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EXEC SUMMARY: There are breaking news stories happening in at least four different directions right now. First and foremost, Kobe Bryant's death has shaken the entire country. It is hard to think of a more shocking death in the sports world, going back many many years. There are also new developments in the Coronavirus outbreak... But let me begin with the Senate impeachment trial that resumes in a matter of hours...


"The Room Where It Happened"

John Bolton's memoir about his time working for President Trump now has a title and a release date. "The Room Where It Happened" is slated to come out on March 17, according to a page that was posted by the publisher, Simon & Schuster, on Sunday night. The cover image has an outline in the shape of the Oval Office.

Until now, S&S had never even confirmed that it had a Bolton book project in the works. All of the stories about the book deal last November, including my own, were attributed to anonymous sources. But there has been growing speculation, and frustration, about Bolton writing a book but not testifying before the American people.

The NYT blew this story wide open on Sunday evening. Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt indicated that they know exactly what's in the book. And they said some White House officials know what's in it, too, because Bolton sent a draft to the W.H. for a standard review process. They wrote: President Trump told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens, according to an unpublished manuscript by the former adviser, John R. Bolton."

 --> NYT's all-caps headline in print: "MONEY TO UKRAINE TIED TO INQUIRIES, BOLTON BOOK SAYS"

 --> A source with direct knowledge of the manuscript told CNN's Jim Sciutto that the NYT's telling of Bolton's account of the Ukraine aid hold discussion with Trump is accurate...

The review process...

It is perfectly normal for a former government official like Bolton to submit a book draft for pre-publication review. But, the NYT noted, the W.H. could use this process "to delay or even kill the book’s publication or omit key passages." Under the circumstances, one has to wonder just how long Bolton's publisher is willing to wait to release the book. My impression is that March 17 is a pretty firm release date. And it's safe to assume there will be more leaks between now and then...
 >> Stephen Collinson's Monday morning story for "Democrats pounce on Bolton report to demand testimony..."


 -- The Times also has a list of five takeaways from the book...

 -- CNN's Lauren Fox wrote: "The longer the trial goes on, the more news can shape what direction it takes..."

 -- Susan Hennessey: "This is the single most significant revelation since the release of the call memorandum itself..."

 -- Noah Shachmtan asked in a tweet: "Maybe I'm missing something but... doesn't withholding this Bolton material from Congress essentially prove the obstruction charge?"

"Dramatic 11th hour turn"

Oliver Darcy emails: "The revelations present a dramatic 11th hour turn in Trump's Senate impeachment trial," Jonathan Swan wrote in his Axios story.

Indeed, several GOP sources told CNN's Manu Raju that the manuscript info "has added new uncertainty to this week's crucial vote to determine whether the Senate should subpoena witnesses and documents... Before the report, GOP leaders were confident that they would defeat the vote this week. But now, it is less certain, according to three GOP sources." If Bolton and others testify before the Senate, it could throw Trump's defense into significant peril...

The NYT knows more than the W.H.

According to Swan's story, the NYT learned about what Bolton's draft manuscript said BEFORE the W.H. comms shop. As Jack Schafer noted on Twitter, NYT appears to have "better sources than the White House..."

Trump's reaction

He tweeted shortly after midnight ET, "I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens. In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination. If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book."


50+ million

Trump surrogates have their talking points: The Senate trial is "boring," they say, and ratings are low, and no one cares. So I took a closer look at the ratings. I think it's misleading to report the "average" audience for the trial coverage, since the daily trial sessions have been hours and hours long. The average is just a snapshot -- of how many people are watching, on average, at any given time -- so I asked for Nielsen's "cumulative" data, showing the full reach of the trial. The data is delivered on a delay, so I only have the #'s for Tuesday's long day of rules proposals and votes. Tuesday's coverage on the three biggest broadcast networks and three biggest cable channels "averaged" 11 million TV viewers at any given time, but reached 50.7 million viewers, according to Nielsen. This means that more than 50 million people tuned in for at least a little bit of the Senate debate. And this # is for TV -- it excludes most streaming options.

I fully expect that the "reach" #'s declined later in the week, as the novelty wore off, but I think this data is a reminder that most people are getting impeachment news in bits and pieces -- a little bit on this screen, a little bit on that screen -- rather than watching wall-to-wall coverage... 


Fox News released new polling on Sunday that showed 50% support for removing Trump through the impeachment process. CNN's Jennifer Agiesta noted, "This is now the third major national poll released this week to show support for removing Donald Trump from office at 50% or higher (51% in CNN’s poll and Pew’s polling, 50% in the Fox poll)."

22 hours

That's how much time the lawyers for the president have left. So far, they have used 1 hour, 54 minutes of their allotted 24 hours...


 -- Agree/disagree? Democrats are emphasizing facts while Republicans are emphasizing feelings during the trial...

 -- Writing for the NYT, Nicole Hemmer, who studies conservative media, says "right-wing media have been laying the groundwork for Trump's acquittal for half a century." How? Here's how...

 -- Politico's Melanie Zanona told me that covering the trial from inside the Senate gallery is "a little bit like Jane Goodall in the wild observing these creatures in their natural habitat..."


Pompeo's history of hostility

Mike Pompeo called NPR's Mary Louise Kelly a liar in a Saturday morning statement, one day after Kelly described a post-interview tirade by Pompeo. The DC consensus was that he was the real liar. He was avoiding questions about Ukraine by attacking the questioner.

As I reported here, the Secretary of State has a track record of outbursts and outright hostility toward members of the news media. Kelly was just the latest target. One veteran DC reporter told me about being "chewed out" by Pompeo in response to the person's news coverage of the State Department. Pompeo profanely accused the reporter of "hating Donald Trump" and toeing the Democratic party line. Because of these spats, Pompeo has acquired a reputation for being thin-skinned and focused on pleasing Trump...

 -- Pompeo becomes "angriest and most condescending in interviews with female journalists," Garrett Graff said on "New Day..."

 -- Susan Glasser, a friend of Kelly's, said on "Reliable Sources" that Pompeo was aiming "at an audience of one with this public performance art around trolling the media..."

 -- Paul Farhi: "Email records support" Kelly's account "of how the contentious exchange came to be..."

 -- Fox host Steve Hilton defended Kelly on Sunday night: "For goodness sakes, Mr. Secretary, don't be such a baby! You should be able to handle tough questions by now. And don't be such a bully." He said "you should apologize..."

One of the effects of Fox...

Brian Lowry writes: John Avlon made an excellent point on "Reliable," noting that Republicans who line up for Fox News interviews – especially when teeing off on softballs from the opinion hosts – are ill-prepared for questions from more skeptical journalists who might challenge misstatements and talking points. It's the equivalent of a boxer training by sparring with creampuffs. It doesn’t really get you in fighting shape...

 -- Bill Kristol tweeted: "I don't think Pompeo hopes to intimidate NPR or other mainstream media. He hopes to delegitimize them for half the country. Breitbart and Fox will help. It’s an interesting question whether elite conservative media—WSJ edit page, NRO—who know better, will help as well..."

"Why does NPR still exist?"

On Sunday morning POTUS had the audacity to retweet Mark Levin asking that question, along with his own added commentary: "Good question!"

"We exist because we believe in an informed, civil electorate that has access to facts based on trustworthy information and investigation," NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro responded. "We reach rural communities where other news does not. Less than 2% of our funding comes from the government. We are part of this America."

Why did a "known hate group" receive W.H. press credentials?

White House press credentialing is purposefully lax... So that a wide range of news outlets can receive access... But the credentialing of TruNews is raising eyebrows. The site's founder "recently described Mr. Trump's impeachment as 'a Jew coup' planned by 'a Jewish cabal,'" the NYT's Michael Grynbaum wrote Sunday.

So what was TruNews doing in Davos, thanking the W.H. "for extending the invitation to be here" in an online video? WHCA president Jon Karl told Grynbaum: "It's puzzling that a known hate group would get press credentials from the same White House that revoked the credentials of a correspondent for a major television network. We have asked why this happened and if the White House intends to issue credentials to this group in the future. We have not received an on-the-record response."


 -- Alex Sherman says MGM leads 2020 media acquisition targets "as the entertainment world splits into haves and have-nots..." (CNBC)

 -- Marc Tracy has new details about the journalists at the Chicago Tribune and other papers who are "sending out an S.O.S." for new ownership... (NYT)

Kobe Bryant, 1978-2020

Sunday was "one of the worst of all sports days," ESPN "SportsCenter" anchor John Anderson said Sunday night. 

Journalists told me they felt chills when they first saw the news alerts. They hoped, like everyone else, that the initial reports weren't true. They hoped there was some sort of mix-up. But sources swiftly confirmed that Kobe was on board his helicopter when it crashed. Sitting in front of a camera during CNN's breaking news coverage, I thought about his daughters and hoped they were all safe at home. But we learned about an hour later that his daughter Gianna was on board too, heading to a basketball tournament. Kobe was expected to coach her game. They died while pursuing a shared passion.

"It's rare these days for the world to unify around anything but there’s truly shared grief and shock over this," CNN's Mitra Kalita noted Sunday evening...

Rolling coverage in L.A.

Megan Thomas writes: The sense of shock and sadness was palpable in L.A. on Sunday. I was out running errands when the news broke and saw everyone around me looking at their phones and saying they couldn’t believe the news. Several local FM radio stations broke into regular programming with rolling coverage for several hours...

"The hardest words I've ever had to write..."

LAT columnist Bill Plaschke captures the moment in L.A.: "Kobe Bryant is gone. I'm screaming right now, cursing into the sky, crying into my keyboard, and I don’t care who knows it. Kobe Bryant is gone, and those are the hardest words I've ever had to write for this newspaper, and I still don’t believe them as I'm writing them. I'm still crying, and go ahead, let it out. Don't be embarrassed, cry with me, weep and wail and shout into the streets, fill a suddenly empty Los Angeles with your pain. No. No. No, damn it, no!"

Police lash out at TMZ

Oliver Darcy emails: At 2:24pm ET, TMZ broke the news of Bryant's death. In a press conference later in the day, LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva took a swipe at the website: "It would be extremely disrespectful to understand that your loved one ... perished and you learn about it from TMZ. That is just wholly inappropriate." LA County Undersheriff Tim Murakami also jabbed TMZ in a tweet. "I am saddened that I was gathering facts as a media outlet reported ... Kobe had passed," Murakami wrote. "I understand getting the scoop but please allow us time to make personal notifications to their loved ones. It’s very cold to hear of the loss via media. Breaks my heart." Read my full story here...

>> I reached out to see if TMZ, which is owned by CNN's parent company WarnerMedia, had any comment. I did not hear back...

TMZ's track record...

Darcy adds: Bryant's death was the latest in a string of celebrity-death scoops TMZ has landed since it launched in 2005. In 2009, the website first reported the death of Michael Jackson. In 2016, TMZ was first to inform the world about Prince's death. "When it comes to high-profile people, they have an 'in' with the kinds of people who know this information," THR's Matthew Belloni told me. Belloni added, "If TMZ reports that a celebrity has died in Los Angeles County, it is almost always correct. For whatever reason, and you can read into this, their accuracy rate in Los Angeles is very, very good." The New Yorker, of course, reported back in 2016 that the site sometimes compensates tipsters...

Kobe coverage notes

 -- The broadcast networks broke in with special reports during the afternoon...

 -- ABC and ESPN showed an hour-long special at 10pm ET Robin Roberts anchored the hour, joined by Michael Strahan and Tom Rinaldi...

 -- Kobe's 2018 book "The Mamba Mentality" surged to No. 1 on Amazon's best seller chart on Sunday, surpassing "A Very Stable Genius" and "Profiles in Corruption..." (Amazon)

 -- The Academy released a statement honoring Kobe, noting that he won an Oscar in 2018 for his animated short film "Dear Basketball..."

 -- MSNBC anchor Alison Morris apologized "after some believed she made a racial slur during a live broadcast shortly after the death of Kobe Bryant." She said she did not use the term... (NYPost)

 -- The BBC apologized "after footage of LeBron James was mistakenly included in its coverage" of Bryant's death... (BBC)

Viral hoaxes about a virus

As the Coronavirus spreads, so does medical misinformation about the virus. Oliver Darcy said on "Reliable" that fact-checkers are "flagging" false information for Facebook, "and Facebook is taking some action, but it's something journalists should look into a lot more."

 --> The Guardian's headline: "Coronavirus shakes citizens' faith in Chinese government"

 --> Context for this coverage: Many people remember how Chinese officials suppressed information during the SARS disaster 17 years ago, and they fear it's happening again. China tightly controls news outlets and squeezes out independent coverage...

National News Literacy Week begins Monday

Katie Pellico writes: The News Literacy Project is breaking out of the classroom to launch a public awareness campaign, and project founder and CEO Alan Miller says it's all about countering the misinformation "pandemic." The NLP is launching National News Literacy Week on Monday... E.W. Scripps is on board as a TV partner... And numerous newspapers are donating ad space. Read details here and/or hear from Miller on the "Reliable" podcast...

Week ahead calendar

Monday: The Sundance Film Festival continues...

Monday: The Oscar nominees luncheon in Beverly Hills...

Tuesday: Apple earnings after the bell...

Wednesday: AT&T earnings before the bell and Facebook earnings after the bell...

Thursday: Amazon earnings after the bell...

Brian Lowry emails: "Arrow" and "The Good Place" air their series finales on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.

Monica's reframing

Over the weekend, per Newsweek, "Monica Lewinsky urged pundits and political analysts to stop using her name in the frequent comparisons between former President Bill Clinton's 1998 impeachment and that of Donald Trump's today." In a tweet, Lewinsky wrote, "let's not frame it by the woman + youngest, least powerful person involved." How about "the Clinton impeachment" instead? Ron Fournier, whose Clinton impeachment coverage is still remembered to this day, tweeted back to her: "As a White House reporter at the time, and an editor/columnist for years afterward, I'd like to apologize for oft putting your name to the Clinton scandal."

"Hillary" debuts at Sundance

Brian Lowry emails: Bowing at Sundance in advance of a March premiere on Hulu, "Hillary" presents Hillary Clinton with her guard down, both in candid direct-to-camera interviews and behind-the-scenes campaign footage. Some of those comments have already made plenty of headlines, but beyond chronicling an extraordinary life, the four-part documentary reveals that like many a politician, Clinton – a highly polarizing figure – is more interesting and likely even to some supporters more appealing when she isn't running for anything...


 -- Hillary Clinton speaking at Sundance describing her conversations with "the highest levels" at Facebook: "I feel like you're negotiating with a foreign power sometimes..." (The Atlantic)

 -- On Friday night the "unlikely duo" of Bill Maher and Megyn Kelly gave #CancelCulture the "scolding it deserves..." (The Hill)

 -- A memorable line from Maureen Dowd's Sunday column: "The Democrats are relying on facts, but the Republicans are relying on Fox..." (NYT)

Grief overshadowed politics at the Grammys

Kobe's death "resulted in a series of tributes throughout a show held at Staples Center, the venue where the NBA superstar occupied center stage with the Los Angeles Lakers," Brian Lowry wrote.

"Host Alicia Keys opened the awards by addressing Bryant's death, in a 'the show must go on' sort-of way, conceding the challenge that posed given the celebratory nature of the event. Tributes continued throughout the evening, with Bryant's jersey appearing multiple times as the night wore on, and further recognition in a segment devoted to the late rapper Nipsey Hussle, who died in March." Read on...

Billie Eilish makes history has the full winners list here. Per Sandra Gonzalez's story, Billie Eilish "swept the four biggest prizes -- best new artist, record of the year, album of the year and song of the year. She also took home best pop vocal album, for a total of five Grammys. The wins are history-making." Gonzalez has all the details...

"Skywalker" reaches $500 million mark

Brian Lowry writes: Is it possible to limp past the $500-million mark? That's sort of what "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" did over the weekend, crossing that domestic box-office threshold, while falling well short of expectations for the climactic entry in the latest trilogy. Elsewhere, "1917" crossed $100 million, further burnishing its credentials as a popular hit while adding to its award haul with the coveted Directors Guild prize for Sam Mendes...
Thank you for reading! Email me feedback anytime...
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