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Mueller Report Reveals a White House of Lies; Should Press Secretary Sarah Sanders Resign? Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired April 21, 2019 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:13] FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I'll see you next week.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey. I'm Brian Stelter. Happy Easter. Happy Passover.

This is a special edition of RELIABLE SOURCES, as we all start to consume the Mueller report and as it all sinks.

Sarah Sanders is a press secretary with zero credibility. Why does she still have a job? We're going to discuss that this hour with White House correspondents.

Plus, the pro-Trump spin machine spinning out of control. And we will unpack some of the double standards that are on stark display.

Also, a little later, a behind the scenes look at how reporters landed some of the biggest scoops during the Mueller probe. We'll take you behind the scenes of CNN stakeouts.

But where to begin? You know where we're beginning, right here with the number one book in America, the Mueller report.

It revealed a house of lies, a White House of lies. Lies like nothing this nation has seen before.

I take no joy in saying this but deceit is the story of the Trump age. It is the story. Past administrations have bent the truth, of course, but Trump's White House breaks the truth in half and then lies about breaking it. And it's broken us in half or maybe into thirds.

Some Americans are sick of all the deceptions. Others have become immune to it and others have accepted it. If you backed Trump, you either made peace with the lying, you decided it serves the greater good, or you convinced yourself that people like me are lying about him. You convinced yourself that the media is the real enemy.

That's one of the reasons why this report is so important. It is a detailed, dispassionate description of who, what, when, where, why and how. The lies are listed in here in clinical detail.

Will it change minds? Maybe not. But it's important nonetheless. It's important to have the historical record. It reaffirms so much of the reporting from the past two to three years, reporting about Trump and Russia, about all those ties.

I mean, just look at the footnotes in the report. Mueller mentions CNN, NBC, "The New York Times", "The Washington Post", more than 200 times. That's a whole lot of real news.

But, of course, Trump's fans have been conditioned not to trust well, anyone but Trump, and the outlets he approves. We'll get into that later.

My two cents first is that pay attention to the big lies. I know some folks are exhausted by the daily deceptions, the small lies from Trump world. But Trump and his allies are telling big lies. The most popular one is no obstruction. No obstruction at all. The attempts to obstruct are screaming off the page.

I guess my point is, there's no conspiracy found in the Mueller report, but there's no integrity either. What's the role of the press in this broken environment?

In part, our role is to keep collecting facts. All the facts so citizens can make up their own minds. But I think it's also our role to stand up for decency and morality especially if others won't. Journalists, after all, work with a code of ethics. We have and we have to try to enforce standards. And when we fall down, those standards, we try to learn from those mistakes.

But just listen to what one of the president's lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, said to Chris Cuomo the other day about morality. Here is what Rudy said.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: If we're going to start making moral judgments about everybody in public office, we'll have nobody in public office.


STELTER: We can do better than that. And journalists can help lead the way by talking about morality and ethics, if the people in charge aren't.

Here to break it all down now, "New York Times" White House correspondent Katie Rogers, CNN presidential historian Tim Naftali, "Vox" co-founder and editor-at-large Ezra Klein, and CNN political analyst, April Ryan. She's the White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks.

Tim, let me start with you. It is, of course, Easter morning. And I think sometimes the media has a hard time talking about morality, talking about issues of ethics. You know, it's not in our language the way that law, basic things like law are.

How do we make morality more of the conversation now that we have seen this 448-page report with so much immoral behavior?

TIM NAFTALIA, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I think you start by saying we're all flawed, right? We're human beings and by definition we're flawed. But then you ask yourself, what kind of character, what kind of standard of character do you want in someone who represents the flag and the country?

[11:05:01] And as someone who ran a presidential library, what struck me most painfully in volume two, in the obstruction of justice volume, was the number of times President Trump either himself or instructed others to create false records.


NAFTALI: False historical records, which would mean that in the future, people wanting to understand our government would not be able to.


NAFTALI: To my view, that's one of the most egregious and dishonorable acts a president can do, to try to create a false record. There are four instances at least in the Mueller report, where they were able to determine the president either ordered someone to do it or did it himself.

To my mind, that makes the president unfit because if he's not willing to let us understand how he uses the power that we granted him --


NAFTALI: Then, why is he our representative?

STELTER: I think this thing is just starting to sink in, you know, 72 hours later. There's a reason why it's number one, and number two and number three on Amazon. The reason why people really consume this and digest it, it's because the details you're describing, they weren't the first surface headline.


STELTER: You've got to really digest it to understand.

So, Katie Rogers, with that in mind, I was arguing earlier that lying is the through line of the Trump presidency and the Mueller report has new examples of this. Do you think journalists there at "The New York Times" and elsewhere have fully figured out how to cover the deceptions and the dishonesty?

KATIE ROGERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think that journalists have been covering the deceptions an dishonesty since the beginning of the Trump presidency. I think that the report, as you have said so well, confirms a lot of that reporting either through witnesses, through government officials and there's like kind of an exhaustive paper trail there. I think that the opportunities going forward is to stress the nuances

of this report in terms of the 140 or some communications the Trump campaign had with either Russian officials or WikiLeaks. That's maybe not collusion, that's not a legal term but that's certainly excitement as detailed in the report, excitement, enthusiasm, a willingness to accept information from what is an adversarial government to the United States.

And, you know, you're right, as the pendulum kind of swings back from the initial headlines to --


ROGERS: -- these more detail summaries in the report, the public is going to have more opportunity to see exactly what 140, you know, odd communications added up to.

STELTER: Right. Let's take a look at the last two years of reporting, because the press has been leading the way, revealing a lot of these communications. In the first place, the Mueller report confirmed a lot of what's been reported in the last two years. This headline from "Slate" says journalists were right.

At the same time, there was way too much speculation and liberal wishful thinking in attempts to connect dots that did not connect. So, both things have been true at the same time. There was stellar reporting, there was also too much speculation.

Here's a couple of examples of reporting that was off base. Stories by "McClatchy" indicated that Michael Cohen went to Prague, which wasn't proven to be true. "BuzzFeed" story saying Trump told Cohen to lie was not confirmed by Mueller's report. "BuzzFeed" had two sources, two law enforcement sources, they stand by their interpretation of what happened between Trump and Cohen, but Mueller's report says while there was evidence the president knew Cohen provided false testimony, the evidence does not establish the president directed or aided Cohen's false testimony. So, different law officials came up with different interpretations of what happened between Trump and Cohen.

Ezra, all this is a long way of saying, was the media vindicated by Mueller report with some exceptions?

EZRA KLEIN, FOUNDER AND EDITOR AT LARGE, VOX.COM: The media's reporting is vindicated by Mueller's report. I think there's two questions that raises for me.


KLEIN: One is easier and one is harder. The media's reporting was vindicated. I agree to you that the level of media speculation, particularly breathless speculation was often not.

But there are two things the Mueller report asks of us. One is, how do we think about reporting on the Trump administration going forward? The Mueller report is thick with examples of the Trump administration purposefully, repeatedly lying to reporters.

So, going to them and listening to Sarah Huckabee Sanders or going to their folks and adding them in for comment when you know they may straightforwardly be lying to you is tough, right? It's a challenge to our deepest protocols.

But the other thing that I think is something we have not quite reckoned with, alt of this report, you know, the first half is about whether Trump coordinated with Russia. And there's not evidence of that directly.

It also should raise a question for us. We knew those e-mails were hacked. What happened here, the core story is that there was a crime committed to steal information from the Democratic National Committee and launder it through the press. We cooperated with that, often knowing exactly what it was. And it's hard because we often get information that we need to report from all kinds of people with self- interested motives.

But I don't think that the media is doing all that much self- reflection about the role that we played in making Russia's operation successful. We're looking outward quite a bit but not inward nearly enough.

STELTER: I'm talking about the Trump administration being unethical. There are questions to the press to think about was exactly what you're saying, about the reporting involving hacked, stolen documents.

[11:10:05] What do you think should happen next time, Ezra? Let's play this out in 2020, what's the right answer?

KLEIN: I don't think I have the right answer yet. I think this actually is a genuinely hard question. Anybody who does a lot of reporting knows you don't always get good information from sources that are pure in intention.

On the other hand, the thing that scares me most about this report beyond Donald Trump, right, not just that we have a lawless and dishonest administration now, as if that weren't bad enough, but is that you're seeing a playbook, and you're seeing a playbook other countries will look at, that Russia itself has been rewarded for. It was very successful for them.

I mean, the payoff of turning American governance in your direction if you're another country is very big. It's worth doing a lot to try to make that happen. And to the extent the press has been an actor in that, we need to think about what that means. We need to think about what our role in that is, particularly when we know with, at least with the relatively high degree of confidence that what we're getting is part of a crime, and particularly part of a foreign country's effort to influence the election.

On the other hand, what way is that different from opposition research, which we used all the time. I don't want to sit here and pretend this is an easy. I don't think it is. But I do think it's one that we need to do some more thinking about

because this won't be the last time. We know it won't be the last time.

STELTER: That's true.

KLEIN: We know people are working to do this kind of thing right now. So, we need to think about what our rubric is for thinking about this the next time it happens.

STELTER: And again, that's about ethics. It's about right practices.

So, April, let's finish this first segment with you. How do you think journalists should be standing up for morality and decency when covering a White House that breaks all the norms?

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: We have to cover the story and we have to see the fact for where it is and call the lie for where it is as well.

In this White House, we hear what the spokesperson or the principal has to say and we go and get all sides of the story and dig for the truth. The credibility is lacking in this White House as we have seen from the Mueller report and over the past two years and let's even go into the campaign.

It behooves us as reporters and journalists not to take a slant and just accept what is said at this point. We have to dig deeper and look for the fact. It's about all sides of the story. It's not just about he said/she said.

STELTER: We have a lot more to get into with the panel. We'll get a quick break and get everybody back in a moment.

I want to share a few questions I have heading into the new workweek now that we've all seen the redacted version of the Mueller report.

Number one, when will we hear more from Robert Mueller either in testimony or elsewhere? Number two, will the redacted portions of his report come out? Number three, will more Democrats move to start an impeachment process? And what's going to come of right wing's media demand to investigate the investigators.

Two more for you. Mueller referred 14 investigations to other offices. Twelve of those were totally redacted. What are they? When will we find out?

And number six, maybe the most important one, will polls show that any minds were changed by what we learned in this report?

We're just getting start. The next question is, why does Sarah Sanders still have a job? Is it time for her to just walk away?

Much more in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [11:16:46] STELTER: This holy week has been scarred by violence with multiple churches attacks during Easter services in Sri Lanka. Several hotels were also bombed. The latest information with local authorities indicates at least 207 people were killed. Truly a sickening day in Sri Lanka.

CNN has crews on the way to the island nation and we'll have continuing coverage both on the air and online there on

That's what brings me to this next tweet of the president of the United States. I wish this was not newsworthy, but it is. The president woke up this morning, learned about the bombings and tweeted that at least 138 million people have been killed.

He left the tweet up for more than 20 minutes. It was a really embarrassing error. I guess nobody around him caught it or fixed it for more than 20 minutes.

You might just say, it's a typo, what's the big deal? It's just a typo. But accuracy matters. It matters when you're sending condolences to a grieving nation. It matters for a government just like it matters for a newsroom.

If someone can't get the little stuff right, it makes you wonder about the big stuff. It makes you worry about the big stuff. In this case, it makes you wonder about the president's sources of information. Now, his corrected tweet said that more than 600 people were injured.

At the time no major news outlet was reporting the number 600. In fact, I don't think anybody is reporting that number now. What was his source?

This is one of, of course, hundreds of examples of the president's sloppiness or his misinformation. I bring it up in the context of what's going on because in the wake of the Mueller report, the lies from the White House have been making headlines. It's no wonder why Trump's aides don't think twice about making stuff up. It's because tone starts at the top.

Witness Press Secretary Sarah Sanders who admitted to the special counsel that her May 2017 claims about countless FBI agents wanting James Comey fired was not founded on anything. It was a slip of the tongue, she said, but it wasn't. Sanders made similar claims multiple times on two different days.

She has no credibility left. Yet in Trump world, that reality might help her because when we point out that she's making stuff up, it makes the president hold onto her, support her, stand by her because she's taking it to the media. That's how twisted this has become.

All right. Back with me to discuss, Ezra Klein, Kim Naftali, Katie Rogers, April Ryan.

And, April, let's start with you because you have called for Sanders to be fired. What's the likelihood, you think, that she actually is going to be out as a result of these lies? RYAN: Well, you know, I don't know. I say the reality is, it's about

credibility. We are seeing this nation talk about the credibility of Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the podium.

You know, if the clamoring continues, something will happen. I hear that the White House is upset about this moment, these conversations about Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her, I guess, tenure at the podium.


RYAN: But here is the issue. Under oath, she acknowledged that she lied, under oath. That's not the only lie that has been told from that sacred room from that sacred podium, to the American public and the world, OK?

The reason why this is so important is because everything is in the balance at the White House. We are all touched by what happens and said from the White House. War and peace, life and death are written and spoken from that podium or from the Oval Office.

She's the president's mouthpiece. Her credibility is shot. OK, we got that one piece from Mueller. We understand that.

Also, there's a list of things and more. I'll detail another one about the payment to Stormy Daniels. That was a lie. Also that propaganda video against our colleague Jim Acosta, a propaganda video against Jim Acosta.

This is the United States. This is not Russia. This is not China, from the White House, from the president's spokesperson. So, credibility is a huge piece of the puzzle and her credibility is shot.

STELTER: You said the other day on Erin Burnett's show that Sarah Sanders' head should be lopped off. Her father, Mike Huckabee, then said you were inciting murder. Were you trying to incite murder?

RYAN: OK, Brian, do you have the whole transcript of what I said?

STELTER: I do. You were saying she should be fired. She should be forced out of the job and you said, I think, head lopped off in the rhetorical sense that everybody understands.

RYAN: I said it as they. Not me. I said they. You know, about the firing acts. We talk about people being fired, heads will roll.

It had -- I do not push for or support any type of violence against anyone, OK? So, I said what I said. It was not about violence. It was about the chopping ax or the head rolling as far as the job.


RYAN: So, if you want to -- let's clean it up and say, she should be fired. Period. End of story.

STELTER: Now, Katie Rogers, Sarah Sanders job has changed over the past couple of years. She used to be holding briefings almost every day. Right now, it's been 41 days since a White House press briefing on camera there in the briefing room.

We're coming up on a new record. If she hits 42 days, that will be a new record, a number of days not a briefing.

What does she do now? What is Sanders' job every day now?

ROGERS: Well, I mean, Sarah is well-liked among the staff in the White House because she takes a lot of incoming. She is trusted by the president. She has a good relationship with him. In a White House that is essentially run like the Trump organization, her loyalty and her connection with him counts for a lot.

She does -- I mean, she does answer questions from the press and given this latest story about her credibility called into question, I don't know how often but she does do her job. She has a place, but she doesn't -- you're right, she doesn't do briefings. Those have kind of gone by the way side.

And that is because officials in the White House know that a lot of the things they might say to the public will be immediately undermined by the president or changed course by the president. That's not actually unique to this White House.

Larry Speakes was Reagan's press secretary. He's told the press, we're not going to invade Grenada and the invasion occurred the next day. Jay Carney, who was Obama's press secretary, took flak for what he said that was misleading about the Affordable Care Act.

It's not uncommon but this is typical in the White House. That's the difference.

STELTER: Yes, they just take it to 11.

So, Tim Naftali, is there any history, is any precedent for a press secretary leaving or being forced out due to deceive and deception?

NAFTALI: Yes, there is, in fact. People around Richard Nixon decided to move Ron Ziegler who was press secretary out of a job because he lost his credibility by 1974. When his deputy was asked do you hate the press, his deputy said, no, I don't. So, he did not get the official title of press secretary because to be press secretary for Richard Nixon you had to avowedly hate the press.


NAFTALI: This question was asked in front of Richard Nixon. It wasn't asked by him. It was asked by Al Haig, but was in front of Nixon.

STELTER: Wow. But Ziegler --

NAFTALI: Ziegler was pushed out.

STELTER: My goodness.

Let me ask you, I don't mean this literally, do you think Bill Barr is acting as press secretary? Whatever that presser was on Thursday.

NAFTALI: Well, I'm surprised the attorney general hasn't decided to resign. I'm saying that because the Mueller report makes clear the kind of person the president expects to be his attorney general.


NAFTALI: He wants his attorney general to be his personal lawyer and as he said, a fixer.

STELTER: A fixer.

NAFTALI: And the question one has to ask Mr. Barr after working for George Herbert Walker Bush, do you really want to be attorney general for someone who is expecting you not to represent the justice system but to be his fixer?

[11:25:00] STELTER: Hmm. So, I think, Ezra Klein, the last question in this block goes to you, and that is -- I think probably the really big question, impeachment. What I hear on Fox is the media is obsessed about impeachment.

Where do you think this conversation is going to go in the days and weeks to come?

KLEIN: I think impeachment is a hard question. I don't think there's any doubt that in a working system where you had the ability to enforce accountability on the president, the clear pattern of obstruction of justice would merit and should merit an impeachment inquiry.

At the same time, you do not have any chance of getting the votes in the Senate for impeachment, for removal, I should say. You also have a public that is largely, at least so far, according to a March CNN poll against impeachment. Only 36 percent are for it.

So, the problem the Democrats are facing is on the one hand, impeachment inquiry is very likely merited. On the other hand, their own base really wants it. And they also believe it will unite Republicans and split them, that it may do exactly the thing you don't want it to do, which is instead of bringing the president to heel, it will help him. It will actually end up validating the very behavior you're trying to curve.

So, it's tough. And I would say that I think the reason it is tough is that we have a broken system of accountability. We are not supposed to have a system where accountability is fully and only a partisan act, where anytime you're trying to hold the president accountable, it's up to the opposition party.

Impeachment like a lot of things in our system, the way it works now, it needs a lot of bipartisan support for anything to get done, and particularly anything that big to get done.

But there's no bipartisan support to get it done. Nixon's impeachment would not have gone forward in the way it had if Republicans refused to participate. So, the fact that we can't even concede that something like this actually working to curve what is clearly a lawless executive speaks not just to problems right now but a deeper problem in our system of constitutional accountability.

STELTER: Yes, and whether it really is broken. If I were in charge of the newsroom, I would be assigning folks to be focusing on Republicans right now. Let's interview those lawmakers about what they are doing to hold the president accountable. The silence, those answers might speak volumes. That will be part of the story going forward.

Katie, let me ask one more question before we go. And that is, are we going to hear from the president? He's been tweeting a lot. We haven't seen him on camera since Thursday afternoon. Do you expect we're going to hear from him? Maybe a press conference, maybe a speech, something to address the gravity of this moment in time?

ROGERS: Well, he's got a lot of openings this week to do it, starting with the Easter egg roll tomorrow. I don't know if that's the right venue.

STELTER: Oh, right.


ROGERS: But he's got rally coming up this weekend.

He has a rally coming up this weekend. He's speaking at the NRA convention actually in Indianapolis on Friday. So, I think we will get an earful from him with the week ahead, for sure.

STELTER: Everybody, thank you so much for being here. I'm grateful.

Taking a quick break. And then next, one Mueller report, but two worlds of coverage. I'll show you what I mean after this.


[11:30:00] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Randy Newman, Randy Newman singing us in there You've Got A Friend In Me. Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. Let me show you why we cued up that music. When you're going through a tough time, what do you do? Most of us lean on friends and family. And that is what the President is doing right now, embracing Fox, promoting the network even more than usual. He's urging people to tune in and he's finding solace in this spin.

Notably, he did start the week by complaining about Fox's Town Hall with Bernie Sanders. What are we doing he asked. But his sniping at the news division is outweighed by his support for the opinion side. When the Attorney General was about to hold his presser on Thursday afternoon, Trump wanted people to watch on his pre-approved channels. He listed two of them there.

At the end of the day, even tweeted out a promo of Fox's primetime lineup, but then deleted it for some reason. Shameless plugging doesn't even begin to describe it. The President knows he has a friend in Fox. So before all this, before the Mueller report hit, a left-leaning Web site called NowThis came out with a video that you have to see.


SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: What is wrong with this president? How dumb is he?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The purpose of a journalist is to hold people in power accountable.

HANNITY: Now we're going to vet the president. We're going to talk about is vacation, his golfing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two golf outings for the president cost $2.9 million. That alone is amazing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should a president, the leader of the free world be on the networked tweeting?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's kind of a celebrity president. He's kind of like Ryan Seacrest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a president who does not really know what he wants to do. He simply wants to be popular with everybody, every audience before what he stands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president seems almost obsessed with cable T.V. or am I wrong?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a president who rules by executive authority, executive action.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he's not doing executive actions, he's out on the golf course.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president heads to Florida for a boy's weekend of golf.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, this president is the beneficiary of the vision and the action of his predecessor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The rule used to be a sitting president doesn't criticize his predecessor especially by name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As any president in your lifetime taken on this kind of tone, this kind of harshness either towards his predecessor or towards a single media outlet. I've never seen this before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without the teleprompter, the president doesn't know exactly what to do correctly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President's budget that he gave today, all right, doesn't cut any deficit it increases the debt. For the man who says we have to get our deficit under control, he's

not doing it. He's -- maybe he's -- it's like -- it's like golf Mr. President. You play a lot of that.

[11:35:05] HANNITY: He's certainly not acting like the most transparent president in history is he, Juan?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's in those rickets that you don't want us to know about?

HANNITY: Once again he's pasted pandering to the worst regimes and thugs and dictators.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a president that is acting like a dictator. This is a president who's ignoring the rule of law and siding with lawbreakers.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK: This is a president now who's demonstrated that he will lie to push through a program.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once the president tweets it, then it becomes canon. Oh, that's a fact. The president says it's a fact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's in love with campaigning. He's going to fundraisers tonight.

HANNITY: He achieved that significant accomplishment earlier today while vacationing in Florida on your dime.

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, FOX NEWS: This president and the people around him are convinced that God has anointed him to fix everything in one fell swoop. That's not how American politics work. That's not how life works.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a president who has become known to the public as a blamer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He never makes any concessions. He always treats his opponents as though they're enemies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a president who can never admit he's wrong. He's so insecure and vain at the same time. He doesn't realize that the president has that power to set a tone and other people follow it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What he's really trying to do is to divide the country and to give his people to turn out to vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He simply doesn't like being mocked. Maybe he's little thin-skinned.

HANNITY: I've been saying, Mr. President, put your pants on. Sit at the table. Man up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Skip the trash talk. It only diminishes the office of the president. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you want to work with somebody, you don't call them names.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: This is a very quick and easy cheap way to score political points. It is a terrible, corrosive way from president of the United States to govern a country.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Why are you talking an aspirational way to people and be more positive and more uplifting.

HANNITY: Mr. President, you need to stop backing like a schoolyard bully and start acting like the leader of the free world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, everyone is laughing at us. You're like a schoolyard bully. No one is afraid of you. Putin sure as hell isn't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With all due respect, Mr. President, maybe it is time you stopped looking at a T.V. tuned to Fox and look in (INAUDIBLE) who I don't know, you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much. And thank you, Mr. President, for watching tonight.

HANNITY: The glaring double standard that exists here is nothing short of incredible.


STELTER: Imagine, just imagine if Fox's right-wing hosts talked about Trump the way they talked about Barack Obama. Jay Rosen and Nicole Hemmer have a lot to say about this and they're coming up next.


[11:40:00] STELTER: One Mueller Report but two worlds of coverage. We're talking here about Fox's hypocrisy and much more. I've got two great guests with me. New York University Journalism Professor Jay Rosen, and in Chicago, Presidential Scholar and Author Nicole Hemmer who's the author of Messengers of the Right.

Jay, to you first, you recently wrote that the president and his supporters existed an information loop where all they learn about Trump is from Trump. How do you diagnose this? What is it? What is going on?

JAY ROSEN, PROFESSOR, NYU SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM: Well, it's as if one- third of the public has been broken off from the rest of the electorate and isolated in an information system of its own.

STELTER: Do you think it's that bad, it's that stark?

ROSEN: I do. And I think it's not only that they are inclined to trust the president more than the new system, it's that the White House and Trump himself is trying to eviscerate the whole idea of a public record or of an independent source of facts on which the country can disagree and argue about. And I think that goes way beyond the notion of bias in the media or look skeptically at what you are told.

It's actually an authoritarian news system that is up and running in the country that is known for having the freest press in the world. And I think this is extraordinary and we don't always have the language we need to talk about it.

STELTER: No, I don't think we do. There are really important media critiques that I hear from the right, conservative media critiques but then I also hear a lot on Fox News that's just hateful. Let me show a few examples in the last few days.


HANNITY: There's not a single newsroom in America that has been more right than the team we have assembled right here on this show.


STELTER: Sorry, that's the wrong sound bite, although Hannity claiming is a reporter -- don't get me started. There's been this message on Fox that the media was completely wrong about Russia and Trump, that you can't believe a word that we report. In fact, Laura Ingraham said that we should apologize for it. Again, here's the clip.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here's the media looking ridiculous.

HANNITY: This today, mark this day is the biggest beatdown the media mob has ever experienced in history.

JASON CHAFFETZ, FORMER CONGRESSMAN OF UTAH: The mainstream media is having a hard time letting go of their favorite hoax.

CARLSON: Relentless, repetitive, calculatingly dishonest.

LAURA INGRAHAM, HOST, FOX NEWS: You owe us an apology.


STELTER: What is all of that hating on Journal that's really about you think?

ROSEN: Well, the Republican Party has for a long time run against culture elites and used populist appeals to try and get elected. But I think that method has been taken much further. And now we see almost a fusing of political identity, hatred of the media, and support for Donald Trump at the same time.

STELTER: All the same thing.

ROSEN: Yes, all one thing. STELTER: So you're saying those kinds of media critiques, they're not

-- they're not really trying to improve the media, they're just trying to perform politics?

ROSEN: Yes, that kind of criticism isn't actually trying to reform the media. It can't be addressed by improving performance. It's a hate movement led by the President of the United States. And it's gone to the point where Robert Mueller is about the most consensus figure you could have in American culture. His investigation is about as good as we can do in establishing an independent record of the facts.

And so the kind of rejection of the report, the idea that everything that the media reported was false, the calls for apologies like we just saw are more than critique of bias. They're now trying to reject the entire idea of a public record or of a historical record as we heard earlier in the -- in the -- in the show.

So that's what's at stake in this in this conflict. It's not just left and right or a media bias, it's the whole idea that there can be a public record of fact on which we can argue and disagree.

[11:45:38] STELTER: This brings me back thinking about Watergate. And Nicole, that's why I wanted to bring you in because you've been talking about this in the last few days. If let's say Richard Nixon had had a Fox News and he had this right-wing media ecosystem, what would have happened with Nixon?

NICOLE HEMMER, AUTHOR, MESSENGERS OF THE RIGHT: Well, I think you would have seen a really different conversation around Watergate and probably a really different outcome. If President Nixon had been able to amplify his arguments about a witch-hunt in the media, if he had been able to discredit the congressional investigations, discredit the special counsel who was investigating his wrongdoing, that support that he had would crumble to about 25 percent of Americans by the end of his term, probably wouldn't have crumbled, and the Republican Party right, the officeholders in the House and the Senate would have been a little bit more pushed to hold the party line.

STELTER: That's some -- that's some food for thought I suppose for a Sunday morning. It's some pretty bad gross food for thought, but it's a reality check, isn't it, about where we are in 2019 that there is as Jay said, this information loop. Do you see any way to break out of it?

HEMMER: So I think it's a really difficult thing to break out of as long as there are economic and political incentives to keep it going. And that's actually the real challenge here is that there are people who get a lot of power and a lot of money from the system as it's currently constituted. And if you can't change that, it's going to be very difficult to dismantle that system.

STELTER: Nicole, Jay, I wish we had a more optimistic note to end on but thank you both. A quick break here and then behind the scenes of these stakeouts. We're talking about how some of the Mueller scoops were gained plus what's next for reporters on the Trump Russia beat. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:50:00] STELTER: The untold story of the Mueller probe, you know, there's a Hollywood vision of how journalism happens, secret meetings, and dark parking garages, that sort of thing. But the reality looks more like this conference room at CNN's D.C. Bureau. A dozen people combing through the Mueller report on Thursday, three dedicated printers on standby.

One of the reporters in that room was CNN's Senior Writer Katelyn Polantz. And she here with me now. Katelyn, this was the end of something in the beginning of something else. I want to know about the stakeouts that you helped manage for the past 18 months because people might have heard CNN had a team of young reporters staked out outside Mueller's office what, every day since November 2017?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR WRITER: Every day, every weekday from 6:00 a.m. until most of the prosecutors went home at about 5:00 every day. We had -- basically they split two and two, one for the first year and one for the second year. The producers' names were M. Stacks, Sam Fossum, Caroline Kelly, and Liz Stark. They get so much credit and they really saw everything.

They saw prosecutors coming in every day. They saw Robert mother coming into the office every day with very few exceptions, a couple exceptions. And they really did see witnesses going in. They saw defense attorneys. We were able to identify how much activity was going on in the office.

STELTER: Well, here's an example. You all were seeing pictures. What was this lawyer's name, Tom Green. He was a white-collar attorney that was pictured one day coming out of the office. You all found out that he was working with who, with Rick Gates?

POLANTZ: We did. So we took it -- we saw a photo of Tom Green or we took a photo of Tom Green going to the office, didn't initially know who he was, but then recognized him. I was able to recognize him and then made calls around to sources saying who's he representing? What is he doing? Why is someone who isn't so known in Washington for white-collar defense doing this right now?

STELTER: And there's the scoop as a result. New signs that gate might be negotiating a plea deal.

POLANTZ: Yes. We were able to break the news that he was negotiating for Rick Gates well before any other news organization, and Green came into the courtroom at the last minute to represent Gates and take him through the plea. It really was a turning point for the entire investigation.

STELTER: The stakeout was also valuable because it gave us a signal that Roger Stone might be about to be arrested. And that's how CNN gained that video of Stone at his home when FBI agents rolled up one Friday. You know, right wing figures made up these lies about CNN was tipped off, total nonsense. But really it was the stakeout once again. POLANTZ: It really was. We had been very practiced at understanding

what the prosecutors were doing, what was happening in the court system, and there was just enough activity on a Thursday that seemed unusual. Prosecutors were at the court, we -- it looked like the grand jury was in. One prosecutor left the office with a -- with a rolling suitcase on a Thursday afternoon a little bit early, and we were prepared to see the possibility of an indictment against stone and thought you know, now must be the day and we were in Florida there in morning.

STELTER: Yes. CNN actually sent a different crew to a different state taking out another person who wasn't arrested. So as some of it was luck, some of it was skills, some of it was timing, what do you think happens next? What happens for reporters like you who have been on this beat for you know, years at this point? Where is the Trump Russia story go?

POLANTZ: Well, Brian, there's a lot still to cover with this. In this document, there's an enormous amount of redactions. A lot of them are pertaining to ongoing matters, that includes Roger Stones case. He's going to the trial in the fall and it looks like there could be things we learned that are in this that we can't actually see yet because they're redacted but that could come out at trial.

STELTER: Right, there's a lot that we -- you know, the 12 cases that were redacted that have been given to other offices. We need to learn about that. And to your point by the trials, these trials may go on for years right?

[11:55:06] POLANTZ: Well, they could. It depends on how many more indictments there are.


POLANTZ: There's trial scheduled right now for first Stone and then the Russians are obviously indicted but not showing up in court yet.

STELTER: But Stone, that's still months away?

POLANTZ: It is, yes, in November, it's scheduled for right now.

STELTER: And I guess the bigger picture point is that Russian meddling, foreign governments trying to influence our elections, it's still going to be a big story in 2020 and beyond.


STELTER: And his report tells us more about how it happened, how the attack succeeded wildly, and gives us some signs about how to avoid it in the future.

POLANTZ: Absolutely. The internet research agency portion of this, the part where Robert Mueller dug into what Russians were doing online on social media to spread propaganda through the American electorate, that effort continues. We've already had an additional indictment from the Justice Department outside of the Mueller investigation against a person who was a Russian allegedly doing this still in the Midterm elections and it just seems like this is the sort of thing that we'll be facing for years to come as a democracy.

STELTER: And newsrooms have to think about how they're going to react next time, how they're going to cover it, how they're going to keep people informed. Can I just say on a lighter note, Katelyn, your version is so much better prepared. Look at your -- you got the binder, get all the notes --

POLANTZ: This is thanks to CNN Washington.

STELTER: Is that what it is? I did pre-order a copy on Amazon so I think it'll be nice to have a print edition for the bookshelf also. It's number one on Amazon right now. Katelyn, thanks for being here. Great to see you.

POLANTZ: It's so much fun.

STELTER: And thanks for joining us on this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. Our coverage keeps going all the time online on Make sure you sign up for our nightly newsletter. You can sign up at and listen to our podcast as well.

A quick plug here, two really interesting new "ORIGINAL SERIES" coming up next Sunday night. Van Jones with The Redemption Project at 9:00, starting next Sunday and Kamau Bell back with United Shades of America at 10:00. That's next Sunday here on CNN. We'll see you right back here next Sunday as well.