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North Korea: ICBM-Ready Hydrogen Bomb Successfully Tested; Is Trump's Media Diet Changing?; The Journalistic Ethics of Natural Disaster Reporting. Aired 11a-12n ET

Aired September 03, 2017 - 11:00   ET


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

So, let's get right to it. The breaking news about another escalation between North Korea and the rest of the world. The appearance of this woman on North Korean state television indicated a big announcement from the rogue regime. This news anchor, or the North Korean version propagandist really was announcing what the country says was the successfully test of a hydrogen bomb, the most serious yet.

For the latest on this, let's go to Tokyo. Will Ripley is there, CNN's international correspondent, who just got back from Pyongyang and is now in Tokyo for us.

Will, any time we see this North Korean propagandist, this news anchor, it's an indication of big news. How serious is the announcement being taken there in Japan and elsewhere in the region?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's remarkable, Brian, I was outside of the central train station in Pyongyang last week, and Ri Chun Hee is her name. She's been the news reader who announces all the major events in North Korea for decades -- the deaths of the leaders, the previous five nuclear tests and now the sixth nuclear test today. She announced the missile launch last week.

And, you know, she came up on a big screen, and hundreds of North Koreans who are gathered, they stopped, they watched, they paid attention and when she announced the words announcing the government's latest achievements, they all started clapping, and that's something that they do maybe because they have to, maybe because they want to, but it is truly remarkable how the propaganda machine works in getting information out to North Koreans who otherwise have no access to outside media.

STELTER: Every time I see a president, like now President Trump saying there's a danger, there's a threat to the country, I get skeptical immediately, maybe that's because of what the Americans experienced in the ramp up to the Iraq war. But now that we have President Trump tweeting out saying North Korea is dangerous to the United States, hostile to the United States, separate fact from fiction for us, as someone who studies this every day, how dangerous is North Korea really? RIPLEY: North Korea has always been dangerous for decades, long

before they had it in their possession, a viable nuclear weapon, because they had so many conventional weapons pointed at Seoul, and they had the capability for years to fire missiles with conventional warheads that could rain destruction here on Tokyo as well. And they haven't done it for a reason, Brian, because they looked at these weapons as a deterrent, and now, they have a nuclear deterrent. They have a nuclear missile that they say threatens all of the mainland United States, and most analysts believe, even if they don't have a reliable ICBM yet, they will in a matter of months.

But North Korea officials have reiterated to me that while they have these weapons and they say they're not afraid to use them, they don't want to use them, they consider it a deterrent from being invaded like Iraq was, or like what happened at Gadhafi in Libya. They think that if they have weapons of mass destruction, that their regime will not be toppled by the U.S. and its allies, so these weapons are essentially an insurance policy to keep North Korea's leader Kim Jong- un in power.

STELTER: And what's your sense, as someone who's able to travel to Pyongyang, a place where almost no Western reporters are able to be, what we can do in the news media is verify the claims that North Korea makes, we haven't seen video of this test, for example, have we?

RIPLEY: We haven't seen video, but we did -- geologists all over the world detected a large earthquake --


RIPLEY: -- like a magnitude 6.3 earthquake, yes, and it was felt even as far away as Norway. Well, I mean, what struck me is that this took 11 minutes from the time of North Korea to reach the seismic station in Norway, but they were quickly able to determine, that this was an artificial, this was a manmade event, not a natural earthquake. There are ways of measuring these things.

And so, long before North Korea makes an official announcement, they are able to know how powerful this earthquake was, and use that expenditure of energy to calculate how big this bomb was. North Korea hasn't even announced yet how many kilotons the yield of this blast was. They gave their initial announcement, but you have this seismologist in Norway thinking it was 120 kilotons of TNT. In South Korea, they thought it was 50 kilotons.

But keep in mind, the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima here in Japan, around 15 kilotons. So, this was a dramatically larger explosion and it just hours before that, we saw North Korea release those pictures of Kim Jong-un standing in front of what they claimed was a miniaturized Hydrogen bomb, a warhead that they could fit on an ICBM.

I landed here in Tokyo last night, Brian. I thought things might actually be coming down, but I'll tell you, earlier in the morning local time, when I saw those images released, I was nervous and, of course, a few hours later, it turns out that the earthquake was felt and that North Korea did indeed test this hydrogen bomb.

So, they're really escalating things, even further than I thought they might when I was leaving the city and I thought things could potentially be coming down.

STELTER: If they're crying out for attention, they're certainly getting it now.

Will, thank you so much.

And stay with CNN throughout the day for the latest on this story.

Whether it's about North Korea or China or anywhere closer to home, where the U.S. president gets his information is crucial, because it informs his decision-making. And we know that President Trump's consumption is different from past presidents. We know he watches a lot of cable news and occasionally tweets responses. We know he follows 45 accounts on Twitter, where he sees a lot of praise, sometimes some sketchy reporting and a lot of pro-Trump memes.

Let me show you an example. This is an amazing one that Trump retweeted overnight, reminding everybody that Hillary Clinton's book is coming out just nine days from now. But here's the thing, the president's media diet maybe changing, and that's thanks to White House chief of staff John Kelly. He's been limiting access to the Oval Office, so aides like Omarosa Manigault can't distract and infuriate the president with pieces of negative news coverage, that's a quote from "The Daily Beast'.

Now, sometimes, if stories were negative, the ones who are landing on the president's desk, other times, they were positive. As "The New York Times" reported this weekend, former aides like Steve Bannon had a tendency to drop off printout of rah-rah pro-Trump stories from sites like "Breitbart". But not so much anymore. Quoting "The Times" here, Kelly cannot stop Trump from binge-watching FOX News, which aides describe the president's primary source of information.

But Kelly has thinned out his package of print out so much that Trump plaintively asked a friend recently, where did "The Daily Caller" go, where is "Breitbart"?

Interesting thing to imagine the president's media diet may be changing.

So, let's analyze this with our panel. Sarah Westwood, a White House correspondent for "The Washington Examiner", Alice Stewart, CNN political commentator and former comms director for Ted Cruz, and Errol Louis, CNN political commentator and anchor at Spectrum News.

Great to see you all.

Sarah, you cover the White House every day. So, I think you understand the importance of the president's media diet. What do you think is the significance if the actual -- the story is being put on his desk are changing, maybe he's not seeing the newly critical "Breitbart" stories about his presidency? SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, I think it's hugely significant. On the one hand, it can have a positive impact on his presidency, some of his most unnecessary, self- inflicted controversies came when President Trump was publicly commenting on stories he had read on conservative media, heard on conservative radio.

I think the most significant example of that would be when he tweeted out the unsubstantiated claim that Trump Tower had been wiretapped the day after "Breitbart" ran a story on it, the day after Mark Levin had spoken about that unsubstantiated allegation on his radio show.

On the other hand, President Trump does need to be exposed to criticism from his base when he's going in a direction that his voters don't like, and he can really only get that from a lot of sources from "Breitbart", from "The Daily Caller". And so, there needs to be some amount of that media be placed on his desk, but it's important that that media be vetted for accuracy before it reaches his hands.

STELTER: We just learned, you mentioned that wiretapping story. We just learned, Errol, the Justice Department officially responded to request from -- these were Freedom of Information Act requests I believe about whether the Justice Department had any documents proving that somehow the Obama administration who wiretapped Trump Tower and Justice came up empty, maybe that's the final conclusion to that wiretapping story.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, we would hope it would be final. But it's never quite final, because what's gong on here is something that's incredibly -- not just inefficient, but in some ways dangerous. I mean, you have an entire justice apparatus that's out there. You have an entire intelligence apparatus that's out there. It's there for a reason. It's there to put only true and accurate information in front of the president precisely so that he won't go off on wild goose chases and make reckless accusations like this thing about wiretapping Trump Tower.

So, if he's going to simply pick out of the flow of information, and the flow of information is now a flood. It's not just a trickle, and sort of lift up random pieces of information that he happens to have stumbled across, it really sort of throws off the balance of the White House's decision-making process.

STELTER: Yes. So, Kelly trying to restore some kind of order or some sort of normal presidential flow of information.

Alice, I wanted to ask you about the latest with the White House briefings, because Sarah Huckabee Sanders held I think four or five of them in the month of August, it was mostly a vacation month. But on camera briefings which journalists have been pushing to remain on camera and not be held off camera. What I've been noticing is a lack of answers. Let me show what I mean. First, a lot of I don't knows from Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, I don't. I don't know. I'm not sure. I don't know. I'm not sure. We don't know. I'm not aware of that. I'm not aware of any specific. I'm not sure. I'm not sure about the specifics. I don't know. I'm not aware of that.


STELTER: There's a twist on the I don't know. It's the I'll get back to you.

Here's what we noticed from all of the briefings in August from Sanders.


SANDERS: I'd have to check on that and get back to you. I'd have to get back to you on that. I'd have to certainly check into that.

[11:10:00] I'd have to check on that and get back to you. It's something I have to check in to and get back to you.

We'll try to look into that. I'll have to look into that. We will certainly let you. I'll let you know. I'll let you know. I'll let you know. I hate to sound like a broken record. I'll let you know.

We'll let you know. We'll let you guys know. We'll let you know. I'll let you know. I'll certainly let you know. I'll let you know. That's going to happen.

I'll certainly keep you posted. We'll keep you posted. I'll circle back with you. We'll continue to keep you guys updated.

REPORTER: Are you saying you will ask him and get back to us?

SANDERS: No, I said I would have to in order to answer that question.


STELTER: So, reporters say she normally does not get back to those questions that are asked in the briefings, sometimes the press shop does.

Alice, your reaction as a former communications director for a campaign?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, clearly, the number one mission and the focus of the briefings, whether it's at the White House or on a state level is to get your message out and get your points out and get your agenda out there and then follow-up questions from the media.

And a couple of things to always keep in mind when you're in that position is to be factual, be consistent with your boss and make sure that if there are additional questions, that you make sure and you do that and answer as many questions as you possibly can, and that is critical to do so.

But at the same time, look, Sarah and the comms team there at the White House are available 24/7 to answer questions for the media. I know that for a fact, and the press briefing is just one aspect of what they do to answer the question.

And it's also important that while they're being factual and they're being consistent with their boss, they can't get ahead of their boss. If they're working on a program or an initiative such as DACA, she can't get out there in a press briefing and say something before it's out there, and I know a lot of the questions you just played clips from, were many of the same initiatives that haven't been finalized yet. And she really can't get out there ahead of it.

So, with regards to that, I think it's important for reporters to understand that when the administration is ready to announce a certain program, then they will certainly do it. But it's never helpful to put it out in drips and drabs at press briefings, and I think that's obviously what Sarah has been really careful to do in these cases.

STELTER: Wasn't it a scratch scratcher on Friday when the president said he was going to announce his DREAMers decision this weekend or Monday, then, Errol, Sanders said no, it was going to be on Tuesday. Just like another, frankly, in the scheme of things, relatively small, but another example of the confusion from the Trump White House.

LOUIS: Well, that's right. I mean, look, the reality is, in effect the communications director, I guess they have gone through three or four of them now. The real communications director is sitting in the Oval Office, right? He's making his own schedule. He's determining the face of policy development and the announcements and so forth.

So, you know, you look at, I love that montage you put up there, of the comms team sort of just racking up IOUs, I'll get back to you, I'll get back to you, I don't know, I don't know. And a lot of that is just the normal way things are supposed to work, because those are answers to questions about various agencies.


LOUIS: Some fairly obscure --

STELTER: But I think sometimes she doesn't want to ask her boss. She doesn't want to know what President Trump's going to answer, because she says I haven't asked him, I don't know. I haven't asked him.

LOUIS: Well, that's right. It sort of speaks to the fact that this is a two-way street, she is supposed to not be just dispensing the party line. I mean, Alice is correct. That's sort of the primary job. But she's also supposed to bring back to the policy team, to the White House, to the president if necessary that a lot of questions are coming from the public in the form or questions from the news media and that they're going to have to step up the pace on some of these questions.

STELTER: Sarah, you're a regular on the briefings. What's your take on this.

WESTWOOD: I think what you're seeing from Sarah from the podium is an abundance of caution that we did not see before the mid-May area where we had this very high profile contradiction from President Trump on the reason why FBI Director James Comey was fired in this interview with Lester Holt. That was a big blow to the press shop, and since then, I don't know that we have reached the level of candor that we saw in the briefings before that incident. You can almost draw a line of demarcation.

Now, I think that the press group lives in that constant fear that President Trump will tweet something or say something that contradicts the party line. So, they are very reluctant to say anything on the record that they aren't 100 percent, 1,000 percent certain will not be contradicted by the president. That's why you see these news briefings from Sarah no longer as newsworthy as they used to be.

STELTER: Perhaps the public ends up being ill-informed.

Sarah, Alice, Errol, thank you very much for being here.

And coming up next, the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. We'll talk to a New Orleans resident and actor Harry Shearer about whether the press has repeated some of the mistakes from Katrina coverage or whether they have learned lessons.

Also, talking about some of the rescues we saw around the Houston area. Some rescues members of the media participated in. We'll talk about that that versus the president's most recent media critique right after this.


[11:18:48] STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, there's been so many heroic stories to tell. Stories of first responders, volunteers, and in some cases, journalists who jumped in rescue those in harm's way. This remarkable video from the other day. You see this one here from CNN's Ed Lavandera and his crew last Sunday.

From other networks as well, we saw a CBS crew jumping into action. You can see from CBS in the other day helping people out of their homes, helping people into boats. And also on the Weather Channel, a crew was lifting a man who was in a cast, helping lift that man into an SUV. We saw journalists jumping in when need be, participating in rescues, just because they happened to be there and they could help.

But that's what makes President Trump's comment from yesterday so weird. He had a lot yesterday to say in both Houston and Louisiana -- in both Texas and Louisiana, he was touring the areas affected by the flooding. He's received a lot of praise for doing so.

But I want to show you this really strange comment he made while speaking with Coast Guard members. He had a media critique he just couldn't resist. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hear the Coast Guard saved 11,000 people. Think of it, almost 11,000 people, by going into winds that the media will no go into.

[11:20:07] They will not go into those winds. Unless, it's a really good story in which case they will.


STELTER: It's just wrong and heavy. Obviously, we saw many members of the media, out with the Coast Guard, out with other rescuers. I'll just show one of many examples, CNN's Anderson Cooper was up in those helicopters with the Coast Guard, observing those rescues, in some cases, broadcasting them live, using new technology that we really hadn't seen in past natural disasters.

Obviously, many members of the media were out in the winds, and out in the flooding afterwards.

But the president just couldn't resist that slap at that press.

Let me bring in Will Bunch for more on this. Will is the national columnist for That's "The Philly Daily News" and "The Inquirer", and he wrote about journalists stepping up in this time of crisis in Texas and Louisiana.

Will, great to see you.

WILL BUNCH, NATIONAL COLUMNIST, PHILLY.COM: Yes. Hi, Brian, thanks for having me.

STELTER: You connected this to the president's past rhetoric about the members of the media being enemies of the American people. What was your message for Mr. Trump?

BUNCH: Right. Well, you know, Thursday -- the Thursday night before Hurricane Harvey struck, when the storm was baring down on the Texas coast, he had this rally in Phoenix, where he basically egged on a crowd to -- no offense to anyone, CNN sucks, right? And this has been the theme of so many of his rallies that journalists were the enemies of the American people.

And, you know, those words were kind of still ringing in people's ears and they were still ringing in my ears when I watched the TV that weekend and I saw clips like the Ed Lavandera clip that you showed, or Brandy, and I'm forgetting her last name from KHOU in Houston who directed the rescue crew --

STELTER: Brandy Smith, yes, getting the rescue crew to head over to a man whose truck was high in floodwaters. Yes.

BUNCH: Yes, absolutely. And remember, she was doing this while her station was broadcasting while water was rushing into the first floor of their station. It just led me to ask, who are these enemies of the American people and, you know, how helpful is his rhetoric?

And, look, I have been a journalist for a long time, I don't want to go around saying that all journalists are heroes. They're not. We saw some very heroic things.

But I think the point that needs to be made here is that journalists are human, and we saw an army of journalists descend on Houston with an instinct of wanting for the most part to help people, whether, you know, in dramatic ways that you showed, but also just giving information to people, which roads are roads closed, where are shelters open, where's the storm heading next.

You know, we're having a debate in this country right now about journalism and whether are people are our enemies, or whether this is essential to democracy. And I think we saw the essential to democracy side down in Houston.

STELTER: So, let's play that President Trump sound bite again from yesterday with the coast guard.


TRUMP: I hear the Coast Guard saved 11,000 people. Think of it, almost 11,000 people, by going into winds that the media will no go into. They will not go into those winds. Unless, it's a really good story in which case they will.


STELTER: So, Will, what do you think motivates the president to go off script like that when he's celebrating rescuers on the Gulf Coast?

BUNCH: You know, Brian, I think two things motivate him. One is I think it's just, for want of a better term, pathological with this president. I mean, I feel his hatred and his frustrations with the media and all presidents get frustrated with the media, but we've never seen anything like this with Trump.

But the other thing is I think it's very political. You know, we have a president -- his approval rating is down to 34 percent and he's desperately trying to hold his base together. And I talk to a lot of conservatives and so do you, and the one thing that really holds Donald Trump's base, one third of the American people together is hatred of the media, contempt, you know?

And he realizes that he's dividing the country, but he's unifying his base at the same time. It's a political strategy to be sure.

STELTER: Another interesting Trump family example of reacting to Harvey coverage this week, one of the president's sons Eric Trump wrote this on Twitter. He was touting the fact that President Trump says he's going to donate a million dollars of personal money to the Harvey recovery effort. Eric Trump said: I'm so proud -- let's see if CNN or the mainstream media acknowledges his incredible generosity. My guest, they won't. This made no sense because this was posted after CNN and other outlets

had been covering the announcement. I think we can put on screen some examples of CNN's coverage of that pledged donation. Obviously reporters need to follow up and find out where the money goes and who receives the money. But Eric Trump kind of randomly attacking the press when just turning on the TV would have showed he was wrong.

BUNCH: Yes. I mean, we've seen this time and time again. I mean, just like you, I heard quite a bit about President Trump's $1 million donation, which by the way has not happened yet and I think there's been some backpedalling on that.


[11:25:01] STELTER: Well, we'll see. I'm sure he's going to make the donation, but we haven't seen it yet. Yes.

BUNCH: Right.

STELTER: Hey, and what did you think of this moment on CNN earlier in the week? I wanted to show you this from CNN's Rosa Flores. This was a much commented on moment that some conservative blogs use it basically to attack CNN. It was a very human moment with Rosa Flores interviewing a survivor of the flooding. And then in the middle, she said she didn't want to talk anymore.

Let's take a look first of the clip.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're with your children. We've heard of stories of mothers trying to save their children from the rushing waters. Can you tell us how that was --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Four feet of water to go get them food on the first day, yes, (EXPLETIVE DELETED) but y'all sit here, y'all trying to interview people during their worst times. Like that's not the smartest things to do.

FLORES: Sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like people are breaking down and y'all sitting here with cameras and microphones trying to ask us what the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) is wrong with us.

FLORES: I'm so sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you really trying to understand? With the microphone still in my face, with me shivering cold, with my kids wet, and you're still putting a microphone in my face.


STELTER: And you see the tension for journalists right there, the goal is to speak with survivors, to help publicize their stories. This woman apparently agreed to be interviewed ahead of time, but then in t that moment, asking not to be interviewed anymore, wanting the interview to end. I found it heart-wrenching as a viewer and I was curious what you think of the ethics of interviewing evacuees like that.

BUNCH: Well, I think people -- I think there's a story that needs to be told, and I think when you go into a situation like that, you're going to find many, many people who want their story told, that there are things they want from the government that they're not getting, and the media is now let the people to tell that story, people want to reassure other family members that they're still alive, that they survive the flood.

All kinds of good things can come out of those interviews but people are people, you know? And some people -- you know, some people are going to feel it's intrusive, and any journalist who has worked for a number of years has experienced a situation like that. And it's part of the business. Again, this all feeds into the bigger point. Journalists aren't all heroes, but they're not all enemies. Journalists are human.

STELTER: Human. Will, thanks so much for being here.

BUNCH: Thank you, Brian, for having me.

STELTER: And coming up next, as another hurricane is making its way toward the U.S., this is the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. What do the press learns from Katrina coverage? What was applied to Harvey? I'll talk with the actor and documentarian Henry Shearer right after this.



STELTER: Hurricane Harvey the storm is over, but Harvey the story is really just beginning.

As you have seen, the devastation is widespread. There are many environmental hazards and safety concerns. It's going to be a long recovery process.

But as the water recedes, will the media leave the area as well? How many journalists will really stick around? And what the narrative be as Houston and the surrounding region begins to recover?

For more on that, I spoke with actor and filmmaker Harry Shearer.


STELTER: Hi, Harry. Thanks for joining me.


STELTER: Do you see parallels in the way Hurricane Katrina was covered 12 years ago this week vs. Harvey today, the idea that there is saturation, wall-to-wall coverage in the very beginning, but then it tapers off quickly?

SHEARER: We don't know if it's going to taper off quickly in the case of Harvey.

That's the way to bet. The networks, the news agencies saturate an area that's having a disaster like this, and then of course something else happens and most of those people leave.

What happened here in New Orleans is those people left before the real heart of the story was revealed by a couple of investigations that made their findings public eight months later. And that's when we learned that, in the words of one of the reports, the one out of U.C. Berkeley, this wasn't a natural disaster; this was the greatest manmade -- engineering catastrophe since Chernobyl.

You still see the effects of that when people are referring to New Orleans in 2005 and they use phrases like Hurricane Katrina smashed into New Orleans. Well, we learned eight months later that really was not what happened.

Hopefully -- and I used the word hopefully advisedly -- the situation in Houston is happening so much faster.

Most of the city by now is not underwater anymore. It took six weeks for the water to leave New Orleans. So there's been time already, as the narrative gets set -- and narratives always get set with big stories -- for more forensic information to be allowed into the narrative.

So you have had "The Washington Post," "The New York Times," a couple of public radio stations and most notably "Bloomberg Businessweek" already starting to report on Houston and the way it was built may have contributed to the severity of this flood.

That's the kind of information that never got into the national narrative about New Orleans.

STELTER: You're quite the media critic. I wonder if you ever think we will get to the point in covering these sorts of storms where it's like disaster porn, where the images being repeated over and over again get inappropriate.

SHEARER: There's a thing, as you know, in your business, cable television, called wallpapering, where old footage will be shown on screen so that you don't have to see a talking head full-screen.

What we ran into here in New Orleans was that wallpaper would be shown months later. And people would come to this city aghast, thinking, saying, I'm amazed that the city isn't still underwater.

The convention of saying file footage over old footage, when it's used for wallpaper, I think has fallen off. And it would be nice if it came back, because people should know four or five months from now when they're looking at footage of the Houston flood that Houston is still not underwater.


STELTER: And the bottom line, whether it's Katrina or Sandy five years ago or Harvey recently, is that, when the storm is over, the real story is just beginning.

SHEARER: Yes, it is.

And in the case of New Orleans, what we can tell Houston that's coming is now the water is already receding. We had it for six weeks, so we had a much bigger problem with underground utilities being flooded and rotted out.

Houston is not going to have that problem. But there's still the problems of mold in all these houses. People are going to have health effects as a result of that. You're seeing the warnings about the toxic substances in the water.

We had fires here in New Orleans during the flooding, that weird picture that you might remember. You're having that. In Houston, of course, it is a petrochemical capital. And as air conditioning has failed for some of these plants, you're having explosions.

So there's going to be these weird canonizations of problems that are going to follow. And then, later on, it's the problem that is already being covered I think a little bit, the political conundrum of a city that prides itself on self-reliance now going to the federal government with a very big tin cup in hand.

STELTER: Harry, thank you so much for being here.

SHEARER: Thank you, Brian.


STELTER: Most people know Harry from "The Simpsons."

He pointed out to me that his knowledge about Katrina and the manmade disaster of the levees came from all the experts he interviewed while making his documentary.

Coming up next here on RELIABLE SOURCES, a shocking admission from one of FOX News' newest hires, how coverage of the Russia probe explains conservative media's continued obsession with Hillary Clinton.



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

Is the Trump and Russia story over, like the biggest stars on FOX News claim?

That's the subject of my essay today.

Is it over, or it very much ongoing? Because the experts say it is very much ongoing.

Multiple investigations are under way. Many questions about Russian interference in the election are unanswered. And some of President Trump's defenses are unbelievable.

But I want you to notice how conservative media heavyweights have been spinning this. They talk about Russia in the past tense, like it's over, like it's been settled and like Trump has been completely vindicated.

Watch this from FOX. This is Tucker Carlson's show on August 24.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: Did the Russia story disappear, or is that my imagination?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Boy, before I went on vacation, it was the biggest story of our lifetime and we were entering a constitutional crisis.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now I can't seem to find any coverage on it. It really is quite remarkable, Tucker.

CARLSON: It's weird. What a fickle group they are, those journalists.


STELTER: That's been a popular pro-Trump talking point. But it's embarrassing for Tucker, given the daily drip, drip, drip of new information coming from hardworking reporters.

The day before that Tucker Carlson clip, actually, CNN broke this news.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news, a CNN exclusive: a revealing e-mail from a top aide to President Trump under new scrutiny tonight by congressional investigators.

The e-mail detailed an effort to arrange a meeting between top Trump officials and Russian President Vladimir Putin during the campaign.


STELTER: Maybe Tucker missed that, although FOX's newsroom did follow up on it.

Maybe Tucker also missed this headline from the day before. This is from Politico saying Trump had been clashing with multiple GOP senators over Russia. But this idea has been a theme on FOX's opinion shows in recent weeks,

the idea that the Russia scandal has just -- I don't know, it's just faded away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is one thing that I don't think anybody has talked about all week? Russia. In fact, I don't remember the last time I read a story about Russia. And three weeks ago, it was all we were talking about.


STELTER: So now, they claim, Trump critics are desperately trying to change the subject.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The election probe didn't go anywhere for the Dems, so they're now all outraged over the Confederate statues.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They didn't get anywhere thus far on this Russian investigation. They have tried, they have tried, they have tried.

That story really didn't gather a lot of steam.


STELTER: So, it's Russia in the past tense, implying that it's all over now, that there's no Robert Mueller investigation, there's no more concerns about hacking or colluding. There's nothing to see here.


SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY": It's gone from Russia, Russia, Russia, to President Trump going to launch a nuclear war with North Korea, to, oh, my gosh, racist, racist, racist.

HERMAN CAIN, FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They did not make Russia, Russia, Russia stick, as you pointed out. They're trying to make racist, racist, racist stick.


STELTER: So, you see what is going on here.

The message from these FOX shows is, people are out to get Trump, no matter what, whether it's about Russia, whether it's about Charlottesville, no matter what it is.

Trump morning host -- excuse me -- "FOX & Friends" morning host, not Trump and friends, although that's a good name for it -- "FOX & Friends" host Brian Kilmeade even suggested this is a conspiracy, that whenever Trump has had a few good news cycles, "The Washington Post" finds some new Russia surprise.


BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS: Every time he gets on a roll, they come up with some type of Russia limerick that we will have to digest.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bingo. Yes, terrific point.


STELTER: Those talking heads should ask real reporters how this works.

This kind of investigative reporting takes a lot of time. It's going to take many more months. But when there are important new developments -- and there basically are every day -- these pro-Trump shows on FOX just tune it out. They just completely ignore it.

The network's newest conservative commentator, Tomi Lahren, kind of gave away the script. She said this on "Hannity" the other night.


TOMI LAHREN, FOX NEWS: How about we make a deal? How about, when the mainstream media stops covering Russia day in and day out, maybe we can drop the Hillary e-mail scandal?

But, until then, I think I'm going to stay on it.


STELTER: What a pretty revealing comment, right, that she's going to keep talking about Clinton as long as everybody else keeps talking about Trump and Russia.


But what is clear from all these clips is that the pro-Trump media wants the Russia investigations to be over. So, maybe they are just pretending like the investigations are over.

They're not curious. They don't want questions answered about what really happened last year and what might happen in future elections.

But the reality is, as Eugene Robinson wrote in "The Washington Post" the other day, the bad news about this Russia thing keeps pouring in for Trump.

I'm sure you have seen some of these headlines from the past few days. I don't even have time to sum them all up. But the coverage continues on a daily basis.

And I want to give Elizabeth Drew the last word here. She covered the Nixon presidency and Watergate. Now she's covering the Trump presidency, and she sees a similarity between then and now.


ELIZABETH DREW, JOURNALIST: You always have the politicians as well saying, oh, people aren't interested in Watergate. Oh, people aren't interested in that Russia business. You people are just wasting your time.

That means they're pretty worried about it.


STELTER: She says the dismissals mean they're actually pretty worried about it.

That's all for my comment today.

But coming up next here, an interview I really can't wait to show thank. It's a journalistic first, a father and a daughter sharing the front page of "The New York Times." Clyde Haberman and her -- daughter, Maggie, who has been leading coverage of Trump for the paper, are going to join me right now after this.



STELTER: Journalism is a calling for the Haberman family.

Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times" has dominated the Trump beat. Her own paper calls her the Trump whisperer for her frequent coverage.

So, where does she get her inspiration? Well, she comes from a family full of journalists, Maggie, her father, Clyde, her brother, her husband are all in the journalism business.

So, I recently had the chance to sit down with Maggie and her dad and ask what makes this media family tick.


STELTER: Clyde, Maggie, thanks for being here.


MAGGIE HABERMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Thanks for having us.

STELTER: I am so interested in your journalism family.

Clyde, I would love to know what it's been like for you the past year or so watching your daughter Maggie covering now President Trump, owning the Trump beat. It must bring you incredible pride.

C. HABERMAN: Absolute pride.

It also means I get a lot of e-mails intended for her because I still have my "New York Times" e-mail address.

STELTER: Oh, really, people sending e-mails trying to reach her?

C. HABERMAN: Trying to reach her, reach me.

So, I'm now the mailman, among other things. No, it is quite extraordinary. And here we were on page one together the other day. That was hell of a source of pride.

Couldn't resist tweeting. And to show you the social media influence of my daughter, I couldn't resist tweeting something about forgive papa pride about this, but we're both on page one.

Within space of about 24 hours, the number of my Twitter followers increased by 1,800. I guarantee it wasn't on my strength. It was her.

M. HABERMAN: I don't think that's true.

STELTER: When I saw you on page one together, I think it was the first time in August.


I asked Al Siegal, our former standards editor, who goes way back. He couldn't think of another parent/child combo like that.

STELTER: When I saw it I wanted to know what the secret to this journalism family was.

Maggie, what did you learn growing up from Clyde when he was a foreign correspondent, and then a columnist at "The Times"?

M. HABERMAN: He was very, very heavily focused on the story always.

One of the things -- he was -- when he was here -- he was overseas for several years when I was a child. When he was in New York City, he was the city hall bureau chief for "The Times." And that was actually my first government job at "The New York Post," was -- I was at the city hall bureau.

STELTER: What do you think it is about all these Habermans in journalism?

C. HABERMAN: Lack of ambition?

M. HABERMAN: Lack of ambition, exactly. Familiarity.

I didn't actually want to be a journalist. I wanted to -- well, I didn't want to be a newspaper journalist. I wanted to go into magazines. And I couldn't get a job after college, so I started as a clerk at "The New York Post," a copy kid. And I really loved it.

The energy in the "New York Post" newsroom, especially in the '90s, was just remarkable. And I fell in love with it pretty much on the spot. I went to "The Daily News." I came back to "The Post," and then I went to Politico and then "The Times."

But I met my husband at "The Post." And I think part of it is that when you are in journalism, especially in tabloid journalism in New York City, the number of people you meet outside of work is pretty small, and it is usually while you are covering a story because you are working constantly. So I attribute a lot of it to that.

STELTER: And you have so many bylines right now, Maggie. I think folks who read "The Times" and read your work wonder how you get it all done.

Did you learn about work/life balance, or lack thereof, from your dad?

M. HABERMAN: That's an interesting question, a delicate question.

Maybe a little bit.


M. HABERMAN: I mean, I think that I don't really -- I do most things to extremes, and so I do work to extremes.

My kids have gotten a little frustrated with it. And I have been not as good about it recently, especially as they get older and, as you will discover, as they get older, it is a lot harder, because they are aware of what's going on.

I did the 2012 election pretty intensely with my colleague Alex Burns. But my kids were much younger. And now they really are, all three of them, old enough to sort of see what's going on and be aware of it.

And because national politics is so charged right now, a lot of kids at school are talking about it. They hear things at school and come home and ask me about it.

I would say, to some extent, I learned about...


STELTER: But wasn't it different, Clyde, especially when you were overseas?

C. HABERMAN: When I was overseas.

One example, Maggie and her brother Zach at the news -- were children from my first marriage. And they would come visit me overseas summers, Christmas vacation and so on.

M. HABERMAN: Three months a year.

C. HABERMAN: When we were Rome-based, for example, I had to run off to Romania, where there was a revolution that overthrew the longtime communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.


And I thought I would be there for a few days and I would make my way back to Rome. It was just around Christmastime, and this was when Maggie and Zach were coming to Rome.

I never made it home. They came. They left. This happened a lot, some version of it. That was extreme.

But -- so, yes. I mean, to some degree, quite frankly, it amazes me that both of them, Maggie and Zach, went into journalism, given that whatever negatives there were about being the child of a foreign correspondent, they bore it. I think there were many, many positive positives, mind you.

M. HABERMAN: There were enough positives, yes.

C. HABERMAN: There were plenty of positives.

But there was also a negative side, including that I was off and disappeared for long stretches.

M. HABERMAN: I try to disappear as infrequently as possible, but I do have to go to D.C. a fair amount of these days. So it's just figuring out how to make that all work.

STELTER: Who is the better journalist here, you or Maggie?


C. HABERMAN: What an unfair question.

M. HABERMAN: Come on. He is.

C. HABERMAN: No. She is.


C. HABERMAN: I am endlessly impressed by Maggie's eminent fairness.

She is -- first of all, she is under an incredible amount of pressure and under the gun all the time. And most -- almost anything she writes is going to be attacked by somebody or another. That's just the nature of the game.

But, if you read her, if you listen to her, whether it's on a show like this or others, as she does, the fairness is the most important thing. I know she's a woman with opinions, but you're not going to really discern them very easily in either her writing or her talking.

And this is -- this is a talent that may be underrated by a lot of people.


STELTER: Quick reminder here. You can listen to our entire conversation with Clyde and Maggie, really an interesting conversation about the history of "The New York Times," the future of "The Times," and much more at We have posted the entire interview in a podcast. You can check it out there.

Some breaking news now about our top story today, North Korea saying it has tested its most powerful nuclear bomb yet.

That announcement coming overnight on the East Coast of the U.S., so President Trump now reacting to the news. He went to church this morning near the White House. He's marking the day of prayer that he announced to support victims of Hurricane Harvey.

He's over at the church. He just left church a few minutes ago. He was asked by reporters to react to the latest news from North Korea. I think we can go ahead and play now the sound bite of what the president said.


QUESTION: Mr. President, will you attack North Korea?



STELTER: His answer, according to pool reporters, was, "We'll see. We'll see."

President Trump's answer when asked if the U.S. will attack North Korea.

This comment in some ways calls to mind his promise of fire and fury a number of weeks ago. North Korea now back in the news headlines because of this new bomb test. It was picked up by earthquake sensors all around the world, this test apparently happening a number of hours ago.

It is the sixth time North Korea has conducted a nuclear test. According to the measurement, it is the biggest test yet, sending tremors across the region apparently 10 times stronger than past tests.

Now, also in the past few minutes, we have heard from the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe. Let's see if we can share those comments with you.

Abe says he has had another phone call with President Trump about the matter. He's also had a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Abe's message is that this was a reckless act by North Korea. He apparently said it to Putin and to Trump that this is something that has to be addressed with international determination and resolve.

So, the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, responding just in the past few minutes. And the U.S. President Trump reacting to a question from reporters there.

We weren't expecting to see President Trump on camera today. This is one of those situations where the press pool that normally sticks around the White House just in case of news was called in, was told he was heading to church. The church service -- he was attending the church service to mark the national day of prayer supporting victims of Hurricane Harvey and the evacuees in the Gulf Coast region.

But at the end there, you see reporters shouted a question to him about the North Korean action, about this latest bomb test. And the response from the president, two simple words that will now be analyzed all day saying, President Trump saying, "We'll see" whether the U.S. intends to attack North Korea.

More coverage on this coming up right after -- actually, no break at all, straight to "STATE OF THE UNION."

Complete coverage of this throughout the day, but "STATE OF THE UNION" is up next talking about this North Korea development.