CNN's paid partisan commentators continually misled viewers about the supposed “double standard” faced by former President Donald Trump in his federal criminal indictment for allegedly mishandling and withholding classified documents and obstructing federal law enforcement, which these CNN contributors falsely claimed to be no different than cases involving Democratic politicians — former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Joe Biden in particular — which did not lead to criminal prosecution.
On Friday, a criminal indictment against Trump was unsealed, alleging that he had intentionally retained hundreds of classified government documents at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida, was caught on-tape bragging to guests that he was in possession of classified documents, and knowingly packed the classified documents as he was preparing to leave the White House in 2021.
In the indictment, Trump faces 37 charges related to conspiracy to obstruct justice, making false statements, and withholding or corruptly concealing documents in a federal investigation. These charges make Trump the first former president to be federally indicted. (Earlier this year, Trump became the first former president to face criminal charges in an unrelated case in New York, and he still faces additional legal jeopardy in ongoing state and federal investigations stemming from his failed effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.)
After he was indicted, Trump himself, his political allies, and sycophants in right-wing media were quick to invoke federal investigations into Biden and Clinton to defend Trump. But the three cases have three vastly different sets of facts, and these erroneous comparisons do not prove that Trump is being politically persecuted.
Trump's indictment substantially differs from investigations involving Biden and Clinton
While the Biden probe is ongoing, he, unlike Trump, has cooperated with the Department of Justice investigation into his handling of classified documents. He returned documents to the government after they were found and willingly allowed the FBI to search his properties for additional material.
As the indictment details, Trump actively worked to obstruct the DOJ’s investigation and lied to the government about what documents were in his possession.
The DOJ’s decision to not indict Clinton after the probe into her use of her personal email for work also does not prove “political persecution,” nor does it undermine the seriousness Trump’s indictment.
Political lawyer Robert Kelner said that there is no “plausible comparison between the Trump case and the Hillary Clinton case.” While he believes that the FBI’s investigation into Clinton “pulled punches,” Kelner also argued that the “fundamental difference” between the cases is that Trump allegedly sought to obstruct justice, while Clinton did not.
Ultimately, according to former federal prosecutor Robert Mintz: “This is not a case about what documents were taken, it’s about what former president Trump did after the government sought to retrieve those documents.”
CNN's partisan commentators ignored these differences
Despite these facts, CNN has repeatedly allowed two of its paid conservative commentators, Scott Jennings and David Urban, to push these bogus comparisons, both explicitly and implicitly, by false claiming that the Justice Department is being ‘weaponized’ against Trump.
- On the June 8 edition of CNN Tonight, Jennings said that “the word of the night for the Republican Party is ‘weaponization.’ … This word, weaponization, this is a key argument that Trump is making and will continue to make, that your government is being weaponized against you if you are a Republican.”
- Later on the same show, Jennings repeated this, saying: “The real issue for me long-term is what does this do to the trust of institutions? You cannot have a criminal justice system where half the country believes it is weaponized, biased, politically motivated, whatever you want to call it. And so we're in this cycle now where it’s becoming more true every day.”
- On the June 9 edition of CNN This Morning, Jennings and Urban said that Republicans believe that Trump is being held to a different standard than Democrats. Jennings said: “The Republican answer to these things overnight has been how is it that Donald Trump's the only person that gets persecuted — you got Hunter Biden running around out there doing stuff, you got Joe Biden documents in the garage, Hillary Clinton bleaching servers.” Jennings added, “The Republican mindset is, if you're a Republican or if you're Donald Trump, you get held to one standard and if you are these other people you get off. That's the mindset.” When one of the anchors said “mindset is different from fact,” Urban said, “They could both be true at the same time,” that the case against Trump can be correct, and “the mindset held by a third of Americans is true and correct. Those can both exist and be true.”
- Later that day on Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace?, Jennings said of Republican presidential candidates criticizing the indictment: “The criticism is really all related to what they're calling the weaponization or the double standard. Why does this happen to Donald Trump? It doesn't happen to Hillary Clinton, doesn't happen to Joe Biden.” Jennings then seemingly criticized that position, which he himself has been pushing, saying: “What I find interesting though about that argument is that inherent in it is that if you believe Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden should be prosecuted for what they did, then I guess you're also arguing that Donald Trump is guilty. I mean, what you're saying is, the pantheon of this conduct is illegal across the board. And so I’m not quite certain they’ve thought that argument through to its logical conclusion.”
Urban, whom CNN has inexplicably continued to employ and allow on-air in the face of his numerous, undisclosed conflicts of interest, additionally warned that when Trump surrenders to authorities on June 13, “the Brooks Brothers Riot in 2000 ... will look like a Boy Scout camp compared to what is going to happen on Tuesday.” CNN also hosted one of Trump’s lawyers, James Trusty, to talk about the indictment before he quit representing Trump the following day.