JUDY WOODRUFF: Twitter remains President Trump’s preferred platform to vent frustrations.
This week’s targets, the NFL, a high-ranking Republican senator, and claims of fake news. They speak to and, in some cases, fuel debates that divide the country.
More on that now with Karine Jean-Pierre. She’s a senior adviser to MoveOn.org and a contributing editor to “Bustle,” an online women’s magazine, and a veteran of the Obama administration. And Matt Schlapp, he’s the chairman of the American Conservative Union and the former White House political director under President George W. Bush.
Welcome back to both of you.
So, I was going to start with the exchange of insults over the last few days between the president, Senator Bob Corker.
But, in the last few days, Matt, the president seems to have found somebody else to single out. And that’s NBC News…
MATT SCHLAPP, American Conservative Union: Right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: … because they have reported in the last day or so that, this summer, the president said he wanted to dramatically increase the U.S. nuclear arsenal, tenfold. The president says that’s not true. He’s been backed up by the defense secretary, James Mattis.
Now the president is saying he wants to look at NBC’s license. Is this a good move for the president to be making?
MATT SCHLAPP: Well, I don’t think it’s necessarily a great week for NBC. They didn’t go with the Harvey Weinstein story. They decided to take a pass.
And then there’s this story that Donald Trump went to the Department of State or the Pentagon and had a wide-ranging meeting with foreign policy advisers and asked very basic questions about our nuclear arsenal and the use of our nuclear arsenal. The contents of that meeting or what someone’s — what they thought they heard gets leaked.
And a news outlet goes running with the fact that the president wanted to increase our nuclear arsenal tenfold. This is kind of — this is when I think people get frustrated with the news media. I think a president should be able to sit with his foreign policy advisers and ask all kinds of questions in confidence and get direction from them.
And I don’t think those very same career Foreign Service or career military people should leak those conversations — it breaches their duty, it’s against the law — to try to weaken this president.
I think it’s a big mistake. The president was left with a terrible problem in North Korea and in Iran. He’s got very few good choices, and he’s trying to figure out what he can do.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Is this more about leaks then, Karine, and the media, fake news?
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, MoveOn.org: Look, I think we should be concerned that someone at such a high level in the administration is leaking this.
But we have to ask, why is that? Why are they so uncomfortable, that they have to leak these really interesting tactical decisions that the president is going to make? It’s because they are concerned about the president’s behavior, about what — how far he wants to take, how aggressive he is, how bombastic he is.
So, basically, they’re showing us, what we see him talking about on Twitter, he’s actually seriously talking about it, you know, at the Resolute Desk or in the Oval Office or in these meetings.
But the thing about this is that this is the type of dictatorship or authoritarian regime that we’re seeing from this president. He has to understand. John Kelly actually needs to slap the Constitution on his desk and tell him to read it, because he clearly has not read it.
You cannot get rid of the free press. It’s part of our democracy. This is what our country is about. And these are the things that he has continued to do. This is not the first time that we hear him talk about the press and fake news.
MATT SCHLAPP: Judy, can I — can I just go on this question about what the president inherited?
I didn’t read the president comments or I didn’t take the president’s comments as somehow he wants to chill the First Amendment. I think what he’s saying to members of the press is that, just because you have a source — and you’re a respected journalist — just because you have a source, and a source is telling you a story, it doesn’t mean that the source is right.
And it’s the job of the journalist to ferret that out, and to only print, which they can use with their best judgment to be accurate. And I think when it comes to this question about nuclear weapons in a nuclearized world, the president is in a terrible position, where we are going to have North Korea with the ability to strike Hawaii, strike Japan, strike California, what are we going to do?
There is a more serious policy question here than just people’s dislikes with how Donald Trump talks.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: But he’s the president. We have to listen to how Donald Trump talks.
MATT SCHLAPP: He is president.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: And he is incredibly dangerous in the rhetoric that he uses. He created the situation for himself. We’re not out here…
MATT SCHLAPP: No, no, no, he inherited — he inherited these two nuclear situations.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: No, no, no.
I’m not saying that he didn’t, but his behavior is not helpful.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to bring up what, as I said, I was going to mention to begin with.
And that was the comments of the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker. He’s announced he’s not running for reelection. But he’s in a pretty significant position in the Congress, Matt.
He said in the last few days that the only thing separating the country from chaos is — are the people around the president, secretary of defense, secretary of state, White House chief of staff.
He went on to tell The New York Times that the president’s rhetoric could possibly lead to something like War World III.
I mean, this is not a polite statement.
MATT SCHLAPP: What could possibly lead to World War III is the idea that Bob Corker and his friends thought it was OK to allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon, and to not force that agreement to go through the Senate as a treaty, where it would have had a tougher time becoming the law of the land.
That is what the president has inherited. And so I think Bob Corker is trying to rewrite history to make it seem like the president is being reckless.
He has — he has — he has inherited an absolutely terrifying situation, with a nuclearized Iran, soon to be, and a nuclearized North Korea. It’s all of these folks who have been around for the last decade who didn’t take the steps previously to prevent this problem that we have today.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that — are we just looking at it the wrong way?
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: No, I think we’re looking at it exactly the way it is.
One week, you have dotard. The other week, you have moron. Now you have unfit from the Foreign Relations Committee chair. That is a big deal.
We have to remember, he’s not — Corker is not running for reelection anymore. He feels free…
MATT SCHLAPP: Because he wouldn’t win. Because he wouldn’t win in a primary.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Well, let me finish. Let me finish my point here, Matt.
Because he is free to say what he believes. He is — like you said, he is the chair for the Foreign Relations Committee. He knows exactly what’s going on. And the problem with Donald Trump is that he’s not used to people hitting back. And Corker gave him a knockout punch.
MATT SCHLAPP: And the voters of Tennessee have given Bob Corker a knockout punch. If you look at all the polls, he would have gone down in flames in a primary.
People are tired of people who stand in the way of the Trump agenda.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Corker — we — you know this better than I do. This is not the type of man he is, Bob Corker.
MATT SCHLAPP: Oh, I’m not so sure of that at all.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Well, that’s what people say. That’s what Republicans are saying. I don’t know him. That’s what I have heard Republicans are saying.
MATT SCHLAPP: The words…
MATT SCHLAPP: … out of his mouth…
MATT SCHLAPP: … didn’t reflect…
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: I think believes — I think he wants to save this country.
JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s another interview that was done that ran today in The Washington Post.
Tom Barrack, who is a longtime friend of the president’s, Matt, who the president — we’re told he and the president speak all the time — who said that he has been concerned, shocked, he put it, by some of the president’s tweets, and hopes that the president will tone it down, in effect.
MATT SCHLAPP: Yes, I think he said something to the effect that the president could communicate better, he’s better than this.
I read the story. I didn’t take as this — an attack by the president’s close personal friend. I took it as some coaching in an article about what Tom Barrack would like to see the president do better.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Does he have a point?
MATT SCHLAPP: Sure. Absolutely.
I think a lot of people who like and respect the president, there’s a tweet here or a comment there where it leaves them saying, I don’t — I wish he would have said it differently.
And I think a lot of them try to talk through the media to him. I think that shows that he has friends that give him diverse viewpoints and direction. I think it’s good.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Fifteen seconds.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Well, it’s fascinating that his friends have to go to the press in order to connect with Donald Trump, because they know Donald Trump is going to listen and hear what he has to say.
MATT SCHLAPP: He loves television.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, he does. But I think that’s kind of weird that your friends have to do that.
But this is nothing surprising. This is all very predictable. This is who Donald Trump is. I don’t know why his friends are surprised.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So much to cover today.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We didn’t even get to Steve Bannon trying to run against — get some people to run against the Senate.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Waging war.
MATT SCHLAPP: That’s OK. That story is going to continue.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: It will continue. Well, they have Roy Moore because of Steve Bannon.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Karine Jean-Pierre, Matt Schlapp, thank you both.
MATT SCHLAPP: Thank you both.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Appreciate it.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you.