Return to Transcripts main page
New Whistleblower Comes Forward; Will the Fox Force Field Protect Trump?. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired October 06, 2019 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey. I'm Brian Stelter. Welcome to RELIABLE SOURCES.
We do begin with breaking news about a second whistleblower in the Ukraine scandal. Actually, we need a new name for this scandal and we're going to get into that. The lawyers who are representing the first intelligence whistleblower who came forward with accusations against President Trump are now confirming they are representing a second person, a second whistleblower.
Here's a tweet from one of the lawyers say: My team now represents multiple whistleblowers in connection to the August 12th disclosure.
The lawyers say no further comment at this time, but the information we are hearing is this new whistle-blower does have firsthand knowledge that supports the claims made by the initial whistleblower. So, it is a lot to keep up with, but the reports are and the confirmation first reported by ABC this morning is that a second whistleblower is now involved.
Now, my take on this is this is another sign that the legal whistleblower process is working. Checks and balances are looking.
You know, look, I was going to start the show today by bemoaning how dark these days are. A president blowing his top, asking foreign government to find dirt on his opponents, accusing lawmakers of treason, calling the press corrupt.
Chuck Todd was right. This national nightmare is upon us. And frankly, it's going to get worse before it gets better, but I think there are reasons to be optimistic right now.
I think the ugly truth is coming out, Congress is getting to the bottom of it. And the nation's leading news outlets are leading the way, blowing the scandal wide open, explaining how Trump is abusing his power, decoding it to the text messages and other evidence that's coming out. Interviewing sources from D.C., all the way to Ukraine, and showing how all the evidence in the words of "The Washington Post" front-page story, how the growing evidence buttresses the report from the original whistleblower complaint. Reporters are asking the right questions, in some case prompting Trump
to admit to misconduct right there on live TV, and reporters are digging up more information, like this from "The Washington Post." It's a different headline that says: Trump's calls with foreign leaders have long worried aides. Some of those aides are, quote, genuinely horrified by the conduct on these calls with world leaders.
Now, I read that and wondered, when were they going to tell us? But here is the point -- the process is working. Inch by inch, one story at a time, we are finding out more.
So, right now, I see big -- three big challenges for the press and the public. First, keeping up with the torrent of news. I think daily explainers, stories like this, here's the latest, newsletters, all of that, is helping us keep up.
Number two, keeping an open mind. Let's not assume we know what's going to happen here. Nobody knows how this is going to end.
And the third challenge for the press and the public is keeping an eye -- a wary eye on the disinformation campaigns that are going on, without getting suckered by it. Right now, Trump is protected by his FOX News fan club, by a force field of falsehoods, that is excusing his behavior, and claiming that the deep state is out to get him.
You see what he's doing on Twitter all weekend long. Right wing media is Trump's ultimate wall. He's using that wall, tweeting out clips from his favorite Fox Shows, that's continuing to this hour. But there are a few signs of cracks in the wall.
This reality distortion force field may not be working as well as it used to.
So, right now, let's start right there, with expert analysis from our guests here in New York. "The New Yorker" staff writer Masha Gessen is here, CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy is here, and Juliet Huddy, a former Fox News host, who's now a co-host of "Curtis and Juliet" on 77WABC Radio here in New York.
Thank you all for being here. Let's unpack what is going on.
Oliver, what is the current right-wing media defense of Trump. Is it providing a firewall for the president?
OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Sure. If you watch outlets like Fox, it's not enough really to say, Brian, that they're being it is an inverse image of reality.
And what I mean by that is if you watch Fox, it's not President Trump who has potentially abused the powers of his office, it is Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. If you watch Fox, it's not Trump who's lying to the America people on regular basis, he's the truth teller. If you watch Fox, it's not the right-wing fever swamps who are spreading conspiracy theories, it's the mainstream media.
Total inverse image of reality. And if Trump does happen to survive this deepening scandal, I think he can only credit this right-wing media machine for poisoning the public dialogue and distorting truth from millions of people to a point where people can't tell, you know, what is happening, what is the truth and what is fiction.
STELTER: Right. So they just throw up their hands?
STELTER: You've been covering conservative media for years. You used to work at Glenn Beck's "The Blaze" website.
Do you see cracks in the force field?
DARCY: Well, certainly, I think the one place I'm paying attention to right now is the Drudge Report, which is headed by Matt Drudge, who was very supportive of the president early on. And he seems to have completely turned on the president. He has, for a while, been sort of the assignment editor, if you will, for right wing media.
And so, him potential turning on the president is huge.
The second --
STELTER: Right now, his headline is second whistleblower comes forward.
STELTER: He's not shying away from the news the way others might be.
DARCY: No, he's spotlighting the news, and he's also spotlighting the commentary of some of the president's -- the people who the president doesn't like.
STELTER: He doesn't like.
DARCY: People like Shep Smith.
DARCY: People like Judge Napolitano. He's spotlighting their commentary saying, hey, the president may have committed crimes.
DARCY: And the second person we'll talk about is Tucker Carlson has written this op-ed where he no longer says that the president's call with Ukraine is defensible. He's actually saying it's inappropriate.
STELTER: He's saying there's no way to spin the call.
DARCY: There's no way to spin it, that's what he's saying.
Now, obviously, there's a caveat. He is in his op-ed defending the president, saying that while he may have made an inappropriate phone call, it doesn't rise to the level of impeachment, but I still think it's a bit of a retreat from this right-wing narrative which is that the president's call was perfect, that there is nothing to look at, and hey, look at Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton.
This is a big of a retreat that I think we're seeing from Tucker Carlson. It's repositioning maybe for a new way to defend the president but it's still noteworthy.
STELTER: It's still a defense though.
STELTER: And, Juliet, you worked at Fox for many years, 18 years of Fox News and local station. What do you see happening today? How does this look to you?
JULIET HUDDY, CO-HOST, "CURTIS AND JULIET" ON 77WABC RADIO: Well, I think that you have to look at -- Tucker Carlson is a great example. I mean, he's getting out there, and he's putting something slightly negative, but by the same token, immediately, he follows with, but, you know, this impeachment thing. So, I think that they're just trying to play both sides.
STELTER: Both sides.
HUDDY: Kind of talking in both sides of their mouth.
HUDDY: And that's one of the things that Fox is very effective at doing. It's not so much that it's particularly clever or that there's so much particularly diabolical, even that some people think that they are, it's that they're doing something that we did when we were little kids, which is lying by omission, at least some of us did when we were kids.
STELTER: Lying by omission?
HUDDY: Lying by omission.
STELTER: Leaving out key details.
HUDDY: They leave out the context. They leave out facts, they spin it so that it gives just enough information, but not all of the information, but the information that they did give out, it pushes their narrative.
STELTER: You've said that you witnessed this firsthand during the Obama years --
HUDDY: Oh, yes.
STELTER: -- when you were hosting "Fox & Friends" weekend.
HUDDY: Yes. STELTER: Is it worse now? Is it better? Have you seen Fox changed?
HUDDY: It's so much -- it's so much more hardcore from when I was there in the mid-2000s. Once President Obama was elected, I definitely sensed a shift. It seemed like the -- what I'd like to call sort of the outline of the show, which is the introductions to the guests, the introduction to the segments, the banners that you see at the bottom of the screen. They like to -- that's very subtle. They do it very well.
But those are things that they're effective at pushing the narrative that don't seem to blatantly obvious. For people like us who are in the industry, we know, we get it. But the people at home, the lay person, they may not get that. So, I think Fox has become very effective.
I would sit on the set and I would see a script for the first time and teleprompter live on air, and I'd be like, I'm not going to say Obama is the devil. I have to edit on the fly here -- I'm exaggerating a little bit, sort of, but that's -- you have to kind of take what they're saying with a grain of salt, because you're not getting the whole story.
STELTER: And, of course, the president is watching, watching, watching. It's what he's consuming and then spitting back out via Twitter, and that's the feedback loop that we're seeing.
I wonder, Masha, as the author of books, including "The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia". If what we are seeing here in the United States reminds you at all of state-run media in other countries, is what we're seeing similar at this point?
MASHA GESSEN, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORKER: A bit. What you see in a totalitarian country which, of course, this country is not and most countries are not, but what you see is a forced reality.
STELTER: A forced reality.
GESSEN: Yes, where basically the subject of a totalitarian state is you have had to inhabit this reality, this is the only available reality. You what -- observable facts are not part of the something -- of the thing that's available to you. That relies on state terror.
What's amazing about Trump is that he's created this completely encapsulated reality without relying on state terror, right? It's a much -- it's a much softer --
STELTER: All he does is tweet insults at Mitt Romney.
GESSEN: That's all he does, but it's a perfectly encapsulated universe. And I think, you know, all of us are living in a state of this incredible anxiety and have been for about 2 1/2 years, where, on the one hand, we have -- what is observable to us as fact, and on the other hand, we have what is coming at us through the tweets, through Fox News, even if you're not watching it, you're sort of getting through osmosis. And there's a kind of temptation, right, to sort of you could just
move in. You could live in that space and be unconflicted, and I wouldn't (INAUDIBLE) the force of that.
STELTER: Let me show what Geraldo Rivera said about this earlier in the week.
He was on with Sean Hannity, basically crediting Sean Hannity for making sure Trump does not become like Nixon. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GERALDO RIVERA, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: You know, if it wasn't your show, Sean, they would destroy him absolutely. You're the difference between Donald J. Trump and Richard Nixon. In Nixon's case, if he had someone who stuck up for him, he wouldn't have been motivated to cover up that burglary. He would have let the perpetrators get their just desserts.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Geraldo, I don't -- I don't --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Juliet, is your former colleague right?
HUDDY: I will say that Hannity is kind of the king of the lying by omission, of leaving the facts out. And I think he's been very -- I mean, he pretty much is the guy that has kept Trump as a hero. There are people at Fox who are trying to do the right thing and trying to be objective and trying to tell the whole story. I don't think Hannity is one of them.
STELTER: All right. More with the panel. Everybody, stand by. A quick break here.
So much more ahead this hour, including alligator-infested waters and electric fences. That's a new reporting from the book "Border Wars" about some of Trump's suggested ideas for the southern border. Michael Shear is here with more from the book.
Plus, a view of Washington from the Midwest. We're going out to Iowa to Robert Leonard. He's a radio news director there. He's going to give us a perspective on impeachment from the Midwest.
Much more coming up here on RELIABLE SOURCES.
STELTER: And we're back now on RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.
Words and facts still have meaning.
[11:15:00] I feel like we've got to say that these days because the way words are being twisted and redefine. Take, for example, the word "treason." Yes, it still means something and it's not what Trump thinks it means.
The Constitution says, quote, the treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. Giving them aid and comfort.
So when the president says that Congressman Adam Schiff committed treason, well, that's not treason. I mean, I think it's a statement about where we are in this news cycle that we now weed to have U.S. Constitution graphics and quotes now on the screen.
That's not the only word being manipulated. The president corresponding to talk about, maybe, arresting people, quoting Fox people, talking about civil war like fractures. His fans on Fox are also using the word coup quite a bit. So, let's at the work coup, a definition of coup, a sudden violent overthrow of an existing government by a small group, typically, armed forces, or police or other military elements are involved.
Keep that in mind, we listen to these comments from Fox in the last 10 days. This is the arc of how the word "coup" is being used on air.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This leak and coup campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every time you heard the word "impeachment", you have to substitute the word "coup" and the coup needs to be shut down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you're watching is a legislative coup d'etat. This is not an impeachment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is nothing less than an attempted coup d'etat and end run around the ballot box.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Where is the violent overthrow?
Anyway, that's another word that's being misused. Watch out for that because it goes from the right-wing fever swamps and the Internet, to Fox and then to the president's Twitter feed.
Now, of course, there are other words being manipulated as well. "The New Yorker's" Masha Gessen has pointed this out in a new column. She points out the word "investigation" has a meaning as well. It means to make a systematic examination of something.
There is lots of headlines about Trump wanting investigations, wanting Ukraine and China to investigate Joe Biden. Trump is not looking for an investigation, not looking for a systemic investigation. He wants dirt. He wants dirt about his political opponents.
So, let's talk more about that with our panel. Masha is here along with Oliver Darcy and Juliet Huddy.
Masha, what compelled you to write about this? Do you feel like words are being twisted right now?
GESSEN: Well, I was looking at the headlines that said Trump wanted an investigation, when investigation is a word that actually has something to do with the concept of truth, right? And where is he -- I mean, think really and truly he believes the whole word is rotten, if you dig into anybody, you're going to find something, right?
So investigation is just a weapon. It's a tool. It's a cudgel, right? So, he wanted that cudgel to be deployed against his opponent, because he's fully convinced that investigation always works in the same way.
But then as journalists, we have a problem, because -- for example, when Nancy Pelosi made her announcement about launching an impeachment inquiry I counted that "New York Times" story had the word "investigation" 14 times to mean entirely different things.
STELTER: Oh, interesting.
GESSEN: From the impeachment inquiry to the investigation that Trump wanted to launch, right? The problem with that is, you know, when a word can mean nothing at all, because it means everything, then we as journalists have a problem in conveying facts to our readers.
STELTER: What do we have to make sure we do in this environment?
GESSEN: We have to be incredibly intentional about using language. And sometimes that means thinking for a long time how we're going to phrase this. So, he wanted not an investigation, what did he want, right? Let's use the phrase he was asking the president to dig up dirt. And use that phrase every time, be intentional about it.
STELTER: I notice another word that sometimes being misused is "unsubstantiated." We says things like, the president doesn't have evidence for his claims about Biden. What it means is he's promoting a conspiracy theory based on a bunch of lies that are being dredged up on the web.
And I wonder, Oliver, if news outlets are meeting the moment well enough if we're just saying, well, he's saying it without evidence.
DARCY: Right, they need to drill this into the audience that this stuff is untethered from reality, that this stuff comes from the Internet fever swamps, the president tweets it. And that does make it an unsubstantiated allegation necessarily. It means it's just a distorted -- it's really poison, is the best way to describe it.
STELTER: You know what's interesting, the White House declined all these interview requests today. They declined CNN and all the broadcast networks. No White House aides are out on television defending Trump.
Unfortunately, in a good way, that means there's less disinformation. There's less misinformation being spread today, because the White House declined to give interviews. What a sad state of affairs, that the White House giving interviews means there's going to be more misinformation in the world.
DARCY: Although a lot of what we saw last week was all these talking points really fall apart when you enter the real world. Whereas they still are allowed to thrive on Fox. You just played that clip where people were talking about coups, civil wars, it's really disturbing stuff.
I actually wonder, Lachlan Murdoch, the head of Fox, how does he really look at himself every morning knowing that that poison is his contribution to society?
I -- honestly, I can't understand how he does it.
STELTER: It's pretty strong, Oliver. I wonder if we have to go back to basic points, quoting the Constitution, quoting definitions of coup. If we're going to be dealing with these lies out there in the public domain, we've got to get back to basics and explain what is an impeachment process? How is it legally defined in the Constitution?
Look, we have a minute left. And, I wonder Juliet, since you're on radio three hours a day, you're hearing people all day long. Are they able to keep up with any of this? Isn't that the fundamental problem there?
HUDDY: Yes, that's the thing. Again, people who are in our business, and this is our job to know awful developments, we miss things, so I can only imagine the lay person at home, I mean, they're being besieged by it. Sometimes I feel like I have to go home after a day of covering this news, laying in a fetal position rocking back and forth, what is happening here?
But I will say one thing.
HUDDY: I think we have to put the onus on the public, because there are people out there who support Donald Trump, who I will say cup, this is a television, and Trump says that's a television, and I swear to you it's a cup, and it just goes on and on.
DARCY: And Fox will repeat it.
HUDDY: And they'll say, that's a television, lady. That's a television.
DARCY: Some of the news shows, trying to be fair, will ask, is this a television? Or is it a cup?
HUDDY: That's an unsubstantiated claim. GESSEN: Or worse yet, some people say that's an unsubstantiated
STELTER: Right, some people will say, many people will say --
DARCY: Many Democrats will say that.
HUDDY: I was still seeing that when I was at Fox. I do have to admit.
STELTER: I do wonder if this scandal needs a name. It's not a Ukraine scandal anymore. It's certainly not a Biden scandal. That makes Biden, you know, the bad guy here.
Masha, does that matter in the public discourse, talking about language?
GESSEN: Of course it matters. Of course it matters.
I mean, I think every time that Joe Biden is mentioned, every time that Ukraine, in fact, is mentioned, that is in a sense misleading. We're talking about the conduct of the president of the United States and not about Ukraine.
STELTER: It's an abuse of power-gate, but I don't know if we should gate anymore. It's been a few decades.
STELTER: Trump what?
STELTER: Like Woodstock you mean?
GESSEN: Stupid Watergate is a pretty good name.
STELTER: Stupid Watergate, I do see that on Twitter a lot, stupid Watergate, because some of this is being admitted to, there's confusions that are happening in public.
To the panel, thank you very much.
A quick break, and then we're going to go to Washington and Michael Shear, the co-author of the brand new book "Border Wars". It's coming out in Tuesday. He's going to give us a preview of the book and his new reporting about President Trump and his extreme proposals about the border. That's next.
STELTER: You know, so many stories in the Trump years make me think about the icy waters of the Antarctic, the tip of an iceberg. You know how icebergs work. You see a little bit above the water, there's so much more beneath the surface that we only find out about later.
This is certainly true with the Ukraine story. It's actually true with a lot of the bombshells about the Trump. Think about the bomb shells, not about the icy waters, but about the border, about the hot desert of the southern border, and President Trump's proposed tactics for slowing down migrants attempting to cross the border.
The most shocking being his proposal to shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down.
Now, this is first reported by "The New York Times", but Fox News confirmed some of it with an illustration of alligators.
"The Washington Post" and other news outlets have confirmed this reporting which all came from the book "Border Wars: Inside Trump's Assault on Immigration." The book comes out on Tuesday.
It's co-authored by "New York Times" reporters Julie Davis and Michael Shear.
And Michael is joining me now from Washington.
So, Michael, let's start with the book. What's the biggest revelation in the book?
MICHAEL SHEAR, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, look, I think the ones you put on the screen are probably the most sensational. But I think the most -- the bigger picture we reveal in the book is the really extreme ways that we all didn't know action your iceberg analogy suggests, we don't realize all the different ways and some of top advisers like Stephen Miller, the architect of his immigration agenda, were scheming and talking about, you know, even as we were all oblivious to it, an the way many in the administration were pushing back, trying to stop the president from pushing ahead. What they repeatedly told Julie and I in the book -- for the book is that he didn't come to these ideas once and then talked out of them.
He would -- he would bring up an idea, the administration officials would say, no, sir, I can't do that, it's not legal, or it's not moral, it's not practical, and he would come back to it again and again and again.
And, you know, the fact is, look, we all think we know President Trump and what's going on because he's tweeting constantly and he's staying in front of the helicopter and talking endlessly, but the truth is despite that sort of illusion of transparency, there's a lot going on inside this administration that we don't know. And that's what we tried to do with the book.
STELTER: And oftentimes, authors are able to get at that for the first time. How did you and Julie get under the surface and see the rest of the iceberg?
SHEAR: Well, look, both Julie and I have been covering immigration off and on in previous administrations for years, but there is something about a book where you can say to a source, look, we would like to talk to you, we would like to get beneath the surface, we would like to understand a specific meeting, specific discussions that the president had, and we won't put them in the newspaper the next day. We -- this is a long process. We worked on the book about a year and a half.
And you can tell people, you can tell sources, you know, this won't appear just in a single story. It's put in context in a broader, in the book in a broader way and --
STELTER: Don't we need to know right away? Don't we need to know as soon as you know?
SHEAR: Well, look, that's -- in an ideal world as a journalist, I mean, I'm all about getting inspection out thereon. And in an ideal world, if somebody says to you, here's a dramatic piece of information, and you can use it tomorrow, absolutely, I would use it tomorrow. And we -- Julie and I both pushed back on some of our sources to say, can we use this sooner? And in some cases, we did.
But, look, you know, the truth is that this is -- this is how you ferret information out. And when a source tells you, look, I'm going to have this conversation with you only on condition that the information doesn't appear until the book, you know, that's sort of what you have to do.
STELTER: Hmm. When your first excerpt came out in "The New York Times", president ranted about it.
Here's part of what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, obviously, it's fake because almost everything the Washington Post does is fake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: OK. Wait, what? So he kept going, he kept going, he kept ranting about the Washington Post. Obviously, you all work at the New York Times. What did you make of this mistake?
SHEAR: I don't know. You know, there was some speculation that you know maybe he -- maybe he did it on purpose because he wanted to deny us publicity for who we actually are. If that's -- if that's the case, then I think it backfired because I suspect that we got more coverage from people who were -- who had to then correct his mistake. Then we would have if he had just done it accurately.
But it's also possible. Look, he rants about the New York Times and The Washington Post kind of equally back and forth and sometimes I maybe he just got mixed up.
STELTER: Do you care? The two and a half years in, do you care when he complains about your paper?
SHEAR: I mean, sure. Look, it's -- I covered eight years of the Obama administration. I cared every time the administration criticized our work. You want your work to be -- you know that your work is accurate. You don't want people to challenge it. But the President's complaints about the accuracy of that story were about as correct as his, you know, assessment of where we worked.
We are fully confident in the sources. We had multiple sources describing these conversations to us for the book. And look, I think as you -- as you pointed out, even Fox News and most of the news organizations have since confirmed it. So I think, you know, like a lot of his other criticisms, I don't -- you know, they're just not -- they're just not right.
STELTER: They're noise. Michael, thank you very much. The book is Border Wars. A quick break here, and then a unique perspective about President Trump's anger toward the press. Former Trump Organization executive Barbara Res will join me right after the break.
STELTER: Unfit for office. Those are the words, the headline from this new piece by the husband of Trump aide Kellyanne Conway. This is George Conway writing for the Atlantic about President Trump's narcissism. It's something he's been worrying about for many months now and he's getting more serious.
He says, "You don't need to be a mental health professional to see that something's very seriously off with Trump, particularly after nearly three years of watching his erratic and abnormal behavior." But before Conway, before all of us, there was Barbara Res. She was in a former vice-president at the Trump Organization and the construction engineer behind a Trump Tower. She's also the author of All Alone on the 68th Floor: How One Woman Changed the Face of Construction. And Barbara joins me now.
Barbara, I was wondering if you could help us unpack this week, this especially dramatic week. To me, I'd never seen the President as angry as he was at a couple of these press avail this week. So we'll get into Conway in a minute but had you seen that kind of anger before? Is this new to you too?
BARBARA RES, FORMER EXECUTIVE, TRUMP ORG: No, I've seen it before.
RES: He was always very quick to react, never responded to anything, always reacted to it and got very, very angry. He had this notion that everything that happened that was bad was directed at him, like they were after him, people were after him even with the -- with the new thing with the impeachment and the whistleblower.
Immediately he says the whistleblower is a hack, he's a Democrat, he's -- you know, he makes it like not that they're after something he might have done but after him and that's -- and that's the way he was.
STELTER: So that's a conspiratorial streak --
RES: In a way, yes.
STELTER: You've seen it for decades. And you also wrote in the 80s about his narcissism. So this is something that you noticed a long time ago.
RES: I did. But somebody on the crew used to take the train in from Connecticut and read the Times every day. So there is in this article one day that has the definition of a narcissist and we're all looking at it and it's got like, I don't know, seven or eight things listed it's like it might have been a biography of Donald Trump or a profile of Donald Trump. Yes, he was always like this.
STELTER: So in a way you're saying, people should not be surprised.
STELTER: Do you think voters knew all of that though before they went to the polls two and a half years?
RES: I don't know. I don't think anyone really knew because people are constantly surprised. And you know, I am surprised a little bit too with some of the things he does, but it's --
STELTER: Why, because it's worse or better? Why are you surprised?
RES: I'll say it's worse. It's worse. One of the things that surprised me was to comment about women -- you know, assaulting women. That -- I never ever heard him talk anything like that. So you know, that kind of thing. Telling the Russians that he didn't care about election meddling, that was a stupid thing to say and I never thought of him as stupid, so that surprised me.
But otherwise, no, this is Trump. Sometimes I say Trump squared because he's had since I know have many, many years of fame and fortune and getting richer, and now he actually does believe he's a stable genius and he does believe he can shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and so far it looks like he can.
STELTER: And when Kellyanne Conway's husband says he's unfit for office, do you agree with that assessment?
RES: I do, yes. But I thought that when he was running and not for necessarily the mental reasons that they talked about but because he didn't have the experience, you know, lots of different things.
STELTER: So how do you see this ending now? Does it end at the ballot box in a year, does he make it to a second term, does he resign as a result of impeachment? What do you think?
RES: You know, it's funny people ask me that and I'm thinking, you know, it's hard to say my opinion on national T.V. because I could very well be wrong. But let me -- let me tell you what I thought. I mean, I think that he does a lot of things to save face and I could give you examples but we don't have time. But I mean, there are some things that you know he can't control and he's now at the point where he can't control this. He can't do anything about this.
It would be very, very, very bad for him to be impeached. I don't know that he'd be found guilty but I don't think he wants to be impeached. I think -- I think that's what this panic is about. And my gut tells me he'll leave office, he'll resign, or make some kind of a deal even depending on what comes out.
STELTER: All right, there's the prediction. It's always is nervous to do that on T.V. but you know him. You've been there. Barbara, thank you.
RES: My pleasure.
STELTER: Good to see you.
RES: Thank you.
STELTER: A quick break here on the show and then we continue our conversation about the impeachment inquiry. You've noticed the recent tweets from the President. Fake news is out, corrupt media is in. Why is he changing his tune? That's next.
STELTER: President Trump's persistent attacks on the press have been building for a moment like this, discrediting the media in order to distract from real scandal. Now. if you noticed his Twitter feed lately and how could you not, he's moved from calling the media just fake and crazy to a new term. He's moving to a word corrupt. He's been using this word a lot more this year and especially in the past couple of months including in person.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Corrupt media.
I'm only interested in corruption.
I don't even use fake anymore. I call the fake news now corrupt news because fake isn't tough enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: So as the press uncovers evidence of corruption, he calls the press corrupt. It's the schoolyard taunt thing, you know, I know you are but what am I, on the presidential stage. With me now to talk about the press coverage of the impeachment inquiry is former RNC Communications Director and Republican Strategist Doug Heye and co- host of Signal Boost on Sirius XM and Share Blue Editor Jess McIntosh.
Thank you both. I want to get a left and right perspective to assess how the press is covering this probe. Jess, first to you. What's the most important point to make?
JESS MCINTOSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think that it cannot be overstated how important the role the press has in the impeachment inquiry. This is run-up to the Iraq war level, big for the media. And I'm glad that it's happening after the media has had a year in change of covering him, of figuring out how to cover the fact that like the President's comments which are newsworthy because he is the president are often straight-up lies.
So we need more bold chyrons, we need more real-time fact-checking, we need interviewers who are not afraid to hold these guys accountable. If you're going to have him on the air, you cannot allow him to get away with lying to your audience. We're seeing a lot of that. We're going to need more.
STELTER: Doug, is she right?
DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think so. And I go -- I always go back to what CNN's motto is which is facts first. And that's what has to take us to wherever this destination is that we're going to go. That's important for the press, that's important -- should be important for Trump, the administration and Republicans, also important for Democrats.
You know, having worked in the House of Representatives during the Clinton impeachment, we went too far. We had a let's get him attitude, and the Democrats can't have that. So when Adam Schiff reads parodies or says that he didn't talk to the whistleblower but you know, he really did, that's a problem for Democrats.
They need to take this very seriously and not get caught in the game that Trump wants to take us to all the time when he says these are not the droids you're looking for.
STELTER: Did he talk to the whistleblower or did his office talk to the whistleblower?
HEYE: Well, he was very -- he was very specific with his language to make -- to give a really false impression of what happened. We know that they talked to it, but he said, I didn't. The reality is they did. And that's the kind of thing that Democrats can't afford to have happen because it allows Trump to cast -- again, these are not the droids you're looking for on everything that Democrats are doing.
STELTER: Jess? MCINTOSH: I don't see that both sides-ism at play here. We have a president who is actively gaslighting the country, using our institutions like state and Department of Justice to advance his own political interests at our expense. I just don't see with all due respect to the parallel between that and whatever tactics that you're looking.
STELTER: No, I get -- look, Trump is gaslighting. There's no doubt about that. You know, he's using extreme rhetoric, Republicans are backing him up, by and large, every step of the way. That's a problem. I'm saying, politically for Democrats and for the media, you can't afford to get it wrong here.
This is so serious that you know, whenever there's a story that comes out in the media that a week later gets not only corrected but retracted or things like that, that allows Donald Trump to say this is all fake, this is all corrupt, and that's what Democrats politically and the media can't afford.
STELTER: Yes, I think he's acting in good faith when he says if one of you makes a mistake, all of you were bad. But he is saying that. It's true. He does say it and we do have to be very, very careful. We also can't be cheerleading for an outcome here. No one knows how this is going to end. We just need to be able to carefully report on it.
The interesting note about what CNN did this week, Trump's been running a few ads, his campaign has been running a few ads that have completely misleading claims about Biden. CNN chose not to run to those ads, meaning rejected the money, said no we're not going to take your money and run those ads. I wonder if we're going to see more of that in the weeks to come.
Another note, the Joe Biden campaign is pressuring the network not to put Rudy Giuliani on the air at all, or if they do book Rudy, to put on a surrogate afterwards. What do you make of that, Doug?
HEYE: Well, you know, a lot of Democrats have told me and I don't know how you feel about this, put Rudy on all day every day.
MCINTOSH: I'm kind of on that camp.
HEYE: Every day -- every day I see Rudy doing an interview. I know he did another one this morning. It's kind of a what planet is he on. And as a New York Yankees fan and as an American, I'm glad when he's at the Yankees game because that's four hours where he's not going on T.V. and spewing out whatever he's going to talk about.
STELTER: But should campaigns, in this case, the Biden campaign be telling networks or at least pressuring networks not to book someone?
MCINTOSH: Well, I think if you're going to have somebody on your air who you know is going to lie about your candidate and that is exactly what Rudy Giuliani does to Joe Biden every time he comes on air, I as the campaign manager for Joe Biden would be very interested in making sure that someone was on air to refute him immediately afterward. That doesn't seem like a bridge too far to me at all.
STELTER: And notably, CNN did try to book Rudy today and he declined. All right, to the panel, thank you. A quick break here and then we got a really interesting perspective from Iowa looking at how folks in the Midwest, Conservative voters who are watching Fox, how are they reacting to all these headlines about Trump's presidential and possibly illegal conduct. That's next.
STELTER: Reporters based in D.C. and New York desperately need to hear from voters all across the country and I include myself in that. So let's get out to Robert Leonard. He is something of a translator for Trump supporters and for rural America. He's the news director for two local radio stations in Iowa KNIA and KRLS.
And he occasionally writes op-eds for the New York Times sharing what he's hearing and reporting on the ground. He's been doing that for the New York Times and elsewhere since Trump was elected. He's also the author of a new book, it is titled Deep Midwest, of apolitical thoroughly journalistic deep dive into the Midwest experience.
So, Robert, I would love to know what you are hearing from your neighbors and your voters about the impeachment inquiry.
ROBERT LEONARD, NEWS DIRECTOR, KNIA AND KRLS RADIO: Well, the Democrats smell blood in the water and they're very excited. A lot of them are happy the trigger was finally pulled because Trump has done a lot of things with their minds that are impeachable. Some of the independents are moving away from Trump especially people that actually voted for Obama twice then Trump.
But most the Conservatives I know especially the evangelical religious right Conservatives are standing strong behind President Trump because he is a kind of a golden hammer that's what's needed to break what they see as the liberal stranglehold on our society that's dismantling America as they see it brick by brick.
STELTER: And that's the reality on the ground that is oftentimes missed. I think even when you have Conservative commentators on cable news talking about these things, even the Hannity's of the world don't fully relate to that. Let me show you what you wrote a couple of years ago for the New York Times. The headline back then was if you want to ask Trump, if you want to get rid of Trump, only Fox News can do it. Is that true two years later?
LEONARD: Yes, it's true. It's absolutely true. But I've got to be more specific this time. Fox News has turned. It's a very different beast than it was a couple of years ago when I wrote that. Now they're starting to point out some of the problems with President Trump's behavior, his actions, Fox opinion, however, hasn't.
And even Tucker Carlson's little sidestep the other day didn't really mean anything because most of us don't see Fox News per se, we see Fox's opinion. It's Fox & Friends in the morning, it's Tucker and Sean at night. By the time we have the kids, grandkids put to bed, sit down after supper, it's all opinion. And so Fox's opinion would have to change big and I don't see that happening unless we see something truly egregious that would move my Republican friends.
But it's going to take a lot. They really think that the personal qualities, his willingness to break all rules and expectations of the presidency or what is needed, no other Republican could have done what he's done for the evangelical right, the Republican right that he's done. Everybody else would have been too conventional. He's like he's a kind of hero still.
STELTER: So 20 seconds left. As we cover all of this in the weeks to come, what's the one thing we've got to remember in the cable news coverage?
LEONARD: Well, speak to Conservatives. Hear what they have to say. One of the things that also some of your earliest panelists said in this program is keep speaking the truth, trying to reach more voters, just keep working. The thing -- what's ultimately going to solve this current problem I think and what's going to -- our only solution is the truth. And that's the truth that will win at the end.
STELTER: Robert Leonard, thank you so much. More RELIABLE SOURCES in just a moment.
STELTER: We've been focusing on the impeachment inquiry this hour but the Democratic Primary continues. It's T-minus nine days to the next debate right here on CNN. And before then, coming up this Thursday night, CNN is partnering with the human rights campaign to present a town hall event on equality in America. Ten candidates will be on stage back to back on Thursday evening.
Before we go here on RELIABLE, a couple of quick plugs. Our podcast guest this week is Rolling Stone Correspondent Matt Taibbi. He's out with a new book titled Hate Inc: How the Media Makes Us Despise One Another. That's our podcast this week. check it out at reliablesources.com. You can also sign up for our nightly newsletter there. And we'll see you back here this time next week.