tv David Farenthold Discusses Coverage of the Donald J. Trump Foundation CSPAN March 5, 2017 1:47am-2:53am EST
video library. >> c-span's "washington journal," live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up sunday morning, robert bixby and stan colander will discuss president trump's 2018 budget outline released last week, including the boost in military spending, domestic spending cuts, and tax and entitlement proposals. then m.i.t. technology review editor in chief jason ponton on the annual list of 10 breakthrough technologies and their respective impacts. be sure to watch "washington journal," live at 7:00 a.m. eastern sunday morning. join the discussion. >> next, a conversation with david farenthold about his
experience covering the 2016 presidential campaign and the first days of the trump presidency. he is interviewed by radio talkshow host bill press. this is just over an hour. >> everybody. [applause] >> so good to see you tonight, thank you so much for coming for an exciting evening. you know how it works. we will be in conversation for a half-hour and then we will open it up for the opportunity to question a reporter rather than having your reporter question you. oftenasked the question in my work as a journalist, is there anything good we can say that has come out of the first five weeks of the trump administration? [laughter] my answer is yes, believe it or not. there is something good. i believe we can thank donald trump for the best investigative
journalism we have seen since watergate. [applause] carl burstein and daniel woodward, good friends of ours, it's mainly "the new york times" and our own "washington post." no one washington post," is better than our guest. if you think about some of the big stories about the trump campaign, the trump transition, the fact that there was a big fundraiser for veterans that allegedly raised $6 million that adn't, if you think about foundation that has a certification to operate in new york state and was shut down by the ag, if you think about all those stories, about the huge sums this philanthropist had given to charities throughout his career, if you think about
donald trump spent a lot of foundation money on himself, buying big paintings of himself, to hang in his own properties. if you think about a certain tape, bragging about certain activities, all of those scoops were the report of david farenthold. [applause] and as ronald reagan would say, you ain't seen nothing yet. [laughter] so, david, congratulations. good to have you here. usually, we celebrate pulitzer prize winners after they get the award. i think tonight we are celebrating in advance of the well-deserved colette surprise. [applause] and his colleagues at "the post." back -- let mego
ask you the question, i'm sure, that sean spicer would ask if you were here. [laughter] are you just out to get donald trump? is that your motivation? >> well, no. i started covering trump's charitable giving by accident. i was in iowa, following him around at this big rally. i saw him stop the rally and say local veterans groups, come up on stage. i will give you a big check. it had "donald j. trump foundation" on the front. he gave them a $100,000 check, and then he goes back to his rally. it raised a couple questions, none of them were "can i bury donald trump?" was it legal? you are supposed to help a political campaign with charity. and that was money that had come out of the $6 million he raised for veterans. the question was where is the rest? we set out to prove trump right,
that he had raised $6 million and was going to give it away to veterans. that wa s the impetus going in, not let's get him. it sort of spiraled from their. but in every case, we were trying to find evidence he was telling the truth and often not finding it. >> did you ever find evidence that he was telling the truth? when you looked into this one fundraiser, right, how close to $6 million to become, and how much did he pump in? >> so i set out thinking this would be a two or three days story. you call the trump campaign, asked them where they gave the $6 billion. anyone no onway would screw our veterans in the middle of a campaign. it didn't happen in a day, a week, or month. four weeks later after the promise, at the end of may,
finally -- i was trying to figure out one piece of it. trump said he raised 5 million dollars from other people and had given $1 million out of his own pocket. i couldn't figure out if he had given that million, or if anyone had gotten it. corey lewandowski, now a washington lobbyist, then trump campaign manager, called me and said, "mr. trump has given away the million dollars to veterans. i can't tell you who gave it or in what amount, all secret, but he gave the money away." i didn't want to take him at his word, obviously. this is a big promise. we want evidence that you follow through. i was looking for not just $6 million -- can i find some of it? you know the money might be out there. i did it by searching on twitter. twitter queries, to big veterans organizations, including his hand also he would see it when he searched for his own name,
because you know he searches for his own name, and other groups would pick it up and spread it around. after a day of that, we learned that trump had not given $1 million away. it was false, ally. it was still in his pocket. only after i searched for it publicly, then he gave the $1 million that night, in one fell swoop, to a veterans group that he knew. he called me to tell you that. >> he called you? >> the last i talked to him actually. [laughter] he called me at work to say he had done it, and i said, why did it take you for months? -- four months? he said "i had to that the group." -- to vet the group." they had given him a lifetime achievement award a year earlier at the waldorf-astoria. i sent, you just had it -- i said, you just had a big yellow
with these people. he said, that's true. [laughter] i said, would you never have given this money away if i hadn't asked it? he said, you are a really nasty guy, you should be ashamed of yourself. that's where we left off. >> david farenthold, nasty guy, sad. [laughter] one and onlyour conversation. >> i had talked to him in the past. 2012,e endorsed romney in we were all trying to get away from him because he wouldn't tell us about the marble in the lobby. -- first time you meet him five minutes later, we have five stars! all marble! ne. right, fiv i talked to him by phone for other stories earlier on. >> how did it go from this
veterans event, which he held en lieu of going to the debate -- your story about that missing $1 .illion there was a lot of money that he hadn't distributed. he held this press conference at trump tower, he lashed out at the media, and that was when he described giving it away. he gave it away so hatefully that one of the groups he gave money to, if you google them, they were a scam. they were the foundation for american veterans, very generic. he gave all this money away. when all he did was he was .ulfilling a promise
around the time i saw marty baron after one debate we both worked on, at the elevators going down to leave, he said you should look beyond the veteran thing. you should look at the trump foundation, his charity, and look at his promises to charity over the year. he's willing to screw over veterans, or try to screw over veterans, what has he been doing when no one was looking? all these years, he was just a celebrity and no one was following up. >> how many organizations did you try to track down? >> 450. hadp, over the years, hemised a number of times -- was always saying he was so rich, he couldn't even use more money. hand, he washer always asking you for your money
to buy stakes or books or whatever. to square that contradiction he would say i will give it to charity. university,, trump he rented out to gaddafi, all to charity. we were trying to figure out, did he actually give that money to charity? that's what those 450 calls are for. charity thatem the was most likely to have the money and called to see if they got a personal check. >> and? 2015, ien 2009 and could find one gift out of his own pocket for less than $10,000. i'm not even sure it's real. it may be bad bookkeeping. but according to this one group he got less than $10,000. >> how much total money that they brought in? >> the trump foundation? the trump foundation is an interesting case -- almost
.verybody else he stopped giving money to his own foundation, he gave no money to his own foundation, he gave it away to people who thought they were getting his money. he didn't even give his own money to his own foundation. >> one of the first rules of politics is opm. if you are running for office you always spend other people's money. but usually a foundation, you are expecting to put it -- they get money for other people but you put some of your own -- >> one interesting thing about this, most people who are wealthy spend money to save time. trump would often be the other way around. he would go through a huge amount of hassle to spend
someone else's money. the palm beach police foundation, 200 $75,000 every year to rent out mar-a-lago for one night. money,s to give them but he doesn't want to give his own money. he calls up his foundation, and ask the friend's widow, i am gathering money for the palm beach police foundation. when you like to add to the effort? she says sure. he says don't send it straight to the police, give it to me and i will give it to them. they give him $200,000 which he then takes and gives to the palm beach police foundation without adding anything to his own. hen he gets a giant crystal palm tree, the whole gala in his honor for his generosity. that's the kind of thing he was doing to make sure he seemed to generous without being generous. >> this is what he calls "the
art of the deal." >> it's a lot of work. if you're a billionaire, why not just spend the money? >> that your next question for donald trump. so, the videotape. how did you come onto that? how did you discover that? were not expecting it. it was not something we knew existed before it showed up. there have been rumors of a tape from "the apprentice," with supposedly some sort of lowlight reel, in which his bad behavior was captured. we searched for it, but never found it. this tape we didn't know existed until we had it. we got an 11:00 in the morning on friday, a five-minute video originally . in the beginning, you see the bus and hear him and billy bush but you don't see them. then after two minutes of talking, they get off, meet the
actress who has come to be their tour guide. the next two minutes is very boring. trump was appearing on a cameo on "days of our lives" that day. we see it, and you can hear the audio, all the bad stuff happens but you can't see their mouths moving. the question was, ok, the video team says to me, we can take this video, we need to subtitle it, cut it down to the interesting part, and talk to our lawyers before we can publish it. that's my timeline. my story is ready by 3:30. -- it wasn't call that hard because it was just a transcript, but i had to call billy bush, i had to call nbc, because it's an nbc show, they might have a claim, when they
say it was a hoax when it wasn't -- the voices were dubbed in. then i called trump, he would say it was a hoax. then to call the actress, billy bush's cohost from "access hollywood," there's a story at the beginning where he says he took a woman furniture shopping. that was nancy o'dell. those are my phone calls. they never got back to me. contrastscinating between a washington publicist .nd a hollywood publicist you can't get a senator on the phone right away, but you can be pretty sure you can get his spokesman on the phone right away. in hollywood, is a grievous loss of face if a publicist speaks to you when you call. you give them a call and they call you back three days later to establish they have better things to do. do you have any idea what is about to happen? they never got it.
nbc didn't call back on the record, but they have a chance to tell us it was they would se us and they didn't. and originally we had just sent the transcript. they said it doesn't sound like mr. trump, can you send us a videotape? after talking to the editors, we sent them a videotape. we told them we will push it back to 4:00. lawyers were fine with publishing without his comment. the closest you'll get to a stop the presses moment in a digital era, no big red button or anything, but the clock strikes 4:00 and one of the editors walks back to her desk and publishes the story, and trump's people call as she's on transit to her desk. is a, we will send this -- they say, we will send a statement. i was surprised.
their strategy had been denied, attack, don't respond. they said, yes, it is him. it is locker room talk 10 years ago, bill clinton has said worse to him. stop.ed at her to we added that in. nbc, we were worried nbc would be best to the story. we learned later that they had been looking at it for a week. we beat them by four minutes. you're not out on a limb is the only person reporting. the hardest part for me of the whole thing, newspapers are still very fussy about bad words. if you want to get one bad word in the newspaper, it takes a huge amount of effort, all these levels of approval. i in the paper.
that, but this story had all the curse words. we never had that challenge. a very important person saying a lot of terrible things, a a lot of it was trying to get the wordss to rulerule out which about --e thinking george carlin would have been proud. [laughter] >> what was their reaction? >> he apologized wholesomely, and said now back to the work of the campaign. but i didn't hear anything from him after that, and i thought maybe we would get to some sort of threat to sue, or sue somebody, and never heard from
him. trump is now the president of the united states. as you were saying earlier, he was certainly using his position to make a lot of money and spend as little money as he could. tell that he is president of the united states, he's not still making money. >> well -- [laughter] >> i wonder what you are working on now, is what i'm getting at. >> i'm trying to cover his conflicts of interest. piece ond condos, a the golf clubs and mar-a-lago, somebody else has merchandising. he has day-to-day control of the businesses, he still owns them. they report to one trust owned him. he can choose not to exercise
control but he is the person who controls them and who benefits. a certain percentage of every dollar spent at every trump property goes in his pocket. >> that's right. and so the question --is that legal? in a general sense, yes. there's no conflict of interest law that would apply to the labor secretary that dropped out, the two person at commerce dropped in. those laws do not apply to the president. he didn't have a responsibility to divest himself. it's not illegal for him to make money. there are couple clauses in the constitution, the foreign emoluments clause that says the president can't accept a gift or emolument -- the exact meaning is debatable, never been tested in court. he can't accept an emolument.
his people can say that doesn't mean if the government of saudi arabia rents out a ballroom or orders a beer that doesn't count,. emoluments should only apply to outright gift and he is not taking gifts. there's also the domestic emoluments clause, that he can't raise his own compensation as president beyond his allotted salary. if he uses the u.s. government's resources to pay himself more, that could also be a violation. because most presidents have tended to stay away from this conflict, there's not really any good case law. that it's not clear who in forces this -- is it the congress or is it the courts? we will find out more about that. >> it has never been tested legally yet. >> no.
i don't know if this is in his defense or not, but the closest to what he is doing is lbj. he owned a bunch of radio stations and television stations in austin while he was president, and theoretically that was a blind trust, but later biographers found he used special lines to call the person who was running the blind trust, to tell him what to do. if trump or to take day-to-day control of his businesses, it wouldn't be the first time it happened. >> there's another benefit of donald trump that we can thank them for. how many ever heard of the word emoluments? [laughter] for new how to spell it? >> gets amazing. amazing.- it's there are a lot of professors who have spent their lives studying it, and this is their day. >> legal challenges -- there was one on day one of the presidency, filed by the citizens for responsibility and ethics in washington.
the group exists, believe it or not. we're not sure how much responsibility and ethics exist in washington, but at any rate. what do you know about them? do they have standing? >> the first problem is going to be an issue of standing. obviously, you can just sue the government if you don't like what they are doing, then we would also the government. y need to prove some sort of unique injury as a result of trump taking emoluments. their argument is that they are a group, they're an ethics watchdog, they are saying it caused more work for them. it's possible it will stand. law professors think the best case might come from -- if you were a rival hotel in government and a gave you business and then took
it away and gave it to trump, you might be able to sue. but a lot of these big hotel chains are foreign-owned, and ones who aren't, you are asking them to take on the president. that's a long shot. >> isn't he in violation of the law every day, from day one, because of the trump international hotel? not because of the money, but because of the lease? >> the lease says an elected official can't -- he is the owner of the lease. i thought that would be resolved more quickly but it has not been. i have heard rumors that he will just change the lease or he is going to put ivanka in and sell it to her -- i have heard lots of theories but nothing concrete has happened. >> i guess a lot of these questions will be answered once
he releases his tax returns. [laughter] -- whited everybody laughs? why did everybody laugh? >> the ethics group has said -- it was a bad thing to say in public, because this is not how lawsuits work -- they said their hope their lawsuit at least gets to the discovery phase to get his tax returns. but i like the idea that he is being used as an avenue for discovery. >> what is your take? we will never see them, will b we? >> he will never surrender them voluntarily, but i can imagine an investigation it produces them. all these russian investigations, i don't know if they will, but you could see them getting to a point where they might request his tax returns. certainly democrats held congress they would be. >> you and your group at "the washington post," there's no doubt, a lot of the rest of us are part of this group.
you are the front line, you realize, of the enemy of the people. what -- how should the media deal with that, when you have the president of the united states standing up, saying you are very, very dishonest? that any of the american people is a loaded phrase. i think the "post" reported that it's a phrase no one should use. had a think the media should respond? by getting angry and striking back, or just ignoring him as another rant? >> two things. is somebody who sees the media as basically his main constituency. so much of his self-worth and his image and his view of what
the presidency should be about is the media and how he is reflected in the media. he says these things because he spends all his time watching television, and he cares so much about how the media portrays him. that phrase, "enemy of the people," you will hear it and think he's somebody who will crush the media and clamp down, and who knows what he will try to do in the future, but he sees the news media as the most immediate way of of validating that he is doing a good job. think how often he watches "morning joe" or fox news or read the newspaper or watches cnn and response to it. so much of his life is lived in the media. the other thing is -- >> and the creation of the media. >> that's one of his best skills, manipulating and getting good publicity. he is very dependent on the media. couldot somebody that
exist personally or politically without the news media. editor had executive a good line about this, bannon calls us the opposition party, trump says we are at war with the media, marti said we are not going to war, we are going to work. we are doing the same job we have always done, figure out what's going on, hold powerful people to account. whatever they think they are doing with us is irrelevant to that. toward them can't be colored by the idea that we are at war with them, because that makes you make decisions -- it slants your judgment, leads you to be more reckless in terms of what you will believe and write about. we're writing about them because they are powerful, and their attitude is irrelevant. >> his words do have an impact. when you look at some of the public polling, the media comes right behind or just slightly ahead of letters to congress in
terms of approval rating. answer,marty has the you don't go to war, you go to work, continue to tell the truth. do you think eventually the public is going to say, all right, they're right and trump is wrong? >> you know, i think we are already seeing people turn -- turning to news media sources in a way they had not been before, sort of seeing us anew, seeing us as a valuable resource that could be taken for granted. i think in general, the media is like congress. theybody hates congress, hate the media but they like the new sources they use. i actually have to say, i never experienced a time in which people are praising us and "the new york times" and the
mainstream media and the way they have now, people saying -- you always have people who unsubscribe, but i have never had people say i subscribe because of you. at "theay, seeing that post," i don't know what that numbers are. they and "the wall street journal," really advertising for subscribers and trying to take advantage. every time trump attacks them and us, every time he attacks anyone of us, there is more interest. today, tom hanks said the white house press corps an espresso machine. [laughter] he's watching, we want a keurig. appreciation for what people have seen.
>> the problem with the espresso machine -- we don't have room for it. [laughter] too cramped. it's such fun to have a chance you ever seen a white house where there were more leaks? it's great, isn't it, but what is it say about this white house? you know they are coming from the white house. >> i'm not giving away any secrets, because i have only seen this as a reader and a colleague. i'm not part of the white house team. but yes, what we are seeing now -- >> it is driving them crazy. >> yes, but it is of their own doing. any other white house, there's a sense of a coherent message. with the president speaks, with his aides speak, in the past you could assume it was factually accurate and that it would
reflect some larger policy. it wouldn't be a one-off thing. if the president said x, that was part of his strategy. he would say x again tomorrow. it was a coherent strategy, it was a predictor of actions to come. that is out the window. the president will talk about anything at anytime and forget about it. 3 million people voted illegally -- it's forgotten. said abouthings he the times, he's going to do something about this, then he doesn't. and there are so many people in the white house speaking on the record who have said things that aren't true or predicted things that didn't come to pass. ,ike flynn, kellyanne conway ,ean spicer recused himself jeff sessions recuses himself.
there's not a sense that your opinions are being listened to and your thoughts are passed through channels. you look at other ways of getting your point across. mike pence learned that michael flynn lied to him because of the "washington post" reporter. they were in the same building and "the washington post" reported it. and today trump said he didn't know sessions had talked to kislyak until "the washington post" reported it. if you're in the white house and you want to get a message to the president, don't tell your boss. tell us. that is how he learns. [laughter] [applause] bill: power of the press. power of the press indeed. i have to use this, since i brought it. i brought my copy of the united states constitution, and the california constitution, by the way, and it is open to the 25th amendment. people did not know about and
emoluments, the emoluments clause, and not many people knew the 25th amendment existed until now. people suddenly read it and say oh, my god. there is a way short of impeachment if someone wanted a change. david: right. bill: does it work, and what do you think the chances are? david: i am not that familiar with it. i know it would involve asserting infirmity, mental or physical infirmity, inability to carry out the job. bill: if the vice president and a majority of the cabinet wrote a letter to congress saying the man is unfit to function, can't function, the vice president becomes the president. and if the president then says, oh no, i'm ok, nothing wrong with me, they are wrong, then if they write the letter again, a two-thirds vote of each house of the congress could depose the
president, in effect. this dates from 1967. never been challenged, never been tested. we were talking about this earlier. it was put in because when howard baker took over as chief of staff for ronald reagan at the very end of his administration, the people who were leaving told baker we are not sure he is all there anymore, and you better have a method where you can get the president out, because ronald reagan was starting to slip. there is the 25th amendment. david: i don't see that happening anytime soon. bill: damn! david: i've been wrong about pretty much everything regarding donald trump's political career but i don't not see that. bill: so when is the book coming out? david: can't stop to write a book. if i wrote the book a week ago it would be outdated now. we are in the era when i go home and have dinner with my kids and
put them to bed and hours later i go to twitter and the world has changed. bill: it is a wild ride. i picked up my phone this morning at 6:12, and the first thing i saw was the tweet from donald j. trump that went out at 6:01 a.m. at the white house. david: one of the interesting things about trump and the tweets that has been striking is there used to be a debate before he took office, like in the interim after the election, and after, how do you cover the tweets? how much energy should you devote to covering the tweet? there was a time when we were thoroughly covering every tweet. it is funny how in five weeks that debate has been resolved to you don't cover the tweets. they are repetitive, often, and there is often -- they are not part of anything bigger.
they are not a great predictor of what the government will do. i think he had this amazing pulpit during the election and right after the election where he could tweet something and we would stop what we were doing -- not america, america is not on twitter. but political journalists would stop what we were doing and write and make tv news about whatever he said. and he blew it and we are back to nobody caring. i have never seen his tweets be less relevant. that was a mistake on his part, a messaging mistake on his part. i tweeted something this morning, stock market or something. nobody talks about it at all. maybe he will regain that, but the power that he had to reach out directly and become everyone's assignment editor and reach americans directly with his words, he has managed to lose it. bill: i think that is a good sign that maybe we in the media, that we have grown up and don't have to report on every one of
-- well, back to the book, here's the deal. when you write the book and finished the book, you are welcome back to the hill center and we will have a great big party. [applause] bill: and i will turn it over to you, if you don't have any questions, i have a lot more. there we go. >> as we begin the questions, speak directly into the mic, and we are happy to welcome c-span today. we are on c-span1. so wait until you receive the mic to ask the question. bill: great, here we go. just the one mic? and you are the man. >> donald trump said he wouldn't accept the salary of president. and i don't know if that was the law or the custom, and he said yes, he would accept it but would give it away to charity. do you know if he is actually doing that?
david: i don't, and that is one of the things -- there is a bunch of promises to give to charity that have been made since the election. they raised a bunch of money for the inaugural committee and said they didn't spend most of it. his campaign accepted a whole lot of illegal campaign donations and said they would give it to charity. he said he would give his 200-something-thousand dollars salary to charity. part of my job to figure out if those things came true but i haven't done it yet, but i'm interested in that. i have my suspicions. bill: [laughter] add that to the list. i will just follow you -- you -- >> this is an extraordinary period -- bill: is that mic on? >> this extraordinary set of circumstances has followed a long decline of the news media, financial fortunes, having
nothing to do with donald trump. my question is, are the media up to this? david: that is a great question. i think there is a couple of answers, a couple of parts to the answer. one is that trump is actually really good for our bottom lines. you cannot ask for anything better than donald trump for the papers who cover the news -- bill: and the cable networks. david: he has caught us at a place where we are relatively strong. you could imagine a governor or mayor going rogue and that is the place where the news media is often weak, local and state government coverage. we are better positioned to cover that than a lot of places. i think that so far i've been amazed at how much the media has risen to the challenge. to see after the inauguration, like last night was a good
example, when the flynn resignation wasn't about -- we posted a story at 8:00 and "the times" posts at 9:00 that takes it further and then "the wall street journal" posts something you weren't expecting. that momentum and level of sourcing has been really impressive. amazing thing to me is the shift -- so much of political journalism used to be not exactly theater criticism, but messaging criticism. how did the president get his message across, optics of this and that. we are going to critique the show. and so little of the coverage of trump, with the exception of his speech on tuesday night, has been that kind of coverage. it has been very investigative. even the coverage of the white house, more messaging-based coverage from has been so investigative and so great. so far i've been really impressed. he caught us at our strongest place and i'm impressed by what happened so far.
>> yes, so just as an aside, thank you for your work. i am one of those millennials and i never subscribed to a newspaper and overnight that changed. bill: all right. >> my question relates to tuesday night's speech. i am under the impression that especially with this presidency, and in more recent times, things are more judged on style than substance. this phrase "the night he became president." my question is, do you think that is true? is that something that is gaining steam, that attitude
analysis -- david: that was, i thought -- i mean, it was not a great moment for journalism in general, i think, because the speech, even if you take it as a speech, there was not much in there in terms of substance. trump came in with all these big unresolved things like russia that were unresolved but also the house -- how is the republican party going to do with health care, tax reform? things that republicans in the room were divided and they needed him to say here is what i want. they expected that he would be a strong force and push them in a direction, but he didn't answer any of those questions. he read a decent speech, he he honored -- speech, he honored the navy seal's widow, who, obviously, for reasons not having anything to do with him, was a powerful moment. you're right, people were saying "he became presidential tonight." the thing i thought about that is everybody is so hard on partisan voters. people out there in the country who are hardcore republicans and hard-core democrats, and we say how do you ignore 100 facts and 99 of them don't please you, you ignore 99 of them and focus on the one you like. people say that about trump -- i didn't think he would do this
and this but i like one piece of his agenda. but that night the news media was like those people. we wanted -- not me, but people wanted to see a regular president because they are used to covering regular presidents. a guy who gives a speech and has a policy agenda, they wanted him to be like everybody else they covered. even earlier that day he was saying that maybe the bomb threats to the jcc's were a hoax, he blamed the generals for the raid in yemen. those things were not presidential, and yet he does one thing that is presidential and everybody is like, i am going to focus on that. he is presidential because of the one thing that happened that fit preconceived notions of what i wanted. we have to be careful about that and not think that the one night that makes it seem like he is a regular president, we will feed on that. happens a lot on the campaign, too. i think what we have seen since then, all of this reporting
about trump and russia, is what i hope more of journalism is like, about facts and what actually happened as opposed to here is my theater criticism of something everybody saw. bill: good question. who has got the mic? hi. >> i actually have two questions, if that is ok. can you comment -- as a reader and consumer of news, so many things are happening every day. can you speak to the challenges that your newspaper and other mainstream news outlets are having in terms of prioritizing that for your audience? secondly, more personally for you, and also as a voter, there were times during the campaign where i thought, well, this single thing that trump has done, he has done himself in. and continuously shocked to see that wasn't the case. as a reporter, were there times when you thought, this is it? and what are the frustrations in covering this so hard and i wonder if it seems sometimes
that it doesn't matter, that people are reading it but they are voting for him anyway. david: well, the first question of how do you keep up and that was really hard, especially in the first week, where sean spicer insisted the crowds were bigger and there was the executive order and the protest. i had to remind myself, because my job is not just to read the internet. i have a specific job that has nothing to do with these things and i have to be good at it. for us, so much of political journalism before was generalist. i cover politics. there was the assumption that the president and congress would talk about health care for three months and there was enough time if you are a generalist to get up to speed. so they would know about whatever that thing was.
now, stuff just comes out of nowhere and you cannot be generalist anymore. you have to be subject matter experts. when trump starts talking about government contracting or chicago or immigration, there is somebody who is ready to go right then. the second question about the impact of it, during the election i never thought that there would be one thing that sank trump because he had survived so many things before and he was so good at moving from one scandal to the next without people focusing on any of them. and he ran against a weak opponent and somebody who had the bad fortune of having this e-mail scandal resurface right before the election in a very powerful way. so he got lucky in that respect. a number of respects. the good thing is the election is over. to me right now that question that was always hanging over us during the campaign, is it our job to move voters and change people's minds -- there is not going to be another presidential election for four years. now it is just about what he is doing. it was never our purpose to make
people vote one way or the other, but it is nice to not have that frame applied. we are going to write about whatever he does -- truthfully, i don't know where -- i'm not trying to push in any direction because i have no idea where it is going. i would never have predicted we would be here five weeks in. you have to follow it day to day and not know what the next thing is going to be. bill: do you find that "the post," jeff bezos and marty baron, they give you the freedom, the license, the time to really kind of go where the story goes? david: yes, and that has been wonderful. we are a bigger staff than we used to be because jeff bezos put money into us and cares about what we do. during the campaign, once the trump charity thing became a big deal i only did that from the beginning of june until november, and that was a great luxury, i got much further down the road than i would have if i
had to trade off and do other things. right now i'm doing the golf courses. i'm trying to build a list of everybody who belongs to mar-a-lago. when they were reading about -- when they are all out on the terrace and eating steak. that is great, that is a resource that will hopefully pay off later on. it is wonderful to have space and time. bill: are you finding surprises of the people who have memberships? 200,000 at mar-a-lago? david: so far it is a lot of rich people, what i've learned. [laughter] bill: no shit. oh, i'm not allowed to say that on c-span. where are you? here we are. hi. >> i'm also one of those people who subscribe because of you, to "the washington post." thank you. [applause] >> my question is two parts. one is i don't understand why he lies so much, so maybe you can help us understand that. because i've never seen anything like that, where he just makes things up. you expect politicians to
stretch the truth a little bit, but not to make things up. that is part one. the other part is i don't understand how evangelicals in particular could put aside the values that had been claimed for so long to follow trump. you know, as one who is of christian faith, i feel abandoned by evangelicals for having this situational value belief that has come out as a result of this. if you could speak to the lies and how evangelicals and christians, who decided to follow him despite all of the apparent and obvious lies. david: well, the first question
about sort of his relationship with the truth -- bill: heh heh. david: you have to think about his interactions with the media for a long time. right, he has been sort of like a showman and promoter and developer. for a long time when he was in those roles he could say things that weren't exactly true or were exaggerated and nobody knew enough, because he ran a private company without releasing many details. nobody knew enough to call him on it. and he was dealing with reporters who would come in and do their "access hollywood" segment and leave and didn't have the knowledge to call him on it. so, i think he got used to exaggerating or not telling the truth about the things he was doing. there was kind of this idea that maybe as a showman that was what he did. he didn't have to tell the truth. one of the most fascinating stories i did along the way is a
guy named tim o'brien, who used to work for "the new york times," and in his book he had an estimate of how much trump was worth and it was lower than what trump was saying. trump sued o'brien, which was stupid, because that gave o'brien's attorneys -- he had really good attorneys -- a chance at discovery and actually look into this black box of a company trump had been talking about all these years. an amazing two-day deposition that we had a transcript of where it showed that he was not telling the truth again and again and again. hours and hours of them saying, "on this day you said you sold 400 units of the trump toronto tower. is that true?" "yes." "i have this paper that says you
sold only 100." "oh, yeah." he would not tell the truth even when he had to know -- he would say a falsehood even when he was talking to somebody who he would know had the right answer, he would be called on it. after compiling all these falsehoods, called experts on lying and people who study lying, and they were amazed by them. [laughter] david: the things they said, like most people when you lie, you lie in a way that gives wiggle room. you don't want the psychic pain of getting caught. think of "i did not have sexual relations with that woman." bill clinton has an out. definition of what is is. trump's lies was specific. i sold this many buildings, and they were surprised by his lack of fear of being caught. even when he was caught him he didn't feel psychological pain. that is the environment he lived in for a long time. he never felt, i think, a compunction to tell the truth, narrowly defined, the actual truth, or face any penalty. that is the history that has led him to write now. just let them right now. look at his campaign. how many times did he say things
during his campaign that weren't true and he wasn't punished? on evangelicals, this is me speculating because i did not spend time with evangelicals during the campaign, but i think evangelicals felt they were being judged from all sides and they shared with trump a common enemy that looked down on them as bigoted. even if trump didn't share the same beliefs they did, they share the same enemy and he would take the fight to them. he wouldn't be their pastor but would lead the fight against the people they had failed to win the fight against. that is my theory.
bill: where are we now? >> i have a question -- it is interesting you say that you finally or the news media has finally stopped paying attention to these tweets every day. we watch tv in the morning and we don't hear "donald trump tweeted something." you just watch it on fox news, whatever. it is interesting to hear you say that you are part of the team that is looking at this aspect of charity. are there also people who are putting aside all the chaos, putting aside all the stuff going on, and actually looking at the process of governing how policy is being made, who are the policymakers, and how is the trump presidency, if i can use that term, how is the trump presidency going to function in the future so that the real stories when they come out, you
are on top of those stories? david: that's a good question. the answer is yes, we have a number of folks looking agency by agency, and the best example, the most sort of proactive person that trump has put in a cabinet agency has been scott pruitt at the epa, who is proposing huge cuts on a variety of things, both the regulations and funding to enforce the regulations. we have had really good coverage of that. it is still just proposed at this point -- there is a lot of fighting over whether he can roll the rules back and court cases. we have been a little slower on financial regulations. i think we are catching up because we just hired somebody from "the wall street journal" to cover trump and economics. yes, there are so many things about the presidency that, because it is so fractured and different parts do different things without notifying each other, it could be that the people he puts in charge of these agencies pursue the agenda
different than what trump said he would do when he was campaigning or even what he thinks he is doing now. it will be fascinating, and that is an area where "the times" also has a big staff and there will be competition there. bill: if i could piggyback, one thing i have found interesting in the last week is there have been three or four cabinet secretaries that have stood up to disagree or contradict or clarify something that donald trump has said. most recently it is radical islamic terrorism where mcmasters had called his whole staff together and said we should not use this phrase anymore.
he really worked strongly to get that out of the speech to congress. obviously there was a little turf war going on inside of the oval office. when trump uses the phrase, he didn't just roll it out, he said, "radical islamic terrorism." an aide at the white house said -- david: he tweeted out that he won this little war with mcmaster. there are times when trump say something policy-oriented and somebody like mike pence or -- trump said we have given up on the idea of a two state solution in israel. i forget who it was, -- nikki haley said that is not true. solution is still on the table. he said things about nato. policy is the same as it always was. i want to know, who told him to
say that? who told nikki haley to say that? was a tillerson? mike pence? did she do it on her own? who feels empowered? i know the president said the opposite of this, but it doesn't matter what the president said, our policy is always what it was. people say bannon is the real president. bannon is with trump on those things. that the disruptive thing is contradicted by pence or tillerson or haley. i would like to know who is telling them to say that. it is not like trump is back and says i meant what i said about israel, china, nato. that is a really strange dynamic to me. bill: -- in the hands of. >> i know this might not be your beat, but i was curious why nbc news sat on the access hollywood tape for as long as they did?
bill: my colleague who covers the media, he wrote a story. i think they found it friday. they found it on a monday. the dispute was that the entertainment division, they wanted to do it. dohink maybe they wanted to bush'son where billy voice was not even heard, it was bus sayingon the this to himself. [laughter]
david: the only part, i read. i didn't report. bill: we will do one more. >> david, thank you for your fake news. [laughter] >> we have a president who is a pathological liar, extreme narcissist. we're all wrestling with this. i get to the point where i say, i don't believe anything that he says. that will go for a lot of his associates. i wonder how you discuss or propose how you meet that challenge where we have an administration where you ought to be covering what they do. what is the strategy? you could adopt a media policy that says we are not covering what any of them say because it's not credible. theye going to cover what do. david: i think that without
making a conscious policy decision, we are moving to a place where what they say is treated very differently from what the white house has said in the past. in the past, if the white house said something, you thought there was a considered reason for that. now, the official response -- even things on the record. they are not the final word at all anymore. and often, they carry much less force and much less force all of the time if they are going to continue to say things that are not true. it is a real problem for the white house. think about the things they will want to be a part of and speak with the voice of authority. if they have squandered that authority talking about crowd sizes or insisting mike flynn had not lied when he had lied, they will find that credibility weakened. whaaren't going to believe they are saying.
i think you still have to cover what they say because that is still important. but what they say is not the news anymore. it is part of the story. and it is a part of the story where you say "the white house said this" but it is often proved wrong. even their "on the record" statements are proven to be often factually inaccurate. it is a difficult thing to manage. >> some day, not that far in the future, when you read the book, and you see the movie, made about this time, i just want you to remember that it started right here at the hill center. [laughter] >> david, we want to thank you all for coming tonight and personally, who you are and the work that you do. and in the day when there are so many attacks against the media, you mean a lot to the rest of us
to have someone like you who makes us proud to be journalists. you are the best of the best. you.: thank [applause] next, the president's weekly address. president trump: my fellow americans, i am joining you from the deck of what will be the aircraft carrier. as you can see, i am wearing a jacket and a hat they gave me. i am not used to it but it feels awfully good. i am very proud of it, actually.