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Hurricane Dorian Making Landfall In The Bahamas; Trump Seems To Think Fox News Is State-Run TV; Lawrence O'Donnell Retracts Story About Trump Loans; Journalist Suing Trump Over Press Pass Suspension; James Mattis Is The Man Who Couldn't Take It Anymore; Are You Experiencing Trump Fatigue? Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired September 01, 2019 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:39] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brian Stelter. RELIABLE SOURCES starts in just a moment.

But, first, the very latest on Hurricane Dorian. A life-threatening situation unfolding right now on Great Abaco Island on the Bahamas. This is a category 5 storm with sustained winds in excess of 175 miles an hour. That makes this the strongest storm anywhere on the plane this year, according to the National Hurricane Center.

And just take a look at the image on your screen here. You see an expanding eyewall moving straight towards Great Abaco Island. It will be making landfall in the minutes ahead. And the National Hurricane Center is now warning residents on those islands that extreme winds, quote, from the eyewall of Dorian in excess of 180 miles per hour will affect the islands in the next few hours.

In all caps, the National Hurricane Center saying: Take cover now. This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation.

We can show you the warnings box for the Bahamas, also warnings up for parts of Florida, because this track remains uncertain. We know that the storm is slowing down, which will cause more catastrophic damage for the Bahamas. But there are warnings and some evacuations now occurring in Florida.

So, let's get the latest with CNN Meteorologist, Allison Chinchar. She has the brand new 11:00 Eastern Time forecast from the National Hurricane Center.

Allison, what's the update?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, and unfortunately, Brian, some of those numbers you gave have all since changed and not for the better. Take a look, winds sustained now up to 180 miles per hour. The wind gusts are 220 miles per hour right now, the forward movement is still due west, but it has slowed ever so slightly now down to 7 miles per hour.

But the storm itself is still intensifying. Pressure continuing to drop with this particular storm and no weakening really in sight. There is nothing really around this area at play to help diminish the storm from where it currently is. We will keep a very close eye on where the track is because it is expected to maintain a category 5 strength as it moves across the Bahamas and begins to head towards Florida.

The ultimate question becomes, when does it turn north? It will turn north, we just don't have a finite idea of when it will turn north. So, that becomes a question of what impacts are there to a place like Florida. And in any subsequent area such as Georgia, as well as the Carolinas as it continues up the East Coast.

Brand new at the top of this hour, we now have hurricane watches and hurricane warning just there along the east corner of portions of Florida. We have already had the hurricane warnings across portions of the Bahamas, that is going to stay. We are likely to see more hurricane watches, tropical storm warnings and things like that begin to expand up the east coast of Florida, perhaps even into other states once we determine when that storm makes that sharpen turn to the north.

The majority of the tracks, Brian, still do want to hover the east coast and go north. However, I would like to point out, that the last couple of model runs, you do still have some that are trying to trend a little bit further west, which is why the cone of uncertainty still keeps states like Florida, Georgia as well as the Carolinas in there because none of them can be ruled out at this point.

STELTER: Seems like all the news is bad right now. This storm is growing in size and in wind speed. And according to the National Hurricane Center, this storm will just sit there and basically roil these islands in the Bahamas for, what, the better part of 36 hours?

CHINCHAR: Yes, and that's the unfortunate part, because we do expect to start to slow down. Storm surge is expected to be about 15 to 20 feet across the Bahamas. You're talking rainfall of 15, 20 inches of rainfall total across a widespread portion of these islands and those numbers may go up if the storm stalls even more because, Brian, as we know, when it sits, it can just dump more rain. We learned that from storms like Harvey, as well as Florence.

STELTER: Allison, thank you so much. We will continue to check in with you.

Forecasters are warning that catastrophic conditions are occurring now on the Abacos. There are no live transmissions that we'd be able to find from those islands right now. That's understandable, given a category 5 hurricane barring down on those islands. We'll bring you the latest this hour and throughout the day here on CNN.

[11:05:06] Ahead this hour on RELIABLE SOURCES, Jeffrey Goldberg sharing how Trump's former Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, really feels about President Trump.

Plus, another White House reporter heads to court fighting Trump's decision to suspend his press pass. We'll get the latest on that lawsuit coming up. And later, recognizing the limits of journalism when it comes to cases

like Jeffrey Epstein. Dahlia Lithwick will join me live with her insights.

But, first, the most complicated relationship in Washington, one that affects all of us. It is Trump and Fox, Fox and Trump. The president gets his briefings from Fox, he gets led by Fox, often gets misled by Fox. He hires people from Fox, he fires people based on what he hears on Fox, and he firms up his base through the network.

But he has also been complaining about the network, in fact more than 20 times this year by my count. This week, he claims that Fox changed so much that the network, quote, isn't working for us anymore. What an even incredible admission. Trump really thinks Fox belongs to him and his supporters. It's unlike with anything we've ever seen in modern media.

Forget how Fox is critics for the network, Trump is saying that he views the network as an arm of the White House and the GOP. Now, I think his burst of anti-media messages lately against Fox and "Axios", "The Post" and CNN reflect insecurity. With the re-election campaign on his mind, he doesn't want voters to know about the messy reality of life in the Trump White House. He hates the leaks and he really hates when people especially on Fox cover his Democratic rivals.

So, he lashes out. That's what keeps happening. He sees segments like this with the DNC spokeswoman being interviewed on Fox.

Now, his own spokesman was on the air a few minutes later, but Trump hated seeing the Democratic spokeswoman. So, think about this, one day, he's promoting Jeanine Pirro's book, and the next day, he's saying Fox is so bad that we -- again, the word "we" -- have to start looking for a new news outlet.

And then what did he do the next day? He called in to Brian Kilmeade's Fox News radio show. This -- this is Trump whiplash. It's caused by his impulsiveness and his need for attention.

Look at what he said to Brian Kilmeade.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not happy with Fox. I think -- you know, people think Fox is me-- Fox is good, look, Sean and Laura and Tucker has really been very good for -- well, Tucker is a really tricky, but that's OK. You've become, you were solid, you know, I used to say you are a solid six, maybe a seven, but you are getting much better.


STELTER: Hey, congrats, Kilmeade, you're a nine now.

See, here is what happens, all right? When Trump gets ticked off about something he sees on Fox, his friends at the network try to calm him down, they try to remind them that all the highest rated shows on Fox are the pro-Trump shows, from "Fox and Friends" in the morning, to "The Ingraham Angle" at night.

Now, that's what happened this week. He heard that reminder he again and that led to this tweet on Saturday. He went out there congratulating Sean Hannity on his ratings.

Trump wants sycophants on the air, not reporters, and certainly not DNC spokespeople. Trump lashes out when he sees reporters on Fox. He wants shows like this, you know, they like news, but they're not really. They're pro-Trump cheerleading.

Trump wants absolute loyalty. Maybe he thinks that needs to win re- election. But that is the truth about the Fox/Trump relationship.

Let's get analysis now from "Atlantic" White House Correspondent and CNN Analyst, Elaina Plott, "Baltimore Sun" media critic, David Zurawik, and "GQ" Magazine Correspondent, Julia Ioffe.

Julia, you have studied Russia and other authoritarian governments. Does the way Trump views Fox remind you of how other leaders elsewhere view their state-run TV networks?

JULIA IOFFE, CORRESPONDENT, GQ : Absolutely. It's, you know, it's dear leader state-run TV. The only difference is that the authoritarian leaders are a little bit more subtle in hiding their tracks and don't kind of air their grievances like this on the air. They will just quietly fire people.

But it is all the stuff that you mentioned, all the rotating door between the Trump administration and Fox News. You know, he would be forgiven for thinking that it is part of the White House and it's not running the way he wants it to.

STELTER: David Zurawik, what's your reaction to this relationship. It's very twisted relationship, I think because President Trump just does not appreciate how journalism functions. So, as a result, he lashes out when he sees acts of journalism on Fox.

DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, THE BALTIMORE: He does. You know, the signs of a fraying of this relationship I think are there to a little bit, but I'm really skeptical of this. This is a dance that Trump does. And Fox does.

Don't forget, Fox was founded as an ideological political operation, not a journalist operation. This is -- it's promised land, finding someone like Trump. This relationship is so deep, so sick, so twisted that these people are not going to break up over having the Democratic guest on or somebody saying unpleasant about Trump on any show.

[11:10:04] Look, Fox wants Trump to be elected in 2020. Trump wants to be reelected in 2020. This -- they're going to keep going steady. And this relationship is not going away, Brian.

STELTER: Maybe that's why Fox never comments when Trump posts these tweets.

ZURAWIK: Yes, absolutely. STELTER: He's attacking journalists at Fox. He's attacking news anchors. Typically, CNN and other outlets hit back and remind the president about the free press.

But Fox never comments. Elaina, what do you think that is?

PLOTT: Well, it really is astounding, Brian, because Fox knows that it has the leverage in this relationship. I think that if Donald Trump were to try to command his supporters to, what, go start watching OANN exclusively? I mean, no, it's not going to happen.

So, you know, it's one of the few moments I think when you look at the president's dynamic with any entity/person, that they are the ones that actually hold the cards here and I think that Fox is going to rest pretty comfortably that with an impulsive president, you know, as you pointed out, the whiplash means that his opinion will change the next day and they will stay the same.

STELTER: Right. So, Fox News is just waiting until the next day for his feelings to change.

Let me show you one sound bite, David Zurawik, that really sums up the week. Joe Walsh on with Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney. Walsh asks if the president has ever lied and Varney said this.



JOE WALSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Stewart, do you believe that this president lies?


WALSH: You don't believe he's ever lied?

VARNEY: He exaggerates and spins.

WALSH: OK. Do you leave he has ever told the American people a lie?




STELTER: David, your reaction?

ZURAWIK: You want state-run TV behind the iron curtain in 1961 Czechoslovakia? That's it. It's astonishing.

Lou Dobbs is the same and Trump loves Lou Dobbs, I mean, on that business channel. That's it. But that is one of the great -- that is an astonishing clip. You know, Varney thinks he is being smart by saying, oh, no, it is a spin. It's astonishing.

IOFFE: Can I just add something?

STELTER: Yes, please.

IOFFE: You know, you said that the president doesn't appreciate how journalism works. I think he does appreciate how journalism works. He understands it. He hates it.

And this is why he has said, you know, he said I try to discredit you people on purpose so that when you write unflattering things about me, no one will believe you. So, he understands completely how this works and he's trying to attack it at the source, which is why he loves Fox so much because it's how he wishes journalism would work, right?

STELTER: Destruction of a shared truth, yes.

IOFFE: Right.

STELTER: Destruction of a shared reality is the big story that's happening in front of us every day.

All right. A quick break here. Everybody, stick around.

We've been talking about media on the right. Let's talk about media on the left in a moment and MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell. His reckless report has caused damage to real journalism. We'll have the details coming right up.


[11:16:39] STELTER: Hey, welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.

A big question in media circles this week, what was Lawrence O'Donnell thinking?

On Tuesday, the MSNBC host talked about Trump's finances on air, and he said he had a source, a single source, who said Trump -- some of Trump's loans had been co-signed by Russian billionaires close to Vladimir Putin.

Now, NBC executives were caught off-guard by this. So are Trump's lawyers who then threatened to sue. O'Donnell was widely criticized for going on the air with this tip from a single source. So he retracted.

But if you listen carefully to his retraction and his apology, you'll see he also left some wiggle room. Watch.


LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, we are retracting the story. We don't know whether the information is accurate, but the fact is we do know it wasn't ready for broadcast and for that, I apologize.

(END VIDEO CLIP) STELTER: So how did it get on the air? We still don't know. MSNBC and owned by NBC News has not commented. And O'Donnell was back on the air the next night so it doesn't seem that he's being disciplined in some way for going on the air with this tip from a single source that was explosive and by all evidence incorrect.

Back with me now to discuss this, Elaina Plott, David Zurawik and Julia Ioffe.

Robert Mueller spent two years investigating Trump and Russia. He didn't find anything about these loans that he told the public about. There is no evidence that O'Donnell was right about this story. And yet he is still out there saying, well, we don't know if it was inaccurate.

David, how irresponsible is this?

ZURAWIK: This is as irresponsible as it gets in terms of legacy journalism. You know, Lawrence O'Donnell gave Donald Trump the greatest gift he could have given with his. And if you look at the way "Fox and Friends" talked about it, they extrapolated to the whole media. They started out talking about MSNBC and by the time they were thrashing, they were attacking CNN.

And I'm watching it and I'm going wait, how did you get to CNN on this? They have nothing to do with this.

This is really in a way, if there is a takeaway here for cable news executives, this is what happens when you hire politicos and let them host shows. No one with any journalistic training would have come near this story. You know, we're socialized, we come up to the ranks with editors saying, hey, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

This was wish fulfillment journalism. This was a story some people wish was true. Russia oligarchs signing at Deutsche Ban for Trump. It doesn't get any dirtier than that for Trump.

He should have -- that right there should have put the brakes on and said let's not get two sources, let's get three, let's keep pushing to make sure that the story is correct. This is outrageous.

And the fact that Lawrence O'Donnell hasn't been disciplined at least so far and that that NBC News has not said anything about this, it's really troubling, Brian, because it really tarnishes all the excellent work good journalists do at NBC News and MSNBC.

STELTER: Julia Ioffe, do you agree?

IOFFE: A hundred percent. I, you know, I think because I was frankly surprised because I see programs like that as commentary shows. So, it is not totally surprising that --

STELTER: Right, talk shows, yes. And then he comes and he says he has a source and it was confusing, yes. [11:20:03] IOFFE: Right, because -- I totally agree, no journalist worth his or her salt would go with a story like this without at least having two sources, probably more because of how explosive it is, and the kind of the ammunition that it would hand to Trump and his administration.

I do think that it's interesting that he was not disciplined in any way as far as we know because it is also the same network that disciplined Brian Williams not too long ago for fibbing on a story about -- I mean, in comparison, it seems so anodyne to this which is a massive blunder.

STELTER: Let's talk about moving but false war stories, the kind that Brian Williams told years ago. Joe Biden was caught by "The Washington Post" this week telling what they call a moving but false war story. He was trying to describe an experience that he had while presenting an award to a navy captain who felt like a failure because of losses in combat.

"The Washington Post" described this by that in a space of three minutes, because Biden was conflating a bunch of different actual stories, he got the time period, the location, the heroic act, the type of medal, the military branch and rank of the recipient wrong, as well as his own role in the ceremony.

So, Biden is describing a true event but getting almost all the facts wrong. And, you know, what is the response from the press? Elaina, how seriously should these kinds of -- they are not gaffes, they are worse than gaffes -- these kinds of falsehoods be taken when we are covering a president who makes it up every day?

PLOTT: I mean, I think the fact, Brian, that just then you had to pause yourself and say yes, it is actually worse than a gaffe means that our national conception, our national definition of what truly does make a gaffe or scandal these days has been altered so drastically under this president, that, you know, looking at what Joe Biden did through the lens of a pre-Trump time, you know, we wouldn't be awarding him a gold star for getting the, quote/unquote, core of the story correct. I mean, is that really the standard that we're suddenly holding the prospective leaders of the free world to?

I mean, just -- putting it in plain language like that, it's frankly ridiculous and the sort of thing that I do believe that we wouldn't be awarding Trump any gold are stars for saying that he got the core of the story correct as we should not do. We should hold our leaders to standards that include very basic metrics such as why don't you get the entire story right instead of just portions of it.

STELTER: Completely agree with you.

And yet I know a lot of people, David Zurawik, are going to say, what about Trump, what about Trump, Trump is worse. How do we just tune that out? What's the answer?

ZURAWIK: Brian, it's true, and there is a difference at one level in terms if you want to talk about intention or frequency. But we are in a war -- in this culture, there is a war on truth. And I think, you know, it's coming out of the White House in large ways. But it is in other ways as well.

And facts are the basis of fighting back against that. It is not OK to have a presidential candidate being so loose with facts. I mean not loose. Wonderful quote, wonderful piece there from "The Post" the way they nailed it with each factual mistake he made.

But think of that, if these are the two candidates, we have two guys out there running around saying things that are often not true. One of them we think, oh, it's benign, it's Joe. No, it's not benign.

Being factually incorrect and telling falsehoods is never benign. But a lot of people want to say it's benign between --

STELTER: Let's set the bar, yes.

ZURAWIK: Yes, even with Trump.

STELTER: Right, they do, but let's set the bar high and just have the same bar for everybody. That shouldn't be too hard.



STELTER: To the panel, thank you so much.

Quick break here, and then the story of another journalist who's had go and sue the White House because his press pass was taken away. Brian Karem and his attorney, Ted Boutrous, will join me live right after this.


[11:27:31] STELTER: Back now on RELIABLE SOURCES.

And as I mentioned a few minutes ago, Hurricane Dorian is now beginning to make landfall on the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas. We have some video from earlier in the day, before the conditions worsened where you can see already the storm starting to come ashore, some of the earlier storm bands beginning to affect the islands.

Conditions have now gone much more downhill. This is a category 5 storm with 180-mile-per-hour sustained winds, now coming ashore on these islands. Hopefully, those people have sought shelter. We are going to see catastrophic damage on the Abaco islands which, you can see there, is where the eye is approaching as we speak.

We will continue to bring updates throughout the hour and throughout the day here on CNN.

Let's turn now to one of the biggest media stories of the moment and that's the case involving "Playboy" White House Correspondent, Brian Karem. About two weeks ago, his White House press pass was suspended by the

White House. Of course, Karem is a CNN political analyst. You've probably seen him here on this network during the Trump years. He is known for his aggressive questioning of Trump, quite hostile at times to the president.

He received this determination from Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham that his press pass would be suspended for a month as a result of this altercation in the Rose Garden. Let me show you the video from multiple angles. You see, Karem was at this pro-Trump social media summit and he was talking to some of the people in the crowd after trying to ask questions.

Sebastian Gorka didn't like the insult that Karem threw his way. Gorka walked over, the two men exchanged words. You see here from multiple angles.

And all of these videos matter now because they were shown in court. Yes, Karem has sued the White House, sued Trump over the decision to suspend his press pass. And as a result, the judge reviewed all these videos and we're expecting a ruling in the coming days.

Let's talk about this case now with Karem and his attorney, Ted Boutrous. They're both joining me now.


STELTER: Karem, why in the world was it appropriate for you -- what were you doing trying to confront, trying to provoke Sebastian Gorka and others? To me, this was clearly unprofessional conduct at the White House.

KAREM: I think the White House was unprofessional. I think that what they did was unprofessional.

STELTER: No, no, your conduct was unprofessional. You were interrupt --

KAREM: I understand what -- I understand what you're saying. I understand what you're saying.

I would maintain that the -- that it's on the other foot. That it's OK -- you can't un-sanction actions by one and then make OK the actions of the other in that type of environment.

[11:30:00] The simple fact of the matter is, I tried to ask the president of the United States a question. We had been heckled many times during the course of that afternoon by the people in that crowd and in fact, Trump said to the effect that they make quite a few things up and he loves it and he supports them.

And the heckling had occurred on their behalf towards us and the press. And what I did was make a joke and I'll never apologize for a joke that got a laugh. I learned that from a good friend of mine John DeBellis who's a comedian. And that's -- you know, I am provocative and I am a smart aleck, but I'm not going to apologize for that. That's OK under the First Amendment.

There have been far worse altercations occurred in the Rose Garden and by members of the press in the past. The first thing I ever saw in the White House was Helen Thomas walk up to and bang on a door and demand that Larry Speaks come forward and answer her a question. Mike McCurry told me that he used to bring doughnuts and coffee to Helen. Sam Donaldson made a flippant comment to the president one time watching him walk out into the White House.

STELTER: I get it.

KAREM: Yes, you get it. That's --

STELTER: I think there's room --

KAREM: -- you may call it --

STELTER: I think there's room for opinion columnist. I think of you as an opinion columnist who asked great questions. I think there's room for you there. Some White House reporters don't like you very much. That's OK too.

KAREM: I can get over that. I'll take that.

STELTER: The point now is that your Press Pass has been suspended for a month. It's already been two weeks. And you've hired the guy on the other corner there Ted Boutrous, the same guy who got Jim Acosta's Press Pass restored. Everybody remembers that case last November when Acosta's pass was not just suspended, it was revoked and seen him to go to court to get it back.

So Ted Boutrous, is this the same or is this different? Are the arguments you made in court this week the same arguments that they were for Acosta or are they different?

TED BOUTROUS, LAWYER: Many of the arguments are the same, Brian. Just like with Jim Acosta's case, the White House out of the blue suspended Brian Karem's press past based on non-existent standards with no notice of what the standards of conduct would be. And so we have a lot of the same arguments.

They've tried to paper over the problems by issuing a long 13-page letter after giving us one business day to respond, but it's really the same fundamental due process and first amendment problem. This is part of a war by President Trump and his new press secretary Ms. Grisham to try to squelch and intimidate reporters from asking tough questions at the White House.

That's all it is. It violates the First Amendment. It violates due process. And they're trying to send a message to other reporters there in the Rose Garden, watch out will do this to you. And that's why we felt it was very important not just for Brian Karem's case, but for all reporters for the American people so reporters can stand there -- and sometimes questions are insulting, they can be viewed by the president and his team is caustic and mean. That's what the First Amendment protects. The Supreme Court has said that over and over again.

STELTER: So you're waiting for a ruling hoping to hear from the judge on Tuesday. And Brian Karem, I'll have a few seconds left. If you get back to the White House this week, that's all you want to do, just get back and have your access restored?

KAREM: I just want to go back and do my job. And I do worry about the First Amendment. I think this is a chilling effect on journalists. I think at the end of the day this administration -- they're never going to come at you straight on, Brian. They're never going to come at you and say hey, look, we don't agree with the First Amendment. They're going to come at you sideways.

And that's what they did with Jim, that's what they've done with me. They're going to try and leave you from the rest of the pack and say that we have no problem with the First Amendment, we have a problem with you.

And the real problem they have is with the First Amendment and they don't like it very much. And as you pointed out in the first block is that -- you had a great panel on then -- talking about how the president has said from the very beginning that he does this to try to discredit us so that people will believe him and not believe the facts and that's a continuation. He has declared war on the press. This is merely one front in that war against free speech.

STELTER: And now it's back in court. Brian, Ted, thank you very much. Thank you.

KAREM: Thanks, Brian.

STELTER: Up next here, General James Mattis breaking his silence.


[11:35:00] STELTER: The man who couldn't take it anymore. That's the title for this new article in the Atlantic Magazine about Secretary of Defense James Mattis who of course resigned late last year over disagreements with President Trump.

Now, Mattis is on a press tour for his new book titled Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead. It comes out on Tuesday. The Atlantic's Editor Jeffrey Goldberg says the book is a 100,000-word subtweet of Trump's leadership.

We know Mattis is still being coy about his turbulent two years in the Trump White House and is still being silent out of respect for the presidential office, telling Goldberg "If you leave an administration you owe some silence. You need to give the people who are still there as much opportunity as possible to defend the country." I asked Goldberg what he took away from his conversations with Mattis.


JEFFREY GOLDBERG, EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: My sense is that there is a lot about Donald Trump that he finds absurd and repellent but he is trying to maintain this disciplined approach of not speaking I'll of a sitting president.

STELTER: So when you say that, you're reading between the lines of what he says and how he reacts to questions, and sometimes what he doesn't say.

GOLDBERG: Well, yes, a lot -- a lot is the dog that doesn't bark. He doesn't defend Donald Trump in the book. He does not hold Donald Trump up as a role model, as a positive leadership model, quite the opposite in fact. The book is structured in a way to lead you to the conclusion that he thinks Donald Trump is a terrible leader.

STELTER: And Mattis is always said to be the adult in the room, one of these people protecting Trump from Trump.


STELTER: You know, I could easily argue he has a duty to the country to talk about that experience.

GOLDBERG: Well, that's what I argued to him.

STELTER: His -- and his -- so his counter-argument to you is what exactly?

GOLDBERG: His counter-argument -- by the way, it has a lot of merit. His counter-argument is as a former general officer, as a former four- star general, as a Secretary of Defense, he has to -- it's his responsible responsibility not to further undermine a sitting president.

There are national security consequences for someone of Jim Mattis's stature, with his background to come out and say well, this president is completely incompetent. Because the day after he says that, and I'm not saying he would say that, but the day after he said something like that, Donald Trump would still be present.

And so there are -- there would be a profound national security consequences. Also, he's old-fashioned. I mean he's old-fashioned. He doesn't like these people who come out of an administration and ten minutes later write a tell-all memoir.

He believes that when you give a president your counsel, you should keep that between you and the president, that leaking is bad and discussion is bad. The counter-argument to all of this is that Donald Trump is very unusual to borrow the word, unusual president, and has done things that are already dangerous for U.S. national security.

[11:40:31] STELTER: So Jeffrey, you have a line in your piece that reminded me I still do have a capacity to be shocked and we all do have to retain our capacity to be shocked these days. You say that Mattis' friends and aides say he found the president to be of limited cognitive ability and of generally dubious character.

Limited cognitive ability, those are three really frightening words when in context about the President of the United States. GOLDBERG: Yes, they are. And you know, I think we're so used to the

circus -- the circus of the White House, the circus and Donald Trump's mind that we tend to sometimes accept things that are quite unusual when viewed in the overall context of American history.

What people in the national security complex at very high level say -- and this is both the Pentagon and the Intelligence Community, the armed services and the intelligence people is that Donald Trump doesn't understand American national security needs. He doesn't understand the value of alliances. He doesn't understand the consequences of his tweets and his words expressed elsewhere. And he also lacks interest in understanding what's going on.

STELTER: Do you think limited cognitive ability relates at all to this wider conversation that's going on about whether he's fit, whether he's mentally stable enough for the job?

GOLDBERG: Right. This is -- this is -- I think these comments are less about mental stability than about mental capacity.

STELTER: Capacity. How have you as the editor of the Atlantic approached this broader issue about mental stability? Certainly, you have writers like James Fallows who are saying Trump is getting worse. If he were at any other job, he would be pulled off to the side and examined.


STELTER: How far do you think your staff should be going in that conversation?

GOLDBERG: I want us to be careful. You know, there's a catch 22 here. I think this has been noted before. If you're not a physician or psychiatrist, and a person is not your patient, you only have limited insight and ability to diagnose someone.

If you are the person psychiatrist or their doctor, you are duty-bound not to talk about it. So we're in a trap in a kind of way. I advocate for being very, very careful on these questions. Questions that should be raised, but they have to be raised in the most responsible possible way because we're really not equipped for this.

I, however, think that there is an out. There's another path which is to simply report on what he's doing and saying and then hold that up against how previous presidents and how other world leaders respond to the same types of issues. We can learn -- again we can -- we can learn most of what we need to know just by observing.

We don't have to go deep into the brain folds here to understand what's happening. We just have to watch and see how unprecedented some of this is. And then we could draw appropriate conclusions.


STELTER: Check out my full conversation with Goldberg on this week's RELIABLE SOURCES podcast at Up next here, is journalism trying to replace due process in the MeToo age? Dahlia Lithwick says we are asking journalism to do too much. She'll join me next.


[11:45:00] STELTER: Are you exhausted? Are you burnt out but the daily deluge of Trump news and nonsense? If so, you are not alone. Writers from both sides of the aisle have been commenting on this lately.

Take a look here. Frank Bruni writing Donald Trump has warned us all out. David Ignatius is talking about Trump fatigue. Jim Geraghty is saying even Trump supporters are getting tired of the daily drama. And Rich Lowry of Politico wondering, is Trump fatigue going to bite him in 2020?

Let's talk about this with another writer who weighed in on this recently, Slate Magazine's Dahlia Lithwick. Her piece was titled "The demoralizing reality of life under Trump." Dahlia, you say you know, this is an insane time, why? Why do you think this summer has been especially hard?

DAHLIA LITHWICK, SENIOR EDITOR, SLATE: Well, I think everything you've talked about today, Brian, it's accelerating. Things that used to be you know, one shocking thing a week, now there's seven a day and we're just sort of like squirrel, squirrel, squirrel trying to keep track and I think people are wiped out.

STELTER: Wiped out.

LITHWICK: Yes. I mean --

STELTER: So now we're at Labor Day. Now we're heading into a new season. And you say in one of your pieces for Slate that we're experiencing on a daily or weekly basis stories that could be impeachable. You looked at the articles of impeachment for Nixon, for Clinton, for Johnson, and you said wait, this is happening every week. So why is that message maybe not getting through to people?

LITHWICK: Well, I think it's just again what Jeff Goldberg just called the circus atmosphere. And I think, you know, one of the things I wrote about is not just that we're getting physically ill, we're exhausted, we're not sleeping, everybody's drinking too much, but that I think we're going numb and that's the real fear is that people are starting to say maybe I don't care or maybe I don't trust the news. And those are really catastrophically bad outcomes if that's where we arrive.

STELTER: But what do you tell folks about avoiding being numb? What is the -- what is the way to avoid that?

LITHWICK: Well, I think we as journalists have some responsibility to cover this as though it's more than a reality show, more than WWF. And I think if we continue to just tell the truth, tell the facts, point out the lives when they're lies, and try to help people understand that the situation today is exponentially worse than when they showed up at the airports after the first travel ban was put into effect, it's so much worse and yet we're so tired.

I think our job in the press is to just be morally serious. Do our jobs, tell the truth, and hope people will stick along for the ride.

[11:50:17] STELTER: Right. And do that every day. And I'm short on time but I wanted to point out another piece for Slate that I highly recommend. People can Google it. It's about the limits of journalism. You say we're asking journalism to do too much. Can you just tell me that brief argument?

LITHWICK: Brian, essentially, what I'm saying is that we all got mad a few weeks ago when Jane Mayer's piece in the New Yorker came down trying to understand what had happened in the Al Franken dust-up and that the real point of the piece I think should have been we needed a due process.

We need an actual hearing in the Senate. We needed to have actual findings of facts, witnesses, subpoenas, all of it, and that journalism litigating MeToo is just substituting for actual systems that should be doing it in the first instance.

STELTER: The same issue with Jeffrey Epstein, right? The Miami Herald and Julie K. Brown there did incredible work but it's not -- it doesn't replace the need for prosecutors. And of course, now there are prosecutors newly involved, and now some of those victims were able to speak in court this week, but the reporting itself you're saying doesn't fill in for the need for authorities to investigate.

LITHWICK: I think reporting is doing an amazing gap-filling job and I credit all of it especially in the Epstein case. It is not in and of itself a determinative due process.

STELTER: Right, an important perspective. Two years now since the Harvey Weinstein investigations. Dahlia, thank you so much. A quick break here. More on Hurricane Dorian, the latest from the National Hurricane Center in just a moment.


[11:55:00] STELTER: Hurricane Dorian has been strengthening in the past few hours and the storm now has maximum sustained winds of 180 miles per hour. That makes it the strongest storm anywhere in the world this year.

Take a look at this. This is the NOAA Hurricane Hunter Aircraft that's been flying through hurricane Dorian this morning gathering data, collecting data. You can see they are witnessing the stadium effect when super-strong hurricanes sometimes show, that kind of stadium effect.

The National Hurricane Center is warning of a storm surge of 18 to 23 feet from Dorian that will affect the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas in the next several hours. You can see the eye beginning to approach land there in the northern Bahamas. This is one of the strongest storms the Bahamas have ever experienced. Hurricane Andrew being the only other one of its kind in recorded history. CNN will continue with our constant coverage here and on all

day and the days to come. The storm is going to be with us for the better part of the week. Thanks for joining us.