The political war over the future of this presidency
Catch any good TV yesterday? Maybe you saw this: “Perhaps no close associate has turned on a president in front of Congress in such dramatic fashion and with such high stakes since John Dean testified against President Richard M. Nixon during the Watergate scandal.” That’s Peter Baker and Nick Fandos of The New York Times, recapping a big day in Washington yesterday as Michael Cohen Accuses Trump of Expansive Pattern of Lies and Criminality.
Tweets Sharon LaFraniere, “Peter and Nick hitting the nail on the head here writing the hearing ‘exposed a dark underside of Mr. Trump’s business and political worlds in the voice of one of the ultimate insiders.’” But Beau Dure thinks, “To say the @nytimes buried the lead here would be charitable. Cohen has documents, and he says NY prosecutors have much more. That’s WAY more important than the theater of Jim Jordan sticking his fingers in his ears and yelling, ‘I can’t hear you!’”
Even if you weren’t near a TV yesterday, you could still catch the Michael Cohen hearing and associated theatrics on your computer and get real-time analysis by Maggie Haberman, Katie Benner, Michael Schmidt, Willie Rashbaum, Ken Vogel, LaFraniere and Fandos of The New York Times. As Brian Stelter tweeted, “NYT's live chat is very lively -- like being in a Slack channel with @maggieNYT, @npfandos, @SharonLNYT.” Kara Swisher highlighted, “Love the dripping understatement by @maggieNYT on this ‘peculiar’ GOP pol: Rep. Higgins, of Louisiana, a Republican, seems unfamiliar with basic aspects of Cohen’s story.” As Patrick LaForge says, “I needed this for Iran-Contra and the Clinton impeachment. Not everything about the digital age is bad.”
Matt Zapotosky, Karoun Demirjian and Rosalind Helderman were helming the live coverage and analysis at The Washington Post. Carol Leonnig set it up as “The Political War over the future of this presidency, live here. @RepCummings : ‘The days of this committee protecting the president at all cost are over.’ @Jim_Jordan : ‘The Democrats will do whatever they can to remove this president from office.’” And you can always count on the Fact Checking team at The Post to weigh in. Glenn Kessler and Salvador Rizzo provide their analysis of Cohen and the questioners.
In the cesspool
“Surprise-surprise: another #FloridaMan is in hot water. But this one knows Mike Pence will pardon him and/or Fox News will hire him.” Roben Farzad links to the news that Matt Gaetz is under investigation by the Florida State Bar over his Michael Cohen threat (77,000+ shares), as Lachlan Markay and Sam Stein report at The Daily Beast.
Somehow, this needed to be said after yesterday: No, Mark Meadows. Having a black friend doesn’t mean you’re not racist, as Michael Tesler writes at The Washington Post. And then right on cue, a clip of Meadows saying send Obama back to ‘Kenya or wherever’ resurfaces, John Bowden reports at The Hill.
Meanwhile, in an op-ed for The New York Times, Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center who served in the previous three Republican administrations, writes that Republicans Sink Further Into Trump’s Cesspool (66,000+ shares). Tweets Steve Silberman, “Precisely this: ‘Republicans are dedicated to annihilating truth in order to defend Mr. Trump... [they] tried to destroy the credibility of Cohen’s testimony, not because they believe that his testimony is false, but because they fear it is true.’” Adds Douglas Blackmon, “@Peter_Wehner has emerged as one of the most thoughtful ex-GOP leaders who’ve repudiated their own party in disgust w/ @realDonaldTrump. This piece is more proof that Trump was always a suicide vest strapped to the body of the Republican Party.”
The Art of the Dud
Of course, Washington wasn’t the only big story yesterday. Before the talks even began in Hanoi, the U.S. dropped its demand for a full accounting of North Korea’s nuclear program (124,000+ shares). Courtney Kube and Carol Lee broke that story at NBC News last night, leaving Henry Fountain (and many others) to wonder, “This is negotiating?” John Dickerson notes, “After the first meeting when a reporter asked the obvious question about verification, the Secretary of State berated the reporter.”
And then...“*fart noise*” as Maura Johnston puts it. Trump’s Talks With Kim Jong-un Collapse After North Korea Demands End to Sanctions, reports Edward Wong of The New York Times, which is why Greg Mitchell is calling it “The Art of the Dud.” Philip Gourevitch goes with, “Trump pulls out of Vietnam.” Regardless, it’s really just another sad love song. ”Baby, baby, where did our love go?” tweets Rick Haglund.
“So, like, why did they schedule a deal-signing ceremony in the first place?” Glenn Thrush asks. Well, as Matt Steinglass says, “I hope the journos in the pool at least got to eat bun cha while they were in Hanoi. It was always clear the summit would be meaningless, but if you get bun cha it's not a complete waste of everyone's time.”
Catching up on the collapse
Beyond the food, Anthony De Rosa offers your “NoKo Summit Recap: - Trump drops request for full accounting of North Korea nuclear program - Trump lets Kim off the hook for murder of Otto Warmbier - Talks abruptly called off after Kim demands end to all sanctions.” He links to David Nakamura and Simon Denyer’s coverage at The Washington Post of the summit cut short. Tweets Josh Dawsey, “If you’re just waking up, you missed a helluva lot overnight. Catch up here with my colleagues on the collapse of the summit, and more to come soon.”
Also at The Post, Dawsey writes about Warmbier, ‘He tells me he didn’t know’: Trump defends Kim over death of Otto Warmbier. In case you haven’t been following along, “Trump took Vladimir Putin at his word on Russian election interference. He took MBS at his word over the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi. And today in Hanoi he took Kim Jong Un at his word over the death of Otto Warmbier,” tweets Philip Rucker.
F. Brinley Bruton has more on that at NBC News, Trump on Otto Warmbier's death: Kim Jong Un wasn’t to blame (66,000+ shares).
It just goes on and on
Matt Murray admits, “I know most eyes are elsewhere, but here’s another big @wsj investigation: California’s deadliest wildfire started near a PG&E line the company marked for an upgrade in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. It never did the work.” Katherine Blunt and Russell Gold of The Wall Street Journal did some digging into the records and found that PG&E Delayed Safety Work on Power Line That Is Prime Suspect in California Wildfire. John Tozzi says, “It's almost as though the short-term savings from skimping on infrastructure investment are dwarfed by the catastrophic costs of infrastructure failure.” “Seriously, it just goes on and on with PG&E. What a story by @KatherineBlunt and @russellgold,” tweets Bradley Olson.
Hey, remember Ralph Northam? Well, in case you were wondering, excellent decisions are still being made. “Oh my Lord! Virginia first lady handed cotton to black students on mansion tour. Yes, the same Pam Northam who told her husband that it was not appropriate to moonwalk during his press conference about wearing blackface while impersonating Michael Jackson.” Tracy Jan links to the Washington Post story by Grégory Schneider and Laura Vozzella, Virginia first lady under fire for handing cotton to African American students on mansion tour (39,000+ shares). We agree with Andrew Kaczynski: “I honestly feel like sometimes we're living in simulation.”
Modern life encapsulated
So this seems like a good place to go next: Oliver Burkeman says, “Much of modern life encapsulated here: the thing isn’t really a source of harm, but enough people talking about the thing as if it were a source of harm may be a source of harm.” He links to Jim Waterson’s story at The Guardian, Viral ‘Momo challenge’ is a malicious hoax, say charities (39,000+ shares). Waterson writes that, while the charities have dismissed the claims, “the ensuing media hysteria could now be putting vulnerable people at risk by encouraging them to think of self-harm.” Tweets Tom McArthur, “This is what happens when the need for clicks outweighs journalistic standards. So much ‘reporting’ around the ‘Momo Challenge’ was -and is- an irresponsible effort to chase traffic. Shithousery of the worst.”
The pathologies of journalists
Lyz Lenz tells us, “I talked to Harvey Weinstein's former PR guy. And my editor let me use ‘fuck’ in the lede.” So now you have at least two reasons to head over to the Columbia Journalism Review to read her new profile of The Master of Spin, Mike Sitrick. Sujeet Indap calls it a “Great profile of Mike Sitrick, the PR wizard who thinks he understands the pathologies of journalists better than anyone.” And since we’re working blue now, Kaitlin Ugolik adds, “Damn this is good.”
More Thursday reads
New from Gromer Jeffers Jr. at the Dallas Morning News, sources tell him Beto O’Rourke won’t challenge John Cornyn for Senate, paving way for presidential bid. Meanwhile, a new Quinnipiac poll looking at early 2020 matchups in Texas finds Biden, Sanders and O’Rourke in a tie with Trump.
Axios’s Mike Allen reports that Jonah Goldberg and Steve Hayes will launch a new Trump-skeptical, conservative media company.
As part of the new issue dedicated to women shaping the future, Tessa Stuart has the Rolling Stone interview with Nancy Pelosi.
For another great profile, turn to Elle for Molly Langmuir’s interview with New Yorker Reporter Jane Mayer, on Kavanaugh, the Koch Brothers, and Trump.
Michael Grabell invites you to “Meet one of the nation’s ‘Top Doctors’ @marshall_allen. When he told them he wasn’t a doctor, he was a journalist, they said it was okay & still gave him the honor!” Yes, I’m a Journalist. Apparently, I’m Also One of America’s “Top Doctors,” writes ProPublica’s Marshall Allen, er, Dr. Marshall Allen, that is.
And why not: From Laura Staugaitis at Colossal, A New Book Explores the Wide Range of Charming Homemade Cat Ladders in Switzerland (21,000+ shares).