The Trump administration has a ... branding problem, shall we say? Let's flash back to Jan. 1, when The Washington Post ran an op-ed by conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin titled "Trump gives critics ammunition: Is he Putin's puppet?" The "puppet" thing was, of course, a recurring theme during the campaign too, most notable during the third presidential debate when Hillary Clinton accused Trump of being Putin's puppet and Trump famously, furiously fired back ("No puppet, no puppet ... You're the puppet! ... No, you're the puppet"). With Putin's long shadow newly cast over Trump's White House (see Nos. 1-3), what's an embattled president to do? Tweet, of course (see No. 4). Anyway, here's your media roundup (for a Trump-free experience, skip to No. 7 for the Kate Upton news):
1. The New York Times sent out a Breaking News Alert last night (it arrived in our inbox at 9:23 p.m. ET) titled "Intercepted calls show members of the Trump campaign had repeated contact with Russian intelligence before the election, officials said." The story, by Michael S. Schmidt, Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo, leads the front page of this morning's paper under the headline "Trump Campaign Aides Had Contact With Russian Intelligence." (The web version of the story goes with the slightly longer "Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence.")
2. A CNN report this morning, also team-reported (by Pamela Brown, Jim Sciutto and Evan Perez) goes further with its headline: "Trump aides were in constant touch with senior Russian officials during campaign." CNN says that "Among several senior Trump advisers regularly communicating with Russian nationals were then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and then-adviser Michael Flynn" -- and the denials CNN gets from Manafort are rather remarkable (emphasis added): "That is 100% not true, at least as far as me. I cannot believe that they are including me in anything like that. I have not been involved in any of these activities. ... I don't remember talking to any Russian officials, ever."
3. Mike Allen of Axios has a play-by-play of the unfolding of the latest iteration of Russiagate this morning in a post titled "White House staff in "survival mode ... scared to death."
4. Here's a curious and uncharacteristic tweet from President Trump this morning:
Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2017
5. Rebecca Shabad of CBS News offers some context regarding today's meeting between President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: "What's at stake as Trump and Netanyahu meet at White House."
6. In news far away from D.C., Reuters' Jonathan Stempel reports that "Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. was an aggressive buyer of stocks in last year's fourth quarter, nearly quadrupling its stake in Apple Inc. and increasing its stake sevenfold in the four biggest U.S. airlines."
7. And finally, in news even farther away from D.C., Kate Upton is the 2017 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover model -- times three.
Kate Upton is back! Get your issue at newsstands today! pic.twitter.com/MtVHEwDyj0— SI Swimsuit (@SI_Swimsuit) February 15, 2017
This is, of course, not her first time at the rodeo, as SI points out:
Simon Dumenco, aka Media Guy, is an Ad Age editor-at-large. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.