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Risks Of "Twitter War" Triggering Real-World Conflict; How U.S.-Iran Tensions Are Being Covered In The Region; How News Coverage Is Influencing Trump's Iran Decisions; Journalism Lessons Learned From The Iraq War; Surge Of Violence Against Jews Spurs March In NYC; Harvey Weinstein Trial Set To Begin On Monday. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired January 05, 2020 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter. It's time for RELIABLE SOURCES, a special edition looking at the story behind the story.
In this hour, we have legendary journalist Sam Donaldson here to give us perspective on the unfolding U.S.-Iran crisis. He's standing by, along with a lot of others. We're going to talk about those comparisons to the Clinton era movie "Wag the Dog." You have been seeing this conversation we're going to talk about with Donaldson and others.
Plus, this is live in New York. New Yorkers marching in solidarity against the hate this morning. But is the media doing enough to expose the scourge of anti-Semitism? "The New York Times'" Bari Weiss will be speaking at this march and rally. But, first, she's going to join us live.
And later, jury selection in the Harvey Weinstein's trial is about to begin. "New York Magazine" is out with a new look of what his accusers say. We're going to have a first look at that exclusive. Plus, what Weinstein himself told a CNN reporter this week.
That is all coming up. Plus, I'm going to break some news about the king of talk radio.
But, first, the airstrike and the aftermath. This is the most dangerous point of Trump's presidency yet. Sunday morning's headline, "The Washington Post" says it all, Trump vows reprisals if Iran hits U.S. assets. And Iran says that is exactly what it will do with action against American military sites.
You can see here, the headline on CNN.com saying the nation will respond against military sites. This -- the top officials saying America started the war by taking out Soleimani.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is saying that America is trying to restore deterrence in the region. Pompeo making the case on six different television shows today.
Now, Americans and many others around the world are instinctively suspicious and distrusting of what Iranian leaders say. Well, what about America's leaders? President Trump squandered his credibility at the very start of his presidency, and many officials in his administration have followed him down the path of deceit.
If your skepticism was at like a 7 before, it should be at a 9 now because simply, governments lie in wartime. This is the headline from "Reason Magazine", a libertarian magazine, and it's true. Governments, American officials lie in wartime.
And lying seems to be this current government's specialty. CNN's latest count found that Trump administration made 90 false claims during the final two weeks of 2019.
But go back to his first day in office, remember the first day, Trump said it was sunny when it was cloudy and raining. I know. People might think that's funny when it's about the weather. But there is nothing amusing about this situation, nothing amusing about war.
As many people have been pointing out this week, a crisis like this one is precisely when credibility is needed to most and Trump does not have it.
Look, I think reporters need to avoid being cynical. To avoid being cynical, but we have to question everything, especially with memories of the lead-up to the Iraq War. Journalistic values demand that skepticism, and patriotism demands it.
Let's talk about patriotism for a minute. Don't be fooled by the propagandas. They're going to tell you to wear blinders in the days and weeks and months ahead.
They're already starting to do this. They're starting to tell you just rally on the flag. But it is patriotic to ask for evidence. It is patriotic to question official accounts, to wonder if the public is being manipulated into a wider war.
It is patriotic to ask, as Fox's Tucker Carlson did the other day, who's actually benefiting from this? It is patriotic to hold our leaders accountable. But you are going to hear otherwise, you already are. It's already starting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me, I bemoan the facts, especially even since the Iraq War, that it feels like patriotism is largely dead amongst our journalism corps. Where is the home team for a lot of these people?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Patriotism is alive and well in America's newsrooms.
But I suspect that kind of talk is going to keep up. If this gets worse, if more missiles fly, the American press will come under more and more pressure to rally around the flag, to toe the line, to save their questions for later. But, now is the time, right now to insist on evidence and
And I'm not saying people should be reflexively for or against anything. I'm saying people should be critical and think critically about everything, especially -- and this is what the "Fox and Friends" gang will never admit -- especially when the current administration, the current people in power have been proven time and time again to lie and mislead you.
Look, while other talk shows today, they talk about how to avoid a war, how to fight a war, how to win a war -- let's talk about how to properly cover a war, how to shed light and not heat on this conflict.
Step one is to hear from experts who are actually there. So, let's start by doing that.
Let's bring in Jasmine El-Gamal of the Atlantic Council. She's live in Istanbul. She's a former Middle East advisor for the Department of Defense.
In L.A., Jason Rezaian, opinion writer at "The Washington Post". Back when he was "The Post's" Tehran bureau chief, he was jailed for 18 months and then finally released in 2016.
And in Beirut, veteran BBC Correspondent, Kim Ghattas, now scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She has a new book coming out. It's called "Black Wave", about Iran and Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. It comes out at the end of this month.
Thank you all for being here.
Jasmine, first to you.
We are living through what appears to be Twitter war with the U.S. and Iran, trading threats 280 characters at a time. Soleimani previously taunted Trump on Twitter. And now, post-airstrike, now that he's dead, Trump is out there saying that if Iran retaliates, that there are 52 sites that the United States already picked out. We are seeing back-and-forth, these taunts, these threats.
What is the danger, what are the risks of Twitter war?
JASMINE EL-GAMAL, SENIOR FELLOW, ATLANTIC COUNCIL: First of all, thank you so much for having me.
And the risks are huge. I mean, this is definitely not the way to conduct diplomacy especially at a fraudulent time like this. People are surmising that perhaps the Khamenei that was goading Trump into action, basically saying you can't do anything was partly the reason why he overacted and chose to go with the option of killing Qasem Soleimani.
And at the same time, Trump's response of the 52 targets is vintage Trump. It's hardly believable. It includes something that is absolutely illegal in international law, which is targeting cultural sites.
And it is just the wrong way to mitigate any crisis, to mitigate a crisis, let alone manage a full-blown crisis like the one that we're in right now.
STELTER: And those are the kinds of --
EL-GAMAL: It's not the way that diplomacy is done, even if it is, you know, 2020.
STELTER: Yes, those are the kind of facts that need to be front and center.
Jason, what other facts do we need to make sure we are getting front and center in this conversation?
JASON REZAIAN, JOURNALIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think we need to hear more from the Iranian people. And, obviously, since Iran is a such a close society in a lot of ways and media access is restricted, it's very difficult to know what the response of the people on the ground is.
I mean, we see massive -- images of massive mourning ceremonies, protests. But at the same time, there are millions of Iranians who are fundamentally oppose to this regime. I wrote a column this week that basically said that, you know, the one thing that all Iranians can agree on is that they don't want to go to war.
And so, when President Trump makes these kinds of threats, it really lays bear the fact that despite all of the claims otherwise, this administration has the Iranian people's interests not at heart at all. They don't care one bit about what's going on and what will be the future of that country.
STELTER: How does control the press in the region making it harder for us to know what citizens are thinking? I mean, certainly, Iran does not have a free flow of information like the U.S.
REZAIAN: Well, look, I think it is very difficult to get a clear picture. Iran's state media is owned by the state. It's going to pump out the state line.
But, often times, if we turn to social media, we can see a different picture of what's going on in my country. And as we know from Iran and Saudi Arabia and other countries around the world, other interests are taking a hold of those platforms as well.
So, it's very difficult to get a very clear and precise picture of what's going on. But, what I would say is, it's complicated. There isn't one opinion. There's a multitude of them and we have to do the best that we can to really dig deep into those.
STELTER: Yes, this is not a coin of two sides. It's a dice with at least six sides. Kim, how important does the media raises the voice of regional experts
who know the players in all of these countries, not just the U.S. and Iran?
KIM GHATTAS, AUTHOR OF FORTHCOMING BOOK "BLACK WAVE" ON SAUDI-IRAN RIVALRY: I think as Jason just mentioned, it is very important to look at all sides of the story, and that's why it is important to speak to experts in the region. And that's why, thank you, Brian, for having me on air as well as from Beirut.
The reaction in the Middle East has been very diverse. I wrote about it. And I said that there was elation, relief, some sense of foreboding, and also fear. And it's important for American audiences to get that nuance from the region, to understand that what America does in the regions has consequences not necessarily only for American interests or for American soldiers in the region, but also for people in the region.
As Jason was mentioning, you know, people in Iran don't necessarily have the ability to communicate directly with outside world, except through social media. We got information from inside Iran, mostly through that.
State media is state-controlled. So, it's important to get a diversity of opinions.
Across the region, you've had a diversity of reactions in the media, whether it's official or not. Here in Lebanon, for example, people have toed a very careful line when reporting on this because Hezbollah, a proxy militia of Iran, a political party in Lebanon as well, is very close to Iran, and is very powerful in the country. And so, people are a little bit wary of how much they can say on air, in public and how they should report on this in the newspapers.
But I can certainly tell you that whether it's in Syria or in Lebanon or in Iraq or in Iran, there has also been a relief that a man like Qasem Soleimani is no longer, because it's important to remember and it's important for Americans to know that, that he was also responsible for the deaths of thousands across the region. He was very much involved in leading Iran's expansionist regional policy in the regime, and that meant conflict across the region.
STELTER: The counterargument that I've heard from Fox's Tucker Carlson, notably right there in primetime on Fox News, is that there are a lot of bad guys in the world, a lot of killers in this world, and is it always America's interests taking action against them.
Let me just play what Tucker said on Friday night, because he bursts the propaganda bubble on Fox with a really clear anti-war stance. And then I want to get you all's reaction. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: No one in Washington is in the mood for a big picture questions right now, questions, the obvious ones, like, is Iran really the greatest threat we face and who's actually benefiting from this, and why are we continuing to ignore the decline of our own country in favor of jumping in to another quagmire from which there's no obvious exit?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: We know that in the past, Tucker has been persuasive with President Trump. Right now, though, it seems Trump is listening to Sean Hannity and others on Fox who are urging him to show what they call strength in the region.
Jasmine, I'm just curious what your reaction is, hearing that kind of commentary on American television, how do you view it from Istanbul? You know, because there are not a whole lot of voices like Tucker on Fox News who might be telling the president to be -- to be careful.
EL-GAMAL: Right, of course. And the thing is, I mean, as Kim said, the reaction in the region has been fairly varied. You have some people who are cheering this action on. Some people who are really afraid of what the consequences might be for others in the region.
You know, one of the things that the president has done and one thing that I wanted to highlight is that the president took this action in Iraq without -- you know, again, it's like vintage Trump without alerting our allies, without giving anybody a head-ups, without really taking into the account the people in the region who could be affected by this kind of escalation. So, that's the first thing that I wanted to highlight, is that it's completely dehumanizing in the way he looks at people in the region, not taking their safety into account, not taking their livelihoods into account. And that's a dangerous thing for any U.S. president to be doing in the region.
But, secondly, I want to get back to the point about strategic communications that you mentioned. It's incredibly important at a time like this to have direct communications, behind-the-scenes communications at a very high level between two countries that have such a high level of tension between them.
If you'll remember, Brian, in 2016, about, I think, a week before the Iran nuclear deal was about to be implemented, ten U.S. Navy sailors erroneously went into Iranian territorial waters and were captured by the IRGC. Now, because we had direct -- that could have gone really, really badly. It could have scuttled the deal. It could have escalated really quickly.
But because we had direct communication between Secretary Kerry and Zarif, within 24 hours, those soldiers were released. Now, you have to ask yourself, if this kind of thing happen today, would a Twitter war solve that? Or, you know, what would that lead to without any kind of communication with the regime? It's incredibly reckless, and it doesn't allow for any sort of de-escalation.
A lot of people are talking about what an escalation could look like, but what does a de-escalation look like without proper communications between the two sides? (CROSSTALK)
EL-GAMAL: And then, finally, just really quickly -- I mean, Tucker Carlson is talking from a U.S. perspective. The American people did not elect President Trump to go to war in the Middle East. He was campaigning on a strategy or a promise of leaving the Middle East.
People see him getting more and more involved in any sort of a plan or a strategy, and they're rightly, you know, worried about it.
STELTER: Jason, there's often a critique of cable news that it says banging of the war drum is constant on television, on cable news. Are you hearing that? Are you seeing that in this instance? That the media is incentivized to promote the notion of war and to hype up people's fears?
REZAIAN: Well, I think we have to check ourselves against hyping fears. Our responsibility is to clearly, concisely report what's going on in a region that's far from home, and one that we don't often understand very well and parse out truth from fiction.
I hope that we're able to do that in the days and weeks to come.
To Jasmine's point about that moment, right before the nuclear deal was implemented, those were the last days that I was in prison in Iran, being held by the IRGC. I remember seeing on Iran's state television from my prison cell that American soldiers had been -- American sailors had been abducted in Iran and I worried that this would be sort of death blow to any potential negotiations for my own release.
I remember my captor, an IRGC captain, coming to me that day and he -- my main interrogator telling me that this was a good sign that I would be out sooner because the U.S. and Iran were negotiating over key issues.
As Jasmine rightfully points out, we don't have those lines of communications. We still have Americans in prison in Iran, and this could spiral out of control in ways that we can't even imagine right now.
STELTER: Kim, Jasmine, Jason, thank you for all being here. Thank you for setting the table this hour.
I want to ask after the break if Trump's actions are motivated by media coverage. It sure seems that way. Journalism legend Sam Donaldson will join us live, along with Katie Rogers and Paul Rieckhoff.
We're just getting started.
STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. Are President Trump's actions in the Middle East being motivated by what he's hearing and seeing on TV, and what he's reading in the papers? It does seem that way.
According to an official who talked to "The Washington Post" this weekend, quote: Trump was motivated to act, among other reasons, he's motivated to act by what he felt was negative coverage after his decision last year to call off that airstrike after Iran downed a U.S. surveillance drone.
Trump also was frustrated, according to "The Post", that details of his internal deliberations were leaking out, he felt he looked weak.
Similar reporting this weekend from "The New York Times" saying that he's kind of haunted by Benghazi and comparisons to Benghazi. According to "The Times", Trump became increasingly angry as he watched television images of the protest earlier this week outside the embassy in Baghdad.
That, of course, was -- it was -- all across the news. After the New Year, Trump vowed, quote, this will not be a Benghazi.
Is that what he's scared of? Is that what he's worried about? Is that the right thing for him to be focused on?
Let's talk about all of that and more with Iraq war veteran, president of Righteous Media, and host of "The Angry Americans" podcast, Paul Rieckhoff, "New York Times" White House correspondent Katie Rogers, and legendary journalist, former White House correspondent Sam Donaldson.
We'll get to Sam in just a moment.
But, Katie, you're on this beat today. You have some of your own reporting about what's motivating the president. Is it really true of what he seen on the box, this little TV box, is really that affecting him?
KATIE ROGERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think it's absolutely true that the president pays close attention to all of his coverage and he has a particular aversion to coverage that makes him look weak. I think if you look back to last year showdown fight, he saw headlines from his -- you know, his allies on Fox News saying he was about to cave. He doesn't like things that make him look like he's going to concede or give ground.
He likes to appear tough at his rallies. It's a very -- and that's reflected in the White House officials that I talked to, the former officials who worked for him. It's the worst thing for him to look as if he might be compared to a predecessor.
ROGERS: So, the Benghazi -- the Benghazi raid and the ensuing drama that happened out of that is his worst nightmare because it makes him look weak and it also compares him to a Democratic competitor and predecessor.
STELTER: I guess a reminder, to the bookers at "Fox and Friends", your job is incredibly important right now. I'm not even kidding, Paul. The responsibility of these TV bookers have, especially on Fox, to put on voices that are going to, you know, not -- not inflame the situation further. That's going to be really important.
PAUL RIECKHOFF, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: That's important for everybody.
RIECKHOFF: And these are exceptionally dangerous times.
The killing of Soleimani is maybe the most significant offensive action we've taken since the invasion of Iraq. And what we need is tone. We need to control the stone. We need to deescalate.
In order to do that, we have to be measured. We have to be thoughtful. We have to be clear-headed. We have to be all the things that Trump is generally not.
Whether you're the president of the United States, you're the host of CNN or Fox, or you're somebody with 100 Twitter followers, we've got to try to do our best to add information, not to retweet garbage, not to take snipes at each other, and to remember that real lives are on the way, human lives.
The 82nd Airborne are on their way to Iraq right now. Our troops are being hit in Kenya overnight. And real men and women are in harm's way. And Iranian lives are on the line, and the entire region is on the line.
So, we have to do, individually, all we can to deescalate the situation, and to control the tone. And as you had in the lead-in, add light instead of heat. This is a testing point not just for the president but for the entire world.
STELTER: So, Sam Donaldson, then, is this possible? Is it possible that cooler heads can prevail?
SAM DONALDSON, FORMER ABC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, it's always possible if you're talking about things that people will understand -- facts, for instance. And one of the problems that I think the media has today is so many Americans don't get information from the normal circumstances of the past where facts are presented and they think about it, and say, yes, that's right. They got information that misinformation. And if they get some facts and the president says, well, that's fake news, well, tribal instinct takes over, and they said, that's right, he's correct.
So, the problem I think is not what our other panelists have said, I agree with. Let's get the information out. Let's make certain that reporting is tough and hard, and when we have to push back against things the president does or says which are lies and not factual. But we got to get this message somehow to the base and people who
don't get it from the normal circumstances that you and I do. I practically don't have the answer for that.
STELTER: You were at the White House in the '90s during the Clinton impeachment process. And at that time, "wag the dog" was a term on everybody's tongue.
We can put up some of the headlines from 1998. Are Clinton's bombs, the strikes at that time against bin Laden -- Clinton wagging the dog, trying to distract from his own impeachment.
And now, the exact same questions being asked about President Trump now that he's impeached by the House.
What do you think, Sam? Do you buy it?
DONALDSON: No -- no, I don't think he's wagging the dog now. I mean, if you wag the dog, you have to do it in September, early October, when the rally round the flag instinct is there for all Americans. You can't wag it now and then after several months of dog bringing back body bags to this country and the people saying, why are we doing this for? That won't work.
I think the president is -- as your other guests have suggested -- is simply reacting to the fact that he can't be seen in his eyes to be weak. He's got to be strong. He's got to strike back, I'll hit them, they'll hit me, but I'll hit them back.
Well, it hasn't worked so far and it won't with Iran. The sanctions that he's put on almost have almost killed their economy. Have they given up? Not that I have noticed.
Will they give up? If you know Iran and your other guests perhaps better than I have -- well, they're not going to give up.
What we have to do is negotiate. What we have to do is deescalate.
If we're going to avoid a full spread war with body bags on both sides, we got to try to start right this moment, and he's not going to do it because the base will say, what? He promised to destroy North Korea. And look, he's now writing love letters. He says he and Kim have fallen in love.
If he says this about Iran, he's through.
STELTER: You are talking about strength a moment ago and I am thinking about what would show strength in this White House. One way the White House can show strength is by holding televised briefings, by answering questions from the press on camera, by having President Trump give interviews.
I just want to note it is 300 days since there is a formal, on-camera White House briefing. The Pentagon has been holding some televised briefings, but not in the wake of the airstrike in Baghdad.
And, Paul, I wonder what your reaction of the dynamic is, that the Pentagon is holding background briefings, the White House is holding background briefings, but we're not seeing that kind of on-camera accountability?
RIECKHOFF: It's bad. It's bad for our democracy. It's bad for our troops. It's bad for the American people.
We deserve the truth, and we deserve to hear it from all sides, to include the military. What's notable right now is on the Sunday talk shows, you don't see the chairman of Joint Chiefs, you don't see Admiral Mike Mullen, you don't see a Colin Powell.
STELTER: Oh, there's Pompeo.
RIECKHOFF: You don't see anyone in uniform representing the military.
That maybe in part because they don't know what's happening, because Trump is far ahead of the military as he'd been on -- as he's been on the trans ban, abandoning the Kurds, so many times before. People in the military are just catching up on his tweets.
So, the American people deserve the truth. The media must be briefed.
And it's important to remember, the American people include military families. They need to know what's happening to their sons and daughters who are on airplanes right now to the Middle East. They deserve the truth, and that has to come from the Pentagon and from the White House, so we can also control the narrative globally. If we control the narrative, then we can achieve the high ground.
If we lose the moral high ground globally, we lose all wars. And then our troops are really in trouble.
STELTER: I wonder, Katie, as well as a reporter right now, are you getting answers to questions from the White House, not on camera, they're not having briefings, but are they at least responsive in other ways?
ROGERS: I mean, I think that the White House right now when you talk to anybody inside, it's an absolute reflection of who's at the top. There's a sense of indignation that this -- that this decision is so monumental and it's not being covered and given the credit of him really taking decisive action against a malign entity, and, you know, the guy was a murderer, and why isn't the media giving the president his due?
It's basically the same thing we hear a lot of times when he makes decisions like this, except now, it's leading to an open escalation in the Middle East.
STELTER: Is it ironic that this White House has been holding on background briefings, meaning anonymous person speaking to reporters, given that the president said no one should trust anonymous sources? ROGERS: Right. And even Secretary Pompeo said today when he was
asked about -- I think, Jake Tapper earlier asked him about, you know, what can you share with the American people? The American people really need to know.
I thought it was really interesting that Secretary Pompeo said, you know, we need to protect our sources and our information and -- you know, that's -- you know, in another world, that's what we do and you have to trust the information being given to us. So, it needs to work both ways.
STELTER: Right. Katie and Paul, thank you. Sam, thank you as always. Great to see you.
RIECKHOFF: Thank you, Brian.
STELTER: More on this in just a moment with "Atlantic" staff writer, David Frum. He has regrets about his role in the run-up to the Iraq War and he's sharing those publicly. He's also warning about a possible disaster in Iran. David Frum is next.
STELTER: Learning from history, it's one of the most important things we can do at a crisis moment like this. We've also been talking about the importance of asking questions and the vital nature of accountability. So let's talk about someone who's held himself accountable.
David Frum is a Staff Writer at "The Atlantic." He wrote in May of last year about the war on terror and the run-up to the Iraq war and his own role of pushing for the invasion of Iraq during the Bush years. As a former speechwriter under George W. Bush, Frum has been credited with coining the term Axis of Evil to refer to Iraq and other powers in the Middle East.
He wrote for the Atlantic last year, I believe those of us who advocated the war, whether inside or outside government, carry lifelong responsibility for that advocacy. And David Frum joins me now. Some people, David, when I say you're booked on the show, they say, why are you booking people that supported the Iraq war? They should be, you know, they should be removed from the public debate or discourse. I actually think what we can learn from you is really valuable. What can we learn?
DAVID FRUM, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, if we took that view, we would certainly thin out the democratic field.
STELTER: That's true too.
FRUM: Look, here are the things I take especially in this week. As President Bush pushed toward war with Iraq in 2003, he had legal authority from Congress, he had an international coalition, he had popular support, and the operation and a clear war plan, and the war still failed.
Now, none of those conditions are present. There is no authorization from Congress, there is no public support, there is no international coalition, and there's no clear war plan. The United States has embarked on is an escalator of retaliation with no vision of where to go.
And if things did not with under such my more favorable circumstances in Iraq in 2003, things failed. How are things possibly going to succeed? The United States is not prepared to pay the price of re- stabilizing the Middle East. It's too big a project. It's not worth it. Iraq was a smaller problem, Iran is a bigger one.
STELTER: You tweeted this week that killing enemies is the easy part. That's not like something you're taking from Iraq as a lesson.
FRUM: The United States has tremendous destructive power, more destructive power than any society in this world. But American constructive power -- I mean, America has great constructive power too but not so much willingness to construct. So yes, you can detonate the bomb, you can blow things up, but how do you rebuild?
I often think about Iraq that if the United States had captured Bin Laden in December of 2001, as it nearly did, that the Iraq war probably would not have happened. That the Iraq war happened as a result of one failure that we doubled down. Having failed to capture Bin Laden, we needed a success. And so Iraq became the success that we didn't get in Afghanistan.
And now as Iran going to -- now we're going to make up for the lack of success in Iraq by trying an even bigger project still in Iran. This is -- this is an escalator that doesn't go anywhere good.
STELTER: It doesn't go anywhere. In the midst of all of this, the President is still finding time to post crazy tweets. I mean, he's retweeting stuff from obscure and fringe accounts, sometimes it's conspiracy theory stuff, sometimes it's misinformation, sometimes it's just really propaganda stick pro-Trump stuff. These are just some of the examples from over the holiday season.
At one point he tweeted out what some people think is the name of the whistleblower, even though it hasn't been confirmed. He's been calling Nancy Pelosi crazy. I just -- I want to take a moment and think about what he's doing on his Twitter account, because it does tell us something about his state of mind, does it not?
FRUM: Well, some things are irrational and others not. The naming of the presumed whistleblower, that's an act of intimidation. It's not illegal for the President to name a whistleblower, but it is illegal for the President to coordinate a campaign of retaliation, and that clearly is what the President is doing.
At other times he is acting irrationally. Many people regret the President's tweets. I do not. I am glad he doesn't because it shows the world what the truth is about the presidency. It shows Americans what the truth is. If right now, even as dire as the situation is in Iran and Iraq, if the Navy we're not ready to go, if the Air Force, we're not ready to go, we would not consider fighting war if we didn't have the material capability.
If your president is not able to lead the country, you don't go to war. Donald Trump has never even aspired to be President of the United States. He's president of a little less than half the United States and that's the only job he's ever wanted. He regards the majority of the country as his enemies. How can you lead a united nation to war?
STELTER: He has been talking about hating the state of New York and things like that recently. You said on this program a year ago that relative to his performance, Trump actually gets really favorable flattering news coverage, that it should be more critical. Do you still believe that?
FRUM: Yes. No, it's just -- it's just amazing. I mean, there is a whole network that exists to support the President's ego needs. And on the networks like this one that tried to be -- tried to be fair, look, there are generous contracts pay to people who will come on CNN's air to defend the president. And I understand why you do that, but it's not -- it's not a favor he would ever return to you.
HAYES: Let me just note one headline from the New York Times this week before you have to go. White House withholds 20 e-mails between two Trump aids on Ukraine aid, just more evidence of what seems to be a cover-up by the administration as the impeachment process moves in the House to the Senate. Do you have any quick thoughts on that one?
FRUM: My lawyer friends tell me that never in the history of trial has anyone ever withheld evidence that tends to exonerate.
STELTER: That exonerates them. That says it all, doesn't it? David, thank you so much for being here. Thank you.
FRUM: Thank you.
STELTER: When we come back, are newsrooms doing enough to cover the rise in anti-Semitism here in the United States? And are conspiracy theories online working to spread information and cause hatred of Jews? Barry Weiss joins us live from Brooklyn in just a moment. There's this great march going on in Brooklyn from Manhattan to Brooklyn showing solidarity. We'll be back in just two minutes.
STELTER: New Yorkers are marching in solidarity right now amid a spate of violence against Jews in the region. These are live pictures of the No Hate No Fear March. It's near. It's actually reaching the Brooklyn Bridge right now and we're going to show you in just a moment. They are heading toward a rally in downtown Brooklyn.
Now CNN's research has counted 18 alleged anti-Semitic incidents in New York State just since December 1st. In the highest-profile attack, five people were injured in a mass stabbing at a rabbi's house during Hanukkah celebration. There's been a lot of criticism of the news media for possibly underplaying the rise in anti-Semitism.
You can see here, for example, Ivanka Trump, saying this has not been covered strongly enough by the national news media. This week, the New York Times editorial board endorsed today's march saying New Yorkers need to march in the streets together.
And joining us live now from the march is Bari Weiss. She's an op-ed staff writer and editor at the New York Times, and she's going to be speaking at the rally a little bit later. She's also the author of the recent book, How to Fight Anti-Semitism. Bari, what's it like there?
BARI WEISS, OP-ED STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: There are tons of people. We are just starting to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge. Every elected official, it seems, in the city and status here. I saw Senator Chuck Schumer this morning. I saw the City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. I'm certain the mayor is here, Governor Cuomo is here. I heard Kristen Gillibrand is here. Everyone is here, and there are thousands and thousands of people. You cannot see the end of the crowd. And I'm just starting to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge. I can't really see the beginning or the end of this.
STELTER: And this was just organized in the past few days.
WEISS: And one of the -- one of the --
STELTER: Yes, go ahead.
WEISS: And there's tons of cars going by honking in support of everyone here that's marching, which is really, really gratifying.
STELTER: Do you subscribe? Do you agree with the critique --
WEISS: It's cold though. It's cold --
STELTER: -- the recent critique that says that the press has been too slow to recognize what's going on, this dangerous rise in anti-Semitic attacks. Has the press been too slow to pay attention?
WEISS: Absolutely, yes. When a white supremacist walked into the synagogue where I became a bat mitzvah in Pittsburgh at Tree of Life, and he said, all Jews must die. Everyone recognized that for what it was, which is that he was motivated by hatred of Jews plain and simple.
For some reason, people cannot seem to get their heads around the fact that when someone machetes their, you know, their neighbors, when someone is breaking people's noses, when someone is punching people in the street, when someone is ripping off someone's kippah, it's motivated by the same thing.
I want your viewers to imagine something. Imagine after the horrific massacre at the Wal-Mart in El Paso, which was motivated by hatred of immigrants and Hispanics. If the press had said that this massacre was the result of communal friction, that it was complicated, that it needed proper context, that the problem was really gentrification, or economic inequality, or even racism, the moral bankruptcy of that would be immediately apparent to everyone.
And yet that is the kind of thing that we are hearing about the violence that's breaking out in places like Crown Heights, Borough Park, Williamsburg, Jersey City, and now Monsey with the machete attack. We're not hearing the kind of moral clarity that we hear when the attacker is a white supremacist. And the question is why? And that is a question the press needs to answer for itself.
Because the fact is before I walked into a movie on Saturday night, I came out two hours later and heard about the machete attack. There's already been nine hate crimes during Hanukkah, and no one knew about it outside of the Jewish community. Why is that? Do we need to be shot dead in a synagogue for people to pay attention to the fact that our neighbors are being beaten up?
My friend's father in law was beaten to a pulp on the Upper East Side. My friend was berated on the subway told he was a fake Jew, berated with homophobic and anti-Semitic comments. There is no context for that. It is not complicated. Jews do not cause Jew-hatred. And I don't care if those Jews wear funny hats. Jews never caused you hatred, period. Like blacks never cause racism. Muslims never caused homophobia -- sorry gays never caused homophobia, and Muslims never caused Islamophobia. And that's the message that we're here to send today.
STELTER: It's a great way to put it. Just in a sentence, it sums the whole thing up. Look, hatred of minority groups is also often fueled by conspiracy theories. And Vox's Jane Coaston made this point in a recent piece that I want to quote. Many of the anti-Semitic attacks are not coming from the far-right but from non-white people immersed in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that are just as baseless, virulent, and dangerous as those spread by white nationalists.
But I think, Bari, the notion of conspiracy thinking which we often talk about, you know, with the President, it also applies in this situation.
WEISS: Exactly. Yes, anti-Semitism is the great conspiracy theory. That is why anti-Semitism thrives even in countries, especially in countries where there are no Jews, because anti-Semitism isn't about Jews. Anti-Semitism represents the brokenness of a culture. And right now, we are broken in a lot of ways in this culture.
Just to say one last thing about the amazing Vox article I think that you just cited by Jane Coaston about this, right. We have obviously anti-Semitism that's emanating out of the white supremacist alt-right, anti-Semitism that's fueled by a president that has made war on decency in this country and civility.
But we also have people like Louis Farrakhan. It took two years for the mainstream press to cover the fact that the leaders of the Women's March, one of whom is now a surrogate to presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, that she has close relationship with Louis Farrakhan. This is a man who has called Jews termites, a man who says that the Jews are behind the KKK, a man who has said that the Jews are responsible for the slave trade. How is that acceptable? How is that not a national scandal?
The mayor of this city has compared Al Sharpton to Martin Luther King. That is a scandal. Al Sharpton incited the violence against Jews in the borough that I am now walking toward in 1991. He should be made to apologize for that, and the mayor should be made to answer for the fact that he has compared him to Martin Luther King Jr.
STELTER: On Monday, the criminal trial of Harvey Weinstein begins with jury selection in New York City. More than 100 women have come forward with allegations of harassment or assault or other claims against the former movie mogul.
Look at this incredible spread by New York Magazine. This is a multi- page spread of the magazine coming out on Monday with interviews of many of those accusers. Weinstein, meanwhile, says he is coming out of a period of "self-reflection and focusing on clearing his name." He has always denied any moments, any instances of non-consensual sex.
CNN Entertainment Reporter Chloe Melas interviewed Weinstein by e-mail this weekend and New York Magazine Senior Correspondent Irin Carmon is the writer of that feature in the magazine that we just showed you. Irin, you spoke with 21 of Weinstein's accusers. What's the takeaway from your story?
IRIN CARMON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think we're at a really interesting moment with the trial starting here because media and journalism is kind of how we got to this point. And I think that they're aware that by coming together, they can also fight back the narrative that's going to be laid out by Harvey's defense at the trial.
Now, I think it's important to recognize at this moment that the press actually was a weapon that Harvey Weinstein used for a very long time to in their view intimidate women, keep them silent, plant stories about them. He would curry favor with journalists as a matter of public records.
STELTER: It's true. And he would suppress the rumors about his behavior.
CARMON: Yes. And when people tried to do investigative reporting, including my own magazine, he managed to get it killed and intimidate people out of going on the record. But the New York Times and The New Yorker through relentless reporting, managed to expose multiple cases of harassment, assault settlements, create a really inexorable record here. And the same thing is what the prosecutors are going to try to do the
same thing in court. So these women they wanted to pose with their arms linked. They wanted to show that they're unified, they've kept in touch over an e-mail list. Ashley Judd told me it's tender, essential, and powerful the way that these women have found each other.
Ultimately, though, in the trial that begins tomorrow, only two women's cases will be directly at issue. That's said, prosecutors have managed to get additional women to testify as Harvey Weinstein's "bad character," they can say that there's a pattern. And most notably Annabella Sciorra, the actress who has said that Harvey Weinstein raped her, is going to testify to the charge of predatory sexual assault, which is the most serious.
But again, it is one thing to make a strong case with many sources with journalism, it is quite another to send someone to prison in a criminal court of law.
STELTER: That's right. Yes. This is going to be historic. As USA Today points out this weekend, this is the first MeToo case to be put before criminal court jury. So think about the perspective of where we are two years since this movement was lit partly by the reporting about Weinstein. Name, you've been trying to get Weinstein to talk, trying to get answers from him. And this weekend, he did reply to a series of questions you sent him.
CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: Yes.
STELTER: What is his mood? First of all, why is he even answering questions?
MELAS: Well, I think you know, he's remained relatively reclusive and silent over the last two years, with the exception of recently speaking to the New York Post after his back surgery from his hospital room. He tells me that he has been misrepresented by the media which the irony is that you say that he has used in the media over the years to his --
STELTER: As a weapon.
MELAS: -- as a weapon, and to his benefit. He says that there are many misconceptions out there about him, but he would not comment as to whether or not he had empathy for any of the accusers. He did say that he has been in a period of self-reflection and a 12-step rehab program. And he says that he realizes that he worked too hard, and that he hurt his family members.
You know, I do know from people closest to him that his biggest regret out of all of this was the divorce to his wife, Georgina Chapman. And you know, I think that like you said, that this comes down to two women. They're going to be several bad act character witnesses.
I spoke to his attorney, Donna Rotunno, on Friday, and she just tells me that they're most concerned about whether or not they're going to get an impartial jury. That is one of their biggest concerns. Because remember, they've tried to move this trial multiple times to like Buffalo, Schenectady, places where maybe Weinstein isn't as known and people don't know all the details like they do in Manhattan.
So I know that that is a big concern. But Harvey again answered eight questions on his terms. We publish it on CNN, and you know --
STELTER: It's fascinating that he's out there trying to --
MELAS: He refuses to speak on the phone and only wanted to do it via e-mail.
STELTER: Interesting. It's just fascinating that he's still trying to portray himself in a sympathetic light, still trying to get his message out.
MELAS: Well, he could be placed on a gag order, right?
STELTER: That's true. That's a good point.
MELAS: So this is kind of his last opportunity to speak to any press. And it could be several months until we ever hear from him again.
STELTER: It's a great point. Irin and Chloe, thank you both for being here. The New York Magazine feature would be up on nymag.com tomorrow. We've got one more scoop before we go, and one of my sources is President Trump.
STELTER: Finally, a bit of breaking news about the radio business. The Rush Limbaugh Show will continue well into the new decade. Limbaugh's contract was due to expire later this year, but the company is confirmed to me, a syndicator of Premiere has confirmed that he has renewed his deal. A spokeswoman says it's a long term agreement and declined to comment on any specific terms like the length of the new deal.
But according to President Trump, it's a four-year deal. How do we know? Well, as you know, Trump and Limbaugh have been allies for many years and Trump tipped me off, tipped everybody off actually at a rally on Friday. The President was holding a rally launching an Evangelicals for Trump Coalition. He launched his usual complaints about news outlets the challenge him. But then he turned it to praise some of his biggest radio and T.V. boosters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have great people. Rush just signed another four-year contract. He just wants four more years, OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: See, there was it was. It was right out in the open. But nobody noticed, nobody noticed that Rush came -- that Trump announced Rush Limbaugh's new deal. I think if Trump had tweeted it, it would have been big story. But you know, I guess at this point, what Trump says at rallies isn't even taking that seriously.
Anyway, it is true Russ is renewed. That's a big deal because of his power in the talk radio universe. That's a wrap for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCES, but we will see you online on CNN.com. Our nightly newsletter will be out tonight and almost every night you can sign up for free at reliablesources.com. And I'll see you back here, this time next week.