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The media justifiably adored "Bridgegate," the outrageous tale of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's chums allegedly getting lanes closed on the George Washington Bridge to punish a local politician for not endorsing Christie's 2013 re-election.
It was front page and TV fodder for months. It spawned interminable punditry about its potential impact on Christie's unbridled presidential ambitions — at least before an unforeseen steamroller turned those cravings into Christie's born-again Donald Trump sycophancy.
But now the press has reason to gag over a federal appeals court ruling that I stumbled upon Thursday while waiting for a school bus and perusing decisions of various appeals courts (I know, it's a weird habit).
The Philadelphia-based Third Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a lower court ruling that would have forced prosecutors to disclose the identities of unindicted co-conspirators in the case. (U.S. Court of Appeals) A big media group sought the names, including North Jersey Media Group, Bloomberg, NBCUniversal, The New York Times, New Jersey Advanced Media, Philadelphia Media Network, Dow Jones, the Associated Press, New York's WNBCTV Channel 4 and Politico.
They are trying to get hold of a letter, which was written by one of the prosecutors, that supposedly identifies those co-conspirators. The lower court judge ordered it to be disclosed. Now, an appeals court that oversees district courts in New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania reverses the ruling.
The decision comes on the eve of the trial of William Baroni, a former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive, and Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff, on conspiracy and fraud charges. David Wildstein, a former Christie confidant and a former Port Authority official, has pleaded guilty.
The issue is an important one, involving how much sensitivity should be displayed toward those individuals who are ensnared in but not formally charged in criminal investigations. The matter was fought by one of the unidentified co-conspirators, known simply as "John Doe" in the proceedings. Such individuals may be cooperating with the government.
There's a very specific legal issue at the heart of the matter, involving differentiating between what's known as a "bill of particulars" and a confidential sharing of information between two sides before a trial.
"Public access to judicial documents and court proceedings is a respected tradition and important legal principle, but it has bounds," the three judge panel concluded. It quoted another decision that said, “[D]iscovery traditionally has been conducted by the parties in private and has not been publicly available.”
In sum, the media loses. But, come to think of it, so has Christie.
Another Trump contribution to Florida's attorney general
There's justifiable outrage over Donald Trump's foundation illegally contributing $25,000 to the re-election campaign of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi as she weighed whether to join a New York State lawsuit against Trump University.
The Miami Herald reports, "When Bondi did run in 2010 for attorney general, there’s no record that Trump or his family made any political contributions, even though they had been active donors in Florida politics for years. The first documented contribution to Bondi from the Trumps was on Sept. 10, 2013, when daughter Ivanka gave $500 — about two weeks after Schneiderman filed his suit in New York that Bondi’s office was reviewing." (Miami Herald)
But there is another one. A Chicago lawyer friend checked Florida state election records and finds an earlier $500 donation from "Trump, Donald J." on July 15, 2013.
￼￼￼￼￼The morning chatter
Last night's "commander in chief" forum in New York was a no-brainer topic for punditry. Andrew Cuomo on CNN's "New Day" focused on Trump's praise of Vladimir Putin during the session in which he and Hillary Clinton separately answered Matt Lauer's questions.
Born-again Trump basher Joe Scarborough (in London) on "Morning Show" found "more of the same." He said (correctly) "Trump spoke in generalities and Hillary Clinton was peppered with very specific questions...Trump is held to a lower standard. Nobody expects him to know the specifics of policies so nobody pushes him."...chopped word salad, completely preposterous...He says nothing. If you're Matt Lauer, it's hard to figure out what follow-up questions to ask....He (Trump) says absolutely nothing."
Over at "Fox & Friends," there was the predictable negative focus on Clinton, starting with co-host Steve Doocy noting that "liberals" were upset because she was asked seven minutes of questions her emails mess (pundits left and right again found her coming up short). But it did leaven things on "Hillary's Blame Game," as the chyron put it, and even chiding Lauer's performance, with word of a woman setting fire to a blanket on a JetBlue flight and Starbucks testing Belgian waffles, French toast and quiche weekend brunch offerings at Portland, Oregon and Seattle locations.
Media take on the new iPhone
"There’s nothing particularly new about any of it." (The Ringer) Then there was, "'The pundits were wrong,' said Patrick Moorhead, founder at Moor Insights & Strategy. [The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus] was a major upgrade, not a minor one with every major subsystem improved.'" (CNBC) Or, "Some big changes, but no major surprises." (Recode) Then we had, "Apple focused on making the most significant changes to the tiniest components: camera sensors, upgraded chips, a revised home button and the addition of GPS to the watch." (The New York Times)
In case you didn't look around at the grocery checkout
There it is at the supermarket, right near the 23 varieties of Orbit gum: "Hillary Clinton has tried to cover up her health problems — but even her lapdog reporters in the national media have been forced to confront the medical issues that have clearly plagued her public appearances. Now the new issue of The National Enquirer — on newsstands now — reveals the full scope of the candidate's multiple maladies in a bombshell exclusive report!" Lapdog me hereby notes this shocking bombshell. (Enquirer)
Snapchat "is forecast to reach nearly $1 billion in global advertising sales in 2017, up from an estimated $366.7 million in revenue this year, according to a new report by forecasting firm eMarketer." (Forbes) The assessment figures that "Snapchat’s ad business will generate $935.5 million in revenue in 2017." It started its ad operation last year. "By comparison, eMarketer estimates that Facebook-owned Instagram, with 500 million users, will generate $1.5 billion in global ad sales this year and $2.8 billion in 2017." (Forbes)
Bill O'Reilly, self-styled scourge of "establishment media," sucked up to USA Today last night for prominent mention in a fall books piece on his new effort, co-authored with Martin Dugard, "Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan." As the paper put it: "A bit of a departure for the authors’ hugely successful 'Killing' franchise (Killing Kennedy, Killing Patton, Killing Lincoln) as they dispatch an entire nation this time." (USA Today) So that godawful liberal media isn't quite so onerous.
Ailes' "threat to free speech"
"The defamation lawsuit that Roger Ailes’ lawyer is threatening against New York magazine would seem to have no chance of legal success," writes Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman. (Bloomberg) "So why has the former chairman of Fox News bothered to hire the lawyer who brought down Gawker on behalf of Hulk Hogan? The answer is that the threat puts the magazine on the defensive — and that's a problem for free speech."
Coulter roasted (cont.)
Ann Coulter blames the disastrous response to her appearance on Comedy Central's Rob Lowe roast to intentionally poor editing. Alas, "Tony Hinchcliffe, a comedian who was assigned to assist Coulter with her joke-writing, along with fellow comedian Mike Lawrence, said on David Feldman’s podcast that he and Lawrence wanted Coulter to steal the show, but she wouldn’t cooperate and rewrote or excised many of the jokes they’d worked on. (The Muse) But one of the media's favorite right-leaning observers will again be undeterred by any and all criticism. And she'll sell more books.
You'd best ditch your weekend plans
"Planet closer to catastrophic World War III than at any time for 60 years, experts warn… and it doesn’t look good for Britain or America if it does kick off."(The Sun) The Drudge Report gave this even greater currency.
A good read via Elizabeth Drew
From the New York Review of Books: "A mystifying aspect of Clinton’s handling of the server issue is that she has told lies that are easily checked. She said that the email system she set up was the same as her predecessors,' which it wasn’t. She said that State Department officials had approved her use of the private server when she hadn’t sought approval. Many of her supporters have tired of clapping hand to forehead. They won’t abandon her because Donald Trump isn’t an option, but what if the dampened enthusiasm affects turnout in November? Even some of her strongest backers suggest that if she didn’t have such a flawed opponent she’d be in far greater political peril." (New York Review of Books)
The press and irrelevance
Should the media be more cognizant of the relevance of the irrelevant? A study out of Northwestern University suggests that when it comes to a president, you should be mindful of everything from college football championship games to shark attacks in the shaping of approval ratings. You could extrapolate to the Clinton-Trump race and wonder how such events could have an impact, especially on Clinton if she, like President Obama, is viewed as a representative of the status quo. (U.S. News & World Report)