Breakfast Briefing, 3.2.2017: Sessions' Russian meetings dominate early news cycle

So much for a belated honeymoon period. A day after gaining widespread praise in the media for his address to a joint session of Congress, President Trump is facing a barrage of potentially damaging stories.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (By Gage Skidmore, CC by-SA 3.0,
Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (By Gage Skidmore, CC by-SA 3.0,

Leading Thursday’s news cycle: Sessions didn’t disclose Russian meetings
The good vibes in the media from President Donald Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress didn’t last long. A troika—that’s a Russian term—of potentially very damaging stories to the Trump administration broke Wednesday night. At the top of the list is a Washington Post report stating that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, then a senator and top Trump campaign surrogate, met twice with Russia’s U.S. ambassador last year, but did not disclose the meetings during his Senate confirmation hearings. Democrats are calling for Sessions to recuse himself from an investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Several top Democrats in Congress are demanding Sessions to step down as attorney general.

Obama officials left intelligence breadcrumbs
New York Times: In the last days of the Obama White House, administration officials worked feverishly to disseminate information about Russia’s role in the presidential election, fearing it would be ignored or even destroyed once the Trump team took over. Allies such as the U.K. and the Netherlands handed over information to U.S. officials about meetings between Trump associates and Putin allies in European cities, according to the report.

Defense officials: No useful intelligence from Yemen raid
NBC News: In a highly emotional moment, Trump said in his congressional address that the late January raid in Yemen in which Navy Seal William "Ryan" Owens was killed yielded useful intelligence, dramatically praising Owens’ widow seated in the House chamber balcony. However, 10 Pentagon officials told NBC News that no intelligence gleaned from the operation has proven useful.

NYT report shines light on Trump-Spicer relationship
President Trump is taking more control of his White House’s messaging, according to a New York Times report that said he was "displeased by a series of recent unforced errors" by Press Secretary Sean Spicer. The president often criticizes Spicer’s briefing-room appearances and was unhappy with his decision to check communications staffers’ mobile phones, according to the NYT.

Will Trump take on the media or intelligence community today?
The president is scheduled to speak from the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford today and visit a shipbuilding company in nearby Newport News, Virginia. He’s been silent about the allegations against Sessions on Twitter on Thursday morning, touting big stock-market gains since his election instead.

Today: Keep one eye on the disappearing ghost
Residents of Santa Monica, California, may want Snap Inc. out of their neighborhoods, but the company’s stock is set to be in high demand when it begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday. The company raised $3.4 billion in its Wednesday IPO.

How Red Vines reacted to shock Oscars mention
PRWeek: Many comms staffers at the candy company weren't watching Sunday night's Academy Awards broadcast when their brand was mentioned. Here’s how its social media staffers sprung into action after Red Vines and other candies parachuted from the ceiling. Also: New categories in this year’s Diversity Distinction in PR Awards.

Lyft sees its opening in Uber PR mess
Wall Street Journal: Amid allegations of widespread sexual harassment at Uber and video evidence of a CEO Travis Kalanick’s temper tantrum, Lyft is trying to raise at least $500 million in a new round of funding. Here’s a sample of how Uber’s latest crisis is playing in the media. Washington Post: What Uber drivers think about Kalanick yelling at one of their own; Los Angeles Times: Uber’s recent controversies come at a price: public loyalty.

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