Exclusive - David Fahrenthold Extended Interview

January 16, 2017 - David Fahrenthold & Bryshere Gray 01/16/2017 Views: 21,679

The Washington Post's David Fahrenthold talks about covering Donald Trump's scandals during the 2016 election cycle, from his alleged misuse of charitable funds to Pussygate. (9:16)

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Please welcomeDavid Fahrenthold, everyone.

(cheering, applause)

-How are you, sir?-Glad to be here.

Welcome, welcome, welcome to it.

I think, in this election,

you are the person who won.

I mean... I mean, no,I mean, Donald Trump won,

-but you won won.-Uh, what do I get?

Uh, you get to report oneverything Donald Trump does...

-Donald Trump, I guess...-for the next four years.

Yeah, but-but...but you are the person who...

I mean, for those who don'tknow the name off the bat,

they know all of your work.Uh, what I'd like to do

-Just one piece.-is go-go back to the beginning,

'cause I lovehow it all started.

You had the "kiss of death"for a campaign.

If you were reportingon a campaign,

the campaign shut down,like, a few weeks afterwards.

-Right. -And so,at some point, you decided,

"You know what, I'm gonna reporton Donald Trump's charity."

Right. So, I s... I sawDonald Trump speak in Iowa,

at an event in Iowa,and he gave away--

in the middle of his campaignrally- he called some ve...

local veterans groupup on the stage and he said,

"Now, I'm gonna stop my campaignrally and give out a check

for my charity." So he gave thisbig, golf tournament sized check

that said, "Donald J. TrumpFoundation" on the top,

"Make America Great Again"on the bottom.

Now, I know nothingabout charity law, but I know

you cannot do that.That's against the law.

Well, wait, what is-what isagainst the law,

-giving people money?-You can't... Once...

No, once you have a non-profit,you can't use a non-profit

-Yes. -to help your politicalcampaign, so if you're using

your non-profit to boostyour campaign slogan,

that, uh, by all appearances,is against the law.

So that got me interested inTrump's charity, and it sort of

flowed from there.You recall, back in January,

Trump had a big fund-raiser

-Yes. -when he skippeda Fox News debate.

-Said he raised six milliondollars for veterans. -Yes.

He... Including one milliondollars out of his own pocket.

Well, I thought, well,this'll be an easy task.

I'll call the Trump campaign andask, "Okay, who got the money?

Who'd you give the money to?"

It took monthsto figure that out.

And eventually it cameto a point where they actually

told me the wrong answer,so Corey Lewandowski,

who was Trump's campaignmanager, called me one day

and he said, "Mr. Trumphas actually given away

"his million dollars toveterans, but I can't tell you

who got it, or when, or in whatamount, or anything else."

All secret.


So, the question ishow do you check that, right?

In the old days,I could have called

-all eight zillion veteransorganizations -Yeah.

and never known the answer,but now we have Twitter,

we have a wayto get our-our questions

right in front of Donald Trump.

So I spent a day on Twitterasking veterans groups,

"Have you seenany of this money?

Have you gottenany of Trump's money?"

And it turned outat the end of the day

that Trump had not givenhis million dollars.

When Lewandowski told me he'dgiven a million dollars away,

that was totally wrong.

He only gave it later,after I checked.

-(laughter)-But this is... this is...

This is what I findso fascinating

and at the same time,so fitting, is that,

-you used Twitter to checkthe Twitter president. -Right.

-(laughter)-It makes perfect sense.

-Yeah. -Because...(applause and cheering)

That's really become a big partof what you've done,

because I knowin two of your stories,

you talked about, um,the infamous portraits.

So Donald Trumpused his charities

-to buy portraits of himselfat auctions. -Right.

-(laughter) -Right?Very strange, but whatever.

-Of course. We've all done it.-Yeah. -(laughter)

But you couldn't findthe pictures,

and Twitter came togetherto help you.

I mean, as a journalist,did you ever think

you'd get to the pointwhere everyone

who is on a social mediaplatform

-would essentially beinvestigators for you? -No.

This sort of evolved byaccident, but it was incredible.

So, one of those portraits,right--

Trump uses his charity.

For $10,000, buys a four-foottall portrait of himself.

-Yes.-Question is-- where is it?

We need to know where it is.

Trump won't tell us anythingabout it.

So, I put out at 10:00 in themorning on my Twitter feed,

"Look, here's a pictureof the picture.

I need to know where it is."

And, you know, before Twitter,

I could have visitedall of Trump's properties,

I could have brokeninto his houses.

It would have taken me...I would have gotten arrested,

-or it would have taken me yearsto figure that out. -Yeah.

Instead, a few hours later,a get a tweet and an e-mail

from a woman who's a writer anda stay-at-home mom in Atlanta.

She had seen my tweet.

She figures that the pictureis sort of ugly,

and so Trump won't keep itat his own house.

She thinks he would put itwhere someone else would have

to look at it, at a golf club.

So she goes to TripAdvisor--

-you know where you canput in... -Yeah, yeah, yeah.

...user-generated photos,goes to Trump's...

the page for Trump'sgolf course at Doral.

There's 500 photosof peoples' bathrooms,

-the eighteenth green.-Yeah.

She starts scrollingthrough them,

20 or 30 at a time,

finds this picturethat I was looking for.

So now we know from her tweetthat's where it was,

but that was February 2016when the photo's dated.

So now we need to knowwhere is it now.

-Is it still in the golf club?-Yes.

Tweet that out.

A few hours later,there's a guy who's an anchor,

Univision in Miami.

He sees it, realizesthat's four blocks away

from where he works.

He calls and makea reservation for that night.

He won't... He used...He uses points.

He doesn't want to use dollars'cause he doesn't want to get...

He doesn't want to payto actually stay there, yeah.

He doesn't want... He just wantsto give Trump points.

So he goes over therethat night.

Newscast ends at midnight.He goes over there afterward,

convinces the cleaning peopleto let him in to the sports bar,

and there it is.

So it went from--in 14 hours--

not knowingwhere in the world this thing is

-to here it is on the wall,breaking the law. -Now, let's...

-Let's break this down.-(laughter)

-I mean, this whole world...-(applause and cheering)

This whole worldhas become ridiculous.

I've heard journalistsand pundits say the same phrase

over and over again--

can you believethat this is real?

When you first stumbled uponthe Access Hollywood tape

of Donald Trump say,"Grab her by the pussy,"

like, what wentthrough your mind?

-(laughter) -I thought at thatpoint, that we had sort of...

-could not be shockedby Donald Trump. -Yes.

-You know, that we had seen...-We always think that.

-Donald. Yeah... -That we'd seenall the Howard Stern...

-(laughter) -Right.It's never true. -Yes.

But this was shocking.

I mean, this shocked us,because...

A: Because of the language,but also, because,

here's Trumpin a private moment.

He's not performingin front of a camera.

He's talking about--to a friend of his--

saying, not,"Here's what I'd like to do,"

or, "Isn't she a ten?"

He's saying,"This is what I do.

"This is whatI might be about to do

to this womanwe're about to meet right now."

-Yeah."Here's how I behave."

Um, so, we knew right then,

okay, this is somethingreally different.

Plus, it wasthe kind of thing that--

you really live for thisas a reporter--

when you should, would showother people the video.

I'd say, "Come over hereand watch this video."

People would make noises.

Report... Hardboiled reporterswould make

these sort of weird, outraged,squeal noises.

You know that's a...you're on something big then.


That's a story that,at one point, threatened

to derail the campaign.

I mean, then many thingshappened on the other side

that changed everything.

But once that didn't succeed,

a lot of people have startedto say--

and this is evenpost-election, especially--

people have said,"Nothing hurts Trump.

"He's shameless.

What is the pointof reporting on him?"

You don't seemto have received that memo.

-(laughter) -You are stillwriting about Donald Trump.

You are still reporting oneverything the president-elect,

slash, future presidentis gonna do.

That's right.Well, for one thing,

people say Trump is shameless.

He's not shameless. He can...

You know, he feels shames,maybe not in the same way

that you or I do,but he's conscious

-of a reputation out there.-(laughter)

I mean, the million dollarsthat he gave away

-only after I questioned himabout it, right? -Yes.

He did that in responseto what he saw

as damaging, true information,hurting his reputation.

-Yeah.-So he's not shameless.

The other thing is,it doesn't matter

if he's shameless or not, right?

I've heard a lot of peoplesaying after the election,

"Well, nothing's true anymore,nothing matters,"

you know,"Trump is distorting reality."

He can't do that.That's not his job.

That's not his power, right?The president is powerful,

but they don't havethat kind of power.

So the facts that we're findingstill matter to a lot of people.

Even if theydidn't matter to him,

they'd matterto a lot of people.

So I think it's gonna bea really busy four years,

don't think but I don't thinkit's gonna be...

I don't think there'sany reason to despair

that Donald Trump has changedthe nature of fact.

Let's talk about that future

for a little bitbefore I let you go.

The Washington Post has beenreally instrumental

in finding key storiesand-and...

and holding the president-electto account.

Um, one of the thingsthat's been interesting

is how news organizations areshifting how they do business,

you know, trying to react toDonald Trump and these stories.

You are working

on a particularlyinteresting project now,

which is basicallyall about divesting

conflicts of interestand the Emoluments Clause.

For some people...some people really don't know

what that means.'Cause Donald Trump says,

"I can't havea conflict of interest

-'cause I'm a president."-Right.

So, then whatare you working on?


Well, legally, he can't have...There's two questions.

-Legally and morally, right?-Yes.

Throw legallyout the window first...

-Which Donald Trump will do,yes. -Right, exactly.

We'll bring it back.We'll go back and get it.

Uh, the question is...we have a right to know

if the presidentis acting in his own interest

and his businesses' interestor in our interest.

And that question has nothingto do with, you know,

-the legal code, right?-Uh-huh.

So if Donald Trump has businessinterests all over the world,

if he knows that he benefitsfrom making

a particular decision, um,if he has an ownership interest

in his business that allows himto benefit from favors

or, you know,sort of extra payments

-given to his businessesby foreign governments, -Yeah.

that could affecthis decision-making.

That affects, you know,all of us-- it's our country.

So the idea that "I can't havea conflict of interest,"

uh, that's not true at all,

he could certainly haveconflicts of interest,

and so we have to be onthe lookout for what those are

and how they're changinghis behavior.

Legally, though,the Constitution has a clause

that says that the presidentcan't receive payments

from foreign governmentsor foreign powers.

That's one of the few limitson presidential power

written into the Constitution.

So if he's doing that,that sort of thing's

never been testedin court before.

I don't know what the legallimits will turn out to be,

but it's really important,and we've never had it tested

-in this way before.-You have an interesting job.

You have a monumental taskahead of you,

but I'll tell you, I'm a fanof your writing, of your work.

Everyone is talkingabout a possible Pulitzer,

and you would bewell deserving of it.

-Thank you for beingon the show. -Thank you.

-(cheering, applause)-Really appreciate it.