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By Jason Abbruzzese

President Donald Trump’s address on Tuesday night, lacking in much new information and containing several inaccuracies, spurred renewed criticism from the left and from Democrats of the networks’ decision to pre-empt their prime-time programming and air the speech.

On Twitter, those critiques tended to center an a particular word: “Played.”

“The networks got played,” tweeted liberal media watchdog Media Matters.

“The television networks should be embarrassed for putting this on tonight,” tweeted Tagean Goddard, publisher of politics blog Political Wire. “They got played big time.”

“Get smart, media. You got played,” tweeted David Pepper, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party.

The major broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox — had already come under fire for granting Trump airtime for a speech on U.S. immigration. Network officials told NBC News that the newsworthiness of Trump’s address — coming in the midst of one of the longest government shutdowns in U.S. history — outweighed concerns that he would use the opportunity to spread falsehoods.

How Trump is covered by the networks, cable news and the media more broadly remains a contentious topic, particularly as the news cycle for the 2020 elections begins.

While Trump did make some questionable claims, many major media outlets including the networks were ready with fact-checks, many of which came shortly after Trump’s address.

But the damage, according to critics, was done.

“Bottom line: The networks interrupted their entertainment fare for the lamest rerun on national television: Trump’s immigration talking points,” tweeted Erik Wemple, a liberal media columnist at The Washington Post.

“Shame on you, networks. Shame on you,” tweeted Jeff Jarvis, a journalism professor at the City University of New York.



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Boris Johnson's Brexit mission starts NOW – 99 days for new PM to prove doom-mongers wrong

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BORIS JOHNSON takes over as Prime Minister today vowing to work “flat out” to get the UK out of the EU this autumn and unleash “a new spirit of can-do” to make the country great.

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Mueller makes last-minute request for aide to appear with him during his testimony

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One of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s longtime aides will appear alongside him during his highly-anticipated testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, a spokesperson said Tuesday, but is not expected to be sworn in.

Mueller’s team made a last-minute request that Aaron Zebley be sworn in and testify with him during his scheduled hearings before Congress on Wednesday, a congressional source familiar with the request told NBC News.

Mueller is slated to testify on his report into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the country’s influence on President Donald Trump for three hours before the House Judiciary Committee, take a break, then appear for at least two additional hours before the House Intelligence Committee.

For the first hearing, Zebley will sit alongside Mueller as his counsel, according to the Judiciary Committee spokesperson. The committee, however, is not updating its guidance to include Zebley as a witness. This means that Zebley will not be sworn in. Mueller can confer with him as he is questioned by the panel, according to committee rules, but cannot answer questions.

The ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, said Tuesday that GOP members had “not gotten assurances from the House Democrats on the committee that he [Zebley] will not speak.”

“He’s not supposed to speak in that role to anyone on the committee or asked questions. And we’re asking, and, frankly, that that be confirmed before the hearing. So we don’t have to waste time with it tomorrow,” Collins said.

Jim Popkin, Mueller’s spokesperson, disputed the idea that Zebley’s presence at the hearings amounted to an 11th-hour addition.

“Aaron Zebley was the Deputy Special Counsel and had day-to-day oversight of the investigations conducted by the Office,” Popkin said in a statement Tuesday. “He will accompany Special Counsel Mueller to the Wednesday hearings, as was discussed with the committees more than a week ago.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday during a conversation at the Center for American Progress that his panel was still working out what Zebley’s function might be.

Trump lashed out about Zebley’s role in Mueller’s testimony, tweeting Tuesday night that the decision “very unfair.”

“Just got back only to hear of a last minute change allowing a Never Trumper attorney to help Robert Mueller with his testimony before Congress tomorrow,” Trump said. “What a disgrace to our system. Never heard of this before.”

Zebley is especially close to Mueller, serving as his chief of staff at the FBI when Mueller was the director. Zebley is also an alumnus of the law firm WilmerHale, where Mueller worked after leaving the FBI.

Zebley followed Mueller to the Justice Department when he was tapped to be special counsel in 2017. Zebley is also a former FBI agent who was involved in an international hunt for al Qaeda terrorists before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In June, Mueller agreed to testify before Congress about his Russia investigation after he was subpoenaed by Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the chairman of the House Judiciary, and Schiff.

Popkin said Monday that the former special counsel will make a brief opening statement when he testifies about his 22-month investigation, and will offer his 448-page report as his full statement for the record.

In May, Mueller stressed at a press conference that if he were called to testify he would stick closely to his written report. “Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report. It contains our findings and analysis, and the reasons for the decisions we made,” he said.

“We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself. The report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.”

In a letter on Monday, the Justice Department also issued stern guidance to Mueller, stating that “any testimony must remain within the boundaries of your public report because matters within the scope of your investigation were covered by executive privilege.”



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IDS reveals what Tories MUST do to deliver Brexit, 'save' the country and defeat Corbyn

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IAIN DUNCAN SMITH has called on fellow Tories to unite around new party leader Boris Johnson to ensure he defeats Jeremy Corbyn and deliver Brexit.

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