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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES

Trump Makes NFL the Nation's #1 Story; Did Jimmy Kimmel Kill the Health Care Bill?. Aired 11a-12n ET

Aired September 24, 2017 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:10] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is RELIABLE SOURCES, our weekly look at the story behind the story, of how the media really works and how the news gets made.

Right now, exclusive new details about Trump versus the NFL. This was the scene just a little while ago, the Ravens/Jaguars game in London. We see many players and their coaches and the Jaguars team owner all standing and kneeling in solidarity, linking arms together in response to President Trump's criticism of the NFL, specifically of the players who have been protesting the national anthem in order to call attention to oppression, police brutality and injustice.

So, this was the scene in London. We are expecting more of this in the coming hours at football games all across the United States. It's the day's big story and we have exclusive new information about how the NFL's responding.

Right now, Donte Stallworth, Christine Brennan and Coy Wire are all standing by to react with us.

But, first, let's peel back the curtain about the conversations that we've had in this newsroom this weekend. Is President Trump trying to distract from his own failures by attacking the NFL? And if so, are journalists just playing into his hands? That's an issue that we all talk about behind the scenes. There are a lot of people think that's what's happening. This distraction question is always with us when it comes to President Trump.

You know, a stray sentence of his rallies or an angry tweet when he's watching FOX. This can trigger hours and hours of news coverage. On the one hand, how can it not?

This is a U.S. president this weekend saying protesters should be fired. He is further sowing division, sometimes on racial lines. So, yes, this is a huge story, even if he is doing it to change the subject.

And think of all the things he might want to change the subjects from: the GOP's health care bill is on life support. The candidate he is backing in Alabama may well lose the race on Tuesday. And, of course, the Russia investigations loom over everything.

What does Trump do? He curses, literally. He curses, and he even brings out his old "Apprentice" catch phrase. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He's fired. He's fired!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: We thought about bleeping when he said that word. Some shows have, some shows haven't. But my feeling is if you object to the language, you should write to the White House, not CNN.

Obviously, Trump is embracing this fight with the NFL, repeatedly tweeting about it all weekend long. He also disinvited NBA champ Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors from their traditional White House, so he's got a fight with the NBA as well.

There is an unmistakable racial element to this story, and that's why I come down to the side of covering this and covering it big, even if it is a distraction, so to speak, because who Trump chooses to criticize tells us a lot. This story is ultimately about patriotism. It's about the right to protest. It's about what it means to be an American.

And the subtext, the awkward subtext, is a question we asked a few weeks ago on this program -- is president Trump a racist? Is he making racist appeals to his supporters? If he's not racist, why do so many Americans believe that he is? And how is that going to affect the rest of his presidency? That right there is a big, big story.

But at the same time, there is a balancing act to do here with Russia and North Korea, and Iran in the news, and Puerto Rico without power, devastated by Hurricane Maria. The challenge for us in these newsrooms is to find time, room and space for all of it.

So, we're going to start with the NFL, then get to other news.

Let's bring in former NFL player Donte Stallworth, Christine Brennan, sports columnist for "USA Today" and a CNN sports analyst, and our own Coy Wire, used to be an NFL player, now, he's our CNN sports correspondent.

Coy, what are you hearing from your sources today about what's expected later today at the NFL games?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brian, first, let me say how significant I believe in his first game since President Trump urged NFL owners to fire or suspend any NFL player who kneeled during the anthem in protest of racial injustice, we see to date the largest number of players kneeling during an anthem in that Jacksonville and Baltimore game that's underway right now in London.

Also of great significance, the owner, Shahid Khan, who donated $1 million to President Trump's inaugural committee locking arms in a show of solidarity with his players, head coaches as well. I have talked with players around the league, and I have one player who tells me that he believes his owner will be down on the sidelines with the team in a show of support for players who are standing up against racial injustice in America, just as we see Shahid Khan doing there for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

[11:05:11] One general manager told me, perhaps jokingly, perhaps not, he would not be surprised if we see an entire team kneeling during the national anthem today. Also interestingly, while we expect to see more players than ever kneeling during the anthem today, one team told me and an NFL source says, that his team is not going to change anything because they feel that while President Trump's words were meant to be divisive, they want to unite and they do not want to let anyone's words deter what they have been doing for this season.

STELTER: On the U-word, unity, let me break a little bit of news here from the NFL. Tonight, the network is going to broadcast an ad I think we can put on the screen. This is a one-minute ad that was produced for the Super Bowl. It is all about unity.

This is an ad that, you know, was not going to be shown again, but the NFL has decided to dust it off and air it during Sunday night football because they want to make a statement, essentially a statement in response to President Trump, without bringing up his name, without sowing further division. They want to have a message about unity, about the power of football that brings people together.

Christine, what do you make of the NFL's strategy here trying to tiptoe along a very complicated tight rope?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYS: Brian, if there's one group of people in this country that might have more of a mega phone than Donald Trump, it's probably the NFL. It's certainly at least on every Sunday, as the line from the movie "Concussion", they own a day of the week. And it would be amazing.

But is it possible that the NFL, and Roger Goodell, has said, listen, we're going to shoulder this, we're going to take this on and try to move forward when you've got a president who's being so divisive, and his venom with that speech, extraordinary, and bringing it all right not own into our culture and politics but now into sports, that intersects that we talked about before, sports and culture.

STELTER: Yes.

BRENNAN: Well, the NFL seems very comfortable now moving into that intersection, almost as a peacemaker of some sort. At least that's what we're seeing with Roger Goodell's comments yesterday which were very strong. The union as well was very strong and now this.

And I think it's a smart move because the NFL has an incredible power to reach people. And I think that with Trump, another interesting part about this, you know, the kneeling has been going on and the divisive nature of people on both sides of that issue, even though Colin Kaepernick was peaceful about it and giving $1 million to charity while he's been doing it, I'm wondering now if the kneeling is more now about Trump, an anti-Trump kneeling, than it is about those important issues of race that we've been seeing for over a year.

STELTER: Right.

BRENNAN: So, many twists and turns in this story.

STELTER: Celebrities, CEOs, now athletes deciding whether to take a stand against President Trump or not.

So, Donte, is that what the protests are going to be today, kneeling against President Trump?

DONTE STALLWORTH, FORMER NFL WIDE RECEIVER: I know a lot of guys that were initially in support of Colin Kaepernick and some guys like Malcolm Jenkins who's done a lot off the field in the community to meet with members of Congress, I actually was blessed to be able to accompany him and Anquan Boldin once. He never kneels but he holds up a fist. That's another form of a peaceful protest.

So, I don't -- I think the fact that a number of guys were immediately responsive to what the president said in Alabama on Friday night, that shows you that players weren't going to back down. But when you look at the whole reason why this thing started from the very beginning is to bring forth a lot of attention to a situation in police communities -- or communities, policing, that needs to be addressed.

So, my biggest fear is that this becomes a shouting contest between Donald Trump and the NFL. I think we should give back to -- I applaud the players that are kneeling for whatever their purpose is. It's your first right amendment, whether I agree with it or not, it doesn't matter. But I think that those players, they obviously do have a right, but now they have been galvanized, they've been inspired to do more now that they feel that the president of the United States is trying to bully them into silence.

STELTER: Donte, do you feel that his attack against the NFL is racist?

STALLWORTH: You know what, I don't like --

STELTER: It's really hard, but I hear you sighing. It is really a difficult issue.

STALLWORTH: Yes, I don't sling that word around lightly. But I do think that when you look at the president's own actions, not what we think of white supremacy or not what we think of racism, but you look at his own actions, his lack of condemnation to white supremacists in Charlottesville and Nazis marching, screaming Jews will not replace us.

But also the fact that the FBI and DHS came out with a joint intelligence briefing in May that specifically warned against white supremacists and extremists causing a lot of violence in this country and yet, the Trump administration decided to defund some of those groups that are countering white supremacists extremists.

[11:10:12] So, his own actions show who he is and what he is. So, I don't need to say whether he's a white supremacist or a racist, because his own actions speak for themselves.

STELTER: Let me ask the panel two quick media questions.

One on the television coverage today, Coy, the broadcast networks don't normally show the national anthem live, do they? But today, we hear CBS and Fox will be showing these protests live?

WIRE: And we saw from the London game, Brian, that they showed the entire anthem. And you're right.

STELTER: Yes.

WIRE: You don't normally see that highlighted but I think it's hard (ph) to ignore this situation now --

STELTER: It's a news story now. Yes.

WIRE: Absolutely.

STELTER: And, Christine, what about coverage of this more broadly? Do you find as a columnist that Trump is changing the way sports writers cover sports?

BRENNAN: Oh, absolutely. We talked about Jemele Hill last week and that whole issue. Well, if there was ever any doubt that politics and sports are mixing, Brian, and that Trump and sports are mixing, well, Trump ended that, of course, in Alabama.

And he's just presented the most amazing journalistic platter to sports journalists. I've said before that there are places where you can go on these issues, whether it'd be the U.S. Women's Open Golf that Donald Trump hosted, a man who brags about sexually assaulting women hosting the crown jewel of women's golf. That was in July. Obviously, some of the concern of protests and Donald Trump's dreadful reaction to Charlottesville.

Those are things I have written and said, I would never have said those kinds of things or talked about those issues with other presidents, not because it's political but just because of the news value. And now this? Oh, I think we have ensured that this is the story of the football season.

I have no idea the twists and turns. Of course, none of us do. But there is no doubt that this is one of the biggest sports stories and cultural stories we've seen in some years. And again, Donald Trump just handed it over to us and as journalist, we need to do our job and move forward with it from here.

STELTER: And when he says NFL ratings have been down massively, maybe they -- first of all, that's not true. The ratings are down modestly. And if anything, there's going to be more interest in the games today. Coy, do you have a reason to believe that the ratings would actually increase as a result of all this interest?

WIRE: Well, Brian, as a former NFL player, I can say I don't normally -- believe it or not -- tune in to NFL games that often. You know, I get away from them when I can. But I'll watch today. I want to see who, how many were going to stand up and show support for their fellow players who are standing up against racial and social injustice.

Look, our country has a rich history of athletes activism. I think these are significant times. You can go back to Tommy Smith, John Carlos, Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul- Jabbar. I know, Donte, you have been in the room with some of the men who I just mentioned.

And, you know, this feels like that, a momentous time in our country where athletes are using their voice, using their platform to try to create positive change where they think they can.

STELTER: And CNN will have coverage all afternoon, all evening long.

Christine, Donte, Coy, thank you all for being here.

STALLWORTH: Thank you.

BRENNAN: Thanks very much.

STELTER: Later on this hour, did Jimmy Kimmel help kill the health care bill? We'll talk to late night expert Bill Carter about that.

Plus, an exclusive interview with Senator Mark Warner, talking about the scrutiny around Facebook and the ads linked to Russia that appeared on the site. He's calling for legislation. We'll get into that.

Plus, the ongoing Russian investigations not just involving Facebook but many other facets. Carl Bernstein is here, right, after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:18:00] STELTER: Hey. Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.

When a late night comedian suddenly is talking about health care, people pay attention, including lawmakers. That's one of the lessons from this week. You will remember when Senator Bill Cassidy, the co- sponsor of the Graham/Cassidy bill to repeal and replace Obamacare said here on CNN that any new health care legislation should pass the "Jimmy Kimmel" test.

Well, when Kimmel slammed Cassidy's bill as failing that test, Kimmel came under fire himself for being too critical and for not being qualified to speak on the matter at all.

Kimmel responded like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY KIMMEL, LATE NIGHT TV HOST: I see these comments from these angry people o who say what qualified you to talk about this stuff. You are a comedian, go back to being not funny. I'm not qualified to talk about this. But I think people forget Bill

Cassidy named this test after me. Am I supposed to just be quiet about that?

Listen, health care is complicated. It's boring. I don't want to talk about it. The details are confusing and that's what these guys are relying on. They're counting on you to be so overwhelmed with all the information, you just trust them to take care of you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: All right. So, that's Jimmy Kimmel. He was talking about this all week long on his late night show. This was deeply personal for him because of the health emergency that his newborn son recently experienced.

So, what about the Kimmel effect? Did he help kill the health care bill?

Let's get into it with Bill Carter, late night expert, author of two books about the late night world, also now a CNN media analyst.

And in Washington, Sarah Kliff. She's a senior policy correspondent at "Vox".

So, Sarah, can you tell us first, what is the status of this Graham/Cassidy health care bill?

SARAH KLIFF, SENIOR POLICY CORRESPONDENT, VOX: I think it is very much on life support right now. We had Senator McCain come out against it late on Friday. So, that is -- that means there are two "no" votes. Senator McCain and Senator Rand Paul who have been against it for some time. The Republicans can only afford to lose two votes.

We've seen interviews on the Sunday shows, so far, where Senator Collins and Senator Murkowski are looking pretty negative. So, it feels like a long shot, but then again, a deadline could be quite motivating.

[11:20:01] So, I would -- I would not rule it out until we get past that September 30th deadline.

STELTER: And Collins is coming up on "STATE OF THE UNION" one hour from now. People can catch that interview.

Bill, I heard a lot of talk this week about the idea that Jimmy Kimmel is responsible for the defeat of this legislation or the pending defeat. How true is that from your perspective?

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Well, I wouldn't say he's responsible. I think he is a big contributor because he put a human face on it. I mean, this is a comp -- as he said, a very complicated thing.

What's interesting, all these organizations come out against it, and I mean all of them. Every medical organization imaginable came out against it.

STELTER: Right.

CARTER: That didn't seem to be getting any traction until Kimmel started underscoring that. And he's talking about his own kid. Everyone watching can think, gee, what about my kid? That hits home in a way that it doesn't hit home in a way people start about, you know, premium costs and things like that.

So, I think his personal impact is the big factor.

STELTER: What does it say about our society that an entertainer can have so much impact?

CARTER: Well, he has -- he has a voice. I mean, think about this. There were hurricanes going on. All kinds of other news going on and regular media was not covering this the way they would have if it had been the sole story.

So, you another -- you have a guy with a big national audience talking about it. That's very significant. And I think the other media was sort of catching on. When they did it, they started following him. That brought the story forward I think.

STELTER: Was there any blowback you sense from inside ABC or its parent company, Disney? I mean, Bob Iger, one of the most powerful executives in the media, he's employing Jimmy Kimmel to make jokes?

CARTER: No, I don't think there was any blowback at all.

STELTER: No?

CARTER: Again, everybody who knows Jimmy knows he's sincere. This isn't something he's doing for ratings or attention -- or even for his show because it's not funny. It isn't comedy, really.

STELTER: That's my point. ABC doesn't call up and some point and say, Jimmy, lay off on the health care debate?

CARTER: To say to a guy whose kid has been through this, I couldn't conceive of that. I really couldn't. By the way, I don't think Iger disagrees with him.

STELTER: Isn't that part of the story here, that liberal Hollywood is weighing in?

CARTER: He's very much in this camp, for sure.

STELTER: Let's look at fact checks of this health care bill. It's an interesting graphic we can put up from PolitiFact, kind of describing some of the claims that Jimmy Kimmel was making about the bill. Sarah, is it true that Jimmy Kimmel was sort of more accurate when it came to describing this bill than actually some of the GOP senators? Is that a fair assessment?

KLIFF: Yes, I think he really has been. You know, I've been covering this pretty closely. I've done multiple interviews with Senator Cassidy. And I think when you look at a lot of key claims on coverage, for example, it is certainly true, PolitiFact couldn't verify that 30 million people would lose coverage but it's nearly certain some number of people lose coverage. That's the opposite of what Senator Cassidy has said here on CNN where he's claimed that people would actually gain coverage. There's very little analysis to support that claim.

And on pre-existing conditions, which I think is another key flash point here. I think Kimmel is more accurate. He's more in line with the experts.

You know, he's -- right, he's not a health policy expert, right, but those of us who spend a lot of time looking at this, I think we have looked at this bill and we don't think that people with pre-existing conditions would be protected as well as they are now. They could face higher premiums. They could face fewer benefits if Graham/Cassidy became law.

So, you know, I've been covering health care for about a decade and I found that Kimmel has generally gotten his facts right on this.

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: There has been reporting and confirmed by a Kimmel spokesman that Chuck Schumer and a lot of other opponents of the bill were in touch with Kimmel in his office. So, I wonder if that had something to do with it, Bill.

KLIFF: Yes, I think he certainly has the Democrats cheering for him. I think Bill made a good point that it was a little hard for this issue to get traction last week especially with all the hurricane coverage. You know, I know from my --

STELTER: What is that like for you as a health care reporter? Were you kind of screaming saying, look at what's going on here?

KLIFF: I was. And, you know, I've had a lot of radio or television hits and at the very last minute, you know, I'd be in makeup, but they'd say, sorry, we're doing hurricane coverage today. But it didn't, it hasn't gotten as much traction as the last few portions, and I think that's really, you know, emboldened Republicans, that they can move forward with it a little bit easier. But I think bill is right, that Kimmel really increased the coverage. He has a massive platform, you know, much bigger than most of us health policy reporters. So, he really brought the national focus to it.

STELTER: And it was a negative message. There wasn't really a positive message being shared by anybody with his stature.

Bill, stick around. Sarah, thank your for being here.

A quick break. When we come back, a conversation about Facebook and how it says it plans to turn over thousands ever ads that were secretly bought by Russian accounts trying to sway the election. Is disclosure enough? Senator Mark Warner is standing by. He joins me exclusively for an

interview about this, right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:29:09] STELTER: Anonymous Facebook accounts linked to Russia spread propaganda through Facebook and other social networking sites targeting American voters before Election Day. Those ads were in some cases pro-Trump and anti-Clinton.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is starting to come to terms with what happened. He has provided information to special counsel Robert Mueller and he is about to hand over data and ad and information to Congress as well.

Here is some of what Zuckerberg said in a Facebook live interview earlier this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: When someone buys political ads on TV or other media, they are required by law to disclose who paid for them. So, we're going to bring Facebook to an even higher standard of transparency.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: It's interesting, right? No more anonymity, he says. Zuckerberg says Facebook will make sure you can see who's buying political ads. If a campaign is targeting your mom on Facebook but not you, you'll still be able to see the ads and find out how people are being influenced.

But Senator Mark Warner, the lead Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, wants to make sure this becomes law, not just voluntary by Facebook but enforceable law. Warner and fellow Democrat Amy Klobuchar prepared a legislation that would force Facebook and Twitter and others to keep public records of political ads.

I spoke with Warner earlier in his first-depth about the effort.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STELTER: Senator, thank you so much for joining me.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: Facebook says it's going to go ahead and voluntarily implement this kind of disclosure. That's what Mark Zuckerberg announced a few days ago. Is that enough? Voluntary disclosure by Facebook?

WARNER: Well, listen, I'm glad that Facebook has finally stepped forward. Ten months ago I started raising this issue. Ten months ago Facebook was saying, hey, that's crazy, there was no Russian interference, there was no Russian involvement.

Well, we've seen now there was dramatic Russian involvement, both in terms of paid advertising, as well as these so-called fake accounts and we still don't know the total number of fake accounts.

I don't think we know the full extent of the Russian advertising. I'm glad that Facebook has finally stepped forward. I wish they would have stepped forward much earlier. We will be -- you know, the proof of how thorough Facebook will be is -- will be in the coming weeks. We have not received any of their information yet. They will disclose that to us next week.

We want to try to find a way then to make some of the those ads and other information public because at the end of the day this is really about the public's need to know, both the source of the content that's coming at them from a political context and to be assured that a series of individuals are liking a certain story or liking a certain account, that those individuals are actually who they represent themselves to be, not Russian agents, for example.

STELTER: But forgive me for being skeptical here. If I set up a Facebook page called "Make America Great Again" and I never mention Donald Trump in that group, is Facebook going to call that political or not? There are a lot of questions about how to even define political ads.

WARNER: Brian, you are exactly right. We recognize the absolute need to protect individuals' privacy. That has got to be one of our tenets. But there is also this requirement, I believe, around disclosure so that if you're for or against a candidate or for or against the cause, you ought to be able to see the content that's being launched against you, particularly if it comes from a foreign source.

STELTER: Also I'm wondering, is disclosure enough? I mean, mere disclosure does not seem to be enough to deter bad actors. Have you thought about going further beyond regulation to restrictions against political advertising on social networking sites?

WARNER: Listen, social media is transformative. Over half of America looks at their Facebook account every day. They use it on a regular basis. I would like to start with a light touch. I'd like to start and make again this iterative. We probably won't get it 100 percent right at first.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STELTER: So Warner wants co-sponsors for this legislation. That's what he's seeking. But what about the bigger issue? The ongoing investigations into the connections between Russia and the Trump campaign? I asked Warner if he has any evidence of coordination.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WARNER: Listen, I'm not going to draw any final conclusions until we hear from all the witnesses, until we hear all the stories. It is a problem though, Brian, and I share, I know, yours and some of the viewers' frustration. It seems like every week there is a new thread to follow or a new revelation coming out. I wish those folks in the administration would be a little more forthcoming, so that, you know, if they say there's nothing there, if there's nothing there, they ought to be as forthcoming as possible and we can move past this.

But boy, oh, boy, there seems to be an awful lot of unusual, to say the least, connections between people affiliated with Mr. Trump and Russians, and clearly the Russians were trying to influence the campaign and, as we know, had information that was discrediting to Hillary Clinton.

STELTER: When President Trump says this is a hoax, over and over again, he said it every single month since March. What does that do to your investigation?

WARNER: Well, President Trump's refusal to acknowledge what happened, he's basically rebutting the conclusions of all of his intelligence agencies, he's rebutting the presumptions and conclusions of all the top officials that he appointed. And he does not makes us --

STELTER: Is there some injustice, Senator, by saying this every time?

WARNER: Well, I'll leave that to Bob Mueller and his investigation. What I do know he is doing is he's not making our country safer because we don't have any one kind of whole of government out of the White House leading the charge for make sure that, you know, our state election systems are fully protected, that how we make sure that we have tighter cyber security around our political parties. Someone actually from the White House should have been leading this effort to work with these social media companies to, in effect, be more transparent.

[11:35:10] The fact that the president hasn't assigned anybody to take on this task and his continual refusal to acknowledge what is accepted as fact by all the intelligence community, I frankly think does our country a great disservice.

STELTER: And what do you believe the media's role should be here? We've seen coverage of this on a daily basis but I just said, there are so many threads. It can be overwhelming.

WARNER: Well, there is a little bit of people get numb to this a bit because there's -- it's hard to follow all these names and all these connections. And you've got Mr. Manafort, we've got the meetings where the Russians were trying to meet with Mr. Trump Junior. You've got all of these combinations with General Flynn.

You know, the fact that the number of people who have had either be fired or recuse themselves because of connections with Russia and this administration is, again, unprecedented. I think your job, though, is to keep on us, press us, particularly when we've got these kind of new issues about how we bring transparency to social media.

You know, we've got to -- frankly, we've got to work through this. There is no previous playbook on how we get this right, how, as you mentioned earlier, you know, you've got a private company. Do you really want that private company doing all of the screening? That's an appropriate question.

But on the other hand, if they have access to all of the information, the truth is, Facebook and Google and some of these social media companies probably know more about you and me than the United States government knows about you and me. They have this trove of data and in many ways we are going to have to work on them, because no one else has the same kind of access to information that they have.

STELTER: Senator, thank you so much for being here.

WARNER: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STELTER: You can read my full story on this and all of our coverage on ReliableSources.com.

Up next here, we're talking more about the Russia probes. Hear Carl Bernstein's blunt assessment right after this short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:40:05] STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES where every day we're trying to keep track of the drip, drip, drip of the Russia investigations. It was reported this week that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is asking the White House to provide documents related to Trump actions as president, not just pre-campaign and pre-Election Day, but issues recently. That request includes, quote, "13 areas in which investigators are seeking information, including statements about former FBI director James Comey made in the presence of Russian officials, also the firing of Michael Flynn, and the meeting at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr. as you recall, he sought to get damaging information about Hillary Clinton from Russian individuals.

There is a lot to talk about here, a lot to unpack, including stories about Paul Manafort this week as well. So let's bring in Carl Bernstein. Carl's always the person I want to hear from when we're talking about these investigations. Of course one half of the famed Woodward and Bernstein duo, now a CNN political analyst.

Carl, let's get right to what this week's stories mean? What do all of these various threads add up to in your mind?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Two things. First, that Robert Mueller -- the special counsel, is looking at the conduct of President Donald Trump, members of his family, especially Jared Kushner, also his closest campaign aides in terms of their dealings with Russia, ethno-Russians during the campaign before, and in business.

But there is a much larger context that now informs the whole investigation and that is the conclusion in the American intelligence community under Donald Trump, not under Obama, that now is certain that the Russians were very, very effective in undermining the campaign of Hillary Clinton in specifically helping Donald Trump. And we keep hearing the word collusion, which is not a legal term.

What Mueller is focused on is something quite different than the simple idea of collusion. It's whether or not Donald Trump and those in his campaign and perhaps his family and business associates, knew that the Russians were trying to help his campaign. And if they knew that, why didn't they blow the whistle on the Russians? Did they try to cover it up? Are they continuing to try and cover up that knowledge?

That's the real question, not this word "collusion" which Trump and the White House keep trying to focus on and say, no, no, we didn't collude. Did they know the Russians were trying to help Donald Trump? That's the big question, among others, including the possible obstruction of justice that the investigators are looking at.

STELTER: And you're getting this from reading all these stories and piecing it together or from sources directly involved?

BERNSTEIN: Both. Let me tell you something about sources here that I think readers and viewers of these accounts that are so prevalent in the last few months need to understand.

STELTER: Yes.

BERNSTEIN: There are more than 21 lawyers involved in this case representing people in the White House, around Donald Trump, around his campaign, around his family. And they have had dealings with Mueller. And it's very possible from exhaustively talking to these lawyers, and people in the White House, and in the intelligence community, to get a much clearer picture such as I've just given of what Mueller is looking at.

He has a sprawling investigation going in the obstruction of justice, possibly by the president, involving the firing of Comey, in to whether or not Trump, his family or aides knew anything about the Russians trying to help their campaign. If so, did they try to cover that up?

This gives a little more clarity. And to build on what Mark Warner just said -- and I think Warner could tell us even more about this -- the Russians were deadly effective in how they bought this time from Facebook and others. One example that I can give, and I believe Mr. Warner knows about it, certainly others on the Hill know about it, is that the Russians bought ads to keep front and center in Wisconsin and other states the issue of Black Lives Matter, understanding that if they kept going ahead and pushing this idea, this controversial notion of Black Lives Matter, being crucial to the presidential election, it would turn out certain white voters in opposition to Hillary Clinton and in favor of Donald Trump.

So there's this sprawling canvas in front of us, and that is incidentally one reason why Trump is so assertive in his tweets --

STELTER: Calling it a hoax, you mean?

BERNSTEIN: That this is a hoax. STELTER: Calling it a hoax?

(CROSSTALK)

BERNSTEIN: But the Russians didn't -- yes. Calling the investigation a hoax.

STELTER: I think he's -- I think he's inoculating his fans against all the stories that you and others are reporting. He's telling his fans don't believe a word of it.

[11:45:13] BERNSTEIN: He's trying to make the conduct of the press the issue. He said that the enemy of the people was the press. Even more so it would appear than ISIS, he believes, were the enemy, which of course is absurd. Nixon in Watergate tried to make the conduct of the press the issue but not to the extent that Donald Trump has. But the reason is these investigations are closing in on him, his family and his aides.

And if indeed there's nothing there and it's a hoax, then why has Donald Trump tried to undermine, demean and obstruct, not necessarily in terms of legal obstruction of justice, these investigations for six months at every turn? He's done everything he can, as have those around him, to keep these investigations from succeeding.

STELTER: Carl Bernstein, thank you so much. We'll talk again soon.

Before we go to break here, one note about attacks against press freedom. Much more severe, much more severe than in the United States. This is in Turkey, an ongoing assault against journalists there.

You really have to hear this from the Turkish president. He recently tried to convince the audience at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum that many of the estimated 150 journalists jailed in his country are actually terrorists.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Most of those you say are in prison aren't journalists. Most of them are terrorists. Most of them have had their names involved in many bombing incidents. Some of them have been involved in robberies. There are even some who've been caught robbing ATMs.

Saying I'm a journalist doesn't make you a journalist. Most of them are like that. But, unfortunately, when they say I'm a journalist, those on the outside count them as journalists.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Sickening words from Erdogan. His explanation is insulting and we have to keep saying so over and over again.

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[11:51:28] STELTER: Hey, welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer had a fun start to his week. He had a cameo at the Emmy Awards on Sunday night.

Today was a whole lot of criticism and (INAUDIBLE) of the Emmys for having him there. Later in the week, he gave some interviews saying he regretted berating reporters over the inauguration crowd size and he also said he's never intentionally lied to the American people.

Back with me here at the desk is CNN media analyst Bill Carter.

Talking through some of this week's stories. First the Spicer story. There was reporting that none of the big television networks, CNN, FOX, ABC, CBS, NBC, are willing to hire Spicer as a talking head.

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Yes. Well --

STELTER: Why is that?

CARTER: He has no credibility. Frankly what you really have to have at least is credibility and for him to say he never intentionally lied flies in the face of so many things that he said. I get the impression that Sean is a guy who wonders -- he doesn't know how to swim, but every pond he wanders by he wanders into, and then he gets over his head and he came --

STELTER: That's harsh, Bill.

CARTER: But I mean it's true. He goes on TV and he tried to rebuild his image. Then a few days later, he tells a reporter friend of his, you know, you better not contact me or I'll stick a lawyer on you. I mean, he --

STELTER: Then he regretted that incident.

CARTER: And then he regrets that incident. I just don't think he has the kind of appeal that even conservatives want to hear up on FOX.

STELTER: Two stories that I may have left. First, Oprah tonight. She debuts on "60 Minutes," she's trying to unite the country with her segments.

CARTER: Yes.

STELTER: What's that about?

CARTER: Well, I think Oprah, you know, she's a fantastic individual figure and has a great following and it's a great forum for her. And she still wants to have a forum and to have a say with -- you know, in the public discourse because she's not really -- doesn't have the daily show that she used to have with that incredible audience but "60 Minutes" has an incredible audience. And, you know, Oprah will try to be unifying and bring people up.

The interesting thing, Brian, is that Megyn Kelly is starting, too, on Monday. STELTER: Tomorrow morning on NBC.

CARTER: And what I think about Megyn is that her show sounds like she's trying to be Oprah. Because it's with an audience and an individual. The format is like a throwback, instead of doing something more contemporary. It sounds like a throwback, live audience, solo host. And in her ads, her promotions, she talks about unifying the nation. And I'm like, I can't believe that people would look to Megyn Kelly for that. I just don't think --

STELTER: They're not very bullish about her new show.

CARTER: Well, I think she's very talented. I think she's -- super confident on the air. She's very glamorous and appealing but I don't think that is morning television. She has to connect with women like she's their best friend. That's what happens in morning television. And maybe she can do it but I think it's -- the format will make it harder for her. I think it'd be much easier if she had a co-host. And so much she could play off. But the model she should have is Diane Sawyer. That's the kind of person who was glamorous and sort of seen detached but did work in morning.

STELTER: Bill, great to see you.

CARTER: Great to see you.

STELTER: Thanks for coming by today.

CARTER: OK.

STELTER: Before we go, three examples of journalism making a difference this week, arguably the biggest story of the whole week was President Trump's U.N. General Assembly speech where he called Kim Jong-un Rocket Man and said the U.S. would totally destroy North Korea is provoked.

Now the "L.A. Times" revealed a backstory. This is really important. Good sources say that some U.S. officials wanted Trump not to attack North Korea's leader personally. But Trump did it anyway.

Next a political investigation exposing HHS Secretary Tom Price's proclivity for flying on private jets using taxpayer funds. First he said to reporters that he's at five flights last week. Then the reporters kept digging and digging and they found may more flights. At 24 private flights since May.

Now the department's inspector general is reviewing the matter and Price says he'll stop flying private until the review is over.

[11:55:04] And finally a case of reporters literally being fed a story. One reporter in particular, "New York Times'" Ken Vogel. He was at lunch with a source in D.C. when he spotted two of Trump's lawyers, Ty Cobb and John Dowd, at the next table over.

Now they were in public, sitting outdoors, so Vogel went ahead and listened in on the conversation. The two men were loudly discussing the legal team's problems. Now what he hears -- he used what he heard and did more reporting.

But here's what stood out to me, at one point Cobb said the White House Counsel Don McGahn has a couple of key documents locked in a safe. So that's the next challenge for reporters, finding out exactly what's in those documents, and I suppose the work never ends.

That's all the time for this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. We'll see you online at ReliableSources.com and right back here next week.

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