SNL’s Mueller and Trump cold open illustrates the political divide

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

Once in a while “SNL” perfectly crystallizes our political moment. This is one of those times.

Saturday’s cold open showed how the end of Robert Mueller’s investigation is being interpreted, twisted and exploited:

Robert De Niro as Mueller: “On the charge of obstruction of justice, we have not drawn a definitive conclusion.”
Aidy Bryant as Bill Barr: “But I have! And my conclusion is, Trump’s clean as a whistle.”
Alec Baldwin as President Trump: “Free at last, free at last.”

The public will see Mueller’s report sometime in April — but Trump and his media allies have already hardened the right’s perceptions of what the report says. The no-collusion cake has been baked. “SNL” nailed this:

De Niro: “I’ve included hundreds of pages of evidence.”
Bryant: “Most of it provided on live television by the president himself.”
Baldwin: “Russia, if you’re watching, go to bed. Daddy won.”

The rhetorical power of Trump’s repetitiveness is on display right now. His message is simple, while Mueller’s report (judging by the sheer length) is more complicated.

De Niro: “In conclusion, it is my hope that this report will be made public, with a few redactions.”
Bryant: “Hella redactions.”
Baldwin: “We’re going to black out everything except the words ‘no’ and ‘collusion.'”

“SNL” illustrated the extreme divisions in the media and political environment. Trump’s backers are celebrating the Barr letter and claiming the media “lied” about a “hoax.” Some of Trump’s opponents are accusing the press of taking Barr’s word for it. And lots of folks just want to wait and see what the report says. As for “SNL,” the entire sketch is up on YouTube…

Media week ahead calendar

— Monday: Be careful out there, it is April Fool’s Day…

— Monday: David Haskell starts work as the new editor of NYMag…

— Monday: “The Twilight Zone” debuts on CBS All Access…

— Wednesday: The final season of “Game of Thrones” has its grand premiere at Radio City Music Hall…

— Thursday: WaPo hosts a Protecting Local News symposium… It will be live-streamed here…

— Friday: David Attenborough’s “Our Planet” starts streaming on Netflix…

— Saturday: The NCAA men’s Final Four! For the record, my bracket has Virginia winning it all…

— Sunday: “Killing Eve” returns to BBC America (and gets a simulcast on AMC)…

Three books you’ll be hearing about…

The press tours are already underway for this trio, all out on Tuesday: “Ladies Who Punch,” Ramin Setoodeh’s scoop-filled book about “The View…” Rick Reilly’s “Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump,” which says the president cheats “at the highest level…” And “The Matriarch,” Susan Page’s book about Barbara Bush, which has already generated dozens of headlines…

Two more exclusives for Gayle King

CBS News says Gayle King has taped “exclusive interviews” with “the two women who allege Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax sexually assaulted them.” King’s sit-down with Dr. Vanessa Tyson will air on Monday’s “CBS This Morning,” and the interview with Meredith Watson will air Tuesday…

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

Al Roker in the Arctic

This is definitely one way to cut through the noise and get sustained TV coverage about climate change! Al Roker will be live from Utqiagvik, Alaska, on Monday and Tuesday’s editions of the “Today” show.

Utqiagvik, previously known as Barrow, is the northernmost city in Alaska. “We’re going there because Alaska is warming twice as fast as the rest of the continental United States,” Roker said before flying north. “It literally is ground zero for where climate change is happening…”