A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
Soon after Nancy Pelosi took control of the House, she issued an official invitation to President Trump to deliver the State of the Union on January 29. But her letter to Trump began this way: “The Constitution established the legislative, executive and judicial branches as co-equal branches of government, to be a check and balance on each other.”
Suffice to say, Paul Ryan’s letter didn’t say any of that last year.
All week long, Pelosi has been signaling to Trump – and to the public – that things will be very different now. When asked, in an interview with the NYT, “if she considers herself Mr. Trump’s equal,” she replied, “The Constitution does.”
Sheryl Gay Stolberg’s story also noted that Pelosi “is marking her return to power with a string of events, including a women’s tea, a dinner at the Italian Embassy featuring the singer Tony Bennett and a town hall-style meeting, televised on MSNBC.” That town hall with Joy Reid will air Friday at 10 p.m. ET…
Thursday’s news coverage captured the importance of the change. NBC at 6:30: “Power shift.” CBS: Government divided.” ABC: “New balance of power.”
“The world changed today for President Trump,” Anderson Cooper said at 8. “For the first time since taking office,” Trump is “facing the prospect of real, extensive and wide-ranging scrutiny from the opposition party led by a highly disciplined adversary…”
One day after the midterm election, “Trump stole Pelosi’s thunder with a 90-minute presser. Here’s a second attempt,” Eliana Johnson tweeted during the press briefing that wasn’t a briefing on Thursday.
Let’s be clear: Press secretary Sarah Sanders misled the press corps when she tweeted at 4:07 that there would be a “briefing” at 4:10. She shouldn’t have said that.
“You’re welcome here anytime, Mr. President,” a reporter said as Trump walked in the briefing room for the first time.
The event was newsworthy – Trump defended his decision to force a partial government shutdown and encouraged several border patrol union officials to make remarks. Vox’s Dara Lind summed up the message from the union this way: “It’s okay if our agents don’t get paid on time, as long as we get the wall.”
But it was not a press briefing, as advertised. It was a “human long-form version of a presidential tweet,” Hallie Jackson said on MSNBC.
Trump evidently is not confident enough to take questions from the press corps right now. “It’s not a press briefing if you don’t take questions,” CNN’s Kaitlan Collins said right afterward…
When should Trump events be shown live?
Katie Pellico emails: While CNN and Fox News kept Trump’s surprise trip to the podium running live, MSNBC cut away. Nicolle Wallace’s show explained in a tweet, “If the President makes a new announcement or takes questions, we will return to the briefing.” He didn’t.
So which cable channel had the right approach? This has been an issue ever since inauguration weekend, when Sean Spicer came to the briefing room and condemned the press corps. CNN didn’t carry his rant live that day. Oliver Darcy will have more on this issue on Friday…
How about a “10 minute delay” for POTUS?
A reader named Mark emails: “No radio show takes callers without the old ‘7 second delay’ to dump the caller or ‘bleep’ the caller. Trump desperately needs a 10 minute delay. Record the press scrum, then edit it down to salient points (if any), or just report that the POTUS went off half-cocked (again) with B.S. & lies.”
FOR THE RECORD, PART ONE
– Jake Tapper tweeted: It remains “absolutely stunning that POTUS yesterday said ‘the reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there.’” Related story here… (CNN)
– WaPo’s Josh Dawsey tweeted: “Ran into a fact-checker colleague at the Post who looked tired. “How’s it going?” I said. ‘I’m still working on that Cabinet meeting from yesterday,’ he said, walking back to his desk… (Twitter)
– Re: Trump’s latest tweet invoking “Game of Thrones” to tout a border wall, it just “proves his team doesn’t watch the show,” James Hibberd wrote… (EW)
– I’m told that HBO’s statement from when Trump first tweeted the “GOT” poster still applies: “We prefer that our trademark not be misappropriated for political purposes.”
A wall between GOP and Dems
Thursday night’s headline via CNN’s Clare Foran: “House Democrats vote to reopen government, reject Trump’s demand for wall funding.” But “the legislation is expected to be dead on arrival in the Senate.” So the partial shutdown continues.
This standoff was summed up by two quotes on Thursday. Pelosi, speaking on the Hill, said “We’re not doing a wall. Does anybody have any doubt that we are not doing a wall?” And VP Mike Pence, speaking to Tucker Carlson on Fox, said “Bottom line, if there’s no wall, there’s no deal.”
“U.S. NATIONAL DEBT REACHES NEW HIGH UNDER TRUMP”
That’s what one of the banners on CNN said on Thursday. I was glad to see multiple programs make this point loud and clear. “The Situation Room” put the $2 trillion increase in the Trump years on screen with all the 0000s.
And a banner on “Erin Burnett OutFront” said “U.S. DEBT REACHES NEW HIGH (TRUMP CAMPAIGNED ON CUTTING IT)”
FOR THE RECORD, PART TWO
– Benjamin Wallace-Wells’ deep dive: “Who Killed the Weekly Standard?” (The New Yorker)
– Bret Baier marked ten years as the anchor of “Special Report” on Thursday. Norah O’Donnell, Jimmy Kimmel, Sean Hannity, and Shannon Breamshared congrats… (Mediaite)
– The Newseum is offering free admission to federal employees during the shutdown… (Newseum)
– Via the Capital Weather Gang: “Hundreds of scientists to miss world’s largest weather conference because of federal shutdown…” (WaPo)
– The NYT is looking for a managing editor for The Daily… (NYT)
The Maddow primary?
I’d quibble with the word “new,” in this Politico story describing Rachel Maddow as a “new Democratic kingmaker.” But Jason Schwartz and David Sidersmake an important point about Maddow’s power, one day after her long interview with Elizabeth Warren.
Maddow “won’t feel compelled to give all the many Democratic candidates equal time,” the story says, citing a source. And there will be “no mandates to Maddow from network brass…”
“The interview Egypt’s government doesn’t want on TV”
“60 Minutes” is promoting its interview with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as “the interview Egypt’s government doesn’t want on TV.” Scott Pelley recently sat down with el-Sisi, and the Egyptians evidently objected to some of the Q’s about “jailing his opponents to maintain his regime and the massacre of 800 civilians by Egypt when he was Defense Minister.”
In this announcement on Thursday, CBS said “60 Minutes” was “contacted by the Egyptian ambassador shortly after and told the interview could not be aired.” Uh-huh. It airs this Sunday…
FOR THE RECORD, PART THREE
– The Washington Post is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Style section… Check it out… (WaPo)
– Susan Li, formerly of CNBC, is officially joining Fox Business… (TVNewser)
– “The unlikely success of a socialist print magazine:” Robert P. Baird profiles Jacobin… (CJR)
– Mark Morales reports: “Reports of rape in New York were up 22% in 2018, in part because the #MeToo movement inspired victims to come forward and tell their stories, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday…” (CNN)