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Former FOX News Chief Roger Ailes Dead at 77; Trump Set for First Trip Abroad as Domestic Crises Swirl; LeBron and Cavs Dominate Celtics in Game One; Tom Brady's Wife Gisele Claims He Had Concussion Last Year; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 18, 2017 - 10:30   ET



[10:30:22] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're learning this morning that former FOX News chief Roger Ailes has died. Ailes built FOX News into a giant force in television. He did resign about a year ago amid a sexual harassment controversy with new information coming out on that by the day.

Joining us to discuss his legacy, CNN media senior correspondent Brian Stelter and CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer.

First, Brian, to you. What exactly do we know about the circumstances of his death? Had he been ill? What has he been doing recently?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: We know very little. He had been ill for a number of years. Even before he resigned in disgrace last summer he had been ill, but we don't know the specifics about the cause of death.

BERMAN: And Professor Zelizer, you have an op-ed that just came out on talking about the role that Roger Ailes had in reshaping not just the media landscape, but the political landscape.

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. You don't get President Trump without Roger Ailes. He changed the kind of rhetoric that we hear about politics, heated it up. That's often present on FOX News. He argued that you can't be successful politically unless you're really good in the media. He told Richard Nixon this in 1970, and I think that lesson holds true. And I think he will be a powerful force remembered in American politics for those reasons.

BERMAN: And Brian, to say he reshaped cable, you know, is an understatement. I mean, he created from nothing, you know, one of the most powerful brands in all of television.

STELTER: Yes, in the mid-1990s, there was just this channel, there was just CNN. Because of Ailes, there now exists MSNBC and FOX News. He was actually over at NBC working on what became MSNBC. Then Rupert Murdoch made the pivotal decision to hire Ailes to create FOX News, to create FOX as an alternative to what he said was the liberal mainstream media. That choice has had ramifications ever since.

Ailes was such a complicated figure. He was bold and brilliant but also profane and crass and deeply inappropriate behind the scenes. He helped a lot of people's careers. He also hurt a lot of people. These women who have come forward describing sexual harassment by Ailes. It's a very complicated, sort of tortured legacy.

BERMAN: Yes. I'm glad you brought that up, Brian, and let's follow up on that point. I mean, obviously, he resigned in the wake of accusations made by Gretchen Carlson, settled for, you know, many millions of dollars, FOX did, with Gretchen Carlson. Other people have made charges against Roger Ailes, including people we know very well and like. You know, that is part of the legacy.

STELTER: Absolutely. In fact, Ailes was facing a number of lawsuits at the time of his death. There is also a pending federal investigation into FOX News, into the culture of FOX News, really into the Ailes era, about his friends that he was employing, about the settlement payments to his accusers and things like that. You know, he was many things at the same time.

I remember the first time I met him, he barreled into the room at FOX in the mid-2000s. And then most recently, he gave me advice about television. He understands this medium like few others. He said, don't work for the equipment, make the equipment work for you, bring the camera closer. He would tell his staff, turn down the volume, don't watch it with the sound on, watch it with the sound off and see if you like what you see on the screen.

Now that kind of genius, that kind of way of making television, it also kind of -- you can see how that would also be the same way he was treating some of his staff, that he would be looking at the women at the newsroom, telling them to turn around, spin around for him, sometimes asking them for sexual favors. The accounts of the harassment just added up in a horrific way last summer, and the consequences that have continued for FOX ever since.

BERMAN: Professor?

ZELIZER: And equally controversial will be the media legacy. For many people, he, you know, broke down the walls between politics and news in a way that wasn't beneficial to how Americans understand what's going on and he allowed space for news that wasn't always true. The birther story got a lot of air on FOX. And so I think this is also a part of his legacy.

He will be one of the most controversial and not one of the most-liked media figures, I think, as historians look back on what he did.

BERMAN: You know, it's interesting, you talk about the role that FOX News grew to have in the Republican Party. I have had conversations with Republican presidential candidates about FOX and they have mixed feelings. They've always had mixed feelings about it because they have to perform to a certain extent for FOX and for the FOX audience.

ZELIZER: No, absolutely. He told Nixon back in 1970s that, he said, President, you need a media strategist. And Nixon said, what's a media strategist? And Ailes famously said, "I am." And so he introduced a lot of politicians to this necessity. And I think many are still not totally comfortable with this world, but this is the world in which they have to operate.

STELTER: There was even like a FOX primary. We saw it in 2016, candidates sort of making the case on FOX, trying to earn the audience's affection.

[10:35:07] I absolutely agree with you, Julian, we wouldn't have Donald Trump as president if it weren't for FOX News. FOX even gave him a weekly platform to call in and talk about whatever he wanted before running for president. In some ways, Trump is a big part of Ailes' legacy.

BERMAN: Although they haven't been talking recently, or hadn't been, Brian, as we understand?

STELTER: That's right. You know, during the debates, Ailes was giving Trump advice, but more recently I'm told they were not in communication. There had been some sort of break in the relationship.

BERMAN: All right, Brian Stelter, Professor Julian Zelizer, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

A five-country trip for the president of the United States kicks off tomorrow. Will this trip be overshadowed by the situations developing here at home? Stay with us.


[10:40:04] BERMAN: All right, for President Trump, perhaps a much- needed break from the domestic controversies. That could come tomorrow. He heads for his first foreign trip, his first major overseas trip since entering the White House.

So will the five-country visit be a chance to reset the situation? Joining me now, Allan Lichtman, he's a distinguished professor of history at American University and a presidential historian who correctly predicted the winner of every U.S. presidential election, including this last one. He's done every one since 1984. Now he predicts that Donald Trump, the president, will be impeached. His new book is "The Case for Impeachment." It outlines how Congress could remove the president from office.

Professor, thanks so much for being with us. I guess with an intro like that, we'll get to the foreign trip in a minute, you know. Let's not bury the lead here. You say that the president will be impeached? Explain.

ALLAN LICHTMAN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Yes. In my book, "The Case for Impeachment," I lay out eight possible grounds for the impeachment of President Trump, which made him much more vulnerable to impeachment than any first-term president in all of our history. And since the case for impeachment was published about a month ago, Donald Trump seems to have done everything possible to make me a profit again.

Now, of course, we have a special counsel appointed. But I have to say, a special counsel is not an impeachment investigator. Just about everybody is off base on this. A special counsel does not resolve the issue of impeachment. He works in secret. He looks at criminality, not necessarily broader abuses of power. Special counsels take years to do their work, and presidents like Richard Nixon did, can find a way to fire them.

In Watergate, we had both a special prosecutor and an impeachment investigation, as I point out in my book.

BERMAN: Yes. Let me --

LICHTMAN: Going on at the same time.

BERMAN: I would never lecture a historian about history, but let me also point out that one thing you had during the Nixon administration and you had during the Clinton administration were congressional parties, for the partisan parties, you know, not of the party of the White House. You had the opposition party in control of Congress, which is why there were impeachment investigations. You don't have that this time. That is a very, very big difference.

All right. I want to bring in --

LICHTMAN: Yes. I talked about that in my book, actually. And I say, look, it would only take 10 percent of congressional Republicans to form a House majority, and if they feel that Donald Trump is becoming a liability to them, that many may turn. Almost that many sit in districts won by Hillary Clinton.

Also, in Watergate, lots of Republicans put patriotism above party and joined in the investigation to get to the bottom of all this. And by the way, if what Donald Trump says is true, this is all a witch hunt and he's never done anything wrong, he should welcome an impeachment investigation. He should encourage every member of his team to testify. He should release every document and White House tapes, if they exist, because that's the only way he's going to clear the air. He's not going to clear it through a special counsel.

BERMAN: Despite the fact that you predicted his election, I'm not sure he will take your advice, given that you just wrote a book, you know, arguing for his impeachment.

Stand by one second, Professor. I want to bring in Oren Liebermann, who is in Israel for us right now on the eve of a very important foreign trip for the president of the United States.

Look, this trip was important before all the crises broke out here at home, but Oren, this was crucial -- this is crucial inside Israel for where the president is going to go and what he's going to say, and he's already making waves.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I just talked to a number of Israeli politicians who have used words like confusion to describe this upcoming visit, unexpected in terms of what's going to be said. There isn't a clear idea of what it is he's going to say in his speech, which will come at the Israel Museum, not far from where we're sitting here in Jerusalem, and that's part of the problem here. In just the last 72 hours or so, just on U.S.-Israel, there have been

three different issues. One was confusion around the embassy. That was finally resolved, but not how the Israelis wanted. Administration officials telling CNN it will not be moved. Then confusion about where the White House defines the Western Wall. Is it in Israel? Is it in the West Bank? And then the intelligence leak, the alleged intelligence leak from Trump to the Russians.

All of that has very much cast a shadow over this visit and raised some pretty big questions leading to confusion about what is it that Trump is here to do? Every politician I spoke with said, look, a successful visit, make the right statements, take the obligatory pictures and let's just get through this visit without any hitches, without any surprises.

This is not exactly the trip that was envisioned by both sides when it was set up, which wasn't all that long ago -- John.

BERMAN: No, and it includes not just a stop in Israel, but also a meeting with the Pope in the Vatican, a trip to Saudi Arabia, key meetings with NATO. There are reports that administration officials are once again saying that the U.S. future in NATO isn't rock solid, so that will be an issue as well.

Professor Lichtman, historically speaking, presidents have tried to use foreign trips to divert attention from issues that may be arising at home. Is that successful?

[10:45:06] LICHTMAN: Absolutely not. Richard Nixon, of course, tried it at the height of the Watergate scandal. And unlike Trump, he was a very experienced diplomat with some real accomplishments under his belt, and it didn't work. The scandal was just too severe and too significant to divert attention from it. Deflection only works for a time and ultimately becomes very stale.

But I have a piece of advice for Donald Trump on this trip, follow the physician's advice. First, do no harm. That would be a successful trip. The only way you're ever going to divert attention from what's going on here at home is if you bring Jared Kushner with you and you solve the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum that's been going on for so many decades.

BERMAN: Look, you know, it is clear you don't necessarily hold this administration in high regard. Presidents should go on foreign trips.

LICHTMAN: Of course.

BERMAN: You know, I think the American people want the U.S. president visiting not just key allies, but countries in difficult and challenging regions and reaching out and trying to forge a new future, and that's what every president should do.

I talked to Ben Cardin, who was the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, a Democrat, no fan of the president, who's been offering advice to the White House for this foreign trip. So this is a trip I think that, you know, Democrats and Republicans can get behind.

Oren Liebermann, specifically to the point that you brought up about the intelligence issues, the fact that the president in his meeting with the Russians, you know, apparently revealed some highly sensitive, perhaps classified information, to the Russians. It's since been reported that information came from Israeli intelligence.

Has that issue been forgiven? Is this something that the Israeli government, not to mention Mossad, will hold over the Trump administration?

LIEBERMANN: If it hasn't already been forgiven, it certainly will, and that's because of how deep the relationship is, not only between the U.S. and Israel, but between the two intelligence communities.

That being said, we're also hearing two very different responses. From Israeli officials and politicians, it's all about moving on as quickly as possible. None of them have commented or confirmed it. Instead, it's just talking about the relationship here.

Current intelligence officials haven't touched this. That's not a surprise. It's an incredibly secretive organization, the intelligence community in Israel to begin with, so this is not exactly a time to pop their heads up.

Former intelligence officials, however, are quite furious about this and say this could be as big as a possible, quote, "catastrophe," and that Israel should withhold some very sensitive information from the Americans, from the intelligence community there, and from Trump, if it's going to be compromised. That's an incredibly big statement coming from Israel and the U.S., which is these two allies are so close, but that's the level of harm that could have been done here.

Now that being said, they caution, everyone cautions here that more needs to be known about what is the information that was leaked, how sensitive was it? From that point, it's just a matter of finding out how to solve the problem and moving on.

BERMAN: All right. Oren Liebermann for us in Jerusalem, thanks so much.

Professor Allan Lichtman, great to have you with us. Appreciate your time, sir.

Controversy surrounding the House majority leader Kevin McCarthy comes from a report in the "Washington Post." A meeting where Kevin McCarthy told fellow Republican leaders one year ago, he joked, he says, that Vladimir Putin pays Donald Trump.

The "Washington Post" listened to a recording of this. They also provided a transcript. This is what was said. Republican leaders were talking about the DNC hack last summer when Kevin McCarthy said, "There's two people, I think, that Putin pays, Rohrabacher," that's Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, "and Trump." After some laughter in the room, apparently McCarthy added, "Swear to god." Now House Speaker Paul Ryan responded as the laughter continued, "This

is an off the record, no leaks, all right?" And then he added, "This is how we know we're a real family here."

Now Speaker Ryan's office says this was just a joke. Today the House majority leader Kevin McCarthy also said it was just a joke.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Because if you listen to it, it says everybody laughs, so you know it's a bad thing to joke and that's all there is to it. And no one believes it to be true.


BERMAN: Last hour I had a chance to speak to the reporter who broke this story, the "Washington Post's" Adam Entous, who listened to the tape. I asked him if he thought that Kevin McCarthy was joking.


ADAM ENTOUS, THE WASHINGTON POST: He was a very early person to take notice of this maybe strange affinity that Trump had for Putin, and he makes this remark, which, frankly, when you listen to the tone in his voice, he says it seriously. If it is a joke, it's very dead pan. And he doesn't say at the end, I'm telling a joke, he says, "Swear to god." The words are the words.


BERMAN: Now look, there was laughter in the room. That much is clear. Some people were laughing and took at least part of it as a joke. What's also clear is as far back as June of last year, you had Republicans even joking about ties between then candidate Donald Trump and Russia. The timing there is interesting in and of itself.

[10:50:01] All right, NFL star Tom Brady finds himself in the middle of a concussion controversy. Why? Because of his wife. What did Gisele say? The "Bleacher Report" is next.


BERMAN: All right. LeBron James and the Cavaliers remain undefeated in the playoffs as they take game one against the Celtics, sadly. Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report." Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. No offense to your Celtics, but I'm not exactly sure why we're even holding the playoffs this year. You know, the NBA could have just fast-forwarded to the finals between the Cavs and the Warriors. Neither team has lost in the playoffs thus far.

And LeBron looking great in game one against the Celtics after more than a week off to rest. He poured in 38 points. LeBron now just three wins away now from going to his seventh straight NBA Finals, which is just incredible. The Cavs win, 117-104. Game two of the Eastern Conference finals tomorrow night on TNT.

[10:55:02] According to the official record, Tom Brady has never had a concussion during his NFL playing career, but that's not what his wife Gisele told CBS yesterday.


GISELE BUNDCHEN, TOM BRADY'S WIFE: As you know, it's not the most, like, let's say an aggressive sport, right? Football, like he had a concussion last year. I mean, he has concussions pretty much, we don't talk about, but he does have concussions.


SCHOLES: Again, there is no record of Brady having a concussion last season or ever. The NFL releasing a statement saying nothing they've reviewed indicates Brady suffered a concussion, but they're going to continue to look into the matter.

And you know, John, this is concerning, because obviously, in the NFL you have to disclose all injuries, including concussions, and it'd be very intriguing if Brady was able to not only hide it from all the spotters the NFL now had and also from his team, the Patriots.

BERMAN: No. He should be doing -- it's not good for your health, it's not good for the message it sends, it's not good for the sport. Period. Full stop.

All right. Andy Scholes, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

SCHOLES: All right.

BERMAN: All right. Very soon, we will see and hear from President Trump for the first time since the announcement of a special counsel on the Russia probe. CNN will bring you special coverage throughout the day. Stay with us.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. The breaking news, President Trump on defense this morning.