Rudy's mission; Stormy's cameo; a problematic poll; the view from Kabul; $1 billion in 11 days; week ahead calendar

By Brian Stelter and CNN's media team
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Exec summary: A brand new Ronan Farrow story... Plus Amanda Carpenter on Trump's lies, Warren Buffett on the future of newspapers, and the week ahead calendar...

What is Rudy doing?

Since Rudy Giuliani's name is at the tip of everyone's tongues right now -- remember when he said "we got Kim Jong Un impressed enough to be releasing three prisoners today?"

That was last Thursday morning on "Fox & Friends." Almost four days ago. By then, #MAGA Twitter was already celebrating the "release of the 3 Americans" -- a premature celebration, it turns out, spurred by sketchy news reports and an echo chamber effect. Rudy added to it.

There's still been no U.S. government confirmation that the men have been released. Hopefully by the time you're reading this, there will be confirmation. But I have to ask: What was Rudy doing? Why was the president's personal lawyer talking about sensitive diplomacy on TV? Don't these mistakes dent his credibility?

Trump's new TV defender

I can't explain his North Korea screwup. But it seems to me that Rudy is playing "surrogate" more than "lawyer" right now.

Trump wants people on TV defending him... That's why Giuliani was added sorta-last minute to the line-ups of Saturday's "Justice" and Sunday's "This Week." Trump can't really give these interviews himself, so Rudy is filling in, saying what Trump would say. (But seemingly making things worse!)

After "This Week," Rudy rendezvoused with Trump... Then he gave even more interviews... He told the WashPost's Robert Costa that "we're setting the agenda." Hmmm. Key quote: "Everybody's reacting to us now, and I feel good about that because that's what I came in to do..."

 --> Don't look now, but... POTUS has only tweeted once since Friday night... It was a generic "thank you Cleveland" video...

"Almost a grifter"

Carl Bernstein, speaking with me on "Reliable Sources," said that Giuliani has been portraying Trump "as almost a grifter with no interest in anything but conning the American people..." Presenting Trump as "totally unconcerned with truth, especially about this question of whether the Russians have interfered in our electoral campaigns and [whether] he was a knowing or unknowing participant in what they were doing..."

 --> Recommended: Jay Rosen wrote this reaction to Bernstein + other Sunday show commentary...

Monday's papers...

Quoting from Monday's NYT: Rudy "tried again on Sunday to straighten out his client's story," but "raised new questions about whether Mr. Trump had paid hush money to other women and suggested the president might invoke the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying in the special counsel's Russia investigation." Meantime, here's the NY Daily News cover:

Enough is enough with the president's lies

The "White House credibility crisis" was a topic all across TV on Sunday. Jake Tapper pressed Kellyanne Conway and other guests about the problem. "I would like him to stop lying, quite frankly," Tapper said at one point. Conway denied that there's a credibility crisis at all, which just testifies to her own credibility issues.

On "Reliable," I said reporters are increasingly feeling empowered to call out the Trump White House's lies because the evidence is right on tape. Enough is enough... Here's video of the opening essay...

Where Trump got this (false) idea

Later in the hour, I unpacked the president's claim that his support among African Americans has recently "doubled." It hasn't. But the way this idea spread... from The Daily Caller to social media to other sites to the president's lips... is really something to behold. It's still being shared right now.

And all of this was based on a tiny sliver of an online survey -- that even the pollster says was misinterpreted. Really. Reuters told me "the sample sizes for those two measurements were too small to reliably suggest any shift in public opinion." Here's my column all about it...

Week ahead calendar

Monday afternoon: Melania Trump announces her initiatives at a Rose Garden event...

Tuesday: The Cannes Film Festival gets underway...

Tuesday: Disney and Discovery report Q1 earnings...

Tuesday: Key primary races in WV, OH, NC, and other states...

Wednesday: Senate confirmation hearing for embattled CIA director nominee Gina Haspel...

Wednesday: The one-year anniversary of Trump firing James Comey...

Wednesday: 21st Century Fox earnings...

Thursday: POTUS holds a campaign rally in Indiana...

Sunday: Mother's Day! 

Gotta make more time for TV watching...

If you're like me, you already have way too much to watch right now. Jamie and I are behind on "Billions" and "The Looming Tower" and we haven't even started this season's "The Americans." And there's MORE coming!

Brian Lowry emails with a heads up: May is a month for Emmy bait, coming near the end of the annual eligibility window. Showtime leads the charge May 12 with "Patrick Melrose," a miniseries starring Benedict Cumberbatch, followed over successive Saturdays by the HBO original movies "Fahrenheit 451" and "The Tale," the latter acquired out of Sundance...

Picture of the weekend

The "fake" Donald Trump with the real Stormy Daniels...
Scroll down for more "SNL" highlights...
For the record, part one
 -- BREAKING: The Observer first broke the news about this operation on Saturday. Now Ronan Farrow has the details. He says the same intel firm that aided Harvey Weinstein also "used false identities to track and dig up dirt -- even sexual blackmail material -- on Obama officials behind the Iran deal..." (The New Yorker)

 -- Nick Kristof's latest: "I'm not arguing that we avert our eyes from Trump or mute our criticism. Far from it. But we have to figure out how to spare bandwidth for genocide in Myanmar, opioids in America and so on..." (NYT)

 -- 🔌: It's bedtime now because I'll be on CNN's "New Day" in the 6am hour...

Allegations against Junot Díaz leave book world asking tough questions

"The accusations against Junot Díaz, who won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his novel 'The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,' were detailed during an exchange at a writers' event and in statements made on social media by multiple female authors, weeks after Díaz published a hailed essay about the repeated instances of sexual assault he endured as a child and the decades he's spent dealing with the emotional aftermath," CNN's Sandra Gonzalez and Megan Thomas write.

CNN has been unable to verify the accusers' claims. "The literary world is facing difficult questions about how it will move forward..."

"Under Pressure, Tronc Recognizes Chicago Tribune Union"

First the LA Times, now the Chicago Tribune: Tronc agreed on Sunday "to recognize unions to represent journalists in negotiations at its Chicago-area publications," including the Trib, "heading off a looming confrontation involving federal regulators," NPR's David Folkenflik reports. He calls it "a notable reversal for Tronc..."

More bad news from Denver...

We've been tracking developments at the Denver Post, where the staff has been rebelling against Alden Global Capital's ownership. On Thursday editorial page editor Chuck Plunkett resigned because he said he was being "boxed in" by management. On Friday, more departures:

"Several Post reporters tweeted that Dean Singleton had stepped down as chairman and from his position on the editorial board," the AP reported. Singleton owned the paper til 2013.

AND: "Senior editors Dana Coffield and Larry Ryckman also resigned Friday." Ryckman wrote Thursday's story about Plunkett's exit. "I'm sad to leave, but it was time to go. I will be rooting for those still fighting the good fight," Ryckman tweeted...

Congrats, Brooke and James!

"CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin married James Fletcher in front of friends and family at The Barn at Liberty Hills, an event space in the Hudson Valley north of New York City, Saturday," TVNewser's Chris Ariens writes. 

Brianna Keilar, Dana Bash, Spencer Garrett, Jeff Zucker, Eric Hall, Poppy Harlow, Wolf Blitzer, Don Lemon, Tim Malone, Sam Barry, Mel Robbins, Patricia DiCarlo and Pat Benatar were on hand for the nuptials... 💐
For the record, part two
 -- On Sunday's "Dateline," Lester Holt had Meek Mill's first post-prison TV interview... (NBC)

 -- This week Holt is traveling "Across America" for a special week of "NBC Nightly News" programs... He's starting in Portland... Then Denver, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Raleigh... (Oregonian)
"Reliable Sources" highlights
My two cents on the program: THIS is what a crisis of leadership looks and feels like. Every week, another scandal... every week, another cover-up...

Michael Caputo's POV

I was joined by Michael Caputo, the former Trump campaign aide who was recently interviewed by special counsel investigators. "Now that I have been in there, I know that these folks are very well-prepared," he said. "Every question they asked me, they already had the answers to."

Caputo told me he wasn't really trying to advise Trump via TV. But he said, "speaking from experience," that "I think the president should stay far, far away from the Mueller investigation..."

"He hasn't been put in timeout for coloring on the couch."

Kyle Godfrey-Ryan is one of Charlie Rose's former assistants. She was one of the sources for the original WashPost story about Rose's behavior. And she is now a co-founder of Press Forward. On Sunday, in her first TV interview about Rose, she told me he was both "brilliant" and a "predator." It is "possible to be more than one thing," she said.

I brought up the idea of a Rose "comeback," even though I think it's ridiculous, since Page Six recently said there was chatter about a possible "#MeToo atonement series." Godfrey-Ryan's reaction: "He hasn't been put in timeout for coloring on the couch." But: "I think that he is in a position right now where he has an opportunity to do a lot of work. He has time. He has privilege. He has resources." IF he did the work, "America would welcome him," she said.

Here's a full recap of the interview by CNNMoney's Jackie Wattles...

Writing through the pain

It's been a week since ten Afghan journalists were killed on a single terrible day in the country. Mujib Mashal is the NYT's senior correspondent in Afghanistan -- and he put work on hold to bury his friend Shah Marai -- so on Sunday's "Reliable" I asked him how he copes with the pain.

"I write it," he said.

"The emotions that I feel, the loss that I feel, I try to put that into words and share..."

The "forgotten war"

Mashal said he agrees with the common characterization of Afghanistan as "the forgotten war:" "Where else around the world do you have 50 people dead in a day, and it gets such little attention?" So he writes... Read/watch the full interview here...

📺 Catch up on the show

You can listen to the podcast via Apple Podcasts or other apps... Watch video clips on Watch the full episode on VOD or CNNgo... Or read the transcript here...
Quote of the day
Re: Trump and his "gaslighting" techniques: "Assume the lies will keep working until someone can go toe to toe with him and confront him. I don't see anyone other than Michael Avenatti doing that right now. He's doing a better job than anyone in the entire Democratic Party -- where are they?"

 --Amanda Carpenter on Sunday's "Reliable Sources..."

Buffett on the future of newspapers

Via Warren Buffett's Omaha World-Herald, this takeaway from Buffett's talk at Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting: Print newspaper circulation has fallen more rapidly than he expected. "I've been surprised that the rate of decline has not moderated," Buffett said...

 --> Quoting the paper here: "Only perhaps the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post have a digital product with robust enough revenue to be 'viable' over the long-term, Buffett said. Meanwhile, the majority of the approximately 1,300 print newspapers in the country are suffering and haven't found a way forward. 'It is very difficult to see -- with a lack of success in terms of important dollars rising from digital -- it's difficult to see how the print product survives over time.'"
The entertainment desk

Best "SNL" of the season?

From Donald Glover to Stormy Daniels to Ben Stiller to Martin Short to Jimmy Fallon to Scarlett Johansson... This episode had it all. Read Frank Pallotta's recap here....

"A storm's a comin', baby"

"A storm's a comin', baby," Stormy Daniels said to Alec Baldwin's Trump on the show. Rudy Giuliani quickly slammed Daniels and Michael Avenatti for agreeing to the "SNL" cameo. Avenatti responded by pointing out that Trump also has a history of "SNL" appearances.

Later in the day, he tweeted this -- a revealing comment about his "maximum PR" strategy -- "Not all cases are the same nor is the winning strategy. Here, the constant media/PR pressure has forced Trump, Cohen, et al. to make a series of huge errors and to make damaging admissions helpful to our case. This was not by accident. And we're not changing..."

"Avengers" has heroic second weekend

Frank Pallotta emails: "Avengers: Infinity War" continued to put up staggering box office numbers over the weekend. The Marvel film crossed $1 billion worldwide on Saturday (a mere 11 days after it was released), which makes it the fastest film to ever hit the milestone. Then on Sunday, the film nabbed an estimated $112.5 million in the U.S. to have the second-biggest second weekend in film history... Now it's looking to climb the all-time charts...

Paying tribute to Steven Bochco

Brian Lowry emails: It was an emotional day on the 20th Century Fox lot Saturday, as the Steven Bochco Building was christened, in conjunction with a memorial service honoring the late producer. Bochco was memorialized by, among others, Fox TV co-chief Dana Walden, producer David E. Kelley – who Bochco gave his first break on "L.A. Law" -- and L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti. The A-list names among friends, family and former colleagues included Disney CEO Bob Iger, who ran ABC Entertainment when Bochco launched "NYPD Blue," and whose acquisition of most of Fox's entertainment assets is still pending...
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