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Zachary Pleat

Author ››› Zachary Pleat
  • Fox Business smears White House reporter for playing audio of crying detained children

    Larry O'Connor complains reporters covering Trump's family separation policy are "short on facts," but he misrepresents the ProPublica article he's criticizing

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    An audio recording from ProPublica of young detained children at the border crying out for their parents, along with Border Patrol agents apparently joking about the children’s cries, received widespread attention after it was released on June 18. A Fox Business segment went after New York magazine reporter Olivia Nuzzi for playing the audio during a White House press briefing, with the host at first criticizing it as “unverified” before his guest slimed reporters in general and then lied about the ProPublica story accompanying the audio.

    The Trump administration enacted a new policy of prosecuting everyone who crosses the border without authorization and has taken the children away from family groups that cross the border and detained them separately from their parents. Conservative media have been scrambling to lie about it, downplay the effect of sticking young children in camps away from their parents, and even justify it by preying on racial fears. And on the June 19 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Company, guest Larry O’Connor smeared “political reporters here in Washington” for “finding a slimier place in the gutter to dwell” by covering this Trump policy, especially for playing the ProPublica audio. He accused reporters of being “short on facts” on this issue, before lying about ProPublica’s coverage:

    STUART VARNEY (HOST): Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen faced the press, called on Congress to act. One reporter played the sound of migrant children crying -- the audio of course not verified, but it was played anyway in the middle of a press conference … . Joining us now, Washington Times associate editor Larry O'Connor. Larry, I see plenty of emotion from the media and from Democrats, but I do not see any of them offering a solution. What say you?

    LARRY O'CONNOR: Yeah. And they're also short on facts. You know, Stuart, the moment you think that the political reporters here in Washington have reached the lowest depths of cynical deceit in their campaign against this president, they find a slimier place in the gutter to dwell, and we saw that yesterday in this press briefing. That audio that they played -- first of all, it’s completely unverified, those children who were crying, except for one child. ProPublica obtained this audio, they published it, and if you dive deep into their article, tons of paragraphs down to the bottom, they talk about this one El Salvadoran girl that is on this tape. Well, yeah, she was separated by her parents. Her parents actually separated her from themselves. They gave this girl to a smuggler, a human smuggler in El Salvador, and sent her on this 2,000-mile treacherous, deadly journey to America. That's not the Americans government, that's not the Trump administration. We need some facts in this. This is an important issue. There are children at stake. But all of the mess and the noise that we're getting from journalists, that's not helping anything.

    Contrary to O'Connor’s allegation, the ProPublica article makes clear that the 6-year-old girl's parents did not "separate her from themselves" -- the Trump administration’s new policy did that. According to the girl's aunt, the girl was with her mother the entire journey until they got to the border and were separated there.

    From the article (emphasis added):

    The aunt said what made the call even more painful was that there was nothing she could do. She and her 9-year-old daughter are seeking asylum in the United States after immigrating here two years ago for the exact same reasons and on the exact same route as her sister and her niece. They are from a small town called Armenia, about an hour’s drive northwest of the Salvadoran capital, but well within reach of its crippling crime waves. She said gangs were everywhere in El Salvador: “They’re on the buses. They’re in the banks. They’re in schools. They’re in the police. There’s nowhere for normal people to feel safe.”

    She said her niece and sister set out for the United States over a month ago. They paid a smuggler $7,000 to guide them through Guatemala, and Mexico and across the border into the United States. Now, she said, all the risk and investment seem lost.

    The aunt said she worried that any attempt to intervene in her niece’s situation would put hers and her daughter’s asylum case at risk, particularly since the Trump administration overturned asylum protections for victims of gang and domestic violence. She said she’s managed to speak to her sister, who has been moved to an immigration detention facility near Port Isabel, Texas. And she keeps in touch with her niece, Alison Jimena Valencia Madrid, by telephone. Mother and daughter, however, have not been able to speak to one another.

    O’Connor concluded the segment by asserting that “the facts are still on the President’s side.” It’s unclear which facts he was referring to.

  • A Fox "voter fraud" darling and Breitbart columnist lost big in federal court -- and got personally reprimanded

    The federal court judge ruled that Kris Kobach's law wrongly prevented people from voting; Fox News barely mentioned the trial

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Kansas secretary of state and Breitbart columnist Kris Kobach, who frequently pushes voter fraud misinformation on Fox News, spectacularly failed in his effort to mount a defense for his state’s voter registration law in a federal court trial in March. Federal judge Julie Robinson both struck down the Kansas law and ordered Kobach to take remedial classes after repeatedly violating the judge’s orders, including trying to introduce evidence after Robinson had specifically excluded it. Fox, which has pushed the debunked specter of widespread voter fraud for a decade, provided no coverage of the trial as it progressed between March 6 and March 19.

    In 2013, Kansas began enforcing the Kobach-backed Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE) law, which required residents who did not have a driver’s license to show proof of citizenship with documents such as a birth certificate or U.S. passport when registering to vote. In May 2016, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson temporarily blocked Kansas from enforcing the law after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit, arguing that the law violated the federal National Voter Registration Act, which requires state voter registration forms to merely “contain an attestation that the applicant meets” eligibility requirements, such as citizenship. According to the ACLU, the law blocked tens of thousands of voter registrations in Kansas.

    Kobach, who writes columns for Breitbart.com, has appeared on Fox News numerous times; a search of Nexis transcripts, which cover less than half of Fox’s shows, revealed nearly 60 appearances by Kobach. During a number of these appearances, he pushed an anti-immigrant agenda. He has also discussed the Kansas voter registration law at least twice on Fox News.

    Fox has spent years pushing bunk voter fraud claims and supporting Republican efforts to make voting harder in response to the fear they inspire.Considering that history, one might expect the network to closely cover Kobach’s chance to prove the necessity of stringent voter identification laws. But that hasn’t been the case; according to a search of closed-captioning transcripts on SnapStream and iQ media, Fox mentioned the trial only twice, in two short news updates on March 7, for a grand total of 50 seconds of coverage of a trial that stretched over six days.

    Perhaps Fox’s lackluster coverage was due to Kobach’s repeated blunders during the trial. Slate legal writer Mark Joseph Stern, in an article headlined “Kris Kobach is a loser,” wrote that the trial was “an unmitigated disaster for Kobach—a merciless rebuke of his professional life’s work.” And HuffPost voting rights reporter Sam Levine noted that a witness Kobach called forward during the trial to supposedly show how easy it was to register without the required documents actually “testified there was a burdensome process” to prove her citizenship and register to vote. (This sloppiness may have been foreseeable, as Kobach has been caught plagiarizing a column for Breitbart; one of Kobach’s citations for that Breitbart column was a white nationalist writer with a reported history of Holocaust denialism.)

    The following quotes from the daily coverage of the trial by Kansas City NPR member station KCUR show just how embarrassing Kobach’s performance was:

    Day 1: The judge scolded Kobach and his team for improperly trying to introduce new evidence and not knowing courtroom rules.

    • “Kobach and an attorney from his office, Sue Becker, got off to a rocky start when they were blocked from showing to the court — and asking witnesses questions about — multiple documents that Kobach’s team hadn’t formally introduced as evidence. ‘Evidence 101 — not going to do it,’ said Judge Julie Robinson.”
    • “Kobach’s side repeatedly stumbled on other rules, too, leading the judge to cut off some of their lines of questioning to the witnesses.”
    • “In another instance, Becker appeared not to understand the rules for referencing depositions in court. She stood and took directions from the judge.”

    Day 2: Kobach’s team again tried to improperly introduce evidence

    • “Kobach’s legal team continued to trip up on courtroom procedures, such as how to introduce evidence and quote from depositions while cross-examining witnesses.”

    Day 3: Kobach’s legal team again violated courtroom procedure.

    • “The day’s court session ended abruptly amid a string of admonishments from the judge for the Kobach team, which repeatedly tried maneuvers that would have violated trial procedure.”

    Day 5: Kobach still had trouble properly introducing evidence, and one of his witnesses repeatedly interrupted the judge.

    • “Kobach’s office faced more hurdles to entering evidence — things the legal team hadn’t provided in advance of trial. That included new calculations related to how often non-citizens vote.”
    • “In the afternoon, testimony from Old Dominion University’s Jesse Richman devolved quickly into argument. In the course of answering questions from the ACLU and Robinson about his data sources, the political science professor repeatedly interrupted the judge.”

    Day 6: Kobach team witness Jesse Richman admitted a racist method for flagging potential noncitizen voters and agreed Kobach’s and Trump’s claim of millions of illegal votes in the 2016 election is baseless.

    • “An ACLU lawyer asked him whether he would label ‘Carlos Murguia’ foreign, and when Richman replied he probably would, revealed Murguia is a federal judge in that very courthouse.”
    • “The ACLU also showed a 2016 video in which Kobach, while speaking with reporters, backs President Trump’s claims that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton because of millions of illegally cast ballots. Richman agreed with an ACLU lawyer that his research hasn’t shown this to be true and he doesn’t know of any research that has.”

    Day 7: The judge said a Kobach lawyer was “being schizophrenic” over failure to properly present witness testimony from a pollster.

    • “[Kobach’s team] struggled to include the pollster’s testimony in the trial, tripping up again on court rules that require disclosing expert witnesses in advance. Kobach lawyer Sue Becker argued Judge Julie Robinson had already said McFerron is an expert witness, which the judge promptly explained wasn’t true. Becker drew consternation from Robinson and ACLU lawyers by vacillating back and forth between treating McFerron as an expert witness or simply as a fact witness who was presenting poll results. ‘You're being schizophrenic,’ Robinson told Becker.”

    Though the trial ended on March 19, that wasn’t the end to Kobach’s problems regarding the ACLU’s lawsuit. On March 20, the same judge, Julie Robinson, presided over a contempt hearing stemming from Kobach’s apparent failure to enforce her May 2016 order to register the tens of thousands of voters blocked from his law. NPR reported that it didn’t go well for Kobach:

    Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach got a tongue lashing Tuesday from the judge who will decide whether he violated federal law by blocking tens of thousands of voter applications.

    Federal Chief District Judge Julie Robinson, a George W. Bush appointee, accused Kobach of engaging in "gamesmanship" and skirting her orders.

    In the nearly two years since Robinson ordered him to register those voters, she said, he has forced her and the American Civil Liberties Union to monitor his actions down to the tiniest details in an effort to get him to comply.

    "I've had to police this over and over and over again," she said.

    [...]

    Kobach, who hopes to be Kansas' next governor, asked the judge not to find him in contempt. The Republican candidate argued he doesn't control the county officials who carry out logistics such as sending postcards to voters to let them know where their polling stations are.

    [...]

    Robinson, at times sounding livid with the secretary, gave him a dressing-down.

    "These people are not second-class registered voters," she told him. "You assured me that they had or they would get the postcards."

    On April 18, Judge Robinson ordered Kobach to be held in contempt of court for disobeying her orders to register voters, mandating that Kobach pay for the ACLU’s attorney fees for the case. Two months later, Judge Robinson struck down Kansas’ law requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration. HuffPost’s Sam Levine reported on June 18 that the judge “found that the law violated the National Voter Registration Act and the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution.” The court specifically rejected Kobach and Fox’s argument about voter fraud, finding that the law “acted as a deterrent to registration and voting for substantially more eligible Kansans than it has prevented ineligible voters from registering to vote.”

    Judge Robinson additionally “sanctioned Kobach with six hours of continuing legal education related to rules of civil procedure or evidence” due to his repeated violations of his rules throughout the trial.

    As of publishing, there is no word from Breitbart or Fox News on the ruling.

  • Michelle Obama and the bad faith of right-wing media regarding Melania Trump

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Right-wing media and President Donald Trump have united in attacking rhetoric regarding first lady Melania Trump disappearing from public view for several weeks around the time of her reported kidney surgery. This outrage is disingenuous given the awful right-wing coverage of former first lady Michelle Obama.

    Trump tweeted his displeasure of media coverage of the first lady on the morning of June 6:

    On Fox News, many personalities attacked reporters for simply talking about the fact Melania Trump hadn’t made a public appearance for nearly a month. Fox co-host Katie Pavlich called questions about Melania “disgusting,” “beyond the pale,” and “horrifying.”

    Yet many of these same people spent years pushing dumb, misogynistic, and racist attacks against Michelle Obama. From criticizing and mocking her childhood obesity initiative, to disparaging her physical appearance and clothing choices, to attacking her for where she went shopping, conservatives were obsessed with Michelle Obama. The absurdity of their attacks included attempts to lip-read during a September 11 commemoration ceremony, distorting her college senior thesis from 1985, portraying her as overweight, and for applauding her husband during a presidential debate. There was also that whole Oscars thing. These and other right-wing media smears went on for years. And one constant right-wing media attack on Michelle Obama consisted of smearing her for family vacations -- a smear Trump also repeatedly engaged in.

    Just watch how sexist conservative media were in their discussion of the former first lady:

  • Right-wing media praise, justify Trump's decision to pardon Dinesh D'Souza

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Right-wing media figures were quick to defend and rejoice over President Donald Trump’s decision to pardon conservative author and pundit Dinesh D’Souza for his felony conviction for violating campaign finance law.

    On the morning of May 31, Trump tweeted:

    D’Souza was indicted in 2014 for violating campaign finance laws, and right-wing media figures also jumped to defend him then, portraying him as a victim of political persecution by the Obama administration, which D’Souza had criticized in a lie-filled book attempting to trace Obama’s liberal policy motivations and later in a lie-filled movie. But D’Souza pleaded guilty to the charges against him five years ago. His more recent missives have included tweets mocking students who survived the February school shooting in Parkland, FL and likening Democrats to Nazis.

    Following Trump’s announcement that he will give a full pardon to D’Souza, right-wing media figures celebrated the decision and claimed that D’Souza was indeed treated unfairly:

    Fox News host Jeanine Pirro: “Fantastic news @DineshDSouza to be pardoned by @POTUS. Obama’s political prosecution null and void.”

    Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano: Trump’s pardon of D’Souza is “a marvelous act of justice. Not mercy, justice.”

    Fox News host Laura Ingraham: “It’s about time”; pardon “was long overdue.”

    Right-wing troll Mike Flynn Jr.: “WOW! Incredible! @DineshDSouza totally deserves this! CONGRATS!”

    Pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Alex Jones: “Good to see Trump using that power” to correct “a lot of these travesties of justice that are taking place.”

    Wash. Examiner’s Byron York and Ingraham agree D’Souza sentencing was a “travesty” and “outrage.”

    Radio host Rush Limbaugh: D’Souza was sentenced “so that Obama could flex his muscles and show what a tough guy he was.”

    Fox & Friends co-host Pete Hegseth: “I thought that was great.”

    Right-wing blogger Jim Hoft: D’Souza’s prosecution was an “Obama political hit job and “an obvious witch hunt.”

  • Trump's newest national security staffer spread anti-Muslim sentiments and wrote that Bush was vindicated about Iraq having WMD

    John Bolton hired Fred Fleitz at the NSC. Here's what you need to know about him.

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fred Fleitz, the new chief of staff for national security advisor John Bolton, comes from an anti-Muslim hate group and has fearmongered about Muslims during his numerous appearances on right-wing media outlets. He also repeatedly questioned the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to support Donald Trump and claimed former President George W. Bush was vindicated in his lie that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction in the lead-up to the Iraq War.

    Fleitz worked as Bolton’s chief of staff when Bolton was serving as undersecretary of state during the George W. Bush administration, and he was a CIA analyst prior to that. But more recently, Fleitz was a senior vice president at the right-wing Center for Security Policy, which the Southern Poverty Law Center designated an anti-Muslim hate group in 2015, describing it as “a conspiracy-oriented mouthpiece for the growing anti-Muslim movement in the United States.”

    Fleitz is in good company with Bolton, who chaired the Gatestone Institute -- which NBC News described as “a nonprofit that has promoted misleading and false anti-Muslim news” -- from 2013 till March of this year, just before Trump appointed him as national security adviser.

    In a December 2015 Fox News appearance, Fleitz echoed a baseless right-wing media narrative that neighbors of the terrorists who shot and killed 14 people and wounded numerous others in San Bernardino, CA, saw suspicious activity by the shooters but didn’t alert law enforcement over fears of “racial profiling,” saying, “If someone had spoken up and said they saw this suspicious activity, … 14 people would be alive today.” During a March 2016 appearance on Fox, Fleitz helped host Neil Cavuto push the debunked right-wing myth of Muslim “no-go zones,” referring to them as “safe havens in Europe.”

    And in a June 2017 Breitbart News Daily radio appearance, Fleitz fearmongered about Muslims in the United Kingdom, saying some communities of British Muslims “are deliberately not assimilating, are being taught to hate British society,” and claimed, “We may have generations of radical Islamists in the U.K., until the British government wakes up and stops the situation.” Fleitz also said that “there are enclaves of Muslim communities in Michigan and Minnesota that concern me,” blaming them for a measles outbreak in Minnesota that year. Conspiracy theory website WND (formerly known as WorldNetDaily) had previously pushed this smear, blaming the low rate of immunizations of Somali Muslims in the area on the Quran. But The Independent explained that the Somali Americans in Minnesota used to vaccinate their children more than other Minnesotans” until the mid-2000s, when the rate began dropping because anti-vaccine activists repeatedly visited the area to convince the community of the debunked claim that vaccines can cause autism.

    Fleitz’s public anti-Muslim attitude and his senior position in a hate group aren’t the only problems with his appointment to the National Security Council. In several op-eds posted to right-wing media websites, Fleitz repeatedly questioned the intelligence community assessment from early 2017 that Russia meddled in the presidential election to help Trump -- an assessment recently backed up by the Senate intelligence committee -- calling it “rigged” and a “politicized analysis to sabotage an incoming president from a different political party.” Fleitz also said in a December Fox Business appearance that “the collusion thing” between Trump’s team and Russia “is just such nonsense,” citing the Trump administration’s sale of arms to Ukraine as proof.

    Fleitz also incorrectly argued in an October 2014 column on the Center for Security Policy’s website that a New York Times report on old chemical weapons found in Iraq proved that Bush was right about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq:

    Revelations last week by the New York Times that U.S. troops found chemical weapons in Iraq – about 5,000 CW warheads, shells and aviation bombs – but the size of this find and injuries from these weapons to American soldiers were covered up by the Bush administration has caused experts on both sides of the political spectrum to scramble to answer one question: does this prove President Bush was right that there were undeclared weapons of mass destruction in Iraq prior to the 2003 war?

    I believe the answer to this question clearly is yes.

    Others in right-wing media also spread this fantasy. But as the Times article noted, “the discoveries of these chemical weapons did not support the government’s invasion rationale,” because they had all been manufactured prior to 1991 and were “filthy, rusty or corroded,” thus not backing up Bush’s claim that Iraq “was hiding an active weapons of mass destruction program.” The Washington Post’s Fact Checker also explained that the Bush administration “staked its WMD claims on an active, on-going program that was restarted after the Kuwait conflict," and stated: “Anyone who claims that the New York Times story vindicates George W. Bush-era claims of Iraq WMD automatically earns Four Pinocchios.”

  • Dozens of local Fox affiliates run misleading segments pushing Social Security benefit cuts

    Cuts to Social Security are not inevitable

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox Broadcasting Co. used a 2017 report by the Social Security Board of Trustees nearly a year after its release to scare its viewers into thinking benefit cuts and further increases to the full retirement age are inevitable. In at least 93 news segments on May 21, dozens of Fox affiliates warned of an approaching time when Social Security tax revenue would be outpaced by its spending on benefits, without once mentioning that a modest revenue increase would solve the problem.

    On just May 21, Fox affiliate stations aired at least 93 news reports on the 2017 trustees' report. Many of the segments had generally the same content as the one aired in the 4 a.m. hour on WXMI (FOX17) in Grand Rapids, MI:

    ANCHOR: The Social Security Board of Trustees said [in] its 2017 annual report that 2022 will make the first time in more than 40 years that Social Security pays out more in benefits than it takes in. And so deficits are going to continue to be depleted out of the roughly $3 trillion in asset reserves. Now what does this exactly mean? A cut in benefit payouts of up to 23 percent might be made by then, just to keep the payouts going through 2091 if Congress doesn’t take stronger measures.

    Now, reasons for the problems include people are living longer, lower interest rates affect the yields on special issue bonds, and more baby boomers are going to be entering the system with really not enough workers to cover for them. One trend for sure to continue is raising the age at which you get full benefit retirements.

    These reports are misleading in multiple ways. Their claims that in the next few years, benefit cuts of over 20 percent might be necessary are flat-out false. Social Security has built up a nearly $3 trillion surplus so that full benefits could be paid out when there’s a large increase in new retirees, as America is currently experiencing with its retiring baby boomer generation. As the 2017 trustees' report (which all these Fox reports are citing) explains: “Social Security’s combined trust funds increase with the help of interest income through 2021 and would cover full payment of scheduled benefits on a timely basis until the trust fund reserves become depleted in 2034.” So, contrary to Fox’s fearmongering, there will be enough money to pay out full benefits for nearly two decades. Beginning in 2034, as the trustees' report notes (not 2022 as the FOX segments claim) Social Security faces a problem of not having enough revenue to pay out full benefits -- but it can be addressed without cutting benefits by simply raising additional revenue.

    The other outcome mentioned in this Fox report (and in nearly two dozen others) is a continued increase in the retirement age to earn full Social Security benefits. But such a change is also not inevitable -- nor would it address the full problem. As a 2015 Congressional Budget Office analysis of policy options on the 75-year balance of Social Security demonstrated, raising the full retirement age to 70 (it is currently 67 for people born in 1960 and after) would not have as much positive effect on Social Security’s balance as, say, eliminating the taxable maximum limit on income (currently, income above $128,400 is not taxed for Social Security). Taxing income above the current maximum without increasing the benefits for those specific high-income earners would improve Social Security’s balance sheet even more. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained in reaction to the 2017 trustees' report, the payroll tax currently “covers only about 83 percent of covered earnings, well short of the 90 percent figure envisioned in the 1977 Social Security amendments.”

    Fox’s failure to suggest increasing Social Security revenue is even more glaring because it’s discussed as a solution in the very report Fox is citing. In its conclusion, the trustees' report states that “an immediate and permanent payroll tax rate increase of 2.76 percentage points” would be enough to keep the Social Security trust fund fully solvent through the next 75 years.

    Furthermore, Fox is presenting the upcoming deficit in Social Security as a sudden crisis, but in fact it’s been anticipated for decades. The 1984 trustees' report explained that “income will generally exceed outgo, developing a substantial surplus each year. After about 2020 the reverse is true, with outgo exceeding income.” That report also anticipated the demographic issues the country is currently experiencing:

    Several important long-range demographic trends, already under way, are anticipated to raise the proportion of the aged in the population in the next 75 years:

    1. Because of the large number of persons born shortly after World War II, rapid growth is expected in the aged population after the turn of the century.
    2. At the same time, low birth rates would hold down the number of young people.
    3. Projected declines in mortality rates also would increase the numbers of aged persons.

    Methodology: Media Matters used iQ media to search for local news reports for the week of May 21-25 featuring discussion of possible Social Security benefit cuts using the search terms “Social Security” together with “2022.” The vast majority of results were from Fox affiliates on May 21

  • As news of Texas school shooting broke, Fox called for armed guards. After finding out there was an armed guard, Fox called for arming teachers.

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    On May 18, a school shooting left at least eight dead and others injured in Santa Fe, TX.

    As the news broke, Fox News hosted a guest, introduced as a former member of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces, who insisted that “the time has come to put armed police officers in schools.”

    Just minutes later, Fox confirmed that there was in fact an armed security guard in the school, leading guest Buck Sexton, a Fox regular, to argue that armed security isn’t enough -- there should be more guns.

    JULIE BANDERAS (CO-ANCHOR): It’s interesting that you point out that they did have an armed guard, somebody who was supposed to be watching over these kids. This person cannot be in every classroom at every minute of the day. So even if you have one person there who is armed and ready to defend these defenseless kids, I'm told there are over 1,400 kids in this high school. One person with a gun can't possibly defend that many kids.

    BUCK SEXTON: Well, this is where I think the conversation about people on campus who are trained personnel, adults who have concealed carry permits, also comes into play.

    BANDERAS: Are you referring to teachers?

    SEXTON: Yes. Teachers, anyone -- it could be teachers, could be maintenance personnel, could be athletic coaches, anyone who has the proper training and skill set.

  • Expert debunks conservative attacks on John Kerry and the Logan Act regarding the Iran deal

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Conservative media were quick to claim former Secretary of State John Kerry is violating the Logan Act following a Boston Globe report that he is working to save the Iran nuclear deal by meeting with top officials from Iran, Germany, and France. But according to a legal expert, the Logan Act, which prohibits private citizens from engaging in unauthorized intervention in U.S./foreign disputes to "defeat the measures of the United States," wouldn't apply in part because the deal is still current U.S. policy.

    The May 4 Globe story reported that Kerry has met twice with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and French President Emmanuel Macron, has met German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and has talked on the phone with a top European Union official as he seeks to preserve the nuclear deal. America’s European allies are also urging Trump not to end the pact, as he has threatened to do. Brookings Institution foreign policy expert Michael O’Hanlon told the Globe that “former secretaries of state often remain quite engaged with foreign leaders, as they should,” but that “it’s rarely so issue-specific.” According to the Globe’s report, Kerry is working with both former Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, who along with Kerry helped negotiate the nuclear deal, and a group called Diplomacy Works. They are also lobbying Congress to support the deal and arguing the case in media outlets.

    President Donald Trump’s allies in conservative media were quick to attack Kerry over this report. Alan Dershowitz, a retired Harvard Law School professor who has tirelessly defended Trump on the Russia investigation, said on the May 5 edition of Fox & Friends that if the Logan Act were enforced, “my friend John Kerry would be violating” it. On May 7, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy said, “Some have suggested, isn’t he breaking the Logan Act.” Right-wing website The Federalist claimed that Kerry’s actions are “treasonous and likely in violation of the Logan Act.” Many Trump supporters on Twitter accused Kerry of being in violation of the Logan Act. And Trump himself recently wrote on Twitter that Kerry’s actions were “possibly illegal.”

    But according to University of Texas School of Law professor Steve Vladeck, who explained the history of the Logan Act to The Atlantic in early 2017, the Logan Act wouldn’t apply to anything Kerry is doing, in part because the Iran nuclear deal is still official government policy. From the Globe’s report:

    “The act only applies to conduct that is designed to ‘defeat the measures of the United States’ or influence the conduct of foreign governments,” Vladeck said. “If all Kerry is doing is working to keep in place something that’s still technically a ‘measure of the United States,’ I don’t see how the statute would apply even if someone was crazy enough to try it.”

  • How Sean Hannity has talked about Michael Cohen since the FBI raid

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    For four days last week, Sean Hannity attacked the April 9 FBI raid of Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s office and hotel room, all without disclosing that he is also a legal client of Cohen, as Cohen’s lawyers disclosed in federal court today.

    The New York Times reported that FBI agents were looking for records of payments to two women who say they had affairs with President Donald Trump years ago, Karen McDougal and Stephanie Clifford (also known as Stormy Daniels). They were also reportedly looking for communications between Trump and Cohen about a leaked Access Hollywood tape and records about Cohen’s taxi medallion business. Days later, CNN broke the news that the FBI seized recordings Cohen made of conversations with a lawyer who once represented both women. The Washington Post reported that Cohen is being investigated “for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations.”

    The disclosure that the Fox News host is a client of Cohen was made by one of Cohen’s attorneys in court today, after Cohen’s lawyers said they contacted Hannity and he had not authorized the release of his name. Nonetheless, the court ordered Hannity’s name disclosed. As Politico explained, Hannity (and his guests) repeatedly criticized the raids without disclosing his own connection to Cohen until after it was made public in court.

    Hannity dedicated multiple segments of his Fox primetime show to criticizing the raid on Cohen each night from April 9 through April 12 (he spent the entire April 13 edition of his show covering Trump’s airstrikes on Syria.) Here's exactly what he said:

    April 9

    Hannity opened his show by saying the Michael Cohen raid is a declaration of “a legal war on the president.”

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): And this is a Fox News alert. President Trump's long-time personal attorney, Michael Cohen, just had his office, his home, and his hotel that he was staying in raided by the FBI today in an early morning raid. Now, what that means is Mueller's witch-hunt investigation is now a run away (sic) train that is clearly careening off the tracks.

    [...]

    HANNITY: All right. Tonight, we have explosive new chapter in Mueller's partisan witch-hunt. Now, we have now entered a dangerous phase and there is no turning back from this.

    [...]

    Now, keep in mind. Cohen was never part of the Trump administration or the Trump campaign. This is now officially an all hands on deck effort to totally malign and, if possible, impeach the president of the United States. Now, Mueller and Rosenstein have declared what is a legal war on the president.

    Fox legal analyst Gregg Jarrett said to Hannity that the Cohen raid “abused the law.”

    GREGG JARRETT( FOX NEWS LEGAL ANALYST): I think the president was right to be frustrated and angry. Americans should be outraged. This is an abuse of the system.

    You know, here you have an attorney general who should never have recused himself and seems to be rather incompetent on the matter. You've got corrupt acts by top officials at the FBI and you've got Rosenstein and Mueller who have abused the law and today was a perfect example of this.

    April 10

    Hannity said the Cohen raid was a declaration of “all-out political war against this president” and advised Trump to continue attacking Mueller and cease any negotiations with him.

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): The so-called investigation to Russia collusion, it is now officially moved beyond its mandate into a political takedown of the president you elected, and it seems by any means necessary. Now, just a minute, we will uncover the shocking unfair two-tiered justice system in this country and we'll show you just how abusively biased and corrupt Mueller and his team of investigators are and that they have now declared an all-out political war against this president.

    [...]

    Frankly, the president needs to immediately start advancing the truth about who Robert Mueller is, what his mandate was, how far beyond his mandate is and about his entire team of Democratic donors. And, frankly, any negotiations that were going on with the president talking to Robert Mueller, that should probably likely end if it hasn't already, and the president and his legal team should be preparing to take this all the way to the United States Supreme Court. That's where we are tonight.

    Hannity and Jarrett agreed that the Cohen raid was a “trap” to provoke Trump into doing something rash.

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Gregg, I'll start with you. You have referred to the seizing of Michael Cohen's attorneys as an affront to our legal system and our justice system.

    GREGG JARRETT (FOX NEWS LEGAL ANALYST): And it shows just how unprincipled Robert Mueller and Rod Rosenstein are. You know, they knew it was outside the scope of the authority of the special counsel, so they gave it to somebody else to do their dirty work. I suspect this was an effort to provoke the president into doing something [rash] that would hurt himself. But he's too smart for that, he's not going to do that.

    But -- think about what's it at risk here.

    HANNITY: Well, it's a trap. Don't you think it's a trap in a lot of ways?

    JARRETT: It's surely a trap, as is a trap of sitting down with Robert Mueller to answer questions.

    April 11

    Wannabe Trump lawyer Joe diGenova told Hannity the Cohen raid shows Rod Rosenstein and Mueller are “using a grand jury to terrorize people” and it’s “an abuse of power” that Rosenstein should be fired for.

    JOE DIGENOVA: Look, I must tell you, I find this raid of Mr. Cohen's office so appalling in every sense -- legal, ethical professional responsibility. What Rod Rosenstein and Bob Mueller have done is weaponized in an unconstitutional way the criminal investigation process which should be sacrosanct.

    And what they have done is they have conducted and are conducting now something that is called an in terrorem grand jury. They are using a grand jury to terrorize people. That is an abuse of power. Mr. Rosenstein is responsible for it.

    And while I agree with Alan wholeheartedly that Mr. Rosenstein cannot possibly ethically participate in this, it will make no difference to him because he now has an animus toward the president of the United States, which disqualifies him from the performance of his duties and Jeff Sessions should fire him tomorrow morning.

    Hannity said that the Cohen raid is “what we expect in Venezuela.”

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): All right as we continue with Joe diGenova and professor Alan Dershowitz, these tactics are not American. That's the point. This is -- this is what we expect in Venezuela. This is not the United States or anything.

    April 12

    Hannity cited the Cohen raid to smear Mueller’s investigation as an “overreaching witch hunt” and complained that liberals weren’t standing up for Cohen’s rights.

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Now, we turn to some other developments, including those surrounding Robert Mueller's overreaching witch hunt. Former Federal Election Commission chairman, his name is Bradley Smith, he's a Republican appointed by President Clinton, is throwing cold water on the notion that Michael Cohen could or should be charged with a crime in connection to this whole Stormy Daniels payment.

    [...]

    So, now, it's actually moved into Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal and the "Access Hollywood" tape and worse. And raiding the home of the president's personal attorney to find those issues, not about Russia -- at some point, I am wondering where is the left in this country? Where are the civil libertarians in this country?

    All transcripts are from the Nexis database.