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  • Here’s how Fox is downplaying Roger Stone’s indictments

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Following the news that Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to President Donald Trump, had been arrested and indicted on several charges related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian involvement in the 2016 election, Trump’s most loyal supporters at Fox News rushed to Stone’s defense.

    Early in the morning on January 25, the FBI arrested Stone on seven charges of obstruction, giving false statements, and witness tampering as part of Mueller’s investigation, which had looked into whether Stone had inside information about emails hacked by Russia and released by WikiLeaks.

    Following the news of Stone’s indictment, Fox News was quick to rush to his defense. In addition to criticizing CNN’s presence at the scene of the arrest and resorting to the tired “But Hillary!” line of defense, Fox figures declared that the indictments reveal nothing, insisted that there is no evidence of collusion, criticized the manner in which Stone was arrested, and called for investigations into former and current FBI officials, Justice Department officials, and top Democrats.

    Declaring that the indictments are meaningless, irrelevant, and prove there was no conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia

    On Fox & Friends, Fox News contributor Andrew McCarthy claimed Stone’s indictments actually rule out Trump-Russia collusion because “why would the campaign have had to turn to Roger Stone to find out what WikiLeaks had? They would've known that from Russia.” From the January 28 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): You just say in the big picture, there's no -- it's not -- it doesn't really touch the president yet.

    ANDREW MCCARTHY (FOX CONTRIBUTOR): Well, I don't think not just yet, Brian. I don't see how it could because, here to make it real easy, if Trump and his campaign were in a criminal conspiracy of espionage with Russia, if they had colluded with Russia, why would the campaign have had to turn to Roger Stone to find out what WikiLeaks had? They would've known that from Russia. They wouldn't've needed people like Roger Stone. It's been obvious from a long time, even if you go back to Mueller's indictment to the two Russian entities, the troll farm case and the hacking case. There's no reason to think that Russia in its operations looked for any cooperation from anyone on the American side, not just President Trump. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/28/19]

    On Fox & Friends, Fox contributor Dan Bongino claimed that the Stone indictment "proves" that there is "zero evidence" of Russian collusion. From the January 28 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    DAN BONGINO (FOX CONTRIBUTOR): Yes, we found crimes, no question. But [former Trump campaign chair Paul] Manafort has pled guilty to them -- they're not allegations anymore. But the problem is we were all told that Mueller was investigating some grand collusion conspiracy with the Russians, of which it is not in dispute anymore, there is to this day zero evidence any of that happened, and the Stone indictment, at this point, proves it. Can we just move on and indicate what you just said, Brian? Some people were involved in some shady stuff, some admitted criminality, it had nothing to do with the Russians, very little, if anything to do with Trump other than the fact that he intersected with some of these people. And can we finally move on? Mueller needs to tell the American people, do you have collusion or not? And if not, it is time to move on. This has thrown a monkey wrench into the country's mechanics. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/28/19]

    On Fox & Friends Weekend, the three co-hosts complained about Mueller’s investigation, with co-host Pete Hegseth saying “absolutely nobody cares” and asking viewers, “Have you ever been to Russia? Can you speak Russian?” From the January 27 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends Weekend:

    PETE HEGSETH (CO-HOST): Absolutely nobody cares. No, really. I mean, this town here cares a lot because they're invested; they’ve looked like fools for being invested in the narrative and they want it to work. But no one watching this program cares. Email us. ... Do you care about Russia? Have you ever been to Russia? Can you speak Russian? Do you care about any of that at all, because you definitely don’t. Here’s the thing: I think while Bob Mueller is supposed to be an independent investigator, he's playing into the hands in this country that there are two forms of justice. Roger Stone gets his door kicked in at 4 in the morning, a 68-year-old guy who’s got no -- no physical threat to anybody. Yet Hillary Clinton bleach-bits her server, lies to Congress, and gets her lawyers there, nothing happens to her, nothing happens to Huma Abedin, any of these people. I couldn't even pronounce it. Sorry. No, but people get the sense that there are two forms of justice. [Fox News, Fox & Friends Weekend, 1/27/19]
     

    On Fox & Friends Weekend, frequent Fox guest Alan Dershowitz minimized Stone’s indictments by claiming “they’re not crimes of substance.” From the January 26 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends Saturday:

    ALAN DERSHOWITZ (HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR): Look, as Judge Ellis, who presided over the Manafort case, said about Manafort, the government isn’t interested in Manafort -- Mueller isn’t interested in going after this guy for his bank fraud. They're interested in squeezing him, they’re interested in getting information from him about the real target, and that's Donald Trump. And that’s a very disturbing way of using the criminal justice process. Also, this shows another disturbing trend, and that is Mueller has hardly indicted anybody for crimes that occurred before he started the investigation. Almost all of these crimes, like this one, occurred during the investigation, they’re process crimes, they're not crimes of substance. Now, in the indictment, Mueller tells an interesting story about WikiLeaks but he doesn't charge him with anything like that. He can't defend himself against that at trial. At trial, he's only charged with lying and tampering with witnesses and obstruction of justice, all of which occurred after Mueller was appointed. So far, Mueller has come up relatively empty on crimes that occurred before he was appointed, which was his mandate. [Fox News, Fox & Friends Weekend, 1/26/19]

    Complaining about the way the FBI arrested Stone

    On Justice with Judge Jeanine, host Jeanine Pirro ripped into the FBI’s treatment of Stone, characterizing the raid as “Gestapo tactics.” From the January 26 edition of Fox News’ Justice with Judge Jeanine:

    JEANINE PIRRO (HOST): Not a great weekend for Roger Stone, whose over-the-top arrest yesterday morning is the subject of my second opening statement tonight. So the Mueller team gets an indictment against Roger Stone, who is represented by an attorney. But instead of notifying the attorney and requesting he bring his client in for arraignment -- standard protocol in cases like Stone’s -- the Mueller team decides instead on Gestapo tactics. [Fox News, Justice with Judge Jeanine, 1/26/19]

    Later on Pirro’s show, Fox contributor and former Trump official Sebastian Gorka said the Stone arrest was like something that would happen under “a communist dictatorship.” From the January 26 edition of Fox News’ Justice with Judge Jeanine:

    SEBASTIAN GORKA (FOX CONTRIBUTOR): My parents lived under a communist dictatorship, a police state. And back then there was the phrase “Watch out for the 2 a.m. knock on the door.” In Roger Stone’s case, it was 5 a.m., but it’s the same thing. The idea that you’ve got a man who’s a senior citizen, who’s charged with -- what? Perjury? -- and you send 29 agents wearing body armor and carrying AR-15s to bang down his door. Sorry -- you know, judge, better than anybody, before a warrant is served, before somebody’s arrested in their home, there’s a commander of the operation, a threat assessment is made, and in a white collar crime this is not how you do it. This is rank intimidation, this is the corruption that Obama left over in the DOJ, and this is on Robert Mueller’s doorstep. [Fox News, Justice with Judge Jeanine, 1/26/19]

    On Fox & Friends Weekend, Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett attacked the raid, saying that Stone “is a white-collar suspect” and “not MS-13.” From the January 26 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends Weekend:

    GREGG JARRETT (FOX NEWS LEGAL ANALYST): It was an abusive, ridiculous, and embarrassing excessive use of force by the FBI. [FBI Director] Christopher Wray really ought to be embarrassed and ashamed that he allowed his agents to be exploited like that by Robert Mueller. Twenty-nine agents with repeat firing weapons in a pre-dawn raid, storming into a suspect's house. This is a white-collar suspect of process crimes. He is not MS-13. He is not a mass murderer.

    PETE HEGSETH (CO-HOST): So why did they do it?

    JARRETT: This was thuggish tactics to intimidate the witness. I doubt he will be intimidated by it. But this is what Robert Mueller's investigation has come to -- no principled crimes, only process crimes, which are offenses against the legal process. So these crimes against Roger Stone are actually generated or created by the special counsel. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/26/19]

    On Hannity, host Sean Hannity complained that Stone is “being treated like Pablo Escobar” and that the investigation is “the biggest abuse of power scandal in modern American history.” From the January 25 edition of Fox News’ Hannity:

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): We are witnessing the biggest abuse-of-power scandal in modern American history. It's playing out right before your eyes. More corruption than we've ever seen. Really, a pre-dawn raid? Seventeen vehicles move in, 27 FBI agents in full SWAT gear, guns drawn, home surrounded? For what? Roger Stone is not being charged with any violent crime here. He isn't charged with colluding with a foreign government at all. He's never posed any security threat of any kind. Instead he was indicted on a series of process crimes that never would have happened, yet Robert Mueller started an investigation. This is, in other words, created by the fact that Mueller had an investigation. Why is he being treated like Pablo Escobar? [Fox News, Hannity, 1/25/19]

    Jerome Corsi, who is also wrapped up in Mueller’s investigation, appeared on Hannity to criticize the raid as “Gestapo-like tactics,” complaining that the Mueller team is “determined to terrorize people and criminalize politics.” From the January 25 edition of Fox News’ Hannity:

    JEROME CORSI (FORMER WASHINGTON, D.C., BUREAU CHIEF, INFOWARS): I was shocked. I mean, I think this is Gestapo-like tactics. I mean, what's the point in having all these armed police with riot gear bursting into a house at 7 a.m. Wife and Roger in bed. I mean, this is not America. This is not the way we treat people in America who are basically trying just to be political operatives who are earning a living and, I mean, it frightens me to think what the FBI could do bursting into my home with my wife asleep and the family asleep. There is no need for it. And I think increasingly that we're seeing an out-of-control Mueller operation that is determined to terrorize people and criminalize politics. I think it's very frightening for the direction of America. [Fox News, Hannity, 1/25/19; Media Matters, 11/13/18]

    Deflecting to attack former FBI officials

    On Fox’s Justice with Judge Jeanine, Pirro suggested the FBI should indict top former FBI and Department of Justice officials. From the January 26 edition of Fox News’ Justice with Judge Jeanine:

    JEANINE PIRRO (HOST): Stone lying to Congress? Jim Comey lied to Congress. John Brennan lied to Congress. [James] Clapper. And dear Hillary [Clinton] -- that woman lied every time she opened her mouth. Need I go on? [Fox News, Justice with Judge Jeanine, 1/26/19]

    Hannity ripped into top Justice Department and FBI officials, naming a slew of former and current officials before asking, “When will they get the pre-dawn raid treatment?” From the January 25 edition of Fox News’ Hannity:

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Five counts of lying to Congress and not once lying about emails. Oh, and text messages. All of these crimes occurring after the start of the Mueller investigation. Now, this is nothing more than a political persecution. Now, let's not forget James Comey, he lied to Congress. John Brennan lied to Congress. James Clapper lied to Congress on multiple occasions. Are they going to be charged? When will they get the pre-dawn raid treatment? What about former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, fired for lying to the FBI? When is he going to get the pre-dawn raid? Comey's general counsel, James Baker, well he leaked sensitive information. When is his pre-dawn raid? James Comey leaked bureau memos to the press via a close professor friend -- is he going to get charged with that? Now the biggest of all, we have Hillary Clinton. She mishandled top-secret classified material on an unsecured private server and then -- want to talk about obstruction of justice, not handing over emails, not handing over text messages. Oh, that's what they just charged Roger Stone with. But Hillary destroyed subpoenaed emails, 33,000 of them. Oh, and then she washed her computer hard drive with BleachBit and then they busted up the devices. Where is Hillary Clinton's pre-dawn raid? James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Sally Yates, Rod Rosenstein -- they all lied to a FISA court. They never checked the veracity of the charges in the Clinton bought-and-paid-for phony Russian dossier. Are they going to be charged for those blatant crimes? This is sad and this is now going to be the end of real justice in America because this is a two-tiered system of justice. And today after posting bail, Roger Stone, he remained defiant. [Fox News, Hannity, 1/25/19]

    On Fox’s The Ingraham Angle, guest Victor Davis Hanson tore into former FBI officials, saying that Mueller’s “legacy is now there are now two codes of justice.” From the January 25 edition of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle:

    VICTOR DAVIS HANSON (GUEST): Yeah, well I think what gets everybody -- I don't know Roger Stone what he did or he did not do, whether he’s a provocateur or raconteur. It doesn't matter, the questions, the quality under the law. Cut to the quick, Laura, had he been James Comey and he had gone into a sworn testimony before Congress and then 245 times said he didn't know or he couldn’t remember, he wouldn't be indicted. If he had been the deputy director, Andrew Mccabe, and said he was misunderstood when he lied he wouldn't have been indicted. Had he been James Clapper and said he gave the least untruthful answers, he lied under oath to Congress, he wouldn't have been indicted. Had he been John Brennan, who’s very ubiquitous today, on two occasions lied under oath to Congress and then said the CIA doesn't lie, he wouldn't have been indicted. So what -- Robert Mueller, whether he knows it or not, his legacy is now there are now two codes of justice. There’s for people who are connected and there's people who are not connected but useful for a prosecutor's agenda. I don't think any of us want to live in a America like that. It's Orwellian and it’s third world and it’s disgusting. [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 1/25/19]