PRESIDENT VS PRESS

The tense relationship between the press and President Trump has hit a new low. Tonight we analyze the situation. What does the firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions mean for the future of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation? We have the latest from the West Wing.

Aired on November 8, 2018.

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS,' I'M RAFAEL PI ROMAN.

IT'S THE PRESIDENT VERSUS THE PRESS.

THE TENSIONS BETWEEN THE WHITE HOUSE AND THE MEDIA ESCALATED TO NEW LEVELS THIS WEEK.

ON WEDNESDAY, THE WHITE HOUSE STRIPPED CNN CORRESPONDENT JIM ACOSTA OF PRESS CREDENTIALS AFTER A HEATED CONVERSATION BETWEEN THE JOURNALIST AND THE PRESIDENT THE ACOSTA HAD ASKED TRUMP ABOUT THE CARAVAN OF IMMIGRANTS HEADING FROM LATIN AMERICA TO THE U.S. BORDER PROMPTING THIS EXCHANGE.

YOUR CAMPAIGN HAD AN AD SHOWING MIGRANTS CLIMBING OVER WALLS.

THAT'S TRUE.

THEY WEREN'T ACTORS.

IT'S TRUE, DO YOU THINK THEY WERE ACTORS, THEY WEREN'T ACTORS, THEY DIDN'T COME FROM HOLLYWOOD.

THESE WERE PEOPLE, THIS WAS AN ACTUAL, YOU KNOW, IT HAPPENED A FEW DAYS AGO.

THEY ARE HUNDREDS OF MILES AWAY.

THAT'S NOT AN INVASION.

HONESTLY, I THINK YOU SHOULD LET ME RUN THE COUNTRY, YOU RUN CNN.

AND IF YOU DID IT WELL, YOUR RATINGS WOULD BE MUCH BETTER.

IF I MAY ASK ONE OTHER QUESTION.

THAT'S ENOUGH, THAT'S ENOUGH.

I WAS GOING TO ASK ONE OTHER -- PARDON ME, MA'AM.

I HAVE ONE OTHER QUESTION IF I MAY ASK ON THE RUSSIA INVESTIGATION.

ARE YOU CONCERNED THAT YOU MAY HAVE INDICTMENTS --

I'M NOT CONCERNED ABOUT ANYTHING BECAUSE IT'S A HOAX.

THAT'S ENOUGH, PUT DOWN THE MIC.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS RELEASED A STATEMENT JUFG THE DECISION TO STRIP ACOSTA OF HIS CREDENTIALS, ACCUSING HIM OF PLACING HIS HANDS ON A YOUNG WOMAN TRYING TO DO HER JOB AS A WHITE HOUSE INTEN.

VIDEO PLAYED OVER AND OVER SHOWED THAT THE INTERACTION BETWEEN ACOSTA AND THE INTERN WAS BRIEF AND ACOSTA APPEARED TO BRUSH HER ARM AS SHE REACHED FOR THE MICROPHONE, AND HE TRIED TO HOLD ON TO IT.

THAT NIGHT, ACOSTA POSTED A GRAINY VIDEO ON TWITTER SHOWING A SECRET SERVICE AGENT AT THE WHITE HOUSE ASKING HIM TO SURRENDER HIS PASS WHICH GRANTS JOURNALISTS ACCESS TO THE COMPOUND.

IN A STATEMENT, CNN CLAIMED THAT THE WHITE HOUSE REVOKED ACOSTA'S PASS OUT OF RETALIATION FOR HIS CHALLENGING QUESTIONS AT THE PRESS CONFERENCE AND ACCUSATION THE WHITE HOUSE STRONGLY DENIED.

THE NEWS CONFERENCE AND THE REMOVAL OF ACOSTA'S PRESS PASS MARKED A NEW LOW IN THE FRAUGHT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PRESIDENT TRUMP AND THE MEDIA, WHICH THE PRESIDENT HAS FREQUENTLY REFERRED TO AS QUOTE THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE.

THE BATTLE HAS ALSO INFLAMED THE STARK PARTISAN DIVISIONS AFFLICTING THE COUNTRY, A DIVIDE NOT SEEN SINCE PERHAPS THE DARKEST DAY OF THE WATERGATE SCANDAL.

AND JOINING US NOW TO TALK ABOUT IT ALL IS CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN, TIM NEFTALI, A COAUTHOR OF THE NEW BOOK, IMPEACHMENT, AN AMERICAN HISTORY.

HE WAS ALSO THE FOUNDING DIRECTOR OF THE RICHARD NIXON PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY WHERE HE OVERSAW THE LIBRARY'S ACCLAIMED EXHIBIT ON WATERGATE.

SO ACOSTA BEING STRIPPED OF HIS WHITE HOUSE PRESS PASS, IS THERE A PRECEDENT FOR THAT?

HAS THAT EVER HAPPENED BEFORE?

WE HAVE HAD INCIDENTS WHERE PRESIDENTS HAVE WANTED TO BAN NEWSPAPERS.

JOHN F. KENNEDY AT ONE POINT WANTED TO STOP READING.

HE DIDN'T WANT THE WHITE HOUSE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE, BUT HE DIDN'T THROW THE HERALD TRIBUNE'S CORRESPONDENT OUT OF THE PRESS CORPS.

SIMILARLY, RICHARD NIXON, HATED 'THE WASHINGTON POST,' DIDN'T WANT TO HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THEM, BUT HE DIDN'T THROW THEM OUT OF THE PRESS CORPS.

SO THIS IS UNPRECEDENTED BY THE PRESIDENT AND YOU KNOW WHAT'S DISMAYING IS THAT YESTERDAY WAS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP TO ESTABLISH A NEW CLIMATE.

THERE WILL BE A REBALANCING OF POWER IN WASHINGTON IN JANUARY.

HE WILL HAVE TO DEAL WITH DEMOCRATIC CHAIRS, CHAIRS OF COMMITTEES IN THE HOUSE.

AND AS PART OF HIS CONSTITUTIONAL DUTY AS PRESIDENT, HE HAS TO INTERACT WITH THEM.

THIS WAS AN OPPORTUNITY TO SET A NEW TONE.

THE WAY IN WHICH HE DEALT WITH THE PRESS, NOT JUST JIM ACOSTA WHO'S A PROFESSIONAL AND A COLLEAGUE, BUT THE WAY HE DEALT WITH THE ENTIRE PRESS CORPS SHOWED THAT HE HAS NO INTEREST IN ALTERING THE LEVEL OF CONTEMPT, REDUCING IT.

BUT, YOU KNOW, AS PEOPLE AND I'LL TALK ABOUT THIS, BECAUSE I'VE SEEN CRITICISM FROM BOTH SIDES ALL OVER THE PLACE, BUT PEOPLE SAY, DOESN'T IT CUT BOTH WAYS.

YOU LOOK AT THE PRESS CONFERENCE AND YOU LOOK AT SOME OF THE QUESTIONS AND THE WAY THEY WERE PHRASED, IT'S QUESTIONS AND THE WAY THEY ARE PHRASED THAT YOU HAD NEVER SEEN BEFORE AS WELL.

WELL, I DON'T THINK THE PRESIDENT CAN HAVE IT BOTH WAYS.

THE PRESIDENT HAS DECIDED TO ALTER THE NATURE OF THE DECORUM THAT USUALLY ADHERES TO THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT.

YESTERDAY IT WAS REALLY --

HE SETS THE TONE.

LET ME PUT IT TO YOU THIS WAY.

DURING THE PRESS CONFERENCE, HE MADE A MOST CYNICAL STATEMENT.

HE SAID, YOU KNOW, THIS IS EARNED MEDIA.

HE WAS ASKED WOULD YOU HAVE ANOTHER PRESS CONFERENCE, WE HAVEN'T HEARD FROM YOU, SIR N A LONG TIME.

HE SAID, YEAH, THIS IS EARNED MEDIA, IT'S WORTH BILLIONS.

THE POINT WAS HE'S SAYING I'M USING THE PRESS AS A BACKDROP SO THAT I CAN GET MY MESSAGE OUT.

AND IF HIS MESSAGE INCLUDES HALF TRUTHS OR LIES, IT IS THE OBLIGATION OF THE FIFTH ESTATE, IT'S THE OBLIGATION OF THE PRESS TO CALL HIM ON IT.

OTHERWISE THEY ARE PROPS.

THEY ARE STANDING THERE LISTENING TO HIM.

SO IF THE PRESIDENT IS NOT GOING TO TREAT THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENCY WITH THE DUE RESPECT THAT IT SHOULD HAVE, I'M NOT SUGGESTING THAT OTHERS SHOULDN'T TREAT HIM WITH RESPECT, BUT HE SHOULD UNDERSTAND THE AGGRESSIVENESS WITH WHICH MEMBERS OF THE PRESS ARE RESPONDING TO HIS LIES AND HALF TRUTHS, I MEAN, AFTER ALL, THE CARAVAN STORY WAS SOMETHING THAT ONE WOULD EXPECT FROM A DEMAGOGUE.

THESE PEOPLE ARE A THOUSAND MILES AWAY FROM THE U.S. BORDER.

THE PRESIDENT PUTS 15,000 U.S.

TROOPS OR AT LEAST SAYS HE'S GOING TO PUT 15,000 TROOPS ON THE BORDER TO STOP A GROUP OF PEOPLE WHO BY THE TIME THEY REACH THE BORDER, THEY'RE NOT GOING TO BE ONE CARAVAN.

THAT'S NOT THE WAY IT'S WORKED IN THE PAST.

HE NEVER TOLD THE AMERICAN PEOPLE THE NATURE OF THE CHALLENGE.

AND THAT'S WHAT JIM ACOSTA WAS ASKING HIM ABOUT.

IT'S NOT RIGHT THAT OUR PRESIDENT IS NOT WILLING TO LEVEL WITH US ABOUT WHAT'S ACTUALLY GOING ON, SO THE CHALLENGE, I THINK, FOR THE PRESS AND I'M NOT SPEAKING AND I'M NOT A JOURNALIST, BUT AS I SAID I RESPECT MY COLLEAGUES, THE CHALLENGE IS WHAT ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO DO?

ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO LISTEN, NOD YOUR HEAD AS IF YOU WERE LISTENING TO DWIGHT EISENHOWER WHEN IN FACT YOU'RE GETTING A SERIES NOT OF SPIN, IT'S NOT JUST SPIN.

SPIN'S OKAY.

THERE'S ALWAYS SPIN.

BUT YOU'RE GETTING A SERIES OF HALF TRUTHS, MISTRUTHS FANTASIES AND LIES.

ISN'T IT UP TO THE PRESS TO STAND UP AND DO WHAT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE CAN'T DO FOR THEMSELVES BECAUSE THEY'RE NOT IN THE ROOM TO SAY MR.

PRESIDENT, I HAVE A FOLLOW UP.

MR. PRESIDENT, AND THAT'S WHAT THEY'RE DOING.

AND THE PROBLEM IS THAT IN RESPONSE THE PRESIDENT GETS HEATED AND HE LOSES HIS COOL.

BUT, YOU KNOW, FOR ALL THE AMERICANS THAT LOOKED AT THAT EXCHANGE, AND DON'T GIVE AS DEEP A REFLECTION AS YOU JUST DID, YOU KNOW, WE BOOKED YOU HERE ACTUALLY BEFORE THIS EVER HAPPENED BECAUSE WE WANTED YOU TO TALK ABOUT THE DIVIDE OF THE COUNTRY.

AND IT JUST HIT ME THIS MORNING HOW MUCH THAT LITTLE VIGNETTE KIND OF MANIFESTS THAT DIVISION.

I GOT ABOUT 5,000 FOLLOWERS ON FACEBOOK AND ACROSS THE POLITICAL SPECTRUM.

AND YOU SEE HALF OF THEM SAYING THE PRESIDENT IS HITLER, HE'S FIDEL CASTRO, IS HUGO CHAVEZ, THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF A FREE PRESS.

ON THE OTHER SIDE YOU SEE ACOSTA IS A FAKE REPORTER, YOU KNOW, HE'S A BA FOON, YOU KNOW, EVERY NAME IN THE BOOK.

AMERICANS SEEING THE SAME INCIDENT SO STARKLY DIFFERENT.

WHAT ARE THE POSSIBILITIES OF A REUNIFICATION OF THESE AMERICANS?

FIRST OF ALL, IT'S HARD.

THIS IS A VERY HORMONAL TIME, ACTUALLY IN AMERICA, IT'S A VERY EMOTIONAL TIME IN OUR HISTORY, AND WE ARE EXTREMELY TRIBAL.

I'M NOT THE ONLY PERSON SAYING THAT.

MOST PEOPLE WHO OBSERVE OUR POLITICAL SCENE ARE SAYING THAT.

ALWAYS HAVE BEEN?

WE HAVE PEAKS AND VALLEYS OF TRIBALISM, BUT HERE'S THE STORY THAT, HERE'S WHAT WE SHOULD BE TALKING TO OURSELVES ABOUT.

WE HAVE AN OBLIGATION NOT TO BREAK THE COUNTRY THAT OUR P PREDECESSO PREDECESSORS GAVE US.

WE ARE ON THIS EARTH FOR A CERTAIN PERIOD OF TIME AND WE AS AMERICANS ARE PART OF THE AMERICAN STORY.

WE HAVE INHERITED GREAT INSTITUTIONS, PHENOMENAL CONSTITUTION, AND WE NEED TO TAKE CARE OF OUR COUNTRY.

OUR CONSTITUTION WANTS US TO COMPETE.

IT'S HEALTHY.

THAT'S WHY THE SEPARATION OF POWERS.

BUT NOT AT EACH OTHER EAT THROATS.

WE JUST HAD A MIDTERM ELECTION WHERE THERE'S BEEN A REBALANCING OF POWER.

THE AMERICAN PEOPLE HAVE SAID VERY CLEARLY THAT THEY DON'T WANT ONE PARTY, THE PRESIDENT'S PARTY TO RUN EVERY BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT.

THAT'S VERY NORMAL.

THAT HAPPENS.

WHEN THE PRESIDENT AND HIS PARTY GET OUT OF SYNC WITH MOST AMERICANS, THERE'S A REBALANCING.

THAT'S HEALTHY.

THE CLIMATE OF PROFESSIONAL POLITICIANS SHOULD REFLECT AN UNDERSTANDING THAT OUR CONSTITUTION WANTED THIS TO HAPPEN, AND RATHER THAN GET ANGRY WHICH WAS SO CLEAR FROM THE PRESIDENT'S BEHAVIOR, RATHER THAN GET ANGRY, HE SHOULD ACCEPT IT THE WAY BARACK OBAMA ACCEPTED IT, THE WAY THAT GEORGE W. BUSH ACCEPTED IT, THE WAY THAT RONALD REAGAN ACCEPTED A REVERSE IN HIS FIRST MIDTERM ELECTION.

WHY CAN'T DONALD TRUMP SHOW THE SELF-DISCIPLINE AND THE DIGNITY THAT PREVIOUS PRESIDENTS, DEMOCRATIC AND REPUBLICAN, HAVE DONE AND SHOWN WHEN FACED WITH AN ELECTORAL REVERSE.

THAT'S THE CHALLENGE, BUT I'M SAYING THE HEAD OF STATE OF OUR COUNTRY CAN HELP SET THE TONE.

THE HEAD OF STATE IS NOT SETTING A TONE OF UNITIMY, AND THAT'S WT WE NEED.

AMERICANS USUALLY LIKE DIVIDED GOVERNMENT, APPARENTLY, IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME AS YOU SAID, AND THE MARKET CERTAINLY DOES, AS REFLECTED BY THE STOCK MARKET YESTERDAY.

BUT WHAT IS THIS DIVIDED GOVERNMENT GOING TO LOOK LIKE?

BECAUSE AS YOU KNOW, THE DEMOCRATIC CONGRESS OR THE LEADERS OF THE NEW COMMITTEES, THEY'RE OUT TO GET THE PRESIDENT, RIGHT?

AND IF THEY DO --

I DON'T AGREE WITH THAT.

THAT'S WHAT SOME OF THEM ARE SAYING.

SOME OF THEM WHO ARE GOING TO BE TAKING OVER COMMITTEES ARE SAYING -- BUT MY QUESTION IS IF YOU CAN ALLOW ME, YOU ARE THE EXPERT ON WATERGATE, I WONDER IF, I'M SORRY, ON IMPEACHMENT, YOU JUST WROTE THE BOOK ON IMPEACHMENT, ARE WE GOING TO SEE THAT PLAY OUT FOR THE NEXT COUPLE OF YEARS?

IT WOULD BE A HUGE MISTAKE FOR THE HOUSE TO UNDERTAKE IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY RIGHT NOW BASED ON WHAT WE KNOW.

AN IMPEACHMENT, THE STANDARD OF HIGH CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS.

IT WAS VERY HIGH.

SET BY THE REDINO COMMITTEE WHERE A BIPARTISAN GROUP, REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS DECIDED THAT RICHARD NIXON SHOULD BE IMPEACHED AND THEY DECIDED THAT HIGH CRIME AND MISDEMEANOR IS A CRIME, IT'S A CHALLENGE TO OUR CONSTITUTIONAL ORDER.

ALLOWING THE PRESIDENT TO STAY IN OFFICE WOULD UNDERMINE OUR REPUBLIC.

YOU DON'T MAKE THAT DECISION IF YOU ARE CONVINCED THAT THE -- BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, IMPEACHMENT IS A TRAUMA, AND UNLESS THERE'S A CONSENSUS THAT CONTINUING A PRESIDENT IN OFFICE IS MORE IN INJURIOUS TO THE COUNTRY THAN THE TRAUMA OF IMPEACHMENT, HE STAYS AND FINISHES HIS TERM.

WE DON'T HAVE THE DATA.

MAYBE THE MUELLER INVESTIGATION WILL BRING FORWARD EVIDENCE OF BRIBERY OR TREASON OR WHAT HAVE YOU.

WE ONLY HAVE 30 SECONDS AND I WANT TO GET INTO ANOTHER.

I JUST WANT TO SAY THAT THE MEMBERS OF CONGRESS IF THEY LOOK AT HISTORY WILL KNOW THAT YOU CAN UNDERTAKE OVERSIGHT WITHOUT ENGAGING IN AN IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY.

WE HAVE ABOUT 30 SECONDS AND I HAVE TO ASK YOU THIS, HE FIRED JEFF SESSIONS, THERE ARE PEOPLE SAYING THAT THERE IS PARAMOUNT TO WATERGATE WHEN PRESIDENT NIXON, THE SATURDAY NIGHT MASSACRE WHEN HE FIRED ARCHIBAL COX AND HIS OWN PEOPLE.

IS THERE A PARALLEL?

THERE WILL BE A PARALLEL IF THE PRESIDENT ATTEMPTS TO STRIKE DOWN THE MUELLER INVESTIGATION.

THAT'S A DIRECT PARALLEL.

RIGHT NOW, THE FIRING OF SESSIONS LOOKS LIKE AN OMINOUS SIGN BUT THE SATURDAY NIGHT MASSACRE IS ALL ABOUT GETTING TO ARCHIBALD COX AND SHUTTING DOWN THE WATERGATE PROSECUTION.

THE ATTORNEY GENERAL AND DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL, ONE RESIGNS, THE OTHER IS REMOVED BECAUSE THEY WON'T DO IT.

THE PARALLEL IS IF PRESIDENT TRUMP SEEKS TO SHUT DOWN THE MUELLER INVESTIGATION, THEN WE HAVE A NEW SATURDAY NIGHT MASSACRE.

OKAY.

TIM T THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US TODAY.

THANK YOU.

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