Anthony Scaramucci's head-spinning, humiliating exit was not the day's only huge DC story. Far from it. One hour later, Trump's press secretary claimed POTUS was just "joking" when he seemingly encouraged police brutality the other day... then GOP senator Jeff Flake broke with President Trump in extraordinary fashion, penning a Politico column (adapted from his new book) titled "My Party Is in Denial About Donald Trump..." and then the WashPost broke the news that the president personally "dictated" Don Jr.'s misleading original statement about the Russian lawyer meeting.
The president's "personal intervention"
Remember, the NYT reported right away that "the president signed off" on that Don Jr. statement, and CNN reported that the W.H. aides who were involved in the response may have exposed themselves to special counsel scrutiny. Now the Post story has stunning new details about the president's "personal intervention." Four bylines: Ashley Parker, Carol D. Leonnig, Philip Rucker and Tom Hamburger.
This is about Trump's dishonesty...
It's about his attempt to tell a misleading tale and hide the truth from the public. Keep in mind, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow said this to Chris Cuomo on CNN on July 12: "I wasn't involved in the statement drafting at all, nor was the president." And again to Chuck Toddon NBC on July 16: "I do want to be clear the president was not involved in the drafting of the statement." Was Sekulow merely ill-informed or was he lying?
It's also about the leak...
Reliably pro-Trump pontificator Jesse Watters on Fox's "The Five" Monday night: "If it's true -- I don't know if it's true -- but if it is true, someone within President Trump's inner circle ON Air Force One is leaking to the Washington Post, and that's a big problem."
Tapper's astonishing story: "White House officials tricked by email prankster"
Of course Scaramucci's turn as W.H. communications director was going to end with dramatic flair, right? Of course it was. According to multiple reports, he was escorted off the grounds after an exchange with brand-new chief of staff John Kelly. The "CBS Evening News" called it "killing the messenger."
Scaramucci was seen later in the day at the Trump International Hotel. But he didn't tweet any gracious messages or give an exit interview to Sean Hannity the way Sean Spicer and Reince Priebus did. This parting was obviously acrimonious, as CNN's reporting shows...
The big picture
Dylan Byers emails: Trump is once again without a communications director, which means there is no formal point person to lead the administration's messaging efforts on legislation or policy. This is of great concern to Hill Republicans who are still scarred by the failed healthcare effort and are now looking to pushing through tax reform this fall. How can the White House be counted on to advance that agenda without a coherent comms strategy?
Who's in the running to be comms director now?
Dylan adds: It's unclear. Sean Spicer is with the White House until August, and with Scaramucci out he may take the reins again. But after that, it's anyone's guess. It's also conceivable that chief of staff John Kelly may deputize someone to lead comms strategy without giving them a formal title -- if only to shield them from the inevitability of being publicly contradicted by the president's Twitter account...
...Here are a few ideas for the comms director position:
-- Kellyanne Conway, who is already being cited in stories as a logical choice... -- Bill Shine, the former Fox News exec, who dined with Scaramucci and Trump last week... -- Laura Ingraham, whose name has come up time and time again in connection with W.H. press jobs... -- Lara Trump, the president's daughter-in-law, who worked at "Inside Edition" until the campaign. This isn't going to happen, but hey, she has been appearing in pro-Trump videos lately...
Or how about... nobody?
"A no-win situation"
I wondered: Will Kelly's swift action on Monday, the sense that he's righting the ship, make it easier for the W.H. to find a competent comms director? I asked a person who was recruited for the job pre-Scaramucci... who who remains in touch with W.H. officals... and they were doubtful:
"All I continue to hear is from people turning it down. Even today -- a couple of them said 'today cray.' Any comms person with experience and a reputation understands that -- no matter what -- Trump calls the comms shots and they are in a no-win situation."
The TV cameras will stay on, Sanders says
"The TV 📺🎥 Cameras are back on," Scaramucci tweeted one week ago. So will that remain the case even though he's out? Sarah Huckabee Sanders says yes they will -- that's what she told Jim Acosta in an email Monday evening...
Today's top tweets and quotes
-- Peter Baker tweets: "Turns out neither Cain nor Abel made it..."
-- Greg Gutfeld after cracking a joke about Mooch on Fox: "I don't want to hammer him too hard, he may end up working here..."
-- Jennifer Palmieri on the 10pm edition of "The Lead:" "I thought he was a more sincere representation of Donald Trump than Sean Spicer was..."
-- Rachel Maddow on Twitter: "Finally, Mike Flynn has someone to trash talk about his longevity..."
-- Richard W. Painter: "A White House job is now like a vacation rental. Check in one week; check out the next..."
-- @realDonaldTrump: "A great day at the White House!"
ABC and the NYT broke the news
NYT's Maggie Haberman foreshadowed the news in a 2:26pm tweet: "Kelly is announcing his presence today inside the building." Nine minutes later, she and Glenn Thrush and Michael Shear jointly published a story saying Scaramucci was out. At the exact same minute, 2:35pm, ABC's John Santucci tweeted out a bulletin. So it was really a tie between ABC and the NYT. At 2:37pm, ABC got on the air with a special report by George Stephanopoulos. Pretty impressive. NBC followed with a special report at 3pm...
Anchors didn't hide their surprise
On CNN, Shimon Prokupecz and Pamela Brown had just broken another big story -- that back in May, "Kelly called Comey to express anger over firing."Brooke Baldwin was mid-way through a conversation about it with retired US Army Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling when she had to interrupt him. "I'm surprised -- lemme just be real with you," she said after relaying the Mooch resignation news. I had just changed Sunny's diaper at home... and made it from the nursery to Brooke's set in 7 minutes... a new "personal best." (Don't worry, Jamie stayed home with Sunny while I was gone.) I commented on air that "SNL" didn't even have time to cast a Scaramucci impersonator...
Gasps in the background on MSNBC
Via David Zurawik: "On MSNBC, host Katy Tur said, 'Wow, he's only been there about a week,' when she announced the news. 'And you can hear the reaction in the newsroom,' she added as audio picked up exclamations and gasps in the background... Tur kiddingly thanked two contributors [Elise Jordan and Harold Ford] who were rushed onto the set for 'saving' her..."
"Scaramucci Show CANCELLED"
Oliver Darcy emails: The pro-Trump media universe was a bit split on the news about Scaramucci. Breitbart seemed elated, celebrating the news by splashing a red banner across its homepage reading, "UPDATE: THE SCARAMUCCI SHOW CANCELLED." Ann Coulter said on Fox News that she was "glad" Trump "finally got around to this" after Scaramucci's profane rant to the New Yorker. But elsewhere, other members of the pro-Trump media were very disappointed. Alt-right troll "Baked Alaska" wrote on Twitter he was "very disappointed" and Internet personality Bill Mitchell tweeted he "personally enjoyed Scaramucci, but politics is politics."
Is this a dream?
The Atlantic's Molly Ball tweeted Monday afternoon: "American Dream Week at the White House is off to a tremendous start...."
For Mooch's family, it's a nightmare
On a human level, the Scaramucci saga is just downright sad. The NY tabloids feasted on the news that Scaramucci is in the middle of divorce proceedings... and that he wasn't present for the birth of his second child a week ago... because he was with the president instead. On Monday People magazine said the baby, named James, is "doing fine..."
🔌: I'll be talking about all this on CNN's "New Day" Tuesday at 6:30am ET...
IN OTHER NEWS...
Discovery + Scripps
The Discovery/Scripps deal became official Monday morning... it's a $11.9 billion deal, expected to close in early 2018, predicated on a belief that channel owners need more muscle in negotiations with TV distributors. Here's my full story... and check out the WSJ for a tick-tock about when, where and how the deal talks started...
Discovery CEO David Zaslav: "Together, we're about 20% of the viewership on cable, and we're at the very top of the list in quality." He talked about the importance of having "super-fans" -- "people who aren't tuning in because they like you, but are tuning in because they LOVE you." He told me that "one of the questions we ask ourselves is, 'What kind of content do we have that people will watch when they can watch anything, or pay for before they pay for dinner?'"
What about the others?
Viacom dropped out of the bidding for Scripps last week. The Information's Martin Peers writes: "The question now is what happens to the remaining players, most obviously Viacom and AMC Networks..."
For the record, part one
-- VF's William D. Cohan emailed with Scaramucci on Saturday... very early Saturday morning, to be exact... Mooch said "I lost my temper" with Ryan Lizza but "will make it better this week..." (VF)
-- Via An Phung:Bill O'Reilly is blaming the media for Trump's inability to govern... (The Hill)
-- One more from An: The Financial Times is the latest workplace to be scrutinized for its gender pay gap... (Bloomberg)
"Corey Lewandowski has been fired. Again." That's the late-breaking scoop from The Daily Beast's Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng. They have three sources who say Lewandowski "has been let go from One America News Network, a pro-Trump cable channel pitching itself as an aspiring Fox News." OANN CEO Robert Herring declined to comment directly, the Beast said, but also didn't dispute the story...
-- Could things get any weirder for the Mooch? Yes, as it turns out. The WashPost reported Monday that Harvard Law School mistakenly listed him as dead in its alumni directory... (WashPost)
-- Dodai Stewart talked with Ben Mullin about Splinter, which is not the new Gawker, but something else altogether... The site is building out a DC presence, too... (Poynter)
-- A second story from Mullin: He analyzed a new Muck Rack report about which newsrooms have the largest Twitter followings.... CNN leads the charge with almost 39 million followers... ESPN is second with 26.5 million... (Poynter)
Palin v. NYT update
Tom Kludt emails: Will Sarah Palin's defamation lawsuit against the NYT make it all the way to trial? We'll have to wait a bit longer to find out. A federal judge in Manhattan said late Monday afternoon that he will make a decision on the Times' motion to dismiss the case by the end of August.
The hearing, which lasted a little more than an hour, saw Judge Jed Rakoff pose pointed questions and a series of hypotheticals for attorneys on both sides. Most of Rakoff's inquiries invariably returned to the standard of "actual malice," the key threshold in such libel cases. David Schulz, an attorney representing the Times, asserted that there are "no plausible grounds" to believe that the newspaper's editorial staff "intentionally" misled readers last month, when they accused Palin of "political incitement" that led to the Gabrielle Giffords shooting. Schulz also called it implausible to argue, as Palin's attorneys have, that the editorial writers had an economic incentive to mention the former Alaska governor in the piece.
Representing Palin, Shane Vogt countered by invoking a 2010 column by the Times' Charles Blow, who wrote that liberals talk about Palin to "[inflame] passions to drive viewership and Web clicks." Rakoff pushed back on that point, telling Vogt that a commentator's standard doesn't govern the courtroom...
Rowling finally apologies for her false tweets about POTUS
Oliver Darcy emails:J.K. Rowling apologized Monday afternoon for a series of widely-shared tweets that falsely accused President Trump of refusing to shake the hand of a child in a wheelchair during an event last week. Rowling said she was informed her tweets from Friday were "not a full or accurate representation" of what happened at last Monday's health care event at the White House and deleted them...
-- Oliver adds: Of note: Rowling took a page out of the president's playbook and did not offer Trump an apology, even though he was the person targeted in her tweets. I emailed Rowling's spokesperson, but did not hear back about whether the "Harry Potter" planned to say sorry to him... Read more...
Quote of the day
"This shotgun marriage is a clear sign that the cable network industry has seen the future, and that future requires deep cost cutting and increased scale to mitigate both the current headwinds and the inevitable painful changes that lie ahead."
--Michael Nathanson assessing the Discovery/Scripps deal...
The "Game of Thrones" bubble
Alex Koppelman emails:How many recaps does it take to explain a single "Game of Thrones" episode? Well, if you're Vanity Fair or Vulture, the answer appears to be eight. HuffPost or BuzzFeed? Six.
That's just a rough tally of recaps and related content from a few sites on Monday, but it's still reflective of a bigger reality right now: Websites pushing to wring every possible bit of traffic from every trending story, no matter how many other sites might be covering the same story.
A few questions this brings to mind: Is this really the best thing for media outlets to do with their staffers' time? Is there not a long-term cost to outlets that have real, distinctive, trusted brands when they publish content that might as well have been produced by just about any other website? And, oh, by the way: What happens when the show goes off the air after next season?
Maybe the S in CBS now stands for... streaming?
Brian Lowry emails:CBS continues to be aggressive in using the flagship network as essentially the mothership to launch and promote ancillary distribution arms. An obvious example is CBS All Access, with the network introducing "The Good Fight" and soon "Star Trek: Discovery" before it shifts to the new premium streaming service. Monday night, meanwhile, the network is airing "CBSN: On Assignment," basically a newsmagazine from CBS News' digital streaming network...
For the record, part three
By Francesca Giuliani-Hoffman:
-- Reddit just secured $200 million in venture funding to update its code (some of it is 10+ years old) and to make the platform more visual. Advance Publications, Condé Nast's owner and the owner of a majority stake in Reddit, didn't participate in the round. Reddit is now valued at $1.8 billion, but CEO Steve Huffman says an IPO is not in their foreseeable future... (Recode)
-- Monocle is printing a 48-page "Summer Weekly" in August for European readers, a luxury product that is profitable and financed through ads. Within a day of announcing it, Monocle racked up £20,000 in preorders... (NiemanLab)
-- Among her many responsibilities at HuffPost, EIC Lydia Polgreen is now also curating stories for the site's Facebook Messenger bot... (Digiday)
The entertainment desk
HBO responds to "Confederate" controversy
Sandra Gonzalez reports:HBO says it has "respect" for the "dialogue and concern" being voiced following the announcement of their upcoming drama "Confederate," but stands by the vision of the show's creators. The network's statement came after a campaign from the creator of #OscarsSoWhite, April Reign, gained traction on Sunday night, following a targeted effort...
Remembering Sam Shepard and Jeanne Moreau
Brian Lowry emails: Two big losses in the entertainment/culture world: Jeanne Moreau, 89, the fabled French actress perhaps best known for Francois Truffaut's "Jules and Jim;" and Sam Shepard, 73, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and Oscar-nominated actor, who once said he liked performing in movies more than on stage because "you do less..."