In mid-August, one week after F.B.I. officials executed the search of Mar-a-Lago that recovered more than 300 classified documents, CNN’s respected and forceful anchor Brianna Keilar brought on Rep. Mike Turner, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, to articulate the G.O.P. response. The interview, which took place on the network’s State of the Union program, showcased Keilar’s prodigious prosecutorial talents and the authoritative, occasionally combative, take-no-bullshit approach to cross-examination that she had honed in the latter years of the Trump–Zucker era.
During that epoch, Keilar had become one of the more unlikely stars of the network. Sure, she wasn’t making Anderson Cooper money and she wasn’t an Erin Burnett-style billboard talent, but her defense of Washington’s institutions against Trump’s berserk behavior made her a crowd favorite, a Twitter heroine, and a star of the Zucker combine.
The SOTU exchange was vintage Keilar. In the tensest part of the segment, Turner repeatedly sought to argue that the documents, which had been marked “special access,” might merely be labeled as such, and might not actually be classified or rise to the level of a national security threat. Keilar was unmoved by his seemingly specious, or at the very least rather thin and circumlocutory, arguments. She cogently expressed to the congressman that he didn’t “actually have the information on which to base that conclusion at this point.”