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Trump Escalates Threats Against Free Press. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired October 12, 2017 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write.
[05:59:38] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn't get to pull licenses because he doesn't like what's being said.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is increasingly angry at the coverage of his White House in crisis.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A new "Vanity Fair" report claims sources in the White House believe the president is, quote, "unstable and unraveling."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looked like there wasn't this kind of very early question of the president's own abilities.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He exposed himself. And I just stood there kind of frozen. It's amazing to me how casual he was with that kind of encounter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a culture of fear in this company.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: This has to shine a bright light on anything like this behavior.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Thursday, October 12, 6 a.m. in the morning here in New York, and here is our starting line.
President Trump escalating threats against America's free and independent press, suggesting that the federal government should use its power to shut down news networks whose coverage he disagrees with. That's actually what he asked for.
Let's not mince words. This is obviously dangerous. It shows some type of lack of knowledge about how the Constitution and free press works and, unfortunately, smacks of what we would hear from an autocrat. We also have new details about what led Secretary of State Rex
Tillerson to reportedly call President Trump a moron. CNN has learned the comment was made after a, quote, "difficult and tense meeting" in July. We're going to tell you what made the leader so frustrated with the president there.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Also, "Vanity Fair" is reporting several Trump advisers and top Republicans fear that President Trump is, quote, "unraveling." And former chief strategist Steve Bannon reportedly gives the president just a 30 percent chance of completing his first term.
Also, a scathing editorial in "The New York Times" calls on Congress to bar the president from launching a nuclear strike without a declaration of war from Congress.
So we have all of this covered for you. Let's begin with Joe Johns. He's live at the White House.
Good morning, Joe
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.
The president has been completely up front about the fact that he gets irritated by negative news coverage. He's taken issue with stories. He's taken issue with news organizations. But he's never gone quite as far as he did yesterday, suggesting he's open to punishing a news network for unflattering coverage.
TRUMP: It's frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write.
JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump sounding more like an autocrat than a leader of the free world, tweeting that network news licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked, after saying he does not favor limitations on the media earlier in the day.
TRUMP: No. The press should speak more honestly.
JOHNS: Republican Senator Ben Sasse, a frequent Trump critic, firing back, asking, "Mr. President, are you recanting the oath you took on January 20 to preserve, protect and defend the First Amendment?"
TRUMP: The one thing, the Democrats, they stay together like glue. We have great policies, but the Republicans tend not to be as unified.
JOHNS: Sources tell CNN the president is growing increasingly frustrated with a stalled legislative agenda, and a new article in "Vanity Fair" describes a White House in crisis, with advisers struggling to contain a president who is increasingly unfocused and consumed by dark moods.
The reports cites two senior Republican officials who say chief of staff John Kelly is miserable but remaining in his post to keep Mr. Trump from making a disastrous decision.
Speculation about Kelly's future growing Wednesday, after his deputy chief of staff was nominated to replace the post he vacated as homeland security secretary. One White House source telling CNN they don't see Kelly remaining on the job for long without her and that he may have been giving her somewhere to land before he ultimately leaves.
According to one of "Vanity Fair's" sources, the president's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, has said he thinks the president only has a 30 percent chance of making it through his full term. Bannon reportedly telling the president that the main risk to his tenure is the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, which allows the cabinet to vote to remove him. The White House is disputing these accounts, as the president denies any rift with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
TRUMP: We have a very good relationship.
JOHNS: But making it clear that his own strategic opinion matters most when it comes to North Korea.
TRUMP: I think I have a little bit different attitude on North Korea than other people might have. And I listen to everybody. But ultimately, my attitude is the one that matters, isn't it?
JOHNS: This as CNN learns that a tense and difficult meeting at the Pentagon prompted Tillerson to call the president a moron back in July. An official telling CNN defense employees were ashen at Mr. Trump's direct questioning of his commanders and his lack of a nuanced world view.
JOHNS: Unable to get a health care bill through the Congress, at least so far, the president is expected to sign an executive action today that would begin weakening parts of Obamacare. It is expected to instruct the agencies to start selling cheaper, less comprehensive policies. Could be a boon for healthy Americans, but it could raise the cost for Americans who are sick.
[06:05:12] Chris and Alisyn, back to you.
CUOMO: Joe Johns, by the standard of presidential fairness, you didn't say enough positive things about the president, so our ability to do this show may now be in jeopardy. Thank you, Joe.
Let's discuss with our panel now: CNN political analysts John Avlon and David Gregory.
So the reason that, kind of like with the whole I.Q. test thing, we don't really care about the joke. We care about what it sheds light on and a larger sense of stability. We can't really care that the president is angry at the press. We're comfortable with that.
But there's a through thread. His lack of grasp of how free press works, why it's important, what the FCC does, who it regulates and how, and how licensing works. He's shy on that. His understanding of Afghanistan, his taking on the commanders, their concerns about what he understands about the world. So it's not about what he says. It's about why he's saying it, John. That's what's raising the concern.
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So basically, you're saying the through line is that the president is incurious and ill-informed, despite having all assess to information.
CUOMO: That that winds up being what our reporting sheds on why he gets into these situations with Tillerson.
AVLON: That seems to be how he stumbles into these situations. I mean, you know, again, this is someone who has access to massive amounts of real-time information from definitional experts, and does not seem interested in availing himself of it. And that creates a series of crises that drives the staff and the White House and the cabinet sort of crazy.
But I think in particular, about his latest attack on the free press. And it's not about the media being defensive. There's a natural tension, and everyone should understand that. If he doesn't, that's on him.
This is about somebody going after one of the pillars of the Constitution. And as Republican Senator Ben Sasse said last night, are you renouncing or revoking your commitment to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, including the First Amendment? That's a big deal, not only that it comes from a Republican, who's been a consistent critic, because it raises the real stakes and questions of what we're talking about here.
CAMEROTA: So David, one more time let's just read exactly what the president tweeted so that everybody's clear, OK? Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged, and if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to the public. As these guys have said, we're used to being his punching bag. Is there something different about this one?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think it's much different. I think the president is lashing out, as he's done before. He's -- he's conducted himself in public life for, what, the past 30 years in about the same way. He has Twitter at his disposal now. He was, you know, a frequent character of the tabloid press in New York for years and years in New York City. I think this is just an extension of that.
He looks for scapegoats. He's taking on the NFL, taking on the media. These are all targets of opportunity for him to keep his base together, to get people riled up about free speech, and to take on the elites, to take on political correctness. It's all kind of the same diversion by the president who's got some real policy problems. He doesn't have much of an agenda. He doesn't have much accomplishment. All he has, as I said earlier this week, is a fist and a Twitter account. And that's what he really likes to use.
AVLON: He also has a nuclear arsenal at his disposal. GREGORY: I get that, John.
AVLON: Of course you get that. But I mean, the point is Trump is going to Trump. He's a 73-year-old man. He is not going to change.
But the constitutional power and responsibility he has, the military responsibilities, that's what makes this a totally different dimension. You know, there are countries, some of whose leaders he apparently admired, from Russia to Turkey, where licenses are revoked for having insufficiently positive coverage of an administration.
That specter being raised is totally outside. The American tradition, as you well know, we had a blip with Nixon, who went after "The Washington Post" and their affiliates. But you know, this is making Nixon look like a piker, and that was a low moment in our Constitution.
GREGORY: And ultimately, Nixon resigned. Nixon, as you know, did more than that. He was spying on people. He was violating the Constitution. And obviously, we'll see what happens with this president.
You know, LBJ called CBS and told them to get on the team during coverage of Vietnam. So this is not unprecedented. But I think there's a tendency in the media to jump on this. We know what this is. We know this is Trump who is, clearly, when he talks like this, unraveling. It's a diversion. And I think it's obviously a serious thing that should be taken seriously.
CUOMO: You're right, of course. Everything you're saying is right. It's just the context has changed a little bit. I know what it is like to the get a call from Donald Trump, not President Trump, where they say they're going to sue him because he doesn't like what you're saying.
But now he's president of the United States. So there's so much that he can do to enforce his own rage. That becomes the issue. And it's not just for John. It's that "The New York Times." There is a very legitimate argument to be made that is really academic in our current state of politics about Congress surrendering its constitutional authorities to presidents over decades.
CUOMO: Certainly, when it comes to declarations of war and use of military for. But this is a new spin from the "New York Times" that I think deserve some voice. "Many have hoped," they write, "and still hope, that Mr. Trump's aggressive posture is mostly theater. But there is no underlying strategy to his loose talk, and whatever he means by it, Congress has been sufficiently alarmed to consider legislation that would bar the president from launching a first nuclear strike without a declaration of war by Congress. It wouldn't take away the president's ability to defend the country."
Now again, this is what I'm talking about, which is the authorization of use of military force, the duty to declare war. I know people, like, start to go to sleep. But now, it matters.
AVLON: Because that kind of matters.
CUOMO: But that's what is motivating it, John. Is that if he's going to talk this way. If he's going to, perhaps, act on such caprice, you know, such rage in the moment, should he be allowed to have just his finger on the button? I know that there is an argument about how the law works presently. But the "New York Times" saying this is not just sour grapes.
AVLON: It's not. Although of course, large swaths of Trump base will just dismiss it simply because it's from "The New York Times." Here's, I think, one of the silver linings of our country's sort of stress test (ph) with Donald Trump. I think Democrats are all of a sudden starting to fall in love again with principal Republicans it defended in the past. Separation of powers. Looking for Congress to be a coequal branch.
Things that, you know, formerly Rand Paul may have been howling in the wind about. And one of them is about declaration of war powers. And should there be constraints on an executive whose power has grown over decades, because these are life and death issues. Especially when you have some who is incurious with significant impulse control, which is the portrait we are being painted from people in the White House.
CAMEROTA: David, one more thing. Gabe Sherman in "Vanity Fair" has a scoop. He has sources who talk to Steve Bannon, obviously former top adviser, about how Steve Bannon thinks this is all going to end.
So let me read this to you: "Several months ago, according to two sources with knowledge of the conversation, former chief strategist Steve Bannon told Trump that the risk to his presidency wasn't impeachment, but the 25th Amendment, the provision by which a majority of the cabinet can vote to remove the president. When Bannon mentioned the 25th amendment, Trump said, 'What's that?' According to a source, Bannon has told people he thinks Trump has only a 30 percent chance of making it the full term."
So that's an interesting scenario by which it's possible to play off.
GREGORY: Absolutely. I think as disturbing as the president lashing out against the media and threatening the First Amendment -- and don't get me wrong; it should all be taken very seriously every time it's said -- is what's going on both within the White House and within the Republican Party generally, which is who is going to stand up to him and tell him that he's crossed the line?
You know, if John Kelly doesn't make it as chief of staff, we should all be really worried. Because that means that the president, having acceded at some point having more discipline to determine he doesn't want that anymore. If he continues to sour all of his relationships with top -- members of his top national security team, then you're talking about the president potentially making decisions that cost lives and don't just rattle the cages of the media.
So who also, then, in Congress, congressional leaders, are willing to stand up to the president and say, "Hold on." You've gone way too far here. Everybody is kind of stepping back and saying, "Well, he's a little nuts here with this talk." We're just going to let this pass or look the other way. That has got to stop. Because having a stalled agenda is not enough.
You cannot be someone who's the president of the United States who speaks like an authoritarian. It's unhealthy for our democracy, and it's time for Republican leaders who have an ability to really speak out and do something to restrain him.
CUOMO: Democrats and Republicans have to be more like Ben Sasse. They don't have to insult or criticize the president, but they have to stand up, be accounted for, make the case why they believe that the president is doing the job the right way and they're with him or otherwise. And the 25th amendment is presidential succession, but you've got to read Section Four. If you care about this discussion, Google it and read Section 4. That's what Bannon is referring to.
CAMEROTA: Chris often gives us homework. But it's worth it.
CUOMO: It's kind of something we need to know.
CAMEROTA: David Gregory, John Avlon, thank you very much.
We do have to get to this breaking news. Twenty-three people are dead, hundreds more are missing as wildfires rage out of control in Northern California.
Look at this devastation. There are entire communities have been reduced to ash in just the past couple of days. So at this point, we know there are thousands of homes and buildings have been destroyed there. There are additional warnings and mandatory evacuations ordered in two more counties, including Napa.
[06:15:10] So at this point we know there are dozens of active fires. This dry weather and winds are making it very hard for firefighters to battle all of these deadly flames.
CUOMO: There are explosive new allegations against now-disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. More women. And the flood gates open. When people feel safe, they come out and they talk. Ronan Farrow, the reporter who broke some of the most startling details for "The New Yorker," joins us next.
CAMEROTA: Now, to a CNN exclusive. Hillary Clinton is speaking out on camera for the first time about the sexual misconduct allegations against disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Clinton has taken considerable campaign donations from Weinstein. She sat down with Fareed Zakaria in an interview that will air this Sunday. Here is a preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CLINTON: I was just sick. I was shocked. I was appalled. It was something that was just intolerable in every way. And you know, like so many people have come forward and spoken out, this was a different side of a person who I and many others had known in the past.
[06:20:11] FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: Would you have called him a friend?
CLINTON: Yes, I probably would have. And so would so many others. And people in Democratic politics for a couple of decades appreciated his help and support. And I think these stories coming to light now, and people who never spoke out before, having the courage to speak out just clearly demonstrates that this behavior that he engaged in cannot be tolerated and cannot be overlooked.
ZAKARIA: He donated money to you directly and indirectly. Would you give the money back?
CLINTON: Well, there's no one to give it back to. What other people are saying, what my former colleagues are saying is they're going to give it to charity. And of course I will do that. I give 10 percent of my income to charity every year. This will be part of that. There's no -- there's no doubt about it.
CAMEROTA: Joining us now to talk about all this is journalist Ronan Farrow. He is the journalist who wrote "The New Yorker" article that documented several women's accounts of alleged sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein.
Ronan, great to have you.
RONAN FARROW, "THE NEW YORKER": Good to be here, guys.
CAMEROTA: So you have bene reporting this. For a long time, when you start to figure out the scope of how big this Harvey Weinstein story was going to be?
FARROW: You know, this is a puzzle that journalists have been trying to piece together for decades. And what happened to us, this started with a woman going fully on the record and telling a very difficult story and also saying there are other women here. And the moment I started asking about those women and they started telling their stories, one thing leads to another.
CUOMO: What's your sense of who knew? That's a big part of this story. When Alisyn was talking about it yesterday in a way that was very insightful. You know, he had these meetings where he was in a bathrobe in his hotel room. Clearly inappropriate.
But what were you able to discover in terms of people at his company, people at affiliated entities, you know, the agencies, the managers, the people who would send people to these meetings, knowing what Harvey was about. How broad was that understanding?
FARROW: Look, I don't want to be at all sensationalist. Clearly, there were people who didn't know the details of the full extent of what was happening and plenty of them.
However, 16 executives, former and current, talked to me for this story, and said we either saw something firsthand. We witnessed a pattern at meetings or were asked to participate in them and that those were a little more than thin thin cover for predatory behavior.
CUOMO: And when you saw why don't you say anything? What did they say?
FARROW: You know, they talked about a profound guilt on many of them. Over and over again, they said, "Well, you know, look, we have in the story an individual named Irwin Ryder, a senior executive. We obtained messages from him. He's still at the company, so he did not speak on the record but through a representative. We were able to authenticate those messages. He was urging young women to go to H.R. about this and confronting Mr. Weinstein about it.
CAMEROTA: It's interesting. So in other words, people tried in their own way to raise the alarm bells. And the board, the all-male board that ultimately fired them, they also knew. And the reason we know that is because of their reporting, as well as what's "The New York Times" today. They were grappling with the settlements. They knew of the settlements up to two years ago. So they knew they were paying out for some reason.
FARROW: And look, you know, one reason the Ryder messages confirms, is senior executives were aware, going back years. He actually talks about it as a pattern of mistreatment of women.
CUOMO: Whose money was paying the settlements? Was it Harvey personally or was it the company?
FARROW: You know, I think that's an important question in this. And what's in "The New Yorker" piece is what is meticulously fact checked. I'm going to stick to that. But that is a question in all this.
CUOMO: Look, the reason we're happy to have you on is because these kinds of stories matter. Alisyn takes it on all the time in terms of the need for culture change. So you have to expose this. The law isn't enough.
This is not an easy story to tell. You've got to be right, because this is a powerful guy, and he will come after you if you are wrong. Also, it's not easy to get on on TV. You work for "The New Yorker" for this, but you work for NBC News. This was not easy to get through their vetting thing. That's why you wound up putting it in print first. What was that process like for you?
FARROW: you know, look, it's very important for me to keep the focus on the women here. These women tore their guts out telling the most difficult stories in the world. Anyone who wants to understand that process should read Mira Sorvino's first-hand account of going on the record with me. This was a tough decision to make. I want to honor what they're doing and how important that is.
Look, the question of when, over the long history of news organizations circling the story, any organization stopped reporting after having damning pieces of evidence is an important one. And people should and will, I'm sure, look at that. But that's not a story worth reporting on. And I don't want to make this story about me. This is about these women.
CAMEROTA: Did Harvey Weinstein come after you during this?
FARROW: He did.
CAMEROTA: What did he do?
FARROW: I was threatened with a lawsuit, personally.
CAMEROTA: Did he call you? Or his lawyers called? How did that...
FARROW: There were many, many calls to all of my representatives and many angry meetings and also paper and writing I have him threatening to sue me.
[06:25:06] CAMEROTA: What's instructive about is because it's not unusual for us to get sued when we're pursuing something that's damning. Is that he was targeting you personally. He was saying not just that you're wrong, but that you had personal animus.
FARROW: Again, you know, yes. And that's all ugly. But I do want to say that is only relevant to this in that it reinforces how hard this was for these women.
FARROW: He went after them personally in a much more aggressive way, and they talk in this story about a vast machine set up to silence them of legal threats, P.R. threats. That's where this is relevant.
CAMEROTA: So let's talk about the women. Because we all know how hard it is for women to come forward in such a public way and talk about, you know, sort of grotesque incidents in their background. So how did you do it? How did you get so many women to go on the record? And what was their response? I mean, were they terrified? Were they ready to do it? Why do we feel like we're on a tipping point right now.
FARROW: Alisyn, they were terrified. Terrified is exactly the word. Over and over again. And, you know, look, it's not that I enter into it. This was hard because they -- I had to work with them as they relived this trauma over and over with nothing to gain. They got nothing out of this except the truth. And, you know, I say the truth because each of these claims went through a very rigorous fact check process. These were not women who were, you know, running, banging down the doors of reporters. These were women who had been grappling with this for a long time.
And over and over again, as they told me, they finally spoke out, because they had realized from other women often that this was a pattern. And they thought that they could speak out and maybe end this and protect the next woman. CUOMO: Now that you've had a chance to look at the dynamic and all
the different pieces that go into it, that's why we're asking you whether it's NBC or you personally. It's not easy to get a story like this through. You could make the argument that it had to be somebody like you who had the personal resolve and the experience that you know you'll weather a storm to get a story like this out. What changes this from happening again and again. Because this is not the first time we've seen this.
FARROW: Absolutely the case. And look, this is a bigger problem than Harvey Weinstein. This is a bigger problem than Hollywood. This is about the abuse of power. And that happens in every industry. And it's happened in our news industry.
This should be a lesson about how important the bravery of women can be and how they should speak out in every business where this happens, which is across the board in our country.
CAMEROTA: Look, there's strength in numbers, right? So if you think you're alone, it's easier to be silent. When you realize that, actually, there's a slew of women. There's definitely strength in numbers. It's easier to...
FARROW: I think it's hard for people to grapple with, and this is why you should read Mira Sorvino's account of this decision. You know, when this started, almost a year ago, I was talking to women. They didn't have any of this support. And what they did was so hard.
CUOMO: Very brave.
FARROW: Very brave.
CUOMO: And also, you know another point that we keep making, you shouldn't leave it on the victims. You know what I mean? That's not your first line of defense. It's for women to come forward when they have a lot of disadvantages in this particular dynamic.
The men in these situations, the men in power, not the abusers themselves, because obviously, they're a little bit beyond help. But those who know. Those who create these -- these contractual arbitration clauses and who do these settlements, you know, and who do pushbacks against the Ronan Farrows who come with questions.
They have to ask themselves, too. Do they want to be part of this kind of malignant culture? Or they want to make it something better?
FARROW: And look, you said it had to be someone like me. You know, it's not about a change in people like me. You know, there's plenty of reporters who did good work on this and the really powerful work, "The New York Times" and Jodi Kantor did. This is about a change of the women and their willingness to speak. And it's about a change, individuals who aided and abetted some of these meetings, some of these executives and assistants. They felt the climate had changed, the grip of powerful men on this kind of a situation is slipping, and that they could now start to speak. That's the change.
CAMEROTA: It does feel like that's happening.
FARROW: Yes, absolutely.
CAMEROTA: Ronan, thank you. Great to talk to you.
FARROW: Good to be here.
CUOMO: All right. Another big story. New audio released from inside the Mandalay Bay hotel, capturing the Las Vegas massacre as it began to unfold. That's the key phrase. Why? Because this tape is triggering new questions about the timeline of the attack. There is now a lawsuit that goes to this very point of fact. A live report next.