As cable news pundits stewed over a wild day in Washington, one that culminated in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement that Democrats were launching an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell took the stage at the News & Documentary Emmys to receive a lifetime achievement award.
“In my experience, during more than four decades covering the White House and Congress and national security during seven administrations, politics was invariably and appropriately adversarial,” she told the audience. “But this is different. Our credibility as journalists is deliberately targeted as part of a re-election strategy.”
She was talking of Trump’s attacks on the media up to this point, imagining what it will be like if the impeachment raises a serious threat to his tenure in office. The President’s fever over all things said on cable news only will rise as he watches the story unfold, along with a CNN running tally of the rising number of House Democrats calling for his removal. The story, as CNN’s Gloria Borger said, is moving at “mach speed.”
The fast-moving news day on Tuesday likely will be matched today, when Trump is scheduled meet with the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, and later participates in a press conference in New York.
First and foremost, though, there is the White House’s promised release of the transcript of the fateful Trump-Zelensky phone call, one that could shed light on the president’s defense or if there actually was pressure to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Already, Democrats are skeptical that the transcript will reveal full details of the call — and they want to see the actual whistleblower complaint. (The transcript was released later in the morning.)
Shortly after Pelosi’s late-afternoon announcement Tuesday, Fox News’ chief White House correspondent John Roberts reminded that Trump warned reporters last week that the media would end up with egg on its face when the story turns out to be nothing.
That was a theme throughout the evening on Tucker Carlson’s and Sean Hannity’s Fox News shows, capped by an appearance by Rudy Giuliani as a guest on Laura Ingraham’s hour. It proved to be another wild encounter, rivaling Giuliani’s appearance on Chris Cuomo’s CNN show last week. Giuliani, who is serving as Trump’s personal lawyer and also is one of the central figures in the whistleblower saga, at first appeared in a one-on-one with Ingraham and then joined a panel, where he said that one of his fellow panelists, Tom Hahn, should be sued for libel.
“Shut up, you don’t know what you are talking about idiot,” Giuliani said.
His media tour continued Wednesday morning, when he appeared on Fox & Friends and again tried to point the finger at the Bidens and also President Barack Obama. “What did Obama know and when did he know it?” Giuliani said in the interview, reflecting an overall Trump team strategy to point the finger at his predecessor and call out the media for not exposing it.
Yet news outlets have covered the Biden story, as Chuck Todd argued in an unusually contentious interview with Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) on Meet the Press Daily on Tuesday.
“I’m not here to allow a false equivalency to take over here,” Todd told Kennedy. “That is a problem with our politics.”
After a bit of back and forth, Kennedy quipped, “One of us is right, and the other one is you.”
More than a few pundits, never-Trump Republicans and even Democrats have warned that so many other times in Trump’s presidency, there has been a moment like this, where a simmering, complicated story captivated attention, but never led to a scandal that galvanized public support for his removal from office.
As the rest of the story unfolds at great speed this week, perhaps we’ll see whether this time is different.