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Washington was convulsed last night by icy nastiness, harsh language and people crying foul.
Oh, that was the deciding game in a hockey playoff between the historically hard-luck Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, just one of three major sports distractions from 24/7 coverage of President Trump firing FBI Director James Comey.
“Sources: Comey sought to expand Russian probe before firing,” said CNN. They didn’t really need any chyrons to fill the screen since at one point it displayed a panel of nine people discussing the matter, thus resembling less a thoughtful discussion of policy than a long-ago dinner at Hearst Castle.
MSNBC was much the same throughout the day and night, including Rachel Maddow’s show. “WaPo: 30 sources say Comey firing was based on anger over Russia probe.” That’s “WaPo,” as in The Washington Post, an inadvertent reminder of the ongoing impressive, actual reporting done by print-turned-digital bastions.
Meanwhile, Trump’s Fox cheerleaders were in overdrive. They scoffed at the “stuttering outrage” of Trump’s critics, as poetically phrased by Greg Gutfeld, hosting the new and unimproved primetime version of “The Five.”
Gutfeld opened with a dumb screed, as if to show his inner Andrew Dice Clay, saying the Democrats “look two-faced, with requires twice as much Botox.” He lamely alluded to how Trump could have fired Comey in August when “half the media (were) drunk, picking sand from their navel. No one would have noticed.”
“Expecting Trump to stick to formalities is like” — are you ready, America, for this satiric brilliance? — “expecting a dog to meow, or a cat to bark, or Chris Matthews to make sense.” Gutfeld alone makes Matthews resemble a combo of Montesquieu, Kant, Socrates, Aristotle and Charlie Cook.
Fortunately, there were important diversions, at least for Washington sports fans. There was what appeared to be a convergence of happy news with two very important playoff games for the hometown Caps and Wizards and the baseball Nats at home against local rival Baltimore.
As Matt Vita, sports editor of The Washington Post, put it last night:
“It’s a special night for Washington sports, but we’re still skating in our lane. There’s nothing in our world that can compare with the magnitude of what folks in national and elsewhere in the newsroom have been handling. Hopefully we just provide some welcome relief.”
That means live web and mobile updates on the Wizards and Capitals, plus instant analyses and game stories when they ended. Columnist Jerry Brewer was in Boston with the Wizards and columnists Barry Svrluga, Dan Steinberg and Tom Boswell were at home at the Caps game.
In all, four people writing on the Wizards, seven on the Caps and two at the Nats game. As Vita put it, somewhat facetiously, “another night in sports.”
Well, it proved another typical night in Washington sports. The Nats won “on an otherwise dark D.C. night” that saw hockey’s high-priced Caps once again blew it, and thus ended their season. The Wizards lost their big one, too.
Misery breeds company, so it’s now back to cable news and Trump.
Snap’s very poor start
“Snap Inc., in its first quarterly report as a public company, showed it struggled to maintain strong user growth at its Snapchat vanishing-messaging app, sending shares tumbling and sparking worries about its ability to challenge social-media titan Facebook Inc.” (The Wall Street Journal)
The Watergate analogy
The search to in some fashion liken the current political mess to Watergate even prompted Carl Bernstein to get to a Tel Aviv TV studio at 3:50 a.m. local time to talk to Anderson Cooper. Chalk it up to his sincere craving for historical accuracy, or vanity, or maybe both.
I was lucky enough to track down Watergate icon John Dean after he and wife Maureen (yes, still solid after all these years) gave an insulin shot to their dog in Los Angeles. He then explained at great length Watergate’s modest relevance at this point. (U.S. News & World Report)
There are, though, some distinct Watergate analogies suggested in a New York Times video here where reporters Maggie Haberman, Matt Rosenberg and Peter Baker seek to decode the whole Comey mess (after an ad for ExxonMobil).
Mike Bloomberg opines
Bloomberg boss Mike Bloomberg writes, “If President Donald Trump thinks he can fire his way out of the FBI’s investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia, he is sorely mistaken — and attempting to do so makes him look weak and fearful, undermines the rule of law and diminishes what little prospects there were for bipartisan legislation.” (Bloomberg)
Headline of day
“White House job for Schwab heiress raises new ethics questions for Trump — Samantha Schwab’s grandfather, Charles Schwab, gave $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee. Now she’s working for the president.” (Huffington Post)
Reporter Christine Wilkie writes, “The White House won’t say why Schwab was hired, or give details on her work for the Trump administration.”
Thrush on Trump
The minute-by-minute scrutiny and fact-checking of the Comey firing is unceasing. And it’s not just a matter of reporting, then doing a story, and tweeting it out. Now you tweet while reporting.
Glenn Thrush, a stellar New York Times White House reporter (and occasional “Saturday Night Live” character), yesterday tweeted, “@mike_pence is saying (Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein) initiated Comey ouster — this is not true, according to everyone @maggieNYT and I have talked to. Trump did it.” (@GlennThrush)
Soon came this: “@mike_pence has a reassuring way of defending @realDonaldTrump — but much of what he just said is disputable or inaccurate.” (@GlennThrush)
Traditionalists might gag at the instant analysis cum editorializing. But that train is out of the station. And he combined with “Maggie,” namely Maggie Haberman, on a story that disclosed that Trump said privately that there’s “something wrong” with Comey.
Tit for tat. That’s exactly what many in the media say about Trump, perhaps most notably Mika Brzezinski, MSNBC’s occasional sunrise shrink.
The morning babble
CNN’s “New Day” opened with confusions about why Trump fired Comey. Said pundit Ron Brownstein: “The only thing that is really relevant is that the president fired the senior law enforcement official leading the investigation into the conduct of his campaign and whether it colluded with the Russians to destabilize the election.”
“Fox & Friends” went with Trump’s own “phony hypocrites” construct (via a tweet) about Democratic critics of the Comey decision, then derided the time that network broadcasts spent last night on the Russian collusion angle: CBS with Scott Pelley (7 minutes, 58 seconds), ABC with David Muir (7 minutes, 53 seconds) and NBC with Lester Holt (9 minutes, 13 seconds).
But it was interesting that Steve Doocy said that “Russia will be their (the Democrats’) Benghazi,” as if, after all these years, the conservative mouthpiece was conceding Benghazi was a B.S. story!
MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” maintained that Trump is losing support among conservatives within the FBI who had supported him. “I talk to a good number of them,” claimed Joe Scarborough. And “everybody in the White House is lying through their teeth” about not firing James Comey due to the Russia investigation, he said.
A pipe dream
“Facebook announced on Wednesday that it’s penalizing websites that contain little substantive content and junky advertising, the social network’s latest step to police its platform for content that users find objectionable or irrelevant.” (Poynter)
Imagine if you were King of Media for a day and could eliminate junky ads! The scumbag personal injury lawyers, the tips on selling old gold, the constipation remedy ones with those smiling and relieved idiots, etc. We can dream, can’t we?
If you’re a reporter, get arrested and need help…
The arrest in West Virginia of Public News Service reporter Dan Heyman prompts the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to remind one and all about its Legal Defense Hotline: [email protected] or 800-336-4243. You never know.
A tip on repairing your Rolodex
A discussion with Tom Ricks, a premier longtime defense and national security reporter, included his thoughts on the need for reporters to freshen source lists.
Notice how White males tend to dominate the national security discussions? If not, call your ophthalmologist. Well, “a lot of women have come into the national security establishment since 9/11. They’re still not a majority in numbers, but they may be in the amount of straight talk and clear thinking they’re producing.”
Here’s his cheat sheet on really smart folks:
Susan Hennessey. Former NSA lawyer, now managing editor of the Lawfare blog. @Susan_Hennessey.
Nada Bakos. “If you saw ‘Zero Dark Thirty,’ you have some idea of who she is. But in reality she’s not a redhead.” @nadabakos
Tara Muller. MIT PhD, former CIA analyst. @TaraMuller
Kori Schake. “Defense Secretary Mattis listens to her, OK?” @KoriSchake
Rosa Brooks. Law professor, author, former Pentagon official. @brooks_rosa
Heather Hurlburt. Former White House, State Department, congressional staffer. @natsecHeather
Frances Townsend. Former Bush advisor, now a talking head. @FranTownsend
Loren D. Schulman. Former assistant to Defense Secretary Robert Gates. @LorenRaeDeJ
Sharon Burke. Former Pentagon climate change czar, a position now eliminated @burkese
Anne-Marie Slaughter. Former Princeton dean, State Department official. “Now my boss’s boss at New America, the think tank where I hang my hat.” @SlaughterAM
Anne Applebaum. “One of the best people on Russia.” @anneapplebaum
Joan Johnson-Freese. Expert on military issues in outer space. @JohnsonFreese
Nancy Youssef. Veteran military reporter, tough and funny. @nancyayoussef
Amanda Rousseau. “Private sector cyber warrior.” @malwareunicorn
And a foreigner: Federica Mogherini. Foreign minister of the European Union. @FedericaMog