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Somewhat Surprisingly, Trump Just 'Startled Many in the West Wing'

By Published on .

Ad Age "Media Guy" columnist Simon Dumenco's media roundup for the morning of Thursday, July 20:

Surprise! Donald Trump still has the capacity to surprise -- not only the American public but those who work closely with him. That's something of an accomplishment, right? Perhaps a major (or even huge) accomplishment. And, go figure, he used the "fake media" to do it. Anyway, let's get started ...

1. A Politico post this morning headlined "Trump goes off-script and fumes about Sessions and Russia probe" (subhead: "The president's harsh criticism of his attorney general and the Russia probe came amid a last-ditch effort to salvage health care reform, and startled many in the West Wing") makes POTUS sound practically bipolar. Josh Gerstein, Josh Dawsey and Darren Samuelsohn write,

President Donald Trump impressed senators Wednesday with a cogent, engaged pitch on health care that didn't veer wildly from the script. Within an hour, without seeking advice from his lawyers or his senior aides, Trump was in the Oval Office telling reporters from the New York Times that he regretted hiring Jeff Sessions as his attorney general and discussing a sensitive investigation his lawyers have told him to keep quiet about -- a performance that once again left his most senior aides startled and scrambling to respond.

2. The Times made its big Trump interview the top story on this morning's front page under the headline "Trump Lashes Out at Russia Inquiry and Its Overseers" -- a story by Peter Baker, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman that the Times ran a version of online under the headline "Citing Recusal, Trump Says He Wouldn't Have Hired Sessions." Plus, the Times makes Trump's, yes, startling soundbite about Sessions today's "Quote of the Day," which appears in print on page 3:

"Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else."

--President Trump, in an interview with The New York Times, expressing his frustration with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. He said the decision was "very unfair to the president."

+ Former Deputy Attorney General of the United States Sally Yates had this to say about that on Twitter this morning:

3. The Hill makes a headline out of another rather jarring bit of the Times interview: "Trump warns Mueller against investigating his family's finances beyond Russia probe."

+ Um, about that ...

4. What's a stronger way to say "Incredibly awkward situation"?

5. Meanwhile, even Us Weekly is covering the McCain story: "John McCain's Wife Cindy Speaks Out After His Brain Cancer Diagnosis."

6. But back to (of course) Russia: Per an AP story today by Vivian Salama headlined "Trump's embrace of Russia making top advisers wary": "President Donald Trump's persistent overtures toward Russia are placing him increasingly at odds with his national security and foreign policy advisers, who have long urged a more cautious approach to dealing with the foreign adversary. ... Deep divisions are increasingly apparent within the administration on the best way to approach Moscow in the midst of U.S. investigations into Russian meddling in the American presidential election."

7. And finally, your daily morning media roundup takes a brief break tomorrow (Friday, July 21). What should you skim in the meantime? How about Internet Magazine? I leave you with this from Roz Chast via @newyorkercartoons on Instagram:

Thanks to Ann-Christine Diaz and Laurel Wentz for their roundup suggestions.

Simon Dumenco, aka Media Guy, is an Ad Age editor-at-large. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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