Did this question even make sense? At 9 PM Eastern, CNN broke it.
Under terms of current Hard Pundit Law, every weeknight evening must involve some type of BREAKING NEWS. Last night, this was it:
CUOMO (7/26/18): We have a Cuomo Prime Time exclusive tonight...There it was! "Sources with knowledge" had told CNN what Michael Cohen was saying. Cohen was saying that he had bad campaign dirt on Herr Trump.
We have CNN political analyst Carl Bernstein and Jim Sciutto, our chief national security correspondent for CNN. Jimmy, what do we know now?
SCIUTTO: Well, Chris, tonight, sources with knowledge tell myself and Carl that Michael Cohen claims that then-candidate Donald Trump knew in advance about the June 26 meeting in Trump Tower in which Russians were expected to offer his campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton. Crucially, these sources tell us that Cohen is willing to make that assertion to the special counsel, Robert Mueller.
Cohen alleges as well that he was present, along with several others, when Trump was informed of the Russians' offer. He was informed by Donald Trump Jr. about that offer. By Cohen's account, Trump approved going ahead with that meeting with the Russians.
Now, we should note that our sources said Cohen does not have evidence such as audio recordings to corroborate his claim. A source familiar with Cohen's House testimony said he did not testify that Trump had advance knowledge. Cohen's claims were not mentioned as well in separate reports issued by both Republicans and Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee.
"Crucially," Cohen was saying that he was willing to make his assertions to Robert Mueller! Also, the sources said that Cohen doesn't have audio recordings to corroborate his claims.
That went on the air at 9 PM Eastern. Needless to say, the usual happened.
A little more than two hours later, at 11:07 PM, Brian Williams was talking turkey to a pundit guest, Robert Costa. Brian floated a question to Bob. But did his question make sense?
WILLIAMS (7/26/18): Let's talk turkey here, and that is, a lot of reporters are both pushing and chasing down a narrative that—Let's be fair to Brian! By 11 o'clock, there was a widespread pundit narrative according to which the Trump camp had been the source for the evening's exciting report.
Here is news that Cohen can put Donald Trump in possession of knowledge about that meeting. The narrative is that the Trump camp leaked the story because it's bad to own it in advance. What it also does, it diminishes the value of Mr. Cohen as a potential "flip" target for the feds, the Southern District of New York. Can you speak to that possible strategy?
Many reporters really were floating that exciting idea. But did Brian's question make sense?
Did Brian's question make sense? How could the Trump camp have been the source of the evening's report?
The report concerned what Michael Cohen wanted to say to Mueller; it concerned what sort of evidence Cohen had. Who in the orbit of Donald J. Trump could have been a credible source for a report like that?
The "narrative" to which Williams referred didn't much seem to make sense. That said, at thrilling moments like these, the excitable children of Cable News County rarely feel obliged to make sense.
When breaking news has started to break, the emphasis is on excitement and storyline. The children were very excited last night as they suggested the Trump folk did it. As usual, they didn't seem bothered by the fact that the claim didn't seem to make sense.
In fairness, Williams wasn't kidding as he "talked turkey" with Costa. At 10 PM, the always excited Lawrence O'Donnell had opened his program with his mandated chat with Rachel Maddow. Along the way, Lawrence said this:
LAWRENCE (7/26/18): And Rachel, with every one of these stories that comes out and breaks very dramatically, as they have for us for several months, there is always that very strange part of it which is, Why is this happening?Lawrence can never figure it out! He also didn't seem to see that one of his speculations this night didn't much seem to make sense.
LAWRENCE: Why is this becoming public? Who has an incentive anywhere in this story, from Michael Cohen to the president's side, to make this public, and I can never figure it out. I never get a satisfactory answer to why did this happen? Why did this get revealed?
Who within the Trump campaign could have spoken to Sciutto and Bernstein and served as a source for what Cohen wanted to do? The notion didn't seem to make sense. But Williams was right on one point:
By the time he got on the air, it truly had become a "narrative." The speculation was widely bruited, with no one seeming to see that it didn't much seem to make sense.
The children tend to be less than super-sharp even when they're at their best. On evenings like last night, they get dragged out to speculate about BREAKING NEWS without any possible prep.
They turned to a favorite speculation; someone in the Trump camp had been the source of the BREAKING NEWS. It didn't seem to make much sense, but it gave them something to wonder about, and it cast the Trump camp in a slippery light.
This is the sort of thing the children of cable news love. All major news topics got shoved aside last night so this pleasing pseudo-discussion could burn up entire hours.
Kids at the border? Who cares? Rachel got to the topic at 9:55, saying she was "desperate" to discuss it. She did so for three minutes.
Long ago, our species triumphed through mastery of gossip and belief in group fictions. So says Professor Harari. We suspect that the gent could be right.