Media erupt over Mueller report

This is a rush transcript from "Media Buzz," March 24, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: After two years of saturation media coverage, analysis, speculation and doom's day predictions, the Robert Mueller investigation is over. When the special counsel's report was delivered to Attorney General Bill Barr at 5:00 o'clock, Friday, journalists knew virtually nothing other than a senior Justice Department official, soon telling reporters Mueller would bring no further indictments, but that didn't slow down the nonstop chatter.


CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Manafort, Cohen, Flynn, Papadopoulos, Gates, van der Zwaan, Pinedo, Kilimnik, Stone. If this was a witch hunt, it's the most of successful witch hunt in American history, Ken.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The president is certainly going to be in a position to declare victory probably it looks like this weekend.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Why was there never an interrogation of this president? How can they let Trump off the hook?

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: To say that somehow this clears the president seems like the height of rushing to judgment.

NATASHA BERTRAND, WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: The biggest lingering question now is, is Trump compromised by the Russians? Because there is really nothing else that logically explains his behavior, his deference towards Vladimir Putin.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There could be information in there that may well be negative information for the president. It may not put him and his campaign in a very positive light.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: But people on TV have been lying to you. They will deny it now. They will tell you this was always about Trump's taxes or some foreign real estate deals or hush money he paid to a girlfriend. That's a crock.


KURTZ: Lawmakers remains on red alert, waiting for Barr who's working at the Justice Department this morning to brief Capitol Hill on the principal findings which may happen today.

Joining us now to analyze the coverage: Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist and a Fox News contributor; Sara Fischer, media reporter for Axios; and Philippe Reines, former State Department official under Hillary Clinton.

Mollie, there are still big ifs here because we haven't seen the report. But since it shows no criminal collusion with Russia because no further indictments, what judgment history render on the two years of extraordinarily intensive and often overwrought media coverage?

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR, SENIOR EDITOR AT THE FEDERALIST: The media had an opportunity after the failures of their coverage of the 2016 campaign and election to really redouble their efforts to do a good job covering a man that they had trouble covering during the primary and during the election.

Instead they rolled right into an absolutely deranged conspiracy theory that held the country hostage for more than two years and to come to this end is absolutely devastating. Their credibility was already very bad and now it is at an apocalyptic level event. It is unclear whether they will be able to return from this.

KURTZ: Just to be clear, are you saying that the media pushed this, what you called deranged conspiracy theory or covered conspiracy theory spun by others?

HEMINGWAY: Both. So they weren't critical enough about conspiracy theory that they were being fed by others. This was an information operation that was secretly funded as we learned a year and a half into it, secretly funded by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. They weren't skeptical enough of what they were hearing from their sources. They also just leaned right into it. This is a broad failure of both the media and some other people.

KURTZ: That of course is about the beginning of investigation fully. But the media of course reported Mueller's 37 indictments. It doesn't invalidate the investigation that this isn't going any further. Would you agree that Russian collusion, how many times did we hear Trump say no collusion, no collusion?


KURTZ: Was that the heart of the matter and the heart of the coverage and therefore no further indictment is a very big deal?

REINES: This is what I know. I know that none of the three of us, none of you -- none of your 1.2 million viewers unless Bill Barr has taken a moment to watch TV knows what's in this report. We know one thing, it's over. We need to read it.

Now, Mollie first is criticizing conspiracy theories then immediately creates new conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton is financing and there is a cabal of people behind everything that has happened. The "people" behind what happened is Donald Trump. True conspiracy theories are uranium one, are Seth Rich.

There is no one including this network that is innocent on the front of boring into something. I would argue that what has been going on for the last two years is the most important constitutional problem we've had in 20 years, maybe much longer.

The problem is, you know, we are not talking about what Russia did to us. Forget about whether Donald Trump (INAUDIBLE) and what we are doing about it. To this day, Donald Trump refuses to acknowledge it happened.

KURTZ: I am going to drill more deeply into what you're both talking about and give you a chance to respond, Mollie, in the next segment, because I want to stay with (INAUDIBLE).

Sara, my question is, at times there was a drumbeat over every development involving White House aides, Jared, Ivanka, Don Jr., Michael Cohen, Roger Stone, will Trump sit down with Mueller, what did he say to Putin, did the media give the collective impression that the president of course was hiding some kind of collusion?

SARA FISCHER, MEDIA REPORTER, AXIOS: Yes, I call this assignment editing bias. It is when you choose to cover a certain story from a certain lens, the people that you bring on, the people that you quote, even the amount of coverage that you're giving it, which gives the viewers an impression that it is going to be bigger than it actually is. Now, you see --

KURTZ: Raising expectation.

FISCHER: Exactly. You see the media is now going to have to figure out what do we do. You have seen so many anchors and reporters used the word that the report might disappoint. What do you do about the fact that you have using the word "disappoint?" Isn't that a kind of an indictment within itself?

KURTZ: Right. And then it kind of sets me up, by the way, I want to give credit to Peter Baker of The New York Times for writing in his story about how this is a moment of reckoning for all institutions. He says, "Have journalists connected too many dots that do not really add up?"

Mollie, what it has been like for you personally, the last two years, you have been taken a very definite view of this investigation which we are starting to hear about, to be up against a sort of media machine that has often pushed back against you and your view and dismissed you as you're just defending Trump and that sort of thing?

HEMINGWAY: It's almost difficult to describe how difficult it was to be sceptic, particularly early on. I am not sure if people remember what it was like in December 2016 or January 2017 when this hysteria really got going and everybody collectively decided that it was totally logical to explain the 2016 election by this crazy conspiracy theory that the Russians and Donald Trump have colluded to steal it.

There were so few people willing to push back. I think it is important to highlight who some of those people were. Some of them are here at this network. Catherine Herridge at Fox News did wonderful reporting on this, Kim Strassel at the Wall Street Journal, Chuck Ross at the Daily Caller, deserves (INAUDIBLE) here, John Solomon (ph).

I believe those of us at The Federalist, we published stuff going on for more than two years. I would put up against anybody for a critical look at the conspiracy theory and how it was promulgated by the media. But it was incredibly difficult and it took a lot of courage.

I don't think a lot of people actually ever believe -- I mean, it's kind of shocking how many people believed this crazy theory about Russia collusion, but many more people just lack the courage to speak against it in the face of hysteria. That is a journalistic problem. You need courage --

REINES: It sounds like we are doing the 25th anniversary oral history of what this time period was like.


REINES: Tomorrow, you could be talking about the narrative of hundreds of pages of XYZ and no matter what the report says, you will say the exact same thing. You will to give an inch that anything happened here --

HEMINGWAY: I think it's important to understand, Philippe, it's over. The investigation --

REINES: You're saying it on Fox does it make it so.

HEMINGWAY: Philippe, the investigation --

REINES: He is under investigation by 17 other entities including Southern District of New York.

HEMINGWAY: OK. The reason why it is important to just kind of accept reality right now, we weren't fed a theory that he would be investigated for his business dealing by people who oppose him politically. We weren't fed a theory that sometimes he was surrounded by people who are bad. We were told -- hold on --

REINES: He is being investigated by the House Intelligence Committee because Devin Nunes --

HEMINGWAY: OK, I would like to actually answer this. We were told that he was a traitor who had colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election. If that were true, it wouldn't be just something you put in a report. It would be something for which there would be dozens of indictments and it would be --

REINES: There have been dozens of indictments, Mollie.

HEMINGWAY: But nothing to do with collusion.

REINES: Thirty-four people have been indicted for almost 200 --

HEMINGWAY: Philippe, as you know, not a single one of the indictments has anything to do with the actual animating theory that we had a traitor who had colluded with Russia to steal --

KURTZ: I am going to (INAUDIBLE) because I want to come to Sara on this. So, as the media collectively have, you have seen this in recent weeks, moved away from the collusion part, it was clear that Mueller was wrapping up, the spotlight had seemed to shift, media spotlight to question of obstruction, why did he fire Comey, did he force out Sessions, did he explore firing Rosenstein, did he explore firing Mueller, which may be important.

Obstruction of justice is a serious crime. People go to jail. But it's not the same as colluding with Russians. The Russians clearly were trying to interfere with the election. But what about the shift to this obstruction question?

FISCHER: That's the big narrative question. Look, the report has been submitted. To an extent, yes, that part of it is somewhat over, but there is a lot of other unanswered questions, right, like obstruction of justice. That's why Democrats want to see everything revealed publicly. That's why they say they want full transparency over this, because those questions still matter.

Even if this turns out that there is no collusion with Russia, it doesn't mean that we as media or the American people can walk away from other potentially really bad crimes. So, that's the point. What we are looking at here is the next step.

HEMINGWAY: There are two media issues in play here. To move to obstruction raises the issue. When you saw the coverage Donald Trump saying, there is no collusion, people would say, it sounds like he is obstruction justice here. Well, the option was either that he was a traitor who was obstructing justice or he was an innocent man who is proclaiming his innocence. The media coverage itself --

REINES: The option is to be innocent man who acts innocently --


HEMINGWAY: -- is transparency and there have been people demanding transparency about all sorts of parts of this investigation, not just this final report.

KURTZ: OK, I want to come back to --

REINES: Donald Trump is not innocent. He has brought on a tremendous amount of this on himself and refusing to in any way cooperate. All he does every day is threaten --

KURTZ: I got to jump in here. Philippe, I will come back to you in a second. A Fox News poll out today says 52 percent to 36 percent, people approve of the Mueller investigation.

My question to you, Mollie, leaving aside the other issues that we will get to in the next segment, are you willing to say that Mueller, former FBI director, making no public statements, no grandstanding, doing his business and wrapping up without questioning the president, conducted himself like a professional prosecutor?

HEMINGWAY: Here is what I think we actually do need to wait and see how the report comes out. We also have an issue of what we have seen thus far.

The way the indictments were handled with the various sort of explosive language written in there to end up with no actual indictments related to collusion, the fact that Robert Mueller hired people who discredited it like Andrew Weissmann to run the investigation, including a bunch of partisans, I think there is legitimate -- you can be someone who has a complex history like Robert Mueller has. He botched the anthrax investigation. He botched a lot of other things. He made --

REINES: Oh, come on.

HEMINGWAY: That was a million-dollar mistake that --


REINES: -- you can't answer simple question whether Bob Mueller did his job.

HEMINGWAY: The question --

KURTZ: Because special prosecutor --

REINES: She doesn't know what is in the report.

KURTZ: OK, hold on --

REINES: And tomorrow doesn't want to live with the comments of Bob Mueller did a good job --


REINES: -- if you don't like what's in the report tomorrow.

HEMINGWAY: What I am saying is already we know how he has handled the investigation and the legitimate concerns about how he handled the investigation.

KURTZ: We will come back to that.

HEMINGWAY: That doesn't mean that it's all good or all bad.

KURTZ: We are a little short on time here. But special prosecutors are often criticized for never giving up and just justifying their mandate by going out of control. Mueller is wrapping up. He hasn't gotten anything further. And my question is, are the media giving him credit or should they give him credit for that?

FISCHER: For being done after 19 months?

KURTZ: For not turning this into a six-year -- I don't know, witch hunt?

FISCHER: You know what? I am going to say yes, I agree with that. I think that they are giving him credit. Some of Republicans are now saying, oh, we just wasted two years. Well, we have 37 indictments after two years and almost 200 criminal accounts. It means that we were taking some of that time to actually come up with some conclusions here.

HEMINGWAY: That had nothing to do with Russian collusion.

KURTZ: All right.

FISCHER: We don't know that.

KURTZ: This is fascinating. I want more of it, but I got to get a break here. More on the coverage of the Mueller report which we haven't yet seen in just a moment.


KURTZ: Continuing our look at the media coverage of the Mueller report and headline I saw before, the president breaks his silence. He tweeted, "Good morning. Have a great day." That was his substantive comment.

Sara, front page of The New York Times, I am going to hold this up, the lead story with Mueller's report, interest turns to New York, meaning the federal prosecutors in New York and their investigation. If when we see this report, there are no bombshells or huge bombshells, will news organizations simply move on to, hey, what about this?

There are always other investigations, the one in New York or the Democratic investigation in the House. Will they just sort of take a breath and move on to the other?

FISCHER: Yes. That is why this is a key moment for 2020. The narrative now splits. The narrative for Republicans goes to vindication, the support. We haven't even seen the report yet but we are seeing all these headlines. And the narrative for Democrats is, well hold off, hold off.

Even if there is no indictment here, there are so many other sealed (ph) cases in the District of Columbia, the Southern District of New York that we still have to keep our eye in the ball.

KURTZ: I call that the "you just wait theory." You just wait. Not happening yet, but it could happen next week.

FISCHER: The disappointment that you --

KURTZ: I understand. So, as I promised earlier, there has also been substantial coverage, much of it on the right, about President Trump's attacks on institutions, special counsel's office, DOJ, Jeff Sessions, and FBI. Has there been enough media attention in your view to the problems as you see it with the investigations themselves?

HEMINGWAY: Right. There was always an option here, two competing theories. One was that Donald Trump was a traitor who colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election and therefore you needed to put spies on his campaign, you needed to wiretap multiple people associated with him, you needed to break all these norms.

The other theory was that that would have been a very bad thing to do, that the Department of Justice did not behave appropriately when taking this information that really was bought and paid for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee. That is not a theory. That is actually fact. That was revealed --

REINES: After the Republican Party --

HEMINGWAY: That was revealed --

REINES: After the conservative lane --

HEMINGWAY: In any case. There are sort of things that we haven't even begun to cover properly, much less investigate properly. We know that there were criminal leaks related. The whole way this investigation got going was in part through people leaking selective information to media outlets who didn't ask enough questions about why they were getting this information.

We have criminal leaks about people which have not been well investigated, certainly have not been well covered. We have James Comey who took documents that he shouldn't have taken, Andrew McCabe lying to investigators which the inspector general found about, Christopher Steele who the guy who invented the dossier, lying to the FBI, and Glenn Simpson, the guy who managed the project, lying to Congress. There are sort of things here that need to be covered well.

KURTZ: All the things that Mollie mentioned, I certainly read stories about, have those been covered to some extent, and also have the media, let's be candid here, been more outraged about why they depicted, maybe you share others' view, President Trump undermining confidence in law enforcement with his attacks on the various investigative bodies and even his own attorney general.

REINES: I will say two things. First of all, on the media, you shared a clip of Jeffrey Toobin of CNN saying the president can take a victory lap or he is headed for that. You had Chris Wallace of your own network who sat here only a couple of hours ago saying we have more to see. So I do think there is a balance being covered from both end. In very simple terms, the news covers what's happening. This is what is happening.

On the law enforcement front, I think we have a couple of problems here. Until two months ago, the Democratic Party was really just in the desert. We were watching. The special counsel is created by the deputy attorney general who is a Trump appointee, who worked for Jeff Sessions, who is a Trump appointee. The Southern District of New York is a Trump appointee.

I would understand these accusations a little bit more if the Democrats were in the world. But we don't. The problem with law enforcement, I think 25-50 years from now, they're all going to suffer for is there are two institutions that are important to American society, law enforcement which is formally part of the government, and media which is not but played an important role. They have both been decimated in terms of credibility. And we're all going to suffer for that.

HEMINGWAY: In the past, we have had issues where law enforcement failed to do a good job and we had the media holding them accountable. We got the church commission out of this in the 1970s. Clearly we have had a breakdown of trust because of the unevenness in which the FBI is handling one campaign versus another and some political partisans versus others. There is a much effort that needs to be done to hold them accountable. Unfortunately, I think that our media are in no place to do that.

REINES: You want to hear an imbalance? Jim Comey a week before the election saying, hold on a second, we found one more little hard drive, and not mentioning that Donald Trump's campaign --

KURTZ: Let's not re-litigate that.

REINES: No, but you can't say that --

KURTZ: It's relevant because it's the question of how much Bill Barr should reveal. If he is not indicting people, do you then trash (ph) him? Do you say, here is the evidence we have, it was enough for indictment? That's going to play out in the next few days.

Final question for you, Sara, Joy Reid, MSNBC host, about 16 hours after Attorney General Barr got this report from the Mueller office, says, well, you know, Trump controls the Justice Department. This guy, meaning the A.G., is not recused. It feels like the seeds of a cover-up are here. Barr says he is going to go to the Hill and brief. Whether it is an adequate briefing, we can see. Seeds of a cover-up.

FISCHER: Way too far. It is in his best interest, by the way, in order to ensure the institutional trust to reveal at least what he can, if not all, to Congress. So for her to say that without knowing how he's going to act, to me, seems very one-sided.

KURTZ: All right. On that note, Philippe Reines, Mollie Hemingway, Sara Fischer, thanks very much. We have more ahead on the coverage of the Mueller report. We are doing most of the hour on it. But when we come back, we will take a brief look at the president fighting with Kellyanne's husband and that whole thing, also an interview he gave to Fox News on his attacks on John McCain. Stay with us.


KURTZ: What do we make of the media's nutty soap opera involving the president and Conway family? Here is what Kellyanne Conway told Fox.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: For me, I think the media is getting into a very dangerous area though in discussing people's marriages, which is not what's been tweeted about.


KURTZ: Her husband, George, a Washington lawyer, escalated the Twitter warfare by suggesting that his wife's boss suffers from narcissistic personality disorder and by the way is unfit and incompetent.

Conway kept jabbing back even when the president twisted the knife by saying the spouse of his White House counselor is "very jealous of his wife's success and angry that I, with her help, didn't give him the job he so desperately wanted. I barely know him but just take a look, a stone cold loser and husband from hell"

Actually, George Conway turned down a Justice Department post out of concern for the couple's four kids but the media zeroed in on his wife.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I were Kellyanne, I would be upset with my husband. But George Conway feels very, very strongly about this and he is giving Trump a taste of his own medicine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At some point, she's going to have to decide between Donald Trump and her husband. This is not working out.


KURTZ: And reporters naturally wanted to know more.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know. He's a whack job. There is no question about it. But I really don't know him. I think he's doing a tremendous disservice to a wonderful wife. Kellyanne is a wonderful woman. I call him Mr. Kellyanne.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Does he want you to step down? George say --

CONWAY: Certainly. But what message would that send to the feminist everywhere who pretend they are independent thinkers, and men don't make decisions for them?


KURTZ: Lots of this is obviously gossip. The media took a little too much pleasure in all the marriage chatter, but you can't expect journalists to ignore the story when the president of the United States is calling is top aide's spouse "the husband from hell."

Meanwhile, President Trump has been taking plenty of media flack for his repeated attacks on John McCain, who dies last August. We will talk about that later. And things got a bit testy when he was challenged on that point by FBN's Maria Bartiromo.


MARIA BARTIROMO, FBN ANCHOR: But Mr. President, he's dead, he can't punch back. I know you punch back, but he's dead.

TRUMP: I don't talk about it. People ask me the question. I didn't bring this up. You shouldn't brought it up. Actually, I thought you weren't supposed to bring it up but that's OK. You know, fake news every once in a while.

BARTIMORO: It's not fake news. You just told me why you have an issue with him. It's really --

TRUMP: A very serious issue.


KURTZ: Maria explained to viewers she never agreed to any preconditions before the interview. After taking media questions the next morning, Trump made his feelings clear when he saw Fox's John Roberts.


JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS CHANNEL CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president is not happy with this this morning either. He glared at me like I've never seen him glare at me before.


KURTZ: Sometimes, Fox News is not exempt from Donald Trump's frustrations with the media. After the break, the deep left-right divide over the Mueller findings. We still haven't seen the report, of course. And how invested are journalists in the special counsel's probe? That's next.


HOWARD KURTZ, FOX NEWS HOST: We are continuing our in-depth look at the coverage, the reporting, the analysis and the commentary on the Mueller report which we still haven't seen the details of.

Joining us now to analyze that coverage Ben Domenech, publisher of the Federalist, and Richard Fowler, radio host and Fox News contributor.

Ben, we're almost in this sort of parallel universes. Much of the media has been sort of hammering away, day after day, month after month, which is goes on and on, and made it sound like the president was in severe danger of who knows what, indictment, being runout of Washington from this investigation.

Then you have some of the president's defenders, including some here on Fox often echoing his attacks on Bob Mueller on the FBI, on the DOJ. How can it be that the same set of facts led to such wildly desperate conclusions and analysis?

BEN DOMENECH, PUBLISHER, THE FEDERALIST: Well, I think the media needs to look at itself here and ask whether, to your point earlier regarding Peter Baker's question, did we connect too many dots here? Were we misled in a way that we hyped up this story to an irresponsible degree and led frankly the American people to believe a lot of things that weren't true?

As recently as two weeks ago, you had the former head of the CIA John Brennan intimating on air that he thought that there would be a lot more people would be going to jail from the White House, obviously that does not look to be the case.

And I think that in this situation we have to understand how much damage this does to the credibility of everyone involved. If people come to view the institutions of law enforcement in the country as being led by partisan hacks who can't be trusted, people like Andrew McCabe who've had the kind of issue that they've had, then that's going to be a negative when it comes to the ability of us to trust these needed institutions going forward.

With the media as well, as they have driven and hyped up this thing to really, I think respond to a lot of folks in their audiences who were putting too much faith in this. That they were going to be somehow rescued from this presidency if they were opposed to him by these different forces that were going to stand up for some type of message that would remove the president from office.

You know, just this past week there was a report from the Associated Press about the number of Americans who had named their new pets after Bob Mueller in some kind of hope that, you know, he was going to rescue.

KURTZ: Now, that is the fact that I did not have. And by the way, as an old Justice Department reporter, I hate when anybody in the public eye predicts indictments. Remember all the stories about the president's family members might be indicted.

But Richard, even if Mueller found no criminal collusion and even if he found no wrongdoing by Donald Trump personally, are conservative commentators justified in portraying his attacks on law enforcement as a necessary part of this debate? Or of course liberals say that goes away too far.

RICHARD FOWLER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that's an interesting conundrum that I think we are now in because I think for a very, very long time it was Democrats, right, and people on the liberal side of the country that had a problem with law enforcement.

KURTZ: Right.

FOWLER: And the fact that law enforcement is not accountable and transparent.


KURTZ: And (Inaudible) police brutality --

FOWLER: Of course. They -- that we will hear folks that they talk Martin Luther King.


FOWLER: And on the other side you have conservatives defending law enforcement. And now because President Trump is in the White House that narrative has begun to shift. And think it caused law enforcement to question are we truly accountable, are we truly transparent.

And at the same time, I think it caused those in the liberal camp to save themselves. There are times when law enforcement is doing the right thing. And what we've seen from this Mueller investigation and from Robert Mueller and his team in itself is a team that has done no leaks, no grandstanding, no crazy press conferences. They've just been busy at work for the past 22 months.

And in that 22 months, they've indicted 37 people for over 200 crimes and that's real crimes against the American people.

KURTZ: Right. Now you have to say that and you have to say there's been no grandstanding by Mueller himself. Whether you look at it journalistically, politically or culturally, how invested have major news organizations been in the success of the Mueller probe. Success being something that either, you know, it brings down more Trump associates or perhaps the president himself.

DOMENECH: Hook, line and sinker. I mean, this is a situation where you had whole news organizations really advocating I think publicly in a way that was irresponsible and then went far beyond even what we knew in a way that it was just, you know, not just to your point about speculation, I think it went so far beyond that, that you had people actually assuming that this was going to happen.

I mean, to the point where you know, you had the commentary from Elizabeth Warren about whether he was, you know, going to be in jail or not going forward.

This is a situation where I think law enforcement is now, to Richard's point, running the risk of becoming so weaponized and viewed as a tool for partisan entities. That going forward, when we actually have investigations like this play out there is going to be real lack of trust.

I, personally, I'm very skeptical of those sorts of organizations. I think we have to be even more skeptical of the sources in media who ran over and over again with stories that would then be debunked but then it seemed like they would go back to those same wells over and over again.

FOWLER: But I think it's worth pointing out a couple of things. Number one, I think it's very irresponsible for the president of the United States to challenge his intelligence agencies. I think it's irresponsible for the president to challenge the FBI. And I also --


KURTZ: What if they are wrong as in the case of the Bush administration and WMD? I mean, maybe a challenge can be healthy.

FOWLER: Fair. But I think it's also very important to realize that, you know, they're trying to make this out like, you know, there is -- this is some sort of political conspiracy to take down the president. Where it's in the reason why we have a Mueller investigation to begin with. There's the fact that James Comey was -- had a counterintelligence investigation. Donald Trump fired James Comey during that counterintelligence investigation which is what triggered this Mueller investigation.

KURTZ: Right. Well, you know, you had no less to figure than long-time ABC anchor Ted Koppel this week where he came out this week that he had said Donald Trump is right, the establishment press is out to get him and singling out the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Washington Post headlines there's lots of stories like this. "Trump's legal troubles are far from over even as Mueller probe ends."

So, it goes to my question about investment. Will we see when the special report comes out, any reflection, any soul searching and even possibly mea culpa from journalist who may say, well you know what, perhaps we went too far we get to over hit him?

DOMENECH: I will be very curious to see the first person wholly dedicated to the story who writes, I was wrong. I got it wrong, I went too far, I believed sources I shouldn't have trusted. I was spun a story that had a whole narrative behind it that this report certainly does not live up. I'll be very curious who does say that because I think there are a lot of people who could.

KURTZ: Brief response.

FOWLER: Well, listen, I think we have to wait and see what's in this report. And we have to also remember that there are other investigations. I mean, there is in the Michael Cohen investigation. In that report Donald Trump is person number one, individual number one who engaged in paying off a porn star.

KURTZ: Right. But so much of the media was focused on Mueller and collusion. And we now know there will be no more criminal indictments having to do with collusion. And that dismissing the other investigations but I wonder how much many will just sort of move the wall there.

Richard Fowler, great to see you as always.

FOWLER: Good to see you.

KURTZ: Ben, stick around. When we come back, we will talk about what happened this week between President Trump and John McCain which was a very big story and got pretty ugly. Stay with us.


KURTZ: President Trump has repeatedly gone after John McCain since the report on the McCain aide mentioned the already confirmed fact that the late senator had provided the unverified Steele dossier to the FBI. The president started attacking him on Twitter for that end for voting against a measure to repeal Obamacare.

So, it was indeed, just proven in court papers, last in his class, Annapolis, John McCain sent that fake dossier to the FBI and media hoping to have it printed before the election.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I endorsed him at his request and I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted. Which as president, I had to approve. I don't care about this. I didn't get thank you. That's OK. We sent him on the way but I wasn't a fan of John McCain.


KURTZ: This has triggered an explosion of media criticism including from generally supported voices at Fox News.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: But for the past few days you've stepped on your own message and gave a needless fodder to your enemies by talking about John McCain and George Conway.


KURTZ: And perhaps the leading critics on The View is the senator's daughter, Meghan McCain.


MEGHAN MCCAIN, CO-HOST, ABC: I think if I had told my dad seven months after your dead you are going to be dominating the news and all over Twitter. He would think it was hilarious that our president was so jealous of him that he was dominating the news cycle in death as well.


KURTZ: And we're back with Ben Domenech. Ben, you became John McCain's son-in-law when you married Meghan McCain almost a year and a half ago. So, this is very personal. What has been your reaction to President Trump renewing his attacks on the late senator?

DOMENECH: Well, first, let me just say that as a matter of sort of internal family dynamics I always refer to Megyn and to Cindy when it comes to reacting to these moments. We all do. And this was certainly not a good week to experience the kind of flurry of hatred that gets thrown after you when the president of the United States attacks you.

Just to be clear and with no offense to you, Howie. John McCain didn't give a rat's ass what Donald Trump thought of him in life. I don't think that that's changed. And the fact is these two men never got along. There was a lot of animosity, there was a lot of tension between the two of them.

But I also think that in this instance the president is actually wrong in what he's saying this is a factual matter. By the time that John McCain handed this dossier over to James Comey the investigation had already been spun up into Carter Page and everything else had been going on already. And he did not hand it to the media, he handed it to James Comey.

Personally, in our conversations the senator referred to that document to me in multiple occasion as a hot potato that he was happy to get out of his hands as quickly as a possible.

KURTZ: Give it to law enforcement.

DOMENECH: To give it to law enforcement. In this case, I would say, you know, the president is just wrong in attacking him and suggesting that this investigation was spun up from the senator. In fact, what we know from the testimony that was handed over and in this case that was disclosed --


KURTZ: Let me jump in because you kind of anticipated my counter argument.


KURTZ: Which is, these guys couldn't stand each other.


KURTZ: Politically or personally. McCain ripped Trump in his final book. The family made clear he wasn't wanted at the funeral. The Washington National Cathedral didn't need anybody's permission to hold a funeral but he wasn't wanted, he wasn't invited.

DOMENECH: But I will just say, we think that Rick Davis, the former campaign manager for the senator did actually thank the president in his opening remarks.


DOMENECH: Just to correct that.

KURTZ: Senator McCain did cast the deciding vote against what was then called the skinny attempt the third attempt to repeal Obamacare. So, despite his passing, that's why he said passing, why shouldn't the president be able to point these things out?

DOMENECH: I think the president can say whatever he wants. And I think that actually to Meghan's point, if John was around, he would just be laughing it off. You know, he had a very tough skin, I think himself.

You know, one of the differences between Senator McCain and the president is I think the president really struggles in any situation where he feels like he didn't get the last word.

And I think in this case, Senator McCain kind of had the last word on their relationship and how he viewed the country. Then the way that that funeral played out and who spoke to it. And that's the thing that I think is going to be part of a lasting legacy on his behalf.

You know, when the president does do these things, I think that to the point that their colleague Laura Ingraham was making, he steps on his own message and then weaken, which he should be feeling, very vindicated I think by the outcome of this Mueller probe. Instead, this was a week dominated by him crapping all over the legacy of an American that for many of us is an American hero who should be respected.

KURTZ: Right. But as you know, I mean, John McCain was an absolute war hero. He spent five years in a Vietnam prison camp. But he was not a saint. He had his flaws as anybody would have made. He used to joke about being the last in his class in Annapolis.

And so, you know, there was a lot of coverage of his passing and the funeral and I think the president was not happy with that. What do you make of someone like Lindsey Graham, the senator who was McCain's best friend in the Senate, who, at one time, denounced Donald Trump attacks on McCain during the campaign, and now making only very tepid remarks? And that's been true with some other Republicans as well.

DOMENECH: You know, the senator is someone who has to make decisions based on politics and not just personality. I think he's a very clever man. And I think that he sees the political dynamics in his state. I do wish that he would be a little bit more outspoken about someone for whom. You know, he had a relationship that was almost familial in terms of their past.

They had a lot of tension near the end obviously, as I think a lot of people know. Because of the closeness of Senator Graham's relationship with the president and he's declining repeatedly to sort of take stronger issue with some of the things that he did say.

But just to the overall question, I think. The overall question here from me is more, you know, is this something that the president is just going to be focused on to the end of his tenure? Is this just the way things are going to go for the rest of our lives?

KURTZ: But is it harder for you? Because, you know, we all get involved in this medium and political arguments. But this is, was in the end more recently for you a member of your family, is it just been hard for you to see this unfold?

DOMENECH: You know, it's hard for me because I know that what is a grieving family and then particularly a grieving widow and grieving children don't deserve this kind of treatment. And that it really comes out of I think a perspective of real resentment on the part of the president.

And I think that, you know, when you see the commander-in-chief, someone who, you know, my own family and Senator McCain's children currently serving under him in the armed forces. That's not what you want to feel like when it comes to the way that you view him.

KURTZ: In commenting on President Trump's record, the Mueller investigation, and overseeing the Federalist, do you, is it hard for you to separate your personal feelings about this matter from talking about Trump?

DOMENECH: I don't think so. Because from my perspective, you know, you should evaluate the president base on his policies and on what he does more than anything else. But I do think that in this case I wish that the president would spend more time on those issues and less time settling personal grievances. Whether it's against the family members or people who he dislikes or against those with whom he's had previous beefs.

Of course, to your point, the senator's record is his record. And in his final book in fact, he questioned and was self-deprecating about certain aspects of it. Even to the point of writing that he thought that in retrospect, the Iraq war and knowing what we know now --


DOMENECH: -- was probably a mistake.

KURTZ: Right.

DOMENECH: Which is a pretty big statement. I mean, when you're looking at legacy items, I wish that -- I wish that we would see that kind of personal assessment on the part of the president as well.

KURTZ: All right. Ben Domenech, I appreciate you coming in this Sunday and thanks for those personal thoughts.

We will be back in just a moment. We'll talk about what's going on Capitol Hill which is anxiously awaiting on the Mueller report and how the politics and coverage there are playing out.


KURTZ: As we continue our coverage of the Mueller report, joining me now, Mike Emanuel, Fox News chief congressional correspondent. And Mike, as Capitol Hill awaits a briefing on the report from Attorney General Barr, probably or possibly today.


KURTZ: Should reporters push back on partisan Russian conclusion? I want to give you an example from each side. Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal told MSNBC, "The facts and evidence here are likely to show a lot of criminality." Based on what?

EMANUEL: Right, exactly.

KURTZ: Member of the House Republican leadership Steve Scalise. "The only collusion was between Democrats and many in the media who peddled this lie because they continue to refuse to accept the results of the 2016 election. Hash tag witch hunt."

So, what is the role of journalists when lawmakers, politicians of either party just make this kind of declarations and none of us have seen the report?

EMANUEL: Well, I think, you know, in this Twitter era there is this rush for instant gratification. You want to be able to say Mueller report is a big nothing burger if you're a Republican.


EMANUEL: And Democrats they want to say well, we're going to take a look at the final print because maybe we can impeach the president. And so --


KURTZ: By the way, instant gratification I think that applies to people who appear before cameras as well.


KURTZ: Because we hate saying, you know, we don't really know, folks. You got to wait maybe tomorrow or maybe the next day. Everyone wants to have a take, right?

EMANUEL: Right. So, I think as old school journalists --


EMANUEL: -- you know, print down the fingers, you want to make sure, do your homework. I want to read the report. I don't want to go tell people there is nothing here until I've actually read it and see for myself. And so, I think you have to hold those accountable and say well, how can you say that? You haven't seen the report yet, and that sort of thing. And so, I think we have to be tough on them and we have to be tough on ourselves.

KURTZ: We have to be tough on ourselves. I've got of income in my fingers, by the way, over the years. We do, and it's a very polarized audience. For example, a new Fox News poll out today, who do you trust to tell the truth on the Russia investigation. Democrats, 80 percent said Mueller, 2 percent said Trump. The Republicans, 62 percent said Trump, 11 percent said Mueller. So, I think that's one of the reasons that almost no matter what you or I report of our colleagues you get a lot of flak from both sides, all sides.

EMANUEL: No question about that. It was kind of interesting to see over the past couple of weeks you had the Democrats in the House kind of pivot away from Robert Mueller a bit to say, or Jerrold Nadler saying I'm sending out 81 letters saying I need information looking to broaden his investigation.

Nancy Pelosi took some pressure on the impeachment front saying not now. And so, you know, basically trying to get some cover I think to some of her moderates where impeachment may not play well in their district.

KURTZ: Right. Well, it's interesting you brought this up since the Mueller investigation is now over and we'll see what's in the report. But we now know no more indictments, and that's significant.

Do you see the press now covering the hell out of the Democratic investigations on the Hill, the investigation in New York as a way of sort of filling the void that will be left by the end of the Mueller probe? And if so, is it possible that the public will lose some interest because Mueller was big enchilada?

EMANUEL: Again, we have to read the record. But I think it will be interesting to see if polling afterwards says the American public has had enough. Two years of investigation assuming there's not a bomb shell in the report. The polling suggests that American people want to move forward and allow the president finish out his term and then the 2020 campaign will kick off.

And so, you know, but that doesn't mean the Democrats will give up. As you know, the noisiest voices --


EMANUEL: -- in the base quite often drive things. And so, there may be a possibility of overreach if the American public has had enough and allow these voices who are saying keep going.

KURTZ: Of course, other investigations should be covered. I'm just saying it's going to hour after hour after hour of nonstop coverage.

Finally, do you think you are going to end up covering a battle over just how much from the report will be released, redactions, execute privilege? Is that the next twist in the partisan warfare here?

EMANUEL: I think it's going to be interesting to see whether the White House says we need some executive privilege of some of the underlying documents. Interesting how many Republicans and Democrats have come out and said, yes, we should all see the report.

KURTZ: By the way, President Trump said he has no problem with it being made public. But of course, the devil is in the details, right?

EMANUEL: Right. Because he hasn't read it yet and his team hasn't read it yet, right?

KURTZ: Right. Long day had for you, I suspect, especially if Mr. Barr makes his way from DOJ where he has reportedly, he'd be working this morning up to Capitol Hill.

Mike Emanuel, thanks very much for standing by.

EMANUEL: Howie, always a pleasure. Thank you.

KURTZ: Great to see you. And is it for this special edition of Media Buzz. I'm Howard Kurtz. Check out my new podcast media of Buzz Meter. We kind of rift on the day's five hottest top stories. And you can subscribe at Apple iTunes or Google Play or We hope you'll like our Facebook page. We post my daily columns there, original video.

And continue the conversation on Twitter at Howard Kurtz. On a day like today, a weekend like this I think there is going to be a lot of people on all sides wanting to weigh in.

That's it for us. We'll be back here next Sunday, 11 Eastern as always. See you then with the latest buzz.

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