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Trump’s new interviews and appearances show that a storm is brewing


By Brian Stelter, CNN Business

A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

“Our country will not survive this.”

I watched Donald Trump’s entire “interview” with One America News propagandist Dan Ball, and that’s the quote that stood out the most.

Trump was in the middle of a fact-free rant about “vicious” Democrats cheating on elections when he said “they’re destroying our country. Our country will not survive this. Our country will not survive.” Then he sniffed and shifted to immigration, saying “look at where they’re coming from,” clearly mimicking the “great replacement theory” talking points that Tucker Carlson has been mainlining into homes across the country.

These are all signs of the gathering storm. Trump’s incessant lies about the last election (Biden “didn’t get 81 million votes, there’s no way,” he told OAN) pose obvious threats to future elections. The so-called “Stop the Steal” movement is “racing forward,” ignoring the Arizona audit “humiliation,” the NYT pointed out over the weekend.

Most of us can feel the instability in the air the same way a weather forecaster can feel a storm coming on. News outlets need to be providing storm warnings — but some are ignoring the threat. That’s what my opening essay on Sunday’s “Reliable Sources” telecast was about. Anti-democratic talking points are being paraded across networks like Newsmax, and averting one’s eyes doesn’t make the parade go away…


The “right-wing media, with a few honorable exceptions, is one giant safe space for the Big Lie,” historian and “On Tyranny” author Timothy Snyder told me. So the reality-based press needs to make “democracy the story,” he said, because elements of the GOP are actively working to subvert future elections through laws, regulations and propaganda efforts. Snyder quite realistically described how a presidential loser could be cast as the winner in 2024. “That is what’s happening right before our eyes right now,” he said, “and we’re just too cowardly to look at it.”

He meant “we” in the broad political sense, of course, and the people and platforms who are staring this threat square in the face deserve credit. CNN’s coverage has been unwavering. At Politico, one of the most-read articles over the weekend was titled “What If 2020 Was Just a Rehearsal?” Over at the Washington Post, Robert Kagan’s powerful essay about the looming struggle is still the most-popular link on the entire website, three full days after it was published.

Chuck Todd invoked Kagan on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” and asked, “What are close elections going to look like on November of ’22?” Well, that’s the thing, panelist Leigh Ann Caldwell said: “It’s not about the past election anymore. They’re still talking about the past election, but they’re trying to delegitimize future elections.” Todd responded, “I think that’s the concern we all have… I used to love a close election. Now I fear the impact of what unpacking that would be.” That’s why we need to talk about it. Why we need to forecast the possibilities…

Liz Cheney says many lawmakers privately agree with her

In Sunday’s “60 Minutes” profile of Liz Cheney, Lesley Stahl asked, “Have members of Congress, Republicans, come up to you privately and whispered in your ear, ‘Way to go Liz,’ and encouraged you, but won’t come forward and say that publicly?”

“Yes,” Cheney said. “A lot?” “Yes,” Cheney said. “Both in the House and the Senate.”

The exchange reminded me of the word Snyder used earlier in the day — cowardly.

The “60” profile ended with a warning by Cheney. “Silence enables the liar,” she said. “And silence helps it to spread. So the first thing you have to do is say, ‘No. I’m not going to accept that we’re going to live in a post-truth world.’ It’s a toxin, Lesley, in, in our political bloodstream. Because when we allow that to continue to go on in the face of rulings of the courts, in the face of recounts, in the face of everything that’s gone on to demonstrate that there was not fraud that would have changed the outcome, then we all — if we do that, we are contributing to the undermining of our system. And it’s a really serious and dangerous moment because of that.”


Democracy “is in the midst of a grave recession”

Here’s a sign of a compelling cable news segment: You grab the remote halfway through, rewind to the beginning, and pay attention to every word. That’s what I did when Pamela Brown interviewed Rick Hasen and Ian Bassin on Saturday. Hasen said widespread acceptance of the Big Lie has greatly increased the chances that “we could see a stolen election in 2024.” And Bassin added a global POV, pointing out that “if you look around the world, democracy is actually in the midst of a grave recession.”

Look to countries like Hungary, Poland and Venezuela, he said: “They’re no longer really democratic, although they still purportedly hold elections. And now three of the four largest democracies in the world — India, Brazil, United States — have been governed by autocrats in recent years.” He said “the thing that is going to stop us from falling down that path is if we recognize that we are not immune to this global trend. It’s only by thinking that it can’t happen here that it could.”

It’s only by thinking that it can’t happen here that it could…


— “The Soviet aspect of the ongoing disinformation campaign is alarming,” Jim Sciutto observed. “The facts don’t matter. Only the constant assault. And therefore — over time — there is no truth — only the reality they create for themselves. We are tumbling down an Orwellian rabbit hole…” (Twitter)

— Charlotte Klein’s latest is about Trump claiming at a Saturday rally that the Arizona audit showed he won the state, even though it showed he lost, a fact most people knew and accepted last year. “The former president doesn’t need facts when he can still use his election-related lies to galvanize his base and splinter his party…” (VF)

— The Big Lie is now “the big cry,” since Trump just “goes to these rallies and he cries,” Jim Acosta quipped… (CNN)

— Former Fox honcho Chris Stirewalt talked with Acosta about the results in Arizona. He noted that bad-faith media achieved its goal, which was to “undermine confidence” in the system… (CNN)

— Brian Murphy, who once led Homeland Security’s intelligence branch, spoke on ABC’s “This Week” about why he filed a whistleblower complaint. Trump’s disinfo poses “an existential threat to democracy,” Murphy told George Stephanopoulos… (ABC)

— Will Bunch’s latest: “What happened in AZ was no joke — but the start of a 4-year Trumpian scheme to sow chaos around voting while laws are rewritten and secretaries of state are replaced in time to steal ’24…” (Inquirer)

— All of this turmoil is evidence of the GOP’s weakness, not strength, Jack Shafer argues… (Politico)

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