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EXEC SUMMARY: Scroll down to read NPR's letter to Mike Pompeo, hear the RNC's new web ad, see John Oliver on THR's cover, and watch Shaq's tearful tribute to Kobe...


McConnell doesn't have the votes

The WSJ was first with this news on Tuesday evening: "McConnell Says GOP Doesn't Have Votes to Block Impeachment Witnesses."

CNN and others matched this reporting within minutes. And it's the lead on many news homepages right now. Wednesday's NYT has this headline above the fold: "G.O.P. SCRAMBLING TO COLLECT VOTES TO BAR WITNESSES." WaPo, too: "McConnell says he lacks votes to bar trial witnesses."

The Post's story notes that "an initial vote to allow witnesses, expected Friday, does not ensure witnesses would actually be called, since the Senate would have to subsequently hold separate votes on summoning each individual witness. And Trump's ultimate acquittal still remains all but assured." But the debate over witnesses is taking center stage, now that opening arguments are over...

Hannity bashes Romney

"Do you really think that you should take on the role of the U.S. House of Representatives?"

Sean Hannity went after the junior senator from Utah on Tuesday night: "All I see, with all due respect, Mitt Romney, is your personal hatred for Donald Trump. And it's clearly clouding your judgment. Do you really think Americans are too stupid to choose their president?" Hannity offered to send Romney's office "all the applicable laws" that he thinks Joe Biden broke. Hannity had a message for John Bolton too... Scroll down for details...


 -- Here's a preview of what Wednesday and Thursday's trial days will be all about: During question time, "both sides will press lawyers on their roles..." (WaPo)

 -- "Verdict with Ted Cruz," the senator's new impeachment podcast with a predictable pro-Trump POV, is No. 1 on the Apple Podcasts chart, topping "The Daily" and Joe Rogan... (Dallas Morning News)

 -- CBS correspondent Catherine Herridge's "extended interview" with Rudy Giuliani is airing Wednesday A.M... (Twitter)

 -- New from Isaac Stanley-Becker: How Bolton "became a target of the pro-Trump Internet..." (WaPo)

Hannity challenges Bolton to an interview

"You used to be a colleague here at the Fox News Channel," Hannity said in the portion of his monologue that was addressed to Bolton. Hannity, who helped Bolton become national security adviser, acknowledged that he's known the man for two decades. "I'm not today recognizing the guy that I thought I knew," Hannity said. "Because John Bolton, I say to you tonight: If you have something to say John, come here. You worked here. This is your old home. Come on the show and have your say on this show."

Napolitano: Bolton was a "conservative icon until two days ago"

Oliver Darcy emails: Earlier in the day, Fox's Judge Andrew Napolitano spoke out about how Trump's defenders have sought to paint Bolton in an unflattering light. "We know John," Napolitano said. "He used to work here. He’s a very intelligent, strong-willed, meticulous honest person." Neil Cavuto chimed in, “A conservative icon until he wasn't." Napolitano replied, "A conservative icon until two days ago. Now the things they're saying about him sounds like they’re talking about Nancy Pelosi." As Stelter and I wrote in a story on Monday, some personalties and guests at Fox have clearly turned on Bolton in recent days...

NPR wants answers

More than 24 hours after NPR found out that diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen was being removed from Mike Pompeo's plane, the State Department has yet to explain or defend the decision. Pompeo is taking off for the United Kingdom on Wednesday... and Kelemen was supposed to be the radio rep on this trip... but not anymore. State has not responded to CNN's inquiries -- or NPR's for that matter. So CEO John Lansing and SVP of news Nancy Barnes wrote to Pompeo on Monday and asked him to allow Kelemen on the trip; to explain the original decision; and to provide all relevant documents.

Separately, in a memo to NPR staffers, Lansing pointed out that "there are serious issues at stake." He said "access to those in power is fundamental to our ability to do our jobs. That is bigger than NPR. It is about the role of journalism in America." Here is my newest story...

Mary Louise Kelly's op-ed in the NYT...

It will appear in Wednesday's paper. The print headline: "Let the Press Do Its Job." Here's the kicker...


AT&T earnings before the bell... Facebook earnings after the bell...

Trump will hold a late morning signing ceremony for the USMCA...

The SPLC will mark Student Press Freedom Day, celebrating "the critical role of student media while pointing out the challenges they face..."

Kathryn Murdoch speaking out

Hadas Gold writes: Kathryn Murdoch, wife of James, daughter-in-law of Rupert, is continuing to move, step by careful step, into the media spotlight. First she granted an interview with the NYT. Now she has sat down for an extended conversation with Politico's Anna Palmer for her podcast "Women Rule."

The decision to step out and use her platform is a new one for Murdoch, who admits she's still navigating the new territory. But, she says she's taking the step because it's a "make or break" moment for democracy and climate change – and she is planning to spend $100 million on political reform proposals. Murdoch told Palmer "there's always a difference between what gets seen out in the public, and what is actually happening in a family or behind the scenes," and that there is a lot of "diversity" within the Murdoch family.
The full podcast will be posted here at 5am ET Wednesday...

Ben Smith joining NYT

Some people are thrilled about this new appointment. Others are dreading it. Still others are reserving judgment for now. But almost everyone in the media chattering class has an opinion. BuzzFeed News EIC Ben Smith is jumping ship to become the NYT's media columnist. He will start at The Times on March 2. Oliver Darcy and I wrote up the news here. 

WaPo's Margaret Sullivan interviewed Smith and welcomed him to the column world. Recode's Peter Kafka took stock of what it means. The NYT "used to be afraid of BuzzFeed," he wrote. "Now it's hired its biggest star."

 >> One of David Carr's daughters, Erin Lee Carr, tweeted in reaction, "I think my dad would like the hire. Give em' hell Ben."

 >> The big Q: What does this mean for the future of BuzzFeed News?


 -- Wesley Lowery is leaving WaPo to become a correspondent for "60 in 6," the CBS News offshoot of "60 Minutes" that will stream on Quibi starting this spring... (Washingtonian)

 -- S. Mitra Kalita tweeted: "Significant moves of late with Kevin Delaney and Ben Smith heading to NYT and Wes Lowery to CBS News. I think this says something about realities of digitally native media, the power of legacy brands and the need for talent that can straddle both..." (Twitter)

 -- "Private-equity firm Platinum Equity has sought to recruit CBS chief Joe Ianniello to front its bid to acquire Univision, according to people familiar with the matter." Ianniello "hasn’t yet decided whether to join Platinum's bid and is also considering other options..." (WSJ)

 -- I loved this segment on NY1 Tuesday morning: "At just 10 and 13 years old, Siroos Pasdar, Marley Alburez, Amelia Poor are a part of the very selective Scholastic Kids Press program..." (NY1)

WaPo reinstating Felicia Sonmez

Oliver Darcy emails: "After conducting an internal review, we have determined that, while we consider Felicia's tweets ill-timed, she was not in clear and direct violation of our social media policy," WaPo managing editor Tracy Grant said Tuesday. So Felicia Sonmez can resume her work as a national political reporter at the Post.

Grant also said, "We regret having spoken publicly about a personnel matter." But some of Sonmez's allies think the Post should have gone further and apologized to her. On Tuesday night, Sonmez issued a statement that said, "I hope Washington Post newsroom leaders will not only prioritize their employees’ safety in the face of threats of physical harm but also ensure that no journalist will be punished for speaking the truth." She tweeted her full statement here...

Distractions, distractions...

Oliver Darcy emails: Trump lashed out at Fox News on Tuesday, saying in a pair of tweets that this is the "beginning of the end" of the network. It's not. Fox appeared to draw Trump's ire by hosting Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen for an interview about impeachment. Trump said it was "really pathetic" that the network was "trying to be so politically correct by loading the airwaves with Democrats" like Van Hollen. Trump also questioned "what the hell happened" to Fox News, before then cryptically tweeting, "Only I know!" Huh?

Look: By attacking Fox for simply interviewing Dem lawmakers, Trump is again implicitly expressing that he does not view Fox as a news network. But his jabs are just distractions from the real news that's unfolding...


By Oliver Darcy:

 -- Fox News and Fox Biz largely stuck with regular programming instead of simulcasting Trump's rally in Wildwood, NJ. Media Matters noticed a strange moment when Lou Dobbs said "I've just been informed by management that we need to break away from the Trump rally..." (Twitter)

 -- Outside the rally, "several Trump fans shouted 'Fake news!' at reporters filming them, and one shouted 'the media is run by Jews' at a Reuters photographer..." (Inquirer)

 -- The Daily Caller is being sued by former Democratic IT staffer Imran Awan. Awan's lawyer told The Daily Beast, "The victims of fake news and right wing conspiracies are not just our politics and our discourse—it’s also real people, whose lives can be ruined..." (Daily Beast)

 -- Facebook is hiring Fox News vet Jennifer Williams to work on Facebook News. Williams was most recently the exec producer of "The Daily Briefing." She previously worked on "Fox & Friends" for 12 years... (NBC News)

 -- Erik Wemple is calling out the "comical hypocrisy" of Sean Hannity, citing the Fox host attacking Maggie Haberman... (WaPo)

RNC uses CNN segment in new web ad

Don Lemon, Rick Wilson and Wajahat Ali's Saturday night segment on "CNN Tonight" went viral on Monday night and Tuesday morning, with conservatives asserting that it showcased liberal America's hatred of Trump supporters. The president and two of his kids (Ivanka and Don Jr.) shared the video. The Federalist's Emily Jashinsky said it was "the perfect Trump campaign ad." Fox dedicated multiple segments to it. And on Tuesday night the RNC released a web ad that ended with the words, "They think you're a joke. Prove them wrong in November."

But "Rick Wilson was unapologetic," Spectator USA noted. Wilson called the eruption "phony outrage" by the "MAGA tough guy" crowd. "What really drives them," he said, "is a grinding social anxiety fueled by a weaponized and monetized outrage machine."

Don Lemon's response to the controversy

Lemon addressed the controversy on Tuesday night. "I don't believe in belittling people -- belittling anyone for who they are or what they believe or where they're from," he said. Wilson's original joke "made me laugh," he said, and "I didn't catch everything that was said" afterward. (Wilson had said Trump "couldn't find Ukraine on a map if you had the letter U and a picture of an actual, physical crane next to it."

"Just to make this perfectly clear," Lemon said, "I was laughing at the joke. And not any group of people."


 -- Joe Biden photobombed Ed O'Keefe during a live shot on the "CBS Evening News..." (Twitter)

 -- "Dan Rather will stage an autobiographical two-night stand Off Broadway next month called Stories Of A Lifetime, recording the show for audiobook publisher Audible..." (Deadline)

 -- Read this by The Economist's Middle East correspondent, Nicolas Pelham, about "the seven weeks he spent detained in Iran..." (Economist)

Remembering Xana Antunes

Senior tech editor Matt Quinn writes: Longtime business journalist and former NY Post editor in chief Xana Antunes died Monday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Xana was most recently the executive editor of digital publication Quartz, where we worked together, and previously held top positions at CNBC, Crain's and Fortune. She exuded the two most prized attributes of an editor: spotting talent and stories. As my former colleague at Quartz Kira Bindrim wrote: "She was a tough critic, a fierce advocate, an incisive editor, and the kind of mentor who would roll her eyes if you called her one to her face." In a note to staff, Quartz CEO Zach Seward described her as "the soul of our newsroom." Last year, the Newswomen's Club of New York honored her with its lifetime achievement award. She is survived by her husband Scott and daughter Elisabeth...

Auerbach's memories

"Reliable Sources" executive producer Jon Auerbach, who worked with Antunes at the Post, shared this remembrance: They used to call newspaper reporters inked-stain wretches, but today those weren't ink stains on many former New York Posties, those were tears. Xana, that’s pronounced SHA-na, was so much more than a talented editor. Plenty is being written about her editorial chops, and deservedly so. But if you only remembered her for her work you would be, in her words, "daft." Xana was a caring and compassionate person, traits rarely found in the DNA of tabloid editors. Rather than paralyzing a room with fear and loathing when she walked in, she lit it up with her Mrs. Doubtfire-esque accent and distinctive "Helloooo." Her former newsroom homes are darker now and I'm sure I'm not alone when I say this: When all you can think about is how someone said hello, how can you say goodbye?

Honoring Kobe

 -- "In Bryant's hometown of Philadelphia on Tuesday, the 76ers honored him," as tributes continued worldwide, ESPN notes...

 -- #GirlDad has been trending worldwide, thanks to Kobe and ESPN anchor Elle Duncan...

-- A petition urging the NBA to change its logo to honor Kobe Bryant has earned more than 2 million signatures, Lisa Respers France notes...

 -- Jimmy Kimmel ditched his studio audience for a somber tribute to Kobe, Frank Pallotta writes...

"I hope we never have to do a show like this again"

Andrew Bucholtz of Awful Announcing writes: "Turner postponed the launch of their new NBA on TNT Tuesday Night franchise by a week to instead air an hour-long pregame show ahead of their Celtics-Heat broadcast. Normally, pregame content would come from the studio or from the arena in question and focus on the game, but this week's came from the Staples Center, the arena Bryant had produced so many highlights in, and it focused solely on paying tribute to Bryant." Bucholtz says it was "a remarkable hour of television."

"I hope we never have to do a show like this again," Ernie Johnson said during the broadcast.

"I haven’t felt a pain that sharp in a while," Shaq said. Seriously, take three minutes and watch his comments...

"The Mamba Mentality" is sold out

Ever since Sunday afternoon, Kobe's 2018 book "The Mamba Mentality: How I Play" has been the top-selling book on Amazon and It is now listed as "out of stock" on both sites...


By Kerry Flynn:

 — Sarah Perez reports Flipboard is adding a local news product that curates coverage in 23 cities... (TechCrunch)

 — Kate Knibbs reports on the collapse of CollegeHumor... (Wired)

 — Anthony Ha reports on Scroll's launch. Through Tony Haile's startup, users pay $5 per month for ad-free browsing on about 300 partner sites... (TechCrunch)

 — Per this new story by Kayleigh Barber, Vox Media generates more than $10M a year from its 200 podcasts and plans to double that in 2020... (Digiday)


John Oliver on the cover of THR

With "Last Week Tonight" returning in mid-February, John Oliver is starting to do press... He spoke with Marisa Guthrie for this cover story that will drop on Wednesday morning...

Apple TV+ is off to a "rousing start" (whatever that means)

Frank Pallotta writes: When Apple reported quarterly earnings on Tuesday, many reporters were interested in seeing what the company would say about the streaming service Apple TV+. Tim Cook said on the earnings call that the service is "off to a rousing start," but didn't get into details about # of subscribers or anything else. So "rousing start" could mean really anything...

 >> Big picture via Clare Duffy: "Apple posts record quarter as iPhone sales make a comeback"


 -- "Netflix is overhauling its marketing strategy and laying off some employees in the process," THR's Kim Masters and Bryn Elise Sandberg reported Tuesday. "Sources say at least 15 people are expected to exit this week as the company moves to better advertise the service rather than its individual shows..." (THR)

 -- This was "an expected purge," Brooks Barnes noted, as the company's new chief marketing officer Jackie Lee-Joe takes over...

 -- A must-read from Richard Rushfield: "Ari Emanuel, WME, and the Great Hollywood IPO That Wasn't" (VF)

 -- Bravo is promoting "Family Karma," a new reality series "with an all-Indian cast..." (People)

 -- Now here's an idea: How about a fifth hour of the "Today" show on weekdays? (Variety)

Newly curious about "Contagion"

Look what cracked the top ten on the iTunes movie rental chart on Tuesday: The 2011 movie "Contagion," about a viral pandemic that starts in China.

 --> Brian Lowry emails: You seldom get a better example of people filtering their understanding of real-world events through fictional storytelling than this newfound curiosity about "Contagion..."

 --> Last week the Daily Mail said fans of the movie have been pointing out "eerie similarities" between the film and the Coronavirus outbreak...

See "Night on Earth"

Brian Lowry emails: Netflix brings a new wrinkle to the thriving, near-saturated genre of nature documentaries with "Night on Earth," a five-part series that employs new night vision and infrared techniques to present footage captured in darkness — when many animals are more active — in a different way. If successful, expect to see a lot more of this technology. It drops Wednesday...


By Lisa Respers France:

 -- Billie Eilish's music sales are up after her Grammys sweep...

 -- In a rare interview with British Vogue, model Irina Shayk has opened up about her break-up with actor/director Bradley Cooper, with whom she shares a young daughter...

 -- Justin Bieber has a Valentine for his fans: His new album "Changes" will come out on February 14.
Thank you for reading! Email me feedback anytime...
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