On Monday morning, the hosts of Morning Joe discussed the current cover of Time magazine, which features Trump’s Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon. The conversation was prompted by Joe Scarborough, who discussed the allegations made in The New York Times that Trump did not realize his executive order had given Bannon more power. Walter Isaacson, CEO of Aspen Institute and former Time magazine editor, joined the discussion concerning Donald Trump and the cover of the publication.
Isaacson mentioned that he’s worked for Time for years and the cover has consistently caused controversy. Isaacson seemed to be proud of this, specifically citing Republicans that the covers have negatively impacted. He also alluded to the fact that this was the duty of Time magazine and other news sources:
Now I worked at Time magazine for many, many years. And I remember when we put people on the cover, sometimes it would cause a controversy. You know, during Mayor Giuliani, my first cover when I was editor of Time, I put Bill Bratton on the cover and his days were numbered after that, cause of Giuliani’s personality, he didn’t like that sort of thing. Likewise, putting Mike Deaver on the cover, the brains behind Ronald Reagan, that ended up bringing down Reagan– So you’ve got to have these checks and balances, whether it's the judiciary or the press, and at a certain point, you have to maneuver, not just try to barrel over everything like the judiciary and the press.
Although Isaacson’s Giulliani remark was accurate, the comment about Ronald Reagan and Mike Deaver was not. The Reagan administration was not affected by any Time magazine cover. Albeit, Deaver was on the 1986 cover of Time, but it was because of the lobbying he was doing following him leaving the White House.
Earlier in the segment, Scarborough initially took Trump’s side, explaining he was right to be frustrated by The New York Times because Bannon does not make the final decisions, Trump does. He also pointed out that this idea of Bannon covertly managing the White House has been circulating constantly and is not based on fact.
Scarborough said: “I don't know who is pushing out this theme. But as we’ve always said, I mean, you look at this Time magazine cover and it's, again, it's just absolutely preposterous that this theme is being pushed. Because as you and I have always said, for better or for worse, the guy on the cover of Time magazine is not the guy who is in power there, despite the fact everybody, the media, wants you to think he's the guy in power there. The guy in power there, as we always say, for better or for worse, is Donald Trump. And he is the last person in the room.”
Co-host Mika Brzezinski and George W. Bush’s former aide, Elise Jordan, both disagreed, explaining that the media is reporting on the information being given to them. Brzezinski said: “Legitimate media are getting word that Steve Bannon is the last guy in the room, in the evening especially, and he's pulling the strings” Jordan chimed in by explaining: “Well, this is a narrative that’s easy to push, too, when you have executive orders that are so chaotic and incompetent. And seemingly if achieving -- if an executive who -- doesn't know what is in the executive orders that he is passing-- when it seems like the President is disconnected from his policy and he has an all knowing adviser with a very strong ideological bid” As Jordan trailed off, Brzezinski enthusiastically agreed with this sentiment.
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Conversely, Scarborough pointed out this is a common narrative that has been pushed in the past. He did this by mentioning Karl Rove, Colin Powell, and Dick Chenney. Unfortunately, Scarborough did not continue being the voice of reason, eventually stating Brzezinski was right. He also speculated, someone inside the White House, likely among Trump’s staff, is giving this story to the media.
Mika is exactly right, the media is not making this story up. They are being fed this story from people inside the White House. Mr. Bannon has rushed into the power vacuum telling allies that he and Miller only have a brief window in which to push their agenda. That is being pushed, I don't know if it's Miller, I don't know if it's Bannon, but you look at the stories that keep coming out and, again, the stories swirling from inside the White House is, that Steve Bannon is the brains behind the operation. He’s the person that’s been pushing the union strategy. He's the person who’s been pushing all of the other strate-- He certainly did, though, Elise is right, he certainly did push, along with Steven Miller, the executive order that was rushed that was chaotic.
The inferences that Steve Bannon is actually in charge continued for the rest of the segment. Mark Halperin, political analyst, suggested that there is still uncertainty of the roles each person is playing in the White House and because Bannon has “put himself in physical proximity of the President, he is able to get so much done and is getting so much attention.”
Here is the full transcript of the February 6 exchange:
MSNBC's Morning Joe
February 6, 2017
7:05 a.m. Eastern
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: President Trump says, he’s instructed Homeland Security to check people coming into the U.S., quote, very carefully after a federal appeals court declined to immediately reinstate his executive order on immigration. The travel restrictions affecting people from seven countries have been on hold ever since Friday night, when Seattle Federal Judge, James Robart halted the order. The George W. Bush appointee was ruling on a lawsuit brought by the states of Washington and Minnesota. Robart wrote, in his seven page ruling, that the executive order, quote, adversely affects the states' residents in areas of employment, education, business, family relations and freedom to travel. The State Department complied with Judge Robart's ruling reversing Visa cancellations. And the Department of Homeland Security suspended all actions related to the order. Just after midnight on Saturday, the Department of Justice filed an appeal, asking that the courts lift the order immediately, arguing that congress gave the President, and not the courts, the authority to control who comes into the country. The appeals court declined in a quick ruling. Instead, demanding a more legal brief from both sides. This morning, lawyers for Washington State and Minnesota, have told a federal appellate court there’s a risk of, quote, unleashing chaos again, if the ruling were reversed in effect, lifting the ban. Joe, I'm going to ask you if – he’ll prevail but here we go. Donald Trump tweeting this morning, any negative polls or fake news. Just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry. People want border security and extreme vetting.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Okay. So your question was what?
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Will the ban last?
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Well, it's hard to say. Obviously, very concerned about the so-called judge comment. But if you want to just look at the actual facts before us and before these judges, the legal standard is very high for judges to overturn– the President of the United States. And the courts have always shown remarkable deference. The-- greatest deference to Presidents on issues of border security and issues of national security. So, on the merits, I can't really predict how a 4-4 court is going to go. But I suspect ultimately, after they get it out of the ninth circuit, which is the most liberal circuit, and it goes to the Supreme Court of the United States, I'm not so sure Trump won't win that 5-3, only because, again, a remarkable difference always has been shown and always will be shown to a President on securing the borders. The judge listed a lot of items that-- obviously, are items of concern, but by legal standards, they probably won't rise up to the authority that the President has to have the deference to make these sort of decisions.
BRZEZINSKI: Joining us in Washington, founder and executive director of the James Madison project, Attorney Mark Zade who specializes in national security law. Mark, this– how would you characterize this confrontation or whatever you would call it, with the Judicial branch and, ultimately, with this ban?
ATTORNEY MARK ZADE: Well, I'd say still developing and whether we actually go to a constitutional crisis, we’ll see. We’ve never seen anything like this, certainly not in our lifetimes. And if we look back in history, and history is going to very much guide us, back in 1832, where Andrew Jackson had an altercation or confrontation with the Supreme court with Justice Marshall and he told the Justice Marshall, reportedly, that while Justice Marshall made his decision and now he can enforce it and obviously, how does supreme court enforce its decision standing itself? The same thing in the Civil War with Abraham Lincoln when with he suspended habeas corpus and the Justice Taney said, you can't do that. Well, he could. Now, are we there? I don’t know. We’re not quite there, but when you see these tweets that you’ve all been discussing so far--
BRZEZINSKI: Yeah there’s another one.
ATTORNEY MARK ZADE: You don't know what the next one is going to be, and –
BRZEZINSKI: Well I can tell you what the next one is. I call my own shots. Largely based on an accumulation of data and everyone knows it. Some fake news media in order to marginalize lies.
ZADE: And what is– what if the next tweet says, let's say the ninth circuit upholds the suspension? We don't have to talk about whether we get to a substantive ban, as Joe was saying. That’s– there is a great deal of deference in National Security and the congress does have– has given some authority, obviously, as well, that increases the President's authority. But let's say this ban stays in place, at least for the next few weeks. And the President tweets out that he's not going to follow. He’s directing his departments not to follow what this panel of judges has said. Okay. What then? How is the congress going to react? Because it has to go to the congress to do something. I mean I don't think we’re gonna have an uprising revolt here in the United States any time soon. Is the Republican congress going to act? And, you know, obviously, we’re not quite there yet.
BRZEZINSKI: Not seeing a result, Nick, but we are seeing protests.
NICHOLAS CONFESSORE: That's right--
BRZEZINSKI: And a lot of backlash.
CONFESSORE: A big topic, Mark, is the policy process in this White House and the drafting of these orders. I'm curious if you read these court rulings, is there a version, a tailored version of this order from the beginning which could have avoided some of the problems he is having now in the courts, with it being over-broad and chaotic?
ZADE: I think absolutely. I mean, part of what’s going on right now and probably why the ban will be at least temporarily upheld is that, there's no urgency for this. And you've had 97 tech companies file an amicus brief, you’ve had now numerous former secretaries and CIA deputy directors and directors saying, look, there’s no different threat right now that didn't exist, you know, a month ago, three months ago. There is a threat, of course. But why are you rushing to implement something when you could have set this up properly? You could have given advice to Homeland Security and customs border protection on how to enforce all of this. And you didn't. Why is this in such chaos in this raining down of fire towards everybody without any understanding or firemen to put it out? And you know, Joe, I want to mention something that you said. You rightly are concerned about, you know, Putin and the killing of journalists. I don't think we’re gonna see journalists killed here in the United States any time soon, but how about prosecuted under the espionage act for disclosing classified information? You know, we had some in the Obama administration very concerned about that. And, you know, few people remember that in the Pentagon papers case in 1971 at the Supreme Court, which was a civil injunction case, that four of the nine justices made it fairly clear that if the government had sought to prosecute criminally The New York Times, their decisions might very well have been different. And the espionage act, which is a hundred years old this year, makes it very clear on its face that if the government wanted to prosecute either of you for disclosing reading on air classified information that’s been leaked to you, that it could. And what are you going to do then?
SCARBOROUGH: It is gonna be a fascinating four years and, obviously, you're exactly right. The past eight years have been deeply troubling to a lot of journalists who have seen the Obama administration move more in this direction than any administration before it. Let us hope that does not continue over the next four years. Mika, the very interesting, on what the President just tweeted–I – He's actually– he’s exactly right, which is Steve Bannon is not President, who I don't know if it's Steve Bannon, but I don't know who is pushing out this theme. But as we’ve always said, I mean, you look at this "Time" magazine cover and it's, again, it's just absolutely preposterous that this theme is being pushed, because as you and I have always said, for better or for worse, the guy on the cover of Time magazine is not the guy who is in power there, despite the fact everybody, the media, wants you to think he's the guy in power there. The guy in power there, as we always say, for better or for worse, is Donald Trump. And he is the last person in the room.
BRZEZINSKI: Yes but it’s not the media is not wanting to put that out there. The media is getting that and reporting on it. Legitimate media –
SCARBOROUGH: So you–
BRZEZINSKI: Are getting word that Steve Bannon is the last guy in the room in the evening especially, and he's pulling the strings. This is not my reporting. I don't feel that way from what I've seen.
SCARBOROUGH: Right. Well I have– I have– exactly.
FORMER BUSH AID ELISE JORDAN: Well, this is a narrative that’s easy to push, too, when you have executive orders that are so chaotic and incompetent. And seemingly if achieving -- if an executive who --
BRZEZINSKI: There’s been some reporting that the President doesn’t know who–
JORDAN: Exactly, he doesn't know what is in the executive orders that he is passing when it seems like the President is disconnected from his policy and he has an all knowing adviser with a very strong ideological bid
BRZEZINSKI: That actually matches what we’re seeing in these executive orders!
BRZEZINSKI: Wow! You can do a little bit of math.
CONFESSORE: It also reminds me though of the Karl Rove narrative this year, right?
BRZEZINSKI: Yeah. Go ahead, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: No. It is like the Karl Rove narrative. And Nick, we’ll get to you. There was that narrative that Rove ran the White House and then there was the narrative that Cheney ran the White House and then there was the narrative that Colin Powell was going to run the White House– But at the end of the day, it was always George W. Bush running the White House. But Mika is exactly right, the media is not making this story up. They are being fed this story from people inside the White House. Mr. Bannon has rushed into the power vacuum telling allies that he and Miller only have a brief window in which to push their agenda. That is being pushed, I don't know if it's Miller, I don't know if it's Bannon, but you look at the stories that keep coming out and, again, the stories swirling from inside the White House is, that Steve Bannon is the brains behind the operation. He’s the person that’s been pushing the union strategy. He's the person who’s been pushing all of the other strate-- He certainly did, though, Elise is right, he certainly did push, along with Steven Miller, the executive order that was rushed that was chaotic, that still Nick Confessore, is causing chaos in that White House.
CONFESSORE: That's right. I mean look, Joe. Look— He’s doing what he said that he would do in the sense that these orders that are being attributed to Bannon are straight from the Trump campaign platform. Straight from the message. So, the whole idea that it's Bannon's influence is kind of ridiculous, in that sense. He said he wanted to do a ban. He did a ban. Now the implementation of it, perhaps, is amateurish. But the idea that it’s not his preference, the President’s preference, seems to defy the kind of reality to me --
ELISE JORDAN: What’s actually more disconcerting is the reporting that Steve Bannon inserted himself at the National Security Council Principal Committee meeting
BRZEZINSKI: Without Trump knowing–
JORDAN: without Donald Trump knowing. That is the kind of power grab that’s a fireable offense if it is, indeed, true. And that kind of power is being usurped just right under the President's nose.
BRZEZINSKI: Well– And onto the implementation being amateurish, that too is, that’s the team. That’s the team planning it out and strategizing and maybe perhaps talking to people who might have a little tiny bit more experience than them in the issues of law and foreign policy
CONFESSORE: Yeah. Aks a lawyer maybe
BRZEZINSKI: Which clearly, clearly unequivocally was not done, and Donald Trump himself knows how hard it is to get on the cover of "Time" magazine. He was very– actually insulted, rightfully so, that he wasn't a year earlier. He should have been. And it's tough to get on the cover of "Time" magazine. You have to be a real story and a story behind the story to get on the on cover of "Time" magazine.
SCARBOROUGH: So–So how did Steve Bannon get on the cover of "Time" magazine Mika?
BRZEZINSKI: I– I think there is reporting that he is the one who’s truly in power.
CONFESSORE: Well "Time" magazine put him on the cover. That's how.
BRZEZINSKI: Yeah–no– But there’s more than that. You have to be the story.
ELISE JORDAN: Well– you have sloppy executive order that bans– you know– green card holders from seven nations around the world causing utter chaos and affecting a hundred thousand people. Yeah, you're going to be on the cover of "Time" magazine for the chaos you caused.
MARK HALPERIN: It’s not surprising given the vacuum that exists in the uncertainty of– roles in any new White House that someone has aggressive and smart as Bannon, who has put himself in proximity– physical proximity of the President, is able to get so much done and is getting so much attention. My question is where the White House Counsel?
BRZEZINSKI: Where is it?
HALPERIN: You know– the White house Counsel, I've not seen his name in a single article that I've read. He’s really responsible for making sure this stuff is done right and Bannon and Miller they don’t – they don’t care about process they just wants results.
BRZEZINSKI: Yeah there are certain things missing here.
BRZEZINSKI: Okay. Saturday Night Live was amazing. Let's bring in the President and the CEO of the Aspen Institute best selling author Walter Isaacson. And Walter, I want to read a part of Joe's piece which really made waves. It's the most read on The Washington Post website right now even, and was within moments of it coming out yesterday. It's called "Trump's Reckless Shot at a Federal Judge." By Joe Scarborough. During his impeachment battle President Bill Clinton and his wife lashed out at congressmen, senators, news anchors, talk show hosts, newspaper editors and members of the vast right-wing conspiracy, but when the supreme court disbarred Bill Clinton from practicing law before that court, the President was more measured. The Clinton the lawyer knew even during his darkest political days that fighting the judiciary was a battle that the President should avoid. President Richard Nixon recognized that truth as well, even in the final days of his Presidency. These Presidents recognized the bright constitutional boundaries that limited their power, even during existential political crises. But this weekend, Trump took a reckless and unnecessary shot at a federal judge on the basis of a temporary ruling. It is yet another unforced error from a President who keeps stepping on his own good headlines, while stirring deep unrest among political friends and foreign allies. And Walter, this morning, he continues on Twitter. He doesn't seem to pull back on some key things. Putin doubles down. And now the law, the judiciary questioning the legitimacy.
WALTER ISAACSON: This is one thing that could really blow him up if he takes on the judiciary and Americans and congress says, wait a minute, we have a separation of powers. You were talking about the Time magazine cover. Now I worked at Time magazine for many, many years. And I remember when we put people on the cover, sometimes it would cause a controversy. You know, during Mayor Giuliani, my first cover when I was editor of Time I put Bill Bratton on the cover and his days were numbered after that, cuz of Giuliani’s personality, he didn’t like that sort of thing. Likewise, putting Mike Deaver on the cover, the brains behind Ronald Reagan, that ended up bringing down Reagan– So you’ve got to have these checks and balances, whether it's the judiciary or the press, and at a certain point, you have to maneuver, not just try to barrel over everything like the judiciary and the press.
BRZEZINSKI: Joe, jump in.
SCARBOROUGH: I was just going to say to Walter, Walter, it's a lot easier for people to understand why it's dangerous for Donald Trump to compare Vladimir Putin's Russia to America. For people who weren't lawyers or haven't studied government their whole life, explain why taking on the judiciary is, one– it's a bridge too far. And I mean– we can even go back to the Judge Curiel case. Donald Trump was up five points when he attacked Judge Curiel, within a week he was losing by five points. And this goes all the way back to FDR’s court-packing scheme. Americans are deeply uncomfortable with this, aren't they?
ISAACSON: Absolutely. And one of the most amazing things about America is a certain deference to the judiciary. I remember, as you do, Bush V Gore. And I remember those days it happened, it was very confusing and then finally, it comes down from the Supreme Court Bush V Gore, and the next day, there’s no rioting in the streets. Al Gore is conceding. It's – just ingrained into us that we have a rule of law. You know we watched the Super Bowl last night. You might not have agreed with certain calls, but at a certain point, you know– the calls are made and that’s what the judiciary has to do. If you're not going to play by those rules, that's when everybody feels, well, this is a dangerous place we are at.
SCARBOROUGH: Well Mika, you covered around the clock while I was in congress. You covered Bush V Gore and there was this buildup, wasn't there? And there was–there were all of these people saying, oh, this will set back the judiciary a decade. And, yet, they made the ruling and while people were angry with the ruling, both sides, in effect, respected it and immediately moved forward.
BRZEZINSKI: Well, and I'd say, actually, these were really tough times, the people who lost out in that battle for the White House could not have felt more gypped and more deeply hurt by the situation and, yet, they respected the law, they respected the process, and it was peaceful, and it happened because we are built on this incredible foundation to chip away like this. Obviously, questions the legitimacy of the judiciary, Nick, but it also, it feels -- it feels almost antagonistic on every level, this President is just punching every system or every process that happens. Even covering the White House has now become this, you know, horrific media that, you know, is feeding the base, but creating kind of a dangerous President. But okay Walter, jump in, then Nick.
ISAACSON: But you know if I may say it– Yeah, no I must say you were talking about why people say Bannon, Steve Bannon, has such influence. Well everything you've talked about is sort of part of the Steve Bannon playbook --
BRZEZINSKI: Ban none-esque.
ISAACSON: So when you say, who’s having influence, you know– understandably. Here’s a guy who wants to blow up the globalist order, blow up the order of a nation that is open, that sort of thing. You know– that’s a very strongly held ideological view that Steve Bannon has been quite up front about. So when you see it being very much implemented, you have to say, okay, this is a guy who, you know, is actually calling the shots there. Obviously, Trump is making the decisions, but it's not Reince Priebus whispering into his ear to do some of these things.
JORDAN: You know, and this is a strategy that might have worked for Steve Bannon when he was at the helm of Breitbart, taking on the media constantly, railing against how unfair the mainstream media was, always being the aggressor, but this does not work as a strategy for a White House.
BRZEZINSKI: Yeah, Mark–
MARK HALPERIN: If you look at the people --
ISAACSON: Well it doesn't work as a strategy for Donald Trump either. I mean, this is where it's going to end up being a problem is when President Trump says, okay, this is not actually working for me at the moment.
HALPERIN: As misguided as this is, and again as deleterious to his own interests as it is because the judiciary tends to stick together, it gets in the way of his legislative agenda. Paul Ryan and Mitch Mcconnell do not like this and the more noise there is about things like this, it’s an important issue but it’s not as important to him as his tax plan, as dealing with the affordable care act, as dealing with regulation, this is – this just puts him at odds with everyone in the government and it puts him at odds with the Russia thing with almost everybody in the--
BRZEZINSKI: Oh, my gosh. The entire– the Republican party is sitting here defending, you know, this Putin talk. I mean, what is– How is – how are they supposed to defend that? They can't! And what you're seeing is many are not. But in place of talking about issues that they want to get to Nick?
CONFESSORE: Look. The presidents come and go. These judges serve for life. And Trump is going to get sued constantly in his four or eight years as President all over the place. If he’s going to go after judges every time, you know, as Mark suggests, eventually the judges will say this is a guy who does not respect us, we have a problem with, and it will actually hurt him in the courts.
BRZEZINSKI: Walter Isaacson, thank you very much. Great to have you on