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Special Edition: White House in Crisis; What is Nancy Pelosi Really Thinking?; Rare Interview With Robert de Niro. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired September 29, 2019 - 11:00   ET



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

There's breaking news as we begin this special edition of RELIABLE SOURCES: White House in Crisis.

And we have some big names here this hour, including Nancy Pelosi's daughter Christine. She'll be here with insights about the impeachment push.

Plus, President Trump's confidante Chris Ruddy is here.

And we have a surprise visit from the one, the only Robert de Niro, all coming up this hour.

But, first, what a difference a week makes. Extraordinary developments in the Ukraine scandal. It's moving fast and now the impeachment inquiry is moving quickly as well.

It has a lot of people wondering, has President Trump finally met a story that he can't control? Now, right now, he is watching Fox News and rage tweeting, but new developments keep coming.

House Intel Chairman Adam Schiff has just confirmed that in his words he expects the whistleblower at the heart of this inquiry to testify, quote, very soon. Now, I'm told by a reliable source nothing is set in stone yet. It may still take a while but there is progress.

You know, in journalism, we oftentimes focus on what's next. What's about to happen? What's coming soon?

But in this story, what has already happened is extraordinary. The information we learned this week from the phone call, from the call log, that is, and from the whistleblower complaint is deeply disturbing. And as "Politico" points out, Trump's Ukraine plotting has been going on for months and it's been happening in plain sight. So much of the evidence is right there in public view.

And "Time Magazine" illustrated this week showing Trump painting himself into a corner. We've soon a lot of other interesting covers about this as well, all portraying the situation in their own ways. And as I mentioned, Trump is lashing out. He's leaning on his Fox

friends. He's tweeting things like this this weekend saying: How do you impeach a president like me?

Well, he's about to find out. His exaggerations and lies are part of this scandal. It's part of what led to this point. Here, for example, he's saying he created the greatest economy in the history of our country. That's a claim that "The Washington Post" gave three Pinocchios.

So, amid the blizzard of bull, I think it's easy to forget something. It's easy to forget that the president is supposed to be a trusted source of information for the public. We are so far from that right now.

Trump's Twitter feed is a daily source of disinformation. In this context, it's worth noting something from the past. Lying to the public and pressuring witnesses was alleged in the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon. Lying and witness tampering charges were also key in the Clinton impeachment proceedings.

My non-partisan hope is that this political process, no matter what happens, will help get us all get back to the truth. There are so many stories about Trump can be boiled down to three other words, abuse of power, and that brings up three other words, fitness for office.

So, let's start the table, let's set the table and start the conversation with Suzanne Nossel, she's the CEO of PEN America. Amanda Carpenter is here, a CNN commentator and political adviser. And joining us from Washington, staff writer for "The New Yorker" and CNN global affairs analyst Susan Glasser.

Susan, great to see you. Let me start with you.

My 2-year-old daughter Sunny just learned how to do a thumbs up. So, let's talk about rules of thumb for covering the impeachment inquiry.

I think number one, Trump is going to get uglier. His attacks are going to get more vicious as time goes on.

You were kind of the victim this week. Let's put up the tweet on screen. The president lashing out at your husband, Peter Baker, saying Baker shouldn't be allowed to write for the "New York Times" about him and he also called you out, saying you're an even bigger Trump hater than your husband.

What's your reaction and how does it feel like to be called out by the president?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, you know, Brian, I was a little bit sorry he didn't use my name which people pointed out was also what President Trump did when he attacked John Legend and his wife Chrissie Teigen. He didn't use her name either. So, you know, the anonymous wives club, I guess. Look, the bottom line is that President Trump as you see not only from

this tweet but for many of the tweets, he is feeling very, very sorry for himself. He's projecting not an atmosphere of resolute calm in the face of this kind of incredible challenge to his presidency but almost a panicky throw anything up and see what sticks.

This morning as you pointed out, he's rage tweeting again against a Fox journalist. And, you know, I expect we'll see much more of that. But your main introduction I think is really -- gets to the heart of what we're going to see over the next weeks and months as the impeachment crisis plays out.

I covered the Clinton impeachment. I was an editor at "The Washington Post" dealing with that long, long ago. And it's going to muddy the waters.

That is the strategy here, and I believe that President Trump is attempting to deploy the Clinton strategy for this impeachment as well, which is to wait it out, to brazen it out, to tell -- have the shocking truth fade into the confusion of partisanship and name- calling.


So, that's what I think will be happening.

STELTER: Right now, Amanda, all the big papers and networks are competing for scoops. There's been a big increase leaks from White House and government sources.

But, Amanda, is there a fear that what Susan is saying is already happening? That the shocking truth is already fading amid a blizzard of B.S.?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. And like you said in the beginning, I think the media writ large does was (ph) to ask the question, will this work? And go to the whip count for the impeachment without staying with the central questions.

And we know -- listen, Hillary Clinton once talked about a vast right wing conspiracy that is out to get her husband. President Trump plays with the vast deep state conspiracy and people should be fully aware of the fact that this whistleblower complaint is bait for a conspiracy largely because conspiracy theories thrive when there is not full understandable information.

And there are questions about who this whistleblower is just because of the fact that he is anonymous right now and there's people on the right ascribing mal-intent to that, suggesting that he is a partisan, he's politically motivated.

STELTER: Yes, let's look at some of that. Let's look at some of the rhetoric on Fox.


STELTER: It is astonishing what they're saying about the whistleblower.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your thoughts as we wrap a week that changed -- did it change anything?

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Well, I think it's changed quite a lot, Sandra. The spinning is not surprising, but it is astonishing and I think deeply misleading.


STELTER: Now I don't know about you, but I think Wallace is kind of calling out some of his colleagues. Fox denies that.

But here's what his colleagues are saying on Fox about the whistle- blower.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Political hit job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ukrainian hoax.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The coup attempt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Spying on the president of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A rotten snitch. I'd love to whap him


STELTER: So, the next rule of thumb is that this is going to get worse. The civil war within Fox is going to intensify.

CARPENTER: Yes, absolutely. There's been a debate within the big tent Republican Party about Trump and his tactics for a long, long time. This is the latest iteration of that.

And for people who want to take on Trump, including this whistleblower, he is going to have to become public, but this is a double edge sword because the Trump right can't wait to sink their claws into him and attack his character and there's no way of getting around that. You are going to go through the ringer when you take on Trump. And the only thing you can do to combat it is be so firm and clear in your facts, which according to the complaint I think he is, or she is, we don't know.

STELTER: Right, we don't know.


STELTER: Suzanne, are we going to see a Weinstein effect here or an Ailes effect where one person makes an accusation and then that gives courage to others to come forward? We've seen that in the #metoo movement. Are we seeing a version of that inside the Trump administration?

SUZANNE NOSSEL, CEO, PEN AMERICA: You know, I think we could well. I mean, this whistle-blower had half a dozen sources that talked to him, that provided him with this information. So, there's at least a half dozen other people out there party to this. There are people who listened in on that phone call.

So, there are others although the gaps in whistle-blower attention is compounded by Fox News, that's got to sound a cautionary note for anybody who's thinking about --

STELTER: Who's thinking about coming forward.


NOSSEL: If you are like stepped into this, what about my family? I could face death threats. So --

STELTER: PEN America wrote a report back a couple of years ago about whistleblowers and the need to increase the protections for whistleblowers. Tell us what's lacking.

NOSSEL: Yes, it's a messy patch work of presidential decision directives, a couple of laws, major laws protecting federal employees don't apply to the intelligence committee. So, intelligence community whistleblowers don't access to courts if they are retaliated against. They're not protected from criminal complaints that can be brought against them. They have protection if their security clearance is revoked, if they have administrative reprisals, but not from criminal action.

And they also don't have access to necessarily anyone who is above the political system. We saw this when the whistle-blower went to the I.G. and then to have to go to the director of national intelligence. So, there's that political hurdle.

So, I hope one thing that can come out of this is a recognition that hey, this system is broken. It's filled with holes and that's going to be intimidating and daunting for anybody who has important information, you know, and is afraid to come forward. They don't know what protection they'll get.

STELTER: For Sunny, my next rule of thumb is that the press should not advocate for an outcome, but we should advocate for a well- informed public. And I've been seeing great work by big news outlets this week, showing and explaining what's going on.

Look at some of the examples. "Washington Post", "USA Today", CNN doing explainers, annotations, who's whos, and fact checks. We need more of this.

And I wonder, Susan Glasser, what your advice is to newsrooms to try to help people just understand what is going on. This is in some ways simple, but in other ways quite complicated with lots of characters. GLASSER: Well, that's right. And I think that's one problem I

foresee in the coverage is that people may feel that it's hopelessly complicated and throw up their hands especially because you have a concerted effort from the beginning to essentially spread propaganda and conspiracy theories coming directly from the Oval Office. As you pointed out in previous impeachments, whether it was Nixon or Clinton to a certain extent, of course you had a situation where the president and their team was pushing back very aggressively, even crossing the line at times to misinformation.


But the flip side is I don't believe that we've ever had a real-time public effort at this kind of propaganda and conspiracy theory coming directly from inside the Oval Office. And so, that makes it even harder given the conventions of our journalism today on all of the shows you have people trying to discuss the facts as they've come out in the Ukraine case and then you have defenders of the president, many of them advancing untrue and blatantly mistruths even in their efforts to advocate and to put the best possible spin on it.

This isn't spin as we knew it where you both agree on the facts but one side makes a point advocating for the other. This is the president and his defender saying things that are outrageously untrue. So, I think that's a huge media challenge. For example, the president himself demanded from the Ukrainian president, according to the transcript, the White House itself put out he's advancing a debunked conspiracy theory that was totally false, saying somehow Ukraine has a server that was setting up Russia in the 2016 election hacking.

Trump's own former homeland security advisor went on TV this morning and said, this is completely false. I told the president this and yet he and Rudy Giuliani advanced it anyways. This is mind blowing.

So, I think it's a huge challenge for journalists covering this.

STELTER: Yes, the disinformation, the lies are a big part of the story and maybe somebody a big part of the impeachment.

Susan, thank you. To the panel, thank you.

My final rule of thumb here, no one knows what's going to happen. So, don't believe people who say they do.

Next here on RELIABLE SOURCES, is the whistleblower's identity an important part of the story? "The New York Times" thinks so. Other news outlets do not. Susan Hennessey is next.



STELTER: President Trump's alt right media diet hurts him, and the whistleblower complaint has showed us how. On that now infamous call with the president of Ukraine, Trump brought up the DNC server that was hacked in 2016. Trump appeared to be buying into a kooky conspiracy theory. It basically lets Russia off the hook by saying Ukraine has the server.

Now, this morning, one of Trump's own former advisers says that is complete nonsense, it has no validity. He doesn't know why Trump keeps talking about it.

Let's talk about this much more looking at how the news is covering all of these developments with the Ukraine with national security and legal affairs analyst, Susan Hennessey. She's the executive editor of "The Lawfare" blog and she formerly served as an attorney in the National Security Agency.

Susan, the president is buying into conspiracy theories and promoting disinformation. What in the world do you think the news media should be doing in order to explain what's happening?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. So, take, for example, this sort of conspiracy theory about Ukraine, the mention of CrowdStrike. This transcript that some of the right wing media has seized on to. This is a conspiracy theory. It's a debunked conspiracy theory.

Essentially, the idea here is that the Ukrainians somehow framed the Russians. So, going back to one of the earliest themes denying that the Russians had actually been involved in Russian interference in the election. Now, the FBI has investigated this question, determined it was the Russians. The U.S. intelligence community has determined it's the Russians. Bob Mueller actually indicted 12 Russian military officers by name for their involvement.

So, that's the degree of evidence we have of Russian involvement and yet all of this time later, 2 1/2 years later, we still have the president of the United States asking the leader of a foreign country to basically dig up some evidence to validate this theory. So, one challenge from the media is how do you explain the conspiracy theory without actually giving additional credence, by explaining that there is nothing to this whatsoever, even the president's own advisers are telling him this isn't true, and yet he is persisting in this frankly bizarre belief.

STELTER: Let's talk about other challenges for the press in the weeks ahead. One of them involves the whistleblower. "The New York Times" reported some information on the whistleblower's identity, specifically, where the person works. CNN has chosen not to get into that information. A few other papers followed the times and published the information.

What do you think is right and wrong here?

HENNESSEY: So, this is a difficult question. So, as someone who formerly worked in the U.S. intelligence community, I don't think the press should be publishing information about intelligence officers. That said, there is a question of whether the sort of ordinary rules apply or not. Usually, whenever the media believes that the identity of an intelligence officer or government official is relevant to a story, true and newsworthy, they print it, unless the United States government can give them a very specific reason not to. Not just saying, hey, you might this person hurt, but really explaining how it could be a threat to somebody's life.

So, in this circumstance, you know, we would ordinarily expect the U.S. government to be the person who's protecting this person's identity and if the media thought it was relevant to include these details, for them report that. But we're in a little bit of a different world because, of course, the United States government with the president the head of the executive branch is actually attacking this person. And so, I do think the press has to take a step back and say, hey, you know, is this sort of the ordinary rules of the game.

We're talking about whether or not we're going to report on what agency somebody might work for, or are we going to treat this like somebody who is a dissident, somebody who's actually being attacked by their own government and sort of what are our ethical obligations. This really is largely unchartered territory for domestic national security reporting.

STELTER: Do you think former Trump officials have an obligation, a duty to the country to speak out right now?

HENNESSEY: I do, and I think that this is one of the sort of interesting questions about sort of what the impeachment inquiry, how that's going to shift the momentum and burden. So, we've seen this White House assert executive privilege claims that are really beyond the law, right? Saying even Corey Lewandowski who never worked in the government, he doesn't have to testify because he is somehow covered by executive privilege. They've used this as a sword and a shield.

The reality is, executive privilege is not all that powerful against former officials who want to testify, right? The only thing somebody can do if somebody wants to testify is threaten to fire them. If you've already been fired, if you've already left, that's not much of a stick.

So, it really is up to these individual people who have worked in the White House who have first-hand knowledge about some of the abuses that we're now seeing reported.

So, they are going to have to make a judgment about whether or not they want to continue to be silent or in the face of these really, really serious accusations, and, you know, a congressional impeachment inquiry, that very, sort of important function to the congressional branch if they're going to come forward and tell what they know.


STELTER: And, 30 seconds left, Susan. What's the most important thing the press has to do in the days to come? I think it's we have to make sure we keep in mind what we already know. Forget what's ahead. What we already now is damning.

HENNESSEY: Yes, I think this really is the critical challenge. As this scandal starts to unfold and get into weedy issues like how exactly are classified servers segmented? Really kind of specific and confusing issues. The media not lose sight of what's in that transcript, what we already know.

We already have confirmed and sort of the big picture here, and the big picture here is that the White House itself has confirmed the president of the United States abused his office to pressure a foreign leader to extort a foreign leader into essentially violating the civil liberties of a U.S. citizen by launching this investigation absent a criminal predicate.

That is an abuse of office. That is what the impeachment inquiry is all about. That's why we're seeing such outrage and momentum on Capitol Hill. And so, as we get into the important details, it's important to not lose sight of the need to communicate that really, really important big picture.

STELTER: Susan, thank you.

The question now is, whether Democrats will communicate that message, what is Nancy Pelosi thinking as the impeachment inquiry heats up and what advice is she being given? I will ask one of her daughters, Christine Pelosi, right after this.



STELTER: And welcome back to this special edition of RELIABLE SOURCES.

Many of this week's historic headlines about impeachment featured a version of the same photo. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi making the announcement in front of a row of flags on Capitol Hill.

My next guest is someone who knows the speaker quite well, one of her daughters. Christine Pelosi is a Democratic strategist based in San Francisco. She's also a member of the 2016 Electoral College, which is awesome.

Christine, thanks for being here.


STELTER: What's this week been like for the Pelosi family?

PELOSI: Well, it's been incredible time for our country, a sad time in our country and to watch Nancy Pelosi be very clear in addressing the country about the need to honor the Constitution and to take this very momentous step has been a time of pride for us and obviously concern for the country, but we know we couldn't be in better hands than in the hands of Nancy Pelosi.

STELTER: She's been criticized so much for the past -- at least for the past year by Democrats who have wanted this impeachment process to start sooner. What have you been telling them? Have you been trying to defend her amid all of this?

PELOSI: Well, I think that any woman in politics is going to be getting criticism, any leader of a political party will get criticism. And as Nancy Pelosi has said for year, criticism and effectiveness go hand in hand.

So I think that when it comes to people giving input, what I say to people all the time is, listen to what Nancy Pelosi is telling you, 218 votes are the current seat of the realm. So, you need that if you want to get anything done in the Congress. She was a mom who went from kitchen to Congress so she understands and values organizing, still organizes weekly with people.

So, I think, you know, my advice to my friends in the Democratic party and really across the country is understand Nancy Pelosi always puts the Constitution first. She's always going to put her caucus first and say, look, we need to move when people are ready. It's going to have our enthusiasms, but it's also important to respect each other's views.

And as an activist myself, there are times when I'll call her up and say, mom, I can't believe this or that isn't happening. And she'll say, be calm. We have a plan. I won't tip my hand and no one knows.

STELTER: Right, and, yes, this is impeachment in the Internet age, in the Fox age, in the Twitter age. I think a lot of people are wondering if Democrats, including the speaker, will command the television stage. What do you think?

PELOSI: Well, I think what's important at a time like this is that we have to -- we have to speak out certainly on behalf of the Constitution and share the facts with the American people, but we also have to be quiet enough to listen to the voices, listen to the voices. Listen to the voices of the whistleblowers who are trying to tell us matters of urgent concern, are trying to tell us that the president is conducting foreign policy on his own not in the shared constitutional responsibility he has with the Congress.

And if we're talking too loudly, then we won't be able to hear the quiet voices of the patriots who are trying to come forward, and I think one thing that struck me, what my mom said last week on her floor speech when the House overwhelmingly joined the Senate in overwhelmingly demanded the whistle-blower report. It wasn't just that they wanted the whistle-blower complaint, it wasn't just that they wanted to talk to the whistleblower, but also that they wanted to ensure the safety of this whistle-blower and of others.

So I think that the combination is, yes, we should be fervent in our believes but we also have to be sober and somber in looking at the facts and quiet enough to hear those voices of people who are trying to tell us that there's a wrong that we should make right.

STELTER: Quiet voices. Then there are really loud voices, voices on Fox and elsewhere who savage your mom on a regular basis. In a sentence, how do you react to that? PELOSI: I know that they wouldn't criticize Nancy Pelosi if she

wasn't effective. No one ever won batting against Nancy Pelosi and with the same urgency and somber approach that she took all through her career to advance the issues, I know that she will ultimately be effective.

STELTER: Long road ahead.

Christine Pelosi, thank you very much.

PELOSI: A long road ahead.


PELOSI: My pleasure.

STELTER: Up next, one of the president's key supporters, Chris Ruddy, the head of Newsmax, he is calling Nancy Pelosi the smartest woman in Washington right now. I'll talk with Ruddy in just a moment.



STELTER: The President and his lawyer, and their cable news happened. It was the subject of parody on SNL last night.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got to relax, Mr. Trump. We got nothing to worry about. Nobody's going to find out about our illegal side dealings with the Ukraine.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or how we tried to cover up those side dealings.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or are we planned to cover up the cover-up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ruddy, Ruddy, where are you right now. I'm on CNN right now. Let put you on speaker.


STELTER: Is Rudy helping? Is Rudy hurting? Let's talk about it with one of the President's confidants, a longtime friend, Christopher Ruddy. He's the CEO of Newsmax and he's joining me now. Chris, do you think Ruddy has been helpful to the cause?

CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, CEO, NEWSMAX: I don't know Ruddy's complete role in this. I would say overall I don't think the President has gotten the best legal advice on handling this and the turnover of certain documents. But without knowing fully, I don't want to disparage Ruddy. I think

he's done a tremendous job and the President's legal defense during the Mueller investigation. But obviously, there's some shortcomings and I think the president will address them pretty quickly.

STELTER: What is your view of this week and the formal impeachment inquiry? I saw you reported a few days ago saying Nancy Pelosi is the smartest woman in Washington.


RUDDY: Well, I think in terms of Congress, who do you -- I mean, 50 years in politics, she's been 30 years in Congress. She's held the leadership position in good times, bad times. I think she's shown herself very adept and Donald Trump is one of the toughest competitors out there and she's shown herself very adept.

I think she's thrown down a challenge to the President this past week. I view this as a mortal threat to the presidency. I think the President should view it that way. This is a very unusual situation. Not only has she called an inquiry-based on no evidence of a crime, she's opened up six congressional committees against the president.

So she's come out guns blazing. And I think you know with a year left and the president's term, after he has had -- if you look at his record on terms of the economy, in terms of global affairs, it's been a pretty darn good record.

And the American people, the polls, despite the drumming he takes from guys like you, Brian, his poll numbers have been pretty remarkably high. And he's going into this last year of his first term and he's being hit with an impeachment. You have to ask yourself if it's political or not, and I think the president views it that way, I certainly do.

STELTER: The polls have been historically low. And with regards to whether there have been crimes committed, some lawyers including Judge Andrew Napolitano on Fox News, they see quite a bit of evidence of criminality here. Are you just choosing to tune that out?

RUDDY: Well, what's -- you know, I can't speak for the judge. You know I've seen -- I've certainly seen some of the things he said, and what is the crime that was committed? You know, I have a -- you, a lot of people have a short term memory here, but --

STELTER: Conspiracy, extortion --

RUDDY: Well, they --

STELTER: -- bribery, I will leave that to the lawyers. But to say there's no evidence of a crime, that seems like a stretch to me.

RUDDY: No, no, let's leave it to us -- hey, hey, let's leave it to us to discuss. Remember the initial press reports said that the president was on this phone call and he demanded a quid pro quo. Either you investigate Joe Biden or you're not going to get the military aid.

Some of these press reports, you can look him up said that eight times in the conversation the president said that. When the transcript was released -- I think it was a mistake to release the transcript. But when it was released, it came out that the president had never said the military aid, had never said any threat of holding back any aid to the Ukrainians.

And so where do these -- does anyone ever call the reporters and say where did you get this information. We find out that the whistleblower -- usually, a whistleblower, Brian, is someone has direct knowledge of a crime or misconduct. In this case, it was hearsay. They're not even a direct party to any of the --

STELTER: Yes, and what they said -- right, but what they said in this complaint has been borne out by evidence including some of the president's own admissions. He got to admit. He's admitted to some of this.

RUDDY: Actually not. There's been a number of discrepancies -- and again, the president didn't demand a quid pro quo. I think that's going to be very, very critical.

STELTER: He's been pressuring Ukraine right in public. He's been pressuring Ukraine in public this week.

RUDDY: Look, I believe that the allegation was serious enough that the whistleblower complaint should have been turned over through the DNI per the statute. I believe that Congress has an oversight role. I think Congress should always push back against the president whether Republicans are Democrats, whether the same party or not.

But for them not to get the documentation, not to interview any of the witnesses for Nancy Pelosi while the president is giving a national address of the United Nations that's appealing to the world for American interest, she goes out and announces that she's going to begin an impeachment inquiry against him.

I mean, remember she did something very similar when he gave a speech in Normandy, incredible speech, it should have been the top of the news. She goes out and they leaked to the press that she wants to see him in jail.

And then she says on all her interviews recently that she only is concerned about his family and the country. Why did she say when he was back in Normandy that she wanted to see him in prison? I think you know they've actually had a desire to put this really to end his presidency and it's a political move, it's not a judicial move or a fair move.

I'm for fairness. If the president committed a crime, he should be impeached whether he's my friend or not. But I do not believe that there's any evidence. I've known the man for many years. I've never seen him --

STELTER: And so when you talk to him -- when you talk to him next -- RUDDY: -- ever even hinted doing a criminal act.

STELTER: Can you tell him to stop using dehumanizing language about the press, calling us sick, what calling us these kinds of language? He's been saying --

RUDDY: Can I hear -- can I hear you, Brian, can -- will you and CNN condemn Representative Tlaib for selling T-shirts on her Web site right now --

STELTER: I'm not going to play your game. I have no idea what she's selling.

RUDDY: -- where she says impeach the M.F.

STELTER: I'll look it up.

RUDDY: Well, she's -- it's on our Web site. The story is on Newsmax right now. She's selling T-shirts that says impeach the M.F.

STELTER: And how is that related to the President calling journalist scum --

RUDDY: That should be -- should be condemned.


STELTER: -- calling us scum, dehumanizing language.

RUDDY: Well, I disagree -- I disagree with the president. I do not believe the press is the enemy of the people. I think the White House has -- can improve its communications scheme with the press. I agree with you there.

We both know -- you know, I've known a lot of White House reporters for many years and they all say to me the same thing. They don't get the normal communications from the White House's to the president's side of the story like they have in previous administrations. I think it was a shortcoming.

STELTER: That would help. Yes, that would help.

RUDDY: I think it needs to be improved and it would help. And I do think the President could improve his rhetoric and I don't think it helps the situation. I think that the President -- this is an opportunity I think for him to reach out to the Democrats to Pelosi and say look, how can we -- Bill Clinton wrote the model on this. He was impeached. He still dealt with the Republicans. He got legislation that balanced the budget, did tremendous things for the country and I think he came out pretty good at the end of his second term.

And I think the president here has a tremendous record. He should ignore a lot of this incoming attacks, focus on the things that we agree on with the Democrats, try to pass bipartisan legislation. I know it sounds crazy but this is the time I think to do it. STELTER: I don't think you're crazy. Chris Ruddy, thank you so much

for being here. Good to see you.

RUDDY: Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: A quick break here, and then we've got a legendary actor standing by, also one of the President's most outspoken critics. I'll speak with Robert De Niro about this week's impeachment drama next.


STELTER: Hey, welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES, I'm Brian Stelter. You may have noticed last season on Saturday Night Live there were some appearances from one Robert Mueller but actually played by Robert De Niro.

Now, Mueller seems to be history but De Niro has a lot to say about the real-life President Trump and he's here with me now in New York. Thank you for being here, sir.


ROBERT DE NIRO, ACTOR: Glad to be here.

STELTER: We've been trying to book you for a while and then all of a sudden this week we've got an impeachment inquiry and I'm even more curious for your sense of what's going on. You've been calling for the president to be impeached. Are you satisfied with what the Democrats are now doing?

DE NIRO: Yes, I think they have no choice but to have an impeachment inquiry. It's just it has to happen. I mean there's no way around it.

STELTER: It has to happen. Do you think the president should resign? Because this morning in the Connecticut Post which was one of the biggest papers in the state of Connecticut, I believe this is the first major paper to call for him to step down. That would be quite a dramatic development.

DE NIRO: I don't think he's capable of resigning. Just -- well, Bill Maher a couple of weeks ago said that he -- it's going to be difficult getting him out of the White House especially if he wins marginally -- if he loses marginally --

STELTER: Do you have that fear as well that he wouldn't leave?

DE NIRO: Yes, he'll say it's rigged or this or that. He'll find something. This guy has done everything possible, much worse than I have a thought ever. The day after he was elected, I said, well, you know, give him a chance. You'll never know. You'll see. But he's the -- he's the worse than I ever could have imagined.

STELTER: And what is at the heart of that? What is the primary critique or complaint or objection? DE NIRO: I don't know. I think part of -- I think he's crazy in a way. Part of him was just crazy. And Ruddy who was just on apologizing for him is disgraceful. I mean, if it wasn't for you, CNN, MSNBC, and some other outlets, the New York Times, The Washington Post, I mean, where are we? This is a crazy world. What is going on? This guy is crazy. We've got to get him out.

STELTER: When you say crazy, do you mean in a medical sense because that gets criticized pretty quickly?

DE NIRO: Possibly medically too, I'm starting to think. I didn't think that before, but now I actually -- when I saw him out in front of the helicopter waiting to go somewhere and talking endlessly and sweating and sweating and not even -- I said, this guy he doesn't -- he's not even aware of what he's -- he should at least ask somebody for a handkerchief or something and dry himself off. There's just something very strange about that.

STELTER: I wonder, as an actor, do you ever look at the president and think he's performing like he's playing an act or something?

DE NIRO: In some ways, I think he is, but I think that it's -- as I think some of these other pundits on Fox are too because I can't believe that they would actually buy into this craziness. This guy is -- should not be president, period.

STELTER: And when you say that, folks on Fox come after you. I remember the tone is when he got up there and cursed, a lot of criticism of you.

DE NIRO: Fuck him, fuck him.

STELTER: OK, well, you know, this is cable --

DE NIRO: Sorry.

STELTER: -- so it's not an FCC violation, but it is still a Sunday morning. I do wonder why you chose to go that way.

DE NIRO: Let me say something.

STELTER: Why do you choose to go that way?

DE NIRO: We are -- we are at a moment in our life in this country where this guy is like a gangster. He's come along and he said things done things we say over and over again. This is terrible. We're in a terrible situation. We're in a terrible situation. And this guy just keeps going on and on without being stopped.

STELTER: Let's fit in a break. Let's squeeze in a commercial. More of Robert De Niro in just a moment.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) STELTER: And we're back here on RELIABLE SOURCES with Robert De Niro, who of course played Robert Mueller on SNL last season. The SNL season premiere was last night. You were not on. I wonder, is the character now retired?

DE NIRO: Well, I who knows. But I -- what I suggested to them is why don't we do a thing on SNL where I do all the things people would have wished Mueller had -- would have done, should have done, could have done when he was deposed or whatever you want to call it.

STELTER: Actually a special counsel. So you suggested that to Lorne Michaels and company?

DE NIRO: I did.

STELTER: So maybe we'll see about it.

DE NIRO: Who knows? Who knows?

STELTER: Your big role coming up as the Irishman. This film that just premiered in New York on Friday night. My colleague Frank Pallotta saw it and said it's a masterpiece. It's getting rave reviews. It's interesting. It's going to be in theaters in November, and then on Netflix. And this is your first time making a film for Netflix, right?

DE NIRO: Yes. Well, Netflix was the only company that really stepped up and said they would finance it and do it for us in a way that we had to do it that would enable Marty Scorsese to do everything that he needed to do to make the movie that he wanted to make. So it was made as a movie. Obviously, it's not for a small screen. Some people will see it on a small screen. It's better ultimately to see it on a big screen but it will work on any screen.

STELTER: I suppose the way the world works now, a lot of people have those 75-inch TVs at home and they're watching this on those right now.

DE NIRO: Exactly.

STELTER: So people will see it in a cinematic way.


STELTER: Does it matter to you that Netflix and others are financing films, Netflix, and Apple, and Amazon?

DE NIRO: No, I mean, they're financing them, other people aren't. It's because -- it's very hard to get a movie financed in a traditional way. You'll get it done even if it's a tentpole film and one of the comic book films. It's still -- you know, you always have and that's the nature of it and that's fine.

But -- so companies like Netflix, Amazon, if they come along and can support material work that's very special and do it in a way that -- when all the technological stuff coming on, that's even better that they can help support that, make it -- finance it because it's expensive.

Now, it'll be less than less as years go by, obviously, things will change, new things will come up. But yes, I think it's -- it creates a lot of work for everybody.


STELTER: And the Irishman, it's a Martin Scorsese film, it's a mob film. And I used the word mob earlier talking about President Trump. You do see this as a mob situation that he speaks like a mobster or something?

DE NIRO: No, he he's a wannabe gangster. And he -- the thing is that he makes gangsters look bad because certain gangsters, like in any profession, keep their word. He doesn't even know how to keep his word and he's the president. It's just crazy that he's our president.

STELTER: I get the sense from you that you view this as a crisis.

DE NIRO: It is a crisis. Yes, it is. And too many people are too gentle about it and genteel about it. And we're in a crisis situation, period. That's it.

STELTER: Sir, thank you for being here. Good to see you. Thanks for the conversation. And a quick reminder before we wrap up here on television, is our web companion. You can subscribe to our podcast there and subscribe to our nightly newsletter that'll be out later this evening. Sign up for free at

Now, there is a lot more going on in the world beyond the impeachment battle, and documentaries are sometimes the best way to get at it. Case in point, quick plug for tonight's CNN primetime lineup, a Dr. Sanjay Gupta's fifth installment in his acclaimed series on "WEED" is at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time.

Then at 9:00, I started the new season of Mike Rogers "DECLASSIFIED" and at 10:00, "THIS IS LIFE" with Lisa Ling. A big night on prime time here on CNN. We'll see you right back here this time next week.