Brian Stelter here at 11:28pm ET on Monday, August 8th with the latest on Donald Trump, Axios, Lewis Hamilton, Snap, Anne Heche, Jake Novak, and more...
What did the FBI find?
Reporters who cover sensitive beats sometimes have a sense when big news is about to break. But not this time. The FBI's Monday morning search of Mar-a-Lago – a thunderclap in American political history – happened so quietly, so secretly, that it wasn't caught on camera at all. For the most part reporters didn't catch wind of the FBI action until after it was over. By the time local TV news cameras showed up outside the club, there was almost nothing to see. Websites used file photos of the Florida resort since there were no dramatic shots of the search.
What everyone wants to see is the search warrant. As Elie Honig pointed out right away on CNN, "in order to get a search warrant in the federal system, prosecutors have to establish probable cause that a crime was committed," and a judge has to sign off.
The warrant may become public later. But for the time being we're only seeing leaks from anonymous sources; interpretations from analysts; and incendiary responses from Trump family members, friends and supporters. Mark Levin said on Fox that "this is the worst attack on this republic in modern history, period." The hyperbolic, man-the-battle-stations reactions are a big part of the story because they showcase where GOP leaders and stars stand – solidly right next to Trump regardless of potential wrongdoing.
First four hours of coverage
This feels like a "where were you when?" moment of the Trump era – an era that is very much overlapping with the Biden era. But its ultimate level of import is impossible to judge right now. So here are some notes about the first four hours of media coverage:
– Trump tried to manage the news by announcing it himself in a lengthy screed. Trump and some of his allies "have a long-standing habit of conflating legal problems with PR problems," Maggie Haberman said on CNN. "At the moment, they are treating this like it's a PR problem," she added, "but it's a legal problem..."
– Within an hour, sources told reporters that the search warrant was related to an investigation into the handling of presidential documents that may have been brought to Mar-a-Lago. In other words: Not the 1/6 investigation...
– CNN's Gabby Orr reported that Trump attorney Christina Bobb, a former host on One America News, was present for the Mar-a-Lago search...
– Trump's statement supplied many of the talking points that were immediately used on Fox, Newsmax, and across the right-wing web. The MAGA media message is: The government is corrupt, the FBI is a threat to real Americans, the Democrats are to blame, and the Republicans are going to correct it...
– "Republicans — formerly the party of 'law and order' — are absolutely panicking and calling for the defunding/dismantling of the entire FBI," Jezebel's Laura Bassett wrote, citing tweets from Marjorie Taylor Greene and numerous GOP media stars...
– Trump was "purposely painting himself as a martyr to undermine the FBI & DOJ — all while signaling a call to arms to his supporters," former VP Pence adviser Olivia Troye tweeted. "Fox News & many in the GOP are emboldening it. Far-right social media is buzzing with violence..."
– When Trump left Trump Tower in NYC on Monday evening, he did not respond to shouted questions from reporters about the FBI...
– All of this is happening "on the 48th anniversary of Richard Nixon announcing his resignation," Stephanie Ruhle said on MSNBC just now...
Silence from DOJ
"Justice Department officials are declining to comment on any aspect of the search warrant executed at Mar-a-Lago and have declined to say if Attorney General Merrick B. Garland approved of the warrant — or even if he had been briefed on the situation," the NYT's Glenn Thrush noted on the news outlet's live blog. The agency will have to say something on Tuesday morning, right?
Bad timing for Biden?
"A White House official said it was not notified about the search," CNN's story says. President Biden, "a senior administration official said, was unaware of the search of Mar-a-Lago until after it was reported on the news." MAGA media is full of speculation to the contrary, but Sam Stein made this point on Twitter: "The idea that they'd want this seems....suspect. The rare time they're in a great news cycle seems like an odd time to trample over it..."
Trump's "disinfo supply"
While government entities are staying quiet about the investigation, Trump allies are being loud. Eric Trump went on Sean Hannity's show; reiterated his father's victimhood narrative; and confirmed that the search warrant related to the handling of presidential documents, including classified documents.
Some of the initial news alerts about the FBI action were untrue because, true to form, some parts of Trump's statement were untrue. He said his home was "currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents," but all the reliable reporting indicated that the FBI action had concluded by the time he spoke out.
Trump's statement also contained "a fun instance of Trump getting high on his own disinfo supply," NBC's Ben Collins pointed out. "He mentions Hillary Clinton 'acid washing 33,000 E-mails.' In reality, an IT guy used an app called BleachBit. In Trumpworld, she poured literal acid on the emails."
This Florida reporter was the first to know
Via Slate: "The news of the raid was first reported by Peter Schorsch, the publisher of Florida Politics, a news organization that closely covers congressional and down ballot races in the state." He tweeted about it at 6:36pm, citing two sources. I immediately texted it to Oliver Darcy and said "wonder if this is real." Darcy said he figured "Trump will rant about it online" – and he was right. Trump's statement followed within minutes.
>> More: "In a phone call with Slate, Schorsch said that he had heard about the FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago from a 'longtime source in Republican politics who has a law enforcement background' and knew a lot about 'south Florida law enforcement...'"
Earlier in the day...
The day began with reminders that the Trump era is far from over. Susan Glasser and Peter Baker came out with the excerpt from their September book "The Divider" that we previewed in Sunday night's newsletter. And Maggie Haberman, ahead of her October launch of "Confidence Man," shared photos of documents that Trump was said to have flushed down toilets. Both books surged on Amazon's new releases list on Monday thanks to preorders...
-- David French: "A lot of people are losing their minds tonight without seeing the warrant, the warrant application, or the supporting materials. Neither the former president nor the FBI are above the law. Take a breath and wait until we see the basis for the warrant before judging its merits..."
-- Gregg Nunziata: "A political movement literally rose to prominence chanting 'lock her up' about its opposition, now wants you to be appalled and believe that it is now investigated by the government for political motives..."
-- Bill Kristol: "Man, August has been a newsy month. Lucky it’s almost over..."
FIRST ON CNN:
Alex Jones' texts turned over to 1/6 committee
BY OLIVER DARCY:
The bad news just keeps coming for Alex Jones. The roughly two years of text messages that the Sandy Hook plaintiffs inadvertently obtained during their Texas civil trial against Jones have been turned over to the 1/6 committee, a source told me Monday. Attorney Mark Bankston, who rep'd the plaintiffs and said in court that Congress was interested in obtaining the messages, told me he is "cooperating with the committee." But Bankston also previously said that the most recent message on the phone was from mid-2020, months before the 1/6 attack, so the texts may not end up being very helpful to the 1/6 committee. The 1/6 committee declined comment, but after our report, the NYT confirmed the texts were turned over...
Are there damaging revelations in the texts?
BY OLIVER DARCY:
While I am told that most of the messages were between Jones and his employees and family members, some indicated Jones was in touch with Trump allies. I suspect we'll learn more about his web of contacts in the near future. Here's my full story...
>> Related: The Daily Beast reported Monday that Tucker Carlson is worried about messages with Jones leaking...
It's primary day in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Connecticut and Vermont...
Warner Music releases earnings before the bell; IAC reports after the close...
Biden signs the CHIPS act into law and delivers remarks at 10am ET...
Tuesday's new releases
Lots of new nonfiction releases of note this Tuesday. Among them: "America, a Redemption Story: Choosing Hope, Creating Unity" by Sen. Tim Scott and "The Destructionists: The Twenty-Five Year Crack-Up of the Republican Party" by Dana Milbank. Also, two books timed to the one-year anniversary of the fall of Kabul: "The Fifth Act: America's End in Afghanistan" by Elliot Ackerman and "Always Faithful: A Story of the War in Afghanistan, the Fall of Kabul, and the Unshakable Bond Between a Marine and an Interpreter," by Thomas Schueman and Zainullah Zaki...
-- DC mood music: "Biden gets big economic win as inflation threatens legacy..." (Bloomberg)
-- Right-wing media outlets are laser-focused on the Inflation Reduction Act "beefing up the IRS..." (Examiner)
-- WaPo's reconstruct of recent events: "Inside Biden's hot streak, from the poolside to the Capitol..." (WaPo)
-- Jon Allsop makes the case that "media criticism of Biden has often, in practice, been trivial, horseracey, and disproportionate, particularly when weighed against the threats to democracy emanating from the other side of the aisle..." (CJR)
Huge payday for Axios
Digital media strategists have marveled at the success of Axios for years. Now comes payday: Co-founders Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen, and Roy Schwartz are selling Axios to one of their investors, Cox Enterprises, for a whopping $525 million. The NYT's Ben Mullin, who was first with the news, wrote that the deal "offers a rare flicker of hope for the digital publishing sector, which has been fraught with difficulty for investors and operators over the last decade." VandeHei, Allen, and Schwartz will remain on board. Here is Oliver Darcy's full story...
Key facts about the deal
>> Cox owns papers like Atlanta Journal-Constitution and brands like Kelley Blue Book. It has sold many of its local media properties in recent years...
>> Cox chairman and CEO Alex Taylor says "a big part of this investment is to expand the number of local markets we serve." Right now Axios Local has about 75 staffers...
>> Cox "initiated buyout negotiations around January," the WSJ's team reports, citing a source. "Cox had asked Axios how the publication could expand its coverage more quickly, and the companies decided a purchase would be the easiest way to inject money into Axios..."
>> Axios HQ is not part of the deal. The software arm of Axios will be spun off into a separate company led by VandeHei as chair and Schwartz as CEO...
Strong numbers at News Corp
"News Corp said revenue increased by 7.3% in the latest quarter, thanks to continued strength in advertising and rapid growth at Wall Street Journal parent Dow Jones & Co," the WSJ's Patience Haggin reports. "The company swung to a net profit of $110 million, compared with a loss of $14 million in the year-earlier period, due in part to a higher tax benefit..."
>> Foggy forecast for ad marketplace: News Corp CFO Susan Panuccio said "visibility on advertising remains limited across the businesses..."
FOR THE RECORD, PART THREE
-- Recommended read: Rick Edmonds laid out four reasons why The New York Times and Gannett have such "diverging fortunes…" (Poynter)
-- WaPo's acclaimed books critic Carlos Lozada is joining the NYT as its newest Opinion columnist... (NYT)
-- Jason Lynch has been promoted to editor of Adweek... (Twitter)
The lives they lived
-- Olivia Newton-John, "the Australian singer whose breathy voice and wholesome beauty made her one of the biggest pop stars of the '70s and charmed generations of viewers in the blockbuster movie 'Grease,' died on Monday." She was 73. CNN's Brandon Griggs looks back at her life here...
-- David McCullough, "who was known to millions as an award-winning, best-selling author and an appealing television host and narrator with a rare gift for recreating the great events and characters of America’s past, died on Sunday." He was 89. Daniel Lewis has the NYT obit here...
-- Bert Fields, "the larger-than-life entertainment lawyer whose roster of star clients and studios spoke to a penchant for doling out legal threats with a rhetorical flourish, along with a capacity for winning lucrative settlements, has died." He was 93. Variety's Ted Johnson looks back here...
FOR THE RECORD, PART FOUR
-- "Snap is in the early stages of planning layoffs, according to two people familiar with the plans," Alex Heath reports... (The Verge)
-- "Netflix is accelerating its push into video games with plans to double its catalog of offerings by the end of the year, but for now, few of the streaming giant’s subscribers are playing," Jack Stebbins writes, citing Apptopia data... (CNBC)
-- Stephen Battaglio explains why E.W. Scripps is spending $20 million on an "unusual education and marketing campaign" about the benefits of over-the-air TV antennas... (LAT)
-- Formula 1 icon Lewis Hamilton is on the cover of September's Vanity Fair, with a profile by Chris Heath... (VF)
Jake Novak talks about viral infamy
"Back in June, Jake Novak watched his audience completely turn on him, becoming the latest stop aboard TikTok's unwavering hate train," as Paper Mag's Payton Dunn put it last week. Novak's offense: He posted a video invoking Lorne Michaels saying "I Wanna Be the Next SNL Cast Member!" and the TikTok hive mind decided it was "cringe." He went quiet on social media for more than a month.
CNN's Jon Sarlin recently spoke with Novak for "Nightcap." Novak said he's not done with TikTok even after experiencing harassment and threats. People are "welcome to not like" his videos, but "not everything is for everybody," he said. "You see something come across your feed and it's just like it has to be the thing that's for you," Novak said. "And that's just not true!"
"I hope you find other things that are entertaining to you," he added. "I'm sorry that that wasn't me…You're welcome to never want to look at anything that I post again. That's fine. I wish you well."
FOR THE RECORD, PART FIVE
-- "YouTube is ready to get its Game On with an interactive live streaming event" on Aug. 27... (TubeFilter)
-- Jake Paul "has raised $50 million alongside sports betting entrepreneur Joey Levy to launch a new company called Betr," Sara Fischer reports... (Axios)
-- Lyft has formed Lyft Media, "a new business unit consolidating and expanding the advertising offerings at the ride-hailing company..." (WSJ)
HBO orders "The Franchise" pilot
"'Veep' boss Armando Iannucci's newest comedy – 'The Franchise' – has been ordered to pilot at HBO, with Sam Mendes set to direct," TheWrap's Jolie Lash writes. "The half-hour comedy is set in the world of superhero movie-making, and Jon Brown is the showrunner." Here’s the pitch: "A hopeful crew trapped inside the dysfunctional, nonsensical, joyous hellscape of franchise superhero movie-making. If and when they finally make the day, the question they must face — is this Hollywood's new dawn or cinema's last stand? Is this a dream factory or a chemical plant?"
-- "Ezra Miller, the embattled star of Warner Bros.' 'The Flash' movie, has been charged with felony burglary in Stamford, Vt..." (Variety)
-- "Kaley Cuoco, a two-time Emmy nominee for The Flight Attendant, has been tapped for a lead in Peacock's dark comedic thriller Based On a True Story..." (Deadline)
-- "Vince Gill used a song he wrote for his wife, fellow singer Amy Grant, to show love for her after a bike accident left her with a concussion," Lisa Respers France reports... (CNN)
Rep: Anne Heche remains in critical condition
A new representative for actress Anne Heche says that an earlier statement, from an earlier rep, was wrong. Sunday's statement said "that Anne was in stable condition but that information was inaccurate," the new spokesperson said Monday. "She has always remained in critical condition, slipping into a coma following the accident."
Earlier Monday, "CNN reported that Heche is under investigation for misdemeanor DUI and hit and run." Chloe Melas and Cheri Mossburg have details here...
LAST BUT NOT LEAST...
Pet of the day
CNN legal analyst Paul Callan emails: "My daughter, Kathryn’s skeptical dog 'Wilson' watching my CNN legal commentary…"
Thank you for reading! Email us your feedback. We'll be back tomorrow...