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Jim Acosta Goes Postal On Trump In New Interview

“So yes, at that point I pushed back. I interrupted the press conference, I tried to get my question in. That’s when you saw Donald Trump refer to me and my news organization as “fake news.” Now, that basically hasn’t stopped ever since.”

“As I write in the book, what I think started off as an act has gotten out of his control. At that [later] press conference in February of 2017, when he called me “very fake news,” right after that Hope Hicks, one among his prime aides referred to as me to say, “Jim, the president thought you were very professional today and said, ‘Jim gets it.’” This, I feel, was an act at first however the president has proceeded to go on to name us the “enemy of the people” so many occasions now that it doesn’t even register as a blip on our radar screens anymore.”

“Yes, I’ve tried to push back when it’s been necessary. But I think if you look at the body of work, if you look at the record of what I’ve done over the last few years, that hasn’t been every time I’ve gone out in front of the cameras or every time I’ve picked up a microphone. Certainly, opinions are going to vary. But if I had to do what I’ve done all over again, I would essentially do it the same way.”

So how a lot of Trump’s angle in the direction of the press is shtick, an act designed to fireside up his supporters who’ve, let’s say, a built-in prejudice concerning the “liberal media”? And how much does it mirror a genuine conviction on his half that not directly he’s not being handled fairly?

“Well, I appreciate the question. I would say, listen, it is sometimes difficult to stay in your lane as a reporter when you’re getting run off the road by the White House and by the president. We have seen that go on over the last few years. I will say that I was raised in this business to not make myself part of the story. That’s how I was brought up in this industry. Whether it was in local news, in places like Knoxville, Tennessee, or Dallas or Chicago, or at the network level at CBS News or at CNN. It’s important to me.”

“But I’ll take you back to January of 2017, when we had that press conference where the president called me fake news. He was attacking our news organization, saying that a story that we had covered about the U.S. intelligence community going to the president-elect and saying, “There may be a problem here. The Russians may have compromising information on you.” The president-elect, as he was at that time, referred to as that pretend news. He was intentionally telling the general public that up was down and black was white.”

“So yes, at that point I pushed back. I interrupted the press conference, I tried to get my question in. That’s when you saw Donald Trump refer to me and my news organization as “fake news.” Now, that basically hasn’t stopped ever since.”

“As I write in the book, what I think started off as an act has gotten out of his control. At that [later] press conference in February of 2017, when he called me “very fake news,” proper after that Hope Hicks, considered one of his prime aides referred to as me to say, “Jim, the president thought you were very professional today and said, ‘Jim gets it.’” This, I feel, was an act at first however the president has proceeded to go on to call us the “enemy of the people” so many occasions now that it doesn’t even register as a blip on our radar screens anymore.”

“Yes, I’ve tried to push back when it’s been necessary. But I think if you look at the body of work, if you look at the record of what I’ve done over the last few years, that hasn’t been every time I’ve gone out in front of the cameras or every time I’ve picked up a microphone. Certainly, opinions are going to vary. But if I had to do what I’ve done all over again, I would essentially do it the same way.”

So how much of Trump’s angle in the direction of the press is shtick, an act designed to fireside up his supporters who’ve, let’s say, a built-in prejudice concerning the “liberal media”? And how a lot does it mirror a real conviction on his part that ultimately he’s not being handled pretty?

“Well, I think it started off as a way to taunt and troll us. As I write in the book, Steve Bannon says he and the president, essentially together, came up with this idea to start calling us the “enemy of the people.” Obviously the expression has been around much longer, and other people like Stalin have used that expression to demonize their opponents. But this was carried out on the very beginning of this administration as a approach to pull the press into this combative setting that he thrives on, and it’s an setting that he uses to excite his base.”

“As I heard from one senior White House official as I was writing this book, the expression the “enemy of the people,” when it’s utilized to the press isn’t meant to incite the individuals. It’s meant to incite the media. They need us to have this discussion on Twitter and social media and so forth.”

“But here’s the problem, and this is where I hope folks will focus as they read this book. Not everybody is in on the act, and the president has demonized us in ways and put rhetoric out there that I think has inflamed the political environment in this country to the point where folks absorb this hostility, they absorb this rhetoric, and they direct it back at us in ways that make us feel endangered.”

“I’m not just talking about myself. Yes, I’ve received death threats. Yes, I’ve seen threatening messages come into my social media on a regular basis. But there are other journalists out there, other reporters, other news anchors who have covered this president who have been going through the same thing. As I’ve been telling folks, I’ve covered four different presidential campaigns. This is my second administration. I’ve never seen anything at this level before, and we have to think deeply about whether or not this is the kind of political climate we want in this country.”

A possible mail bomb was despatched to CNN final yr, and others have been despatched to a number of different information organizations and outstanding liberal donors and Democrats. At Trump’s re-election rally in Orlando, a news photographer was ambushed and punched in the face by someone. There have been a bunch of incidents like that. I don’t know that we will blame the Annapolis newsroom capturing on a Trump supporter, specifically, nevertheless it’s a troubling indicator of what can happen. How close are we to an surroundings the place the president’s supporters inflict lethal violence on journalists? Is our career prepared for that?

“I think that is the danger, and here’s what happens. The day that somebody is seriously injured or, God forbid, killed, the United States of America is no longer the place you and I grew up in anymore. At that point, this country crosses over into a new territory where we join a list of countries around the world where the press is not really safe doing its job covering the presidency. The question that I raise in this book and I’ve tried to raise when I talk to folks: Is this the kind of climate that we want to pass on to the next generation?”

“I think more of a pressing question and a pressing concern in our immediate future right now is, where does it go from here? How do things escalate from here? If it’s generally acceptable to everybody for the president to refer to the press as the “enemy of the people,” where does it go after that? How do issues escalate from that standpoint? My sense of it is that we don’t need to go down this street. Individuals don’t need to go down this street. I feel I’m properly within my lane, as a straight information reporter, to boost these questions. This has been occurring to me, and so I really feel as if I’m in a superb position to talk about it.”

“What happens to this country if, on the morning after a campaign rally, we’re talking about somebody who has been seriously hurt or killed? What started off, for the president, as taunting and trolling and having a good time on social media and firing up people over at Fox News — I don’t think he fully understands the ramifications of what he’s dealing with at this point, and that’s part of the reason why I wrote this book. Just to fire off a flare into the sky, throw up a caution flag, to say this is not the road we want to go down.”

This is Donald Trump’s M.O. though, isn’t it? I imply, he’s now made a couple of remarks about wanting to remain in workplace longer than eight years. He would describe those as “jokes,” and that’s in all probability the acutely aware intention. He doesn’t seem to know that those “jokes” represents a elementary menace to the Constitution and the nature of our republic.

“That’s right. We’ve gone from the president referring to fake news to now fake polls. What’s next? Fake election results? I mean, that is destabilizing to any democracy.”

“What I say to folks is that there’s no guarantee that the American experience that we’ve all grown accustomed to over the last generation continues to exist as it stands right now. Michael Cohen, during his hearing up on Capitol Hill, famously said he’s not sure whether or not Donald Trump will give up the presidency if he loses. As I write in my book, I consulted with a handful of presidential scholars and historians. One of them, Larry Sabato from the University of Virginia, not exactly a raging progressive, said to me in my book that he has never contemplated a scenario where a president would try to attempt a coup to stay in power, at least not since Nixon, until Donald Trump came along.”

“It’s not just folks in the press, it’s not just folks on the left, or maybe left of center. There are people right of center, as we know, and people in academia who are deeply concerned about this rhetoric and whether it’s just going to take things too far. I’m not here to say vote for this person or vote for that person. I am here saying that we need to think about this rhetoric and whether or not it’s healthy for our democracy.”

If you look again at the 2016 election, there was a perception that mainstream media organizations reminiscent of yours, such because the New York Occasions and the Washington Publish, comparable to the opposite news networks, performed a task within the consequence, due to the best way they coated Trump and the best way that they coated Hillary Clinton. They formed a collective overconfidence that Trump couldn’t probably be elected, and in addition a story of moral or moral equivalence between two candidates where there was no potential equivalence. How do you consider that wanting back?

“Well, I think you raise some very good points, and this was obviously an issue during the aftermath of the 2016 campaign. People were asking the question whether we gave too much coverage to Donald Trump. I’ll say a couple of things about that. One is, obviously, Donald Trump was the frontrunner through most of the GOP primary process. What I say to folks when they ask me this question, because it gets asked from time to time, is, are we not supposed to cover the Republican frontrunner during the campaign? I think to some extent we had to.”

“Now, I do think moving forward you’re going to see less of those rallies covered end to end. That is something that we saw a whole lot of during the 2016 campaign, and I think there’s a recognition, not just on our part at CNN, but across the industry, that when you have a president who’s been in office for two years and he’s been found to have uttered approximately 10,000 false or misleading statements since he’s been in office, that perhaps airing these rallies end to end is not going to be a good thing in terms of getting reliable, accurate information to the American people. I think you’re going to see fewer rallies covered end to end, and I think you’re going to see more coverage after the rallies are over with fact checkers.”

“Just recently we hired Daniel Dale from the Toronto Star, a terrific reporter, who I think understands Trump’s falsehoods better than Trump himself. You’re going to see more of that kind of coverage heading into 2020. To some extent, yes, we are learning some lessons from the previous campaign, but I think that happens with every campaign cycle.”

“Now, as for Hillary Clinton, one thing I will say is that folks in the press did not tell Hillary Clinton not to campaign in Wisconsin. I remember covering the 2016 campaign, covering Donald Trump and going to all of his rallies. We get back to our hotel at 11 or 12 o’clock at night. I touched base with my friends who covered the Hillary Clinton campaign, and they would say, “Oh, we’ve been at the Ritz-Carlton in White Plains since 7 this evening.” [That’s in Westchester County, New York, near the Clintons’ home.] They have been simply operating that marketing campaign with a special pace and power. I’m not calling into question what they did during that marketing campaign, however I imply, people can return and take a look at the schedules. Donald Trump was campaigning around the clock for the presidency in the direction of the top of that campaign. That’s how I keep in mind it.”

I need to ask about your notion of how much of a departure Donald Trump actually is. You make a case that this White House has represented an unlimited change in the best way it deals with the press, in the best way it offers with info, in the best way that it understands details, in the best way it understands fact. Truthful sufficient, but aren’t we talking a few gradual evolution in American politics? We had the Tea Social gathering motion. We had a Republican Senate that refuse to think about a official supreme courtroom nominee for political reasons. We had an administration that had secret torture websites in places we by no means knew about, and doubtless still don’t on the earth that we by no means really even came upon about. Even the Obama administration thought-about prosecuting Jim Risen, the previous Occasions reporter, for his contacts with whistleblowers. Are we seeing a radical shift or is it a symptom of one thing that’s been happening for a long time?

“It’s a good question. I will say that I’ve heard many of these comparisons before, and I do remind folks from time to time, listen, if you think times are tough now, we did have this thing in the mid 2000s where a war was waged over weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist. We go through periods of turmoil in our nation’s history, and one of the remarkable things about the United States is that we seem to keep making our way through those periods. That’s a testament to the kind of country that was here before Donald Trump came along.”

“Yes, Barack Obama had his clashes with the press. I witnessed those first-hand covering the second term of his administration. But we did not have Barack Obama on almost a weekly basis referring to the press as the enemy of the people and accusing reporters of treason and calling legitimate stories fake news. There’s an Alice in Wonderland, “Through the Looking Glass” high quality to the best way this president regards details and fact. One of the issues that I ask people now and again is, “My goodness, what kind of world would we be living in right now, what would be our sense of the truth and reality if we hadn’t been fact-checking the president over the last two years?” He’s turned all of us into reality checkers in actual time.”

“We’re almost fact-checking on the fly while we’re doing live shots on CNN these days. You’ll be doing a live shot — the producer will get in your ear and say, “A tweet just came in.” My angle is, hold on a second. I need to take a look at this tweet. I need to learn this tweet. I need to make sure that it’s factually accurate before I read it on the air. Because as we’ve seen so many occasions with the president’s Twitter feed, and I take no pleasure in and saying this, his Twitter feed is usually a reality disaster. It’s a reality catastrophe and a fact emergency.”

“I think that that has made us sharper as reporters and it’s put us in a position where maybe we’re calling the president out. Not maybe: we are calling the president out for falsehoods and lies much worse than we used to with previous presidents, Republican and Democrat. But I can’t think of a scenario where we just let all these falsehoods hang out there as the truth of reality. I think our sense of reality would be warped by this point had we not been providing that essential function over the last two years.”

Yet one more question, Jim, and then I’ll let you go. You make very clear in your e-book that you simply’ve had sources inside the Trump administration and inside the Republican Get together who’ve talked about their degree of discomfort with this president. But you additionally speak about the fact that the Republican Social gathering, usually, has pretty much capitulated and gone along with him. Now we see former Vice President Biden, operating a presidential campaign on the idea that a point of normalcy could be restored to the Republican Celebration as soon as Trump leaves the scene. How do you evaluate the concept the Republicans will get all better again once Trump is gone?

“Well, I think it’s something of an existential crisis for the Republican Party right now. I think they’re going to have to decide at some point just what to do about this president. As I write in the book, they’ve been realizing the short-term political gains, whether they be tax cuts or conservative judges and so on. They’ve had to stomach and deal with a whole lot of things that many of them consider to be reprehensible. As I write in the book, they clashed with the president openly, and it was one of the brief things where they disagreed publicly, over whether or not Trump should endorse and support Roy Moore [in the 2017 Alabama special Senate election]. He did it anyway.”

“I’ve talked to some Republicans who I guess you would call Never-Trumpers. I’ve talked to a lot of Republicans who work up on Capitol Hill who maybe wouldn’t work for this president, but certainly have worked for people who have worked with this president, who were just putting … it was like a face palm moment after moment on so many different occasions, where they would say to me on background, “My goodness, what is going on with him and Vladimir Putin?” Or, “My goodness, what is happening with Charlottesville?” As a celebration, they haven’t gotten to some extent the place they’re snug really taking him on publicly, and I’m wondering what shall be that state of affairs once they finally do this.”

“My sense is that it’s something that will come eventually. In politics you just can’t outrun some of these things. Yes, we saw this during the 2016 campaign. We said, “There’s no way you could say, ‘I can shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and get away with it.’” Or say that John McCain just isn’t a warfare hero and get away with it. He has survived all of those, what can be political crises for another politician.”

“I’m glad you picked up on that part of the book because it’s one of the parts of the book that I turned back to myself. I don’t take any joy in talking about the Republican Party that way. One of my best friends is a Republican, and when you talk to folks privately, they pass along concerns that they won’t talk about publicly. My sense of it is that dynamic is not going to stay private for very long. Those feelings are not going to be able to stay private forever. At some point, they’re going to have to say something about it.”

“I was surprised, in this book, that Kellyanne Conway, during a one-on-one interview, said that she wasn’t comfortable with the family separation policy at the border. She said that publicly on the record. My question is, “Well, how are you still working for this president then?” As I write within the guide, they have compromised. They didn’t compromise with Democrats, but they’ve compromised quite a bit with themselves. It’s one of the more fascinating storylines of this presidency.”

One phrase answer: Which was worse, Charlottesville or Helsinki?

“Wow. Goodness. I still come back to Charlottesville as one of the defining moments of this presidency. I mean, Helsinki was rough and it was almost universally regarded as such. Even the president had to correct the record after Helsinki was over. But Charlottesville is one of those things that I just thought I would never see on American soil in my lifetime. Nazis and white supremacists on the march in a major — I guess it’s not a major American city, but a city that is so important to this country and its history. The home of Thomas Jefferson.”

“Like I said earlier, I don’t take any joy in any of this, but the president of the United States equivocated over white supremacist violence in that city. It is one of those moments where I think we’re going to look back five, 10, 15 years from now and we’re going to say, “My goodness, that was a failure. That was a failure that just let everybody down across the country.””

“You’ll notice that the president and his people, they get very fired up about this. They don’t like it when we call them out on that, but I just don’t see how you can describe it as anything but equivocating on white supremacist violence. I think that is undoubtedly what we saw take place over those four or five days after what happened in Charlottesville.”

“It’s going to be something that will always stay with me because I was covering the president so closely during that time. I never thought I would see a president behave in that manner.”

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