Return to Transcripts main page
Jerry Epstein Accused of Sex Trafficking Minors; In Census Battle, Trump Claims the Truth is Up to Him; Ten Days Until Robert Mueller Testifies. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired July 07, 2019 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:12] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter. It's time for RELIABLE SOURCES. This is our weekly look of the story behind the story, of how the media works, how the news gets made and how all of us can help make it better.
We've got a number of important and thought-provoking stories coming up, including this heart-aching story in today's "New York Times" that describes children -- migrant children being held at the border as hungry, scared and sick. We are still unable to see the whole picture inside these border camps but we have a lawyer standing by who's been there and who's advocating for change.
Plus this hour, an exclusive first look at this new book about President Trump. It's called "The Method to the Madness." This book has more than 100 sources on the record and the authors are joining me live for their first interview.
Plus, we're going to break down the legal battle over the census citizenship question and what it means about the truth. Where is the truth?
But, first, the breaking news here in New York as first reported by "The Daily Beast". Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein arrested. Sources tell CNN that a sealed indictment contains new charges relating to alleged sex crimes involving minors.
Epstein, you can see there, sex trafficking of minors. He is an accused pedophile. He's a former pal of both Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, rich and well-connected and for very long able to skate. This scandal was forced onto the national news radar by one newspaper, "The Miami Herald" and by one reporter in particular, Julie K. Brown.
Last November, she came out with this three-part series called "Perversion of Justice." She included on-the-record interviews of some of Epstein's accusers.
Brown detailed how the current labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, who was back in the day a U.S. attorney in Florida, brokered an extraordinary plea agreement over a decade ago that concealed the full extent of the allegations against Epstein. It let him off easy. That's why she called it a perversion of justice.
And now, more than a decade later, Acosta is in this powerful position running the Labor Department. So at the time when her stories came out, that was a story, it was a scandal, and then people seemed to move on. Now the story is back, back at the top of the national news agenda because Epstein is behind bars, expected to face new charges in federal court on Monday.
Now, we will find out more about what is in that sealed indictment. We will find out if others are named. But right now, let's dig into this with the reporter who broke the story wide open.
Julie Brown is joining me wide open right now from "The Herald" newsroom in south Florida.
Julie, just remind us, the story, you know, how this all started, how Epstein did serve 13 months in jail but he was allowed to go to his office six days a week. Just remind us what he got away with.
JULIE K. BROWN, MIAMI HERALD INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Well, they had enough evidence at the time to charge him with molesting as many as three dozen girls. They had interviewed dozens of girls who said that they were recruited by him and by others who worked for him to go to his Palm Beach mansion under the guise that he was hiring them for massages, but those massages were sexual in nature. And these were girls who were 13, 14 and 15 who came from poor families, disadvantaged families.
And so they, you know, initially went there in hopes of perhaps not only getting some pocket money but also he had promised many of them that he was going to help them become models or get them into fashion school. So, they felt that this was a way out of their lives, you know, their deprived lives.
STELTER: And you've been able to interview some of these women. In fact, tell us about your reporting strategy. You were about to go travel tomorrow to interview another accuser, is that right?
BROWN: Yes, we had plans and obviously had to change those plans. But there are some women who now feel that they need to come forward. I hope that more do. It takes a lot of courage, understandably.
This happened to them a long time ago and many of them feel ashamed. When you think back, we all think back at stupid things that we did when we were young and didn't know any better, and this is the case for them. They look at it now as something that they should never have done obviously, but they were taken advantage of by someone who knew how to prey upon them and groom them to do things that he wanted them to do.
STELTER: So, now, instead of heading to interview that accuser, you'll be flying to New York, I presume, to be in the room for this bail hearing.
What do you expect to happen next? What are we going to see on Monday and going forward?
[11:05:01] BROWN: Well, I think the big question is whether they're going let him out on bail. You know, he has a lot of resources, a lot of people around the world. He's very politically connected. And, you know, he has the resources to flee. So, I'm sure the prosecutors are going to argue that he shouldn't get bail, or if he does get bail, there will be some pretty tight restrictions on that. So, that's number one.
Number two, the indictment is going to be unsealed so we'll get an idea on what this -- what triggered this new arrest, whether these are charges from the past that perhaps they can resurrect because there's no statute of limitations, at least not since 2002 on sex trafficking. So, there could be new information, new evidence, new witnesses that we'll get a look at.
STELTER: And so many people on social media are thanking you for your reporting, thanking you for making sure there's a spotlight on this story and on this individual. What do you want people to know about your reporting and your experience on this investigation?
BROWN: Well, you know, doing an investigation like this is very difficult and trying, especially when it involves victims like this does of young women who were sexually abused, and that's hard. But I also think that it's very difficult sometimes when you do a case and you get a big splash, you know, get a lot of attention, and then it kind of drops off the media radar. And what I tried to do since the story ran and got all that attention was to keep hounding away at the story.
You know, I didn't give up on it. It's sometimes easy to walk away and just let things happen, but I just felt that I had to keep pursuing it and not let the powers that be, so to speak, the law enforcement people, the people in government, forget that these women were out there and they're talking and they want to tell their story and they want justice. And I think that the hardest part sometimes of an investigation is to keep going at it and keep pecking away at it.
STELTER: Not giving up.
Julie K. Brown, thank you so much. Thanks for being here with us.
BROWN: Thanks, Brian.
STELTER: You can read all of her reporting at MiamiHerald.com.
Let me bring in a couple of our panelists now. National correspondent for "Washington Post", Philip Bump, and "Washington Post" opinion columnist and CNN contributor, Catherine Rampell.
Philip, just on the political implication on the story, I mentioned Clinton and Trump have both been friendly with Epstein in the past. Epstein used to be a member at Mar-a-Lago, according to reports.
Here's what now President Trump, then businessman Donald Trump said way back in 2002 talking about Epstein for a profile of Epstein in "New York Magazine".
He said: I've known Jeff for 15 years, terrific guy. He's a lot of fun to be about. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it, Jeffrey enjoys his social life.
That's a quote from 2002. Now President Trump speaking about his then friend Jeffrey Epstein.
Will any of this matter in the political sphere or more importantly should it matter in the political sphere?
PHILIP BUMP, WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, that's the unknown question, right? Obviously, that is a very ripe quote for being taken and used to say, hey, look, Donald Trump is close to this guy.
But I think that sort of highlights the issue here. This is a guy who as you pointed out was close not only to Trump who was powerful, in the sense that he was wealthy and a businessman, he's close to Bill Clinton, close to a lot of political figures, and that's what makes this "Miami Herald" report a great example of what the media should be doing. This is holding power to account.
And that Donald Trump had a connection to this guy shows how connected he was. Whether that meant anything, the fact that he had that much access to power and continues to have access to power, that's why this is so important. And regardless of your political view, regardless of how you feel about Epstein, regardless of how you feel about Clinton and Trump, you should be celebrating this kind of reporting for that very reason.
STELTER: For getting to the truth. And what about, Catherine, the Alexander Acosta angle of this? When Julie's reporting came out last November, "The Herald's" editorial page called for him to resign, to be removed or something from the Labor Department. Obviously, he's still in his job nearly a year later.
What's the Acosta angle?
CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the thing to keep in mind is that not only did Acosta fail, apparently dozens of sex trafficking victims a couple of decades ago, or most recently I guess in 2008, but he's continuing to do so today. As secretary of labor, part of his job is overseeing some of the enforcement of sex trafficking laws. And as recently as a week ago, his department said that we're going to make it much more difficult for those who are victims or alleged victims of sex crimes, sex trafficking crimes to receive these special visas that are usually offered to just these kinds of victims so that they will feel empowered to come forward, so that they will feel empowered to testify against the people who victimized them.
And by adding more layers of bureaucracy and having a moratorium on these visas, he's not only letting one bad guy go, which is what he did a decade ago, he's potentially enabling and encouraging many, many more sexual predators to go free.
[11:10:08] STELTER: All right. Much more in a moment. A quick break here with the panel.
After the break, the census question, what President Trump is doing seemingly contradicting one of his other cabinet secretaries.
STELTER: President Trump is making it crystal clear he thinks the truth is up to him. It's not, but we are seeing this play out right now with the fight over the census question about citizenship. The census, right, counting the population every ten years.
The founders thought it was a great idea. They put it in Article 1, Section 2.
So, in March of 2018, the Trump administration's Commerce Department said it was going to add a question on the 2020 census about citizenship. What happened next, at least 12 states led by New York sued right away, trying to block it. They argued that having that question on the census would cause fewer Americans to be counted and, therefore, would violate that Constitution.
So, this battle has been going on for a while, you've heard about it. But late last month, the Trump administration had a major setback. The Supreme Court rejected the Trump administration's stated rationale for adding the citizenship question, effectively blocking it from the 2020 census.
And it seemed like Trump world publicly conceded. Wilbur Ross said, quote: The census bureau has started the process of printing the questionnaire without the citizenship question.
[11:15:00] So, it was settled, right? The press went ahead and wrote the story, ran with the quote. We all put it in the headline. The issue seemed to be settled.
Until President Trump decided to tweet and say that his own Commerce Department's statement was false, was fake, and that we are absolutely moving forward with that question on the census.
So President Trump basically said he can declare any information from his own administration false and directly undercut his own secretaries in departments, and that's where we are now. The case is back up in the air. The DOJ is telling courts that they're looking at options to get the citizenship question on the census. And Trump told reporters that he's considering issuing an executive order somehow to get this done.
Back with me to discuss this, Philip Bump and Catherine Rampell.
Philip, you wrote about this for "The Washington Post." Your headline was about the ridiculousness of the president saying you can't believe his own department chiefs.
BUMP: Yes. It sort of sets a new -- he's had this fake news nonsense going on for years now. It sets a new bar when an actual statement from a cabinet secretary, this is an original cabinet secretary, one of the highest IQ cabinet in history, Wilbur Ross is part of that bunch. He releases a statement saying here is what we are doing and President Trump criticizes the media for publishing that fake news. I mean, now, this is a much bigger problem for the administration than
STELTER: Oh, yes.
BUMP: I mean, you know, they went before the court on Friday and the court said, look, I don't have confidence you know what Trump is talking about. If you were Facebook, I would make Mark Zuckerberg come in here and sit and be part of this hearing because he doesn't have the confidence that the government can actually represent the views of the president. That's a big problem in and of itself, regardless of his spars with the media.
STELTER: A big mess. Catherine, I wonder if we can connect this to a broader effort to manipulate or, you know, battle statistics, a war on statistics.
RAMPELL: Yes. I mean, there's sort of a broad war on truth. One of the fronts in the war on truth is the war on statistics. This is absolutely an attempt to sabotage the accuracy of the census, which is used as a baseline for every other survey that you can imagine, that businesses rely on, that households rely on, that the government relies on, to figure out where epidemics are and things like that.
But it's not just about sabotaging the census. They have also tried to doctor climate models to come up with the numbers that they want in that front. They have sabotaged or tried to sabotage official poverty measures.
Trump very recently and to very little media attention basically blew up one of our independent statistical agencies, one housed in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. So this is a larger attempt by this administration to say, you know what, if we don't like the numbers, we're going to rig them in our favor or destroy them altogether so that we get to decide what the truth is.
STELTER: One more front in the war on truth and it involves the revolutionary war. You wrote, Philip, about this comment in the president's speech about airports. Since there were not airports back then, you had the problem with Trump's revolutionary war airports is not the airports. What is the problem?
BUMP: The problem is the fact that he won't cop to making a simple mistake. He will not admit I misread the teleprompter. I said airports wasn't that silly.
STELTER: I meant seaports.
BUMP: Exactly. It's so simple for him just -- or even to correct midsentence. But the thing is, he often won't correct midsentence and instead he'll say the wrong thing and say the right thing and pretend he meant to say both of them. He has this whole mechanism built in the way that he gives these speeches in which he refuses to acknowledge his error.
The example I love to give is after he tweeted that thing about covfefe, which is a dumb joke, I may not pronounce because it's not a word, but he then came back and pretended that was a real thing and wanted people to guess what it meant. That's his approach to these things.
It's not just the airports. Obviously there's an aspect of humor to that. The fact that the president of the United States can't say I made a mistake, it makes you wonders when he's sitting there face-to- face with Vladimir Putin or Kim Jong-un, what's he saying making mistakes? Will he say that's not what I meant or will he try to pretend that's exactly what he's saying.
STELTER: It all gets very confusing very quickly and as part of the point. Meantime, this headline from "The Washington Post," the paper you are both with, a new ABC/"Washington Post" poll showing the president at his highest approval rating measurement yet. Now, that's 44 percent among all Americans, 47 percent among registered voters.
What's startling to me about the data, Catherine, is that nothing really changes. He's always between 35 percent and 45 percent. Just average it out.
RAMPELL: Yes, he's never once been above water throughout his entire presidency, which I think is something that's significant, especially given how strong the economy is, which is not something I would attribute to him but generally when the economy is doing well, voters reflect positively upon the president because they rightly or wrongly give credit to the person in the White House.
STELTER: Right, the same poll has him at 65 percent of Americans saying he acts unpresidential. That he's acting in unpresidential ways.
How do we square that circle that most Americans say he's unpresidential but his approval rating is at a new high?
RAMPELL: Well, again, within the margin of error, I'm not sure this is so significant. As you point, we're sort of bobbing along around the same level we've been at.
STELTER: Or maybe some people like the unpresidential behavior and they approve of it.
RAMPELL: I'm sure there are some. But I don't know that his presidentiality or lack thereof has necessarily changed a whole lot since he got into office.
[11:20:05] If people liked it at the beginning, they like it now. If they disliked it at the beginning, they probably dislike it now.
But generally speaking, I mean, I think that Trump claimed that he was going to pivot when he came into office. He didn't. He seems to be all the more beloved by his base for sticking with the rude, crude, punching back kind of persona.
STELTER: Right, he thinks it works for him.
Catherine, Philip, thanks for being here, great to see you.
Quick break here and we'll talk about the countdown to Robert Mueller's time on Capitol Hill -- T minus 10 days. Carl Bernstein joins me to discuss right after a quick break.
STELTER: T minus 10 days until Robert Mueller testifies on Capitol Hill. And there are many, many breadcrumbs in the Mueller report for journalists to follow.
Here with me now, legendary investigative reporter Carl Bernstein.
Carl, I wonder, looking at the Mueller report, looking at what's going to come later this month, what's the biggest lead that's going underreported right now?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think we've made a big mistake in the press about how we've covered the Mueller report, that we've gotten totally wrapped up in internecine warfare in the Congress between Republicans and Democrats and is there obstruction of justice or is there not obstruction of justice. In fact, there are dozens and dozens of leads in there about Trump's business dealings, his having things having to do with women as well that we know about from elsewhere and trying to keep women silent who have been in his past, about his business dealings, about oligarchs, about money laundering, about Ponzi schemes.
[11:25:01] Look, biography is everything. Let's look at Joe Biden who has a 30-year record that is under the microscope right now and he's suffering partly because of it. Our job in the press is to look at these candidates and that includes Donald Trump's 30, 35-year public record in life, in business life, and it is a record of astonishing, disarming conduct as a so-called businessman when in fact there is a tremendous amount of illegitimate business activity that's been demonstrated. We need to be looking at every aspect of it.
And also the other thing about covering Donald Trump and then we'll go to your next question is we're in a cold civil war in this country. And the figures that you just cited about Trump's approval rating is a reflection of that cold civil war and how appealing his message has been to almost half the people in this country. And we are not making in the press the connections between what's going on in the country and Donald Trump, the president.
We need to be covering the country as well and what people are talking about, thinking about, saying at the dinner table and connecting them to what is going on in Washington and in this campaign.
STELTER: Do you think that relates to the Fourth of July celebrations in Washington and President Trump giving a speech, a well-received speech about patriotism and the strength of the country, but even before and afterwards it was very polarized. The arguments about it were very polarized. If you love Trump, you loved the speech. If you don't love Trump, all you're talking about are airports and how he made mistakes during the speech. BERNSTEIN: We need to be looking at the country. I keep coming back
to this. Look, this cold civil war predates Donald Trump. And Donald Trump understood that we are in a cold civil war in this country and he has exploited it and brought this cold civil war almost to the point of ignition through his actions and his words, which are unprecedented in terms of presidential conduct.
No president in the history of the United States in 246 years has expressed the kinds of ideas and thoughts and undemocratic notions and authoritarian notions that he has. We need to start connecting these dots. What do people in the country think of this and why do they think and support him, no matter what he does, no matter how outrageous seemingly his conduct is?
We've got some real reporting to do that we need to make our table bigger in terms of our repertory landscape and get out of the political weeds.
STELTER: What about Robert Mueller testifying in ten days? I know a lot of it will be perceived as political weeds, but aren't there important pieces of information that he is going to be able to share or at least say on camera for the first time that should matter to the entirety of the country?
BERNSTEIN: Totally. It's going to be fascinating because his whole investigation is and should be under the microscope. We need to know much more about this investigation and the conduct of the investigation, what the FBI found that is not in the report, some of the unredacted material. We need to know more about what was found out about the president of the United States and those around him in protected, under oath circumstances of that hearing room.
The other thing that journalists need to start doing in terms of Mueller, and maybe only "The New York Times," "The Washington Post," "the Wall Street Journal" and perhaps one or two other institutions is capable of this, the whole investigation, from inception to the report, there is a fabulous story in what the FBI did and what the Mueller prosecutors did.
We know very little about the internal operations of that investigation. It needs to be put together. Great reporters will do it, can do it, and that too will tell us much more about Donald Trump, the people around him, the relationships with Russia, which are really, really if you read the Mueller report, you talk about hints, his business dealings, his family in Russia, the oligarchs he has done business with, his aspirations for an empire, a business empire emanating from Russia east to the other countries of the former Soviet Union and what he did to further that.
We know surprisingly little about Donald Trump's actual business activities given his biography and we need to start really looking at them as well as his personal life in terms, because the two have intersected so much and there have been, as in the Stormy Daniels case.
[11:30:00] There's been an awful lot that we have suggestions of and we need to start following and really doing the hard reporting that ought to follow those suggestions.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Carl, thank you so much. Hope to see you soon. Thanks for being here. When we come back, an exclusive first look at a new book called The Method to the Madness. Guess who it's about.
STELTER: Now, let's talk about The Method to the Madness. That's the title of this new book coming out on Tuesday. Take a look at the label in the corner there. It says no anonymous sources. I think this is a really interesting way to promote a book because obviously oftentimes the most interesting, most important revelations in books do come from unnamed sources. That's because those people are in a position to tell the truth about what's really going on.
But this book is an oral history of Trump comprised of over 100 on the record interviews with Trump's closest associates an adversaries over the past 15 years. He gives a sense of his life from the early 2000s up until the day he went down the escalator.
So joining me now are the authors Allen Salkin, he's reported on Trump and Jared Kushner over the New York Times and New York Post, and Aaron Short, he's also been on the Trump beat for a long time covering Trump political aspirations for the New York Post, Daily Beast, and Vice. Guys, great to see you. Congrats on the book launch.
AARON SHORT, CO-AUTHOR, THE METHOD TO THE MADNESS: Thanks, Brian.
ALLEN SALKIN, CO-AUTHOR, THE METHOD TO THE MADNESS: Thank you.
STELTER: You say this is a story, Allen, that people don't want to believe. How so?
SALKIN: Trump was intentional and worked for 15 years to become elected president. He had a strategy. He listened to people. He prepare, he had ideas about what he was doing. This wasn't just a whim he decided in 2014 or 2015 and he executed a plan. And whether or not he got help from the Russians and Mueller -- or sorry, Comey, and everybody else, he got himself in a position to be elected. This was a long strategic work.
[11:35:20] STELTER: Because you see right now, you see especially on the left people saying it's all just madness. It's just madness. But Aaron, your point is there was a method. There is a method today.
SHORT: Yes. And he's thought about this for a very long time. He had wanted to be President probably since 1980 but he didn't get serious until 1999 when he thought he could win the third-party Reform Party ticket as well.
SHORT: He thought if he had a shot with Al Gore or George W. Bush, a third of the country was Independent back then, why wouldn't they vote for him. STELTER: Yes. People forget that part of his history. But you know, here's what I see happen. When there's an argument made as you two are making that this is strategic, that what he's doing is strategic with the tweets and so forth, what you hear is don't give him so much of the benefit of the doubt.
SALKIN: You know, Aaron I both worked at the New York Post at different points. And love it or hate it, the Post is a tabloid newspaper with a lot of little stories in it. And in the 90s when I worked there and interview -- and interview Trump at a time, it was almost like pre-Twitter. It was short irresistible nuggets and Trump was the master of it.
Trump would -- if you were a reporter who did what Trump wanted which was basically call him a billionaire no matter whether he was or not, you could call him a pompous billionaire, whatever you wanted, as long as you called him a billionaire, you got -- and this wasn't us but there were people who got given trips to Mar-a-Lago and other perks. And if you were like Wayne Barrett who wrote an investigative book, you ended up locked to the wall in an Atlantic City jail cell.
So he knew how to work reporters and he knew how to communicate in little bits and he was made for the social media age.
STELTER: Yes. He's still doing that today.
STELTER: You quote a former Page Six reporter. In the book here you say Trump understands the media game almost better than the media itself. That was true then but it still feels like it's true today.
SALKIN: Well, it is because if you look at the apprentice right, he learned how to do teasers, he learned how to present himself, and that show was made by great storytellers who figured out how to turn this guy into what they needed him to be.
STELTER: What they needed him to be. Right.
SALKIN: Right. And I'm sorry -- but if you look at that, we have stories from producers of The Apprentice who say he used the N-word in in saying why he didn't want to see a black guy to win -- African- American to win the first season, and the corruption behind the scenes that was not being told that you saw this guy on camera as this decisive leader and so there was always this projection of who he could be.
STELTER: So that rumor about --
SALKIN: It's not a rumor. We have a guy -- Bill Pruitt on the record --
STELTER: On the record saying --
SALKIN: -- all of our sources saying this is what Trump said about why he chose a white guy to win the first season and NBC probably has a lot to answer for.
STELTER: And Aaron, why was it important to you all to have everybody be on the record? Why that choice?
SHORT: Well, we wanted to also give people the opportunity to talk with each other about events that happened in the past. So once we interviewed one person, then we could go to another friend and say did this event with you and Trump in the room, did this actually happen the same way that another person said it did?
STELTER: I see.
SHORT: So it's important to have -- and you can see when you read the book, you got the conversation of David Bossie, and Roger Stone, and Stephen Bannon, and Sam Nunberg, all of the aides that helps make Trump into a viable presidential candidate sort of talking in the very early days of what their recollections were like at CPAC and other events that he went to.
SALKIN: This show is called RELIABLE SOURCES, RELIABLE SOURCES. Non- anonymous sources are pretty reliable.
STELTER: Yes, they are. The book is the Method to the Madness. The A's Allen and Aaron, thank you for being here.
SALKIN: Thanks, Brian.
STELTER: A quick break here on the program and then pressure from the press. Is it having an impact at the border?
[11:40:00] STELTER: Media pressure does sometimes open doors. We're finally starting to get glimpses of the harsh conditions at migrant facilities along the southern border. In recent days, for example, the Homeland Security Inspector General's Office has been releasing photos like these showing children wrapped in tin foil sleeping on top of each other on the floor.
There's also been a report detailing the "dangerous overcrowding at these places in the Rio Grande Valley." But those pictures are almost one month old, four weeks ago. This is going on every day. And journalists remain in a virtual blackout.
With me now to discuss this Columbia Law School Professor and Director of the Immigrant's Rights Clinic of Columbia Elora Mukherjee. She's been visiting children at the border for the last 12 years and as recently as June 17th.
So you were able to visit the facility in Clint, Texas that's getting so much attention. Why is it that journalists are not able to on a daily basis head inside see what's going on? What are the reasons?
ELORA MUKHERJEE, DIRECTOR OF THE IMMIGRANT'S RIGHTS CLINIC OF COLUMBIA: The administration's justification is that it's trying to protect the migrants inside. I find this obstructionist and absurd. The American public, the media deserves to know what is happening in detention facilities every day at our southern border in our name and with our taxpayer dollars.
And media access has changed what has been go happening at the southern border over the last three weeks. So on June 17th when I got to the Clint facility, there were more than 350 children detained there in a facility that was built for just 106 adults. And since then, the numbers of children detained at Clint have plummeted and thousands of children have been released from the custody of Customs and Border Protection.
STELTER: So that's an example of people speaking out, people like you speaking out, and covered from the press making a difference. Is that your impression?
MUKHERJEE: Exactly. The administration is trying to clean up its facilities in response to media attention and the outrage of the American public. The media deserves to be in these facilities, deserves to access these facilities to provide a check on the abuses and the excesses of this administration.
As you know, the Free Press has often been called the fourth branch dating back to our Founding Fathers. Our Founding Fathers protected the free press in the First Amendment knowing that accessed by the media to what's happening inside our government will protect the people and our democracy.
[11:45:18] STELTER: And you've been speaking out on CNN on MSNBC but some of the narrative over on Fox has been look, there are American citizens that are suffering. There are so many people suffering in this country and there's an undue focus on the migrants at the border. What do you say to that critique?
MUKHERJEE: These are children in federal immigration custody who must be protected under the law. The law is clear that the federal government must provide children with safe and sanitary conditions.
STELTER: But this is about following the law. This is just about following the law and you would think law and order commentators would care about that right?
MUKHERJEE: You would think so, yes.
STELTER: Now, I only have a minute left, but what I wonder having a two-year-old daughter, having a baby on the way, I just wonder how you leave. You're there -- you're examining these facilities, how do you walk away? What -- I wonder what it's like for the Border Patrol officers how do they leave at the end of the day knowing these kids are still there?
MUKHERJEE: I also have three kids. They're three, six, and nine years old, and I find it incredibly, incredibly difficult to leave. I've been monitoring border facilities where children have been detained over the last 12 years and I have never seen conditions as appalling as what I saw in Clint, Texas. And I am glad and grateful now that the American public in the media are paying attention and that your scrutiny is making a difference.
I hope that the pressure from the media and from the public continues so that we never have these types of conditions for children ever again.
STELTER: Elora, thank you.
MUKHERJEE: Thank you, Brian.
STELTER: Good to see you. A quick break here and then a really interesting interview with a reporter who flipped from Fox News to progressive media. Hear from Carl Cameron in just a moment.
[11:50:00] STELTER: He spent more than two decades as a reporter at Fox News but now he has something to say about the network's prime time host. Carl Cameron, you know him as Campaign Carl retired from his position as Fox News Chief Political Correspondent right around inauguration day in 2017. He had been on the beat for Fox since 1996, every Election Day since 1996 but he's not done with news.
He has headed off to a Progressive news site called Front Page Live. It wants to be a Liberal version of The Drudge Report. So I asked Cameron about his career move and why he left Fox in the first place?
CARL CAMERON, FORMER FOX NEWS CHIEF POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: I was absolutely exhausted. Over the course of those 22 years, I'd spent roughly two and a half to almost three years out of every four on the road whether it was covering gubernatorial elections, the congressional midterms, and or presidential races. Because I came out of New Hampshire where I believed that the only way to do it right was to get out early, get to know the candidates, and then share what you know with voters.
And at the end of 22 years with Trump at the end of the you know, the real caboose of it all, I was just toast. And frankly, while the news division at Fox News Channel has always worked to be truly fair and balanced and to be accurate, the opinion hosts in primetime and elsewhere on Fox had become more than I could stand.
I have no objection to opinion hosts but I do believe that it's important that the information be accurate, fact-based, verifiable, and information that helps as opposed to hurt people in their efforts to make a good decision when it comes to our politics.
STELTER: What's it like for you to be watching the early stage of the campaign season from a perch other than Fox? You know, after all you've been a Fox for all of these since the mid-90s. Is it strange, does it feel good, does it feel weird not to be inside?
CAMERON: Oh listen, everything feels weird with the president that we have now.
STELTER: Well, that is part of it, right? I saw an interview you gave. You said he's a con man. You called Trump a con man.
CAMERON: This is not normal. Well, look, I mean, he claimed to be one of the greatest businessmen in American history and we now know as a matter of fact that all that billions that he wrote down as tax losses put him in a club of pretty unsuccessful businessmen in America. And the same thing with about I was never a politician I never ran for office. It's just not true.
So when you look back on what was his claims to fame, it turns out what his what his -- what his fame was based on was false claims.
STELTER: Do you think you would fit in at Fox these days?
CAMERON: Yes, I mean, you know this Brian. I've heard you say the same thing. The news people are horses. They work hard and they try to keep it straight. It's just different when you're outside of the news shows. And as we all know that in television, the name of the game is getting eyeballs for ratings. Ratings lead to revenues and opinion is selling better across the board. And the problem is not all opinions are accurate.
STELTER: Yes. I think about the change of Fox over the years with Sean Hannity as the perfect example, right. The show starts out as Hannity and Colmes. He has a Liberal sidekick, co-host that they battle it out. And then he goes away and it's just Hannity show now and now he's doing a version of the nightly news that's an anti- Democrat you know, fest.
You know that that's the evolution of Fox. It started out with that illusion of fair and balanced where Alan Colmes was there with Hannity and now it's just all Hannity.
CAMERON: Well, and I'll take it another step actually. The access that some at Fox have in the entertainment side to the president is questionable if not dangerous. It's not normal. There have been presidents who have confided in the press directly. Lyndon Johnson used to do it a great deal. There are some have kept a great distance.
But they need to be understood as allied and unfortunately, in the name -- in cable news, an awful lot of it is ideology and entertainment, an opinion and yet it's still on television to some looks like it's news and there is a big, big difference.
[11:55:07] STELTER: I wonder if you thought about you know, what it means for you to be going over working with this Progressive news site you know, working with FrontPage Live. Does it confirm the suspicions of people like Hannity? You know, they say all those journalists, even if they play it fair, they're secretly Liberal. That's what he might say.
CAMERON: Yes -- no, not going to fly. They're not going to fly. I mean, I've been criticized by conservatives like look, Carl is doing this thing with a bunch of Progressives but I think I saw him at social events with Conservatives and he seemed pretty friendly with them. Well yes. And Liberals will tell you that I was in social events with
them and I was pretty friendly with them. That's what journalists do in D.C. Too much if it's not good for you. I mean, we had a great example of how access to power can really screw up a journalist in the Iraq war and the threat of nuclear weapons.
The New York Times reporter had access to the vice president and the vice president was lying to her. Access can be trouble. So I think you know, FrontPage Live is on the right track here. What we're trying to do is help voters as opposed to help parties or candidates win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Check out the full conversation with Carl Cameron on our RELIABLE SOURCES podcast. You can find it through Apple, Stitcher, or Spotify, TuneIn. You name it, you name your podcast app. It's out there, our RELIABLE SOURCES podcast. To learn more about Cameron's new venture, we mentioned earlier, it's called frontpagelive.com, really interesting attempt of making a new version of Drudge on the Left.
That's all for this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES, but we'll see you right back here this time next week. And a reminder, CNN has got a really interesting new series premiere in just a few hours The Movies. All documentary series looking back had the stories behind the movies you love. It's starting with the 80s tonight at 9:00 p.m. here on CNN. We'll see you right back here this time next week.