Trump standing with crossed arms

Molly Butler / Media Matters

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Right-wing media figures respond to Trump’s latest indictment with calls for political retribution and by stoking anger toward the DOJ

Dan Bongino: “The republic is now officially dead”

After former President Donald Trump was indicted for the third time since leaving office, right-wing media quickly started claiming Trump was being politically persecuted, while painting the indictment as part of a conspiracy to disrupt his 2024 campaign and to distract from Hunter Biden’s alleged misconduct. 

On August 1, Trump was indicted on four federal charges in part of special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into his myriad attempts to overturn the 2020 election. The charges allege that Trump knowingly lied about the election results in order to obstruct an official preceding, tried to defraud the United States government, and conspired to defraud people of their right to vote.

Right-wing outlets systematically defended Trump throughout his previous indictments involving his handling of classified documents at his Florida Mar-a-Lago resort and alleged hush money payment to adult film actor Stormy Daniels, as well as during the civil suit brought forward by writer E. Jean Carroll for sexual assault and defamation. 

Now, Trump is being charged for his role in orchestrating an alleged overthrow of the 2020 presidential election. Right-wing media have long aided Trump in his attempts to alter the results of the election and have pushed Trump’s fake elector scheme despite having no legal basis for its legality. 

As news broke of Trump’s latest indictment, right-wing media immediately ran to Trump’s defense. The right-wing echosphere has continued to defend Trump, who is currently a contender for the GOP presidential nomination, by describing his indictment as undemocratic, claiming the Department of Justice is interfering with the 2024 election, drawing false equivalencies to presidential son Hunter Biden, claiming the trial will be biased against Trump, and suggesting there is a two-tiered system of justice.

  • Claim: America has become a “Banana Republic” and indictment will lead to politicized justice in response

  • Fox News host Sean Hannity claimed Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland have gone “full banana republic.” Hannity continued to claim: “Now, Garland and the other Democrats at the DOJ, they’re now trying to jail Joe Biden's chief political opponent, all in the lead-up to an election. And they want Donald Trump in jail for the rest of his life.” [Fox News, Hannity, 8/1/23]

    On The Five, Fox News host Jesse Watters described the indictments as “political war crimes.” He then compared the indictments to using nuclear bombs, “It's an atrocity. It's, like, not just dropping one atomic bomb, you drop 15 dozen, Jessica. Enough is enough.” [Fox News, The Five, 8/1/23]

    Fox News' Mark Levin said Smith has started “a war against the country.” He added, “Jack Smith has destroyed our electoral system. That's what he's accomplished. I'll say it. Nobody else will. Jack Smith has destroyed our electoral system.” [Westwood One, The Mark Levin Show, 8/1/23]

    Watters later promised that Trump will “unleash hell on all of his political enemies.” He added to the threat, saying, “This is only the beginning of politicians putting other politicians — and their families — in prison. Sad we had to go down this road, but this is where we are and now we have to finish it.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 8/1/23]

    Newsmax contributor Dick Morris claimed that to vote against Trump is to “endorse a dictatorship.” [Newsmax, Carl Higbie Frontline, 8/1/23]

    Fox host Rachel Campos-Duffy responded to Trump's third indictment: “This is really the most dangerous moment I've ever seen ... in my lifetime.” She warned her audience, “If you're a Catholic, if you're a parent — the DOJ, the FBI, they're going after us too.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/2/23]

    Newsmax's Rob Finnerty said Trump will be on a “four-year revenge tour” if he's elected. He highlighted that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, widely regarded as Trump’s greatest rival in the GOP primary, “already has indicated that the dismantling of the DOJ and the FBI is very much on the table.” [Newsmax, Wake Up America, 8/2/23]

    Far-right personality Stew Peters reacted to the indictment by calling for “EXTREME accountability and SEVERE justice for those complicit in selling out this country.” He also said there was a need for a “Nuremberg type tribunal against members of the government” for “crimes against humanity and treason against the United States of America.” [Telegram, 8/1/23]

    Right-wing radio host Dan Bongino declared, “The republic is now officially dead.” He then fearmongered to his audience, saying, “They are coming for you next. These people aren't dicking around. They're not effing around. These people are now full-blown tyrants.” [Westwood One, The Dan Bongino Show, 8/2/23]

  • Claim: Indictment constitutes interference in 2024 election

  • Right-wing talk show host Steve Deace posted that Democrats are now “running against ‘convicted felon Trump.’” He went on to claim that the point of the indictment is to “interfere with the 24 election.” [Twitter/X, 8/1/23]

    Radio host Mark Levin posted, “Unelected reckless prosecutors and unelected Democrat DC grand jurors are trying to decide the presidential election.” [Twitter/X, 8/1/23]

    Turning Point USA’s Benny Johnson conspiratorially suggested that the indictment is evidence that Trump did have a basis to claim the 2020 election was rigged and that Democrats are trying to do it again. He posted: “If they really did beat Donald Trump so badly in 2020 — why are they psychotically lashing at him with ***everything*** they have to keep him from running in 2024? Logically — you’d assume they would just let him run, right? Easy win right? Beat him again right? Now you see” [Twitter/X, 8/1/23]

    Right-wing comedy and political commentary duo The Hodgetwins posted, “They already trying hard to steal the 2024 election by indicting Trump for Jan 6.” [Twitter/X, 8/1/23]

    On Newsmax, former Trump administration official Peter Navarro claimed that the indictment is part of “a coordinated effort to stop Donald John Trump from running successfully for the president.’” He further maligned the investigation as a “seditious conspiracy that Jack Smith is running in coordination with Joe Biden and the White House and others in the deep administrative state.” [Newsmax, Rob Schmitt Tonight, 8/1/23]

  • Claim: Timing of indictment is a distraction from Hunter Biden investigations

  • Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo argued that former Hunter Biden business associate Devon Archer’s testimony preceding the charges made the timing of the indictment “extraordinary.” She added, “The indictments are called into question because they come right after massive evidence is released about the Biden family.” [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria, 8/2/23]

    Fox News’ Laura Ingraham speculated on the timing of the indictment, sarcastically saying, “I'm sure the timing is purely coincidental.” Ingraham claimed, “Joe Biden is wobbling under the weight of his own longstanding corruption” while “Trump’s crime is disagreeing with the outcome of an election.” She later added, “They're indicting a former president of the United States to protect Biden and the entire D.C. establishment from scrutiny,” and that “Joe Biden is wobbling under the weight of his own long-standing corruption” while “Trump’s crime is disagreeing with the outcome of an election.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 8/1/23]

    On Fox & Friends, former Trump official and former Fox contributor Monica Crowley claimed, “They are basically indicting Donald Trump for Joe Biden's crimes.” She went on to claim that Trump is being investigated so heavily because “he is an existential threat to the entire corrupt status quo and ruling class.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/1/23]

  • Claim: A jury pool based in Washington, D.C., would be unfairly hostile to Trump

  • Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt quipped that “who knows how the jury will react to this, but it is D.C., it’s very liberal there.” She went on to repeat suggestions from former Trump lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who suggested that Trump’s legal team try and move the trial venue to Virginia to find a more sympathetic jury. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/2/23]

    One America News Network’s Daniel Baldwin claimed that “it ultimately may not matter” what evidence Smith brings against Trump, paraphrasing Dershowitz’s comment that “a D.C. jury pool would indict a ham sandwich if that ham sandwich had the name Donald Trump on it.” [OAN, One America News, 8/2/23]

    On former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s podcast War Room, Article III Project founder Mike Davis declared “I guarantee you that Donald Trump is not going to get a fair trial in Washington, D.C.” He added that Trump “is not going to get a fair appeal with the Obama-stacked D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.” [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 8/2/23]

    Fox’s Sean Hannity insinuated that Trump needed to be tried by his supporters, stating that Trump “will be tried in Washington, D.C., where pretty much nobody voted for him and almost everyone hates his guts.” He pointed to other investigations and trials involving Trump, teasing, “So do you really think Donald Trump can get a fair trial in New York City, in Washington D.C., in Fulton County, Georgia? To have a real jury of his peers? I don't think so.” [Fox News, Hannity, 8/1/23]

    Former Fox host and Trump adviser Kimberly Guilfoyle called the investigation, charges and impending trial “a fix,” partly because “the DC jury pool is overwhelmingly Democratic.” [Twitter/X, 8/2/23]

  • Claim: A two-tiered justice system and attacking those involved

  • Appearing on Newsmax, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani -- who has been reliably established as a co-conspirator in the current indictment -- asserted that Smith and his team “should be indicted for conspiracy against rights for bringing this indictment.” He also stated, “I would seriously consider indicting them for 18 USC section 241, for indicting a man for exercising his right of free speech. That's a conspiracy against rights.” [Newsmax, Eric Bolling The Balance, 8/1/23]

    On Truth Social, Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk called Smith “a rat.” He framed the investigation as being unfairly one-sided, writing, “This case is literally claiming it’s a crime that Trump chose to believe one person over someone else.” [Truth Social, 8/1/23]

    Fox News contributor Jonathan Turley attacked Smith on The Five, surreptitiously claiming that Smith “has a reputation for stretching criminal statutes beyond the breaking point.” [Fox News, The Five, 8/1/23]

    Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett said on Hannity that Jack Smith “should be indicted for stupidity.” He went on to accuse Smith of having a “disreputable habit of bringing politically-driven prosecutions by contorting the law and mangling the evidence.” [Fox News, Hannity, 8/1/23]

    On Newsmax, Truth Social CEO Devin Nunes claimed that the charges levied against Trump “should be used against DOJ and FBI officials” for their pursuit of Trump. He lamented, “Do we have to remind people of the Mueller hoax? Do we have to remind people of the Ukraine impeachment hoax and how the DOJ and FBI hid information from the Congress while we were doing impeachment of President Trump over a phone call to Ukraine?” [Newsmax, Rob Schmitt Tonight, 8/1/23]