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Reliable Sources

Who's "Panicking"?; Trump is Publicizing His Enemies List. Aired 11a-12n ET

Aired August 19, 2018 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:09] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter. It's time for RELIABLE SOURCES. This is our weekly look at the story behind the story, of how the media really works, how the news gets made, and how we can make it better.

This hour, I'm going to go one on one with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey about how he's trying to clean up the graffiti that's all over Twitter's walls.

Plus, speaking of Twitter, President Trump's use of the platform. He's publicizing his enemies list. John Brennan just the first victim. We're going to get into that with Ralph Peters.

Plus, there's been a backlash against new and progressive star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez because she shut reporters out of two public town halls. We're going to get into all of that this hour.

But first, panicking? Who's panicking? Trump's media world says Robert Mueller is panicking. But if you look on Twitter, you might think it's President Trump, who is in a Twitter tizzy this morning, tweeting all sorts of things.

Here is one example, attacking the failing "New York Times," saying the paper is writing fake news. It's not. And he's comparing White House counsel Don McGahn, saying that "The New York Times" is portraying him as a John Dean type rat.

Look, there's so much wrong with these tweets, he even misspells the word "counsel". And it doesn't stop there. Here are six of the tweets today, at one point, he's comparing Mueller to Joseph McCarthy.

You look at this if you were in some other foreign capital, and you'd say, is the president OK? Is he all right?

You know, I've been noticing this whole week, the president live tweeting Fox more than he ever has before. We counted it up. Of his almost 100 tweets during the week, dozens of those, at least 23 of them, came directly from Fox News coverage. Others were clearly inspired by Fox News.

So, before we begin, we wanted take a look at what he's hearing on Fox. What people like Judge Jeanine Pirro are telling him through the TV. Pirro was taunting Robert Mueller on Saturday night, bemoaning poor Paul Manafort and notice the word her, notice the word "rat" that she uses. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: You're trying to get him to rat on the president of the United States. And you're panicking now, Bob. But you know, Bob, we're all getting tired of this. And this all comes down to your effort to get Donald Trump indicted and you are panicking. You got nothing.


STELTER: OK. Panicking. So, who is really panicking? The woman who is taunting the prosecutor through the TV? Or is it the special counsel team that's quietly doing its work?

There have been no signs of Mueller panicking. But notice how Pirro fed that idea. She fed it to Rudy Giuliani a few minutes later, and then he happily repeated the panicking thing.


PIRRO: Does it tell you that --


PIRRO: -- that Mueller is starting to panic and starting to get McGahn to work with him?


PIRRO: Is he telling McGahn, hey, look, the president is teeing you up for a fall? Who was this? What's going on?

GIULIANI: Well, I think the best -- the best analysis would be that the Mueller team is panicking.


STELTER: OK. So, do you see how this works? You see how the echo chamber or mirror maze is happening? Now, it's Mueller panicking, that's the new talking point, even though it's nonsensical.

And speaking of nonsensical, Rudy Giuliani's TV tour is continuing. It's on "Meet the Press" this morning. And apparently, there's a new form of alternative facts. The new line replacing alternative facts is "truth isn't truth".



GIULIANI: I'm not going to be rushed into getting him to testify so he gets trapped into perjury. And when you tell me that, you know, he should testify because he's going to tell the truth and eh shouldn't worry, well, that's silly because if somebody's version of the truth, not the truth, he didn't have a conversation --

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS HOST: Truth is truth. I don't need to go like --

GIULIANI: No, it isn't truth. Truth isn't truth. The president of the United States says I didn't --

TODD: Truth isn't truth? Mr. Mayor, do you realize what -- I -- this is going to be become a bad meme.

GIULIANI: No, no, don't do this to me. Donald Trump --

TODD: Don't do truth isn't truth to me.


STELTER: Truth isn't truth, OK, fine, maybe we should all be panicking. I'm kidding, of course.

But let's try to talk through with Sabrina Siddiqui, political reporter for "The Guardian", Carlos Lozada, the non-fiction book critic for "The Washington Post", and Susan Glasser, CNN global affairs analyst and staff writer with "The New Yorker".

Susan, what are the history books going to tell us about this weekend?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, you know, Brian, in some ways I still feel like we're in the early chapter, maybe, not the prologue, but the first chapter of the Donald Trump story. And, you know, we've hardly seen, for example, what the Mueller investigation is really going to result in.

But there's just no question, I'm glad you highlighted what appears to be the increased Trumpian worries on his Twitter feed and his public statements.

[11:05:05] It looks like he is freaking out in a way that we haven't seen throughout his presidency. So, you know, I do feel like we're entering a new stage here. And, you know, people often compare Trump to a reality show. But to me, it's almost like the unreality show that's really kicking in here.

Truth isn't truth, it's Mueller who is like McCarthy, it's the others who are panicking. It's really the opposite of reality that Trump is foisting on us at this point in time.

STELTER: Sabrina, what's your take?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: Well, look, this is a White House that has been navigating from one controversy to the next since the president took office. Much of the crises they've encountered have been of their own making. Now, obviously, the Russia investigation has cast a significant cloud over the Trump presidency, so much that it has really distracted from his legislative agenda. Outside of tax reform, there's been no deal on health care, no deal on trade, no deal on immigration, no deal on infrastructure, the list goes on and on. There's not really a coherent foreign policy strategy either. So, all the president really has left is to try to harden his support

within the base. And so, a great deal of that requires a helping hand from Fox News and other conservative friendly media outlets to try and essentially create an alternative narrative called the alternative facts universe, if you will, where he is successful, where Russia is not a factor, and where frankly, speaking truth isn't truth.

STELTER: And that's why Carlos is here as well.

Carlos, you wrote about six pro-Trump books that you've read and reviewed, bless you, for "The Washington Post." Let's show on screen some of these examples. These are "Let Trump be Trump" and "The Russia hoax," Jeanine Pirro's book is one of them. These books, some of them have done really. I mean, Pirro's book, Gregg Jarrett's book had been on top of the bestseller -- "The New York Times" bestseller list, by the way.

So, when you read these books, Carlos, what did you come away with thinking about the effectiveness of the pro-Trump media world?

CARLOS LOZADA, NONFICTION BOOK CRITIC, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right now, there's two kinds of books published on the Trump presidency, the horrified outside observer books that feel Trump is portending the end of the republic, and then you have these pro-Trump books that really feed into this echo chamber to the point where you can't tell sometimes, you know, if it begins with Trump's Twitter feed or the pro-Trump cable news shows, or these books.

But substantively what you see is that they go after the same people Trump is going after. You know, former CIA Director Brennan is a major villain in the pro-Trump books. And these kind of truth isn't truth leaps of logic you see in the books.

In "The Russia Hoax" by Gregg Jarrett, he says basically Trump can't be obstructing justice because there's no injustice to obstruct. You know, if he did nothing wrong, then why would he obstruct a probe into no wrongdoing?

You know, this is the kind of logic that you see materialize in these books.

STELTER: Logic or I guess logic in quote marks. But did you find these books to be persuasive at all? Can you understand why people would come away feeling, hey, my guy is the victim of a deep state plot?

LOZADA: These books individually are not persuasive. They are useful collectively as a genre. You know, they have these recurring tics. You know, they sound like Trump, they praise all the things that you think of as potentially negative aspects of the Trump presidency here are spun, like his ignorance on policy issues is a great strength.

You know, there's this "I know you are but what am I" kind of argument that runs through them, you know --

STELTER: Which is exactly what Jeanine Pirro is doing, saying, Bob Mueller's panicking. I mean, you can almost see Trump's allies sweating. They're clearly concerned about what's going on, but they have to say Mueller is the one panicking.

Let me just go real quick from cause to effect because this new Quinnipiac Poll has to be pointed out. This is a poll showing that 26 percent of Americans will side with Trump's enemy of the people talk about the press, while 65 percent say the press is an important part of democracy.

Now, let's break it down by party. The important part here is that half of Republicans will parrot Trump's line and say that the press is the enemy.

Sabrina, your reaction to this polling.

SIDDIQUI: Well, this is consistent with other polling that shows that Trump's attacks on the media are working, at least among Republicans. There have been other worrying surveys that show a majority of Republicans even support giving Trump the power to shut down elements of the media.

But I do think that you are seeing somewhat of a ceiling with respect to how effective he is, because the majority of Americans still are supportive of the media and recognize just how vital the role of a free press is to the United States and to its democracy.

So I think that is part of why you're seeing him really play to the base.


SIDDIQUI: And the question becomes in the 2018 midterms or if you look ahead to 2020, is he going to be effective as an incumbent president in making the same argument that he did as a candidate?

[11:10:08] And it doesn't look like the polling supports that he will be.

STELTER: You know, you mentioned 2020, and I've been thinking even longer term than that, I was talking with political scientist Brian Klaas (ph), an outspoken Trump critic. He was on my podcast this week, and he says, hey, look, think two decades from now, what is the impact of this enemy rhetoric going to be?

Let me just play a little bit about what Brian Klaas said.


BRIAN KLAAS, POLITICAL SCIENTIST: There's a poll out this week that shows that 26 percent of Americans do believe that the media is the enemy of the people. That doesn't end when Trump leaves office. And how many of those people are going to discount truthful, accurate reporting, not just for the next 2 1/2 years but for the next 2 1/2 decades, for example.

(END VIDEO CLIP) STELTER: That's the issue.

And, Susan, I don't think we know the answer, I don't think we know what the long term effects are going to be exactly. But going back to Rudy and this truth isn't truth stuff from today, you know, Rudy's been out there saying, go ahead, Bob Mueller, release your report, we have our own report too.

Is that how this is going to end, two dueling reports, two narratives, and nobody will be agree on the truth?

GLASSER: Well, look, I think that's at this point, the hope of Giuliani and the Trump legal team is that it ends in that fashion. What we don't know of course is what are the results of the November midterm elections going to be, and the timing of Mueller's report and what is contained in it. And if there is a change in the control of the House of Representatives, as now seems possible, if not likely, you certainly are going to see a much different approach from Congress, and hearings. I believe that there will be overwhelming pressure on Democrats from their base to launch impeachment hearings.

And so, you could start to see an entirely different process kick in here. And, by the way, speaking of unreality, that's why you have President Trump right now trying to create, in addition to his narrative around the rigged witch hunt, selling his supporters on a whole different alternate reality, the idea that not only is there not going to be a blue wave, there's not going to be a red wave either come this fall.


STELTER: That there is going to be a red wave, right? Isn't he saying there is going to be a red wave?

GLASSER: Well, that's what Donald Trump says, there's going to be a red wave. And I think it's another example of the alternate reality presidency.

STELTER: Susan, stick around, if you can. Carlos and Sabrina, thank you for being here.

We're going to take a quick break, and then I think we're going back to the future, back to the '70s? Secret tapes, an enemies list, and a White House lawyer spilling the beans. Ralph Peters is here to react, in just a moment.


[11:16:13] STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.

What started this week with former CIA Director John Brennan is not going to end with Brennan. The White House is reportedly planning to revoke other security clearances from other former officials who have been critical of President Trump.

Let's talk about it now with Ralph Peters, a retired U.S. army lieutenant colonel and former Fox News military analyst.

Thank you for coming on the program. I appreciate it.

LT. COL. RALPH PETERS (RET.), U.S. ARMY: I'm glad to be here, Brian. We all have to do our part in these dreadful, dreadful days in Washington.

STELTER: What is the most dreadful part about it for you?

PETERS: Well, the most dreadful part is that we have a president who does not respect our system of government, does not understand our government, who is not interested in understanding our government, who believes that the Constitution is a menu from which he can choose only the most delectable items, who disdains career bureaucrats, who doesn't respect the Constitution. So, I mean, that's one thing.

But the twin -- the evil twin of that is that I believe, as a former Russia analyst for most of my career, and having worked directly with Russian intelligence services, I am convinced that the president of the United States is enthralled to Vladimir Putin. There is no other way to explain his behavior. And he perfectly fits the profile of the kind of people the Russians target.

So when it comes to worries, you know, Trump gives us something new to worry about virtually every day, but it's important not to lose sight of the overall picture. This is a distinctly un-American president who really doesn't seem to like America very much, certainly doesn't respect it. And he's a president who appears to be enthralled to a foreign power, a hostile foreign power.

I mean, this is unbelievable to me. I could never have foreseen this. I was a pretty good analyst, made a lot more good calls than bad calls. I never could have foreseen this, to use a cliched word, this Orwellian situation.

STELTER: When you sound the alarm the way you're doing right now, do you worry that it has the opposite effect of your intent, that you actually scare people off or make them tune out by saying such harsh things about the president?

PETERS: No, I don't worry about it, because I refuse to calculate what I say based on who it might please or who it might displease. We've got plenty of that in Washington. What we need is people who will speak honestly and say what they believe and not worry about who it offends.

I'm just sick and tired of people hedging and hemming and hawing. This is a president of the United States who is a danger to the republic. And, Brian, the only reason I am here today on this show or any show isn't because I'm enamored with the chance to be on television. It's because we all need to do our part. These are parlous times.

It is not hyperbole to say that this man and his henchmen and henchwomen constitute a real threat to our republic. We will survive it, but there is real damage. STELTER: How much do you blame your former network Fox News? You have called it a destructive propaganda machine when you resigned earlier this year? Are they partly at fault for propping up Trump?

PETERS: Well, certainly, they're of course. I mean, I left Fox because as a former military officer who took an oath to the Constitution, I could not be part of a channel that to me was assaulting the Constitution, the constitutional order, the rule of law.

But that said, Fox isn't immoral, it's amoral. It was opportunistic. Trump was just a gift to Fox and Fox in turn is a gift to Trump. And as you observed earlier, it's a closed loop. And so, people that only listen to Fox have an utter wily skewed view of reality.

[11:20:04] And, by the way, you know, earlier, some of your guests were describing Trump world, you know, in terms of Republicans. The Republican Party is gone or at least it's dormant.

What we see now, the people supporting Trump are radicals, these couch potato anarchists. They're people that don't have a program to make America great again, and by the way, America is great right now. Rather, they're destructive. They want to tear things down. They want vengeance.

And Trump is brilliant at that. He's done what autocrats and charlatans and false messiahs throughout history have done.

He's told his core supporters, you are not to blame. You're not to blame for the mistakes you made. You're not to blame for your failures.

It's them. It's the minorities.

STELTER: The media's fault.

PETERS: It's the immigrants. It's fake news. Yes, it's the deep state.


STELTER: It's a very compelling story. It's a really compelling story.

How do you counter that story, Ralph?

PETERS: Good men and women have to fight for this country in terms of being good citizens, in terms of voting, informed votes, and in terms of reaching out.

You know, the core Trump supporters, the hard core, you cannot reach them. But there are many people who voted for Trump because they so strongly disliked Mrs. Clinton.

And there are people we can talk to. And I think if anything, what we need to do is get past the personal vilification of somebody who didn't vote the way we did. To me, the far right and far left, they're interchangeable. And what's lost is the center.

And most Americans are somewhere in the center, left of center, right of center. They're reasonable people, but they're being drowned out.

And we're all helping, all the media is helping, because we're so enthralled to Trump. Every tweet wipes out everything. The bridge collapse in Italy, crisis in Turkey, cities falling to Taliban and the Taliban in Afghanistan -- none of it matters, it's all Trump's tweet.

STELTER: It does matter, but we do have to be careful not to let the tweets overwhelm us. I completely agree with you.


STELTER: We have to exercise editorial judgment.


STELTER: I think we're better at that than 18 months ago, in knowing which tweets are newsworthy and which are distractions.

Can I just ask you briefly about Brennan though? I wanted to show Fox and MSNBC side by side, because you described Fox as a closed loop. Let's take a look at the two channels side by side.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, after years of serious misconduct, former CIA chief and Obama sycophant John Brennan can kiss his security clearance bye-bye.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a guy you want to keep close to you, even if he's critical of the president, this is a guy who actually knows something about some of the biggest threats facing the country right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fact that he got that far is astounding. I look forward to his books. I know there will be one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Brennan is an American patriot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And how did someone so obviously intellectually limited get to be CIA director in the first place?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you believe the decision was made because of the president's duty to protect Americans, then I've got a bridge to sell you.


STELTER: Ralph, do you think your former colleagues at Fox are proud of their performance?

PETERS: The polite word is "prostitutes," so we'll just leave it at that.

You know, I don't want to be the go-to guy for Fox-bashing forever. But what Fox is doing is causing real harm to our country right now.

And as for Brennan, look, I am not the world's biggest John Brennan fan. But yanking his clearance was wrong. It was wrong because that's not how we do things in this country.

You know, as Jim Mattis observed, yes, we pull clearances for a lot of reasons, usually to do with bad behavior, danger that people could be susceptible to espionage overtures, people who are financially irresponsible.

We never, never pull clearances for partisan political purposes. We don't do it. And so, on this particular issue, I'm absolutely on Brennan's side.

And it's encouraging to me to see so many people who wore uniforms for a long time come out, because military people are not political. We're conditioned not to be. But it's gotten so bad that now you do have generals and admirals and former intelligence chiefs speaking out, because they recognize, again, without hyperbole, that these times, we're facing serious threats to our core institutions.

When the Justice Department, when the FBI, the intelligence agencies, when the courts are under attack. I mean, domestically, from our own president, and his paladins, how can we not be alarmed if we care about this country in the least?

STELTER: Ralph Peters, thank you so much for being here.

PETERS: Thank you.

STELTER: Appreciate it.

Quick break here. Much more ahead, including Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. My sit-down with one of the most powerful names in tech, coming up.


STELTER: In the Trump age, some Democrats have portrayed themselves as a friend of the news media. But not all Dems. Take a look at what happened recently with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the new star of the progressive movement. She barred members of the media from attending two public town halls.

And she said, according to the campaign, that she had been mobbed by reporters at a previous event so she was trying to create space for her constituents. But as you can see here, it's been met with a lot of criticism.

Back with me now is Susan Glasser.

I just want to get your take on this, Susan, because I think it's an issue going forward. Yes, Trump's attacks are awful, but it's not the only issue that journalists contend with. Even some Democrats are restricting access.

GLASSER: Well, that's right. I think a lot of politicians make the mistake of thinking that, you know, just because the other party is in power, the press is somehow on their side. You know, press bashing has long been an equal opportunity sport. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez has been rocketed to national stardom on the basis of winning one primary election. I think she's learning perhaps the hard way that the national media scrutiny isn't always going to give you flattering portrayal but that openness means openness and she made a mistake in my view this week.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: And her campaign spokesman said this won't happen again. There will be access in the future. Speaking of attacks against the press, there were 400 newspapers across the country, many of them local papers, publishing editorials decrying Trump's press attacks recently. We can show a map from the Boston Globe of all 400 plus papers. There was concern that this would be evidence of the President that the President would cite this as evidence of collusion. Sure enough, he did, he said this is proof that the papers are out to get me. What was your take?

GLASSER: You know, look I think that it was an important and necessary cri de coeur from the nation's press and some magazines too including The New Yorker weighed in this week and I'm glad that they did. You know the President United States has called the media the enemies of the people. Having lived for four years in Russia, I'm very sensitive to the idea that it's been used by many dictators over time but nowhere too more deadly effect than in the former Soviet Union where Joseph Stalin considered anyone who was against him an enemy the people. That was actually the sentence used to send millions of people to the gulag into their death.

And you know, when the President of the United States adopts that rhetoric, I think it's an important sign that we don't live in purely partisan times, that you actually can speak up for the Constitution and that's not whether you're Democrat or Republican. The press should speak out in this situation. I think it's urgent and incumbent upon them to do so.

STELTER: Susan, thanks so much for being here.

GLASSER: I'm glad the Boston Globe organized it.

STELTER: That's right, the globe did, more than 400 papers on board. Susan, thanks so much. Quick break here and then what is Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey going to do? What's he going to do about hate, abuse, harassment on this platform? I asked him and his answers are coming up right after this break.


[11:35:00] STELTER: Is your Twitter feed sick? These days harassment hate speech and misinformation are poisoning social media. And Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey seems to know this. He's trying to cure Twitter of these ills but how? At a rare interview at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, I asked him.


STELTER: What is broken about Twitter today?

JACK DORSEY, CEO, TWITTER: What is broken about Twitter -- I mean, I think it really depends on who you follow and your perception of what you see and how you feel about that. I mean, there's a lot of emphases today on politics Twitter. And politics Twitter tends to be pretty divisive and it tends to be pretty contentious and you see a lot of outrage and you see a lot of -- a lot of unhealthy debate that you probably want to walk away from tangibly.

If you go to other Twitter's like NBA Twitter or K-Pop Twitter, you see the complete opposite. You see a lot of empowering conversation. So we do have a lot of focus right now on some of the negative things given the current environment and I believe it's important to see those. I believe it's important to see the dark areas of society so that we can acknowledge and we can them. And I think the only way to address them is through conversation but it is hard especially when it feels toxic and you want to walk away from it.

STELTER: What about incentives that encourage the extremes, encourage polarization?

DORSEY: Just backing up a bit. Like when we started the company in the service 12 years ago, we weren't necessarily thinking about some of the repercussions from our actions. And they look quite small at the time. For instance, we thought you know, well people are following you so we should count them and then we should put that count right on your profile page and obviously people care about that so we should make it big. But that one small choice and it felt very small at the time and it felt obvious at the time put an incentive to grow that number. Is that the right attention? Is that the right incentive that we should be driving. I don't think it is today.

I don't think it matters as much in context of how many conversations you have or how much you contribute back to the network. And another good example that I think will help a lot of what we're trying to do in health is what we see with echo chambers. We only give people one tool right now which is to follow an account.

STELTER: So you want people to be able to follow stories, or subjects, or hashtags?

DORSEY: Yes, I mean, we've been focusing a lot of the service today more advising it more towards topics, more towards interest.

STELTER: It sounds like you are willing, and ready and willing to rebuild the entire house, to renovate everything.

DORSEY: We're ready to question everything. I mean, I -- we've changed so much in Twitter over the past 12 years and I know it doesn't always feel that way but we've changed a lot but we haven't changed the underlying fundamentals. We haven't changed some of the incentives that we probably took for granted because they were easy when we built it and they felt obvious when they built it but it may not be relevant today.

[11:40:11] STELTER: When you say health, is that a euphemism for something?

DORSEY: Well, we -- you know, we've seen all these issues on the service. We've seen abuse we've seen trolling, we've seen harassment, we've seen misinformation. And it came to a point where we felt we were playing whack a mole. We're just you know -- and also just addressing the surface level behaviors and set of and symptoms rather than looking deeper at the second-order drivers what's behind all these actions. And we wanted something that was really tangible that could be comprehensive of everything that we're seeing.

So we were asked a question, what if you could monitor -- what if you can measure the health of a conversation? And we think we can because we all know when we've been in a conversation that it's felt toxic that we want to walk away from and that's an indicator. We've been in conversations that don't feel toxic, that feel empowering that we want to stay in, that's an indicator. So if we can measure that then we can measure our progress and then we can actually understand if we're helping.

We're asking ourselves the question like how do we earn people's trust it's actually one of our operating principles which is earn people's trust. And we do that because we realize that more and more people have fear of companies like ours. And the perceived power that companies like ours have over how they live and even think every single day and that is not right and it is not fair.

STELTER: Well, you're right that a lot of Americans, a lot of people around the world fear the power of these Silicon Valley Giants. Are they right to fear your power? Do you feel as powerful as they think you are?

DORSEY: I don't feel as powerful as they think they are -- as I think we are but I do understand the sentiment. I do understand how actions by us could generate more fear. And I think the only way we can disarm that is by being a lot more open explaining in a straightforward way why we make decisions, how we make decisions.

STELTER: You all are every day taking down botnets and suspicious accounts and trying to stamp out harassment and abuse that is happening every day. But I wonder if users don't see it happening enough.

DORSEY: Yes. It's an amazing point and like a lot of the output of our health initiatives are pretty invisible in the short term. We have had people, some of your colleagues, for instance, say that you know, I've noticed it improve. It's still there but it improved. And you -- I think you see a brunt of the negativity. Like our journalist --

STELTER: Are you meeting journalists?

DORSEY: You -- like journalists get a you know an unfair (INAUDIBLE) of a lot of the contention just based on --

STELTER: Everyone is a media critic. DORSEY: Well, based on what you're reporting around and I think you know, we need to do a better job at protecting and ensuring that you can do your work without distraction but over the -- over the short term, a lot of this work is invisible and over the long term it starts to add up.

STELTER: What is the timeline for re-examining how you show follower counts or the use of the like button?

DORSEY: You know, we're -- I mean, we're looking and thinking about all these things right now. We've definitely had conversations about them.

STELTER: But would you say like by the end of the year there's going to be those fundamental changes to Twitter.

DORSEY: I don't -- I worry about a timeframe like that because we also need to take into consideration -- we're a small company. I mean, we -- in comparison with our peers, we're a small company but we have this outsized impact and I believe importance. And like there is a lot of what's in Twitter that you would find in a public square to use the older analogy.

STELTER: You mean all the graffiti on the walls?

DORSEY: Well, there's part of that but there's also really amazing open conversation and there's the ability to walk up to anyone and strike something up so there's positives and there's what people perceive to be negative as well.

STELTER: Look, I met my wife on Twitter, I'm always going to love Twitter. But I kind of feel like it's a garden that's been overrun by weeds. Do you feel like you're the gardener just struggling to keep up?

DORSEY: There are certainly times where we felt like we're behind but that that goes back to my point of like we need to be really good with prioritizing and sequencing and understanding what matters most. So if the incentives are going to have the greatest impact, then we should prioritize that.


STELTER: More from our exclusive Jack Dorsey interview in just a moment. We'll be talking about this guy. Infowars hatemonger Alex Jones and why he's in a Twitter timeout.


[11:45:00] STELTER: Alex Jones a conspiracy theorist and hatemonger on his Infowars Web site. Many social media giants like Facebook and YouTube, also Apple, Spotify restricted Infowars content recently, basically deleted them off their platforms. But Twitter was the exception. At first, Twitter said it was not going to be removing Alex Jones because he hadn't violated the site's rules and policies. Then, CNN's Oliver Darcy found examples of how Alex Jones had violated the written-down rules and policies.

Right now Jones has been in a one-week timeout, a one week time out for bad behavior. Is that going to work? I ask Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey.


STELTER: Is your job to make sure people are not misinformed on Twitter?

DORSEY: I think we need to be really thoughtful about what that means, like what is misinformation and how do we -- how do we help people determine credibility.

[11:50:09] STELTER: The classic example from the 2016 election was the pope endorses Donald Trump. Like that was a popular article that spread on Twitter and Facebook. Wouldn't it be easy just to make sure that lie doesn't spread?

DORSEY: I don't think it is pretty easy because you have to extend it and generalize it to everything that could happen along that vector. So I think what we could do is help provide more context and whether it be showing all of the different perspectives, and people are saying this is fake and people who are believing it, and that to actually advance that conversation, that's one way. I'm not assuming that's going to solve everything but it gives journalists more opportunity to actually remove some of that bias and call it out for what it is.

And I think we can do a lot to help there but also identifying more credible voices and real-time and amplifying that credibility is something we can do but we have not figured this out. But I do think it would be dangerous for a company like ours going back to that fear point to be arbiters of truth.

STELTER: Did Twitter make mistakes around Alex Jones and Infowars, around the initial announcement that no he has not been abusing, no he has not been over the line, but then a few days later giving him a timeout?

DORSEY: Well, we are system works by people reporting content. So we don't -- we're not in a place to proactively review everything and we act when we receive reports. That is just you know consistently enforcing our approach and our rules. People may disagree with that approach. People may say you should be a lot more proactive around all the content. And while we could do that it just -- it requires so many resources, I mean, hours and hours and hours of looking through video content.

So at the time, we did not receive reports that we felt we could take any action on that violated on our terms of service. Your colleagues at CNN pointed out a number of them, we took action on one and then we noticed that all the others likely because they were made known to our terms in Infowars we're being deleted. As we receive reports we take action and there are varying degrees of enforcement action starting with warnings to temporary suspensions which the accounts are now in all the way to a permanent suspension. STELTER: Is it possible that he will change his behavior on Twitter? I think he really might not.

DORSEY: I don't know. I mean, just stepping back like we have seen -- we have evidence that shows like temporary suspensions, temporary lockouts will change behavior, it will change people's approach. I'm not naive enough to believe that it's going to change it for everyone but it's worth a shot. You know it's -- like we -- and it -- but more importantly it's consistent with our enforcement.

Like we can't just keep changing randomly based on our viewpoints because that just adds to the fear of companies like ours making these judgments according to our own personal views of who we like and who we don't like and taking that out upon those people. Those viewpoints change over time and that just feels random and it doesn't feel fair and it doesn't earn anyone's trust because you can't actually see what's behind it.

STELTER: Do you miss the days when you would just use Twitter to meet up with your friends? Because now we're talking about how it's used to cause violence.

DORSEY: I mean, I think -- I think it's just so important to see the world for what it is and I don't want to live in the world where we're just -- we only see the happy things and we only focus on like what makes us feel good because we got a lot of stuff to figure out. So no I don't I don't miss them because we're seeing we're seeing a lot of important things that we need to finally discuss.


STELTER: We're going to share the entire interview on our RELIABLE SOURCES podcast. But joining me now is Oliver Darcy, CNN Senior Media Reporter who's been leading the way on these questions about Alex Jones. Our Twitter's answers satisfying or wanting?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: It sounds kind of comical that he thinks that putting Alex Jones in a Twitter time out for a week is going to really affect his behavior. But two -- it sort of sounds like he's a college professor. He's dealing in hypotheticals in philosophy here but this isn't a classroom. There are real problems that are -- I mean, real impact on people's lives and it's happening now.

STELTER: I do think he's asking the right questions but sure point, maybe he's short on answers.

DARCY: Right. You asked for a timeline for instance on some of the stuff and he doesn't have a timeline. But even the current policies are in place for reporting harassment they don't seem to be working. And it's curious why you know, he doesn't have any answers. He doesn't have any interest for today right now how can Twitter better affect the discourse on politics and it just -- it just kind of baffling too.

[11:55:00] STELTER: I thought Mike Allen of Axios said it really well in his newsletter yesterday. We can put it on the screen. He said, tech companies right now are jammed up between on the one hand calls for bans on conspiracy and hate speech and fake news but then, on the other hand, this coordinated, conservative uprising about being muzzled by liberal CEOs. These are very hard questions for these companies. But like you said, not many answers so far from Twitter.


STELTER: Oliver, thanks for being here. We'll have more in our RELIABLE SOURCES newsletter. You can sign up at and like I said the full interview with Jack Dorsey on our RELIABLE SOURCES podcast. We'll see you right back here on television this time next week.