HH: Let me introduce you to the White House correspondent for the New York Times, the redoubtable Michael Shear. Michael, good morning to you, great to have you. Are you in Las Vegas? Or are you covering the White House per usual?
MS: Covering the White House. I’ll be watching closely tonight, though, on TV. It’s going to be quite an event.
HH: I think it is. Let me ask you about yesterday. The President interjected himself into the campaign again, accused Donald Trump of whining, may have gotten under his skin. Were you at that press avail?
MS: I was not. I was watching it on the live stream. And you know, it struck me that, what really struck me was the extent to which he even suggested that he didn’t want to get drawn into it again, as he almost always does, and then couldn’t help himself. I mean, it really, I think it is not an overstatement to say this is really personal for him between the President and Donald Trump. And you know, and you could see that no matter what, you know, he wanted to jump in again.
HH: I know. The President will do anything to be involved in politics, because it’s what he’s best at. He doesn’t want to talk about Mosul or his six word legacy line in the sand, I mean, leading from behind, red line and jayvees. That’s his six word legacy. But let me ask you, Michael, since you weren’t there, I don’t know if he took questions. Did he take questions?
MS: Yeah, what typically happens when the President and a foreign leader are together is they take, it’s what they call a two and two. So they’ll take two questions from the foreign press that’s assembled there that follows whatever leader is there, and they take two from the American press. So in this case, that’s what they did. They took two questions from American reporters, and two from Italian.
HH: And have you been, by chance, in any of the recent White House press briefings? This is leading up to a question about what’s been asked or not asked.
MS: Yeah, yeah, of course.
HH: Okay, has anyone asked the President or the press secretary about the Project Veritas videos?
MS: I mean, I don’t want to say for sure, because I suppose there might have been one that I missed, but I don’t think so.
HH: Have you watched them yourself, yet, Mike?
MS: I’m sure I’ve seen clips, but I don’t think that I’ve watched the whole thing. What’s the point being?
HH: The point being, let me read to you a Twitter feed this morning by estimable people. I use that term, and I always mean it respectfully. Matt Lewis tweeted an hour ago, “Question: Why would liberals want to stoke violence at a Trump rally? Theory: To help Trump win the primary.” Liz Mair responds: “100% correct. At that time, Matt, I posited it could even have been pro-Trump forces ginning it up to push him ahead. Liz continues, remember, Trump was not in a great position in Illinois, and was likely to lose Missouri heading into both. Then Chicago happened.” I responded [on Twitter], “@LizMair, @Matt Lewis and to a @RicGrenell point this is why the near-blackout of Project Veritas Action video’s so disturbing. They show the Democrat manipulation of the cycle. We are where we are, but how we got there is important.” And I think the President ought to be asked if he knows these people, if he knows what they are up to, because they say they are wired into the DNC. And if you –O’Keefe is controversial. I stipulate that.
HH: You have to check and make sure that they’re accurate, but it’s been 48 hours. And I don’t really think you can fake these. I would encourage you to watch them. The Democrats gave us Trump. I mean, it’s just, so the President is whining about, I mean, is criticizing Trump for whining when I think the bigger question is Mr. President, did your party nominate the Republican nominee, because that’s what happened, you’ll remember this, Michael, with Claire McCaskill.
HH: …and Todd Akin in Missouri, right?
MS: Right. Look, I think that whatever you, you know, the, both parties are, you know, kind of big, broad umbrellas that encompass all sorts of different actors on fringes of, you know, of each of the two parties. And while you could make an argument, you know, in a lot of cases as in the Missouri case, and the Akin case as well, that there are forces that are, on one side or the other, that are pushing things to happen. I don’t think, and perhaps the Democratic Party has some responsibility for what has ultimately happened with Trump. But look, I don’t think you can, I don’t think you can say that the bulk of the responsibility for why the Republican Party chose Donald Trump is the Democratic Party’s responsibility, right? I mean, that’s…
HH: I’m not saying that. I’m saying when the President chides Trump, and Jan Schakowsky’s husband is on tape talking about manipulating the process to elect Trump, that that is newsworthy, because he is a Chicago pol, right, Michael Shear?
HH: President Obama began and is part of that machine. He no doubt knows these people.
HH: And his press secretary, I just think it’s so obviously newsworthy when against the backdrop of the Access Hollywood tape, and I have no objection to that playing, none at all. It’s newsworthy.
HH: I have no objection to the Russian intelligence operation being run against the United States being talked about. And Wikileaks doesn’t exist. It’s a Russian intelligence operation.
HH: And people ought to refer to it as when it’s referred to. But it’s in the public. We ought to talk about it. But the President seems to be protected by the media. And the fact that Project Veritas is blacked out is very bothersome to me. How many times do you think Access Hollywood tape has been played on television? I asked Alex Isenstadt for an estimate last hour. I’ll get your estimate. How many times do you think people have actually played that on the big three networks, CNN, MSNBC?
MS: Oh, thousands, probably.
HH: I guessed at least a thousand, but I think you’re probably right, thousands.
HH: So wouldn’t it be fair to at least play some of the Project Veritas tape?
MS: Yeah, look, you know, the, I haven’t watched them. You know, I vaguely have a sense of what you’re talking about, and that may be an indictment of the press that I don’t have a better sense of that. You know, I think it’s fair. I will go back and look at them. I think it’s fair to, you know, to hold the press accountable for making sure that it doesn’t ignore stuff that’s newsworthy. And if that’s what the press has been doing, then you know, I think you and others should hold us to account.
HH: That’s what I think. When he talks about rigging, I’m with Jon Husted, the very charismatic secretary of State of Ohio, who is a Republican, saying we don’t have a rigged political system. We have the most transparent, wonderful political system on the planet. And occasionally, fraud occurs, and we have to find out when it does and whether or not it’s significant. But generally speaking, that rigging charge makes me laugh. The rigging charge of the media covering, as Dan Rather, I like to quote Dan Rather, news is where you look. Now let me turn to the President and the war. We have a major offensive involving thousands of American soldiers. I don’t mean hundreds of Special Forces, God bless them, I mean thousands of regular Army.
HH: One of them I name and pray for every day, Scott, who I know, who is a lieutenant. And they’re in harm’s way. Does the American people have any idea about this? Do they ever talk about this in the White House that we have a major battle involving a significant number of troops underway?
MS: Well, I think those are two different questions. I think they do talk about it in the White House. And you know, they, the President talks about the efforts underway in Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan when he’s abroad. When he’s home and we have press conferences, I think almost every, I can’t 100% guarantee, but I think almost every full-blown press conference that the President has, he’s asked about at least one of those conflicts. I think the first question you asked, though, does the American public pay attention? I think, you know, look, I think the American public has been pretty disconnected from these wars for years now, certainly since we no longer have hundreds of, you know, over a hundred thousand soldiers there. I think that sort of daily drumbeat of it has faded, and unless, as you do, and I’m sure a lot of others do, unless you know somebody personally who’s over there, you know, frankly, I think that it has faded into the background, and I don’t think that’s a good thing, because these are, you know, obviously serious involvements that we’re in, and the American people should be paying attention.
HH: Yeah, props to Tim Arango and Rick Gladstone of the New York Times who are covering the advance from Irbil, Iraq towards Mosul with the Pershmega. And I just want to know has guidance been given, because then I would understand, if guidance had been given not to identify which units and in what force they are there, I would understand cooperating with American military authorities to protect American deployments from suicide attacks, which would be, of course, of great propaganda value. But have you received any guidance or request like that, Michael?
HH: You broke up, Michael, so I didn’t hear that. Can you repeat the answer?
MS: I’m not covering the wars, so I, it’s not personally, but I can tell you that the New York Times takes this very seriously, as do most major news publications, the requests that you know, that commanders and military officials is to, you know, to not provide information that could be harmful to troops. And so you know, to the extent that those requests have been made, I mean, the New York Times takes those very seriously, and always honors the kind of, we don’t publish the kind of information that can lead to people being hurt.
HH: Yeah, it’s an interesting question to me, because I really do think Arango and Gladstone have done some fine reporting this morning, but it doesn’t mention American troops. And I’m wondering, I don’t want to criticize anyone, because maybe the Pentagon is asking for that. So I just don’t know, but I would love to know if that were the case. Michael Shear, I always appreciate your taking the high hard ones in the morning. Thank you so much for joining me.
End of interview.