIELD: Its history goes back to Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, who have used the term with a very anti-Semitic overtone to suggest disloyalty.

Cosmopolitan, you're not loyal to the traditions of this country or the religion.

Now, in the column that I wrote, one mistake that I made was I thought I had made it clear that Stephen Miller's use of it is divorced from anti-Semitism. I should have made that clear, particularly because Steve Miller is Jewish.

But what is true even, I believe, is that even in modern-day battles, particularly in Europe, cosmopolitan is like elitist on steroids. It means you are loyal to something other than our national tradition, our church's tradition, our religious tradition, our culture. It's the implication that Putin has about his enemies that you're not really loyal to mother Russia.

And the fact that I have never heard it used in an American political debate, and the fact that Miller, along with Steve Bannon, is part of what is called the nationalist wing of the Trump movement, I think, is worth examining.


STELTER: I was going to say that many conservative critics set Acosta crossed the line by challenging Miller the way he did. Did you think so?

GREENFIELD: I will give you a definite answer. I'm not sure.

I think that the problem is the press in a situation like that is always at a kind of disadvantage, because, if you don't interrupt, then you what get is spin. If you do interrupt repeatedly, you're seen as obstreperous or defining yourself as the opposition.

So, having never had the privilege, if that's the right word, of being in one of those White House Briefing Rooms, I don't know.


STELTER: And now there's this report that the president is considering Miller for a communications job.

I think that means the president likes to see these battles. He wants people on TV defending him at all costs.

GREENFIELD: Oh, I think that's for sure. He's always praising people who stick it to the press. And you can understand why.

But I think that maybe another indication -- I don't know how to cover the court intrigues of a White House, but if the Miller-Bannon wing is given more influence...

STELTER: Ascendant right now, yes.

GREENFIELD: ... and that wing is very strongly nationalistic, not Anti-Semitic, but meaning that: Our critics are -- are not as -- I think it means that you're not as really patriotic.



STELTER: So, we may hear more of that sort of rhetoric.

GREENFIELD: Remember Sarah Palin's line about real Americans?

I think cosmopolitan means, in one way or another, you're not a real American.

STELTER: Jeff, great to see you.


STELTER: Real American here.

Out of time on TV. Tune in on for the rest of the week's news.

And we will see you back here next week.