July 21, 2017 Last Updated 8:19 am

Future of US media seen on knife’s edge; Microsoft heads to court to stem hacking efforts

Morning Brief: Time Inc.’s People magazine features first family on cover, but would that continue to occur if new ownership takes over the celebrity weekly?

The end game may be approaching as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation heats up, while the president vaguely threatens to fire him, or anyone else who may pose a risk to his fortune. The question we should begin to ask is what kind of press will we be left with when the storm passes? The signals are confusing as one can see the future of the US press in two different ways.

NYT National Enquirer

One could argue that the rapid fire revelations being poured out of The New York Times and The Washington Post are a good sign for the future of the media in the US. Digital subscriptions are said to be up (though we may know more when the NYTCO reports earnings next week), and cable channels reporting on the White House scandals are out drawing viewers against those that have traditionally won the ratings wars and who continue to play diversion for the president.

But one could argue that the signs look ominous. Sinclair is about to become the dominant player in local television, and American Media, publisher of the National Enquirer may end up owning all or part of Time Inc. (if rumors prove true).

Brian Beutler, senior editor at the New Republic, is freaking out about the latest developments, writing yesterday that “we are on the brink of an authoritarian crisis that will make the firing of FBI Director James Comey seem quaint in hindsight.”

But Beutler’s hysterical prognosis may be something he comes to regret should Mueller prove up to the task given him. Maybe justice, and the US media, will come out of this episode stronger, not weaker.

I should remind TNM readers that last summer, while publishing a second site on the intersection of politics and the media, I warned that something was up and that the media needed to be paying attention. But a lack of traffic, and continuous DDoS attacks from Russia, eventually led me to shut the site down. It simply wasn’t worth the effort if no one was going to pay attention.

Maybe that is the fate of American democracy and freedom of the press, as well. If no one really cares, why bother to defend them? Or maybe that is being hysterical and really things are moving along as they should, to a proper and just conclusion.

The NYT and the WaPo kept the evening cable news channels scrambling last night. It was hard to keep up, and fans of Rachel Maddow were raving about her ability to bring it all to them in a coherent fashion (my family preferred to watch Lion last night).

Interestingly, the Post has decided to change the headline on one of their major stories: Trump’s lawyers explore pardoning powers and ways to undercut Russia investigation has become Trump team seeks to control, block Mueller’s Russia investigation, a subtle change that deemphasizes “pardon”. It may be that bring that part of the reporting to the headline was seen as giving it too much weight.

It appears to be a subtle way to walk back part of the story. But I’ve gone with the original headline below because that is what most viewers heard from the cable channels during last night’s news frenzy.

The New York Times, Editorial:

President Trump’s Contempt for the Rule of Law

In less than an hour on Wednesday afternoon, President Trump found a way to impugn the integrity and threaten the livelihoods of nearly all of the country’s top law enforcement officials, including some he appointed, for one simple reason: They swore an oath to defend the Constitution, not him.

For a president who sees the rule of law as an annoyance rather than a feature of American democracy, the traitors are everywhere.

The Washington Post, Carol D. Leonnig, Ashley Parker, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger:

Trump’s lawyers explore pardoning powers and ways to undercut Russia investigation

Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves.

One adviser said the president has simply expressed a curiosity in understanding the reach of his pardoning authority, as well as the limits of Mueller’s investigation.

“This is not in the context of, ‘I can’t wait to pardon myself,’ ” a close adviser said.

One wondered when the tech giants might decide to fight back against those that are using their platforms to hack into foreign entities. So, it felt like a bit of a relief to learn that Microsoft was going after Fancy Bear using the court system.

The Daily Beast, Kevin Poulsen:

Putin’s Hackers Now Under Attack—From Microsoft

A new offensive by Microsoft has been making inroads against the Russian government hackers behind last year’s election meddling, identifying over 120 new targets of the Kremlin’s cyber spying, and control-alt-deleting segments of Putin’s hacking apparatus.

How are they doing it? It turns out Microsoft has something even more formidable than Moscow’s malware: Lawyers.

…Since August, Microsoft has used the lawsuit to wrest control of 70 different command-and-control points from Fancy Bear. The company’s approach is indirect, but effective. Rather than getting physical custody of the servers, which Fancy Bear rents from data centers around the world, Microsoft has been taking over the Internet domain names that route to them. These are addresses like “livemicrosoft[.]net” or “rsshotmail[.]com” that Fancy Bear registers under aliases for about $10 each. Once under Microsoft’s control, the domains get redirected from Russia’s servers to the company’s, cutting off the hackers from their victims, and giving Microsoft a omniscient view of that servers’ network of automated spies.

People MagazineTime Inc.’s People magazine features the Trump family on its cover this week in a story that likely won’t make the president very happy.

But the cover story is vaguely reminiscent of those that graced the cover to US Weekly just before Wenner Media sold it off to American Media Inc, the publisher of National Enquirer, and run by Trump supporter David Pecker. Since the sale US Weekly has shied away from the president and the first family, and returned to benign celebrity gossip.

One can assume that would be the fate of People in the hands of AMI, as well.

People magazine, Sandra Sobieraj Westfall and Tierney McAfee:

Inside Trump Family’s Turmoil Amid Russia Scandal: Don Jr. Is ‘Miserable’ and Wants ‘These Four Years to Be Over

A friend of the Trump brothers tells PEOPLE they hate their role as First Sons: “Eric and Don, they never wanted this.”

Adds a source in their circle: “Don can’t do any deals, because he’ll be overly scrutinized. He just goes to work every day and is miserable.”

More news:
Associated Press: China clamping down on use of VPNs to evade Great Firewall
Mother Jones: ‘US Cops Shoot Aussie Dead’: Australia’s Newspapers Channel Outrage Over Minneapolis Shooting

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