A year after “the dossier,” we’ve got “the memo.” Political coverage will be focused on today’s expected release of a four-page document, compiled by the staff of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a California Republican representative. It appears to be an attempt to muddy the waters around Robert Mueller’s investigation.
According to people familiar with its contents, the memo casts the Mueller investigation as politically biased, and based on the infamous and mostly unconfirmed dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele. It alleges that the FBI used Steele’s work to obtain a warrant to conduct surveillance on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. A competing memo, written by House Democrats to refute Nunes’s claims, was made available to the full House, but blocked by Republicans from public release.
Despite the “grave concerns” of Trump’s hand-picked FBI Director, Christopher Wray, the president appears set on seeing the document released. After learning of the memo’s existence in a phone call two weeks ago, Trump tuned into cable news, becoming convinced that it should be released before even reading it, according to The Washington Post.
Hosts on Fox News have been hyping the impact of the memo, with Sean Hannity leading the charge. The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng report that Trump has been in regular contact with Hannity in recent weeks, and that the Fox primetime host has reinforced Trump’s impulse to release the memo. The #ReleaseTheMemo campaign led by pro-Trump tweeters has also added fuel to the fire. “Cable news and right-wing media have shaped [Trump’s] views on the issue, as they have on many other topics, far more so than the briefings or private intelligence provided by those within his administration,” Markay and Suebsaeng write.
The Mueller investigation, which has already resulted in the indictment of Trump’s former campaign chairman and his deputy, appears to be accelerating. As it gets closer to the Oval Office, Trump’s media cheerleaders have ratcheted up their attacks on the credibility of Mueller and his associates. The New York Times’s Charlie Savage writes that the goal of the president’s allies, both in Congress and the media, is “to shift the focus away from Russian election interference and instead portray the actions of investigators as the real scandal.” What impact those efforts have on the public’s trust remains to be seen.
Below, more on the coverage of the memo and its expected release.
- Overheated hype?: Axios’s Jonathan Swan reports that the White House fears the memo’s contents won’t live up to the expectations created by weeks of media hype.
- Editorials urge restraint: The editorial boards of The New York Times and The Washington Post both came out against releasing the memo. The Times called it part of “a partisan witch hunt,” while the Post says that “discrediting law enforcement is the memo’s transparent purpose.”
- Hannity’s influence: On Thursday, Geraldo Rivera told Sean Hannity, “Nixon never would have been forced to resign if you existed in your current state back in 1972, ’73, ’74.”
- Trump attacks: “The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans – something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago,” the president tweeted this morning, adding, “Rank & File are great people!”
- Echoes of Nixon: In Politico Magazine, Norman Eisen, Caroline Fredrickson, and Noah Bookbinder write that “Trump’s Saturday Night Massacre is happening right before our eyes.”
Other notable stories
- Could BuzzFeed News be spun off? Financial Times’s Matthew Garrahan and Shannon Bond scoop that BuzzFeed News’s Ben Smith has talked with Laurene Powell Jobs’s Emerson Collective about a possible investment. The Emerson Collective already owns a majority stake in The Atlantic, has invested in Axios, and supports ProPublica and The Marshall Project.
- For CJR, Howard Gold asks, Who killed Time Inc.? His deep dive examines the decisions that led to the fabled publisher’s sale to Meredith Corporation.
- “We’re screaming for some adult supervision,” LA Times National Correspondent Matt Pearce tells The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan. Cataloguing the chaos and secrecy that have epitomized the paper’s past few months, Sullivan finds the appointment of Jim Kirk as EIC a reason for hope. (Pearce spoke to CJR earlier this week.)
- After Mika Brzezinski cut short a Morning Joe interview with the author of Fire and Fury, The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple looks at “the Michael Wolff self-destruction tour.”
- The problems plaguing Newsweek Media Group keep getting worse. BuzzFeed’s Craig Silverman reports that several of the group’s business websites have been “buying and manipulating traffic.” Meanwhile, the company’s chairman and finance director have stepped down.
- The Super Bowl is on NBC this year, with Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, and Michele Tafoya on the call. The year’s most-watched broadcast kicks off Sunday night. Fly Eagles Fly!
- And finally, a happy note from our newsroom. The American Society of Magazine Editors announced the nominees for the 2018 Ellie awards. New York and The New Yorker topped the list, and CJR was nominated in the single-topic category for last fall’s Trump issue.
FROM THE TRUMP ISSUE: What if the right-wing media wins?