Return to Transcripts main page

Reliable Sources

Where Are We in the Trump-Russia Story?; Media Minefield in Mueller Coverage. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired December 09, 2018 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:16] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter and this is RELIABLE SOURCES, our weekly look at the story behind the story, of how the media really works, how the news gets made and how all of us can help make a better.

Ahead this hour, new and shocking revelations about misconduct at CBS. Details keep coming out. So, I'm going to speak with one of the women who is accusing Les Moonves of sexual assault. She says Moonves took her whole career away.

Plus, is the "Weekly Standard" shutting down, and what would that say about conservative media in the age of Trump? We'll get into that.

And later, a brand new effort to make digital media work, to make it a sustainable as a business. We'll talk about what the correspondent is and why it needs a million dollars to launch.

But, first, how to make sense of all the damning new information about President Trump, hush money payments, Russia synergies and layers and layers of lies. Friday's scramble to cover all the latest court filings happened on live TV. I'm sure you saw it unfold as reporters read through 57 pages about Michael Cohen's crimes, 10 pages about Manafort.

It took a little while to comprehend of what was revealed, but by now we know the headlines. The president has been implicated in two federal crimes, dating back to 2016. That's the Michael Cohen finance case, not the Russia conspiracy.

But as David Prince wrote in "National Review", Robert Mueller's findings about Paul Manafort and Russia are also ominous for Trump. Now, the filings are just a glimpse of the full picture. "The Washington Post" says Mueller flashed some cards in the probe, but are still hiding his hand. Some columnists are going further, saying Mueller told us he's got Trump on collusion. That's a conclusion from a "Daily Beast" writer.

What we know for sure is that Trump remains under investigation for numerous reasons, including possible obstruction of justice. He's doing things in real-time right in front of us that may count as witness tampering. But in Trump world, the land of make believe, all of this is bogus. And unfortunately, too many commentators on the right are playing along and covering for Trump.

And notice of course, this weekend's big tweet, the most shocking tweet of all this weekend the president saying about the filings, that it totally clears the president and then he adds, thank you with an exclamation point.

Now, I don't know if he's lying in that case. Trump may actually believe he's being cleared. That would be even worse, right, being delusional is even worse than lying. But either way, he's being deceptive.

Remember, Trump's deceptions are a sign of disrespect. He's talking down to you, he's talking down to his fans, he's disrespecting his supporters and the rest of the country by constantly saying stuff that's not true. And by the way, many of his allies, his aides, his former fixer Michael Cohen, his former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, all of them proven to have lied again and again. It's a sign of disrespect.

And when we in the press repeat those lies, just quote rather Trump without correcting him, we just make a bad situation worse. We must have respect for the audience, for the public, even though Trump doesn't.

Now, there's a lot to talk about here. We have an excellent line-up of guests to talk through it, but let's start with CNN political analyst Carl Bernstein. He's joining me now from Munich, Germany, today.

Carl, thank you so much for coming on.

Some news from earlier in the day here on "STATE OF THE UNION". We hear Jerry Nadler who's, of course, going to be running a key house committee very soon, saying that what we're learning about Michael Cohen and President Trump and hush money payments, could he believes be an impeachable offense. What's your interpretation?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It certainly looks like they are the kind of offenses that would call for impeachment hearings into the conduct of the president of the United States. There's something much more important than just impeachment going on, and that is the fact that Donald Trump for the first time in his life is cornered. As a businessman, he always could bully his way out of a corner. He always could buy his way out, cheat his way out.

He is boxed in by Mueller and the people around him know that he is. And it's on the question of collusion, possible collusion with Russia and unquestionably a massive obstruction of justice that is now demonstrable for all to see led by the president of the United States to cover up whatever the dealings of himself, his family, his aides were with Russia. We don't know what those dealings were in detail, but it's clear that Mueller is now connecting the dots between a massive obstruction intended to hide the truth about the Trump campaign, Trump, his business organization and his family from the investigators.

[11:05:05] STELTER: From your sources and the folks you talked to, how much longer do you expect this to go on for? Because I think there is sort of exhaustion from members of the public and even some members of the media about this ongoing scandal.

BERNSTEIN: Certainly there have been no leaks out of Mueller's shop, and we don't know how long it's going to go on except he keeps developing new information. And as we saw in the important filings with the court on Friday, this is crucial information that contradicts directly what President Donald Trump has been saying over the weekend, namely that somehow he's been exonerated by the special prosecutor. To the contrary, the opposite is the case.

And also, I've been talking to people in Washington and his aides including his legal team are well aware that at least one of the principle witnesses who has been interviewed by Mueller, a major figure in this investigation, came out of being interviewed by Mueller and said they know everything about Russia. Meaning, all of the president's -- Donald Trump, his business dealings in Russia as well as Russian figures trying to be in touch with the campaign.

Does that mean there is conspiracy or collusion? We don't know. But what we do know is that all of the lies, the most important lies told by Trump, told by his son, told by his campaign ads, told by Flynn, told by Manafort, you can go on and on, they're all about Russia.

Why is this if there's no collusion, if there's nothing there, if there's nothing to investigate? It's all about Russia.

STELTER: There's a really interesting piece of reporting in the newspaper that's your alma mater, "The Washington Post," this morning's "Post" describing Trump's reaction to all these revelations of damning information. "The Post" says that White House is adopting what one official termed a shrugged to shoulder strategy for Mueller findings, calculating that most GOP base voters will believe whatever the president tells them to believe.

Your reaction to that?

BERNSTEIN: Well, so far, it's been true of the base. They are prepared have been so far, they believed anything that Trump tells them. However, it doesn't mean the base is all of the Republican Party if this conspiracy to obstruct justice is as huge as it looks.

At some point, some kind of important Republicans are going to peel away from defending Trump and then perhaps this house of cards will start to fall a bit because nobody wants to be defending the indefensible. And it looks certainly on the obstruction and what that obstruction was about, that we may be heading toward the indefensible for even many of the president's backers. Not the most adamant of them, not all of that 40 percent out there.

But in Congress, there are two things happening in Congress. One is what you're hearing in public from the congressman who were Republicans and, two, what they're saying in private to each other. And they are shaken in private, many of them. And they are very worried about where this is going to go.

And they're also very worried about Donald Trump's conduct since the midterm elections. When he became Trump, more aware of where the special prosecutor was headed, how boxed in he is, he has not been acting rationally in the regard of many members of Republicans in Congress. He has been acting in their words, not my words or journalists words, unhinged, much more than usual.

And go to my colleague Bob Woodward's book where those closest to Donald Trump in terms of being his aides, cabinet members, we saw it in what Tillerson said the other day. They believe, many of them, that Donald Trump himself is a threat to the national security of this country. And we are seeing it as well in his reaction to Mueller.

You know, we could be in for a very, very rough ride the next few months as Trump tries to fight this. We've never been in this territory with Donald Trump. We were there with Richard Nixon, but Trump is a very different figure who has absolutely no regard for the rule of law, for the privacy of law, for tradition, for what the White House traditionally stands for, and this could be an event that makes the world tremble.

We just don't know. What we do know is Mueller that is well on his way to connecting the dots in a way that is very grievously affecting the president of the United States and his presidency.

STELTER: After you and Woodward exposed Watergate, you said Nixon was a criminal president and it was a criminal presidency.

[11:10:03] Is the Trump presidency a criminal presidency?

BERNSTEIN: I don't think we know completely yet. I think it's very obvious that there has been a criminal conspiracy led by the president of the United States to obstruct justice. It's hard to see otherwise in the filings that have been made public thus far.

But on top of that we also know that there is criminal behavior by Donald Trump in the Southern District of New York case in terms of ordering the payment or approving the payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels and another woman that Michael Cohen testified about. The purpose of paying that hush money was to defraud voters, to make voters unaware that this crucial matter of character that Trump had paid these women for their silence would never be revealed while their campaign was on.

So, in that sense, there also is the prima facie evidence of a criminal precedent. But the connect the dots aspect of this, this massive obstruction, what is this obstruction about, it is about Russia and all things Russia, and that is what Mueller has been charged with. And the individual who the White House is aware of, who came back saying they know everything about Russia, this is about Russia in terms of what Mueller was charged with investigating.

STELTER: Carl, thank you so much. I'm grateful to have your expertise this morning. Thank you.

Coming up, we're just getting started and we have an all-star panel standing by in Washington. We're going to talk about the dangers journalists face covering this story, connecting the dots. How we have to be incredibly careful when covering a story this complex. We'll be back with more in just a moment.


[11:15:20] STELTER: Hey, welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.

I found some space where Fox commentator and "SNL" actually agree on something. On Tucker Carlson's show on Friday, on shows like "The Five", guests like Alan Dershowitz said the new legal findings from Robert Mueller's team and from the Southern District of New York were basically a teaser, a coming attraction, a trailer for Mueller's future report.

And "SNL" said the same thing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This week, Robert Mueller released the teaser trailer for Trump, end game. Federal prosecutors said Friday Michael Cohen committed two election related crimes at the person identified as individual one. Now, we don't know for sure who individual one is. But let's just say things are getting tense right now over at individual one tower.


STELTER: So, if we're only covering a teaser, a trailer for what's coming, how do we do that responsibly and carefully?

Let's talk about it with David Frum, staff writer for "The Atlantic", Susan Glasser, CNN global affairs analyst and staff writer for "The New Yorker", and David Zurawik, media critic for "The Baltimore Sun".

Susan, what is -- what are the challenges for journalists when we're covering this ongoing story and we're only looking at it through little soda straws, we can't see the whole story?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, first of all, Brian, thank you very much. I have to say one lesson is humility in pundits and those who listen to them.

If you went back and did a highlights reel of group of people talking about the Mueller investigation a full year ago, you would have heard a lot of speculation about whether it's wrapping up soon or not, what does it mean and how are we connecting the dots. And, you know, I think -- what I would say is stick to the facts, read these extraordinary court filings. You know, as you pointed out earlier, you have 47 pages in Southern District of New York and also from the special prosecutor's office telling us more than we knew before about Michael Cohen, about Paul Manafort.

But, you know, we have learned some striking facts and information that we didn't know a month or two ago. And to me I think it's very important to stick with the fact that first of all, there's an entirely different alleged conspiracy now involving the president of the United States and an admitted felony violation by Michael Cohen in the payment of hush money in the immediate run up to the 2016 election. That's not something that we knew about a year ago.

And again you have this memorable phrase of individual number one. You know, it's going to go down I think in the history books along with some of those memorable Watergate phrases, right? You had unindicted conspirator, the President of the United States Richard Nixon in the Watergate case.


GLASSER: I think you're always going to remember individual number one and Donald Trump for starters.

STELTER: We have a graphic on the screen there with some headlines. One of them said, is this the end of the Trump presidency, the beginning of the end, is this the end of the Trump nightmare?

You know, these are opinion columns, but, David Zurawik, is there concerns some folks might be getting ahead of themselves? You know, that some journalists might be going too far in this coverage, Zurawik (ph)?

DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, BALTIMORE SUN: Absolutely, Brian. That's what struck me about the coverage this weekend, was it's the end, it's the beginning of the end. Also, I read -- and it's all been labeled as opinions. So, I'm not criticizing them in that sense.

But "The Post" had a piece, the latest filings show that nobody can save Trump now. I would just urge caution and every time you're going to write -- whenever I write anything predictive to Trump in the media now, I always think back to election night and how certain I was at 6:00 a.m. on that night what was going to happen in 2016 and how blown my mind was at midnight.

So, being that hard and predictive is really dangerous and it hurts our credibility I think and it actually in a weird way feeds into the narrative he's trying to spin to his base about us being irresponsible.


ZURAWIK: So I think now more than ever, we have to really not get out in front of our skis with what we know to be true.

You know, I was listening to Carl Bernstein and I thought he was just perfect. He emphasized the gravity of what we know for Trump. But you noticed key points, he said we don't know where this will go, we know what it was like when Nixon was fighting, we don't know about him because he's so transgressive and he'll break every rule in the world essentially. So, he wasn't predicting, you know, and I think the consensus now is it looks like there's a case for obstruction but not necessarily collusion.

[11:20:00] So, to say that it's the beginning of the end -- look, this is huge story. There's no narrative in American life fiction or nonfiction as well as Trump v. Mueller. It's got everything in American life, a man of rectitude versus the rule of law versus a man who will say anything, who scorns law, who's taught by Roy Cohn to do everything he can to avoid the law. This is huge.

Even I think people don't even realize in our unconscious this is battle for our national souls. So, we do want closure. On a more minor level, it's the end of the year. It was a Friday, we wanted something that gave us -- moved the story ahead and gave us closure.


ZURAWIK: And we think we erred a little bit about that. But on the other hand, I think we pulled back by Saturday and Sunday, and I think we're in a better place now collectively.

STELTER: Interesting.

You know, David Frum, what the other David is saying, it gets to something I get asked a lot when I speak on college campuses, when I hear from viewers out on the street. They say, why do you all cover Trump so much? What is there's so much Trump coverage?

I think the answer is what Zurawik is saying. This is a massive story that's about the future of the country.

How did you think, David Frum, the coverage on Friday and into the weekend measured up, the coverage of these new filings?

DAVID FRUM, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, let me say, when people say you cover Donald Trump too much, Donald Trump is -- has the potential to end organized human life on this planet in seven minutes. So --

STELTER: You're talking about nuclear weapons.

FRUM: Yes. And he's one of three human beings on earth who have the power to end organized human life on this planet. So, he's a pretty big story. And if you believe who this person is, if there's evidence this person is mentally unstable or criminal, that's really newsworthy.

Look, I think there's an opposite danger for journalists.

STELTER: What's that?

FRUM: On Friday, the "A.P" run a headline that said, Trump says he is cleared -- I'm not going to be able to quote this exactly verbatim. Trump says he's cleared --

STELTER: It's the worst. I don't know why journalists are still doing that? Why are we still publishing headlines that are just, quote, a liar?

FRUM: Saturday morning, the president said two things. First, he said, in the streets of Paris, there were people chanting "we want Trump", citing a tape taken at a rally of English fascists in London, about three of them. And the president also said the lesson of World War I and World War II is a united European army does not work. And those -- you have to be a real history student (ph) that there was -- World War II was not fought and World War I by a United European Army against Marx (ph) or anybody like that.

The point is that the president's statements are not -- are news objects not news topics. And you have to treat them the way you would treat an allegation or potentially a defamatory statement. You have to treat them with tongs. And when the press doesn't do that, it also seriously misleads.

Obviously, journalists have different practices. There's different sections of the media business and there are people who do comment and it's valued, we're doing it here, and people presumably find it of use, or else they would not watch. But the imperative of being responsible also means treating this president's statements in a different way than you'd treat the statements even of President Nixon. Nixon might lie but he did not completely deny reality.

STELTER: Susan, before we go to break, you're thinking about the media environment, you know, this environment where someone can tweet out Trump's comments, new outlets can tweet out Trump's lies and treat them as fact and that's problematic. What we saw on Friday and into the weekend is, we're in this media environment with people can assembly the news themselves, they can experience the news in real- time and that means you can reach your own conclusions about legal filings. It's just a different environment than, for example, in the '90s when you were covering Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton.

GLASSER: Well, that's right. We all remember watching CNN back when the Starr report was delivered to Capitol Hill and Candy Crowley literally reading some of the astonishing things out loud. There were later five volumes of the Starr report released, including all of the FBI interviews.

I would say this, number one, it is all going to come out. And what we're talking about right now are just little bread crumbs compared with the overall picture that we will ultimately get one way or the other. I remain quite confident with that. And I still say, to all of my fellow commentators and to myself, don't pronounce judgment onto whether he has a case on collusion or not because we don't know the answer. And I think it's really dangerous and that is something that feeds into President Trump's narrative, number one.

Number two, we can't all follow along in real-time. I have to be traveling when these filings were released on Friday afternoon and experienced it by watching this expert commentary on Twitter, immediately kind of read through and discern the significant parts from a legal point of view, from a journalistic narrative point of view, I had the opportunity to read the filings myself directly on the train, I would say that's very significant. The prosecutors aren't going to come onto your show and tell us what to make of these bits and pieces of information, however, we, A, have instant access to many reliable experts that we didn't have in the past in real-time and I think that's a significant step forward.

[11:25:07] But importantly, unfortunately, it competes with built-in narratives that President Trump has spent the last year and half essentially trying to implant in the American public and among his followers in particular. He has pressed wherever possible to create a narrative about the Mueller investigation. And I see it frankly even among journalists who say Mueller doesn't really have a case on collusion, but the obstruction is really important. That has become a conventional wisdom, in my view, it's very spurious. It's not based on any evidence because we haven't heard the evidence yet.

And I just -- to me that is the most irresponsible thing that I see people, even critics of President Trump saying over and over again. What we know about the Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign is much, much more than we knew when this investigation was originally started. And it suggests a pattern of Russian outreach to the Trump campaign and their willingness to entertain that outreach that is very significant. The timeline goes back farther than we thought.


GLASSER: And again, why are people still even on this network, you know, opining that there's no evidence around conspiracy and collusion? I don't think that's the case but we don't know yet.

STELTER: We need to take the time to explain all of those facts you're talking about so people understand just how big this is.

All right. Everybody stick around. Quick break here.

After the break a famed conservative voice not afraid to take on Trump may be shutting down. We have a fresh reporting about the fate of "The Weekly Standard" right after this.


[11:30:00] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: On the right, there are principled conservative media outlets that do really viable reporting and then there are pro-Trump propaganda outlets that lie and lie and lie to protect their guy. Unfortunately, the propaganda seems to be winning. Now, there's news this week broken by my colleague Oliver Darcy here at CNN that the Weekly Standard a conservative magazine, it's been critical of Trump for years is facing an uncertain future. The magazine's owner may seek to shut it down. There could be an announcement later this week. But so far, the company is not commenting.

Let's continue the conversation with our panel and bring in Max Boot who's also joining me here in New York. Max, you've been a Contributor to the Weekly Standard in the past. What do you know about the magazine's future?

MAX BOOT, FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, I talked to my friends over there and they are relatively optimistic right now that they think the magazine will survive probably under new ownership and maybe with a slightly different name. Unfortunately, Clarity Media Group owned by the billionaire Philip Anschutz is unwilling to sell the Weekly Standard because they basically want to cannibalize their subscriber list for this new publication that's going to go National the Washington Examiner which is going to be more pro-Trump. So that's very unfortunate.

STELTER: Well, we'll see if it's more pro-Trump, right? They've hired some editors who have been very critical of Trump.

BOOT: Well, I think less anti-Trump than the Weekly Standard anyway. But I think that the Weekly Standard has had apparently they've had inquiries from people with money who are willing to set them up in a new publication so they think that they will survive.

STELTER: That's good to hear. Let's hope that is the case. Moving to Fox News and Heather Nauert, of course, the longtime Fox host and commentator who joined the State Department as a spokeswoman a year and a half ago, she has now been nominated to be ambassador -- U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. What do we do? I mean, Max, this is -- this is -- she is not qualified for this job. She's qualified for a lot of other jobs, she's not qualified to be U.N. Ambassador. What's your read on this?

BOOT: Well, this is the Fox-Trump nexus and it's hard to know where the Fox Network ends and the Trump administration begins.

STELTER: Let's put our graphic on screen showing some of the folks that have gone from Fox to the White House and vice versa. You know, this merger, it is effectively a merger. It may be good for Trump but not America.

BOOT: It's not even good for Trump, I don't think, because Fox helps him to live in this kind of alternative reality bubble where they put up these alternative facts and he actually believes them. I mean, it's quite -- it's hard to know how much of this is a cynical and lying and how much of it is actually just being credulous, but it's quite possible that Trump believed that there would be a red wave before the November election. It's quite possible he believed that the caravan really was this huge threat to America. And based on those assumptions, he led the Republican Party to disaster in November and I think there will be further disasters for the Republican Party for Trump and for America if he continues to believe this nonsense that Fox News pumps out.

STELTER: David Frum, what's your read, what's your interpretation of the Nauert appointment? You know, this is one of the best examples yet of the Fox News influence of the White House and of the Trump administration.

DAVID FRUM, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Look, the Trump administration has made it an affirmative goal to damage America's relationships with allies. Just last week Secretary of State Pompeo went to Brussels and there at the center of the European Union delivered and effectively an America first speech insulting the European Union and mildly denigrating NATO. The United States appointed to as Ambassador to Germany, one of the most strained bilateral relationships of a man named Richard Grinnell who's mostly known as a very effective but internet troll, and someone by the way who also didn't speak the language.

Allies around the world are being pushed away. And this has serious real-world consequences. The European Union is now talking about forming a single European Union Army. President Trump fantastically tweeted about that but it's a real thing they're talking about and avoiding that has been a major goal of American policy for a long time. America wants European forces in NATO not outside of it. But because the United States has become so visibly unreliable and selfish under President Trump, it is pushing way allies.

STELTER: One more example of Trump's alternative reality, it's his promotion of the Rasmussen Poll. Rasmussen, a right-leaning polling firm. Its polls do not measure up to CNN standards. We normally don't report on Rasmussen Polls, but Trump loves them. He tweets about them. He did again this week where my colleague Harry Enten has a headline on that says Trump's favorite pollster was the least accurate in the Midterms. Rasmussen polls were way off in the Midterms.

But David Zurawik, this is another example of the problem we've got where Trump repeats this stuff that's totally bogus.

[11:35:13] DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, THE BALTIMORE SUN: Yes. And then it shows up on Fox and in other places and it's fed back to him. You know, an interesting thing, Brian, this goes back to our opening segment, when the filings on the Mueller came out Friday, if you watched Fox without sound as I did the second or third time through the coverage, you kept seeing the thing pop up, a headline pop up that said no collusion, and the other headline was witch-hunt exposed.

It's like they give these little bursts of -- and it just kept repeating itself. And I thought, that's what they're reducing this to. And for people who don't want to hear experts, here's where you go. You get the little thing that says no collusion and he believes it. I don't know if he believes it, I shouldn't say that, but it feeds back on it and that's what they're feeding the base. That's really dangerous.

STELTER: I have to go, but, Susan Glasser, I don't want to let the -- we go without remarking on George H.W. Bush's funeral. You were there at the National Cathedral. You said, what a world we live in, that that was the feel-good event of the week. What a sad thing that is.

SUSAN GLASSER, EDITOR, POLITICO: You know, it already feels like about a year ago, doesn't it? That's the thing about every week in Trump's Washington. The days feel like years. And you know, look, the juxtaposition between the behavior of this president and the words with which the former President George H.W. Bush was memorialized, there couldn't be a bigger juxtaposition. Words like character, honor, integrity, humility, the absence of the bigeye as President Bush's mom used to call it, you know that was a juxtaposition that I think we saw very painfully.

But you know, this conversation is a reminder of what we used to tell ourselves in college. You're really in trouble when you start lying to yourself and believing it. And you know, if President Trump really believes all those tweets, he's in for a rough few months would be -- would be I think a prediction that we can safely make.

STELTER: All right, thanks, everyone. Up next here, shocking new allegations about former CBS boss Les Moonves. Yes, even more, are now being learned. One of Moonves' accusers and her attorney Gloria Allred will join me next. And a quick programming note here. Tonight is one of the best nights of the year on CNN, "CNN HEROES."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're humans helping humans, and they need our help.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are truly giving the gift of mobility.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do the best the world has to offer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're building something that matters a lot more than we do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're heroes today and every day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is like -- what do you use for this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Girls couldn't -- you teach these girls how to program. It's all about solving problems.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We serve anybody who has ever raised their hand to defend our Constitution.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My vision was to have a home where women could find safety and find themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our first goal was just to create this hospital- based intervention.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want each and every one of them to feel special.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Join Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa live as they name the 2018 CNN Hero of the Year.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Here once again celebrating the best of humanity.

KELLY RIPA, ACTRESS: Don't we need it tonight more than ever?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "CNN HEROES," an all-star tribute, tonight at 8:00 Eastern.


[11:40:00] STELTER: New allegations, even more, allegations about shocking behavior from former CBS boss Les Moonves. And the climate the culture at his former network claims of abuse and a cover-up now reported by the New York Times which obtained a draft of law firms report that is due to be delivered to the CBS board very soon.

Hanging in the balance here is a huge amount of money, a $120 million that Moonves was owed according to the terms of his contract. But if the board can conclude that he was fired for cause, they won't have to pay him that money and that's why this law firm report is so important. But it's important for another reason. We need to know what happened at CBS. We need to know what went wrong and why I was able to be kept secret for so long.

So let's get into that now with my next guest. She is one of the women who has accused Moonves of sexual assault and harassment. Her allegation dates back to the 1980s. Moonves, of course, denies it. He's denied all of it. He says he's never engaged in any non- consensual sexual relationships. But Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb strongly denies that.


STELTER: She says it happened to her repeatedly. She's joining me now from Angeles along with Gloria Allred. Phyllis, thank you so much for coming on the program. I know you'd rather not be here. You say that your career was ruined by Les Moonves and what he did.


STELTER: Tell me tell me how he was able to get away with this.

GOTTLIEB: Because they couldn't get away with us, that's why. And it's the same thing when I found out that I wasn't getting the same amount of money as the men in my -- I move as a vice president. I mean, they -- there was no one that we could go to which is why it took me so long to really go to the police because --

STELTER: Yes. And when you did go to the police, they said the statute of limitations had run out. But now, at least, I'm glad CBS hired these law firms to apparently investigate what happened. You spoke with the investigators, right? What was that experience like?

GOTTLIEB: Yes. No, that -- I thought that was fine. I thought they asked the you know, the right questions and I don't know how they're going to put it together but I thought that it was fair.

[11:45:05] STELTER: It was fair. And Gloria, you've been representing several other women who had other encounters of Moonves. Can you tell us how many women and have they also spoken with the law firm?

GLORIA ALLRED, REPRESENTING LES MOONVES ACCUSERS: Yes, Brian. I have -- I do represent four women who wished to speak to the investigators, to the law firm that the CBS board has hired to do a report to the board about Mr. Moonves and whether or not he engaged in any sexually inappropriate conduct with them. I know there are rumors that the -- that the report might come out this week, but I can tell you that as to the fourth woman that I represent, we are meeting with the investigators for the first time on Tuesday in New York. But I will agree with Phyllis that as to the other three that they have interviewed and I have been present during those interviews, I do feel that the investigators were being very, fair very professional and very sensitive to the women who alleged that they are victims of Mr. Moonves.


STELTER: It's good to hear. Look, I mean, CBS -- there's a lot of great people that work at CBS. They deserve a better corporate culture. They deserve to know what really happened and they deserve to see proper outcomes here. One of the questions is about that $120 million, is it really conceivable that Moonves could still be paid that amount of money now that the New York Times says the law firm found evidence that he destroyed evidence of text messages that were incriminating, that he tried to cover it up, I mean they can't possibly pay him the money right, Gloria?

ALLRED: Well, it really depends on the terms of his contract. And -- is he going to be fired for cause, is he not going to be fired for cause? We don't know whether it's true that in fact, he destroyed evidence, that in fact would be very serious. And I'm sure that if Mr. Moonves has not been honest with his employer CBS, CBS is going to be -- and this is putting it mildly -- very upset with him.

STELTER: Yes, exactly.

ALLRED: And -- that's right. Or if you know, if he's hidden evidence, does he hasn't been truthful, if he's misled, but we don't know whether that, in fact, is true. But this is all about Mr. Moonves, the discussion. And my concern is those who allege that they are victims, those who have had the courage to come forward at no -- you know, they've sacrificed a lot, they are taking legal risks, they are doing it because they want CBS to have the full report.

I only -- I hope that this report will be made public, but I also hope that CBS will do more than perhaps just donate millions of dollars to organizations. They need to be accountable to the persons who can prove that they are victims if they can prove it, they need to compensate the victims because they should not just be a footnote in all of this, it's about rewarding those who have had the courage to come forward and who've had to live with what they say was complete misconduct and taking advantage of them when they were with Mr. Moonves.

STELTER: And this is behavior over the course of decades -- sorry Phyllis to interrupts you. What you allege happened was in the 80s, other allegations are in from the 90s and from the early 2000s. And then, of course, Moonves ran CBS for 20 years, from the mid-90s all the way up until this September. So this is something that spans decades. I wonder for you, Phyllis, the idea, the possibility of him being paid so much money, so much severance, how does that -- how does that sit with you?

GOTTLIEB: Well, you know, when I think about it I you know, really get me upset about it. But I -- my feeling about this was I won't just wanted him to be miserable, I didn't care about the money.

STELTER: Interesting.

GOTTLIEB: Yes. I -- it -- because this -- he did ruin my career and you know, you work hard at that. And especially in those days where there were fewer women. And he -- when I would not go along with his games, then I -- then he moved my office down into like the cellar and made it very clear that I couldn't stay there.

STELTER: So you're office got smaller and smaller when you rejected him --


STELTER: At one point of violent advance that you alleged, that office got smaller and smaller and basically your career was squeezed away.

GOTTLIEB: Exactly, exactly. And you know, I recall when he picked me up and threw me against the wall, I said to my secretary, did you see that, did you hear it? No, she said, no. I thought, well, she's smart. She knows she doesn't want to get involved.

[11:50:01] ALLRED: And you know -- and you know, Brian, regardless of the statute of limitations, this arbitrary time period set by law, it's never too late to do the right thing so that the corporation CBS can do the right thing and they don't need to stand on technicalities. And they are interviewing and interested in interviewing women who allege they were victims even before Mr. Moonves came to CBS. So the time period now in which the report is going to have to be done and turned over is getting shorter and shorter. So I would urge anyone who alleges that she has information about Mr. Moonves positive or negative about sexual harassment conduct, if that occurred, to right now contact CBS and let's have a full and transparent report.

GOTTLIEB: That's a good idea.

STELTER: I can't argue with that. Gloria, Phyllis, thank you so much for being here. A couple notes on the way out on this. It's not just about Moonves, the law firms are also looking into the allegations against Charlie Rose, Jeff Fager and others according to the New York Times as an allegation that -- the former 60 Minutes producer Don Hewitt was engaged in harassment and CBS had to pay off an accuser for many, many years, more than $5 million over time. So there's a lot here and hopefully, more information will come out later this week because the CBS Board is having its annual meeting on Tuesday.

More to come on this. Of course, Moonves denies the allegations. He denies ever engaging in a cover-up. He denies any non-consensual sex. But as you hear, there are many women, more than a dozen women who say otherwise.

A quick break here on RELIABLE SOURCES and then turn to news media business models. Why new -- more and more Web sites are making new? We'll talk with one startup founder after this.


STELTER: With advertising revenue becoming less and less reliable, more and more newsrooms are turning to subscriptions. I'm sure you see this when you surf the web. Following the lead of The Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg, and The New York Times, sites like the Atlantic, and Wired, and Vanity Fair, and New York Magazine, and courts and others are asking or making people pay, even BuzzFeed is trying out a membership model. So with that in mind, with that context, there's a really interesting startup trying something, trying a membership model and doing it out in the open, raising money. This is the Web site called the Correspondent. It says it will only launch if it's able to raise $2.5 million. And here's the thing. The deadline is one week from now.

So far you can see right there the site says it is raised $1.6, almost $1.7 million from about 26,000 people. But the clock is ticking and they've about a week left to raise the money. So let's talk about this strategy and why it's had celebrity backing from people like Judd Apatow. I'm joined right now by the founder of the Correspondent Rob Wijnberg. Great to see you.


STELTER: How are you doing? So you do this in the Netherlands and it worked really well.


STELTER: Why come to the U.S.? Why try it here?

WIJNBERG: Well, at the we're trying to build a movement for unbreaking news.

STELTER: What does that mean, unbreaking news?

WIJNBERG: Well, we live in a culture where we get breaking news headlines on your phone or on your screen every day all day long, and all that news is kind of making a cynical, it's making us divided, and is also making a little less informed about the world we live in. Because news basically tells you about the sensational exceptions to the rule. So you never really get to understand the rule. And we try to flip that script by shifting the focus from the sensational to the foundational, we do this in collaboration with our readers, and we do this on an ad-free platform. And that's why it's so important for people to go to the and join us today because that is what keeps us at free in the first place.

STELTER: Yes, look, I want to see more and more startups. I'm in favor of more and more new startups, new brands, trying new things. But what's going to happen if you don't make it to $2.5 million in the next week.

WIJNBERG: Well, if we don't hit our do-or-die goal then people who signed up will get their money back. And they're --

STELTER: So it's like a kick starter base.

WIJNBERG: It's a kick starter in that sense, but we're confident that we're going to make it. We also did this five years ago in the Netherlands. We actually set a world record in crowdfunding back then. We raised $1.7 million in 30 days. We have to raise a little bit more right now because we're growing international, it's a global platform, but we're confident we're going it.

STELTER: Make why is it that more and more of these sites are going in the subscription direction? It's obviously partly because ad revenue is getting tougher, but a membership model, it means something special to be a member of something. What does it mean to you all?

WIJNBERG: Well, we distinguish between subscribers and members. Subscribers basically pay for a product to get access. We call our readers members because they join our journalistic cause. They pay for it because they think the journalism is important and also contribute not just their money but they also contribute their knowledge and experience to our reporting process. So it's a very different relationship. It's not a consumer product relationship, it's that's really more like a supporter movement a relationship that we're building.

STELTER: Really interesting language around news, talk about a movement.


STELTER: It's a little bit like NPR where people are members where they contribute but you want to also interact with the audience all the time and you work with them. That's really interesting.

WIJNBERG: Yes. And also being ad-free it makes a real difference because being ad-free means we don't need to grab your attention to sell that attention to an advertiser.


WIJNBERG: We can focus on collaborating and understanding the underlying forces that shape our world. It's not about grabbing attention, it's we hope you grant your attention because you think our journalism is important.

STELTER: Awesome. Rob, thank you so much for being here.

WIJNBERG: Thank you.

STELTER: Best of luck with it. The We're out of time here on T.V. We'll see you online all the time on and right back here on T.V. this time next week.