Halloween dawns with a scary amount of news to sift through. Executives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter are expected to be grilled by lawmakers this week over foreign election interference on their platforms. The fallout from the Harvey Weinstein scandal continues to spread. The president is expected to name his pick for new chair of the Federal Reserve before departing on a 12-day trip to Asia on Friday. But all of that has been overshadowed by the opening salvos from special counsel Robert Mueller, who yesterday brought charges against three Trump campaign officials in his expansive probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
The front page of tomorrow's Washington Post pic.twitter.com/vhKRy8cGqy
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) October 31, 2017
Monday morning began with the news that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and longtime business partner Rick Gates had been indicted on 12 counts, including money laundering and “conspiracy against the United States.” Soon after the charges were announced, the president took to Twitter, writing, “This is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign…Also, there is NO COLLUSION!” But whatever hopes the White House may have had for passing off any charges as unrelated to 2016 were dashed minutes later, when it was revealed that campaign adviser George Papadopoulos had been arrested in July and pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI when asked about his contact with Russian officials. The president hasn’t tweeted since.
Coverage of Mueller’s moves dominated print and television reporting throughout the day. I was focused on checking in with Fox (more on that later), but CNN’s Brian Stelter notes that legal analysts Jeffrey Toobin and Ari Melber had exhaustive days on CNN and MSNBC, respectively. By evening, The Washington Post was posting a story about the mood inside the White House based on interviews with 20 sources that included quotes like, “The walls are closing in….Everyone is freaking out.”
Meanwhile, on Fox News, a different story was playing out. “The media has been lying to you all day and all weekend long,” Sean Hannity said in his opening monologue. Pivoting hard enough to make an NBA center proud, Hannity quickly glossed over Manafort, Gates, and Papadopoulos to focus on the “real Russia scandal,” which—you’re not going to believe this—involves Hillary Clinton. Hannity was the most out of touch with reality, but his approach was echoed by fellow Fox News primetime hosts Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham.
While much has been said about the divergent media universes operating in America, the hard news surrounding Mueller’s investigation is impossible for even the most hard-line, pro-Trump outlets to ignore. Attempts to spin, or to rope Hillary Clinton into the narrative, will continue, but with more charges expected, the story isn’t going away.
Below, more Mueller, Trump, Russia, and a chaotic, newsy Monday.
- How Fox played it: CNN’s Tom Kludt examines how the day’s events forced Fox News to “confront a familiar tension between its ideological allegiance and editorial responsibility.”
- Spotlight on an unknown: Though Manafort was the big name, George Papadopoulos may be the most consequential figure to emerge from Monday. The New York Times’s Scott Shane looks at how the charges against Papadopoulos have shifted the narrative of the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia.
- Open secrets of the story: Smart take from BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith on what the indictment of Manafort and Gates tells us: “It doesn’t mean Manafort colluded with Russians on Trump’s campaign; it does mean that Trump knowingly brought aboard a boatload of Russian baggage.”
- No more “fake news”: The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips writes that the charges brought by Mueller make Trump’s “fake news” claims harder to defend.
- WSJ doubling down: The Wall Street Journal editorial board, already under fire for suggesting that Mueller resign, minimized the implications of Mueller’s charges and doubled down on the idea that he shouldn’t be leading the investigation. The board did allow that “the probe can continue with someone else in charge.”
Other notable stories
- Nice curtain-raiser by CJR’s Mathew Ingram on Facebook’s upcoming appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee.”The challenge for Facebook,” Ingram writes, “is that it has never been much for transparency, especially the kind recommended by some critics of its Russian ad behavior.”
- Noting that Gawker and its affiliated sites reported on rumors about the behavior of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, James Toback, and others years before recent allegations broke, Nick Denton argues for gossip as “the first draft of news.”
- James Andrew Miller, who literally wrote the book on ESPN, suggests what was once unthinkable: The network could abandon the NFL once its current contract expires in 2021.
- Laura Ingraham landed an interview with John Kelly for her first Fox News show. The White House chief of staff made some news by calling Robert E. Lee “an honorable man,” and said, “the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War.”
- I talked with the creators of Dirty John, the LA Times’s podcast/print true-crime thriller that’s been downloaded more than seven million times this month.