SPECIAL EDITION: Comey questions; Trump’s plan; Toobin appalled; Wednesday’s front pages; cable news coverage; “Idol” revival; Disney earnings

By Brian Stelter and the CNNMoney Media team. View this email in your browser!
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Comey “shock wave”

The 11pm special reports on cable tell the story: 

Bret Baier: “A massive political shock wave hits DC…”
Jake Tapper: “Stunning news, even for President Trump, who has been known to shock people…”
Baier: Trump’s “most controversial move yet…”
Tapper: “On Capitol Hill this evening, concern and alarm — and that’s from Republicans…”
Brian Williams: “Some Democrats in Congress saying we are now in a constitutional crisis…”
Tapper: “It’s been a lot easier to book Democrats this evening than Republicans…”

NYT printing Trump’s letter on Page One

Big questions…

 — Will Trump say anything on Wednesday? CNN’s Jeff Zeleny reported at 11:15pm that “the president does not plan to address this…”

 — Trump’s 10:30am Wednesday meeting with Putin’s top diplomat is “closed press.” Will that change?

 — Trump is scheduled to sit down with NBC’s Lester Holt on Thursday afternoon. Will the interview still happen?

 — Bookers are scurrying to get to Comey. Will he grant an interview right away? 

 — CNN’s Tim Naftali asks: “How close was Comey getting to the truth?”

Chris Hayes‘ final question in the 8pm hour on MSNBC: “If we’re in a constitutional crisis, what is the proper response?”

When will Trump appoint a new FBI director? Who will it be?

Toobin sounding the alarm

Just a few of CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin‘s standout quotes on Tuesday night:

 >> “It’s a grotesque abuse of power… This is the kind of thing that goes on in non-democracies.
 >> “This is not normal. This is not politics as usual. This is something that is completely outside how American law is supposed to work.”
 >> “The only reason he’s being fired is because he’s investigating the president.”
 >> “The fact that he did this will disgrace his memory for as long as this presidency is remembered.”

Naturally, some media observers criticized Toobin for going overboard, while others praised him for speaking so forthrightly… 

Coming soon: Even more leaks?

According to Evan Perez and Pamela Brown‘s sources, leaks were one of the sources of tension between the W.H. and the FBI…

 — Perez and Brown write: “The White House and Attorney General have pushed FBI to pursue leaks. FBI has responded by tightening its media policy and the FBI has pursued leaks aggressively,” but it wasn’t enough, in the eyes of some W.H. aides…

 — CNN’s Amanda Carpenter tweets: If Trump thinks he had problems with leaks before, just wait. He abruptly fired the leader to whom many FBI folks are loyal. Blowback is coming” 

 — MSNBC’s Mike Barnicle agrees‏: “Trust me, there are going to be so many leaks out of FBI and DOJ, reporters will have to wear wet suits…”

Alternative realities 

Pro-Trump voices on Fox applauded the firing, said it was absolutely justified, and some said it was “overdue.” Almost every time I flipped the channel to Fox’s opinion shows, the focus was on Comey’s missteps, Hillary Clinton‘s emails, etc. In a talking point we’ll surely hear some more on Wednesday, Sean Hannity said “this is the first step in President Trump DRAINING THE DEEP STATE SWAMP.”

Meantime, on CNN and MSNBC, there was much more historical context and many more voices expressing deep concern about Trump’s decision. Rachel Maddow began her hour with a story about the Watergate cover-up. Nixon references were pretty frequent on both channels. At the end of the 9pm hour, Van Jones said he felt vindicated for saying in February that “Donald Trump had become president.”

“He HAS become president,” Jones said, “President Nixon.”

Top tweets

 — Regarding the reports that Comey learned of his firing from TV news, NBC’s Bradd Jaffy quips: “President who used to fire people on TV kinda fired the FBI director via TV…”

 — NYT’s Maggie Haberman: “The White House fired Comey with no replacement set, with no clear messaging and no legal experts or surrogates lined up…”

 — Reuters reporter Lawrence Hurley asks: “If there was an independent investigation, who would everyone agree is independent enough to lead it? Not intended to be a rhetorical Q”

 — The Atlantic’s McKay Coppins: “This is one of those stories where it’s worth thinking about how it would be covered if it were happening in, like, Nicaragua.”

Sanders, not Spicer, will brief the press on Wednesday

WashPost’s Philip Rucker: “For what could be a particularly high-stakes press briefing tomorrow, WH announces it will put out Sarah Huckabee Sanders instead of Spicer.”

CNN’s Sara Murray emails the reason: “Spicer is at the Pentagon tomorrow to Friday for Navy reserve duty. ‘All previously scheduled,’ according to comms director Mike Dubke…”

The briefing is slated to start at 1:30pm ET…

At moments like this, take a breath and count to 10

Media editor Alex Koppelman emails: Watching Twitter in the hours immediately after the news broke, I was reminded of “On The Media’s” invaluable guide for consumers reading breaking news about shootings and its tips — like “In the immediate aftermath, news outlets will get it wrong.” It’s worth keeping that guide in mind in the midst of breaking news like this, because the situations aren’t really all that different: there’s chaos; a million reporters rushing to break any tidbit they have without pausing to think it over; sources who don’t know as much as they claim being given too much credence; etc. etc. etc.

Which is all to say: remember to step back from Twitter for a minute, and to be careful and judicious. No matter which side of this you come down on, it’s possible that everything you believe about what happened and the reasons for it could be totally right — or absolutely wrong. Or maybe somewhere in between. But it’s very possible that, of the things you know right now, at least one of them will be wrong by the morning.

More front pages
Here’s the first edition of Wednesday’s WashPost: 
…And the NY Daily News:
Timeline: Here’s how it went down on TV
5:40: “Statement from the Press Secretary” hit inboxes

5:45: On Fox, Eric Bolling relayed what a producer said in his ear: “James Comey is resigning. Is that what you’re telling me?” The on-screen banner, “JAMES COMEY RESIGNS,” was wrong for about a minute. Then Bolling corrected the info and said Comey had been dismissed by Trump.

5:46: CNN was in the middle of a package about the FBI clarifying Comey’s mistake about Huma Abedin‘s emails. Wolf Blitzer interrupted and went to Jeff Zeleny, who broke the news from the north lawn of the White House. “Excuse my breath here, Wolf, I just ran out here,” Zeleny said.

5:47: Chuck Todd reported the news on MSNBC. “All I can say is: Wow.” ABC and CBS aired special reports.

6pm: NBC aired a special report.

6:02: Robby Mook tweets: “This terrifies me.”

6:06: John Podesta tweets at Trump: “Didn’t you know you’re supposed to wait til Saturday night to massacre people investigating you?”

6:15: This is when the White House was expecting to break the news, according to NBC’s Peter Alexander.

6:55: Deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters came to the briefing room and said the White House “won’t have anything further this evening.”

7:45: Stations in L.A. lined up helicopter live shots of Comey’s motorcade.

8:30: The White House, seemingly caught off guard by media scrutiny, decided to send Sarah Huckabee Sanders onto Fox and Kellyanne Conway onto CNN.

8:40: Cooper seemed very skeptical of Conway’s claims…

9:00: This is when Comey was supposed to speak at an FBI event in West Hollywood.

9:01: All the cablers showed Comey’s plane taking off, literally flying into the sunset.

11: Special live programming on CNN, Fox and MSNBC.

“So O.J.”
Dylan Byers emails: Folks here in Los Angeles can’t get over the acid flashback of seeing Toobin on CNN while choppers show footage of a car trying to make a getaway on the 405… What year is it? 1992 or 2017?
A note about the Fox investigation…
NYT’s Jonathan Martin tweets: “Keep in mind: Not only is Comey investigating Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, the Southern District of New York also probing Fox…”
View from the left
Media Matters’ Matt Gertz writes: “The president is lying about why he fired the FBI director. He lies constantly, on the smallest matters and, as in this case, on the largest ones. He is lying now. The press must call him out.”

His headline goes even further: “Trump Fired The FBI Director. No Journalist Should Believe Anything The White House Says About It.”

Quote of the day
“The one thing I learned during Watergate: Everybody take a deep breath. Let’s deal with the facts as we know them, and go from day to day to day, and see how they stack up.”

Tom Brokaw on MSNBC Tuesday night…


ABC confirms “American Idol” is coming back 

Dim the lights! On Tuesday morning, ABC confirmed that it has struck an agreement with FremantleMedia to bring “American Idol” back… sometime during the 2017-2018 television season, possibly on Sunday nights… host and judges to be announced later. (Maybe at ABC’s upfront event next Tuesday?) Here’s Sandra Gonzalez’s full story…

 — Agree/disagree? Channing Dungey, the president of ABC Entertainment, says “Idol” “left the air too soon…”

BIG #’s for Colbert

Frank Pallotta emails: #FireColbert looks like nothing more than a hashtag. The “Late Show” nabbed a big ratings win last week, averaging 3.06 million viewers, giving Stephen Colbert the top spot in the late night ratings landscape for the 14 straight week. CBS enjoyed its widest lead since premiere week, beating NBC’s Jimmy Fallon by 410,000 viewers. Read more…
Check out this WSJ/NYT comparison
Dylan Byers emails: Fun fact: The NYT added more digital subscriptions in the last three months (308,000) than the Wall Street Journal did in the last year (305,000).

The Journal’s #’s were shared when News Corp’s earnings came out Tuesday afternoon…

For the record, part one
 — “A reporter was arrested Tuesday at the West Virginia Capitol for allegedly causing a disturbance and yelling questions at federal leaders in town…”

 — “Was CNN right to show video of Syrian nerve gas attack?” Poynter’s Ben Mullin asked two of his colleagues about Tuesday’s heart-wrenching television report by Clarissa Ward

 — How are the ratings for Fox News now that Bill O’Reilly has been gone for a few weeks? The #’s have slipped a bit, mostly among older viewers, but “advertisers are back,” Stephen Battaglio reports…

 — Speaking of cable news #’s: Rachel Maddow was #1 on Monday night… both in the 25-54 demo, and also among total viewers…

 — David Uberti‘s latest for CJR: “Gannett and the last great local hope…”

Disney earnings: ESPN, ESPN, oh and ESPN

Frank Pallotta emails: Despite a strong showing from Disney‘s movie studio and parks division, all anyone could talk about on Tuesday’s Q2 earnings call was – yep, you guessed it – ESPN.

Here’s what Bob Iger said on the call:

 — Earlier windows for films? Iger believes that Disney’s movies are events and says the box office agrees. No plans to make movies available at home on-demand sooner, but will keep an eye on trends…

 — About the prospect of Iger running for POTUS: “I’ve had one of the greatest jobs for 12 years,” Iger told CNBC before the call, adding that he’s “not spending much time thinking about what I’m going to do next.”
 — On “Star Wars:” Basically nothing. C’mon, throw a fan a bone here, Bob…

Snap earnings coming Wednesday…
 — Francesca Giuliani-Hoffman emails: While we wait for Snap’s first-ever earnings report on Wednesday, Katie Benner at the NYT has a deep dive on how Snapchat Discover is helping the company differentiate from Facebook by betting on editorial talent versus machine learning, while building a partnership model between social platforms and content publishers that seems financially promising…

 — More: Another interesting read on Snap from WSJ’s Georgia Wells, who points out that Snap is not playing the same “ubiquity game” as other social networking giants, focusing instead on North America and Europe…

Trump and the media

What do Zuckerberg and Trump talk about?

Nice scoop by BI’s Alex Heath: While Mark Zuckerberg “has been shy” about publicly addressing Trump, “he has in fact spoken with the president multiple times by phone since the election…
Journalists vs politicians in the UK
Francesca Giuliani-Hoffman emails: BuzzFeed News says it has been banned from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn‘s campaign events after publishing an interview with Corbyn on Monday. 

A senior Corbyn aide told BuzzFeed’s Jim Waterson that “BuzzFeed News would now find its access limited because the interview had disrupted media coverage of Labour’s launch event, that we had not informed Corbyn’s team in advance of the headline we intended to run, and that we had press-released the interview to other media organisations who then chose to pick it up…”

For the record, part two
 — Sandra Gonzalez‘s latest: “Treasury Secretary’s fiancée is interim CEO of Dune Entertainment…”

 — Francesca Giuliani-Hoffman emails: A Brexit-themed “New York Times Journey” with a price tag of $6,000 is catching some international media flack… BI sums it up here… 

 — One more from Francesca: This is a great Guardian feature about Vic Berger, a stay-at-home dad whose satirical supercuts of political footage are a viral phenomenon…

 — AdAge: “The # of female judges at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity has doubled in the last five years to 43.5% for next month’s festival…

The entertainment desk

“Netflix can’t chill as originals heat up”

Brian Lowry emails: Netflix has been accused of spending on original content like a “drunken sailor” and “like there’s no tomorrow,” raising the hackles of competitors. The evidence of that is keenly apparent over the next few months, with a dizzying array of premieres in different genres…

Read Lowry’s latest piece here…

De Niro’s “Meryl moment”

Sandra Gonzalez emails: Robert De Niro had a Meryl moment on Monday night at the Chaplin Award Gala in New York. While accepting his award, De Niro came after Donald Trump’s proposed “draconian cuts” to the arts and decried the administration’s “hostility” toward the arts. “For their own divisive political purposes, the administration suggests that the money for these all-inclusive programs goes to rich liberal elites,” he said. “This is what they now call an ‘alternative fact.’ I call it what it is — bullshit.”
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