Here's What It's Like To Live Inside Donald Trump's Head

The two New York Times reporters on the Trump beat talk about obsessing over Donald Trump, and about his obsession with them.

Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush came up as reporters in the New York media culture that also nurtured Donald Trump.

Now he is President of the United States and they are White House correspondents for the New York Times, two of the few journalists who have managed to get access to the president without pulling punches. That’s because the president is transparently obsessed with the Times, with Haberman in particular, and with a series of Thrush-Haberman revelations about the inner workings of the man and his administration.

On the podcast Newsfeed with @BuzzFeedBen, BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith asked them about the challenges of doing journalism that is consumed so obsessively by its powerful subject: “Is it strange to be that far inside the head of the President of the United States?”

“I try not to think about it,” said Haberman. “I mean honestly, what are you going to do?”

“I think there’s a lot of head,” said Thrush. “I think we're all invited in. Here's the thing, he is such a domineering presence in everyone's life. There's a lot of real estate that you can occupy.”

In the interview, Haberman and Thrush also talk about their shared roots in New York media, their reporting partnership, and their love (Thrush) and hate (Haberman) relationship with Twitter.

Listen to the interview

To hear the full interview, click the link above, or subscribe to NewsFeed with @BuzzFeedBen on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, iHeartRadio, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Full Transcript

BEN SMITH: Welcome to my podcast NewsFeed, about the intersection of tech, media, and politics, which is where a lot of the action is right now. I am joined by Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman at the New York Times, and I'm having flashbacks to the early parts of my career that we spent together in the basement.

GLENN THRUSH: That's right.


GLENN THRUSH: Of what? (laughs)

BEN SMITH: Of New York City Hall, um and this episode is, is more or less a sequel to a wonderful podcast that Glenn Thrush used to do for Politico, that you should listen to, that Maggie and Glenn did together. But before we get to that, I actually wanted to just—Donald Trump gave an interview to Reuters where he said the interviews was harder than he thought, and I arrived this morning to find Maggie asleep on the couch here at uh, here at Buzzfeed Headquarters.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: My job is harder than I thought, too.

BEN SMITH: And I wondered if your jobs are harder than you thought. That the job of the covering Trump is harder than you thought.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: (laughs) My job—thank you for having us, because this is a lot of fun, in concept, I'll tell you if the reality meets it shortly. Um ... I don't think that um, it's not surprising to me that he's sort of a whirlwind, but I did think the pace was going to become human and to scale, at some point, than what we saw in the campaign once he actually took office, and instead it's been the same. You know, you're just ... my mother-in-law has this line about my father-in-law where she used to describe him as a "one man swarm." And, and that is what Trump is, right? So it's like, it begins at six o'clock and then it goes until 11, and there's the tweets, and these interviews yesterday, like, these were clearly not strategic. These were interviews, I can hear that clicking.

GLENN THRUSH: I'm taking a picture.

BEN SMITH: Glenn has, Glenn has interrupted this to take a picture of, of Maggie. And so I should, I don't know why he's doing that.

GLENN THRUSH: Did I screw everything up?

BEN SMITH: No, no, it's okay, I wanted to actually go back to like before, sorry.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: No, no, I just was going to say that like, the, the ... I don't think, I think so much of what he's doing is not strategic. Like there's some stray, and then there's just him sort of needing to ventilate. So, like he does these ventilating interviews, and then he says like seven ... like, unbelievable things ranging from just like interesting to like, somewhat shocking. And there's just a lot of time spent, sort of, picking through to figure out what's what.

GLENN THRUSH: It's, it's, it's amoebic right? I mean, the thing about it is, you, you can come in, it's a different presidency each day. It's really like, you never know what you're going to get.

Um, [phone rings], there are days. Damn it. Sorry about that.

BEN SMITH: That's not, that's not—

MAGGIE HABERMAN: You can't keep doing this.

GLENN THRUSH: Um, no it really is, it's like ... there's an enormous amount of variation because I think ... he's prone to sort of these impulsive outbursts, he clearly likes to express himself, but then they'll be periods where he locks down or tries to impose a strategic imperative on himself, or some aid yells at him, or Hope tells hims, or Hope Hicks, who by the way is an extraordinarily important advisor, I don't think people give her enough credit.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Yes. That is very true.

GLENN THRUSH: Is, is somebody who, who is able to sort of probably more than anyone in his circle is able to sort of control him and moderate him. So what you have is just this enormous amount of variability, and you know, a lot of people put him on the couch ... as somebody, I think the three of us, it's pretty safe to assume we all have ADHD?

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Probably. Something.

BEN SMITH: Acquired.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: We've got something.

GLENN THRUSH: And, and I would just say, sitting across from the guy, takes one to know one.


GLENN THRUSH: Uh, I just think the characteristic of this guy is, is ADD. And I think that we just bounce around all the time and that is exhausting and as the parent of, uh, 13-and-a-half-year-old twins with ADD, I find my home and office life to be strikingly similar.

BEN SMITH: So, anyway, enough about Donald Trump.

GLENN THRUSH: (laughs)


BEN SMITH: We should talk about ourselves, here.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Let's never forget that we're the real story, not them.

BEN SMITH: And, and, and ... I wanted to play a quick clip from the famous Glenn Thrush/Maggie Haberman podcast (ed—Politico's Off Message). My favorite episode, of a number of very good ones.

GLENN THRUSH: Thank you.


GLENN THRUSH: Talk, just describe who was downstairs with us.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Sure. At that point it was you, me, Frank Lombardi from the Daily News, um, Dan Janison, at Newsday who you and I are both still friends with. Uh, I think that was it, wasn't it? There might have one more.

GLENN THRUSH: And then Ben Smith came.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Oh right and Ben Smith came, and I said, "What is with, who is this kid?" I couldn't stand him, I thought he was obnoxious, my venom, so I apologize in advance.

GLENN THRUSH: (laughs)


BEN SMITH: So what was wrong with me?

MAGGIE HABERMAN: I don't know, I was actually just listening to myself, thinking, "What's wrong with me?"

GLENN THRUSH: You were, you were the incubus.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: You were the incubus. You were, you were, you were the new really smart person, and as Glenn said, we were all going to work for you somebody, um, and as we sit here in your mogul pod, I, I understand why, why he thought that.

GLENN THRUSH: You were extraordinary. I mean we really hadn't experience any—


GLENN THRUSH: —any, anybody like you.I mean the interesting thing is covering city hall was, uh, first of all it's a great rotating cast of characters, and I actually remember the first time I think you and I ever spoke, it was at some fire department event, and you sat next to me and you recited like, three or four articles I had written like 10 years before, and I was like, "What the hell is wrong with this guy?" (laughs)


GLENN THRUSH: But, what I quickly began to realize is how much, and how much preparation that you had done. You have a very easy manner but you do an enormous amount of preparation—

BEN SMITH: Okay, this is now getting awkward and I want to talk to you again. I think like one of the, I think that in reporting, this is probably in most businesses that are kind of scenes, and people come out of scenes more than out of schools or out of sort of like, formal preparation.

And we were, we sort of came up together in the basement of the New York City hall, the A List press room was room 9 upstairs, and I was the, I was the scrub reporter for a new conservative daily that nobody read, the New York Side—

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Oh that's not true,a lot of people—

BEN SMITH: And sat down in the basement of City Hall across from, from the two of you, and very quickly thought, "Oh my god these are," in Maggie's case, like the sixth reporter for the New York Post and in Glenn's case, were you at Newsday or Bloomberg?

GLENN THRUSH: I was at Newsday, yeah.

BEN SMITH: Like, imagine how good the reporters upstairs might be!

GLENN THRUSH: (laughs)

BEN SMITH: Um, which was not uniformly the case. Because you, I sort of learned how to report from listening to you scream at people, on both of you, particularly Maggie, scream at people on the phone.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: I think that I, I mean there's a couple of people that I learned how to report from, but you two were, are on that top five list.

BEN SMITH: But I, but I do wonder like what about that scene, sort of, and the, of like how, in particular, you two, who are now you know the dominant reporters covering the biggest stories in the world kind of shaped that, and I guess I wanted to start by asking each of you like when you first encountered Donald Trump.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: I don't' actually remember exactly when I first encountered him. I mean, I know that it was, it was at some point in the 2000s, um, possibly a little earlier because I got to City Hall in 99. Um, but my memory of him is like the press conference where he boasted that he would rebuild the Twin Towers, right? Because one of my many beats was rebuilding Ground Zero after 9/11. Um, and like, he was, he was seen as like, if not gold, like a very, very shiny, sort of somewhat valuable metal commodity at the Post. Like he was sort of this Gossip fodder. Um, he was a quote machine. He was treated with a certain reverence. Um, he was known by all the editors. You know, half of the people at, at NewsMax, the conservative website now, are like former New York Post people, including the CEO Chris Ruddy, uh, who talks to Trump a fair amount.

My main memories of him are from 2011, honestly, when he was like sort of faux running for president. And you and I did a piece, together, at Politico, Ben, that I re-read periodically because I actually think it held up pretty well, and it was about, um, I think the headline was like, "What is Donald Trump really after," and the main nut graf was, you know, the question is is Donald Trump serious, and the answer is yes! And no. And a lot of what he did—

GLENN THRUSH: Still, still true.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Right! And like a lot of what he did at the time was lie, stuff that we saw him do in 2015 and 16, it just worked better this time.

BEN SMITH: And now there's a story that you've, you've told before. You, they tried to get you to break the story that Donald Trump was running for president.


BEN SMITH: What happened?

MAGGIE HABERMAN: So um, Sam Nunberg, they, they hired a bunch of new people, and I remember getting this email, first email I ever got from Hope Hicks, okay? So this is before, the Trump phenomenon was beginning to become real, or at least the campaign was becoming real. And in total candor, I was so dismissive of it because I had gone through that 2011 experience where like, during sweeps week, for the Apprentice, he announced that he wasn't going to run. And I felt very burned.

And so, first I get this email from Hope Hicks, who as Glenn correctly said, is, is one of the most valuable people for Trump around just in terms of somebody who has his best interests at heart.

GLENN THRUSH: This is, you're not just saying this because she's a great source?

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Uh no! (laughs) Now, I'm saying this—Hope has gotten angry at me any number of times, but I appreciate that, that is not actually how I operate, and you know that.

BEN SMITH: Oo, this is getting rough.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: But Hope is—no we haven't seen anything yet. But Hope is one of the only people around him who sort of, I think understands him, at this point. I think that's a problem for him at the White House, is how few people actually know him. But I got this email from her, and it was like, "I'd like you to meet," you know, I wanna, "I wanna, set you up with some of the new campaign staffers, we have this campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski," and I was like, "Who?" And I think we had like a couple of weird email exchanges and I had a—a conversation with Jake Sherman at Politico before I quit Politico in 2014, where we doing a list about the large field that was going to run for president, and he said, should we put Trump on?" This was November 2014. And I said, "Absolutely not. He's not going to run, I don't wanna play this game again."

So, I get a phone call from Sam Nunberg who is another Trump aide, and it was May, and he said, "Trump's gonna declare on June 16th and we want you to break it," and I was at the Times at this point. And I said, "No." And he said, "Why?" And I said, "'Cause I'm not writing anything until he's actually running, I just did this once before."

And so I went to this lunch, um, with Trump and ... Sam Nunberg and Corey Lewandowski and Hope Hicks and Michael Cohen, this was the first time that I was meeting Hope and Corey, and we're sitting at the table, and obviously those listening can't see where we are, but Ben is to my right, which is where Corey Lewandowski was sitting, and Trump was to my left, where my iPhone is sitting, and Trump kept trying to convince me that he was serious. And like, he looked really frustrated at one point that I wasn't sort of, going into it.

And we were there for a long time, and like he showed me, I've been to his office before but he still showed me around again, as if I'd never been there, and like, you know, he like yelled out to the girls who sit outside, the assistants, and then he had like a shoe signed by Shaquille O'Neal, and there was this plaque that Scott Walker had signed, and it was just, anyway, and so—and then he, and he ran, and I still wasn't convinced he would stay in.

BEN SMITH: Who broke that story in the end?

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Uh Costa, Bob Costa.

BEN SMITH: What about you, Glenn? Did you cover him when we were in New York?

GLENN THRUSH: Not a ton, I do remember one thing in retrospect and that is, he left a message on my phone, and I never returned it. Like, like 10 years ago!

BEN SMITH: Yeah, I think that's! I mean ... I do feel like that is the thing that people don't totally, looking back at his career in New York, like when I was at the New York Observer, I got in a little late and it was 2003 or 4, and there was a rule, actually Gabriel Snyder, who is now, who has been a number of places that remind me of this, there was a rule that you couldn't quote Donald Trump. Because it would be, and I'm repeating Gabriel's story here, it would be three in the afternoon on a Tuesday, you'd be writing a feature, for instance, "Everybody's a Little Bit Gay Now," something like that, classic New York Observer feature, and you'd have two quotes.

GLENN THRUSH: Oh it's still true.

BEN SMITH: But you need three quotes for a bullshit newspaper feature.

GLENN THRUSH: That's true.

BEN SMITH: And so, you would be like, hard-up for a quote, and be like, "Oh, I'll call Donald Trump, he'll talk about anything, and they will bring the phone to him on the beach in Bali to give a quote for a random feature."

GLENN THRUSH: Kind of a gold-plated Hank Sheinkopf.

BEN SMITH: And so that is, that is a very—


BEN SMITH: Inside New York reference.

GLENN THRUSH: I will tell you the first time—

BEN SMITH: So you weren't allowed to quote him.

GLENN THRUSH: Well the first time, well, the actual first time that I was in his presence as I can recall was I was in, I think it's like 1990, I was an intern in the New York State senate, and my roommate, Mike Connelly, who is now a court officer, and I got drunk in the middle of the day, and Trump was really at a low point, and he was doing something called Tour De Trump, a bicycle race, and he made this announcement on the Empire State plaza in front of the egg. There's like a big building that's an egg.


GLENN THRUSH: A performance center that's an egg. And Connelly, you know—

BEN SMITH: This is, so picture Albany as kind of like Brasilia.

GLENN THRUSH: Exactly, it's exactly Brasilia, it looks like you're on the edge of the world, but with Reingold. And he, Connelly manages to push himself into the front row, and I'm having nothing to do with this, and every time Trump says the word "Trump," Connelly yells chump.


GLENN THRUSH: And he, he was, after about ten minutes, shall we say, removed to .. to a secure location.

BEN SMITH: By Trump–

MAGGIE HABERMAN: With some straps.

BEN SMITH: Probably by secure guys who still work for Donald Trump.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: I was going to say, Keith Schiller made his first appearance in that

GLENN THRUSH: (laughs)

BEN SMITH: And I think, you know, one thing, one defining character [sic] from—is how attentive he has always been to the Press. Like, and right, for much of his career, right, it was him calling, leaving messages, and not getting them returned by like, made, by Glenn Thrush from Newsday.

GLENN THRUSH: Yeah, like, Newsday.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Yeah but, you know, he always got them returned from certain people, and that was really all he needed, so—

BEN SMITH: Well I think he wanted more, and I wonder—

MAGGIE HABERMAN: He did want more, but he always wants more.

GLENN THRUSH: It's the Ed Koch thing, I've used this a long time—

MAGGIE HABERMAN: How am I doing?

GLENN THRUSH: Or unavoidable, he says he's unavoidable for comment.


BEN SMITH: But I wonder how you think about that feedback loop. I think whenever you cover anyone, I think this is something that political reporters in particular are very aware of, your reporting is part of the story, you're in their head, you're not just, you're not, this is not like science writing: you're not observing some phenomenon and writing.


BEN SMITH: The reporting is just inevitably part of the fabric of this story.


BEN SMITH: Perhaps moreso with Donald than with anybody else you cover, and I wonder how you, as a reporter deal with that, deal with like the Observer effect.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: It's a great question. I, I don't, I don't know that I have a great answer, I mean I Think you just ... um, it is really, one of the things that he does, it isn't, isn't just that the reporting is inevitably part of the ... of the fabric, like he, he wants you to be part of the fabric, because if he makes you part of the story, then he can sort of push back on you in a different way, or he can make you think about how you're covering him a different way.

I mean it isn't just that you know, people live in his head. He tries to get in the head of the people who cover him more than I think any politician I've ever seen, except for maybe Rudy Giuliani, who really did like getting in people's' heads. I mean I do feel like Trump is some strange like—


MAGGIE HABERMAN: Trump is some strange hybrid of. Is someone yelling from the corner? What's going on here?

GLENN THRUSH: Chump! No, Obama did too. I think the Clintons are different in that you can get in their own head.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: That, and they don't try to get in your head the same way.

GLENN THRUSH: I think people, I've failed to sort of realize that there is not that much of a difference between—well, you know, let me restate that. That there are striking similarities between Obama and Trump in that regard. Obama learned very forward with reporters, and screwed around with them in a completely different way, through absence, right? Not through this kind of gloopy omnipresence, right? When Barack Obama laughed at something you said, it was if the, the clouds had parted It's a much more powerful effect than actually Trump has.

BEN SMITH: Right, right, and it's also a manipulative tactic, and also like, right, hyper-aware of the media, media, always trying to sort of be in on the joke, in a way.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Yes, except, but Trump wears it on his sleeve in a way that Obama never did.

GLENN THRUSH: He's also more vulnerable.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Right, in a way that most politicians don't. Um, and there is that thing, we've all talked about this with each other, off this podcast, so we'll do it here, that like, the degree to which Trump is kind of like preserved in amber, in like, this moment in time, in like Tom Wolfe's New York in the 1980s, where he's just like—his cultural references are all like, "I've been on the cover of Time Magazine." How many times have you heard Time Magazine namechecked before this guy became a candidate or the nominee or whatever? Um ...

GLENN THRUSH: It's why the Bannon cover was, the Bannon cover was such a, a problem.


BEN SMITH: Yeah, it's remarkable, and honestly for me, it's like a huge challenge, because you have the sort of number one media consumer in America is obsessed with the institutions of the 80s.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: I think the thing that he does that's different, too, that's just to your point about becoming the fabric of the story, and Obama did this to a degree, but not like this, and Hillary did this to a degree but not like this, but like, he so personalizes everything with these reporters, and us, and whomever, where it's like, it isn't just, "I don't like what you write," "I don't like what you write and you're a bad person."

BEN SMITH: We've all, I think, been on the receiving end of those.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Yeah, yeah, and it just goes to—

GLENN THRUSH: And who cares, like, from our perspective.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: No, no—no, from our perspective I don't think it matters, but I do think what it does, it does gin up a certain type of reader and a certain type of Trump follower to be like, "Yeah! They really are bad people." And then like, because sort of the commentary and pressure is so different now, it's just odd.

BEN SMITH: And is he, do you think, I mean he comes out of the world, where this is—like, this sort of smaller New York world—in which that was all a game. Like maybe he was calling you and screaming at you—

MAGGIE HABERMAN: That's right.


BEN SMITH: And calling you a liar and a scumbag, but that was on the phone.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: That's right. That's right.

BEN SMITH: How do you think he sees the sort of mobilizing of heis supporters against specific reporters.?

MAGGIE HABERMAN: I think he enjoys it sometimes, and then I think sometimes he doesn't actually realize what he's doing. But I think that, more often than not, I think he likes it, because I think he loves feeling like somebody is defending you, like the one, there are several characteristics, ironically, not in terms of substance but in terms of style, that he and Hillary Clinton share, on, on sort of management, and also approach to .. the press! And, you know ... he needs the press, I think she'd be thrilled never to be written about again, Frankly, and that is the huge difference, but they both just put such a premium on who's defending me at all costs.

It is like the commonality of like, David Brock on one end, and Roger Stone on the other, right? It's just, I can draw a direct line. So ...

BEN SMITH: And I feel like the demanding displays of loyalty and rewarding them.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Yes, yes, "Show me, prove me, love me in public."

GLENN THRUSH: I also think the additional element with Trump, and this is something Maggie's been attuned for a really, really long time, I'm like a guest user, in, you know, in the Trump ecosystem here. But ... I think, I think ... is the Roy Cohen, uh factor, and it's something you always bring us back to when we're working on pieces, because it's very hard, it's very easy to sort of forget that reference point.


GLENN THRUSH: That we think about Fred Trump. Like, you know, it's fascinating, because early on, if you look at the pictures in his office, in the Oval Office, um, all you saw behind him, if you remember George W. Bush, he had ... and, and Clinton, remember he had that, that windowsill behind him was covered with family pictures, right?

MAGGIE HABERMAN: That's right.

GLENN THRUSH: If you looked early on at the pool sprays and stuff, there's just one picture of Fred Trump, and by the way, it's the same Fred Trump picture that you'd seen in Trump Village hanging on the wall.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: And it's still the only one there.

GLENN THRUSH: And it's still the only one there, and we know this from our reporting, he told people that, "Oh my tchotkes are all in, are all in Trump Tower, we're going to have them all brought in."


GLENN THRUSH: The family portrait—never did, it's just Fred, and this is something Maggie, as we're working on pieces, is always harkening back to. The two lessons, and we, we did a piece on this why he couldn't let go of the wiretap tweet, why he had this obsessive quality, and she really honed it down to two points. One was Fred Trump's whole dictum of like, "You just never ever stop fighting." Like, you just keep fighting, pushing forward. And, and in the Roy Cohen thing, which is, you never defend, you always attack. And I think those are the object lessons, that in addition to kind of his interesting amorphous personality, that's the tip of the spear, those ...

MAGGIE HABERMAN: It's really true. He used to, he had that quote, it was in a Michael Kruse piece in Politico awhile ago. But he had this old book—

GLENN THRUSH: Who is brilliant, by the way, everybody should read Michael Kruse.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: He is really good, really really good, and he's done some really smart stuff on Trump, but he found this old quote from Trump talking about Roy Cohen, and one of like, one of the greatest injustices in the world is that Wayne Barrett has died because he is such a keeper of this whole flame, and everybody should read Wayne Barrett's book about Trump, um—which was written decades ago at this point—but there was this line that Trump had a long time ago about Coin, about Cohen, where he said, "He brutalized, but he brutalized for you." And I do think that's essentially Trump's worldview.

GLENN THRUSH: Never heard that. It's great.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: It's an amazing line. Right? And I think that like right now what you're seeing with Trump in terms of approaching the presidency is like, just like these dueling impulses of like, sort of like never wanting to admit that he's wrong, but also not wanting to fail and so ... he's constantly redefining what a win looks like, and we're about to see that now, you know, he's, we now, he's gonna go pass the 100-day mark without healthcare getting another vote.

And that is going to be a bit of seismic moment for him. And so I think we're going to see in the next few weeks how he redefines what success is supposed to look like, which to be clear I'm not saying that's a legitimate redefinition, I'm just saying how he's gonna repackage it and try to sell it.

BEN SMITH: Do you think about Glenn the degree to which a New York Times story directly affects him? Like I don't know if, when Time magazine, when they put together that Bannon cover, they were thinking, "We want Steve Bannon removed from the White House."

GLENN THRUSH: They were. I talked with some people, well, but I shouldn't give that away. But I think they were, I think they knew that that was gonna ...

BEN SMITH: But certainly there, some of the people that were tweeting the President Bannon hashtag was not, "I observed that this is Bannon," they were saying, "Oh let's get into Trump's head and get Bannon fired. And I wondered the degree to which you sort of inevitably as a reporter for an outlet that he's obsessed with, and incredibly reactive to, covering a story, think, "Oh, I will write this story, he will predictably react, by killing this policy, firing this aide," or do you not think that? How do you deal with that reality.

GLENN THRUSH: But, this is just me, I think I'm different than other people. When I'm sitting and writing a story, it's, I'm journaling, like it is such a personal process for me, and it's something I get very, I put on the headphones, listen to Motorhead.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: You look, you look a lot like you do right now! (laughs)

BEN SMITH: So how do you?

GLENN THRUSH: I never, I never think about impact.

BEN SMITH: You throw the grenade over the wall and walk away.

GLENN THRUSH: I don't even think of it as throwing the grenade.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: I think you will, I think you—I'm saying.

BEN SMITH: I think you have to!

GLENN THRUSH: I don't know.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: I'm saying, I'm saying, I mean I don't think you have to in this business per se. I think that it becomes something that at the Times, covering this man, you become a little more aware of ... frankly in the same way at the times covering Hillary Clinton, you become more aware of. Because she is also so obsessed with the apper, but just in a different way, but like.

GLENN THRUSH: I'm new, to it, we should say—

MAGGIE HABERMAN: No, that's what I'm saying, Glenn, so, for instance, so here's a for instance, okay? So Alex Burns, um, who we all also worked with at Politico is now with us at the Times, uh, he and I covered Trump most of last year together. And we did a piece in August 2016 ... about how ... like, just Trump was just stuck in sort of incapable of moving forward mode, and like, we were, we were being asked to do lots of behind-the-curtain reporting, and so in this one, I remember we started the reporting for this story, we didn't really think we had that much, and by the time we wrote the story we were like, "Oh we actually really have a lot that's going on here."

And the story was essentially that the problem was not, the staff, it was not Paul Manafort, it was not this one, it was Trump. And Trump read it, and like, he had like a couple of people like intentionally shoved it in front of him, people who didn't like Paul Manafort, who was at the time, the campaign chairman. Um, and Trump read the story and went bananas. And was like, so angry for hours, he was like screaming into the phone, and that story was the beginning of the end for Paul Manafort.

BEN SMITH: The Russian stuff was [indistinct] to think about. The fact that like, and this is true I think with all reporters on all stories, just so much more with this one that like, what you, what you write, right, can get a policy passed, and get a ... can get a staffer fired.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: But I'm, but I'm with Glenn, well first of all—

BEN SMITH: You just sort of block that out of your head to some degree.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: No, no no, those are two separate things. So one is, three points, you can't really write with that in mind constantly, number one. Number two, in terms of this could get a staffer fired? I'm always conscious of that kind of a thing, about the power of what we do and the impact we have on people's' lives, and I was like that at the Post, at the New York Post.

GLENN THRUSH: But less on, less on big public figures than the ancillary people.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: No, no I'm talking about staff. I'm not talking about the president.

BEN SMITH: Yeah, like, I mean Steve Bannon.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Right no, I'm talking about, well I'm not talking about, I'm not thinking about somebody that high up, I mean the junior people.

BEN SMITH: Of course.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: But I am, I do agree with Glenn That you can't, at a certain point you can't think of it this way because then you're just going to be stultified. It's like, that's not, that's not the purpose of what we?

BEN SMITH: It's paralyzing.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: It's also just not what we're here for. Like we're not here—

GLENN THRUSH: I can't forget who said this, it's like, the Beatles, McCartney or Lennon said this, you can't, no one ever writes a Top 40 hit. Like you gotta write a song.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: That's right.

GLENN THRUSH: And it's just like, you just really, seriously, and I'm—

MAGGIE HABERMAN: No, it's true.

GLENN THRUSH: I think impact is incredibly important, particularly on, and that is, that is true, I don't think people fully understand that about us doing the way we do our jobs, here and I, we come across a lot of stuff about staff.


GLENN THRUSH: And I have a much higher threshold, it's weird, I have a much higher threshold for publishing a derogatory story about a staffer than I would about the president.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Absolutely, same. Same.

BEN SMITH: That's appropriate, yeah.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: And it always has to be that way.


MAGGIE HABERMAN: And you have to really, you have to weigh all the equities if you're going to get into that.

BEN SMITH: Let's take a quick break, we'll be right back.

BEN SMITH: You two write together. You listen to Motorhead, I mean I've worked with both of you. Uh, none of us are laid-back people in our writing style.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: We're not? What?! Or in our any styles, really.

BEN SMITH: And, and you listen to Motorhead and sort of zone out when you write, and—

GLENN THRUSH: She's talking on two phones.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: I was gonna say, I'm talking on two phones and watching, like a back episode of Homeland in the background.

GLENN THRUSH: And having three children climb all over her.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Right, yes, that too. And driving sometimes, to save time.

GLENN THRUSH: All of this is happening!

MAGGIE HABERMAN: All of this is happening at once!

BEN SMITH: Driving! Don't get into an accident ...

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Don't drive with me. Be forewarned.

BEN SMITH: Although this is my scariest driving story was with your now colleague, Jonathan Martin, we're in Mississippi driving around, and I'm in the passenger's seat and I get an email from him, and he is driving.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: You've never told me this before. That's horrible.

GLENN THRUSH: Is that true?

BEN SMITH: Yeah. And that's the sort of thing that you would do.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: That is actually—

BEN SMITH: Maybe it was just a forward. How do you do that, how do guys manage to work, to write such, to co-report, to co-write and not murder each other?

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Oh, I mean there's a little bit of death every day.

GLENN THRUSH: Yeah, we murder each other.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: We murder each other every day, but usually but then we come back and everything's fine. Um, I mean, there is, there is, there is of the four of, three of you who I have, four of you, if you include Jonathan, who I have had some ... form of collaboration with, um, over the last five years, because Jonathan Martin is also now at the times. I think the that the one that has sort of the most, the most sort of, filial anger/upside/combativeness is with Glenn, because we've known each other the longest.


MAGGIE HABERMAN: I mean, and so, and as, as ... as ... Ben remembers, Glenn, Glenn and I, I also didn't like Glenn, when, before we became friends, because my default is to hate everyone before I actually get to know them.


BEN SMITH: Maggie, Maggie was also the cool kid of City Hall on the steps, in a leather jacket, smoking a cigarette. Mike Bloomberg introduces the smoking ban, directs it entirely at Maggie Haberman, and ... her smoking.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: I miss smoking. I miss smoking.

BEN SMITH: Do you have any, like guidance for want to like, co-write things with their best friend/worst enemy/oldest. You know? Do you have any demarcation lines?

GLENN THRUSH: Well look, I think first of all—

MAGGIE HABERMAN: It's a good question.

GLENN THRUSH: Two things. She is. And I'm going to blow some smoke here.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Oh thank you!

GLENN THRUSH: She's a phenomenon as a reporter. She's a compulsive communicator. She can't stop.

BEN SMITH: She's emailing right now.

GLENN THRUSH: That's true! (laughs) I can definitely stop. We have really complementary skills. I think that is the fundamental reason why the collaboration, at the moment, works, because um, I think .. we are always having sort of a conversation about the story. We are really interested in the stuff Ben, as are you. So ...the process of writing a story, you know, it's so funny, people assume we're coming at it from various angles. The basic, the reason why this is fun, the reason why we like working with each other, because it's just a constant conversation of trying to figure this crap out.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: And we laugh a lot. I mean like, that is the thing, is like, if we were not having fun doing this, I think it would be—and it is not all fun.

GLENN THRUSH: No, we fight constantly.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: But we constantly fight.


MAGGIE HABERMAN: Actually yesterday was a good day.

GLENN THRUSH: Yesterday was a good day. Because we were fighting with other people!

MAGGIE HABERMAN: We were both fighting with other people. A lot.

GLENN THRUSH: Those are the best days.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Those are. That's easy. Because the enemy of enemy. No, I think that, I just think that it's, I think the big key actually is what Glenn said in all seriousness is that it has to be a running conversation or else it won't work. It cannot be sort of silo'ed reporting, and so, I'll hear something, he'll hear something, we'll bounce it off each other, we'll go make more calls.

GLENN THRUSH: And we can Rashomon, the Rashomon process, by the way, which I don't think people fully understand, like people who aren't in this, that, behind-the-curtain reporting, and I should just say, I'm sitting with, to my left here, with Ben, who is a master of that himself.


GLENN THRUSH: Um, the key to all of that is to get multiple sources so that you hear 20 different versions of the same anecdote, and then you're sort of able to determine, making a qualitative determination, and in the long-term that works because you can figure out which sources are full of shit and which ones are telling the truth.


GLENN THRUSH: But what we have is the added dimension, you know, people, a question that I get about our collaboration a lot is, "Don't you guys talk to the same people and why would you do redundancy?" You do redundancy because the same person can tell two different people different versions of a story.


GLENN THRUSH: That is an incredibly important thing to be able to understand, because you go back and you're like, "Well I heard this."


GLENN THRUSH: And we're really committed to finding out what actually happened. You know? We don't just want to put this stuff in the paper.


GLENN THRUSH: We want to actually get it right, so.


GLENN THRUSH: I think like part of the process here is us bombarding the same person with different questions.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: That's right.

BEN SMITH: Do you um, with the process of reporting, is so like fun and insane and confrontational and messy in lots of ways. And I think you and I a lot of folks in our profession right now have people coming up to you and saying, "Thank you for saving Democracy."

GLENN THRUSH: (laughs)

BEN SMITH: And I think when you are in the mix of covering these stories, you do not put on a sort of clerical collar in the morning, and, and approach in that way, and I wonder: Does that make you uncomfortable?


GLENN THRUSH: Yarmulke. It would be a yarmulke.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: No, I mean, I think we're doing our jobs, and I don't think we're doing our jobs any differently than what we were doing before, I just think the only difference is we have a president who is unusually, uh, open, about undermining the core institutions (laughs) of our democracy. And who was less so now that he is in office, with the exception of ... the press. Although he has, he is doing less of that. I don't know if you noticed, I'm not trying—

GLENN THRUSH: Yeah, it's true.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: I don't if you know, I'm not trying, I'm going to say this and I'm going to get accused of making excuses for him which I'm not doing, but he ... I wouldn't underestimate the degree to which the wiretap with two Ps, three Ps, or how ever many there was, that tweet about how Obama had wiretapped him at Trump tower, that was a near-death experience for him. And he realizes that now, like he's been more careful on Twitter, he has been doing sort of less, you know, fake news, blah blah blah. He occasionally will do one but that seems like more sort of like tossing out like a steak for the base.

GLENN THRUSH: He's going to change but he's not going to tell you he's changing.


GLENN THRUSH: So he's going to have, he's going to do the fog of war thing and make an adjustment without letting you know that he's making an adjustment.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: That's right.

GLENN THRUSH: And if you read these interviews, apart from saying that we're, we're gonna go to war with North Korea every three seconds.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: That was not, that was not, that was not ... ideal.

GLENN THRUSH: That was not optimal. Suboptimal.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: That was not ideal. That was not ideal.

GLENN THRUSH: He's much more relaxed in this round of interviews, this 100-day round of interviews.


GLENN THRUSH: And arguably he's got less to be relaxed about.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: And he's, but he's also much more reflective, right? I mean cause the thing is he said something to Reuters, like literally like, my jaw was hanging, where he talked about how this was much harder than he had thought it was going to be, you know, he had a great life before. I mean first of all, that is something that you either hear from a president who is on year eight, or year four, or from a president who is like on his therapist's couch, right? But it's like, those are the two realms.

GLENN THRUSH: Well he said that to you, and the, and the funny thing was okay, so we're in the Oval Office, this was like two weeks ago.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Yeah, something like that.


MAGGIE HABERMAN: Three weeks ago.

GLENN THRUSH: And I'm asking him a pretty like, a standard question about, "When's the last time you drove a car?" And then he gets into this like, a propos of nothing, I don't even think there was a like a tangent for him to go off on.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: There was literally no anything.

GLENN THRUSH: He attacked you, what was the thing he attacked you on?

MAGGIE HABERMAN: What it was was that he brought up, I forget what it was, it was something about how people don't understand something, I don't think it was when you asked about the car, there was some other question where he said, "Well, well, it's like when George Steph—did you see when George Stephanopoulos, said the other day?" And when he talks, he like bootstraps one thing onto the other so that led to him to this really regrettable moment that I had in retrospect on This Week on ABC back in July of 2015, where Keith Ellison did what I will continue to believe was concern trolling, about Trump's "momentum" seven months before a vote was gonna be cast when he was at 20 percent.

Um, and I laughed? And I wasn't laughing at the idea that Trump could win, I was laughing at Ellison doing what I thought was elevating Trump for, to, to pick your opponent. But Trump, you know, ABC did me no favors by zooming in on my fat face laughing, and like Trump of course has seen that clip a million times now, and brings it up periodically and so he used this, and he started talking about Stephanopoulos having said something on one of the show's recently, and he was like, "Like that time that you were on with him, and duh duh duh," And I said, "You bring this up every time!"

GLENN THRUSH: And I said, what does this have to do with—well what does this have to do with our cars! And he says—

MAGGIE HABERMAN: We were talking about infrastructure, and Glenn sort of looks around sort of trying to break the tension and he goes, "What does this have to do with cars?" Like a joke. And Trump goes—and so we all laughed—and Trump goes, "It's like therapy."

BEN SMITH: Is it strange to be that far inside the head of the President of the United States?

MAGGIE HABERMAN: I try not to think about it. I mean honestly, what are you going to do?

GLENN THRUSH: I think there's a lot of head.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: I don't, I don't.

GLENN THRUSH: I think we're all invited in. Here's the thing, dude, he is such a domineering presence in everyone's life. There's a lot of—talk about real estate— there's a lot of real estate that you can occupy. There are plenty of vacancies available, in Trump's headspace. That is, I think that is the major characteristic of Trump, is this dominance of everyone's. I find it oppressive. You go into CostCo and people are talking about this guy.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: It's, it's everywhere.

GLENN THRUSH: When is this fever going to break? This is what I want to know. Are we ever going to get tired of this?

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Well, also I mean it's funny that you just said, what exactly what you just said. What you said is what I was experiencing one day in the middle of the campaign, when I, you know, I was on maybe my sixth month of covering him as a my main beat, so it was probably May of 2016, and I'm like listening to the radio, and I'm listening to news, and they're talking about Trump, and as I'm driving, I'm on the West Side Highway, and I look up, and it's, this stretch of Highway was you know, paid for by Donald J. Trump.

And then I get about 10 blocks further and I'm like, there's "Trump Place" on the West Side, to my left, and I felt like I was in like, you know there's that John Malkovich movie, Being John Malkovich, where there's this scene where Malkovich is in a restaurant, and—

GLENN THRUSH: That's great. Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: And everyone has, everyone's, Malkovich and all they can Malkovich, and I was like this is where, what I'm living in, and I don't know where it ends.

GLENN THRUSH: (laughs) That's great.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: And it still doesn't end. It is, it is exhausting and I Think, I do think people are, I think there was a while where people thought sort of the show, quote-unquote, was fun. I don't think they think that anymore, and I know there was that Washington Post story, you know, co written by one of my favorite people, Ashley Parker about Trump's TV viewing habits, and they had a quote in there where Trump said something about how he would never get rid of Spicer because he gets ratings.

I'm pretty sure Trump said that awhile ago. I don't think that's a recent thing. I think that is, that there's an erosion that I think is becoming kind of clear to everybody. So ...

BEN SMITH: Yeah, I want to finish up by kind of talking to, you know, being inside your heads, the uh, the Twitter. Uh, and how you think about this medium where we all live a fair chunk of our lives.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: You taught me Twitter! You're who I learned it from.

BEN SMITH: And, and, and where, I think we, you, you it strikes me, have different ways of engaging. Like Maggie, although you are not always like, totally calm in your personal life.


BEN SMITH: On Twitter you are like, you are very cool. You're always like, you're very unemotional, you point out folks you report. Glenn you are very, very, very emotional on Twitter. Are you like, letting it get to you?

MAGGIE HABERMAN: That's an interesting, interesting observation.


BEN SMITH: Do you like it?

GLENN THRUSH: I love it. I mean look, I come from ... I know a few, I don't know if you're aware of this, I come from Brooklyn.

BEN SMITH: Where in Brooklyn, though?

GLENN THRUSH: Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. And people yell at each other, you know what I mean? And it's like, I find that a very comfortable, being berated.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: So does the president.

GLENN THRUSH: Is, is, I don't mind it, I don't mind getting yelled at, I don't mind the back and forth, the thing that bothers is me is that when people try to define parameters of the conversation, or try to characterize, what you're saying, I want to defend myself. I don't want to just defend myself, I want to engage with people.

BEN SMITH: They'll try to trap you into, "How dare a New York Times reporter say?"

GLENN THRUSH: Whatever. It's like, "This is a New York Times correspondent." It's like, "Duh I got the business card. I know."

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Yeah this is, there's a lot of that.

GLENN THRUSH: But I just think, I think in general, first of all I love it as a medium, I love the back and forth, I think the problem with it is it's weaponized by a lot of people.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: I hate it at as a medium. I think it's, and I think especially, this was the thing that drove me—to be clear, I don't hate it so much that I stay off it, I obviously use it all day long, but like, you remember in 2012 I was like the old scold who was going on and on about younger reporters posting pictures of themselves like from the trail on Twitter and just saying like, "These are news platforms, what are you doing?"

The thing about Twitter that gets me is that you know when you, a because we all use it as our main source of news consumption at this point, just in terms of knowing what's happening.

GLENN THRUSH: Yeah, it's the, it's the beating heart of news.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: It's the, it's the AP wire essentially at this point. But like, you know, in a traditional newspaper, you can see by placement how important a story is to the outlet. Twitter shrinks everything to the same damn size.

GLENN THRUSH: It's leveling. Yeah.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: It's just, and I find that really, really disconcerting. I don't, it's funny, you said I'm very cool on Twitter, I think our, our friend Mr. Burns, would not think I'm very cool on Twitter.

BEN SMITH: I'm not saying you're cool in your reactions. In the IMs you send about—

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Right. I would say that sometimes I have like a, a reaction that's not entirely un-Trump-like in the sense of like, I punch down or I will like, respond with like a two-ton brick to a fly, or, and like, I don't, I don't love that look, and that's something that I need to work on.

GLENN THRUSH: May, look, I think like—who gives a shit (laughs).


GLENN THRUSH: I know! I know! I know. This is where you and I differ on this thing. I think it's like, first of all I think it's great as a float for ideas. So like, if you have, if you have an observation about something, you can gauge people's' reaction about stuff, so you throw, you pop! You pop an idea out there and you see if people respond to it, or ... I'll test a line. I just think it's like, I think it's a very valuable tool and I think part of the trick of Twitter is to screen out the noise. I've been blocking, I block ten people a day.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: That is very true.

GLENN THRUSH: It is the most cathartic feeling.


BEN SMITH: I have never blocked anyone.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: I know, you don't believe in blocking. I do.

BEN SMITH: I wanna, I wanna know what they're saying.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: No, I think, I think people can be so abusive and especially, you and I have talked about this a lot, um, people and I don't invoke this lightly, but the difference between being a man on the internet and a woman on the internet is sooooo huge.

BEN SMITH: It is vast.


MAGGIE HABERMAN: So, um, I do block a lot of people. But I also just try to use it as like, I try, I do call out people when I feel like, Glenn's point about like, the pigeonholing thing, or your point, or ... buttonhole. Whatever! Whatever holing it is. Where someone is trying to make it seem as if you said something you didn't say.

There was this um, I was reading the Hamilton bio by Ron Chernow, that the, Lin Manuel Miranda play is based on. And he's got this whole bit about how it was very common in the day for letters in, in sort of common, coastal areas to be intercepted, and then have those contents sometimes show up in the newspaper, and that's a little what this feels like to me. It's like, I'll tweet something and someone else's spin on that ball shows up somewhere else.

GLENN THRUSH: That's also Wikileaks, right?

MAGGIE HABERMAN: And it's like well there is that—well Wikileaks is also like, Wikileaks is like, you know, proper, reporting process ripped from context, and then gets weaponized and then like demonized as something terrible.

BEN SMITH: And, and I think like, the thing I love about Twitter is the, the openness, the reality of response, and I'm basically like, you, I think, Glenn, willing to have arguments forever with people who I feel like are in good faith.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Same, no same.

GLENN THRUSH: Yeah, totally, yeah totally. That's exactly right.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: That is what it is.

BEN SMITH: But that there's also a level of cynical bad faith.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: That's right.

BEN SMITH: The weaponization.


GLENN THRUSH: Here's the other thing.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: That's right.

GLENN THRUSH: And this is something I, I discovered in my own little Wikileaks adventure last year, is, and here, here's what is troubling: There's real hate out there.


GLENN THRUSH: And there are people who want to destroy you. And you know, this is not something I'd even, you talked about impact of stories and how I put on blinders on that stuff, I think for a very long time, and Maggie was not this way. I'd put on blinders about how virulent people could really be, and I discovered that last year, and tha really did, that was, that was a career-altering experience for me, that there were people out there who wanted to truly do me harm.


GLENN THRUSH: Because I don't think any of us really enter the day thinking we wanna harm people.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: No it's ... no it's, it's something that I was really unused to, and there has become um, the degree to which sort of what reports do has been distorted into something else, I mean I think some of the, take, not just, not just Twitter, but like, Fox News last year with all the Wikileaks stuff, and I have actually never really talked about this extensively, but the way Fox behaved on certain shows—


MAGGIE HABERMAN: —was reprehensible. Sort of, people who ostensibly were journalists, and I think, I think Bill O'Reilly was one of them, doing segments based on regular standard practice of like reporters reaching out for comment somehow turning into, "They were colluding." I mean give me a break.

GLENN THRUSH: In a network where we have, where we reported last week that Sean Hannity advises, and we will say this again, has, during the campaign, continues to call the White House, advises the president on political matters.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Which, to be, to be clear, like, you know, Hannity has said, you know, "I'm not a journalist," you know, whatever. Fine!

GLENN THRUSH: Roger Ailes was an advisor to the President of the United States. They're playing around the margins on legitimate reporters, when the collusion is hiding in plain site with Fox News. Look at Fox and Friends. Check out Fox and Friends' feed, Twitter feed everyday. It is a press release from the White House.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: I just think there's a degree to which there's a number of people who don't understand what we do, day by day, and I think that when you have, you know, a major news outlet like that, sort of feeding there was, for instance, a conservative blogger who has been given White House credentials, and he has written any number of things that are not true about other reporters, and he was tweeting yesterday, "Secret briefings going on for MSM at the White House. Gary Cohen and Jared Kushner are leading them."

So, there have been a series of briefings at the White House, by the—

GLENN THRUSH: For the hundred days.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: For the hundreds, by a number of senior advisors to the president, which of course the president wants, because while the president denounces the 100-day construct, he has bought into it hugely.

BEN SMITH: As well as as off-the-record conversations.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: And so, right, and so like, and so—but at the same time, like, you know, a. I'd rather have the administration participating and talking to us, why wouldn't we?

But also, like that was a classic example of like, this is SOP. This is Standard Operating Procedure, and you're ripping it to make it sound sinister and weird.

GLENN THRUSH: How about walking—?

MAGGIE HABERMAN: And there's a lot of that on Twitter.

GLENN THRUSH: Two days I walked in, I had an appointment in the West Wing.


GLENN THRUSH: I cover the White House, by the way, that's my job, right? I'm walking into the West Wing and, a, a reporter who I won't name, tweets "Glenn Thrush seen escorted into the West Wing." I then get three emails from bookers who are like, "We want to talk to you about your interview with the president." And it's like, I'm just doing my job. There's a certain absurdity to this.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: And he was not there interviewing the president, to be clear.

BEN SMITH: No, that's absurd but harmless, right? I mean it does feel like there's, there's always been, as long as we've been doing this, there have been political operatives, and Fox is .. in many ways, A political operation, cynically working the refs and claiming that we aren't, claiming, saying things they know aren't true.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: That's right.

BEN SMITH: About our motives and we're trying to do our jobs. It does seem like they've managed to—they were always kind of in on the joke, and would want to buy you a drink at the end of the day.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: No, that's right.

BEN SMITH: I think they've managed now to set, to ... basically transmit that to a broader audience that doesn't realize that they're winking.


MAGGIE HABERMAN: That, that's my point.

BEN SMITH: That doesn't realize that they think—that they know they're in on the joke, that they want to buy you a drink, that the President of the United States also wants you to be his therapist.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Well this is, this is the problem too, is that the President of the United States deploys the same tactics, and his followers don't realize that like, this is actually like a game that he's playing. I mean when he runs out and does, "Fake news, I don't watch CNN anymore"... he watches CNN all the time.

GLENN THRUSH: Don Lemon every night. Appointment viewing.

BEN SMITH: What a world.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Right. His followers don't get that, don't get that this is an act.

GLENN THRUSH: I think a lot of them do.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: No, I think some of them do, I don't think a lot. And, I think that that's the danger.

BEN SMITH: On that cheerful note!

GLENN THRUSH: (laughs)


BEN SMITH: Who, who thought we'd be here, in this particular darkened basement.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: It's pretty, you know what, it's a pretty interesting moment in time.


GLENN THRUSH: For all of us to be covering. I feel, I feel very lucky.

BEN SMITH: It's hard to rip yourself away.


GLENN THRUSH: It's true. And if it wasn't for you two, I don't think I'd be doing this. I'd be ... you know?

BEN SMITH: What would you be doing, Glenn?

MAGGIE HABERMAN: What would you be doing?

GLENN THRUSH: (laughs) I'd be screaming at the TV which is kind of what I get paid to do.

MAGGIE HABERMAN: You know, I was gonna say, that's, that's what we do to each other—

BEN SMITH: Screaming at each other instead of the TV.

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