A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
No one knows how this impeachment inquiry is going to end. But here are a few things I think I can confidently say about the news media, the president, and the impeachment inquiry that’s going to unfold:
– Scoops beget more scoops. It’s a virtuous cycle, except when the stories are about you… then it can feel like a vicious cycle.
– Cover-ups generate more stories. They are like jet fuel for a scandal. The mystery, the feeling that there’s still so much more to learn, gives the scandal forward momentum.
– With all that in mind, Trump’s attacks against the whistleblower, the Democrats, and the media will get worse.
– Pro-Trump media’s rhetoric will get even more extreme. The blizzard of disinformation will cause some people to tune out altogether.
– Readers and viewers will continue to need explainers, annotations, fact-checks, and other background for the story.
– The notion of “whistleblowing” will need defending.
– One additional item via Susan Glasser: “The facts will not get better for the White House here. Expect the disclosures to keep coming.”
– And finally, back to what I said up top, no one knows how this is going to end, so don’t believe the people who pretend to know.
Monday’s notes and quotes
For the very latest developments, check the CNN.com home page… Whatever I write here will be out of date in a few hours…
– NBC’s Jon Allen: “Someday, Watergate may be relegated to the historical status of a sleepy mixed-use complex along the Potomac.”
– With Trump asking about arresting Adam Schiff and saying he’s trying to “find out” the whistleblower’s identity, Matt Lewis asks, “Can my fellow conservatives honestly support this kind of behavior?” He said Trump’s Monday conduct, “alone, could justify impeachment.”
– Trump’s words DO matter, “and when, as is so often the case, they’re irresponsible, irresponsible actions can and will follow,” David French writes.
– Susan Hennessey, reacting to WaPo’s reporting about William Barr personally asking “foreign officials to aid inquiry into CIA, FBI activities in 2016,” says “among the more alarming implications of this story is that the Attorney General is a fully-committed Fox News conspiracy theorist.”
– NBC’s Richard Engel: “The wheels have come off the bus.”
– Dan Rather: “I’ve seen a lot in my lifetime. But I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Right-wing media’s favorite word
Oliver Darcy emails: There is one word that has overtaken right-wing media over the last few days: “coup.” Trump’s media allies have begun referring to the impeachment inquiry as a “coup” attempt by Democrats and their supposed “deep state” allies. Rush Limbaugh said on his Monday program that he believes “there is a coup going on” and a “Cold Civil War taking place.” Hugh Hewitt called it a “coup attempt.” And Fox’s Newt Gingrich bluntly said, “This is not an impeachment process. This is a coup d’etat.”
I could cite more examples, but the point is clear. The right-wing media machine is already working to delegitimize the impeachment process and make it seem like an anti-democratic process…
Trump isn’t the only one losing control
Oliver Darcy emails: As was widely pointed out on Monday, Trump’s Twitter feed has been even more over-the-top than normal. But it’s not just him. The hosts of Trump’s favorite shows — i.e. Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, etc. — have also been noticeably more unhinged than normal, peddling misinformation aimed at muddying the Ukraine waters at an extraordinarily high rate. Hannity said Monday night that this “non-story” is just about “a perfectly normal telephone call.” And he said the whistleblower is “not a whistleblower.”
It’s hard to know which came first, the chicken or the egg. It’s possible Trump is agitated watching the coverage and tweeting his rage. It’s also possible the hosts are reflecting Trump’s outrage. Or perhaps it’s a mixture of both. But, regardless, Trump isn’t the only figure losing their composure in plain sight. Several major media figures are right there with him.
Harris says Twitter should suspend Trump
Trump’s “Twitter account should be suspended,” Kamala Harris said on “AC360” Monday night. “There’s plenty of…evidence to suggest that he is irresponsible with his words in a way that could result in harm…so the privilege of using those words in that way should probably be taken from him.”
FOR THE RECORD
– Mark Blumenthal explains how “a big enough news story — like impeachment — could warp the polls…” (538)
– Related? CNN’s newest poll is out, showing support for impeaching Trump rising “among independents and Republicans…” (CNN)
– Read more of Monday’s “Reliable Sources” newsletter… And subscribe here to receive future editions in your inbox…
– Lou Dobbs said Monday night that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are “behaving as an enemy of the state…” (Mediaite)
– Meantime, former Fox military analyst Ralph Peters said on CNN that Trump’s tweet invoking a “Civil-War like fracture” made him think about sedition: “Trump is inciting violence against the legitimate government of the United States and the constitutional order…” (Mediaite)
– BTW, Sean Spicer survived week two elimination round on “Dancing with the Stars…”