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  • Fox & Friends gives Trump administration credit for “cracking down on Russia” after it belatedly implements legally required sanctions

    New sanctions were mandated by US and international law for Russia’s nerve agent assassination attempt in the UK

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Fox & Friends is, yet again, pointing to congressionally-mandated sanctions the Trump administration is (belatedly) implementing to claim the president is “cracking down on Russia.”

    On August 8, the State Department announced a new round of sanctions against the Russian government and affiliated entities in response to the use of a Soviet-era nerve agent in the attempted assassination of a former Russian spy and his daughter on British soil in March. Months later, in July, two British civilians also came into contact with the nerve agent, which killed one of them.

    Now, Fox & Friends is pointing to the newest round of sanctions to claim the president is “holding Russia accountable” and “screwing this collusion thing up,” even though the sanctions are mandated by Congress and international law, and the administration has been late in implementing them.

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): The Trump administration holding Russia accountable.

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Again. The U.S. is issuing brand new sanctions, and this, after the attempted assassination of a former Russian spy and his daughter. They've been investigating since, and they don't like what they've found.

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Griff Jenkins live in Washington, D.C. with the details on how the U.S. of A is cracking down on Russia.

    ...

    DOOCY: It looks as if the president is screwing this collusion thing up because I've been watching on the other channels, "He's been colluding with Russia." And yet, once again, they're cracking down on Russia.

    EARHARDT: Slapping sanctions.

    DOOCY: Flying in the face of that narrative with new sanctions.

    ...

    KILMEADE: Every step of the way the president's done this, but he doesn't trumpet it. He doesn't say, "Hey, I've got a press conference, here are the sanctions." He just puts them on, and the next thing you know, they're mounting and I think they are significant. Especially they still focus on the Maginsky (sic) Act, and what he did to certain oligarchs surrounding Vladimir Putin, because it's really throttled their individual banking ability and investment ability.

  • Conservative media want you to believe Trump has been “tough” on Russia. They’re not telling the full story.

    Secretary of State Pompeo echoed right-wing media talking points on Trump’s toughness. In reality, Trump has undercut a number of actions Congress and his administration have tried to take against Russia.

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Following President Donald Trump’s disastrous bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, the president’s administration flacks and conservative media lackeys quickly scrambled to his defense, arguing that Trump has been “tough” in his “actions against Russia” and rattling off a series of actions he has taken since 2017 that supposedly support such a claim. The president himself and administration officials have also parroted the talking points in an attempt to dispel the idea that he is somehow in the pocket of the Russian government. But a closer look at the actions Trump shills have pointed to reveals a foreign policy that is more concerned with posturing for media than being “tough” in the face of Russian aggression.

    On July 16, Trump met with Putin for a meeting behind closed doors in which no other American -- except an interpreter -- was present, and they emerged more than two hours later to give a wide-ranging press conference. When asked whether he holds the Russian government accountable for its multifaceted interference campaign during the 2016 elections, Trump repeatedly denied Russia’s involvement, saying, “I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia. (The president would later claim to have gotten “would” and “wouldn’t” confused.)

    To counter the deluge of negative press in the wake of the meeting, right-wing media and administration officials pointed to various foreign policy and military responses to Russian aggression that the United States and its allies have undertaken during Trump’s presidency to argue that the president’s “actions” actually “have been tough.” About a week after the bilateral meeting, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed Trump’s conservative media defenders as he faced senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, insisting Trump “has taken a truckload of punitive actions against Moscow” and that he has been “tough on Russia” as president. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeated the meme, as did the president himself.

    Trump’s defenders have pointed to sanctions against Russia that were imposed under Trump, the American strikes against the Russian-backed Syrian regime in 2017 and 2018, the March 28 expulsion of Russian diplomats and seizure of a Russian consulate, Trump’s demands for other countries to increase their NATO spending, the sale of lethal arms to Ukraine to fend off the Russian military and rebels in the eastern portions of the country, and the pressure Trump put on German Chancellor Angela Merkel over a proposed natural gas pipeline from Russia, among other specific actions. But Trump’s defenders are not telling the full story behind these actions.

    Sanctions

    In the aftermath of Trump’s meeting with Putin, a number of the president’s defenders touted sanctions that were imposed against Russia as evidence of Trump’s clear-eyed approach with regard to Russia. But, not only were the sanctions drawn up and passed by Congress while the Trump administration loudly opposed the move, the administration also dragged its feet in implementing them, missing a deadline to begin the implementation and only taking action after Congress demanded it do so. Moreover, Trump left United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley out to dry by walking back, without explanation, an announcement she made regarding additional sanctions against Russia.

    Additionally, one of the first official actions the Trump administration attempted was “to relax or remove punitive measures imposed by President Obama in retaliation for Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and meddling in the 2016 election.” The effort to remove sanctions that were already on the books appeared to continue into Trump’s presidency, as one of his top fundraisers and former deputy finance chairman for the Republican National Committee, Elliott Broidy, reportedly offered in 2017 to “help a Moscow-based lawyer get Russian companies removed from a U.S. sanctions list.”

    Syria

    Right-wing media have also cited U.S. airstrikes conducted against the Syrian regime as evidence that Trump has stood up to Russian aggression. But, in 2017, Trump “notified Russia in advance of” the strike, “giving time for both Russian and Syrian forces to avoid casualties in an attack,” and by the very next day, Syrian warplanes were using the airfield that was targeted. Additionally, in 2018, the strikes Trump authorized against the Syrian regime targeted chemical weapons infrastructure, “and not the bases where the Russians and Iranians are.”

    Trump’s defenders have also pointed to an American counterattack on Russian mercenaries and Syrian military personnel in February, saying Trump “authorized” the attack. While the U.S. military did in fact fend off a Russian-backed attack after “repeatedly” warning about the “growing mass of troops,” the strike was an “act of self-defense.” Citing the incident as evidence that Trump is countering Russian interests in Syria does not address the larger picture that, under Trump, Russia has become even more entrenched, further solidifying its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, as Trump lacks a coherent overarching strategy for the war-torn country. Not to mention the fact that, in May 2017, Trump disclosed sensitive “code-word information” originating from Israeli intelligence services to the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador to the United States at the time.

    Expulsion of Russian diplomats

    Trump sycophants are additionally highlighting the March 26 expulsion of 60 Russian intelligence operatives who were in the United States under diplomatic cover and the closure of a Russian consulate as further proof of Trump’s tough stance on Russia. But the expulsion of diplomats is an expected reaction that “represent[s] more symbol than substance.” And Trump also berated administration officials for expelling too many Russian officials, as he was reportedly “furious that his administration was being portrayed in the media as taking by far the toughest stance on Russia” as compared to European allies, who joined the United States in the symbolic gesture.

    Moreover, in a still-unexplained proposition in the early days of the Trump administration, officials looked at “handing back to Russia two diplomatic compounds, near New York City and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, that its officials were ejected from in late December as punishment for Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.”

    Weapons to Ukraine

    In what has emerged as a favorite talking point for Trump defenders in the wake of the meeting with Putin, conservative media are touting an arms deal with Ukraine. The deal, which the Obama administration had resisted, is meant to bolster Ukrainian defenses against the Russian military and pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels. Except Trump stooges in right-wing media fail to mention that the Ukrainian investigation into Trump’s former campaign manager’s shady business dealings in that country conspicuously stopped just “as the Trump administration was finalizing plans to sell the country sophisticated anti-tank missiles.” Not to mention the fact that, during the 2016 campaign, Trump made the laughable claim that the Russian military is “not going into Ukraine,” even though it effectively annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014. According to Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, Ukrainian officials were “tearing their hair and running around like crazies” when Trump was elected because of fears over what it would mean for the country.

    NATO spending

    Trump’s Fox News sycophants have also insisted that by “beating up the NATO allies” at the 2018 NATO summit, Trump succeeded in getting allies to “cough up more money” for the alliance when in fact Trump’s efforts had little to do with members’ increases in direct spending on their national military budgets. According to The New York Times, “each NATO member pledged in 2014,” after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, “to spend 2 percent of its gross domestic product on its own defense each year by 2024. … As a share of G.D.P., spending by European members and Canada began to rise before Mr. Trump took office.”

    Nord Stream 2

    Conservative media have also pointed to Trump’s critical comments to Merkel at the 2018 NATO summit over the proposed Nord Stream 2 natural-gas pipeline that would run from Russia to Germany as confirmation that Trump is “tough” in dealing with Russia. But previous administrations and a bipartisan group of senators also opposed Nord Stream 2, and Trump himself toned down his criticism after meeting with Putin, conceding that the United States cannot block Germany’s domestic energy decisions. The German Marshall Fund’s Ulrich Speck said the president’s attacks against Merkel “looked as if Trump is looking for ammunition against Germany. If he would have been serious on pushing against Nord Stream, he would probably have brought this up much more forcefully with Putin.” Indeed, a “tough” U.S. policy toward Russia would avoid driving such a wedge between the United States and an ally that has disregarded domestic business concerns to wrangle European Union member states, which had their own economic apprehensions, to join sanctions against Russia for its 2014 invasion of Ukraine.

  • Russian senator and right-wing media agree: Trump is just trying to avoid a war with Russia

    Russian Sen. Alexei Pushkov: “I am amazed at the desire of the US media and a large part of Congress to portray Moscow as an enemy of the US. What do they want? Do they want a war with a nuclear power?”

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Right-wing media and at least one Russian official are singing from the same song sheet after President Donald Trump’s humiliating press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland. As condemnation for Trump’s absurd performance builds, right-wing pundits, administration officials and, now, representatives of the Russian government are suggesting critics of the president are trying to foment war with Russia.

    In an attempt to provide cover for a president of the United States slandering American law enforcement and intelligence agencies while standing on foreign soil next to a despotic kleptocrat who has repeatedly attempted to destabilize western democracies and American allies, some in right-wing media suggested that the president was simply attempting to “avoid war with” the world’s largest nuclear power. Some have even argued that “Democrats” and “establishment media [want] war with Russia,” an argument that was presented by prominent Putin apologist Stephen Cohen (who has regularly been featured on Fox host Tucker Carlson’s show to discuss the relationship between the U.S. and Russia) on the state-run outlet, RT.

    Now, according to BBC’s Steve Rosenberg, a Russian senator is making the same argument.

    Of course, there are a number of options short of armed conflict that the United States and its western allies could take up to counter Russian aggression, but this is not the first time Russian and U.S., pro-Trump media talking points have been in sync. In 2017, Fox News’ senior judicial analyst, Judge Andrew Napolitano, claimed that former President Barack Obama asked the British Government Communications Headquarters to eavesdrop on Trump during the 2016 campaign and the transition period, and to provide the former president with transcripts of Trump's conversations. Media Matters traced the assertion back to an interview on the state-sponsored Russian network RT with a former CIA official who has accused John Kerry of war crimes, spread the 2008 rumor about a supposed recording of former first lady Michelle Obama “railing against ‘whitey,’” and now is floating "sedition" charges against former Obama officials. Also in 2017, Russian state-run media and American pro-Trump media messaging converged after former national security advisor Michael Flynn’s resignation.

  • Ahead of Trump-Putin meeting, Nigel Farage appears on Fox & Friends to downplay Russian hacking in the 2016 election

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    On the morning of President Donald Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Fox News turned to Nigel Farage, a network contributor with extensive ties to both Russia and Trump, for analysis and commentary. During the interview, Farage downplayed Russian interference in American elections and laughed at a co-host’s suggestion that he advised Trump to undermine the European Union and said, “I'm claiming no credit.”

    Farage, who campaigned for Trump in 2016, has deep and well-documented relationships with Russia and people -- including WikiLeaks' founder -- who are suspected of acting in the interests of the Russian government. According to British outlet The Independent, one of Farage’s closest business associates had frequent contacts with the Russian ambassador to the U.K. throughout the 2016 Brexit campaign, in which Russia reportedly interfered. Farage has also been spotted outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, “where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been living since he claimed asylum in 2012,” and he is alleged to have given Assange data on a thumb drive. The Guardian has reported that Farage is a person of interest in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, in part because of that relationship. Moreover, Farage has appeared on Russian state television numerous times and has stated that Vladimir Putin is the “current world leader he most admired.”

    Farage was named a Fox News contributor in the midst of all this, despite being known for regularly engaging with racist tropes, stumping for a pedophile, and whitewashing white nationalism. During his appearance on Fox & Friends to provide commentary on Trump’s meeting with Putin, Farage characterized the unprecedented Russian campaign to interfere in the 2016 election as just “how the world works.” He added that “the establishment [is] blaming Brexit and the Trump election on Russian collusion without an ounce of evidence, and it’s up to Trump to show the world that we don't need to make things worse with Russia.” From the July 16 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): One of the things going forward, knowing that it is going to happen very shortly, the president's summit, is that there have been a number of Democrats here in the United States who suggested, well, after those 12 Russian spies were indicted for meddling in our election, they shouldn't have the summit. What do you think?

    NIGEL FARAGE: Well, let's just be clear: Twelve Russian spies have been found spying. It's what they do. They do it to us. We do it to them. It may not be very seemly, but it's how the world works. So there’s nothing in it that other than a very strange coincidence of timing, it seems to me. Look, the ultimate sanity test is, ask somebody, do you want better relations between Russia and the West, or do you want them to continue to deteriorate? And anybody with half a brain will say, well, do you know what? Talking is better than not talking.

    ABBY HUNTSMAN (CO-HOST): Nigel, I know you were with the president a few days ago. Talking to him, what is different, in your opinion, about this meeting? Because Putin has met with our presidents in the past -- they’ve all pressed that reset button, saying that things are going to get better, our relationship is going to change. What do you think is different about these two meeting today?

    FARAGE: Well, I think the fact is that the previous meetings have happened sort of around the back of global summits. This is the first time they’ve sat down specifically to try and work out where this relationship is going. So, I think it is important. There are questions, clearly, that the president has to ask of Putin. He may not answer them, but I think it's important that President Trump says, “Look, if you ever have or you ever intend to meddle in our elections, please get the hell out.” But, maybe, maybe we can start to have a more sensible relationship. Because, at the moment what we have got is we have got the establishment blaming Brexit and the Trump election on Russian collusion without an ounce of evidence, and it’s up to Trump to show the world that we don't need to make things worse with Russia.

    ...

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): What do you say to people who say the Russians hacked Brexit and they hacked U.S. elections, and they won on both ends?

    FARAGE: Yeah, this is because nobody thought Brexit would happen, nobody thought Trump would happen, and now the establishment, who still don't understand why middle England and middle America voted in a way that they can't comprehend. They’re desperately looking for an excuse. They’re trying to put together their own conspiracy theory. I’ve been accused endlessly by The Guardian of working with the Russians. And apart from drinking the odd vodka, that’s about as guilty as I’ve ever been. It’s ludicrous.

    DOOCY: Hey, Nigel, before you go, the news yesterday was that Theresa May, the prime minister, said that when she sat down with the president, the president said, “Sue the E.U.” Was that advice from you?

    FARAGE: All I can say on this -- all I can tell you is that the president understands negotiations, and he understood that we had paid hundreds of millions of pounds into an organization every single year, tens of billions over the last decade, to an organization who, frankly, had misspent our money. And so, President Trump’s idea was, start the negotiations being tough. I’m not going to claim credit for it. The president makes his own mind up on things. He’s very good at it.

    DOOCY: Yeah, but you did a little talking to him before he actually got there.

    FARAGE: Yeah, look, the president talks to all kinds of people. I’m claiming no credit.

  • Fox & Friends ignores reports that North Korea has increased nuclear production after Trump-Kim summit

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    After lavishing propagandistic praise on President Donald Trump for his high-stakes nuclear summit with North Korean despot Kim Jong Un, Fox & Friends has failed to mention new reporting that, despite the president’s claims to the contrary, North Korea has “stepp[ed] up its production of enriched uranium for nuclear weapons” and that Kim’s regime “intended to deceive the U.S.”

    Prior to the June 12 summit, at which Trump claimed to have “developed a very special bond” with Kim, Fox & Friends heaped praise on Trump for simply showing up to the summit. The June 11 edition of the show opened with a fawning monologue from co-host Ainsley Earhardt, describing all of the Trump administration’s actions toward North Korea as accomplishments — and none as missteps. Later, Fox & Friends aired a propagandistic supercut summarizing events that led up to the Singapore summit:

    After the summit, despite Trump leaving with an objectively weaker deal than past agreements with North Korea that were brokered under previous administrations, the president’s allies in the media jumped to praise him for showing up to the summit. Moreover, after Trump’s own claim that “there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” CNN’s Rick Santorum said that it was “insulting” for the press to ask the Trump administration for details regarding verifiable steps for North Korea’s denuclearization.

    Now, Fox & Friends is ignoring new reporting that North Korea has “increased its production of fuel for nuclear weapons at multiple secret sites in recent months — and that Kim Jong Un may try to hide those facilities as he seeks more concessions in nuclear talks with the Trump administration.” Even though Fox’s flagship Sunday morning program, Fox News Sunday, mentioned the new report, according to a Media Matters review, both Fox & Friends Weekend edition on Sunday and Fox & Friends have completely ignored it.

    Like with most damning reports about the seemingly endless allegations against Trump administration officials of conflicts of interest, pay for play, and national security concerns, Fox & Friends is sticking to its tried and true playbook of simply looking the other way and keeping its viewers ignorant regarding the Trump administration’s indiscretions.

  • Fox News repeatedly claims information obtained by torture led to Osama bin Laden’s death. It didn't.

    The 2014 Senate torture report revealed that the US collected key intelligence on bin Laden’s location without torture

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In the coverage leading up to and following CIA acting Director Gina Haspel’s confirmation hearing to become director, multiple Fox News personalities and guests have asserted that torture helped lead to the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011. However, the Senate’s 2014 investigation of the CIA torture program indicates that there is no evidence for this claim. 

    In recent days, Fox figures and guests have made bold claims that torturing detainees at secret CIA prisons known as “black sites” resulted in valuable intelligence that helped track down the former leader of Al Qaeda:

    • On his May 7 Fox show, Sean Hannity cited an earlier guest to claim that if there had been “no waterboarding we wouldn't have found Osama bin Laden's courier and we wouldn't have gotten bin Laden.” Hannity made the same claim the following night. 
    • In an May 8 appearance on Fox’s The Story with Martha MacCallum, former Vice President Dick Cheney said that the torture program “gave us clues that led directly to helping identify the location of Osama Bin Laden.” Cheney repeated the claim two days later on Fox Business. 
    • On the May 9 edition of Fox News’ The Five, co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle asserted that “the water boarding led them to Osama Bin Laden's house.”
    • On May 10, all three co-hosts of Fox & Friends agreed that “you don’t get bin Laden” without torture.
    • On the May 11 edition of Fox & Friends, Geraldo Rivera commented that “torture in retrospect may seem regrettable, but there’s no denying that it did lead to the courier that did lead us to the terror mastermind” Osama bin Laden.

    In 2014, the Senate investigated the CIA’s torture program. According to a Vox summary of the 525-page document, the Senate report reveals that the CIA extracted “key intelligence” on bin Laden courier Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti -- “‘including information the CIA would later cite as pivotal’ in finding Bin Laden” -- by 2002. However, “the CIA didn't acquire any intelligence on al-Kuwaiti via torture until 2003. The CIA had begun trying to find and identify al-Kuwaiti well before any of that information was in.”

    In 2004, the CIA torture program did capture a man named Hassan Guhl who told the U.S. government that al-Kuwaiti was a bin Laden assistant and that the Al Qaeda leader "likely lived in a house with a family somewhere in Pakistan," according to Vox. However, “Ghul told the CIA all of that before they decided to torture him.” The Senate report explains that “during and after the use of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques, Ghul provided no other information of substance on al-Kuwaiti." From the Senate’s report on CIA torture, via NPR: