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Vice President Mike Pence delivers remarks Saturday at an America First Policies "Tax Cuts to Put America First" event in Dallas, Texas.  

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How the Russians did it; Ronan's scoop; the "mass shooting generation;" Sunday's guest list; "Black Panther" box office update

By Brian Stelter and the CNN Media team -- view this email in your browser right here!
"It's been quite another Friday news day," Anderson Cooper said on "AC360..."

Mueller has the only office in D.C. that doesn't leak

The NYT's Ali Watkins said it best: "DC is so rarely genuinely stunned by something. Mueller has done it every time," she tweeted. "Don't know how to adequately underscore just how incredible it is that nothing has leaked ahead of time out of his team."

"They're running silent and they're running deep, and every now and then the sub surfaces," former U.S. attorney Chuck Rosenberg said on "Hardball." That's exactly what Friday felt like to me...

How the Russians did it

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan writes: The operation sounds like a normal tech-savvy ad agency.

There's a graphics team. There is a team devoted to making sure the company's content shows up near the top of search results. There are IT people and a finance department controlling a budget in the millions.

Employees track their social media posts to see how they're doing -- how many likes, comments and shares they've gotten. They do post-mortems on their work to make sure it's up to the company's standards.

 --> But the company is a Kremlin-linked Russian troll group based in St. Petersburg. This "Internet Research Agency" tried to wreak havoc on the U.S. political system. Friday's indictment against 13 Russian nationals provides new insight on how... I highly recommend reading Donie's full story here...

A shoutout to Donie for discovering this...

Back in October, Donie O'Sullivan discovered a fraudulent PayPal account in the name of a Georgia woman. CNN flagged it for the woman and for the company. On Friday, the woman's name resurfaced in the indictment... It disclosed, identifying her only by her initials, that her stolen identity was used for PayPal accounts operated by the group..

 --> Notably, the woman told CNN on Friday that no authorities have contacted her...

So is Trump convinced now?

Keep in mind, CNN reported just a few days ago that POTUS is still unconvinced that the Russians meddled in the election. Will Friday's news convince him?

Maybe not. Trump's tweet asserting "no collusion" was followed by a White House statement on Friday. Both statements left some things out. CNN's Sara Murray pointed out that "Rosenstein did not say there was no evidence whatsoever of collusion. Mueller's investigation continues..." 

 --> Murray also noted: In the statements there was "no mention of taking any action against Russia" for the cyberattack... 

 --> My Q: What's Trump watching this weekend? Here's why I'm asking 👇

Surprise, surprise -- Fox is misleading its viewers

"The deputy AG says no Americans wittingly aided the Russian effort," Martha MacCallum said on Fox at 7pm. But Rod Rosenstein did not say that. He said there's no allegation "in this indictment" that any American knowingly went along with it. This, of course, leaves the door wide open for further indictments and further revelations. They may come or they may not -- that's what news organizations more interested in telling their audiences the truth will say...
One hour later, Tucker Carlson had W.H. rep Raj Shah on. Shah said "all of these efforts" by the Russians "were about sowing confusion in the electoral process and undermining the next president, not about supporting one candidate over the other." It is true that, at first, the Russian efforts appeared to be solely aimed at sowing discord in the U.S. It is true that chaos appears to have remained one of the goals throughout. But what Shah ignored -- and Carlson didn't press him on -- is that the indictment literally says the propagandists were "supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump" while "disparaging Hillary Clinton..."

And in the 9pm hour, Sean Hannity blamed Obama for being "complicit..."

Coverage notes

 -- Coincidentally, I think, The Intercept's James Risen launched a four-part series about Trump and Russia on Friday morning... Part one is titled "Is Donald Trump a Traitor?"

 -- Bloomberg's Friday afternoon headline: "Mueller Still Investigating Possible Collusion, Source Says"

 -- Historian Tim Naftali on CNN: This indictment "is a game-changer. I think any attempt to undermine the Mueller investigation at this point could credibly be described as treason." More than hacking, "this was actually a dirty tricks campaign by Russia..."

-- A reminder from Garrett Graff, who tweeted, "This is five different investigations in one, and we saw movement today in #2." Here's his Wired story from last week...

Who saw it coming

Hadas Gold emails: Think about how savvy this piece from The New York Times Magazine looks now. Adrian Chen's deep dive about the Internet Research Agency and its efforts to "wreak havoc all around the Internet" was published in June 2015, days BEFORE Trump launched his campaign...

How common is "catch and kill?"

How many stories has the National Enquirer covered up to help President Trump? Ronan Farrow's new reporting in The New Yorker forces the question to be asked. But it's a very difficult one to answer because the tabloid is secretive about its practices...

If you haven't read Farrow's report yet, click here... It's a web exclusive on, meaning it won't be in the magazine...

Farrow advanced the WSJ's November 2016 reporting about the Enquirer buying and then burying Karen McDougal's account of an extramarital affair with Trump...

What's going on here

"This boils down to friendship." AMI chairman David Pecker "is taking care of his friends," former American Media spokesman Stu Zakim told me. Zakim indicated that the Enquirer has buried other stories that might have hurt Trump. "AMI has often paid for stories to take them off the market -- i.e., no one else can print it -- to protect David's friends. Trump is one of his close friends, so take the leap," he said. Here's my full story...

"The president says"

A White House spokesperson told Farrow: "This is an old story that is just more fake news. The President says he never had a relationship with McDougal."

 --> Maggie Haberman tweeted: "There's been a shift in what people defending him say -- it's not 'the president didn't do XYZ,' it's now 'the president says he didn't do XYZ...'"
For the record, part one
 -- Michael Grynbaum tweeted: "Jill Abramson has the cover story of next week's NYMag: a case for impeaching Clarence Thomas from the Supreme Court..."

 -- A protest near Marco Rubio's office in Doral, FL is borrowing from the movie "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." An activist group bought three mobile billboards that say "Slaughtered in school" "And still no gun control?" and "How come, Marco Rubio?" (CNN)

 -- Jack Shafer's latest piece: "Do Readers Own the New York Times Now?" (Politico)

George Stephanopoulos snags first TV interview with Comey

Steven Perlberg's Friday morning scoop: "ABC has landed one of the most sought-after interviews of the year: former FBI director James Comey. Comey, who was fired by President Donald Trump in May, will sit down with ABC's George Stephanopoulos in mid-April ahead of the release of his forthcoming book." After Perlberg's story came out, ABC confirmed the booking... 

 --> Comey's book comes out April 17...

 --> Speaking of best sellers, "Fire and Fury" remains #1 on the NYT list, and is still in the top 10 on Amazon...

New DOJ and AT&T maneuverings

Hadas Gold emails: We're one month away from the expected start of the U.S. v. AT&T trial. During a Friday status conference hearing, the DOJ tried to get the judge to strike one of AT&T's defenses: That politics played a role in the department's decision to sue AT&T and halt the merger with Time Warner, CNN's parent company. At issue: President Trump's repeated attacks against CNN and his campaign pledge to block the deal. The judge didn't make a decision on Friday. Instead, he said he'll decide on Tuesday whether AT&T can get more info from the government regarding communications related to AT&T and the deal between the W.H. and the attorney general and between the A.G. and the antitrust division of the DOJ.

THE BATTLE LINES: The DOJ says politics and the president's views about CNN played no role in its decision to bring the suit. AT&T's lawyers said it is important to find out more... Check out Gold's full story here...

Sunday's "Reliable" guest list

On this Sunday's show, I'll be joined by Sam Vinograd, David Zurawik, Dan Pfeiffer, David Gergen, Karen Tumulty, Lachlan Markay, and Ronan Farrow... Join us Sunday at 11am ET on CNN...
For the record, part two
By Julia Waldow:

 -- This judge's ruling that news publishers "violated copyright by embedding tweets" of a Tom Brady photo could have serious consequences. But: This case is still in its early stages... (THR)

 -- In an interview with CNNMoney's Ahiza Garcia, NBA commissioner Adam Silver explains why the league didn't televise its All-Star draft... Plus much more... (CNNMoney)

 -- More social media chaos abroad: "Facebook must stop tracking Belgian web users, court rules..." (Bloomberg)

In Parkland...

While Friday's nightly newscasts on NBC and PBS led with the Russia indictments, ABC and CBS led with the FBI's failure in Parkland, Florida. It's an "alarming admission," David Muir said: "They were warned about the shooter weeks ago; they had been told he had access to guns, and a 'desire to kill...'"

This admission led Florida governor Rick Scott to call for FBI director Christopher Wray's resignation. When Trump visited with law enforcement in FL on Friday evening, he ignored a shouted question from the press pool about whether he has confidence in Wray...

"These teenagers are using their voices demanding change..."

Headline in Saturday's NYT: "A 'Mass Shooting Generation' Cries Out for Change."

A "mass shooting generation."

CNN's Brooke Baldwin, who's been in Parkland for the past couple of days, tweeted this after one of her interviews on Friday: "At Sandy Hook... those precious children were too young to speak. Here at Douglas, these teenagers are using their voices demanding change in a way I've really never seen."

"We know what will happen next"

Friday's Boston Globe front page "pre-covered" the next mass shooting. Most of the front page was a commentary by Nestor Ramos. "There are only three things we don't know about the next time," he wrote. "Who, where, and how many?"

"Spectacle murders"

On this week's "Reliable" podcast, "Columbine" author Dave Cullen spoke with me about coverage of mass shootings. He calls incidents like Parkland "spectacle murders." And he argues that wall-to-wall coverage and "rankings" of the deadliest shooting sprees may be harmful.

"I think the first thing we as journalists have to do is just accept that it's a reality -- that we are part of the equation," he said. "We didn't start this. Obviously we're not pulling the trigger. But we're giving them the stage." Here's the Apple Podcasts link... The pod is also on TuneIn... And you can read Julia Waldow's recap here...

"How white nationalists fooled the media about Florida shooter"

That's the headline on Shawn Musgrave's latest story for Politico. He reports: "Following misrepresentations by a white nationalist leader and coordinated efforts by internet trolls, numerous researchers and media outlets spread a seemingly false claim" that the accused Parkland gunman "belonged to an extremist group." The authorities say "they have no evidence so far to support this claim, and the rumor appears to have been perpetrated by white nationalist trolls themselves." When this claim surfaced, some news outlets were more careful than others...
For the record, part three
By Daniella Emanuel:

 -- NBC hosts are incorrectly pronouncing "Pyeongchang" because... it's "cleaner?" (HuffPost)

 -- File this under "we'll see:" Over 3 million young Facebook users are expected to leave or stop regularly using the platform in the next year. Some say parents are to credit/blame... (The Guardian)

 -- Brian Steinberg's latest: "John Oliver Just Might Be a Journalist" (Variety)

"Black Panther" weekend

Frank Pallotta emails: "Black Panther" opened big on Thursday night, pulling in $25.2 million. That's the second biggest preview gross for a Marvel Studios film and nearly doubles the February opening night record. And this is just the beginning. The numbers being thrown around for the film's opening are just staggering. Disney is forecasting the total take for the four-day stretch, counting the Monday holiday, at close to $200 million. I'll be reporting out the totals all weekend, so follow me on and on Twitter for all the updates...

Representation matters

More from Frank: Why does it matter? Because representation matters. And not just so people of different backgrounds can see heroes that look like themselves on the big screen, but also for an industry that is need of more diversity. "If anything changes, it should be the expectations, which dictate the extent to which studios are willing to take risks," The Ringer's K. Austin Collins told me. "The mega-success of 'Black Panther' would hopefully change that..."
The entertainment desk

What people will remember the most about Costas?!

Megan Thomas emails: Vulture has a treat: "An oral history of Bob Costas with pink eye at the Olympics."
Costas is quoted: "I did a dozen Olympics. And I'd like to think that my colleagues and I did a number of very worthwhile things. But I know that because this was so front and center, it's probably the thing that people are going to remember the most. No one's going to sit down and review hundreds of hours of tapes and go, 'You know, that was really a good thing he did with Michael Phelps.' Or, 'That was really a good thing with Carl Lewis, or Jackie Joyner-Kersee.' You know, that doesn't fit in a tweet. I get it. I get it, and I accept it..."

Jen Aniston and Justin Theroux can't avoid the tabloid wringer...

Via VF's Kenzie Bryant: "It would seem tabloids have gotten their favorite character back: Single Jennifer Aniston, a lonely specter, cursed to flit between West Hollywood and Bel Air, filled with SmartWater instead of children. Theroux will probably fare better. He has the good fortune of never carrying the America's Sweetheart title on his shoulders. For obvious reasons, the pair has asked tabloids to resist the temptation to 'speculate and invent,' and only trust the words that come out from them and them alone. And yet, there seems to be a legion of anonymous informants ready to rub their hands together and get to work, same as it ever was."
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