Kellyanne hits Trump coverage; Lewandowski calls media clueless

On CIA, hackers, Electoral College


This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," December 18, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: Welcome to the program as we talk live to two of Donald Trump's former campaign managers, Kellyanne Conway and Corey Lewandowski. This as the media coverage of the transition turns why not on several fronts with pundits passing on Trump's support to the CIA and Russia.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: So now the incoming commander-in-chief is going to war with the CIA which dared conclude that Russia intervened with the campaign with the intention of helping Trump win.

DAVID FRUM, THE ATLANTIC: And the party is now trapped. We've got this president-elect who is deeply compromised by Russia.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Democrats and the abusively biased all left mainstream media, they're pushing CIA's assessment as an undeniable fact, but of course, you need to know the truth. It is not.


KURTZ: And Trump canceling a news conference on avoiding future conflicts with his business empire.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN: Donald Trump failing to meet his own self- imposed deadline for explaining how he plans to separate himself from his business empire.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: No claim yet on our next president by trying to keep say, foreign governments from leveraging his private business interest against him and his family in order to get the United States government to do stuff that it might not otherwise do. Well, that can wait until next month.


KURTZ: What about the commentators actually urging GOP members of the Electoral College to dump Trump? An aide says they may well change or curtail the daily White House press briefings. Will the media go haywire over that? Plus, the journalist who was fired for tweeting something unspeakable about Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka. I'm Howard Kurtz and this is "MediaBuzz."

We begin this morning with a woman who has become the face of the presidential transition, Kellyanne Conway. Donald Trump's former campaign manager joins us from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Good morning.


KURTZ: Let me start with something that a New York Times news story said was false. Donald tweeted the other day, "If Russia or some other entity was hacking, why did the White House take so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary Clinton lost?" But the National Intelligence director James Clapper did say in October formally accused the Russians of hacking during the campaign. So, how do you reconcile the two statements?

CONWAY: They're easily reconcilable. I mean let's look at President Obama's own final press conference on Friday, Howie. He stopped short of saying that Russian hacking actually interfered in the election in a way that switched the election results toward Hillary Clinton. He wasn't unwilling to do that, which puts the president at odds with many in his party.

I would say even Hillary Clinton now is telling donors at her party or wake or whatever you want to call it the other night in Manhattan that Russian hacking affected the election results. No, it did not and she knows it. She ignored Wisconsin. She ignored Michigan which President Obama won by 10 points four short years ago and Donald Trump just won.

KURTZ: Well, I don't see --

CONWAY: So, look, if these intelligence -- if the intelligence community wants to be serious about this and produce evidence to the American people, we, of course, will look at that. They were invited to a House intelligence briefing and didn't show up. They'd rather leak to the media. That should bother people who are running around on their high horses beating their chests saying that they are genuinely concerned about not undermining our democracy.


CONWAY: Move forward. Go and testify where you should behind close doors and stop leaking to the media.

KURTZ: No question in fact that these leaks have really added to murkiness surrounding this rather than on the record statements from administration officials. You went off on White House spokesman Josh Earnest the other day after he said, well, look, Trump obviously knew during the campaign that the Russians were hacking the DNC e-mails, that this was hurting Hillary's campaign and even Trump had invited Russian hackers to find her deleted e- mails. Why did you respond so strongly to Earnest?


CONWAY: -- everything in the White House from the podium, Howie, would say that he knew what Donald Trump knew and that Donald Trump obviously knew. I mean, how did he know that? And in fact it was his own president, his own boss, President Obama the next day coming out and saying, look, I told Vladimir Putin to, "cut it out or knock it off" at some international conference and he did.

But, you know, when Donald Trump made that comment tongue in cheek about going and getting her e-mails, Podesta's e-mails were already in the main. I would point out to your viewers because nobody talks about it for many reasons, it was a pro-Hillary outside group that used Colin Powell, the former secretary of state's hacked e-mails to try to help her in this election that he questioned Benghazi and he -- they tried to cherry pick some of his e-mails to make it seem that, you know -- to help her, although unfortunately for her, he had -- Colin Powell had made criticisms of his successor, Hillary Clinton.

But, you know, we just can't have it three different ways because people can't get over these election results. Vladimir Putin had nothing to do with the fact that Hillary Clinton underperformed union household. Underperformed with women as the first female president. Certainly underperformed with white voters. Underperformed with the Obama constituency --

KURTZ: OK, no need to --

CONWAY: Let me just say something else. Go ahead, please.

KURTZ: All right. Let me just turn -- and we come back to that -- but I want to turn to the lead story in the Washington Post today, "Last-ditch pitch upend vote." This of course is about the formality of the Electoral College meeting tomorrow and two pretty respected columnist at the Washington Post, E.J. Dionne on the left and Kathleen Parker on the center right, have embraced the idea of GOP electors going rogue to block or overturn Donald Trump's victory. What do you make of that and all the coverage that this is getting?

CONWAY: Well, rather than listen to people who aren't the electors, I would go and look at the close (ph) of the electors. There are many different publications this week and weekend, Howie, where it's any combination of I will respect the will of the voters in this state that voted for Donald Trump and giving him all the electoral votes in that particular state.

In some states, there's a penalty if you don't abide the will of the voters and other people knowing that this is just one last-ditch effort -- very desperate gasp -- to turn around the election results and make them what everybody said they were going to be because they totally missed this election. They totally missed the date of that (inaudible). They totally missed who America is and what they want in their presidency.

I would note you've got these sort of out of work actors and actresses embarrassing themselves this week. One guy played the president on a drama called the West Wing. He's not the president going to the west wing. That's Donald Trump so, it's getting a little out of hand.

KURTZ: Yes, if you hear about Martin Sheen, of course.

CONWAY: I think what they're trying to do is disrespecting, well, you can mention his name but I -- look they're disrespecting it, undermining democracy more than any other allegation because they're actually trying to do this. But I -- people talk about this every four years. We're not worried about it because we take everything like that very seriously.

KURTZ: It's a nonstory.

CONWAY: Our attorneys -- it's a nonstory. By the way, it wasn't a squeaker, folks. Get over it. He needed 270 electoral votes. We got 36 cushions in there -- 306, not a squeaker.

KURTZ: Let me try to get some other topics in our remaining time. Republican spokesman Sean Spicer working with you all says that your team is looking at whether there is still going to be a need for daily White House press briefings. Maybe they don't need to be televised. I understand your arguments but isn't that the one chance that reporters get every day to try to get answers to questions from a top administration official?

CONWAY: Well, no, not necessarily because if you look at the last couple of press secretaries, they have the daily briefings but they don't answer the question, do they? I mean some of these people are deflecting and denying and -- but there are many ways to communicate with the press and obviously many ways for the press to communicate with us.

You've got a president-elect who's very powerful on Twitter. People criticize him (inaudible) that they cove every single tweet and what's there and boy, does it (inaudible) not literally and figuratively. But, look, this is Donald Trump. Unconventional candidate. No military political experience. America looks at that as a bonus. He's going to shake up Washington.

It could be an unconventional White House but we will be respectable to the press. We just expect the same in return. Frankly, for most of them, we have to say it (ph).

KURTZ: Speaking of communicating with the press, Donald Trump used to routinely criticize Hillary Clinton for going months without a press conference. He has not held a news conference since July. Is that going to change any time soon?

CONWAY: Perhaps, but we used to like to smoke her up to have press conferences because they were so awful. We just thought it helped us if she actually had that. Everybody was focused on the wrong point there.

KURTZ: All right. The record will show that your answer was perhaps. Real quickly, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote the following on Twitter. "There was, rightly, he says, a cloud if illegitimacy over Bush, George W. Bush, dispelled wrongly by 9/11 creates some interesting incentive for Trump." Donald Trump called Krugman demented on this. What's your reaction to that kind of rhetoric?

CONWAY: That kind of rhetoric has no place in our democracy, frankly, in a place in media, and here's why. He is taking on the president of the United States and accusing him of doing something or thinking in a certain way, that's not just false but it's dangerous. And I would ask everybody in the media, do you have editor's anymore?

What are the standards here? Whether you look at people's Twitter feeds which are a hot mess against the president-elect and inaccurate and really just for other journalist. Frankly, the public doesn't read them much. Or you have columnists who clearly wanted a different election result accusing the president of something.

That's just very dangerous to our democracy and I would say for everybody who's beating their chest and all high-minded about undermining our democracy. They should think about these hot words. I would like for him to apologize but I would also like for the New York Times to get their arms around it and say is this an appropriate way to speak about the president- elect.

KURTZ: All right. We'll see if Paul Krugman apologizes. And finally, Kellyanne, our remaining minute, you said that one reason that you've been reluctant to take a job in the White House -- you have turned out (inaudible) job a press secretary -- we don't know if you're going to take some other position. Is that you have four children between the ages of 7 and 12. Well, some female critics in the name of feminism kind of jumped on accusing you of saying that no mother with children should ever work in the White House.

CONWAY: I lost him. Tell me when to answer and I will. I know what he's asking.

KURTZ: Go ahead.

CONWAY: Keep going, Howie. I lost you for a second but I think you're asking about, right, well, some them are childish so I appreciate their non-advice. And for others who felt the need to tell us all about their breast-feeding schedule, that's weird. I did that four times but don't need to share the details. Look, these are personal decision. At the core of feminism it's supposed to be that we all make our own choices privately and deliberately, whatever is best for us and our families.

And by the way, for some people, family who include elderly relatives or simply who need them and who maybe are ill. It's not always children and I'm respectful of that, but I want to put it to rest in this way. I work for a man, president-elect Donald Trump, vice president-elect Mike Presence who are incredibly supportive and are creating and very family-friendly White House and West Wing for any working mother who would like to be there.

This is just a personal decision based on the ages and the need to my own children. But if I go inside, I'm completely confident that I will be respected, that I won't have to pretend that I don't have children and a lot of women out there in our work force of over 300 million Americans, Howie, someone have that same privilege.

They simply don't -- you see a lot of people in corporate America this handbooks. We're family friendly. The minute you try to go to a dance recital or baseball game, they say (inaudible), it's not listed on page 862. Donald has working daughters and daughter's in-laws, and he respects this.

KURTZ: Everyone should make their own choices. I'm going to agree with that. On that note, Kellyanne Conway, thanks very much for joining us from Mar-a-Lago.

CONWAY: Thank you.

KURTZ: Good to see you. When we come back, why are some top commentators embracing the nutty idea as we just talked about, that members of the Electoral College should just dump Trump. And later, Corey Lewandowski on why he thinks the New York Times broke the law and his tumultuous tenure at CNN.


KURTZ: Members of the Electoral College vote tomorrow and some pundits are embracing this crazy scheme that Republican electors could go rogue and deny Donald Trump the presidency. It's getting a lot of coverage.

Joining us now to analyze the coverage of this issue and the rest of the transition, Erin McPike, political commentator and a former reporter for RealClearPolitics, Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist and Julie Roginsky, a democratic strategist and Fox News contributor.

Mollie, I was rather surprised and I mentioned with Kellyanne, E.J. Dionne and Kathleen Parker, Washington Post columnist, embrace this crazy town scheme that the electors and what's always a formality should basically go rogue and deny Donald Trump the victory he won at the polls.

MOLLIE HEMING WAY, SENIOR EDITOR, THE FEDERALIST: It really shows the problem when you have columnist that don't represent a lot of diversity at newspaper. This is a problem not just at the Post but at the New York Times. Not a single one of their columnist is Trump supportive. And so you see these kinds of theories taking hold and people covering something that really doesn't deserve a lot of coverage. It's not just the columnists too.

The front page above the fold, lead story of the Washington Post today is all about the Electoral College. Nobody really thinks there's going to be a chance that this will go -- that more than a couple of electors might go rouge.

KURTZ: It's not going to happen.

HEMINGWAY: And the story itself admits that so why are you covering it.

KURTZ: If Hillary Clinton had won a close election, Julie, and Trump diehards in front of (inaudible) electors against (inaudible) mainstream media would go insane.

JULIE ROGINSKY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, but if you think about what the Electoral College is there for, to specifically in existence for a scenario like this. It's not -- it doesn't mean it's going to happen. It means that it can potentially happen, otherwise it will direct democracy with the popular vote recipient win, in that case Hillary Clinton would win. KURTZ: And wouldn't this take away, invalidate the votes of the 60 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump?

ROGISNKY: I'm not disputing with you what's what, but I'm just saying --

KURTZ: Yes, but you were just saying (inaudible) it was there.

ROGINSKY: I'm just saying the mechanism is there so why not cover potentially something that's there. Otherwise, why even have the Electoral College abolish it and let's go with the popular vote.

KURTZ: Well, that's different debate, popular vote versus getting to 270. But if it is such a crack pot scheme, why is it getting so much coverage and the lead story in a lot of places?

ERIN MCPIKE, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, yes. There is one elector who has suggested that he will not --

KURTZ: All right. One, two, three.

MCPIKE: So, it's worth covering because somebody has suggested he's going to buck the system.

KURTZ: Who cares about one person does?

MCPIKE: But still it's worth a little coverage because the usage --

KURTZ: A little coverage, sure.

MCPIKE: And these columnists have a platform to kind of say whatever they want so, fine. What's good about it is that this is an American civics lesson which the public needs because people going about this every four years. So, it's worth talking about the constitution was written to be amended, so why not have the debate --

KURTZ: Yes, because the press is not covering it as a civics lesson. The press including some, you know, a Pulitzer prize-winning columnist says, this should happen. Let me just go (inaudible) now to Donald Trump. He was supposed to have a news conference this week. He decides to cancel.

He wasn't ready to talk about how he's going to deal with his business empire and avoid conflicts of interest turning it over to at least to Eric and Don Jr. Absolutely legitimate subject for the press, Mollie Hemingway, but the press also doesn't seem to acknowledge that there's no easy solution here. It's not like you're selling a bunch of stocks.

HEMINGWAY: Unlike almost every other story that's out there, this is the legitimate story that deserves a lot of coverage and what it deserves is not just this. Freaking out on a constantly hostile coverage but really an understanding of how complicated it is, how there aren't really any good answers. No matter what happens, there'll be some downside and upside.

This is a story we would have been dealing with either way. If Hillary Clinton had won, she also plans to turn over her foundation, which has a ton of foreign conflicts to her only child. This is -- I just can't imagine that we would have seen the same tenor of coverage with its constant outrage.

KURTZ: There's also a lot of media focus on Trump's children particularly Ivanka who may play a role in the administration as she sat on the meeting with tech executives. So, is coverage fair or --

ROGINSKY: Well, it's fair because he knew what he was getting into. I mean it's not -- it was always going to be, as Mollie points it out, it was never going to be easy. But that's not our problem. That's the problem that he has. There's an (inaudible) in his closet. He's potentially in danger of violating if he doesn't divest himself fully of all of his holdings, especially abroad.

And that's something, you know, whether it's complicated or not, it's not something the American people need to deal with. It's something that he needs to deal with it or else don't run for president.

KURTZ: Absolutely legitimate, but at the same time, Mollie says it's sort of an underlying turn and this is terrible, sort of average. I mean, this is a very rich guy who -- everybody knew that when he was elected president.

MCPIKE: The problem with pushing off the press conference is simply that the press is going to go digging and it's going to lead to many more negative stories until he actually has a press conference saying what he's going to do.

KURTZ: So the more there are unanswered questions, more the press will stir the pot. It's kind of way the media operates.

ROGINSKY: By the way, I'm still waiting for Melania Trump's big press conference on her immigration status that we were promised I think over the summer. I don't when that's coming.

KURTZ: Well, they did put out some documents. I've got go to break. Stay put. Coming up next, if the Trump White House curtail those daily briefings, will that be bad news for the public or just the press corps? And later, the journalist who floated the ides that the president-elect might have committed incest, has got a new job.


KURTZ: Donald Trump's advisers are worrying that they view the daily White House press briefings as antiquated and may make major changes. Here's Trump and GOP spokesman, Sean Spicer.


MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: Would you advocate for daily presidential or White House press briefings for the White House press corps?

SEAN SPICER, RNC: Well I think we have to look at everything. I don't know that they need to be daily. I don't know if they all need to be on camera.


KURTZ: Erin McPike, are daily briefings at the White House important not just for the press corps but for the public to get questions answered?

MCPIKE: It maybe but look, White House reporters can go asks questions any time of day that they're at the White House. They can walk behind the podium and go into the White House communications office and ask questions directly. It may lead to better journalism if reporters go ask questions individually so they don't tip off what they're writing about to others.

KURTZ: Well, nobody talks about an exclusive story in the briefing but you say they can just walk in. I mean, it is hard, and especially if you're not from one of the big newspapers and network to get access even to the top press staff certainly to the policy makers in the White House. hat. The press briefing on camera, isn't that a way of holding an administration accountable?

MCPIKE: It is, but why not have a briefing just when there is a big news event that everyone wants to go ask questions of. You know I do think this could turn away from pack mentality journalism. Not saying they should get rid of the daily press briefings but thinking about why we have them and why they could do it a different way is worthwhile. KURTZ: You'd better go check your Twitter feed. Mollie.

HEMINGWAY: Well, again, when the Trump people started saying this, you've got a lot of reflexive hostility to the idea, but I agree. I think there is an opportunity to shake things up. What reporters need to focus on is making sure there's a lot of transparency and flexibility getting the information they need.

I don't see these daily press briefing is doing a great job with that. Now I don't know exactly how to change it because it's very important to get it during this administration, but a lot of what happens on this televised briefings is that you have reporters for the posturing, trying to look good as they ask a question.

They don't do a good job tag teaming to get an answer out of anything. And so I would like for everybody just kind of rethink it and see how it can work out best for both parties.

KURTZ: The briefings have been televised since Mike McCurry and the Clinton White House put them on camera 20 years ago. And sure, it does turn it into political theater and you do have reporters who want to ask a tough question that they can replay on their newscast and the press secretaries also know they're going to get one or two sound bites but still, you know, in the era of cable news and 24-hour news, isn't there something constructive about that?

ROGINSKY: Well, it's constructive in the sense that you don't get to choose to go in your favorite news channel where the pundits that you happen to agree with is going to ask you questions that you would love to answer and would (ph) answering questions that you don't want answered.

Asking questions that you don't want to answer and the nice part about this is, this is as transparent as it gets. You get to meet the press and to the point where, well, you only do it when you have big news event. You don't really know if there's a big news event going on unless you ask the question.

It's not the White House. Both parties and both sides aren't necessarily going to start waving a flag saying, wait, wait, we're covering something up or there's a big news event going on unless reporters have the opportunity to ask them about it. And that's --

KURTZ: It's also a way for the administration to drive a message and at the same time if they're ducking, you know, there's news every day (inaudible) if they're ducking a direct answer, people get to see that.

MCPIKE: It's right. Now, to Kellyanne Conway's point, Donald Trump does go on Twitter and make news that way every single day.

KURTZ: That we don't get to question.

MCPIKE: Yes, that's absolutely right. So, again, I'm not saying that they should go away. I'm saying think about the fact that there is a pack mentality and this could drive it away from that. And you will see what else reporters complain all the time as they get spoon-fed news.


MCPIKE: This might drive it away from that.

KURTZ: Yes, well nobody is forcing them to go to these briefings. All right. Getting another break. We'll see you all a little later. Coming up, Trump's first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, uncovers the transition and why he thinks the editor of the New York Times should go to jail.

And later, Steve Hayes, the new editor of The Weekly Standard, on the role of a conservative magazine in the Trump era.


KURTZ: Corey Lewandowski has been one of Donald Trump's fiercest defender, first, as his original campaign manager and later as a CNN commentator. He is now an outside adviser to Trump, free to speak his mind and he joins me now from Manchester, New Hampshire.

Corey, good morning. Let me start with something you said at Harvard that caused a bit of ridicule on the press, quoting you now, "this is the problem with the media, you guys took everything that Donald Trump said so literally, the American people didn't." And you said, "sometimes you say something and don't have the facts to back it up," but my question shouldn't the media hold very presidential candidate accountable for his words?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, Of course, people are accountable for their words, Howie. But you have to remember, the American people understands the way Donald Trump is going to be game- changer in Washington. And we talked about things -- look he talks about Carrier as an example and what he said was, as an example we're going to make sure they don't ship their jobs to Mexico.

And before he ever even has taken the oath of office to become the next president of the United States, he saved 1,100 jobs in Indiana from that Carrier plant that was going to move. Those are the types of things he's going do. He talked about that in the broader scale of saving American jobs and what we saw was actually literally he saved those jobs.

KURTZ: Well, talk about in terms of this word literally. You say the American people got it when Trump would kind of, some would say shoot from the hip and the media were like parsing every word, but it seems like there's another way of saying, well, he doesn't really have to be held accountable for his words because if we call him on it, he can say, well, I was just using an expression, I was just being sarcastic, I didn't really mean it.

LEWANDOWSKI: No, no, no. What I'm saying is that what he was speaking about saving jobs in America, I don't know if he actually said I'm going to be able to go save those Carrier jobs. He was using that as an example. The difference is we've seen Donald Trump in the five weeks since this election, save 1,100 jobs in Indiana, do a deal with a foreign government where they would invest $50 billion and bring 50,000 new jobs here to our country.

That's what he talked about, he talked about the grand scale of bringing those jobs back to America and making America first. That's what he talked about and actually he's delivering on.

KURTZ: So, when the press fact checkers and (inaudible) to say, well, he said this and it's wrong and this is contradicted by this other state and so forth. Do you think that didn't resonate because many people included probably most people who voted for Trump don't trust the media?

LEWANDOWSKI: Look, if you look at the polls coming after this election, 97 percent of the people that were surveyed from MRC (ph) said that they didn't let the media bias weigh on their decision to vote for Donald Trump in this election. And I think it's been very clear and there's been multiple studies on this that the media was biased against Donald Trump.

And he bypassed the mainstream media by his Twitter feed, by his rallies, by going directly to the American people and connecting with 30 million people and pushing that message out of what he wanted to do. That's what drives the mainstream media crazy, is they can go right to the American people and tell it to them directly.

KURTZ: All right, let's talk about Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times. You said recently that by publishing a couple of years of Trump's tax returns during the campaign that he, Baquet, had committed a felony against Trump and that this was egregious and that he should go to jail. But the person who broke the law here is not Dean Baquet. It's whoever anonymously sent those tax returns to the New York Times.

LEWANDOWSKI: I agree with you, but as you know, Dean went to Harvard University and sais he was willing to go to jail to publish Donald Trump's taxes. He was encouraging someone to break the law and use his perch at the head of the New York Times to say he was going to publish that information knowing that it was going to be obtained illegally. Now look, I don't think that's right.

Donald Trump is a private citizen. As you know, he said many times that as soon as his audit was done, he was going to release his taxes and that's the privilege of being a private citizen. And if Donald Trump wanted to release his taxes, he could have done that. But someone releasing his taxes without his permission, as you know, is a felony.

KURTZ: Well, we can debate whether being a presidential candidate is also the same as being a private citizen. But as you know, Corey, and sometimes during this published confidential or classified information to expose wrongdoing or doing what they think is in the public's interest, where the public might or might not agree, when you talk about criminal penalties for journalists, that could have a chilling effect. Do you not see some value in the press digging up stuff and getting their hands -- journalists getting their hands on material that's supposed to be secret?

LEWANDOWSKI: Well, look. The question is what in Donald Trump's taxes did we learn that was going to change the outcome of the election? Nothing. What we learned is that he's as rich as everyone knows he is. The he took advantage of the tax laws because the laws are so fundamentally flawed that he's going to go and change those so that people can't take that advantage anymore.

There's nothing in there that was a material decision that's going change the outcome of the election. So what I don't understand is, there's a difference between publishing classified information that has a direct impact on the American people and publishing someone's taxes that doesn't materially change the outcome of the election.

KURTZ: All right. Now you resigned as the CNN contributor the day after the election. Obviously you may take an administration job. CNN took a lot of flak for hiring you and it seemed like you'd be on this sort of eight- person panels of mostly people would be beating up on you on election night. Dan Jones said you were a horrible person. What was it like being on those panels during your time at CNN?

LEWANDOWSKI: Well, look, let me say I got a lot of friends at CNN and I want to thank them for the opportunity to be able to defend Donald Trump during this presidential election cycle. But you know what, what it comes down to is I wanted to have the opportunity to able to speak my mind anywhere I wanted. And look, there were good people that worked at CNN and my colleagues over there are good, honorable people. I just want to have the opportunity to spread a message about Donald Trump on as many networks as possible and that's why I chose to resign from CNN.

KURTZ: Did you ever feel though and then (inaudible) the deck was kind of stacked against you?

LEWANDOWSKI: Look, I've got broad shoulders. I think it's fair to say that I've taken a lot of bullets this election cycle, not as many as Donald Trump, but I've taken my fair share so, you know, my shoulders are broad and I think I can hold my own in any of those panels.

KURTZ: You've got the scars to show for it. Now finally, now that the election is over and president-elect Trump has to go through a tough slide of governing, what does he gain from continuing these harsh tweets against CNN, for example, New York Times, NBC, even Vanity Fair, and its editor Graydon Carter. I mean, he's settling scores, but how does that help him govern?

LEWANDOWSKI: Well look, it's not about governing. It's about, you know, being honest with the American people and what he has brought to life this election cycle is that there is a massive media bias and we've seen it. And what Donald Trump has said is, I'm not going to let people be untruthful about me and not counterpunch. I think it's a great opportunity where you've got someone who can go directly to the people to tell them the truth.

It's something that no one has ever had the privilege of doing without calling a press conference. And you know, he can put out a tweet and it's the front page or it's the breaking news of any major network. It's an opportunity that didn't exist five years ago or 10 years ago and he has used it to make sure that the truth is getting out and that's important.

KURTZ: No question about it but when you were running his campaign and many of those tweets would cause controversy, did you ever say, sir, you need to step away from the Twitter?

LEWANDOWSKI: Look, my job isn't to tell Donald Trump and wasn't to tell Donald Trump, you know, what to tweet or what not to tweet because, you know, he's a grown man. But more importantly he fundamentally understands what the American people are after. And when he talked about just recently not allowing the flag to be burned, I understand what the Supreme Court has said.

But I also know that 80 percent of the American people agree with him on that and he has his finger on the pulse of the American people and he's used Twitter to remind those people of where he stands on important positions. I think it's a great benefit to the candidate.

KURTZ: Corey Lewandowski, scars and all. Thanks very much for joining us on this Sunday.


KURTZ: Great to see you. Next on "MediaBuzz," the press piling on the president-elect over the CIA and Russia and his new secretary of state. Is there a hostile tone for the coverage? And later, Politico fires a reporter for tweeting trash about Donald Trump and his daughter.


KURTZ: It seems to be the week when the media launched a multi-front war against Donald Trump from his business dealings as we discussed earlier to his comments on the CIA and Russian hackers to his pick for secretary of state. And we're back with the panels.

Erin, have the media taken the leaked CIA findings on Russian hackers and kind of transformed it into a partisan debate about whether Vladimir Putin handed Trump the presidency. Kellyanne Conway was saying, look, it didn't fit the election and I agree with her but certainly is an important fact of the election?

MCPIKE: It's a huge story. We're never going to get to the bottom of whether or not the outcome was affected by the hacking. We're never going to get to the bottom of it. However, getting to the bottom of the actually story and what they were doing and what they were up to is a story that's not going to be solved by a couple of anonymous sources.

This story is going to go on for years. I'm sure we'll see a number of books written about it. We're never going to know the real answer by whether the outcome was(inaudible).

KURTZ: Let's take a longer view of this whole debate about Donald Trump and Russia. Well, he didn't make any secrets during the campaign that he wanted to have a more cooperative relationship with Russian. Do you think that this see media establishment, particularly Mollie, it's kind of wedded to a hard line approach against Moscow and therefore anything that media is (inaudible) with Trump, he's kind of portrayed as weak and naive toward Russia?

HEMINGWAY: Well, you can get some whiplash when you look at how the media covered. They didn't like that Bush looked into Putin's heart and saw goodness or whatever. Then during the Obama administration --

KURTZ: In his soul.

HEMINGWAY: Oh yes, OK. During the Obama administration, I remember there was a Time magazine cover right at the beginning that said, can we be friends and it was a picture of Obama with a Russian bear during the -- four years ago. Mitt Romney said he thought Russia was a huge geopolitical threat. The media made so much fun of him. The New York Times made so much fun of him.

And so now, Trump clearly has a strategy of cozying up to Russia, which is not altogether that different from his predecessors. And now it's just suddenly the most dangerous threat in the world. And it's just this back and forth that is hard to track, if they're really carrying about it or if it's just yet another way to bludgeon Donald Trump.

KURTZ: I'm getting vertigo just listening to you. Julie, I ask Kellyanne again about this tweet from Donald Trump who does obviously reach a lot of people from Twitter, "If Russia or some other entity was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?" New York Times in a news story just said this was false because the administration didn't do anything, said it didn't want to appear partisan but did speak as late as October -- as early as October -- about Russian hackers trying to hurt the Democrats.

ROGINSKY: And the press conference of it even before that. So, I will say this. I think you're absolutely right about the fact that there were Democrats including President Obama who scoffed at Mitt Romney when Mitt Romney rightly said -- I said it four years ago -- rightly said, that Russia was a geopolitical threat.

And I do agree with you that liberals went oh my God, having to (inaudible) the Cold War calling me, can have this bac, the reality is, every president comes in, George Bush did it, Barack Obama did it. It seems like Donald Trump is trying to cozy up to a man to whom you cannot cozy up. This is like trying to date a guy who does not want to date you no matter how much you're trying to show him a little leg, he's not going to go date you.


ROGUNSKY: And I say this, as somebody who knows quite a bit about Russia. So, what Donald Trump needs to understand is we have 17 intelligence agencies in agreement as to the fact that the Russians hacked the DNC and hacked John Podesta and agreement to that effect that this is not a country that wishes us well. He has to understand that unless he gets in line with what we need to do to punish Vladimir Putin for doing this or he's going to be next the minute he deviates from the party line (ph).

HEMINGWAY: There is broad bipartisan consensus on this. Everyone knows that Russia meddled in the election. The question is really about the media coverage of though like they're taking it to such an extreme and treating it so emotionally and so irrationally --

KURTZ: On that point Mollie --

HEMINGWAY: -- like a really good discussion about it.

ROGINSKY: It's not irrational because it is like a huge geopolitical --

HEMINGWAY: We knew it was happening. Before the election, everybody voted knowing that it was happening. And the information that was revealed was all true.

KURTZ: Let me just jump in. I'm still processing Julie considering Vladimir Putin un-dateable.

ROGINSKY: No, no. He considers us un-dateable.

KURTZ: All right. Josh Earnest was talking about this and the Russian hacking and he said he talked to a New York Times reporter and asked the question, your newspaper and others made clear -- News organizations says Josh Earnest and the U.S. essentially became arms of Russian intelligence, this is because we published (inaudible) of the illegal hacking, which I always felt uncomfortable doing, but how do you not do it, it becomes news when you have all this internal stuff?

HEMINGWAY: I actually do think it's very dangerous to just rely on WikiLeaks for all sorts of information. It is again, weird but it only became a concern this cycle and not when it was disparaging the Bush administration.

KURTZ: And the leaks make all this murky as I was saying to you early. So NBC reports that the U.S. has info, no names attached, that Putin was personally involved in the hacking of the DNC and related entities. Kremlin says that's laughable nonsense. And then Congressman Peter King, a Republican, says well to have it appear in the Washington Post and New York Times, the intelligence community has concluded this. Who? Who in the CIA, and we don't know.

MCPIKE: Well, but President Obama in his Friday news conference almost said as much when he said not much happens in Russia without Putin. So, we're hearing that story from President Obama.

KURTZ: So you think that settles it? (Inaudible) is a question on evidence, I mean yes, Obama did say that.

MCPIKE: Do we think that makes it pretty clear? If President Obama who gets a daily briefing, it's going out to his year end press conference, the last one of his presidency and says nothing happens in Russia without Putin. I think that -- it doesn't matter who's in the CIA --

KURTZ: Let me see if I can get you both in on this, OK, Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil chief picked the secretary of state. Look, he's an oil guy with no government experience. The media are kind of portraying him as not just a Putin friend but kind of Putin stooge. Fair, unfair, do you agree or disagree?

ROGINSKY: Listen. Rex Tillerson has a huge financial gain here if all of a sudden he lifts sanction on Russia because ExxonMobil wants to drill and has been prevented from drilling in the Arctic because of the sanctions that we've imposed.

KURTZ: Let's suggest that he would only act in his own personal financial advantage.

ROGNSKY: You know, he needs to tell us right now whether he's for the sanctions or not --

HEMINGWAY: There are Russian ties with a lot of Obama -- with a lot of Trump officials and that's interesting. In part, I think it would be good for the media to think about what Trump's strategy is, whether it's all nefarious or whether he has a game plan here and cover just more calmly.

KURTZ: Reminding myself that he's not president yet. Erin McPike, Mollie Hemingway, and Julie Roginsky. Great to see you all.

After the break, Steve Hayes on taking over The Weekly Standard and covering the president he never wanted to win.


KURTZ: The Weekly Standard has a new editor with Bill Kristol stepping down 21 years after founding the conservative magazine. Senior editor Steve Hayes, a Fox News contributor is taking over the top job. I sat down with him here in studio one.


KURTZ: Steve Hayes, welcome.


KURTZ: How do you see the role The Weekly Standard, which under Bill Kristol was vehemently and vociferously never Trump.

HAYES: It was and Bill certainly wasn't the only person at the magazine who was never Trump. In many respect, I think the rule The Weekly Standard won't change, we've never been sort of a mouthpiece for the Republican Party. We are an independent conservative voice. We think we are tough on Republicans. We were tough on the Bush administration at times. We've been tough on Democrats and certainly tough on Donald Trump.

KURTZ: -- conservative magazine, Republican president even if it's not the Republican president you wanted doesn't mean you're going to go easier?

HAYES: No, not at all. Look, we're not on the team. We've never thought of ourselves on the team. We don't wear red. We don't wear blue. Obviously we're conservative. We label ourselves a conservative journal of opinion. But, you know, we want Donald Trump to succeed in the same way we want any American president to succeed. It's important for the country and this is a critical time.

We'd like him to do well. When he does things that we think are smart and deserve praise, we'll give him that praise. When he doesn't, he can know that we're not going to be there cheering him along. We'll be challenging him.

KURTZ: It's a tough time for print magazine. A lot of the action is online. Some of the newer, more brashly (ph) conservative sites getting a lot of attention, how can The Weekly Standard distinguish itself?

HAYES: Well, we think what we'll do to distinguish ourselves is to continue to do the things that we've done and to do them, you know, better if it's possible. We believe excellence breeds excellence and one of the things that I'm grateful for and one of the reasons I agreed to take this new position was we have a commitment from our owner, Phil Anschutz and his CEO at Clarity Media Group Ryan McKibben, that we're going to be competitive in these other spaces but, you know, the emphasis is going to be on the print magazine. The print magazine isn't going away.

They are willing to resource us, and in some ways, what we're going to do or try to do is cut against the trend in journalism. You read about layoffs all over the place and you read about cutbacks. We're not going to be headed in that direction and, you know, they are as interested as ever in making sure that we have the resources and the tools to just do really good journalism. And that's the charge they've given me. I take them seriously at it and that's what we're going to try to do.

KURTZ: And in that vein (ph), Steve, you've been a very prolific reporter and writer. You wrestled with how much that you have to give up now that you're going to be running the show at The Standard.

HAYES: Yes, I mean I didn't have many reservations as I thought about taking this job. I mean I greatly respect the owners. Obviously I've learned a ton from Bill Kristol. It is an honor to succeed him. But yes, I mean I'm a reporter. I got into this because I like to report.

I'm going to try to do this job and also continue reporting and writing at pretty close to the pace that I have over the past several years. I don't know that I'd be able to keep it up, but that's the goal going in.

KURTZ: You know what, sleep is overrated.

HAYES: Exactly.

KURTZ: Newt Gingrich the other day talked about some media analyst becoming anti-Trump propaganda and he said the following. The same idiots who failed to understand that Trump was going to win the nomination, they failed to understand that Trump was going to win the general election are now commenting on Trump's cabinet. Your thoughts.

HAYES: Well, I mean, being one of those idiots, I mean I didn't think Trump was going to win the nomination. I didn't think he was going to win the election. I don't think that that somehow invalidates the things that I say about his cabinet. Whether I'm praising them, which I have in some cases or criticizing and raising questions.

KURTZ: Steve Hayes, congratulations.

HAYES: Thank you.

KURTZ: And thanks very much for joining us.

HAYES: Thanks Howie.


KURTZ: Still to come, the reporter who tweeted something unspeakable about Donald Trump and Ivanka.


KURTZ: Time now for another case of Trump trauma in the media and this is a revolting one. Julia Ioffe, a paid contributor at Politico was fired from that job over this disgusting tweet that president-elect and Ivanka, who may play a role in his administration, "Either Ivanka is blanking his daughter -- excuse me -- either Trump is blanking his daughter or he's shirking nepotism laws. Which is worse?"

Politico's top editors said, "We understand how absolutely infuriating it is to have incidents like this to tarnish Politico and the great work being done across the company. There will be little tolerance for this type of behavior."

Ioffe was already planning to leave to join The Atlantic. That magazine is saying, she had made a mistake, had apologized and in the future will, "adhere to our standards." Now, it took several tweets but Ioffe finally said, "It was a tasteless offensive tweet that I regret and have deleted. I'm truly and deeply sorry."

Okay. Suggesting that the next president of the United States might be committing incest, yes, that is incredibly offensive and she's lucky to have a job. Now, Ioffe drew flack earlier this year for a GQ profile of Melania Trump that portrayed her as a not terribly (ph) interesting trophy wife and made an issue of an undisclosed half-brother whom Melania had never met. Maybe she just doesn't like the family. We'll keep an eye on Trump drama for you.

And that is it for this edition of "MediaBuzz." I'm Howard Kurtz. Thanks for joining us. We hope you like our Facebook page. We post a lot of original content there,, let us know what you think of the Kellyanne Conway and Cory Lewandowski interviews, I'm @HowardKurtz on Twitter.

I'm out of time. I'm out of breath. We're back here next Sunday. See you then with the latest buzz.

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