‘Newsrooms, make sure you have enough toner in your printer:’ America counts down to Mueller report’s release

A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

This is where I’m supposed to say something smart about the impending release of the redacted Robert Mueller report. But I just want to read it!

Look: Some things matter regardless of whether they change anyone’s mind. The Mueller report is one of those things. It is important to know what Mueller found about Trumpworld and Russia — regardless of the impact. Persuasion is not the point. Information is the point.

I just hope that everyone will pay attention to what the report actually says, not what partisans SAY it says. But with Attorney General Bill Barr trying to control the day’s narrative by holding a 9:30 a.m. press conference before the report is released, the information environment is going to be… confusing… to say the least. Lawmakers have been told they will receive the report in the 11 a.m. hour… So expect to know a lot more by lunchtime…

What to expect…

The cable news networks will have day-long coverage. NBC, ABC and CBS will start their special reports around the time Barr speaks. NBC’s Lester Holt and Savannah Guthrie will anchor from New York, with Chuck Todd, Andrea Mitchell and others joining them from DC. George Stephanopoulos will anchor the special report on ABC. Gayle King, Norah O’Donnell and John Dickerson will lead the coverage on CBS…

Some more coverage notes:

— Brian Williams will anchor MSNBC’s coverage starting at 9…

— Vice News will be reading the Mueller report, in full, on a YouTube live stream, as soon as it drops…

— At least two publishers are coming out with the report in book form. Skyhorse’s version is now in the top 100 on Amazon’s best seller chart… and WaPo’s version is in the top 200…

The latest updates

— Top headline in Thursday’s NYT: “MUELLER RESULTS WERE PREVIEWED FOR WHITE HOUSE.” Here’s the story…

— The WaPo says the report will only be “lightly redacted.” It will offer “a detailed blow-by-blow of the president’s alleged conduct…”

— CNN’s Laura Jarrett reports: “The publicly released version of Mueller’s report is expected to have relatively minimal redactions in the section on obstruction of justice, according to a source familiar with the report.”

— Chris Cuomo’s simple question, after ticking through Barr’s presser plans, the pre-holiday release date, etc: “If you have nothing to hide, why do it this way?”

Top notes and quotes

— Jake Tapper on “The Lead” Wednesday afternoon: “Newsrooms, make sure you have enough toner in your printer. It is Mueller eve, and the redactions are color coded.”

— The Daily Beast’s Jackie Kucinich tweeted in the third person: “She sat back and looked at her meticulous Mueller Report Day planning memo and smiled. Sure, this will be trash in less than 24 hours, but right now, on paper, all is in order and right.”

— USC law professor Orin Kerr wrote: “When the Mueller report comes out, just remember: The people selling something will have strong and instant reactions. Those who actually read the report will take longer.”

— CNN’s Marshall Cohen tweeted: “It’s been a long 2+ years on the Trump-Russia beat for CNN. What a privilege. Our team has been though bombshells, actual bomb threats, weddings, babies, breakups, and literally everything in between. We’ve all aged tremendously. Tomorrow closes one chapter… and begins another.”

Let’s really dig in…

I was talking about this with CNN’s John Avlon at work on Wednesday… I asked him to elaborate via email… He writes: “The news media has perfected the art of the pregame conversation: spending weeks and months debating and predicting what might occur — whether it’s an election or the release of the redacted Mueller report. But when it comes time to analyzing what actually happened, we too often default to short attention span theater. There’s a desire to quickly move on once we know who won and who lost — as opposed to really digging in to analyze what happened and why. This is a particular pet peeve after elections, where we’ll spend maybe 72 hours digging in to the results after spending two years pumping up the election based largely on horse race polls. We’ve got to get better at this.”

Avlon adds: “The useful information is all in the results — not in the anticipation of the event. So when it comes to the release of the redacted Mueller report, journalists and citizens alike should resist the temptation to echo conventional wisdom narratives and instead really dig in to the new information being presented. Yes, news is what’s new — but our main job as journalists is to make the important stories interesting.”

Learning from the coverage of the Barr letter…

When the Barr letter came out last month, “plenty of media figures and news organizations picked up Trump’s spin and ran with it — at least at first. Cooler heads — and more-nuanced reporting — eventually prevailed. But by then, the story line had been set,” WaPo’s Margaret Sullivan wrote Wednesday. “Now, the press gets a chance to try again and to apply the lessons of last month. One of the trickiest elements, of course, is that the report will have some information blacked out. That, too, needs to be part of the reporting.” Read her full column here…

Why Thursday?

“Trump’s allies are also betting on the timing of the report’s release — just before two major religious holidays leading into the weekend — will also help dampen any potential media storm,” Yahoo’s Hunter Walker and Luppe B. Luppen wrote Wednesday.

They quoted a source saying (hoping?) that “this is a 24 hour to 72 hour news cycle and nothing more…”

Trump will probably tweet — will he speak on camera too?

Per ABC’s Meridith McGraw, “President Trump did three radio interviews today at the White House with Larry O’Connor, David Webb, and Frank Beckmann.” In one of the chats, Trump told O’Connor that “you’ll see a lot of very strong things come out tomorrow.” Strong things? Trump revealed Barr’s presser plans and said “maybe I’ll do one after that. We’ll see.” Just a guess here, but Trump’s definition of a press conference is not the same as the press corps… I bet he’ll say something on camera, but I strongly doubt he’ll hold a formal presser.

Now, let’s talk about Trump’s sources of talking points…

Hannity’s prebuttal

One minute, I was watching David Corn on MSNBC saying that “the original sin” of the Trump presidency was “aiding and abetting the Russian attack.”

I ate some dinner, switched to Fox, and there was Sean Hannity saying this was all a “baseless, vengeful hoax.” Hannity spent the first 40 minutes of his show prebutting whatever embarrassing details are included in Mueller’s documents. “Talking is not a crime!” Hannity insisted, dismissing obstruction of justice concerns. He repeated all the usual talking points over and over — “no collusion, no conspiracy, no obstruction,” Trump’s the victim, Dems tried to commit a coup, etc — and said “the real investigation begins” now.

Don’t underestimate the power of the twisted story he’s telling. Untold millions of people buy it. Here’s another example of the pro-Trump media in action…

Limbaugh says the media will lie, lie, lie…

Oliver Darcy emails: Rush Limbaugh was already working on Wednesday to undermine the media’s coverage of the report. “No matter what, we are going to be lied to,” Limbaugh said in audio flagged by the liberal group Media Matters. “No matter what it says, the Democrats and the media are going to lie about what’s in it.” This is, of course, nonsense. It is also part of a larger trend that has been occurring in right-wing media for years. Personalities like Limbaugh regularly aim to delegitimize credible news organizations, telling their followers that only they will provide them with the truth. Ironically, reality is actually the reverse of that! When the Mueller report drops, the last place anyone should go to for an objective look at the facts is the partisans on either the left or the right…

FOR THE RECORD

— Something to keep in mind when the Mueller report hits: “A cognitive scientist explains why humans are so susceptible to fake news and misinformation…” (NiemanLab)

— Here’s a helpful column by Elie Honig: Here is “the control-F search you should do on the Mueller report…” (CNN)

Read more of Wednesday’s “Reliable Sources” newsletter… And subscribe here to receive future editions in your inbox…

— One of Thursday’s OTHER events: The Overseas Press Club is holding its annual awards dinner in NYC… Marty Baron is the keynote speaker…