CNN's Carl Bernstein Rails Against Trump's Malfunctioning, 'Malignant Presidency'

Appearing as a guest on Friday's New Day, CNN political commentator Carl Bernstein repeatedly attacked the Trump administration as a "malignant presidency" and asserted that it is "not functioning." Bernstein: "We are in the midst of a malignant presidency. And that malignancy is known to the military leaders of the country -- it's known to the Republican leadership in Congress who recognize it -- and it's known to the intelligence community."

He went on to intone: "We're in foreign territory. We have never been in a malignant presidency like this before. It calls on our leaders -- it calls on our journalists to do a different kind of reporting, a different kind of dealing with this presidency and the President of the United States."

Co-host Chris Cuomo set up the segment by recalling a controversial tweet by President Donald Trump targeting MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski, and then posed:

His spokespeople are telling reporters to focus on policy. The question is, "How?" when the President keeps doing things like this -- it makes you wonder if it is intentional.

After asking Bernstein for his reaction, the CNN commentator began:

I think something much greater is happening -- and that is that we are in the midst of a malignant presidency. And that malignancy is known to the military leaders of the country -- it's known to the Republican leadership in Congress who recognize it -- and it's known to the intelligence community. 

He then added:

And the presidency of Donald Trump is not functioning. It's not functioning partially because of his character -- it's not functioning partially because of his attacks on the press which is totally moving the needle that the American people are watching to a side show. But it's really not functioning because of character and capabilities of this President are called into grave question in a way that those who know him best are raising serious concerns about. And this is the greatest journalistic challenge of the modern era to report on a malignant presidency and what it means and where it's going.

Substitute co-host Clarissa Ward wondered if President Trump's tweet was meant to distract attention from health care reform as she followed up:

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Some people have said this is an issue of impulse control, that the President is not able to control his impulses, to attack back, to fight fire with fire. Other people are saying, "Hold on, this is a genius obfuscation tactic: divert attention from a health care bill which has been in trouble." What's your take?

After asserting that "both could be true," Bernstein repeated that the Trump presidency is "not functioning" and then warned:

We're in foreign territory. We have never been in a malignant presidency like this before. It calls on our leaders -- it calls on our journalists to do a different kind of reporting, a different kind of dealing with this presidency and the President of the United States. We have to in the press be kind of medical reporters right now. I don't mean about the President's psyche, but rather about every aspect of his presidency and how and whether it is functioning because many aspects are not functioning.

After Cuomo brought up the point of view of Trump supporters who argue that the President has indeed made accomplishments, Bernstein dismissively responded:

He's done a lot in terms of the perception of his base, but not in terms of the larger population of this country, and not in terms of what Republicans in the House and Senate are now saying to each other, and especially in light of this latest tweet which confirms for so many of them what they've been worried about all along -- and that is whether or not this President of the United States is capable of being President.

Below is a complete transcript of the segment from the Friday, June 30, New Day on CNN:

CHRIS CUOMO: The President's personal and offensive tweet about another news anchor is the latest hit in Mr. Trump's battle against the media. His spokespeople are telling reporters to focus on policy. The question is, "How?" when the President keeps doing things like this -- it makes you wonder if it is intentional. Let's discuss with CNN political commentator and legendary journalist Mr. Carl Bernstein. ... How do you see this a tactic by the President?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think something much greater is happening -- and that is that we are in the midst of a malignant presidency. And that malignancy is known to the military leaders of the country -- it's known to the Republican leadership in Congress who recognize it -- and it's known to the intelligence community. 

And the presidency of Donald Trump is not functioning. It's not functioning partially because of his character -- it's not functioning partially because of his attacks on the press which is totally moving the needle that the American people are watching to a side show. But it's really not functioning because of character and capabilities of this President are called into grave question in a way that those who know him best are raising serious concerns about. And this is the greatest journalistic challenge of the modern era to report on a malignant presidency and what it means and where it's going.

CLARISSA WARD: I mean, Carl, some people have said this is an issue of impulse control, that the President is not able to control his impulses, to attack back, to fight fire with fire. Other people are saying, "Hold on, this is a genius obfuscation tactic: divert attention from a health care bill which has been in trouble." What's your take?

BERNSTEIN: That both could be true. But I keep going back to the greater problem that this President is not in control of the presidency in a way that it is functioning. And that has got our leaders worried. They are worried about his character -- they are worried about his capabilities -- they are worried about his temperament and state of his temperament, to use kind words here. We're in foreign territory. We have never been in a malignant presidency like this before. 

It calls on our leaders -- it calls on our journalists to do a different kind of reporting, a different kind of dealing with this presidency and the President of the United States. We have to in the press be kind of medical reporters right now. I don't mean about the President's psyche, but rather about every aspect of his presidency and how and whether it is functioning because many aspects are not functioning. So we need to shift --

CUOMO: To question your premise, other than the fact that he hasn't filled a lot of vacancies yet -- and at this point in a presidency, it's somewhat odd that the administration is as underserved as it is in terms of appointments -- they'll say, his defenders, "What are you talking about, Carl? Look at all the executive orders. Look at all the regulations that have been cut. Look at the economic stimulation that we've seen. Look at how they got back Warmbier from North Korea. Look at how our presence on the international stage has changed. This President has done a lot, and he's done a lot in terms of the perception of this country in terms of policy."

BERNSTEIN: He's done a lot in terms of the perception of his base, but not in terms of the larger population of this country, and not in terms of what Republicans in the House and Senate are now saying to each other, and especially in light of this latest tweet which confirms for so many of them what they've been worried about all along -- and that is whether or not this President of the United States is capable of being President. 

They have -- many of the Republicans in Congress and our reporters need to go out and talk to them either off the record, on background, about the question of their confidence in this President and whether or not he is capable of being the President of the United States in a way that defends us, our country, and the Constitution of the United States. Many members of Congress, many of our military leaders, many in our intelligence community who I've spoken to, and I know other reporters have spoken to, understand and are beginning to comprehend that the underlying story here is a lack of confidence in the abilities and character of the President of the United States of America.

WARD: All right, Carl Bernstein, thank you for giving us the bottom line.

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