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After Mueller report findings, Team Trump plans to 'slam and shame the media'

Updated 3:59 AM ET, Mon March 25, 2019

New York (CNN Business) - A version of this article first appeared in the "Reliable Sources" newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

So far, we know very little about what's in Robert Mueller's report, but we know, from Attorney General Bill Barr, that Mueller did not find collusion. On the issue of obstruction, Barr and deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein determined that the evidence was "not sufficient" to support prosecution. Trump, true to form, went too far and said he had been completely exonerated. But Sunday was just day one of a multi-day story...

Team Trump plans to "slam and shame the media"

CNN's Jim Acosta reports that Trumpworld is going to go after the press hard in the coming days. The Republican National Committee is already blasting out emails with titles like "The Media Was Obsessed With The Democrat Lie." And many of Fox's talk show hosts are blasting CNN and MSNBC.

A Trump adviser who speaks to the president regularly told Acosta to expect Trump and his team to "slam and shame the media" over Mueller's no-collusion conclusion. "This is like Geraldo Rivera and Al Capone's vault all over again," the adviser said.

The WaPo's White House team expects the same thing: "Aides say Trump plans to highlight the cost of the probe and call for organizations to fire members of the media and former government officials who he believes made false accusations about him."

Oliver Darcy's analysis

Oliver Darcy emails: Sean Hannity's tweets tell you everything you need to know about Fox's programming plan for Monday. Right-wing pundits and members of Trump's inner circle are pushing journalists to apologize for the media's coverage of the Mueller probe. The reasoning seems to be that by covering the investigation, which ultimately did not indict anyone for conspiring with Russia, journalists hyped a baseless probe. Some critics are going further and saying the press "lied" and "colluded" to take down Trump. But I don't seem to recall these same pundits demanding journalists apologize for aggressively covering the Hillary Clinton email probe after James Comey decided not to bring charges. While the two aren't perfectly identical scenarios, they were similar situations, and I don't remember a rush to declare that Fox's credibility — or any other news organization's — was tarnished for coverage of it.

Stelter's response

Oliver is right. And yet the press is going to get hammered in the hours and days to come. I have a few thoughts about this:

-- We live in a big wild world of "media." Try to tune out the partisans who paint with a broad brush — the ones who cherry-pick individual errors and try to punish the press as a whole. The rhetoric from folks like Donald Trump Jr. is predictable and cynical — they just want the "media" to be the enemy.

-- The federal probes of Trump's campaign and inner circle were and still are BIG stories, period. And Trump's daily deceptions and strange actions gave Americans ample reason to be suspicious about his Russia ties.

-- But: There were mistakes made in the course of the Trump-Russia coverage. And there were newsroom choices that merit reflection now. What did the sheer volume of the coverage signal to viewers? Take Rachel Maddow's fans, for example. On Sunday Glenn Greenwald accused her of feeding "millions of people conspiratorial garbage." Do Maddow's viewers feel misled right about now?

-- News versus noise: There's been so much solid reporting about the Trump-Russia mystery, but the media ecosystem tends to reward speculation over straight news. Are there ways to change this?

-- Mostly I agree with Emily Bell's tweet: "If the main story coming out of Mueller is a media story — that cannot be right. Y'all need to get off Twitter for a couple of days."

Views from the left and right

-- Want to get a feel for right-wing reactions against the press? Take a look at Mollie Hemingway or Brit Hume's Twitter feeds.

-- Matt Taibbi's piece is being widely shared: He said news that Mueller "is headed home without issuing new charges is a death-blow for the reputation of the American news media" and called Russiagate "this generation's WMD."

-- Franklin Foer's rebuttal to Taibbi: "Mueller has apparently endorsed the fundamental underlying case emanating from the intelligence community: The Russians were actively working to secure Trump's victory."

-- Rich Lowry's post for NRO: "The media coverage of the Russia investigation was abysmal and self-discrediting —obsessive and hysterical, often suggesting that the smoking gun was right around the corner, sometimes supporting its hoped-for result with erroneous, too-good-to check reporting. Never has so little come of so many screaming chyrons."

-- And here's a counterpoint from Ryan Lizza: "Contra a lot of commentary: given the issues, stakes, and seriousness with which special counsel treated all of this, the media's coverage of Russia-Trump connection and possible obstruction over the last two years was somewhere between about right and not quite aggressive enough."

NYT editor doesn't have regrets

NYT executive editor Dean Baquet to the Washington Post's Paul Farhi: "I'm comfortable with our coverage. It is never our job to determine illegality, but to expose the actions of people in power. And that's what we and others have done and will continue to do." Here's more from Baquet...

More notes and quotes

-- Michael Calderone's headline for Politico: "Media stares down 'reckoning' after Mueller report underwhelms..."

-- THR's Jeremy Barr says all this chatter is premature: "No need to write these stories yet," he tweeted. "Without all the info, we are essentially ~speculating~ that the media messed up by speculating too much about Russia."

-- Matt Lewis writing for The Daily Beast: "Regular viewers of liberal-leaning cable news outlets may have an especially hard time grappling with the fact that the narrative has suddenly gone bust."

-- The bottom line, from Chuck Todd, speaking on MSNBC: "This isn't getting resolved in this country until November 2020."

The right's reversal on Mueller

Oliver Darcy emails: For the better part of the last two years, members of the pro-Trump media have argued that the probe into Russian election interference was a "witch hunt" and suggested Mueller was a "deep state" dirty cop. Now we know that Mueller's report has cleared Trump on conspiracy with Russia. So either Mueller was a lousy dirty cop, or everything these right-wing talking heads have been shouting on Fox News prime time was false. In fact, Mueller arrived at a conclusion where the facts took him. His conclusion proves that this was no rigged witch hunt. As Joe Walsh tweeted, "All those 'witch hunt/deep state' folks who maligned Mueller's character for 22 months owe Robert Mueller an apology. He did his job and did it well."

-- Related: Julia Ioffe tweeted: "I'm old enough to remember when the President said we shouldn't believe anything Mueller said."

Don't expect to hear from the man himself...

Mueller achieved almost mythical status in America. As one of the characters in this national drama, his name came to mean so many different things to so many different people. Hopefully, in the end, his name will mean "truth." Now that he's leaving the playing field, don't expect to see Mueller sit down for a TV interview or anything like that. But the other characters are still playing... Republicans are accusing Democrats of moving the goalposts... and journalists are trying to keep up with the game...

FOR THE RECORD

-- Before Barr's letter came out, the president played golf with a group of men, including Fox News contributor Trey Gowdy...

-- Noted Mueller watcher Garrett Graff says he has "a million questions" now...

-- NPR produced special editions of its politics podcast about the Mueller report on Friday night and again Sunday night...

-- Read more of Sunday's "Reliable Sources" newsletter here... And subscribe here to receive future editions in your inbox...

Sunday's TV coverage

-- NBC was the first of the broadcast networks to break in, at 3:36 p.m., with Kate Snow anchoring and Pete Williams doing an outstanding job of reading the letter aloud and analyzing it in real time...

-- George Stephanopoulos anchored on ABC when the news came down...David Muir came in for "World News Tonight..."

-- CBS aired four news cut-ins during CBS Sports' March Madness coverage...

-- Wolf Blitzer was in the anchor chair on CNN when the letter came in, joined by Dana Bash and a full house... Ana Cabrera picked up at 7 p.m., then Anderson Cooper at 8 and Don Lemon at 10...

-- Katy Tur (who happens to be nine months pregnant right now!) anchored MSNBC's coverage from 3 until 6 p.m. ET... Then Ari Melber took over... Kasie Hunt anchored her usual show at 7, and Melber came back at 9...

-- Ed Henry and Dana Perino co-anchored on Fox when the news broke... Shannon Bream at 5... Jon Scott from 6 until 8... Then Bret Baier at 8, Steve Hilton's show at its usual time, and Bream again at 10...

Coming up on Monday...

-- CNN's "Early Start" starts an hour early, at 3 a.m. ET, and "New Day" starts at 5...

-- Fox says Tucker Carlson will have an exclusive interview with Donald Trump Jr. on Monday night...

-- CBS is pre-empting an episode of "Bull" to air "The Mueller Report: A Turning Point," a one-hour special, Monday at 10 p.m. ET... Jeff Glor will anchor... Scott Pelley, Norah O'Donnell, John Dickerson, Major Garrett, Paula Reid, Nancy Cordes, Jeff Pegues, and Elizabeth Palmer will contribute...

This almost never happens:

Every story on the front page of Monday's NYT is about the same subject. The banner: "MUELLER FINDS NO TRUMP-RUSSIA CONSPIRACY." In the bottom left corner: "Democrats vow to push ahead and investigate..."

More to come...

Brian Lowry emails: After two days of wild speculation and spin, the fourth of the WaPo's key takeaways seemed to sum up the main point to keep in mind from Sunday's preliminary announcement regarding the Mueller report: "There is more to come."


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