June 13, 2017 Last Updated 12:51 pm

Media get led around by the nose by Trump surrogate regarding potential special counsel firing; Sun-Times bids due next week

Morning Brief: The ailing Chicago tabloid has until next Monday to receive bids from outside parties, an unlikely prospect — then, if no bids are received, the paper will be acquired by its crosstown rival, the Chicago Tribune

The last 24 hours have not been good ones for the media, as it chased its tail regarding non-stories. The appearance on the PBS News Hour by Christopher Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax Media, started the follies when he said “I think he’s considering perhaps terminating the special counsel.” That started a flurry of stories about the possibility that Robert Mueller might be fired, yet there was nothing save this statement to point to it.

As for the interview itself, one can’t imagine what was in Judy Woodruff’s mind to bring Ruddy on the program to begin with. He is a member of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, and hardly a neutral figure. When seen on the program it appeared that once again the News Hour was attempting to find some way to balance the news coverage of the president. What better way than to hand the program over to a surrogate.

That much of the media then took Ruddy seriously was pretty embarrassing. The White House, which itself had to be embarrassed by the way the cabinet meeting was conducted as a gathering of sycophantic groupies, had to laughing at the ease by which the press can be manipulated.

The press is struggling with its fight to not normalize the president. I think it may be losing that battle.

The Washington Post, John Wagner:

Trump friend floats possibility of firing special counsel in Russian probe

“I think he’s considering perhaps terminating the special counsel,” Christopher Ruddy said during an appearance on PBS’s “NewsHour.” “I think he’s weighing that option.”

Ruddy, who is chief executive of Newsmax Media and a member of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., confirmed his view in a text message to The Washington Post but did not elaborate. Ruddy told PBS that he thinks it would be “a very significant mistake” for Trump to seek Mueller’s termination.

Ruddy was at the White House on Monday but did not meet with the president, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said.

The New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis:

Trump’s Cabinet, With a Prod, Extols the ‘Blessing’ of Serving Him

One by one, they praised President Trump, taking turns complimenting his integrity, his message, his strength, his policies. Their leader sat smiling, nodding his approval.

“The greatest privilege of my life is to serve as vice president to the president who’s keeping his word to the American people,” Mike Pence said, starting things off.

“I am privileged to be here — deeply honored — and I want to thank you for your commitment to the American workers,” said Alexander Acosta, the secretary of labor.

The big story today, one assumes, will be the testimony of Attorney General Jeff Sessions before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He will be asked about his meetings with the Russian ambassador and to confirm James Comey’s testimony that the president shooed out everyone but Comey so that the president could ask him to layoff the investigation into Michael Flynn.

Why Sessions is coming today is a mystery. It will allow him to dispute Comey’s testimony and to deny that he had any sort of formal meetings with the Russian official, just casual ones.

At this point, Sessions can lie to Congress with no consequences because the investigation is so early that there will be nothing, other than the Comey testimony, to confront Sessions with. One senses that the Democrats are being set up.

The Hill, Jordain Carney:

Five things to watch in Sessions hearing

Sessions will face a barrage of questions over when he decided to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian election meddling, which includes a review of potential ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow to influence the race’s outcome.

Comey told lawmakers that the FBI had expected Sessions to step back from the investigation even before his recusal on March 2. He said the FBI knew of facts that would make it “problematic” for Sessions to oversee the probe.

“It’s pretty clear that Comey wanted to signal in his testimony information about Sessions that was pretty concerning,” said a GOP strategist.

The Washington Post, Christopher Ingraham:

Jeff Sessions personally asked Congress to let him prosecute medical marijuana providers

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is asking congressional leaders to undo federal medical marijuana protections that have been in place since 2014, according to a May letter that became public Monday.

The protections, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, prohibit the Justice Department from using federal funds to prevent certain states “from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

The Chicago business world would like to get all excited about the prospect of the sale of the Sun-Times to an outside bidder, but I’m afraid they are working too hard to make it much of a story. Even the Sun-Times isn’t reporting the news, mainly because it has no business coverage.

According to reports, the owners of the tabloid will wait until next Monday, June 19, for outside bidders to come up with serious bids. After that date, and if no one steps forward, rival Tribune will take over. There is not much there to take over these days. The Sun-Times, which a decade ago reached over 340K readers each weekday, last reported its weekday circulation as 134K.

Its ownership is Wrapports, the company launched in late 2011 by Michael W. Ferro Jr, now the head of tronc, the publisher of the Chicago Tribune (and hence why the owner of the Sun-Times has an absurd name). At first the company expanded by buying the alt-weekly Chicago Reader, but then sold off its suburban assets to its crosstown rival.

The Sun-Times is only worth anything if the buyer is someone who wants a plaything or thinks it will give them a little extra political power. Locals won’t see it that way, and that is understandable. The Sun-Times was founded in 1844 as the Chicago Daily Journal, making it the oldest continuously published paper in town. It has a long and prestigious history, and some locals can remember its heyday. But the paper was sold off by the Marshall Field family to Rupert Murdoch in 1984, and that began a parade of owners.


One week to go for Sun-Times bidders

“With continued interest in the Sun-Times, we are working through the due diligence phase of the process with interested parties,” Jim Kirk, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Sun-Times, told employees in an email Monday. “We have agreed with the Department of Justice that bids for the company would be due at the end of business on Monday, June 19.”

The only confirmed potential competing bidder is a group led by former Chicago Alderman Edwin Eisendrath, who is working with a coalition of area unions, including the Chicago Federation of Labor.

In announcing its intention to buy Wrapports, tronc said it would operate the Sun-Times with a separate newsroom and “help it maintain its independent voice” if the deal goes through.

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