EXEC SUMMARY: Oliver Darcy here... Scroll down for NPR seeing "increased donations," John Solomon going MIA from Sean Hannity's show, Marty Baron's memo to staff, Amazon's huge earnings beat, and more. But first...
"It's over." That's how Michael Isikoff put it when, at 11 p.m. ET sharp, Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander announced he would NOT be voting to subpoena witnesses for the trial of President Trump, likely easing the way for a quick acquittal. The "no" vote was, perhaps, foreshadowed when it was reported his decision would come via a statement, and not a press conference where reporters could ask questions.
>> Key sentence from Alexander's statement: "The question then is not whether the president did it, but whether the United States Senate or the American people should decide what to do about what he did..."
What happens next
Sens. Susan Collins and Mitt Romney said on Thursday they would vote in favor of witnesses. That leaves Sen. Lisa Murkowski who said she would reflect on the issue and announce her decision Friday morning.
If she were to vote yes, it would lead to a 50-50 tie in the Senate. As CNN's Phil Mattingly noted, "Barring a shock decision of Chief Justice Roberts to break a 50-50 tie, the witness vote will fail and Republicans will move to acquit Pres. Trump." Late Friday? Or, as Sen. Ted Cruz floated on Fox News, on Saturday?
A groan on MSNBC
Over on MSNBC, there was a brief moment of uncertainty when Alexander's decision came out. Former Sen. Claire McCaskill informed Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow that the control room had the decision. But it apparently wasn't relayed with clarity, leading Maddow and Williams to ask for the info. "Talk to us, control room," Williams said. Maddow soon received word of the "no" vote and delivered it, prompting an audible groan from McCaskill.
"This is a cover up, plain and simple"
Discussing the decision not to hear from witnesses, Carl Bernstein slammed the Republican-controlled Senate, which he referred to as the "so-called world's greatest deliberative body." Bernstein said, "This is a cover up, plain and simple." He added, "We have seen now a really shameful episode in our history that is going to read down for many, many years."
The must-read thread of the night was written by Tim Alberta, who offered some thoughts on Alexander. "His retirement is less relevant than you might think," Alberta tweeted. "Trump’s grip on the GOP has implications far beyond elected office. Lamar is looking forward to a life after politics — and he knows it will be complicated by any break w/ Trump over impeachment."
"I’ve spent a LOT of time with retired (and retiring) congressional Rs since 2016. Most feel zero sense of liberation to bash Trump on the way out. If anything, they’re even more cowed & cautious, fearing that being out of favor w: POTUS (and his party) limits their earning power," Alberta continued. "And it’s not just about money. I’ve had numerous retiring Rs talk warily — sometimes fearfully — about the 'cult' of Trump supporters back home. They worry about harassment of their families, loss of standing in local communities, estranged relationships, etc."
After Bernstein's comments, Anderson Cooper floated a hypothetical to the CNN panel. "I just don't understand," Cooper said. "So tomorrow Rudy Giuliani could set up an office, like two blocks from the White House, and hire Igor Fruman ... or Lev Parnas ... and he could start operating for the President again overseas doing stuff, and that would be fine?"
Elliot Williams replied, "It would be foolish for him not to because the rules now say that it is very much, number one, perfectly permissible behavior for a President and his stooges to engage in, and number two, even if he does it and they know he does it he cannot be impeached for it and won't be removed for it." Bernstein added, "This is a license."
The Senate's key vote on witnesses gets top billing on Friday's front pages from both NYT and WaPo, followed by Wuhan coronavirus...
-- The trial will reconvene at 1pm ET...
-- Brexit is made official as the UK formally leaves the EU at 6pm ET, though as AP pointed out, "almost nothing will happen..."
-- Christopher Hasson, the Coast Guard lieutenant accused of plotting a domestic terror attack with a hit list that included journalists, is scheduled to be sentenced at 9:30am ET...
-- The LA Lakers return to the court for the first time since Kobe Bryant’s death. They play the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center at 10:30pm ET...
Senate Dem strategy: "Blanket the airwaves"
Brian Stelter emails: Earlier this month Democrats in the Senate devised a TV-centric strategy for Trump's trial, which included numerous appearances on Fox. "The caucus is so confident and comfortable pushing the witnesses and documents message, we are fanning out every chance we get to blanket the airwaves and make the case to the American people," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told me via email. His office has been tracking the TV interviews -- according to their count, 38 Senate Democrats have given at least 240 TV interviews since the trial began in earnest on January 21. The strategy is obvious: Democrats are trying to win on TV, in the court of public opinion, while resigning themselves to losing in the final vote to remove Trump from office. Read on...
FOR THE RECORD, PART ONE
-- Dean Baquet will be on Friday's edition of "The Daily" for a discussion on lessons learned from covering the 2016 election... (Twitter)
-- Guess who made a surprise appearance at Trump's Des Moines rally: Sarah Huckabee Sanders... (DM Register)
-- Speaking of the rally, from Kyle Feldscher: Trump "is telling the crowd that CNN has turned off their camera that's filming his rally. I am in CNN's newsroom and still watching his remarks on the rally. We have been showing the impeachment trial throughout the rally..." (Twitter)
-- Remember when The Atlantic named Rahm Emanuel a contributing editor? It turns out he isn't anymore after a group of staffers objected to Jeffrey Goldberg and other newsroom leaders... (WaPo)
-- Molly Jong-Fast watched five hours of OANN and wrote about it: "It made Wheel of Fortune look like Game of Thrones..." (Daily Beast)
-- Just another headline from the Trump years: "Trump Goes On Frenzied Impeachment Retweet Spree Promoting an InfoWars Regular and a Conspiracy Loving Sex Coach..." (Mediaite)
Solomon mysteriously vanishes from Hannity's show
Remember John Solomon? For a while, he was appearing on Sean Hannity's show quite regularly. Until that wasn't the case. In fact, according to a search of transcripts, Solomon hasn't appeared on Hannity's program in more than a month, with his last appearance being December 26th.
Solomon's mysterious disappearance from Hannity actually extends to Fox News as a whole. He went on Laura Ingraham's show on January 21st, but outside that appearance, I could not find any other appearances he's made on Fox News this month. Solomon, who is a Fox contributor, has done a few hits on Fox News' smaller sister network, Fox Business, but it appears he has mostly vanished from the main channel.
The absence started weeks after The Hill announced it would review the columns Solomon wrote at the outlet, which were strongly disputed by witnesses who testified before the House for the impeachment inquiry into Trump. That review remains ongoing (more than two months after it was announced).
Silence from Fox
I checked in multiple times with Fox spokespeople, but did not hear back. I also reached out multiple times to Solomon and heard nothing. That said, after I reached out to Fox on Thursday, Hannity tweeted to promote Solomon's podcast: "Can't wait to hear this on John Solomon's new podcast..."
NPR sees "increased donations" after Pompeo attack
After Mike Pompeo went after NPR host Mary Louise Kelly, outraged listeners have responded by sending the organization donations. "Yes, we have seen increased donations," a spokesperson for NPR told WaPo's Erik Wemple. Wemple noted that specific numbers weren't available, citing the spokesperson who noted that the donations have been spread across more than 1,000 NPR member stations.
The donations have been accompanied by some comments. Here are a few:
>> "I’ve already renewed our KUT membership, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s inexcusable treatment of NPR reporters Mary Louise Kelly and Michele Kelemen prompts me to make an additional small gift to support KUT, NPR and high-quality reporting..."
>> "Thanks to Mary Louise Kelly for her work on the interview with Pompeo. We appreciate her truthful reporting..."
>> "C/O Mike Pompeo..."
CAA buying Paradigm?
Breaking via the LAT's Wendy Lee and Anousha Sakoui: CAA has had "exploratory discussions to buy Paradigm Talent Agency, according to two people familiar with the matter... The discussions began after Paradigm had shut down an acquisition effort last year by United Talent Agency... Although it’s unclear whether or how soon a deal might occur, buying Paradigm would give CAA an additional roster of high-profile music clients." Read on...
FOR THE RECORD, PART TWO
-- Brandy Zadrozny, Kalhan Rosenblatt and Ben Collins wrote about how some of the misinformation being spread about the Wuhan coronavirus has come from new accounts "highlighting how global news stories can quickly become fodder for people looking to build followings on social media...." (NBC News)
-- In related news: Facebook's head of health Kang-Xing Jin published a post about steps the platform was taking to limit misinformation. Jin said Facebook will "start to remove content with false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations and local health authorities that could cause harm to people who believe them..." (Facebook)
-- The CPJ released a safety kit for journalists covering the 2020 election, including "information for editors, reporters, and photojournalists on how to prepare for assignments and how to mitigate and prepare for digital, physical, and psychological risk..." (CPJ)
-- From CNN's Katelyn Polantz: "Judge Reggie Walton has ordered the Justice Department to release to CNN and Buzzfeed the interview memos from the Mueller investigation faster than it has been doing—meaning the collection of sought-after records that helped to build Mueller’s final report will now be released to the public by July or August..."
Marty Baron's message
Days after the suspension of reporter Felicia Sonmez drew widespread condemnation, Marty Baron addressed the newsroom about the newspaper's social media policies in a lengthy memo to staff. "We do not want social media activity to be a distraction, and we do not want it to give a false impression of the tenor of our coverage," wrote Baron. "It is not always easy to know where to draw the line."
In his three page memo, Baron notably did not apologize for the way the newspaper dealt with the incident. But he did say that the topic of social media use "deserves continued discussion." Baron said that it was important to him that The Post "not only get the facts right but that we get the tone right, too." He added that "on the most sensitive stories," the newspaper wants coverage "to be defined by the reporters and editors who have direct responsibility for it."
"We count on staffers to be attuned to how their social media activity will be perceived, bearing in mind that time, place and manner really matter," he wrote. Here's my full story... and you can read the full memo from Baron here...
...addresses security concerns
Baron also said in his memo that The Post had "invested heavily in security" and that the department was "available to provide immediate assistance." Sonmez had previously said that she had left her home and stayed in a hotel on Sunday night over safety concerns. A source told CNN Business that she stayed in a hotel through Thursday morning, and said The Post had also provided her a security detail.
Not received well
If Baron was hoping that his memo would quell the outrage directed at him and WaPo management in recent days, it did not succeed. Baron was again skewered on social media for his handling of the incident. "Weirdly enough, still not an apology or anything about the reporter they threw under the bus really publicly!" tweeted BuzzFeed's Kate Nocera. "He still owes [Sonmez] an apology," echoed The New Yorker's Lainna Fader. And it wasn't just Nocera and Fader. I saw similar criticism from a number of others.
FOR THE RECORD, PART THREE
-- Max Tani reports on why New York mag deleted an Instagram tribute to Kobe Bryant... (Daily Beast)
-- "A Tribune executive has staffers up in arms after saying journalists should be 'singing ‘Glory Hallelujah’' about the voluntary buyout packages being offered at the Chicago Tribune, the New York Daily News and other papers," Keith J. Kelly reports... (NY Post)
-- Paul Fahi wrote about the last weekly in his county: "It survived the Great Depression and muddled through the Great Recession. But the paper ... couldn’t survive Facebook and Google and Instagram..." (WaPo)
-- Vice Media is eliminating its Dumbo office in New York, consolidating workspaces as it "aims for profitability," Lucia Moses reports... (Business Insider)
-- Shares in the WWE are down 23% in after-hours trading after the company "ousted two of its top executives." The reason: "2019 earnings came in at the low end of estimates." Board member Frank Riddick has been been named interim CFO, reporting to Vince McMahon... (Bloomberg)
Prince Harry loses complaint against the Mail
Hadas Gold emails: Prince Harry has lost a complaint he made against the Mail on Sunday, one of the UK press regulator’s IPSO ruled on Thursday. The Duke of Sussex, who alongside his wife is engaged in several legal cases against several UK tabloids, complained that an article titled "Drugged and tethered... what Harry didn’t tell you about those awe-inspiring wildlife photos" made it seem as though he was misleading the public by not being public that 2016 photos he took in Malawi, and re-posted in 2019 to Instagram, were cropped in a way that readers could not see the animals were tethered.
According to the report, Prince Harry stated that the images were put on Instagram to support Earth Day, “rather than as evidence of the complainant's talent as a photographer,” and that the caption made clear the animals were being relocated. Prince Harry further argued that his Instagram is “subject to bespoke settings” which affects how his photos are cropped. But the regulator determined that the Mail on Sunday had shown that the photograph could have been edited differently, that the caption did not make it clear where the photos had previously been taken, and that the paper included Prince Harry’s denial.
Two "Afghanistan Papers" projects in the works
Via WaPo PR: Amblin Television has struck a deal with WaPo "for the rights to At War with the Truth – The Post’s definitive report on 'The Afghanistan Papers.'" Amblin and Alex Gibney's Jigsaw Productions "will work together to develop the project as both an explosive limited documentary series and limited scripted series..."
FOR THE RECORD, PART FOUR
-- A group of ex-Deadspin writers will launch a temporary publication for the Super Bowl. It's name? "Unnamed Temporary Sports Blog Dot Com..." (Daily Beast)
-- "Fox sold out its primary ad inventory for the San Francisco 49ers-Kansas City Chiefs matchup last November — the earliest sellout in nearly a decade — with 30 seconds of time commanding as much as $5.6 million..." (Deadline)
-- Who won't be advertising? Stella Artois, Burger King, Sketchers and other companies... (NYT)
-- Fox News will start presenting live pogromming from Miami, Florida, on Friday ahead of the Super Bowl, which airs on Fox... (Fox News)
-- Chloe Melas emails: I caught up with Lil Nas X about his Doritos Super Bowl ad and who he’s bringing to the game... (CNN)
Katie Hopkins suspended from Twitter
Hadas Gold emails: Katie Hopkins, the British commentator known for her racist views (and for having a fan in Trump who would retweet her), has been suspended from Twitter for violating their hateful conduct policy. Twitter didn’t say what specific tweet caused the suspension but a spokesperson said "abuse and harassment have no place on the service."
The spokesperson added, "We take enforcement action against any account that is violative of our rules — which includes violations of our hateful conduct policy and abusive behavior policy.“ It's not clear what prompted the suspension but Channel 4 host Rachel Riley tweeted that she met with Twitter on Wednesday along with the Center for Countering Digital Hate and said she asked them about Hopkins’ presence on the platform.
FOR THE RECORD, PART FIVE
By Kerry Flynn:
-- "Chapman University has hired Stephen Galloway, executive editor at The Hollywood Reporter, as its new dean of Dodge College of Film and Media Arts..." (THR)
-- Ed Moran chats with Barstool leadership on why they sold to Penn National... (Front Office Sports)
-- Angela Chen leaks the pitch deck of Column, a new social network led by Aron Ping D’Souza... (MIT Tech Review)
-- Sanam Yar reports on MSCHF, a mysterious group of 20-somethings who have created viral products out of a Brooklyn studio... (NYT Style)
-- Josh Constine reports Snapchat launched Bitmoji TV, 4-minute shows where a cartoon version of you is the star... (TechCrunch)
Amazon's stock surge after huge earnings beat
"Amazon blew Wall Street's expectations out of the water." That's how CNN Business' Clare Duffy put it in her story about the tech giant's huge earnings beat. "The company posted profits of $3.3 billion — or $6.47 per share — compared to analysts' expectations of $2 billion and $4.03 per share," Duffy reported.
Amazon said that more than 150 million people are now subscribed to its Prime membership. Duffy noted that it's "a sign that investments in such benefits as one-day shipping and original Prime video content are paying off." All the good news sent Amazon's stock soaring more than 12% in after-hours trading on Thursday. More here...
ABC's decision to air "20/20" special on Ted Bundy
Brian Lowry emails: Yesterday, the Reliable Sources newsletter carried an item about what an extraordinarily busy stretch the next week will be for the news industry. So it was a little surprising – and disappointing – to see that ABC News’ “20/20” will devote two hours on Friday to notorious serial killer Ted Bundy, who was executed in 1989.
The program promises “a rare glimpse into the lives of Liz Kendall, Bundy’s longtime girlfriend, and her daughter, Molly Kendall – two women who loved and were loved by Bundy.” Yes, Bundy is a lingering source of fascination, but couldn’t this wait?
Remembering Fred Silverman
Brian Lowry emails: Fred Silverman was known as “the man with the golden gut” for his success picking primetime hits, and the father of “jiggle TV” for the brand of escapism he oversaw as a network executive in the 1970s. Silverman, who died Thursday at 82, oversaw entertainment at each of the three major networks in their heyday – the only person ever to do that – greenlighting shows such as “All in the Family,” “MASH” and “Charlie’s Angels.”
Silverman also programmed “Roots” at ABC, although he was so nervous about the miniseries finding an audience that he sought to mitigate any potential damage by scheduling it on eight consecutive nights. It went on to become one of the biggest hits in the history of television. Silverman also enjoyed success as a producer, including a TV version of “In the Heat of the Night,” “Matlock” and its spinoff “Diagnosis Murder.” Personally, I always found him to be a thoughtful source about the TV industry he played such a pivotal role in shaping, eager to discuss scheduling decisions and trends long after he was in the executive suite. Variety has a fuller obit here...
'Contagion' demonstrates the long fear in movies of coronavirus-like pandemics
Lowry emails: As I noted a few days ago, the 2011 movie “Contagion” has been climbing the iTunes charts, thanks to its unsettling parallels to the outbreak of the coronavirus. But the film is actually part of a long history of movies that explore existential threats to humankind on a microbial level – some of the fantastic science-fiction variety, others, like “The Andromeda Strain” and “Outbreak,” more grounded in reality...
'The Rhythm Section' casts Blake Lively in a thriller that can't get its act together
Lowry sends one more: “The Rhythm Section” is a pretty by-the-numbers revenge thriller, starring Blake Lively as an ordinary woman who trains to pursue the terrorists responsible for the death of her family. The film is promoting that it comes from producers of the James Bond franchise, but it’s perhaps most interesting for being adapted by the author of the book on which it’s based Mark Burnell, and directed by Reed Morano, an Emmy winner for “The Handmaid’s Tale."
FOR THE RECORD, PART SIX
By Lisa Respers France:
-- Duane "Dog" Chapman appears to have proposed to a family friend on an upcoming episode of "Dr. Oz." His wife Beth died last June after battling cancer...
-- Janeane Garofalo says Ed Norton cost her a role in the 1999 film "Fight Club." But he said in a statement to us that he doesn't remember it that way...
-- Michael Strahan has talked tensions with Kelly Ripa on their morning show...
-- Ciara has announced she is expecting baby No. 3...
Variety: Celebs sign open letter calling out studios for donating to NRA-backed politicians
"Amy Schumer, Greg Berlanti, Ben Platt, Rosie O’Donnell, Julianne Moore and Issa Rae are among the A-listers calling out major studios for donating to NRA-backed politicians," Variety's Brent Lang and Rebecca Rubin reported on Thursday.
With the help of gun reform advocacy group Guns Down America, more than "100 actors, producers and industry creatives signed an open letter, urging Hollywood companies to end political contributions to candidates who take money from the NRA and vote against gun reform. It also calls for the companies to use political clout to actively lobby for gun reform, as well as support gun violence survivors." You can find the full letter here...
FOR THE RECORD, PART SEVEN
-- Lowry emails: Hal Boedeker, the longtime TV critic at the Orlando Sentinel, signs off after 25 years, closing his farewell column by saying, “Make no mistake: I loved this job..." (Orlando Sentinel)
-- Seth Abramovitch reported that the Safdie brothers, the directing duo behind "Uncut Gems," are "considering" directing a "dark reboot" of the Pee-wee Herman franchise pitched by Pee-wee himself, Paul Reubens. Reubens is also "in talks to develop an animated series centering on the puppets from his old TV show's Puppetland..." (THR)
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