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Covering the Mystery of the Trump-Putin Meeting; Choose Your Own Facts, Choose Your Own Trump. Aired 11a-12n ET
Aired July 22, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:09] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Shock and awe Trump style.
I'm Brian Stelter and 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.
Ahead this hour, Newsmax CEO and Trump confidante Chris Ruddy is here to share what he's been talking about with the president.
Plus, Maggie Haberman is here on why this was a new low, the worst week of Trump's presidency.
And later, one summit but two very different narratives. David Zurawik and Olivia Nuzzi are here with reactions to the news coverage.
But, first, this prediction: when historians look back on the Trump presidency, they'll say that this was the week that something changed, something really shifted in the conversations about the president. Uncomfortable questions moved into the mainstream in a big way.
Trump's odd behavior with Vladimir Putin is compelling so many people to ask, what does Putin have on Trump? Has Trump been compromised? All of those people, those experts, those reporters, they are looking at the fact pattern and they're seeing something strange, even sinister.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No rational president would act this way if he weren't being blackmailed on some level.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't just dismiss the idea that Putin has something on Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not a conspiracy theorist but his behavior is so pervasively bizarre and against the national interest that it certainly raises the possibility that something untoward is going on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: See, these concerns are now in the bloodstream in a whole new way. I don't think there's any coming back from this.
Josh Marshall of the liberal "Talking Points Memo" put it this way, he said the press conference in Helsinki made cautious prominent people start to come to grips with the reality that Trump is under some kind of influence or control by a foreign adversary.
Now, Marshall believes that is true. Others are unsure. But the concern is palpable.
GOP Congressman Will Hurd says Putin is manipulating Trump, and he asks, what should we do?
Of course, the week of walk-backs did not inspire any confidence. Frankly, too many members of the media kind of fell for Trump's cleanup act, you know, his double negative excuse. But you can't clean up actions with mere words. Trump's actions are what have brought us to this place where critics like Obama CIA Director John Brennan are accusing him of treasonous behavior.
Now, it's been almost week, almost a week since the Trump-Putin meeting, but it's still shrouded in secrecy. Trump didn't even debrief key officials in his own administration. He has not debriefed key allies on Capitol Hill either.
So, we've seen some concerned officials and lawmakers trying to sound the alarm, some by speaking on the record, others by leaking to journalists. So, it's worth noting what Trump did in reaction, what he did in reaction to all the coverage. Well, according to "The Washington Post", he reacted furiously and we could see some of that on Twitter, you know, Trump lambasted the fake news media, saying it was going crazy, on Thursday. That same day, he told John Bolton to invite Putin to Washington.
So, now, people much smarter than me are asking, why is Trump trying to bring Putin to D.C. when his own director of national intelligence says it's undeniable Russia is trying to wreak havoc over the election process?
The warning signs, the sirens are going off all over the place. And you can see journalists have been trying to trace connections, trying to get to the bottom of what's going on. But that's really difficult. I mean, at the heart of this, the story is really a mystery. So, are reporters covering it responsibly? How should we get to the bottom of it?
Joining me is now is Jill Dougherty, former CNN Moscow bureau chief, Karen Tumulty a columnist with "The Washington Post". And here in New York, Max Boot, a senior fellow for the Council on Foreign Relations and a CNN global affairs analyst.
Max, you were a foreign policy adviser to McCain in 2008, to Romney in 2012, now, of course, you're an avowed Trump critic. You look at this week, what does it add up to in your mind?
MAX BOOT, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, I think you delivered a very good summary, Brian. We are at a point we are debating for the first time in a serious way whether the president of the United States is disloyal to America, whether the president of the United States is an agent of a foreign power.
Now, to be sure we have not had proof of that, but there is evidence of it. And you're seeing people -- very serious people -- I mean, this is the kind of accusation in the past was only made by fringe conspiracy theorists, John Birchers and so forth. Now, you're seeing people who are very credible, very serious, like John Brennan, the former CIA director, Jim Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, Leon Panetta, former CIA director, a lot of people in a position to know, and especially -- I think Brennan is especially significant because he was actually CIA director during the 2016 campaign and he was on the receiving end of briefings from our European allies who intercepted communications between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
[11:05:12] And these people are saying that there is something fishy going on here, that Trump is being compromised, he is being blackmailed by Putin because there is no other way to explain his behavior. And that to me seems like a very plausible supposition, even though we have to wait for Robert Mueller's investigation to conclude before we have any evidence or proof of it, if, in fact, the proof is forthcoming.
STELTER: Is there any other solution, Karen Tumulty, besides waiting for the results of the Mueller probe? I think a lot of the answers will come out somehow through Mueller's investigation, but are there any other ways to answer all the questions that are lingering in the air?
KAREN TUMULTY, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, one of the things that's happened here that President Trump has done, it's both made our jobs more difficult but it's also, I think, created some problems for him, which is the number of ways in which he has violated norms of transparency. We haven't seen his tax returns. He has not put his business interests in a blind trust. He is going into meetings without -- you know, without anyone else besides a translator there.
All of those things are -- you know, I think if there's some straightforward, innocent explanation for all of these things, it would be a lot easier to get to that if we could see some of this information and the kinds of things that we are accustomed to having when it comes to our public officials.
STELTER: I'm worried that our journalism structures and norms are really ill-suited to this moment in time. Think about this cable news screen, right? The banner is the same size whether it says cat gets stuck in a tree or whether it says Trump might have committed treason.
And I just wonder, Jill, you're a former CNN-er, are there solutions to that part of the problem? To convey the stakes of what's going on to the audience?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I think one of the problems, Brian, is that right now if you look at some of the polling of people who either support the president or do not, both sides have kind of gone into their bunkers and even though you can take facts and figures and all of that, it doesn't necessarily convince people.
So, I think it's more important for the media to stand back and try to deliver some type of -- number one, of course, facts but also do this without editorializing. I know that's very, very difficult, but it immediately will be disavowed by the other side if they say, oh, it's just those let's say Democrats criticizes the presidents.
And you see this, you know, I watch the Russian media so it's interesting to see this because there is kind of a mirror image, I would say, among -- between the ultra-conservative type of media in the United States and what Russian media does. It is -- there's very much of a loop. So I think, you know, standing as far back as we can and really not getting into the fight, the dog fight, is really important.
STELTER: Very interesting -- that's a very important point. And yet, you know, I think a lot of people are having a hard time doing that or trying to remain neutral.
BOOT: I think the media has really done an outstanding -- go ahead.
STELTER: Go ahead, Jill.
DOUGHERTY: Well, I was going to say, I still think that you can do that. And what I would say is, you know, all of this manipulation of the media, of course, has been going on for a long time, digital manipulation, cyber, et cetera.
But I think the American public didn't really realize all of this until relatively recently. Certainly 2016 brought it to the fore.
DOUGHERTY: So I think the media would be very helpful to people if you say, this is how propaganda is done. This is -- in other words, you are being manipulated and you don't have to say by whom, because a lot of sides do it. But to stand back and instead of saying, you know, it's your guy or against your guy, just say you are being manipulated by Facebook postings, Twitter, et cetera, and you have to be a more sophisticated consumer of that information.
STELTER: So, let's show a President Trump tweet, whether this is propaganda or not, he says the press wants war. He said earlier in the week, the fake news media wants so badly to see a major confrontation with Russia, even a confrontation that could lead to war.
Max Boot, do you want war with Russia?
BOOT: You know, this is another example of Trump feeding the Russian propaganda line, because this is exactly what Putin says, his propaganda line is either you have to appease Russia or there will be World War III and Trump keeps repeating it. So, even as he is denying collusion, he is actually colluding with Russia in plain sight.
[11:10:03] And just to follow up on, you know, the previous discussion about the media, Brian. I think the media has been doing an outstanding job. I mean, look at what happened at that press conference in Helsinki on Monday where those questions from "Reuters" and "The Associated Press" that got Trump in a mass of hot water because he was invited to denounce Putin and he would not do it and in that flabbergasting question which was actually correct to ask, does Putin have something on Trump, which is not a question you could imagine begin asked with any previous president, and the fact that Putin did not flatly deny it, he actually deflected rather than denied that he had blackmail material on Trump, and then he admitted that he favored Trump in the 2016 election, which right there destroyed one of the Trump lies which is that Putin actually wanted Hillary Clinton in there because she would supposedly be weaker.
So, I think the media has done an outstanding job and a very responsible job of covering this debate about treason and about compromising material and the rest of it. But, you know, as Jill suggested, it's not going to convince the president's hard core followers. I mean, it's just flabbergasting to see that something like 70 percent of Republicans approved of the humiliation in Helsinki. They are so deep in Trump's pocket. And Trump in turn seems to be so deep in Putin's pocket, it's -- I mean, this is such a massive turnaround.
I mean, I grew up in the 1980s when Republicans were denouncing useful idiots, people who want to cooperate with Russia. And now, they're the useful idiots. They want to cooperate with Russia. For a former Republican like me, that's very dismaying.
STELTER: But maybe journalists need to be communicating in different ways. Maybe experts need to be communicating in different ways if the message is not getting through.
I think -- Karen, go ahead.
TUMULTY: Where I would fault the media, and it goes to what you were talking about before -- proportion. And especially with social media where small things look big and big things look small.
The media -- Trump is very good at creating distractions or, you know, drawing distractions. So by the end of the week, you know, when his patriotism is being questioned, he's back to NFL players on their knees. And by Friday, we had another story about a playmate and everything does sort of get into the news feed.
And I think it's really difficult sometimes for news consumers to figure out which of these things is really important and fundamental and which of these things is a distraction.
BOOT: Yes, I think the dilemma for the media is how do you deal with Trump's lies, the fact that he lies all the time in his tweets and says things that are flatly untrue? But in reporting them, you're essentially repeating the lie. I think that's especially a problem with the wire services that will say Trump says "x", and then I think on a show like this or the "New York Times" or "The Washington Post", you certainly have greater context on the stories.
But Trump is a master of getting his lies kind of past the media gatekeepers and manipulating the media to get his message out, which is why most of the public is now opposed to the Mueller probe or thinks that there is evidence that the FBI was actually helping Hillary Clinton, which is a flat out false, but Trump has gotten that message out to his followers.
STELTER: It's a campaign of confusing that keeps rolling on.
To the panel, thank you very much for being here.
And when we come back, two more experts talking about the defense -- the defense of President Trump. How these friendly sit-downs with Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson have kept the president and their viewers in an alternative reality.
[11:17:12] STELTER: Trump versus Trump. One reason why there's such a stark divide in America, such a disconnect between Trump's true believer and his detractors is that there are always two narratives about what he's doing. This week, there was one summit but there were two Trump stories.
Let me show you what I mean. When Trump publically sided with Putin on Monday, the press didn't blink. Anchors and experts called out the concerning behavior.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have been watching perhaps one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is nothing short of treasonous because it is a betrayal of the nation, he is giving aid and comfort to the enemy. And it needs to stop.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are living in a national emergency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: That was the consensus view. Even some Fox News stars said Trump screwed up. But his most loyal promoters, like Lou Dobbs swore they saw a different Trump on stage. Dobbs said the real disgrace was the media.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOU DOBBS, FBN HOST: Trump disappointed the left wing media. I think the president handled himself perfectly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: I mean, here's the thing, even Trump knew it wasn't perfect because he came out the next day and clarified what he said and said he still supports U.S. intel. That was all the pro-Trump media needed to hear. The counter-narrative was now set.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FERMALE: The president comes out to clarify his remarks today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He made it very clear he had misspoken.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have witnessed the single worst 24 hours in the history of your mainstream media.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The guy is doing what he's supposed to be doing and that is protecting us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you make of it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think he should have been tougher?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But what was he supposed to do, take a gun out and shoot Putin?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: So, there you have it, two Trumps for two entirely different media ecosystems. And the result was that the base held.
Brand new today, a "Washington Post"/ABC News poll finding that overall, only 33 percent of Americans approved of Trump's handling of the Putin meeting. But if you break that down by party, you'll see 66 percent of Republicans approved of his performance.
Let's bring in Olivia Nuzzi. She's the Washington correspondent for "New York Magazine", and David Zurawik, media critic for "The Baltimore Sun".
Olivia, what did you see in the pro-Trump this week in the talk shows, radio hosts, the web bloggers, were they trying to create confusion or just absolutely defend Trump no matter what?
OLIVIA NUZZI, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Well, it was interesting to see this sort of mild criticism initially from the people at Fox News like Abby Huntsman and other personalities who are typically pretty much in defense of him, they don't sound unlike his own press shop. But obviously, that was very short-lived and everyone got back on track, defending him and kind of just giving him the benefit of the doubt in a way that if you are just looking at this objectively and taking his statements, you know, for what they are this week, you really can't do with a straight face.
[11:20:10] It didn't surprise me because we usually see this from Fox News. It's not as though it's a departure from them to take his side. But there really --more and more I think there is just no difference between what his own press shop says, what someone like Sarah Huckabee-sanders says and what Jeanine Pirro says or any of the other hosts on Fox News, they really are just an extension of the White House communication shop to the extent that, of course, Bill Shine is now, you know, inside the White House. STELTER: And to your point, the president gave four interviews these
week, three of those four were with his friends, Sean Hannity and Tucker at Fox.
NUZZI: Right. You almost can't call them interviews. I mean, they're really conversations where they are allowing him to kind of just spit ball.
STELTER: We need a different name for them, I agree. The third one was with CNBC's Joe Kernen, also a very friendly chat. But then the fourth was with a nightly news anchor, CBS's Jeff Glor.
I wonder, David, do you think Glor asked tough questions? I mean, he was the only one that really had a chance to find out what the heck happened in Helsinki?
DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, THE BALTIMORE SUN: Yes, it's tough in this climate. You know, if you look at it and sort of stand back, Glor did ask follow-up questions, he asked some firm questions, I would say firm rather than tough.
I would tell you something that bothered me if you look at the body language the way they sat there, Glor was leaning back, Trump was leaning forward. There's a lot of symbolism in that interview. I would like him on the edge of his seat, leaning forward into Trump for a press that's more aggressive.
I don't want to -- I'm not criticizing Glor, but here were so many times when he could have followed up, like when Trump trashed Brennan and the intelligence -- former intelligence officials, you know, I think it wouldn't have been out of line to stop and say, wait a minute, you just called him a total low life? You know, is that language appropriate? Why did you choose that language?
It would have got combative and I'm guessing maybe the bosses at CBS would not have liked it. But this president, Brian, as you said earlier, absolutely demands different kinds of coverage and we have to be firm at every point with him. So I would have liked to see Glor be more aggressive.
But on the other hand, as a network anchor man, he has a kind of different posture in terms of institutionally of how he can behave in that interview.
The other problem with Trump is that you don't get anything from him. You know, CBS was saying, oh, he got him to admit that he holds Putin accountable. He got Trump to admit that he holds Putin accountable. Well, he sort of said that, he said, well, he's in charge of the country. So, yes, he would --
STELTER: Yes, I would hold him accountable. He said, I would hold him accountable. Wait, hold on, he attacked the country.
ZURAWIK: Yes, yes, and then -- but then Trump, I don't know if it was before or after because it's all a blur with him, of lies, but then he said, well, it could be the Russians, could be a lot of other people. So, you got nothing out of him when he said it could be him.
I think with Trump, you really do need to press harder. I smile because I criticize Chris Cuomo sometimes on the morning show when he would go ask somebody, I think that's almost the way you have to interview Trump. This isn't an apology to Chris because I've written about it.
STELTER: I'd love for Chris or anyone at CNN to get an interview with Trump.
ZURAWIK: Well, oh, yes, let's hold our breath.
STELTER: Let me show you one part of the Glor interview when Trump had to trash the media. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The level of dishonesty in your performance is extremely high.
JEFF GLOR, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: But the press covered the substance and the wording of that press conference accurately.
TRUMP: I don't care what they covered. They didn't cover my meeting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Because we weren't able to be in the meeting and we have no idea what happened -- Olivia.
NUZZI: Right. I mean, I was watching that as you probably were thinking, well, that would be a good time to say, well, what's happened in the meeting? Why don't you release a readout, a transcript, is there any recording, et cetera?
But it's very easy so sit here as people who did not interview Donald Trump, however much we would have liked to this week and criticize Jeff Glor, criticize the network. But I would say it's a very -- he's a very difficult interview.
And I was thinking a lot this week while watching this interview and thinking about his performance, the journalist, about Piers Morgan, who did an interesting story from Air Force One during this trip about his interview with Donald Trump and his time on Air Force One and he explained -- he's obviously a long-time friend of Donald Trump, he was on 'The Apprentice", he's not a journalist like you are or I am, or somebody but he was very critical and he explained that his approach to that interview is because Donald Trump is going to just say what he's going to say, instead of hitting him over the head I think with a hammer is how he phrased it in the piece, he wanted to get his answer on as many different topics as possible.
[11:25:00] He wanted to get him on the record as much as possible on as wide array of topics as possible.
And I think that's a very interesting strategy. I think the key might be to find somewhere in the middle where you do follow up, you are critical, you are tough when he says things that are outright lies, but at the same time, you don't want to spend the entire interview having an argument that's not going to get anywhere. And we have so few opportunities to really question from people who are not just sycophants, who are not just his friends at Fox News, that I think there is a lot of value to just getting him on the record as much as possible on every newsworthy topic we need to hear from him on.
ZURAWIK: Except that, I'm not sure. Getting him on the record, we have a concept of, oh, you're on the record, you said this, it means something. I think with Trump, that's what I was trying to say, it doesn't mean anything to him.
STELTER: Contradict himself the next day --
ZURAWIK: Immediately, you know.
So, when Piers Morgan gives that strategy, of my strategy of these interviews to get him on the record, I think in some ways meaningless and you're giving him a forum to just run all of this stuff out there he didn't care if it's true or not.
NUZZI: I disagree. I think Tucker Carlson was a forum to just, you know, run all this stuff out there and they were just having sort of a friendly conversation. But I think that because he is so rarely interviewed by actual journalists from actual networks, actual mainstream outlets who are going to question him on the sorts of things we want him to be questioned about, I do think there is value in just asking him the questions that we think about every day that we wish somebody would have an opportunity to ask him.
I'm not saying we should all take what Piers Morgan said as like an instruction manual and then only do that. But I do think there is a lot of value to just using that opportunity to kind of ask him about as much that we can ask him about in that time. I think that it's easy to sit here and say he should have done this, he should have done that, but it's a very difficult interview. It's very difficult to keep him on topic.
STELTER: That's for sure.
Olivia, David, thank you both for being here.
NUZZI: Thank you.
ZURAWIK: Thank you.
STELTER: Up next, no reporter knows the president better than Maggie Haberman, she'll take us inside the press room.
And this week's remarkable show of solidarity among reporters, right after this.
[11:30:00] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Lordy, there are tapes. Maggie Haberman and her colleagues of the New York Times broke this news on Friday, news of a secret tape recorded by Michael Cohen that's now in the hands of prosecutors. On the tape, Cohen and then-Candidate Donald Trump are talking about reimbursing a magazine publisher for paying off a former Playboy Playmate who had alleged an affair with Trump. Yes, that's a real sentence that really happened. The publisher National Enquirer owner American Media is embroiled in the Cohen investigation and there's a lot more to come on this. But just a couple minutes after Haberman broke that part of the story on Friday, she sat down with me for an in-depth interview. Her phone buzzed the whole time. I asked her to take a step back and assess, has anything changed in the 18 months of the Trump presidency.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: The only thing that I would say has changed about the Trump White House is how Trump is approaching the job which was that last year when he went in 2017 when he was aware of being in over his head I think and every president to be fair comes in feeling that way but --
STELTER: I would too.
HABERMAN: Yes, but obviously he ran not as a technocrat who had a lot of government experience. He was more easily swayed by advisers more easily put in one direction or another and now sometime around the turn of the new year you could feel really him feeling more and more emboldened, more understanding of what the job was, sort of some level of I've got this now and that is what has changed and that's not smooth.
STELTER: Tell me if I'm wrong but I sometimes get the impression that you're trying to say to viewers and readers don't be surprised anymore. This is exactly what we would expect from Trump.
HABERMAN: Right, which is not to say I think that people draw the illogical conclusion from that but what I'm saying is just accept this and be fine because that is not what I'm saying. But what I am saying is that constantly being surprised or saying to yourself why would he do this or looking for some deeper motive behind everything. I mean, I'll give you a for instance. He gave this interview to the Sun, the British tabloid, notorious British tabloid during his U.K. swing last week or whenever that was --
STELTER: He said he's kind of a favorite to Rupert Murdoch.
HABERMAN: He favorite to Rupert Murdoch. That's what he told people. That's why he did it. And it was not because he had some pre-planned strategy about shaking things up --
STELTER: Yes, he wasn't trying to go in there -- HABERMAN: I mean he was -- he was surprised at how his -- how his
remarks were received. He didn't realize that he would be making the news that he did. He didn't realize it would have the impact that it did being in the host country talking about their politics. When he left the stage in Helsinki he -- and he has said this publicly, what's the big deal? There's a lot of assuming that -- I mean, Trump lies frequently or tells falsehoods frequently or stretches the truth frequently but he also often tells the truth which is what's the big deal? I didn't understand what I did and so -- and --
STELTER: Right. He said I thought we did a great job of the press conference.
HABERMAN: Correct. And sometimes he is actually just telling you what he did something.
STELTER: The press briefings, I mean there's only been a few of them in the past month. I counted four in the last 30 days. This does seem like a change that they're happening even less often than they used to.
HABERMAN: I think that they have become a questionable value just in for the administration. For us they are valuable. They need -- they need to continue --
[11:35:06] STELTER: Even if she stonewalls the whole time?
HABERMAN: I would rather be able to ask an official a question. I mean, I don't -- I don't understand the people who tell us the press should go stand up and turn our backs or walk out on mass. What the press should do is what happened the other day were Jordan Fabian from The Hill tossed his question back to Hallie Jackson of NBC when Sarah tried to avoid her. I think that that is very, very worthwhile. It is important that what Trump has benefited from for decades is dividing and conquering the media. He's exceptional at it.
STELTER: You said at the end of the week this was the worst week of the Trump presidency. How do you convey that in stories and in T.V. segments? How do you try to tell people this is different?
HABERMAN: Well, all you can do is actually just say it. Frankly, in stories, it's pretty hard to convey beyond quotes from elected officials, beyond covering the vote in Congress. But I think what will tell us, the degree of difference on this is going to be whether his favorable ratings change with Republicans not just what the electorate overall. I'm loath to predict that there's going to be a change so all I can say do is tell people this is different and then explain the ways and why in which that is. Whether that means they absorb it or whether that means it translates into something else I have no idea and that's not really our job anyway.
STELTER: Right. You said on Twitter a few days ago, you're taking a break from this site. You said with the exception of breaking news and posting your own stories, you're leaving the service because it's not really helping the discourse. What happened? HABERMAN: I'm leaving engagement of it. I was -- it is -- I called
it once online an anger video game and it is. It's like it has -- it has -- it used to be I think a decent community space. I actually liked Twitter because I liked engaging with readers in a different way as a reporter which we don't really get to but that started to have more net negatives than net positives. And I think that the biggest problem Twitter and I've had this problem with Twitter since 2012 is that everything is sort of shrunken down to the same size and looks the same. All outrages are the same. You know, a complaint about your airline losing your luggage looks the same as a presidential statement and I don't know that that's a great thing so with newspapers and with cable news you can tell by photos story placement duration of time spent on a story how the outlet feels about that piece of news.
Do they consider it important? Is it something they're giving prominent placement to? Twitter, literally everything is the same across the board and it's -- part of the problem too candidly is that I mean, Donald Trump did make Twitter a place where people sort of had to go because he was using it as his main platform. He infuses the media with a level of power that no other president has. He treats us not just as the opposition party but as equals almost and by doing that he makes us the story and I don't -- I don't want to be the story. I mean, to some extent we can't help it in this moment but to the extent I can just engage in constantly on Twitter was just not worth it.
STELTER: I get the impression you just want to put new information into the world.
STELTER: That's the goal.
HABERMAN: Yes and I and I do look at Twitter because it is still a breaking news feed. It's not -- I'm not -- I'm not off the site in the sense of I never look at it. I still have the app on my phone and I would because of the way that news works these days I'd have a harder time knowing what's going on without it but I don't -- I don't want to be in it the same way. It's just not worth it.
STELTER: I hope the executives are listening. There is a value to be had in a conversation about how to improve the service.
HABERMAN: They clearly see the value and how the -- how the -- how it runs currently and --
STELTER: Like the sewer.
HABERMAN: And I think that there is a -- there is a diminishing returns.
(END VIDEOTAPE) STELTER: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey did respond to Haberman into my comments over the weekend. You can hear the entire interview with Maggie on our RELIABLE SOURCES podcast. Hear more of or take. Download our podcasts through Apple, TuneIn or Stitcher. Up next here, Trump friend Chris Ruddy the CEO of Newsmax is here. He says there might be some missteps being made by a new president. Hear from him after this.
[11:40:00] STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES I'm Brian Stelter. President Trump has been trying out a new term to describe the press in the United States. He still says we're fake news. But nowadays he also says something even more egregious. He's been using the term enemy of the people more often. You can see here he did it a couple times in the past week including this tweet where he was essentially defending Russia while saying the real enemy of the people is the fake media. Can someone get through to the President? Can we get him to stop using this kind of Stalinist rhetoric? Let's ask one of his friends Chris Ruddy. Chris Ruddy is here with me. He's the CEO of Newsmax Media. And Chris you're oftentimes described as a Trump confidante. I don't know if you like that or not. Do you like being called that?
CHRIS RUDDY, CEO, NEWSMAX MEDIA: I think Trump friend is good enough. I don't want to overstate the relationship. I'm a member -- I'm a -- I'm a member of the enemy of the people. Remember that, I'm a member of the press.
STELTER: But that's what's strange about this right? Can anyone get through to him and say calling us the enemy that people is dangerous?
RUDDY: Look, I think he's actually used that term before and you know I think it comes out of a motion which is he's very angry about the press treatment. You guys haven't given him a moment to breathe ever since he was elected. People on this network, on MSNBC we're calling for his impeachment I think even before he took the oath of office.
STELTER: Not anchors or reporters, we're talking about guests.
RUDDY: Yes, but you guys were propelling it and pushing it and it's been a narrative like you know -- I look at this narrative but you never talk about the real narrative. When he inherited that job, Obama had economic growth rates of 1.5 percent. This past quarter, they're saying it's going to be about 4.4. The President told me in England he thinks it's going to be 4.8. Maybe Kudlow is going to work the numbers for that but it's a 300 percent increase in about 18 months. I don't think in history we've ever had anything like this. You guys never talk about any of the positives. So yes the President made some missteps --
[11:45:32] STELTER: Well, the entire business division that sits right behind you that covers the economy every day.
RUDDY: They're on a 3:00 and you're on all Sunday morning and Chris and Anderson are on blasting him away every night. So you've done things --
STELTER: You don't think Donald Trump's story is worthy of prime time coverage?
RUDDY: Look, I think the President made some missteps. He admitted he misspoke but the idea like I've just heard on your program for the past forty minutes this hysterical stuff that he was -- Max Boot said that he was colluding in open daylight, you know, that he's engaging in treason, this stuff is just beyond belief that President Kennedy -- and I'm sure you like President Kennedy as I did, but when he became president he withdrew American military support to those patriots landing on the Bay of Pigs. They were slaughtered. They were imprisoned. He did it at the last minute. He gave them no warning. People at the time accused him of betrayal of treason. Now that was a --
STELTER: It was a stain on his presidency.
RUDDY: Well, and he learned from it and he adjusted. We have a relatively new president who had less political experience than John Kennedy
STELTER: But, no, no, you're saying he gets credit for the economy, it's going gangbusters but he's still new at his job?
RUDDY: Yes, he is new at his job. He's relatively new president. He had no - for 50 years he's been a business guy. And you know as a business guy Brian, he -- words are not so much as important as the concrete actions of the deal. And I think Donald Trump my own view of the Putin meeting was that he met with Putin and he was exuberant after that meeting because he came out very magnanimous. He probably got -- no I haven't spoken him about it. My guess is he got huge concessions. The meeting went better than anyone expected and he thought you know what, I'm going to be overly nice to this guy. And see what he'll --
STELTER: We don't know.
RUDDY: We don't know but we will see in the next coming months.
STELTER: We're going to see Russia interfere in our elections in the coming months.
RUDDY: But I do know this. He's dramatically increasing spending by NATO. He's dramatically increased military spending. He's modernizing the nuclear arsenal. I remember speaking to the President just before he became president. He said we were at a disadvantage to Russia. He did not want to go into meetings with Putin having a weak nuclear arsenal. He's the first president in about 20 years to modernize the nuclear arsenal. This is not a friend of Russia, OK?
STELTER: Then why did he talk so like one?
RUDDY: Because -- negotiating style. This is from his business career. He's coming in. He's setting -- now I personally don't agree with that approach but I think -- STELTER: What you're saying to the audience is just trust us, we'll
take care of this. That's what you're saying. I don't think he's earned that trust.
RUDDY: No I'm saying something a little -- I'm actually saying something a little different. It's just go beyond the words and look at his concrete action. If he was engaging in collusion --
STELTER: I believe in actions matter more than words. His actions on the world stage were disgraceful.
RUDDY: Why --
STELTER: Because he stood there and didn't defend us.
RUDDY: Do you believe that he's colluding with Russia.
STELTER: I wish I could just say no, he's definitely not, that's crazy. But I can't say that because he's acting in other ways.
RUDDY: But acting, why would he put people like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and Jim Mattis who are all Russia hawks in the key security position setting --
STELTER: I think that's a fair point. It's strange and it contradicts his own --
RUDDY: I always felt you're a fair reporter. I know you've recently been sort of accusing the President of all sorts of things. And you know what, I think criticism of his is fine. But just give the other side. You know, at Newsmax, we'll have criticism of the president but as long as it's on policy issues and not -- I have disagreed on this health care plan, for instance, but I think he's done a tremendous job on the economy. He gets zero credit --
STELTER: He get a lot of credit for that.
RUDDY: Where? Where?
STELTER: All over the prime time --
RUDDY: You guys never talked about it on prime time. You don't bring guest to talk on it. When was the last time you had Larry Kudlow on talking about 4.5 percent growth rates.
STELTER: Larry Kudlow should do more interviews. I completely agree with that. He should give more interview.
RUDDY: Larry, I'm sure would love to be on the show. I'll call him.
STELTER: Can I ask you about Sinclair briefly. There was some developments this week about the Sinclair Tribune deal. You've been lobbying against the deal which would expand Sinclair's footprint across the country. I know you spoke with the President about it. Is he the invisible hand overseeing media regulation right now? RUDDY: I think it's quite the opposite. I don't think there's any
evidence he got any medals in the FCC. As you know that's an independent regulatory agency headed by his appointing Ajit Pai. And I think Pai did an incredible you know, remarkable bipartisan unanimous, showed a lot of integrity. He effectively rejected the Sinclair deal not because he disliked Sinclair, they just -- there are eight months delayed in the process. They refused to comply to the most basic regulatory rules. The DOJ has yet to approve this merger and --
[11:50:02] STELTER: They were doing some shady stuff. Just to explain to our viewers. They were trying to shed some of the station's but in ways that look like they were still going to secretly own the stations. That's essentially a problem.
RUDDY: My conversations with the President, I told him about my opposition because Sinclair would have reached 70 percent of U.S. homes. And while I don't disagree necessarily with Sinclair's editorial point of view, I did not want to see NBC and ABC and the other big liberal networks owning home -- a reach of 70 percent. I think would have been very dangerous if NBC was dictating the local news coverage in Des Moines, Iowa. The President I think had a different view on that but you know at the end of the day the FCC acted as it was supposed to act which is an independent regulatory agency and I think it's a credit to the unanimous decision bipartisan. It's a template of how this government could work when I think when the Democrats and Republicans agree on things.
STELTER: I'm glad you're here Chris and I hope you'll suggest to the President to make more Trump aides available for interviews on set.
RUDDY: Could we agree next week --
STELTER: Let's say Kudlow --
RUDDY: Could we -- next week we do a program about all the President's economic successes? Could we do that?
STELTER: We're a 24-hour channel but I just get one hour about the media --
RUDDY: If I could -- if I could get Larry Kudlow to come on and just talk about that, would you be open to it?
STELTER: I am sure many people--
STELTER: I would love to interview Larry Kudlow.
RUDDY: Maybe the President will come on if you just talk about his economics. Would you Mr. President?
STELTER: Hey, I think he's a good co-host for me. All right Chris, great to see you. Thank you.
RUDDY: Thank you.
STELTER: Good to see you. Quick break here, more reliable sources in just a moment.
[11:55:00] STELTER: Back now on RELIABLE SOURCES with one final thought for the day. Sometimes the news is not what is said, it's what is not said. The news is what's not tweeted but the President's not emphasizing. Case in point, does President Trump know that the Russians are still actively interfering in U.S. politics? Does he believe that? It's an open question and his silence on the matter speaks volumes. The other day, ABC's Cecilia Vega tried to get an answer. She tried to ask him this question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CECILIA VEGA, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Is Russia still targeting the U.S., Mr. President?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much, no.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, let's go. Make your way out.
VEGA: No, you don't believe that to be the case? No?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: So it sounded like he said no, as in no they are not targeting our elections. News outlets sent out breaking news alerts saying he was contradicting all the available evidence saying Russia is no longer trying to meddle. Then Press Secretary Sarah Sanders at her only briefing of the week claimed he was saying no to answering questions at all claiming he just didn't want to talk to the press corps at that moment. But give me a break after he said no, he continued to answer other questions. So in this case, the news is what Trump hasn't said. He's had four or five days to follow up to make it very clear what he knows and what he believes about Russian interference and yet he hasn't taken that opportunity. You know, his own Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats has been really clear on this point. Watch what he said on Thursday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: It's undeniable that the Russians are taking the lead on this. Basically, they are the ones that are trying to undermine our basic values and divide us with our allies. They are the ones that are trying to wreak havoc over our election process. We need to call them out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: That's an incredibly important moment from Dan Coats. But then a few moments later, Trump in the White House undermined Coats. You remember what happened. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders announced all of a sudden that Trump had invited Putin to Washington this fall. Of course, Coats was asked about this on stage, was one of the greatest journalistic moments of the week. NBC's Andrea Mitchell was handed a note so she told Coats about this surprise meeting and Coats was caught off guard. It seems like the White House was trying to undermine the DNI. But this weekend Coats is the one apologizing saying the press misconstrued his reaction and he was never trying to break from Trump in any way. Some of these stories are hard and confusing to cover and we have to have the time to unpack them. We have to have the time to keep asking these basic questions.
We need to keep asking President Trump, do you realize that the Russians are trying to do it again. They're active right now. Do you agree with their own government's assessment? We have to keep asking but without rushing to conclusions. It's a fine line and I think we saw someone cross a line about that this week. Take a look at this from Emily Singer of the Web site and Mic. She was reacting to the arrest of an alleged Russian agent in the U.S. She tweeted out a picture saying, hey, that's Maria Butina there in the background in the Oval Office with Trump. A bombshell except it wasn't true. It wasn't Butina in the background. It was an NSC staffer. Singer had to delete it and apologize but by then the damage was done.
Sanders said it was a case of media hysteria. What singer needed in that moment was an editor, someone to check, someone to say let's tap the brakes before blasting this tweet out into the world. That's the only way journalists are going remain credible and remain able to keep asking the questions that are so vital right now. You have questions, I have questions, we need answers and hopefully, journalists can continue to try to get them. We'll see you right back here this time next week for more RELIABLE SOURCES.