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Fact Versus Fiction In Impeachment Coverage; Politicians Using The Courts To Punish The Press?; Nunes Wins Attention And Ridicule For Filing Lawsuits; Smartphones Are Reshaping How We Interact With The News; Tucker Carlson Rooting For Russia?; Motivated Reasoning And The Impeachment Inquiry. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired December 08, 2019 - 11:00   ET



BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter. And this is RELIABLE SOURCES, our weekly look at the story behind the story.

So, let's get right to that. Carl Bernstein, Olivia Nuzzi and David Frum are all standing by to analyze coverage of the impeachment hearings, and to look at how Rudy Giuliani is using a far right wing TV channel to blow smoke.

Plus, politicians using the courts to punish the press. We're going to have a look at what Congressman Devin Nunes has been doing.

And later, startling findings from a new study about how we all consume news on our smart phones. This is something that impacts everyone. You're going to want to see the findings.

But, first, let's do something different. Let's go way back in time today, way back in time, because President Trump is the fourth president in U.S. history to face impeachment in the House.

Can you imagine how the news spread during the impeachment of Andrew Johnson in 1868? It spread by print newspaper, by telegram, by mail and by word of mouth. It spread very slowly.

Now, fast forward 100 years, the move to impeach Richard Nixon played out on live broadcast TV. And then by the time, Bill Clinton was impeached, there was broadcast and cable TV. But it was still traditional one to many media that ruled the day. The World Wide Web was still new.

It was happening around this time of year, right? December of 1998. But the Internet was barely a powerful force yet.

Look, there are some obvious parallels between the Clinton and Trump impeachments, right? An incredibly polarized Congress. There are huge differences as well. And the biggest difference is the Internet.

What was a novelty then is now an extension of our brains and bodies. We can all stream the hearings on our phones. We can all read the primary source of materials for ourselves. Or we can just read what our friends post about it on Facebook and choose not to think for ourselves at all.

I mean, honestly, how many people are going to read this congressional report? This is about the constitutional grounds for presidential impeachment. The House Democrats put it out over the weekend.

It's a literal refresh from the Nixon years. The House Democrats purposely making that look similar. It's nice. Just like these well thought out editorials from "The L.A. Times" and "The Boston Globe" this weekend calling for the impeachment of Trump.

These pieces do have value, but political persuasion is happening elsewhere right now. It's happening in little bits and pieces, in tweets and in headlines, in rumors and ridiculous memes, and in all- out lies.

Take Rudy Giuliani, for example. He's been off on an Eastern European adventure, digging up dirt about the Bidens, working on TV shows, stoking the right to Ukraine conspiracy theories, and getting lots of media attention.

But here is an old fashioned idea: how about those of us in the reality based press evaluate what he's doing, see if his claims make sense, and then decide whether he merits media attention?

Trump and his allies rely on the media to repeat their misinformation and conspiracy theories, even though they've been debunked over and over and over again.

But lies and smears and diversions are not automatically newsworthy. Our job is to report what is true and then to the extent that what's untrue or unproven or un-sourced is affecting the public debate, then our job is to explain who's pushing that stuff and why and how we know it's unreliable.

This is only going to get more intense in the weeks to come. We in the press have to keep putting the facts front and center.

I know who has been doing that for decades. That's Carl Bernstein. So, I want to start the conversation this hour by bringing him in and getting his sense of how this impeachment process is unfolding.

Carl, there's another hearing scheduled for Monday morning. We're going to probably see articles of impeachment in the next week. What do you think is the current dynamic in the Congress?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the dynamic in the Congress is that he is going to be impeached by an almost unanimous vote carrying the Democrats, and no Republicans in favor. I think we know this much. We also know that it's probably a given that in a Senate trial, the president is going to be acquitted.

But this is a long process in which the trial itself will resound, I think, throughout the election campaign.


And we have a lot more to get to know.

Our job as reporters is really to not only look at the current information that's out there and do pretty much what you've said about saying what's true and demonstrating how it is or is not, but there's a lot of new information that we ought to be seeking, particularly about the president's relations and conversations with Vladimir Putin, with other leaders like Erdogan in Turkey, with MBS in Saudi Arabia, his financial investments and designs and schemes to operate in these parts of the world, especially in Russia and the former communist East.

There a lot that we need to know that will have a big effect, perhaps even during the trial and throughout the campaign. That's where we ought to be focusing.

STELTER: Right, during trial.

But what did you make of Congressman Adam Schiff and the House Democrats? In the report, the impeachment inquiry report that was released, this is what Schiff and the team wrote. They said: The president and his allies are making a comprehensive attack on the very idea of fact and truth. How can a democracy survive without acceptance of a common set of experiences?

Is this situation that grave?

BERNSTEIN: Yes, absolutely. It's a cultural reality that it is impossible and Republicans and Democrats ought to be able to agree on this, that it is impossible to have a fact-based debate today in our culture. It is ruinous in terms of democracy, and we're seeing that ruin because so far, we have -- particularly in the Republicans, there is some disequilibrium here in who is willing to have a fact-based debate.

There is no indication, thus far, that the Republicans are willing to engage in a real fact-based debate about the conduct of Donald Trump and his obvious, evident, demonstrable corruption, and the fact that there is a very, very strong case, evidentiary case that he has conspired, led a conspiracy with his lawyer to undermine the American democratic electoral system through seeking the aid, soliciting the aid of a foreign power. That's what part of the debate ought to be focused on and Republicans ought to be able to debate -- to debate that on a factual basis. So far, we haven't seen it.

STELTER: And speaking of having a factual debate, one of the president's many tweets this week was about how the press covers the White House and in other institutions. He called out anonymous sourcing and said this: Do not believe any article or story you read that uses anonymous sources. Only accept information if it has an actual living name on it.

The reason why this is hypocritical is the White House constantly insists on anonymity for the basic questions. The White House is known for using senior administration official and White House official. I've had lots of aides in my inbox insist on anonymity when they're emailing with me. What did you make of this tweet and should we just ignore these kinds

of comments from the president?

BERNSTEIN: No. First, Donald Trump is one of the most famous anonymous sources in history to the point where he actually impersonated another person, called himself John Baron, and called in regularly tips to "The New York Post" and "The New York Daily News" about Donald Trump. Many of them false.

So, he's not wrong that readers, viewers need to be careful about evaluating the information based on anonymous sources. But we would know nothing in this country were it not for the use of anonymous sources. Not just in covering the presidency, in covering business, in covering all of the daily agenda of the press.

People, generally speaking, are not willing to speak openly and truthfully on great consequential matters because of their own fear of retribution.

During Watergate, Bob Woodward and myself at "The Washington Post," we did not use a named source in more than 250 stories we wrote in the two-year period of Watergate. They were all anonymous sources. You can go down to the University of Texas, look at our papers. You can learn who some of the people were, and I don't believe -- we made one real mistake, and that fact was based on our misinterpretation of what an anonymous source had told us.

But also, look, our business in the press is the best obtainable version of the truth. And there is no way to get that information without people speaking openly and candidly with reporters. It imposes a great and grave responsibility on reporters to vet their sources --



BERNSTEIN: -- to triangulate their information.

But if we are to look at the record of the press corps who covers the White House in terms of the use of anonymous sources, the reason we know so much about the White House, Donald Trump, the corruption that we have seen, what we know about Trump and the Russians, much of it comes from anonymous sources.

And one other point that I think we have to stress here is that in terms of the subtext of this impeachment and what we are covering as reporters, what continues to resound is Trump and Putin and Russia. Why does he continually favor those positions and work to the advantage of Vladimir Putin and Russia? That is what we need to be focused on continually as a subtext of our reporting.

STELTER: And we're about to find out if portions of the Mueller report will be included in the articles of impeachment.

Carl, thank you so much. Thanks for setting the table for us. Coming up here, which show is Americans into? Where in the world is

Rudy Giuliani or law and order, House Judiciary unit? The panel is standing by, just a moment away.



STELTER: And welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.

Impeachment is a sober constitutional process, but it is also an elaborate production designed to persuade the audience, you, me and our elected officials. So, I'm not reducing it to a TV show, but others are.

For example, right now, Rudy Giuliani is helping produce a TV show to try to counter the evidence of Trump's misconduct. He's been working with a small, ultra conservative cable channel called OANN and far right wing personality who previously promoted the Seth Rich conspiracy theory. They are making a glorified anti-Biden attack ad. And Trump, of course, is promoting OANN, trying to spread the word.

So, that's one show that's going on, while Democrats in the House continue to take over daytime TV for televised testimony from witnesses. And Republicans continue to claim the hearings are boring.

Look, the messaging war is vital here. So, which side is winning?

With me now to discuss is Washington correspondent for "New York Magazine", Olivia Nuzzi, senior correspondent for "New York Magazine", Irin Carmon, and staff writer for "The Atlantic" and author David Frum. He's in Washington for us.

Olivia, which side is winning right now?


I think -- I think it's hard to look at it that way. It's not a sports game. It's not something you can say, oh, they made points, the Democrats have six points for their performance on Tuesday and Republicans have points for their performance on Thursday. I think we won't know until the end.

But I think it's just -- it's just like comparing a Ken Burns documentary to "The Wizard of Oz". You know, one side is dealing with facts. One side cares about what actually happened and that is what they're talking about. And the other side is kind of throwing things at the wall, seeing what will stick and deflecting left and right.

So, it's almost impossible to compare because --

STELTER: To compare the two.

NUZZI: -- they're in completely different universes. STELTER: Well, David Frum, you wrote Trump supporters are displaying

the will to win and Democrats are not. I took away from your piece that the Democrats need a TV producer, someone to come in and figure out these hearings for them.

DAVID FRUM, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Not to create a vulgar show, as Olive said, but as part of the teaching function.

The Judiciary Committee had one day of witnesses and they invited law professors to come and offer legal theories. I'm sure it was interesting for those who stayed to the end, but what they did not do, there are two main headers in the report. One on the facts of what happened in Ukraine, and the other on obstruction.

You would think somebody would have divided it and said since the House Intelligence Committee spent so much time on the facts, let the Judiciary Committee explore the facts of obstruction the refusal to produce documents and witnesses.

I think Americans are hearing from the president that he's not getting a fair process. They need to hear back from the House that the president is sabotaging the process. The president is not -- it's not optional for the president to produce documents or optional for the witnesses to testify. That's a law and they're obstructing it.

And that is -- that is the point the House needs to pound home and home, because the president's -- the president knows most Americans are against him, but he also knows that many Americans, even those against him have a spirit of fair play. If we can untruthfully pound into their heads the claim he's not getting fair play against the facts, that will matter. Everyone should know he is getting fair play. He's refusing to play fair.

STELTER: And the banner on screen is bringing up one of the moments from that hearing, Republicans trying to turn wordplay into a scandal, right? Law professor invokes Barron Trump's name. It becomes an outrage cycle on social media with Melania Trump and others weighing in.

And, Erin, do you think it was good faith or bad faith on display?

IRIN CARMON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It was breathtakingly cynical.

STELTER: By the Republicans?

CARMON: By the Republicans. There was no content that was offensive to Barron Trump in what Pam Karlan. Pam Karlan is someone who has devoted her life to civil rights and rule of law. She laid out a clear and effective case for the legal issues at heart.

And rather than focus on the substance, Republicans, as part of this broader strategy that they have which is to kick up a lot of dust, a lot of distraction, whereas Democrats are trying to have this kind of sober almost reluctant approach which David rightly critiques as limited, Republicans are just trying to distract us and make us focus on whatever conspiracy theory, or whatever misrepresentation. And the Pam Karlan remark about Barron which in the content was just saying his name which is publicly available, allowed them --

STELTER: Not a bridge of privacy. Yes.

CARMON: -- to distract us and allowed all of Trump's base to focus the ire in a place where they love to focus it, which is on a woman who challenges Trump.

STELTER: Maybe this is how the right wing media system works now, which is you find something to focus on for 24 hours.


STELTER: Often times distracting from the substance of the plot, and, Olivia, everyone has to recognize this is how it works now. You may hate it, you may not like it, but this is how it works.

NUZZI: Yes. I mean, I think to Irin's point, it's deeply cynical. And I guess only time will tell if it's effective.

But I think Democrats have been naive in some respects throughout this process.


I think they feel the facts are on our side and so, all that we have to do is present them and display our points in good faith and the other side is not playing by those rules.

STELTER: Interesting.

NUZZI: And so I guess the question is, what will the American people be persuaded by in the end?

STELTER: You know, the word of the week has been hate. A lot of Trump supporters saying the rest of you just hate him. Liberals just hate him. And this came up at one of Pelosi's press conferences. Let's watch that moment.


REPORTER: Do you hate the president, Madam Speaker?



STELTER: James Rosen of Sinclair asking the question. Our question is whether it was fair or unfair?

CARMON: I think he has a first amendment right to ask whatever he wants. But I also think that this is about facts and not about feelings. We're not in seventh grade. This is not about personal animus or not.

NUZZI: I feel like we are sometimes.


CARMON: It feels like we are.

STELTER: Seventh grade, six grade.

CARMON: We should just remind ourselves that it doesn't matter what's in Nancy Pelosi's heart. It matters the heart is exercising its constitutional duty of oversight.

STELTER: David Frum, was it fair or unfair?

FRUM: It was kind of mad. The president had made these claims.

I think when Donald Trump makes personal remarks, their main informational value is self-revelation. That when Donald Trump talks so much about hate, you tell -- you learn about Donald Trump. But you don't learn about the world. You learn about him.

And I think a more insightful journalist would have said when the president says these things, what does that reveal about the interior of the president's mind.

STELTER: Interesting.

All right. Everybody, stand by. Much more to talk about later in the program.

But I want to turn to an interesting trend, a phenomenon about lawsuits. We're going to speak with an individual who has been named in not one, but two of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes's recent lawsuits.

Hear her story, next.



STELTER: President Trump campaigned on loosening America's libel laws, because he wanted to make it easier for the subjects of news coverage to sue news organizations.

He said, quote: I'm going to open our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of win.

Now, these laws exist mostly at the state level, and Trump has not, quote, opened them up.

But other Republicans are taking news outlets to court in new ways, and in ways that could chill free reporting. It seems like a tactic. You file a lawsuit, you get attention for the lawsuit, you impress your supporters so that even if you lose, you can show that you battled the big, bad media.

Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, for example, recently lost his defamation suit against three national news outlets, including CNN. Sarah Palin has a suit against "The New York Times" that is still ongoing.

And Republican Congressman Devin Nunes keeps making headlines for filing more and more lawsuits, most recently against this network for CNN story about his dealings with Rudy Giuliani's associates, specifically Lev Parnas, who is indicted this fall. He has pleaded not guilty.

So, here's the deal. So, Parnas' attorney told CNN that Parnas was willing to tell Congress about what he says were Nunes' efforts to dig up dirt on Biden, including -- and this is the allegation Nunes disputes -- that the congressman met with former Ukrainian prosecutor, Viktor Shokin. Now, that type of meeting would link Nunes directly to the pro-Trump, anti-Biden smear campaign that's at the center of the impeachment inquiry.

But Nunes denied it. He says he's never met him with Shokin, and now, Nunes is suing CNN for defamation, which requires him to prove what's known as "actual malice", a standard that was established by "The New York Times" versus Sullivan case in 1964.

This is an extremely hard thing to prove, actual malice. But Nunes seems undeterred. He's adding CNN to growing list of outlets and individuals that he's sued this year, from "McClatchy" newspapers to Hearst, from Twitter, to a fake cow, yes, a Twitter account posing as a cow from the congressman's dairy farm.

Nunes is testing defamation law in the Twitter age and getting lots of right wing cheers whether he wins or loses. CNN is standing by its reporting. And Nunes' office did not respond to my interview request for this segment.

But I'm not here to litigate Nunes versus CNN. I'm interested in the broader phenomenon of politicians using the courts to challenge reporting. This wasn't very common five years ago but it's happening now.

And in media law circles when I speak with media lawyers and experts, these are mostly seen as nuisance lawsuits -- nuisance lawsuits. But they are being taken seriously. And they could have serious ramifications.

So, let's talk with one of the defendants named by Nunes. Her name is Liz Mair. She' actually named in two of the congressman's defamation suits. The first is against Twitter and then one against "McClatchy".

Liz is a Republican political consultant and here with me in New York.

LIZ MAIR, BEING SUED BY REP. DEVIN NUNES FOR $400M: Thank you for having me.

STELTER: So, Liz, you were sued, what, almost -- you know, a better part of a year ago at this point. So, you've been fighting in the courts. What is the status of the cases against you?

MAIR: Well, so there are cases. One is for $250 million, the other for $150 million. I'm pleased to note that CNN now has topped me as the target for retrieving the most amount of money.

STELTER: Because he wants $435 million from CNN.

MAIR: Yes, he wants $435 million from you. So, $400 million from me. So, I'm now no longer top of that file.

But, yes, the lawsuits are proceeding and are ongoing. The first of them we did seek to have moved to California. We consider that to be a California case.

The judge disagreed with us, and that totally respect the judge's decision j but in our view, this still remains a California case.

STELTER: And what do you think is his bottom line? What does Nunes actually want?

MAIR: You know, I'd love to live in Devin Nunes' head for a day and to be able to properly answer that question, but it's really impossible for me to speculate about that at this point. You know, I just know from my perspective, this is about freedom of speech, and this is about our First Amendment.

And very clearly, if you go back and you look at why the First Amendment was written, and you look at what James Madison who, by the way, was a Virginian, had to say about it. It's about the people being able to exert control over the government, and use free speech in order to hold the government accountable. It's not about government being able to censor the people.

And so, you know, from my perspective, I don't really know what Congressman Nunes is trying to accomplish here and what goes on in his head and what his thinking is. But to me, it looks very much like, you know, somebody who has sworn an oath to support and defend the Constitution, sort of picking and choosing about which bits he wants to support and defend, whereas as a libertarian, in my view, it's absolutely essential to support and defend all of it, including the First Amendment.


STELTER: There were also suits against this fake cow and others. That's why you know, Nunes suits have been widely mocked. Erik Wemple of the Washington Post out with a column on the Washington Post Web site saying, "Did never Devin Nunes just finally halfway-decent defamation suit?" referring to the one against CNN.

You know, the idea here is that he has filed so many suits that he's the subject of ridicule for that. He seems to be using the courts to try to punish his critics. Is that how you perceive it using the courts to punish his critics?

MAIR: Well, the way that I commonly phrase it is he is using litigation in an attempt to cudgel and stifle my free speech. He is using litigation as a cudgel to stifle my free speech, which is contrary to the constitution, in my opinion. And as a sitting government official, that's particularly nefarious, in my view. STELTER: And what's the outcome of this you expect? What do your lawyers expect? How does this end?

MAIR: That I can't really speak to because unsurprisingly, I can't speak to an ongoing sort of legal strategy and ongoing legal wranglings. But you know, as a libertarian, I have always placed a great deal of faith and confidence in our Constitution. I believe that it is the best founding document that exists out there in the world. And I think that the First Amendment is extremely clear on this front.

It is designed to enable people like me to hold government officials accountable. He is a sitting government official. He is the ranking member of a House committee, was previously the chairman of the House Committee. And so I think this is very clear cut at the end of the day.

You know, the judge may have varying opinions for me on particular things like whether this is a California case from the Virginia case, but this is about free speech. And ultimately, everybody should be concerned about this. If he prevails in this lawsuit, it's extremely bad news for President Trump in particular, because the number -- a number of things he says on any given day, that potentially could then bind him in a position where he is subject to this kind of litigation, and his vast fortune is very, very quickly drained.

You know, that a very real consideration. And I don't know if that's how thing that Congressman Nunes has thought about much. But it is something that I think about because even though I'm not always the world's biggest fan of the president, I do believe in his right to free speech, and I will defend it to my death.

STELTER: Liz, thank you for being here.

MAIZ: Thank you for having me.

STELTER: Good to see you. A quick break here. And by the way, as I mentioned, the Congressman was invited on. We'd love to have him on the program in the future. A quick break here and then a blockbuster news study making the connection between smartphones and how we're all consuming the news like sponges. What's it like when we're scrolling through our lives? My next guest's research answers the question. He's up next.



STELTER: Do you know where the news on your phone comes from? A new study from the U.K. suggests not so much. As you do know, the U.K. is preparing for a high stakes election on Thursday. The vote will decide the future of Brexit and whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson stays in power. So how are citizens there keeping up with political coverage?

Well, in this must read study published by The Guardian and produced by a group Revealing Reality, researchers monitored the phone activity of voters, six voters, and found that people are increasingly just passively scrolling through social media for their news, leaving politics coverage works by algorithms memes and friend groups, and kind of pushing traditional news media aside in favor of clickbait. So we've moved from avid reading to just grazing past headlines, often without checking sources.

With me now is the researcher who ran the project, Damon De Ionno. He's the managing director and head of strategy at this group Revealing Reality. And I think this is so important and kind of scary, Damon. Let's put the key findings from your research up on screen. The first one here says that social media and news aggregators are dominant. So you found that the voters you studied, were mostly going to Facebook, Twitter, etcetera, not going to the BBC or ITV or other news sources.

DAMON DE IONNO, MANAGING DIRECTOR, REVEALING REALITY: Yes. Well, I mean, they did go to those news sources. But a lot of the time they see them actually -- they see the stories within their social media feeds or, you know, fed to them by aggregators. And I think the thing that concerns us most is that we do actually see -- I mean, this study is a very small sample, I should say. We have done other studies on us, for other organizations and the findings are generally consistent.

So I think what I would say is that when you see people looking at news in social media, when we really look down at the numbers and how much time they spend and whether they actually get to the end of an article, how much attention they pay, how broad their consumption is, there are actual real differences.

So when people are looking at social media, they don't read as much the story. You know that they look, they gravitate to pictures and they gravitate to headlines. And, you know, we don't actually know why that is. But one hypothesis might be that, you know, when they're on social media, they're looking to be entertained, they're looking to connect with friends.

They're not they're not there, you know, like, I want to understand the world. Like you might be if you sat down with an additional newspaper, or even went to -- specifically went to a new site.

STELTER: Right. Looking at some of the other findings here, you said that passive low level news consumption is common. Users are less aware of the sources they're interacting with. And traditional media is competing for attention. What do you mean, we say users are less aware of the sources?

DE IONNO: I mean, actually, it's really interesting, because when you do quantitative work, users do struggle to attribute where news is coming from when they're consuming news on things like social media. So they'll say things like, well, I read that on Facebook. Well, it might well have been a BBC article. It might have been a CNN article, but they don't necessarily make that connection.

So when there's a story from a less reputable source, they don't notice where it's come from. A lot of users we've seen on social media when they're -- when they're getting news, you know, if it's got some form of a logo or some form of a badge, then that means it's from, you know, a source that is reliable. But I don't think all those sources necessarily have the same level of accountability and I don't think people are that great at detecting them.

STELTER: I'm glad you're getting us thinking more about what happens when we have these in the palms of our hands all day, and what we're consuming. It's not often what we even realize we're consuming. Here's what one of the subjects of your study.

This is the Guardian describing one of the subjects of your study that you consumed his limited amount of news mostly through memes and photos shared by friends on Facebook, but he is considered to be one of the most politically engaged individuals in his social group. And friends often ask him who they should vote for. So but what does that tell you?

DE IONNO: Yes, I mean, I don't want to -- I don't really want to single out these people. They were chosen actually to -- they were chosen to be relatively engaged so -- and I think -- I think the thing to remember is that the kind of the way the technology works, the way -- the way we interact with our smartphones, the relationship we have with our phones, and the way the interface works means that we're probably all subject to some of the biases.

So you know, it doesn't matter how smart you are, it doesn't matter what your politics are, you know, we're all going to be kind of, you know, ending up in a little bit of a bubble one way or another. We have to work really hard to get outside of that. And yes, I think it is just really hard work, isn't it for the average person to -- you know, they've got all of these different sources, all these things, these notifications coming at them all day, they've got stuff that's being sent to them by their friends.



DE IONNO: It's actually really hard work to you know -- it's actually -- you know, it used to be a full time job for a lot of people and maybe fewer people these days, but to try and make a sense of that and present it in a way which was balanced and help you sift it. But at the moment, people, they aren't getting much help and they aren't actually looking for much help either.

STELTER: It's like the job of knowing what's true has been outsourced to every individual on the planet and that's not fair to them. All right, thanks, Damon. Check out the research at The It's a fascinating research study.

When we come back from RELIABLE SOURCES, a lightning round of stories you might have missed, including Tucker Carlson soft spot for Russia.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) STELTER: Oh Tucker Carlson, the latest controversy involving Tucker involves his comments about Russia and Vladimir Putin. He's been on the air with his soft spot for Russia. He recently claimed Putin does not hate Americans as much as Liberals do. He called out Chuck Todd, for example. He says the media dislikes the country that much.

And just last week, Tucker said he was even rooting for Russia, then tried to walk it back like he was just joking. Watch.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll tell you what.

CARLSON: And why should I root for Russia, which I am.

Of course, I'm joking. I'm only rooting for America, mocking the obsession with Russia that so many on the left have.


STELTER: Carlson obviously faced a backlash and for good reason. Russia's attempts to flood the media with misinformation, it's no joke. According to a Defense Department spokesperson quoted by VOA this week, Russians are working to sow doubt not only through discordant and inflammatory dialogue, but through false narratives designed to elicit sympathetic views, false narratives.

Back with me is my panel to discuss all of this and more. Lightning round starting with you, David Frum, your reaction to Trump and Russia. What is this Russia-fication of the GOP about?

FRUM: Look, the pro Russia feeling that Tucker Carlson was expressing as kind of like the Zionism of the white nationalists. There's this idealized homeland where a white man can be a white man without backtalk from lesser orders. And so that's very exciting to a certain kind of person.

Those are the people who love Tucker Carlson show the most and whose feedback he seems to value. So when he -- when he champions Russian nationalism on his show, he's not talking about the actual Russia, the murders, the assassinations, the stealing on a scale so obscene that it would -- that it dazzles Donald Trump and that oppresses the actual people of Russia. He's expressing a commitment to an ideological cause that so excites his viewers.

STELTER: A lot to unpack there.

FRUM: I want to -- I want to turn to a different topic which is Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg is running for president and how Bloomberg News is handling all of this. Because Bloomberg was asked by Gayle King on CBS about the rules that have been put in place about Bloomberg News coverage of all of this. And he was pretty dismissive of the concerns the reporters have about how they're not going to investigate Bloomberg or other Democrats. Let's watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GAYLE KING, HOST, CBS: But even your own news reporters have complained. They think it's unfair that they're not allowed to investigate other Democratic candidates because their boss is in the race.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: OK, we have -- we just have to learn to live with some things that they get a paycheck. But with the with your paycheck comes some restrictions and responsibilities.


STELTER: Now, the Bloomberg reporters are not going to be allowed inside Trump rallies, they're not going to get credentials, at least, as a result of all this. Erin, what do you make of it?

CARMON: I think Bloomberg, whose default mode seems to be contempt is doing an enormous disservice by including the journalists who worked for him within that scope of contempt. They are people who are -- have not been known for taking any particular partisan point of view, who got into this to report on the news. And by muzzling them and actually rendering Bloomberg News a partisan organization that only reports on Donald Trump, he's doing them a real disservice.

And just because they get a paycheck does not mean that they should abdicate their journalistic freedom. I feel terrible for the legitimate journalists who are at Bloomberg who are now basically cordoned off. And to be honest, I think the Trump campaign makes a legitimate point. If they're being told you can only investigate one side, that's not journalism.

STELTER: Olivia, what do you think?

NUZZI: That's an oppo shop, it's not journalism. If you're only investigating one side, then that's not a journalistic enterprise.

STELTER: That's a real conundrum that Bloomberg News is in.

NUZZI: Yes, totally. There are excellent reporters at Bloomberg. They have excellent reporters out in the field every day covering all sorts of things. And I think this is a tragedy for them. And I think it's really embarrassing for Mike Bloomberg. If you can't handle the criticism from your own newsroom, then how are you going to handle any other aspect of running for president or god forbid being president?

CARMON: And can I just say --

STELTER: This remains --

CARMON: Sorry, I just want to say that news organizations routinely cover their owner. The idea that it is impossible for Bloomberg to investigate Mike Bloomberg, that is out of the norm of legitimate news organizations which routinely cover their parent organizations and their owners. STELTER: Right. More to come on this. To the panel, thank you. A quick break here and then a new book called how America Lost Its Mind. Have we -- have we lost our minds?



STELTER: How America lost its mind is the title of a new book by Harvard professor Thomas Patterson, who says an assault on reason is crippling our democracy. I asked him why the country seems so mired in warring media bunkers right now, and how to make our way out.


THOMAS PATTERSON, PROFESSOR, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL: The Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman said that we're really not driven by our desire to really understand things to weigh the facts. We really looking for explanations that tell us what we like to believe. And he said, we have an amazing capacity to ignore our own ignorance. And, you know, I think that's correct. And that come -- gets compounded at a time where we have this intense partisanship.

STELTER: And what is that? Is that motivated reasoning, something like that, where you're motivated to believe a certain set of facts?

PATTERSON: Yes, it is motivated reasoning where in fact, we start with the bias and then we, you know, we try to find facts that kind of aligned with that, that support the way we'd like the world to look. And you know, we've done this, of course, for decades. We have enormous capacity to kind of pull out of the world of information, the pieces of it that we'd like -- that we'd like to have. We do that through kind of selective exposure. We see that now too.

And, you know, the partisan divide to some degree is also a media divide. The Fox audience is very heavily Republican, MSNBC's audiences are very heavily democratic. We're kind of selectively exposing ourselves to these alternative realities. What we retain selective retention are more likely to remember the things that align with what we like to believe, discard, forget what doesn't align with it. And then, you know, we're looking at the world and we have enormous capacity for selective perception.

I did an op ed for CNN right before the impeachment inquiry began and my prediction was that there'd be very little change of opinion that, you know, the Democrats would be looking at this proceeding and see one thing, Republicans would be looking at it and pull out a different set of facts to align with what they'd like to think. And at least so far, that's what's happening with the impeachment inquiry.

STELTER: Yes. And I like the way you described the set of media and political actors who have scrambled our minds in in different ways for different reasons. You say there's one group of disruptors. They have a lust for power. They weaponize information for their own personal and political agendas. You say there are performers who are lusting after celebrity. You

know, they want the attention. And then marketers who are in it for the money, who peddle what sells no matter how trivial and accurate or distracting? Is there a type that is the most dangerous or most damaging?

PATTERSON: Well, I do think that it's most damaging when our political leaders lie to us with regularity. And then the media are kind of trapped in, do I cover this, don't I cover it? It creates all sorts of problems for the news media in terms of their norms and ethics. I think some of the people, you know, play fast and loose with the truth. I think they're just lost.

I think, for too many incentives, in part in the extreme versions of partisan talk, whether it's on T.V. or on radio, you know, there's too much money there to be had. You know, I think they're beyond the pale in terms of their willingness to, you know, fudge the facts. But I don't think we can bring them back to the world of sanity. I think we have to shame them out of existence.


STELTER: Shame them out of existence. Strong words. Listen to our full conversation on the RELIABLE SOURCES podcast, and we'll see you right back here this time next week for more RELIABLE SOURCES.