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Behind The Scenes of "Politico's" Roe v. Wade Scoop; Former CBS Reporter On Her Move To Planned Parenthood; U.S. Officials Sharing Ukraine War Secrets With Reporters; Karine Jean-Pierre To Become Press Secretary In Mid-May; Covering The Depp-Heard Trial Media Spectacle. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired May 08, 2022 - 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 live in New York on a very poignant Mother's Day. This is RELIABLE SOURCES, where we examine the story behind the stories and we find out what's reliable.
This hour, a White House source telling me that President Biden is livid about these intel leaks. So were the news outlets sources right or wrong to publish?
Plus, books stacking up against Donald Trump. His former defense secretary is the latest author. We're going to tell you why Mark Esper had to sue his old department to get his book published.
And later, the media frenzy around the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard trial. Why these alerts and memes and posts are unavoidable.
There's lots to get to.
But, first, one of the biggest scoops in American journalism history, and it was about one of the most polarizing issues in history.
We knew the Supreme Court would be ruling on abortion this summer. We knew the conservative majority could have rolled back Roe v. Wade. We knew this would be a big story in late June.
But through "Politico's" sensational scoop, it has landed early.
This report from Monday night about the draft majority opinion dated February is, by far, the most viewed article in "Politico's" history. And it's still dominating news nearly a week later.
So, this hour, we're going to size up the media coverage with several unique voices, including a former CBS reporter-turned-Planned Parenthood director, and a host on a Catholic news network.
But let's begin by going behind the scenes of the "Politico" bombshell that started it all, with one of "Politico's" top editors, Dafna Linzer. She's the outlet's executive editor and she's with me now.
Dafna, tell me about the moment when you found out that your reporters had obtained this draft majority opinion. What happened? DAFNA LINZER, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, POLITICO: Well, you know, they were
working very hard, our reporters, Josh Gerstein, and Alex Ward, to try and confirm what they had and try to understand it, and our role was to kind of help them and support them so they could verify the information, understand the context in the moment as you said, and then get ready to publish.
STELTER: It seems to me there was a several day process. I know you're not talking about the timeline in detail, but the White House Correspondents' Dinner was the same time last week, and "Politico" had a big brunch this time last Sunday. And when you were there, you knew this was in the works, is that right?
LINZER: You know, it was a kind of extraordinary moment that we were gathering sort of in person for the first time with colleagues from across Washington to celebrate the First Amendment, which is what that dinner is really about. We did publish the next day, the next evening, Monday evening.
There was just a few of us in the newsroom that evening.
LINZER: A lot of people are still working remotely. So, it was quite a moment.
STELTER: Did you all ever hesitate about publishing? In other words, was there ever a scenario where you would not have published a story about this draft ruling?
LINZER: I think for us, Brian, there were just two -- two issues for us. Is the document authentic? Do we understand it? And is it in the public interest?
Once we knew it was authentic, we knew it was in the public interest, and we were ready to go.
STELTER: You were 100 percent sure it was authentic before you published?
LINZER: We were.
STELTER: You were.
And the story referred to some sort of source saying that the vote count had not changed since February. That implied someone was feeding information that was current, not just from February, but was current.
Can you say whether your reporters are still in touch with that source?
LINZER: I can't talk about the sourcing or that timeline or any aspect of that.
I can say that Alex Ward and Josh Gerstein, very seasoned reporters, it's very seasoned newsroom, reporters with deep experience, and they felt comfortable that we understood not just the draft opinion but that moment, and understanding that moment was key to understanding where the court was at the time that we were ready to go.
STELTER: Chief Justice John Roberts announced a leak investigation. He called the leak absolutely appalling. Has "Politico" been contacted by the court and authorities investigating the leak?
LINZER: We have not. And, honestly, we don't know more about the investigation that has been made public so far.
STELTER: Do you expect you will be investigated or pursued?
LINZER: You know, the chief did not mention publication in his statement and we don't see any evidence of a crime here.
STELTER: Because you obtained a document, you published it, it's legit.
And so, what now? What is "Politico" working on now?
I mean, let me ask you this, Dafna, was the reaction as intense as you expected?
What did you expect on Monday night when you published?
LINZER: Yeah. You know, I think we were all fully aware of just how unprecedented something like this is, to be able to peek inside internal deliberations of the Supreme Court, which is not exactly the most transparent branch of government. And getting a good sense of that, we understood.
And as you said, I think, Brian, at the beginning, you talk about how polarizing this is. I think we understand this is very much a story, very much a "Politico" story actually, because it is as meaningful and as important to people across the political spectrum, that people feel as passionate and invested in the outcome of this case, regardless of their party affiliation.
STELTER: And there are lots of arguments about the leak but I don't see people calling out "Politico" for publishing. It seems like everybody wanted to know what was happening and you all have given us a preview.
Here's one argument. I saw an argument -- a headline saying, you know, this is good the Supreme Court's veil of secrecy has been punctured.
Do you suspect -- and this is "Politico's" Jack Shafer saying that. Do you think this is going to happen more often now? You know, is this going to be the new normal for Supreme Court rulings?
LINZER: It's hard to say. I mean, we -- I'm not really in the prediction business.
We did publish -- on the night we published the story, Josh Gerstein had a very important accompanying piece looking at the history of leaks at the Supreme Court. Never one quite like this, but certainly, there have been sort of tea leaves and leaks in the past.
I do think that the public, again, you know, has a very clear right to know about what's happening, and I don't know how that's going to impact the court and how it proceeds going forward.
STELTER: What's your number one note about the media coverage going forward? You know, you just joined "Politico". You've been at NBC and other outlets.
Put on your media critic hat for me. What do we need to put front and center as we cover reproductive rights in the months to come?
LINZER: Yeah. I think this is a story, you know, again, "Politico" is going to own, already has owned it and will cover it from every angle. It's obviously a very passionate topic across the country. People are, as I said, equally invested on booth sides and I think that's something to keep in mind.
Thank you, Dafna. Thanks for coming on.
LINZER: Thank you, Brian.
STELTER: Let's bring in some members of our media panel now. "The Washington Post's" media reporter Elahe Izadi and CNN media critic, Brian Lowry.
Elahe, you wrote about the power of language in the abortion fight. Also a podcast about that this week. The power of language, what do you mean by that?
ELAHE IZADI, MEDIA REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yeah. So, when we talk about how media covers really fraught topics such as abortion, the way in which it's framed, even the words we use to describe any side of a debate are really consequential. So, when it comes to abortion, for many years the media adopted the language and nomenclature as pro-life, which is something that activists the natural side of the debate wanted it to be cast that.
But, you know, this week, I had an episode with my colleague Margaret Sullivan, who's a media columnist, and she made a point that when we talk about pro-life in those terms and what is the opposite side of pro-life, anti-life? A lot of media organizations, mainstream media organizations in recent years no longer use that language. They use abortion rights or anti-abortion rights language because they say that's more precise to what we're talking about.
But still, that language is still quite common and it partly has to do with how we allow people when our sources to define themselves. You know, we do refer to people in how they like to be referred to. But it does shape our understanding of what this issue is really about.
STELTER: And those activists know a lot about the subject they're deeply invested but many Americans do not know the details.
Let me show some points made by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux of FiveThirtyEight. She said, America's views on abortion are confusing because they don't much about it. They don't know how pregnancies progress. They don't know when abortions happened. They don't know who gets abortions. They don't know what will happen in their state if Roe is gone.
She went on to say Americans don't know very much about this because they don't like to think about it. They don't like the politics. They don't like the debate.
I thought that was really spot on. People don't like to think about something like this. And a lot of folks don't, frankly, know the details about reproduction and reproductive rights. So, Elahe, it seems to be a challenge for the media. There's some education to do.
IZADI: Yeah, and on top of it, I would perhaps put forth that a lot of lawmakers maybe are confused --
STELTER: I think you're right.
IZADI: -- about some of those very topics. And so, it does become confusing.
And, you know, this is an issue in which there's a group of activists who feel very strongly about and they've been working for decades on this issue, and they're very passionate about it. There are voters who only vote on this issue but for large segments of the population, they're not thinking about it as much or in such passionate terms.
IZADI: So it does become -- and if it doesn't impact you, maybe you are not thinking about it, maybe you aren't educating yourself. In some of these states abortions is already restricted heavily. Places like Oklahoma and Texas, and that provides a preview of what's to come for the rest of the country.
STELTER: So, I have been doing a lot of reading the last few days. I think many of us have,
Brian Lowry, our CNN media critic, I was reading this morning a "L.A. Times" story about women in Texas making those choices about how to get an abortion and whether they still can given the state's heartbeat law.
Here's what I was missing, Brian Lowry -- men. You know what word I think is missing in the news coverage of this? Sex.
I went through and looked at the transcripts on cable news this week, almost no one talks about what cause this for abortion, like what leads to the point of abortion. Brian Lowery, it takes two to tango. Where are the men? Where is the conversation about men and about sex and what's causing this in the first place?
It seems to me that's the missing part of the story.
BRIAN LOWRY, CNN MEDIA CRITIC: Well, I think that's true and I think you've seen -- it's basically been limited to jokes and memes.
LOWRY: If men were subject to abortion laws, this would happen. We really haven't seen not only what it means for women and what it also means for men. What it means for men. I have seen a few people point to what it means for men if women bring children to term that they don't want. But that hasn't been covered enough.
I think the other thing that really hasn't been covered enough, I just watched a documentary that premiered at Sundance called "The Janes," which is about an underground abortion network that existed before Roe. Those women are alive. Those -- Roe was 49 years ago but we have -- that's in many people's lifetimes.
And I don't think we heard enough voices yet, and we probably will, but watching that documentary, it really felt like there was an opportunity. We tend to talk about this issue in abstract terms. We see people compare it the "Handmaid's Tale" but there is real world examples of what it was like in America before Roe versus Wade that can be shared and pointed out to people, and I think would really add a great deal to the discussion.
STELTER: Right. That's a great point. Let me bring in our other analyst, David French, we were having some tech problems but here's with us now. David French, senior writer for "The Dispatch", and host of "The Good Faith" podcast.
David, what would you add here about media coverage of what appears to be an impending roll back of abortion rights, at least in many states in the U.S.? What do you want people to keep in mind about how this should be covered in the months ahead?
DAVID FRENCH, SENIOR EDITOR, THE DISPATCH: I think it should be covered by informing people, first and foremost. One of the things we see, as just mentioned, folks don't even know what it means when you say should Roe v. Wade be overturned? That is, for example, is a virtually useless poll question because they interpret it should abortion be banned or not banned, which is not what Roe v. Wade is about. It's about who decides, justices of the Supreme Court or is it decided by voters, either through Congress or their state legislator?
So, there's just an enormous amount of work that has to be done to educate people about what the issues are. I think also the media needs some education as well. I think the media class is much more intensely focused on this issue than a lot of the rest of Americans, because you're seeing in the polling rather interesting things that seem to be not really tracking with each other.
So, for example, there was a CNN poll that indicated strong American support for at least some degree of abortion rights but also strong American support for the GOP in the midterm elections and the GOP is the party that is the pro-life party, Democrats' pro-choice party. So how can that be? If there's strong support for abortion rights amongst Americans and they're going to vote Republican, that tells us a lot about relative intensity.
How much do people care about this issue? And I think sometimes the media, because it's so glued to Twitter often misses the fact that abortion is really downstream from a lot of people's lives in the United States of America, where part of this American class that's super-focused on this issue and an awful lot of Americans are not.
STELTER: I agree with that and I think many people don't want to think about it until they're confronted by it because it's national news.
There's a lot more here. Let's everybody stick around and take a quick break here.
Coming up, we're going to get into the handoff, the latest on this handoff at the White House, the press secretary podium.
But, first, one year ago, she was a CBS reporter and now she worked for Planned Parenthood. What Kate Smith has to say about the media's coverage of Roe v. Wade. She is up next.
STELTER: With the Supreme Court set to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to that "Politico" scoop, you'd think that right wing media outlets and anti-abortion activists would be celebrating. But there's been in some quarters a downplaying of the news and a focus instead on the leak.
There's also this factor here from "The Washington Post," religious leaders more divided on abortion than some Americans might think.
Here's another headline saying: this is and is not the moment of pro- life evangelicals have been waiting for.
We are even seeing some Christians turn to TikTok to preach about being pro-choice.
On the Eternal Word Television Network, the slogan is: Live truth, live Catholic. The Catholic news channel even has a weekly show focused on the pro-life movement.
One of the anchors with EWTN is Montse Alvarado. She's the host of EWTN's "News in Depth", and she joins us now.
Thanks for coming on the program.
MONTSE ALVARADO, EWTN ANCHOR: Thanks so much for having me. It's great to be here.
STELTER: I just love to know. I think that sometimes, there's not enough awareness or attention on religious media in the U.S. [11:20:04]
I'd love to know how your network is covering this big bombshell news this week.
ALVARADO: You know, Brian, I love the discussion you were just having because you're right. A lot of people don't want to talk about this issue. They don't want to talk about abortion. They're uncomfortable.
But this is a discussion that religious news outlets, EWTN in particular, has not been shy about talking about. And they didn't wait for the egregious Supreme Court leak to start this discussion.
They've had it since this case was taken on. EWTN had a series called "Life After Roe: Debate in the States," talking about what happens in every single one of these states when Roe is overturned and defining what Roe is, explaining to people, just like David French said, they don't know what happens when Roe is overturned. They don't understand what happens in their local community.
And so, we want to look at those real stories and let people make up their own minds, finding the truth like you said. That is our mission with the Catholic lens.
STELTER: I notice that you have been doing that series for weeks already, preparing viewers for this likelihood.
Is it -- do you view what you do as a pro-life, as anti-abortion period? Do you advocate for a national ban through the Senate and the House in the years to come?
ALVARADO: The life issue is so complicated, but the Catholic Church makes no mistakes about this, pro-life is pro-life. Life is life, it begins in the womb. Everybody knows that.
Making the decision about abortion is one that has been tainted by misinformation from the right and from the left. And that's the goal of EWTN, is bringing out that truth.
Mother Angelica founded this network, a woman, founded this network to be able to share the truth with people, and that's what's missing in the media today. And that's why EWTN is so important.
STELTER: What's the mis -- what's the misinformation from the right?
ALVARADO: The misinformation from the right? I think that even saying that the leak is a full ban on abortion, telling people that Roe versus Wade is when this is over. That's a big, big, big mistake that the media is making, telling people that that's where the fight ends.
It doesn't end there. That's the beginning of a discussion that has been stilted. The democratic process stopped on this issue the moment that Roe was decided by seven men.
STELTER: And you're saying, when talking about pro-life, it also means taking care of the families, helping people, supporting them. ALVARADO: Absolutely. Absolutely. You know --
STELTER: But do you actually trust Republicans to follow through on that?
ALVARADO: Republicans, Democrats. You have Democrats who are pro-life as well who want to see families taken care of. Christine Day is always on TV shows telling people, listen to Democrats who want to be a part of this party and feel completely excluded.
STELTER: Do you -- as we talked about this in the past few days and many people are getting up to speed in the first time. Can you see why many women and some men for that matter are afraid that IUDs and IVF will be threatened in the years to come?
ALVARADO: There is fear I think on both sides. If you look at Catholic Churches, people were standing outside their doors, fearing that someone would come in and have a sit in or even provoke violence in their masses, their Mother's Day masses today because people are fearful, like I mentioned, on both sides, again, from lack of information.
They don't understand what's happening here. They're scared. Emotions are raging and it's the role of the media to slow down.
STELTER: Well, it's not just lack of information, right, Montse? It's also Republican lawmakers passing legislation that would cause IUDs or even IVF to be at risk, on state level.
ALVARADO: Do you really think that -- do you really think that this is only the Republican Party? You don't think that there's fearmongering on both sides?
The nice thing about being at a Catholic network is I don't have to look things through a political lens. I don't have a political agenda. EWTN is focused on Catholicity, the Catholic faith.
And so, we don't need to pander to one side or the other. We just need to focus on the truth.
STELTER: Including many Catholics who do seek out abortion or to believe --
ALVARADO: Many Catholics who have suffered abortion, many Catholics who don't understand the beginning and the end of life, who need a network like EWTN to share that information with them.
STELTER: As you said, it's very complicated, and your show (INAUDIBLE). Thank you, Montse. Thanks for coming on.
ALVARADO: Very complicated. Thank you so much for having me. STELTER: Now to another personal story with a unique twist. For
several years, Kate Smith was a reporter for CBS News. And part of her beat -- for a while, all her beat was reproductive rights. She filed news of day reports and long form documentaries. One even took her to El Salvador, where abortion is illegal.
Last summer, she decided to leave CBS and she's now working for Planned Parenthood, as the senior director of news content.
And Kate Smith joins me now.
Kate, why did you leave CBS News last year?
KATE SMITH, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF NEWS CONTENT, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: There's a few reasons why I left CBS News, but I think most relevant to this conversation is at the time, my editor was no longer interested in covering abortion policy, and sexual reproductive health as a dedicated beat, which is something that I spent so much time learning and becoming an expert in.
So when I was thinking of the next steps of my career, having that off the table, I was more willing to consider other options.
STELTER: I think we need more reporters in that beat, not fewer, but okay.
So, tell us what does the senior director of news content at Planned Parenthood do? What's your job?
SMITH: So, abortion policy, sexual reproductive health, it's often covered -- it's a local news story, but it's often covered with a national news frame. So, when you read a story, say, about Texas' six- week abortion ban, you know, you're going to get a quote in there from Ted Cruz.
You're going to get the size and scope of how many abortion bans have been passed, that kind of thing.
But for the patient who wakes up that morning and wants to know whether or not they still have an appointment, that's the kind of news that they need delivered. And I'll tell you, in that article, I promise, she's not going to be able to figure out whether or not her appointment is on.
And I tell you that because I was a reporter who was writing those stories for CBS and I can't tell you how many DMs I got, how many emails I got, how many phone calls I got from these patients who are asking me, hey, I saw your article about the six-week ban. Can you walk me through whether or not I have an appointment today?
Then I can tell you today after that leak on Monday, our Planned Parenthood health centers, we have been flooded with calls from people who are concerned about their birth control appointments or concerned about their abortion appointments. There's a lot of -- because of the way we cover abortion in the media
with this national frame, often it's a political story, we're leaving patients out of the equation.
So, at Planned Parenthood as, you know, doing news content, what we want to do is want to solve for that. If you want to understand what your rights are right now, come to Planned Parenthood, we're the experts.
Like think about cancer, for example, if you want to understand, you know, cancer treatments, you'd rather go to Sloan-Kettering's content than a "New York Times" article, right?
STELTER: Ahh. Okay, that's interesting. That makes sense.
Last year, though, "The National Review", the conservative outlet, called you -- three years ago, Planned Parenthood's ambassador to CBS. They said you were posing as a reporter and constructing articles that more closely resembles press releases than news.
So, that was the charge when you were at CBS, and now you're at Planned Parenthood.
How do you react to the conservatives who say you were biased in your CBS coverage?
SMITH: Look, if you're, you know, a blogger online, you might not realize all of the different layers that someone goes through before they publish a piece, before they go on air. We have standards and we have lawyers, before anything goes on. You know, there's been a thorough review of what's been going on. So, I stand by every article I write.
And I would say that making that accusation, you're playing into the right. Anybody who doesn't fall by their rules, who doesn't -- who wasn't anti-abortion, is against them. So, if you're trying to cover this from a neutral point of view and you're including both sides, they automatically think you're against them because they view doctors as anti or, excuse me, for abortion, and they view them as bias, even though these are doctors we're talking about.
So, I really reject all of that criticism. Again, I think these people just understand how newsrooms actually work. They don't have that kind of experience. But, yeah, completely reject that criticism.
STELTER: While at CBS, I mentioned your trip to El Salvador. What have you learned there and how does it relate to the U.S. now?
SMITH: Yeah, that reporting trip to El Salvador was really eye- opening. It really helped me put together the pieces of what I was seeing on the ground happening. And at the time, the reporting trip was in 2019. So, none of these six-week abortion bans, the really extreme ones that you see, had gone into place yet. And we were only hearing from, you know, doctors and politicians about what might happen if an abortion ban were to go into effect. When we went to El Salvador, what we saw is all of those things that
these doctors and politicians had warned us about were happening in real time on the ground. I spoke to a doctor who in no uncertain terms told me that he has had patients die -- has had patients die -- because he wasn't allowed to give them an abortion that would have saved their lives.
We saw -- we met with a doctor who was giving abortions illegally, and he was saying there's been absolutely no difference in demand for abortions, whether it's legal or not. There's no difference. And then most, you know, really like keeps me up at night is when I spoke to the women who were in prison for having an abortion, and there were some in there that had not seen their family in years because this prison is in such a dangerous place that their family can't visit.
And they say they had a miscarriage, and they woke up. They had an obstetric emergency and they wake up and they are shackled to the hospital bed, and there's a police officer in there investigating them.
And I can tell you, the doctors told me when they're looking at a patient, there's no way for them to tell the difference between an induced abortion and spontaneous miscarriage. You can't tell the difference. That is a medical fact.
And so, you know, it's just up to a judge to decide. And these people were saying they were innocent. And as a proof point, many of those patients -- excuse me, many of those women who were in prison, they have since been released because there wasn't enough evidence to put them in prison.
So, again, all of these things that we, you know, say might happen if abortion gets banned, if abortion becomes illegal, they do happen. This isn't a theory. We don't need to speculate. We have actual facts that can inform what happens.
STELTER: Kate, thank you very much. Thanks for being here.
Leaks, they're definitely a theme this week, from the Supreme Court now to the battleground in Ukraine. Why are anonymous U.S. officials bragging about sharing intel with Ukraine to cause Russian deaths? We're going to get into that with French in just a moment.
STELTER: And this just in to CNN, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has become the latest Head of State to visit Ukraine, his office now confirming that he's there to meet with Ukraine's president. Further details to come. The U.S. First Lady, Jill Biden also traveled to the country earlier today and met with Ukrainian First Lady. We'll have more on this later in the day here on CNN.
We have to talk about the leaks this week, including reporting from the New York Times claiming that U.S. intelligence has been helping Ukraine kill Russian generals. The White House pushed back on that framing calling the headline misleading saying the story was irresponsible. There's also been leaks from the Intel community it seems, about the U.S. providing intelligence and helping Ukraine target Russia's prize warship the, Moskva.
STELTER: NBC reported the president called his top U.S. Intel in defense officials and urged them to plug the leaks. New York Times columnist Tom Freeman reporting, "I'm told that he called the Director of National Intelligence, Director of the CIA, and the Secretary of Defense to make clear in the strongest language that this kind of loose talk is reckless and has got to stop immediately." I'm told the same by a White House source that the president was livid about these leaks. Joining me now is a Senior Editor for The Dispatch, contributing writer for The Atlantic, David French. David, are news outlets right or wrong to publish the information they are told by these anonymous U.S. officials?
FRENCH: Yes, I think this fits within a news outlet's fundamental newsgathering function, you know. Look, there are circumstances in which I think an administration can go to a news outlet and say, this is an absolute matter of life and death, establish it's a matter of life and death are the near equivalent, and a news outlet can responsibly say no. But what we're talking about here is the conduct of a nation and that -- in the conduct of our intelligence agencies and one of the most important stories -- the most important, arguably story in the world right now. And I think what's important here is that I'm seriously doubtful that this is news to the Russians.
If you're talking about the ability of the Ukrainians to uncannily target -- key targets, Russian military targets, that is something that logic suggests is sort of outside of the capability of the Ukrainian military acting alone. I do think the main problem, as a practical matter with the leak is that, since that, the administration or administration officials are bragging about it, that that's something that they're trying to sort of throw into Russia's face what they are doing or take political credit or credit in the court of public opinion for their actions -- their actions in the war. And I think that's where it gets a bit more dangerous because what's happening is they're essentially dunking on the Russians in public, so to speak. But as far as would Russia have any idea that we were doing this before the leak, I think that's just fiction.
STELTER: I see. So, these are anonymous leaks. We're also getting on the record confirmation about some chaos from the Trump years, thanks to Mark Esper's upcoming book. Let's take a look at this. His book comes out on Tuesday. He was, of course, the former secretary of defense. And in the book, there's a lot in the book, one of the revelations is that Esper claims then-President Trump asked him in 2020, about launching missiles into Mexico to destroy the drug labs and kill cartels. Maybe Trump thought he could do it, and Mexico wouldn't know and Esper had to talk him down.
But you know, here, we aren't even yet another incredible revelation from the Trump years, this time on the record from the former Secretary of Defense, and he had to sue to get his book to be published because there's this pentagon pre-publication process where his book was held up. And according to CNN's Oliver Darcy, this is what held it up. They didn't want this drug lab detail to come out. So he sued. Now the book is coming out. Tell us about that process, though, that the Defense Department had to review his book first. Is it possible they were trying to stop embarrassing news about Trump from getting out?
FRENCH: Well, that's not the intent of the review process, although sometimes that's the effect of the review process or the way that the review process is distorted. The intent is pretty obvious and makes sense and that if you're a person who is exposed to an avalanche of secret information, there need to be steps taken -- and classified information, there need to be steps taken to make sure that classified information doesn't enter the public domain. But it is not a process that is supposed to be protective of the president's political reputation or save a president from embarrassment. Embarrassing moments aren't classified because they're embarrassing. And so I think that oftentimes when you do have a pre-publication review process, one that's sensibly designed to prevent leaking of classified information that could damage national security, it can often morph into something else, a process designed to prevent embarrassment.
STELTER: I see. Well, the book is out Tuesday. We're going to see it for ourselves. David French, thanks so much.
FRENCH: Thank you.
STELTER: Up next, what CNN's brand new CEO wants this network to do?
STELTER: A big change at the White House, a new face behind the podium in the press briefing room. Jen Psaki announcing her departure as expected and naming her successor, Karine Jean-Pierre, currently the White House's Principal Deputy Press Secretary. She will step into the position -- the official press secretary role when Psaki departs this coming week. Jean-Pierre is seen on Friday at this year's GLAAD awards, she'll become the first black and LGBTQ person to hold the position of White House press secretary. She's no stranger to the media. Of course, she's already filled in Psaki several times, so she's a logical choice. What will this mean for the White House? Let's bring our media panel in for a conversation about that and more. Elahe Izadi of The Washington Post is with me, Brian Lowry of CNN, and NPR TV Critic, Eric Deggans.
Elahe, this is a logical move for the White House, but it is notable, given her background, her trailblazing status, that this comes when there are debates about gay rights when there are anti-LGBTQ laws being passed in many states, and Jean-Pierre now taking over later this -- later this month.
IZADI: Yes, this is definitely a history-making moment, but as the new press secretary has said when she came out to talk about her appointment in this role that she acknowledges the history being made. But she tried to pivot and say, you know, everyone who's here at the White House, we're here on behalf of the American people. And, you know, we're -- the Biden administration has made this sort of history- making moves before, it will be interesting to see this new press secretary in this role at a time when issues around LGBTQ rights are coming to the forefront in media coverage, but especially on the state's level. And also, you know, we were expecting Jen Psaki to leave the post for some time.
IZADI: She's rumored to be going to MSNBC. We'll see if that's the case. But yes, it does make sense as far as who would take the mantle. And you know, Jen Psaki, when she came into the role, she made her whole point to sort of restore the -- you know, the protocol or the "civility" that had been absent from the briefing room during the Trump administration.
IZADI: And, you know, her briefings don't make cable news the way that they did during the Trump administration, so I would expect nothing to change in that regard.
STELTER: That's a good point. Stay on the cable news point of Karine's partner, Suzanne Malveaux, a CNN Correspondent here. So, I asked CNN about that possible conflict of interest. And here's the statement. Suzanne will continue in her role as CNN national correspondent covering national, international news, and cultural events, but will not cover politics. That's the statement, not covering politics, Capitol Hill, or the White House while Karine is serving as press secretary. So that's CNN.
Let's go to the MSNBC angle. Psaki is going to be joining MSNBC this fall. She hasn't signed the deal yet and she's still at the White House, but she is going to MSNBC. Is there a possibility, Brian Lowry, that she plays a role at 9 p.m.? Rachel Maddow, as of this week, is only hosting on Mondays, so MSNBC has a big 9 p.m. vacancy.
LOWRY: Well, that's a possibility. I mean, that would be a really big promotion. That would be a big jump. You know, we've seen -- I always like in a way to cable news, people from going from government and politics into cable news to be coaches going from the sidelines straight to the broadcast booth. And some of them can make that transition easy and some of them do not. And it would be a huge gamble. I think to take someone who really hasn't had the experience. There is a unique skill to hosting one of these shows. And I think taking someone straight from that and putting them in that, you know, Nicole Wallace has blossomed into a very accomplished anchor, but I think that -- I think that it's a learning curve.
STELTER: I agree with you. I'm glad you think this job looks hard. I'm glad you think so, Brian Lowry.
STELTER: CNN, 9 p.m. they can see as well --
LOWRY: I want to be admired with that.
STELTER: The new CNN CEO Chris Licht just started work on Monday. He said he plans to have a new 9 p.m. show installed in the fall. I want to read part of Licht's memo to CNN staffers. I think it's interesting about where this network is heading. He said, "Sadly, too many people have lost trust in the news media. I think we can be a beacon in regaining that trust by exemplifying the best characteristics in journalism, fearlessly speaking truth to power, challenging the status quo, questioning groupthink, and educating viewers and readers with straightforward facts and insightful commentary, while always being respectful of differing viewpoints. First and foremost, he wrote, we should and we will be advocates for truth." Eric Deggans, you're a non-CNN voice here, anything sent out to you about that?
ERIC DEGGANS, TV CRITIC, NPR: Well, you know, we have heard that Chris and the new bosses at Warner Bros. discovery are interested in a CNN that's more focused on news coverage and less focused on opinion. And so, this seems sort of in line with that. I've known Chris since he was executive producer of CBS This Morning. And he's also someone who's known for hiring talented people or -- and letting them do their jobs, which is a little different way of going about things than the previous guy at the top job, Jeff Zucker. So, it will be interesting to see how far he lets the people underneath him take some of these coverage ideas and coverage decisions.
You were talking about the 9 p.m. slot, and Chris has said that he wants to do some experimentation over the summer before landing on a permanent choice this fall. What's interesting to me is that you know, at MSNBC in particular, I haven't seen a lot of consternation over developing someone to take that job.
DEGGANS: And so, I wonder if the -- if the cable news channels aren't shifting a little more and more focused on online. We've seen Meet the Press, for example, is going to have a show that's on NBC News Now, their ad-supported, you know, news network -- digital network. So, you know, I'm wondering if there's less of an emphasis on learning -- on linear television in general here.
STELTER: Still popular and still profitable, though. And my favorite part of Licht's memo is about challenging groupthink, questioning groupthink. That's a benefit -- that will be a benefit for viewers. All right, standby everybody, more in a moment, including the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial and why it's causing such a difference.
STELTER: The Johnny Depp versus Amber Heard seems to be everywhere, the trial in Virginia and spawning hashtags, TikToks, memes, and lots and lots of live coverage, wall to wall on multiple channels and streaming services. Of course, this is a high wattage trial between formerly married actors, big celebrities, it's understandable, there's a lot of media interest. But there's a public spectacle aspect to it that seems uncomfortable to a lot of people. So, I want to ask my guests about that. The panel is back here with me, Brian Lowry, as well, Eric Deggans, and Elahe Izadi. My chairs breaking as I'm talking to you all, so that's why I'm stumbling. So, Brian Lowry, while I fix my chair, let me ask you, what is the -- what's the unique quality about this trial? What do you see going on in the coverage?
LOWRY: Well, what I really see is that in -- this is one of those situations where the audience is leading the media as opposed to the other way around. If you look at this story and you're privy to that -- to that kind of information, this is near the top of the search, Amber Heard-Johnny Depp every single day, often above other major, major stories. So, you know, because this is a relatively modern occurrence that we get real-time data on what people are searching for, what people are looking for, and that includes newspapers, as well as, you know, TV networks and digital operations, they're feeding that appetite so this is really a case where I think news organizations we often think of them being monolithic and making decisions. In this case, they're giving the people what they seem to want.
STELTER: The audience driving the media. Elahe, do you feel that -- you have been covering this trial steadily, but do you feel that on the media beat and previous styles beat?
IZADI: Yes. So, we've been covering the trial every single day, in part in Washington Posts, it's taking place in Fairfax, Virginia, not far away and what our coverage is showing to is that this whole spectacle is taking place at the courthouse.
IZADI: I mean, in some ways, this is a local story for us.
IZADI: You have throngs of Johnny Depp fans coming out, trying to pack the court there, they have to line up early to get wristbands to get in. So, you know, whereas maybe something like this, you would think to take place in California, maybe there would be a camera allowed. In this case, the judge had discretion and chose to allow cameras and now we're having in our own backyard in the Washington Post this sort of spectacle unfold.
IZADI: So, I know we've been covering it in that way as well.
STELTER: Yes, it's a local story. Eric, how do you think people should process these cameras in courtroom events when these trials become like entertainment vehicles?
DEGGANS: Yes, it is a sort of odd to see this story explode, particularly across social media. And what has often happened is that because the trial itself is long and can be tedious, what people are doing is grabbing little bits and pieces and then adding their own spin to it and posting it on social media. We're seeing it on TikTok. We're seeing it on YouTube. We're seeing it on Instagram. And so, people who are not actually watching the trial may have a really distorted idea of what's actually happening, depending on which source that they get their information from, or which clip they watch. And so, it's been interesting to watch the different testimony sort of sliced and diced.
DEGGANS: I think Johnny Depp, by testifying first got a real head start on public opinion and so I think Amber Heard is having a hard time now because he's had --
STELTER: That said, first said.
DEGGANS: He's had the ability to sort of set you know the agenda as far as with the -- are concerns.
STELTER: Right. Thank you, everybody, for the conversation. Quick correction, by the way, earlier, I call Justin Trudeau, the head of state, but of course, he's the head of government, Queen Elizabeth is the head of state in Canada. Thank you to the viewers who wrote in to tell me. Happy Mother's Day to my mom, my mother-in-law, my wife, Jamie, and all you moms watching right now, STATE OF THE UNION with Jake Tapper is up next.