Donald Trump Jr. | Media Matters for America

Donald Trump Jr.

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  • Donald Trump Jr.’s hilariously strained explanation for why there was “no collusion”

    Apparently collusion isn’t “collusion” if you’re totally nonchalant about it

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The common refrain across Fox News, talk radio, and the rest of the conservative media is that the investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia is a giant waste of time because there’s been no evidence of “collusion” yet unearthed. It’s a message that’s driven primarily by President Donald Trump, who seldom wastes an opportunity to append the catchphrase “No Collusion” to his frequent, manic Twitter assaults on the special counsel investigation.

    The chief weakness in this narrative is the evidence lying everywhere that points to active and enthusiastic attempts by the Trump campaign to coordinate with Russians. Among the more damning incidents is the now-infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between several Russian nationals and senior members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, including the president’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr.

    Trump Jr.’s position on that meeting has forever been in flux -- he went from denying it ever happened, to insisting that it was about adoption policy, to admitting that the real impetus for the meeting was an offer from sources linked to the Russian government to turn over damaging information about Hillary Clinton. At every step of this process, the president’s son (with some direct assistance from Trump himself) has lied and been determinedly vague in his recollections of what happened.

    The particulars of how this meeting came to be and what the parties involved discussed were a chief focus of Trump Jr.’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, a transcript of which was released yesterday. During his testimony, Trump Jr. tried to explain how it was that a meeting he participated in between Russian officials and senior Trump campaign officials (pitched explicitly as an offer from the Russian government to help his father’s campaign) wasn’t “collusion”: He was “skeptical” of the offer and barely even thought about it at the time.

    Before we get too far into what Trump Jr. said before the committee, let’s quickly revisit what he wrote to Rob Goldstone, the publicist who pitched the meeting. Goldstone emailed Trump Jr. that the “Crown prosecutor of Russia … offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia.” The “very high level and sensitive information” was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” Goldstone added.

    Here’s Trump Jr.’s response, in full:

    Thanks Rob I appreciate that. I am on the road at the moment but perhaps I just speak to Emin first. Seems we have some time and if it's what you say I love it especially later in the summer. Could we do a call first thing next week when I am back?

    Best,

    Don

    In his opening statement to the committee, Trump Jr. led off by saying: “As will become clear, I did not collude with any foreign government and do not know of anyone who did.” Recognizing the trouble this email could cause him, Trump Jr. specifically addressed it in his statement. He said he was “somewhat skeptical of [Goldstone’s] outreach” but “nonetheless, at the time I thought I should listen to what Rob and his colleagues had to say.” Referring to the “if it’s what you say I love it” portion of his response, Trump Jr. tried reframing it as a sort of polite brushoff, a courtesy to someone he didn’t really take seriously. “It was simply a colloquial way of saying that I appreciated Rob’s gesture,” he said.

    Under questioning from Senate staff, Trump Jr. again insisted that “I love it” was actually a heretofore unknown New York colloquialism used to convey polite disregard. “As I said in my statement, it was a colloquial term used to say, hey, great, thank you. I didn’t want to deal with anything right now,” he said.

    That’s obvious nonsense. The correct, plain reading of that phrase is that Trump Jr. was excited at the prospect of receiving dirt on Hillary Clinton from a foreign government source, and he basically acknowledged as much when pinned down by a Senate lawyer:

    LAWYER: All right, but more specifically you say "If it's what you say, I love it." What was the "it" that you loved in that e-mail?

    ...

    TRUMP JR.: Potential information about an opponent.

    LAWYER: Potential incriminating information on Hillary Clinton?

    TRUMP JR.: Yes.

    More inconsistencies abound. Asked if he was “surprised” or alarmed that someone had reached out to him with an offer of incriminating information sourced to a foreign government, Trump Jr. insisted he didn’t really take it seriously and barely even thought about it. “I don’t know that it alarmed me, but like I said, I don’t know and I don’t know that I was all that focused on it at the time,” he said. “I don’t remember thinking about it at the time.”

    That’s when the Senate lawyer pounced:

    LAWYER: So you responded in 20 minutes to an e-mail that on its face offered sensitive information but is part of Russia and you didn't think about it at the time?

    TRUMP JR.: I may have thought about it at the time. I don't recall thinking about it at the time. And I responded in 20 minutes because if I get an e-mail I respond to it. If I see it, I respond. And, again, I didn't follow up. I don't know that I ever followed up other than in response to Rob following up with me three days later.

    It gets still more confounding. After insisting that he was skeptical and not really invested in Goldstone’s offer, Trump Jr. acknowledged that a meeting was set up just six days later that involved the most senior-level staffers of the Trump campaign: himself, his brother-in-law Jared Kushner, and campaign chairman Paul Manafort. At the same time, though, Trump Jr. insisted that none of them knew what the meeting was about or who was going to be there, and no one really cared enough to figure it out, ask any questions, or even talk about it among themselves. “I then asked Jared and Paul if they could attend, but told them none of the substance or who was going to be there since I did not know myself,” Trump Jr. testified. “Because we were in the same building Paul, Jared, and I would routinely invite one another to attend meetings at a moment's notice.”

    Once again, Trump Jr.’s explanation fell apart under the slightest pressure, and he had to retreat into claims of forgetfulness:

    LAWYER: You got an e-mail with a title "Russia- Clinton, private and confidential," you didn't mention that to Paul Manafort?

    TRUMP JR.: Other than I forwarded the e-mail to him to invite them to the meeting, I didn't discuss it with him to my recollection, no.

    LAWYER: And you said you forwarded it. That was the only time you recall discussing it with him?

    TRUMP JR.: That's the only time I recall, yes.

    LAWYER: And Exhibit 1 which you reviewed with my colleagues indicates that you forwarded it on June 8, 2016. At that point there's just a reference to "Meeting got moved to 4:00 tomorrow at my office," Mr. Manafort responds "See you then." Had you not discussed the meeting with him before that time?

    TRUMP: JR.: I don't recall discussing it with him at that time, but I may have.

    LAWYER: How would he have known what this meeting was about if you had not discussed it with him?

    TRUMP: JR.: I don 't know.

    LAWYER: Did he ever ask you about it?

    TRUMP JR.: Not that I recall.

    Trump Jr. tried mightily to paint a picture of blithe disregard for the offer from Russia because he thinks it disproves the idea that the Trump campaign had any interest in or intention of colluding with Russians. But at each point logic and documentary evidence proved him wrong: He and the Trump campaign expressed clear interest and moved with alacrity to see what “very high level and sensitive information” they could get their hands on.

    They also proceeded without much in the way of caution, requiring Trump Jr. and everyone else involved to attempt a rewrite of what the evidence shows. That’s left them and their conservative media allies in the strained position of barking “no collusion” at their rigorously documented attempts at collusion.

  • Sebastian Gorka repeatedly bragged about how effective he and Steve Bannon would be outside the White House

    Sebastian Gorka and Steve Bannon: The alpha male power duo is no more

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN KERR

    Sebastian Gorka worked with Stephen Bannon at Breitbart.com both before and after his brief stint in Trump's White House. In numerous television appearances since leaving the White House, Gorka bragged that he and Bannon are “far more dangerous on the outside,” that “the alpha males are back,” and that he and "Steve" would be great at "the long game" of working outside the White House.

    Bannon has since been fired from Breitbart after reportedly suggesting that Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a group of Russians in Trump Tower was treasonous.

    Gorka was inexplicably hired as a Fox News "national security strategist" in November. He has no real expertise in foreign policy and famously has links to Hungarian neo-Nazi groups.

  • 5 things that emboldened far-right trolls in 2017

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Far-right trolls have long occupied the internet with their nihilistic sense of humor and taste for memes, engaged in sophomoric “shit-posting.” But for some, their impact has expanded beyond the fringe corners of the internet. They've shown they're able to influence national conversations, offering twisted narratives and conspiracy theories during major news events, injecting bigotry into the discourse, and challenging harassment policies of social media platforms, all while marketing themselves as legitimate torchbearers of the truth.

    This didn’t happen overnight; rather, a combination of factors made it possible. The far-right trolls learned how to manufacture outrage to mobilize their audiences into action. Their memes transcended “shit-posting” and began shaping political conversations. They found a friendly presidential administration that gave them access and provided them with a veneer of legitimacy. The coverage media outlets gave them failed to cover them in proper context and allowed them to sanitize their extremist brands. And social media platforms were slow in cracking down on their hateful rhetoric, allowing them to gain attention and amass thousands of followers.

    Even politicians have started noticing their reach, with some now imitating their style.

    Here are five factors that fueled the influence of far-right trolls in 2017:

    The politics of manufactured outrage that allow the far right to attract attention and drive narratives

    Trends of online discourse in 2017 showed that the far-right’s practice of using digital tools to affect change, exercise pressure, and punish perceived enemies is best understood as politics of manufactured outrage. Many trolls raised their profiles and gained relevance by criticizing what they saw as liberal over-sensitivity, seeking to provoke “snowflakes” for the sake of generating outrage and supporting Trump because his war against “political correctness” was an essential part of their ethos. Now they’re using social media platforms to command their followers to decry and condemn their critics over social justice issues they openly dismissed before.

    Mike Cernovich, a leading right-wing troll previously known for misogynistic musings and tasteless tweets, including denying the existence of date rape, effectively manufactured outrage to get MSNBC contributor Sam Seder fired from the network for a tasteless joke Seder tweeted in 2008. Though MSNBC rehired Seder, this was not an isolated incident.

    On another occasion, Cernovich targeted journalist Josh Barro and campaigned to get him fired from Business Insider by accusing the journalist of ableism after Barro made fun of Cernovich’s lisp, only stopping after Barro publicly apologized. But Cernovich’s own digital fingerprints make it impossible to believe that he suddenly developed a concern for ableism. In a similar fashion, “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec targeted New Republic’s Jeet Heer, accusing him of defending child pornography by taking a few of Heer’s tweets from  2014 and 2016 out of context.  Posobiec also interrupted a play under the pretense that he was offended by its contents, and sued a theater for its all-female screening of the movie Wonder Woman. And when he couldn’t find something to be outraged about, he simply created the opportunity by reportedly planting a “rape Melania” sign at an anti-Trump rally. Right-wing trolls followed the same playbook to smear protesters and ignite outrage during protests of an event featuring Cernovich by planting a sign that featured the logo of a practically defunct pro-pedophilia organization.

    The trolls are still freely deploying their playbook of haranguing their followers into more campaigns to force media outlets and social media platforms into doing their bidding -- whether to silence journalists and Trump critics by manipulating Twitter’s abuse report protocols and getting them suspended from the platform, or to “weaponize” their followers into harassment campaigns, or to pressure brands into advertising on shows they like.

    As BuzzFeed’s Kate Notopoulos wrote, these trolls “have weaponized taking things literally.” These stunts are often just manipulation disguised as false equivalence, since trolls like Cernovich justify their actions by arguing that media “dictate policy and personnel decisions via social shaming/‘news coverage.'" Mainstream right-wing media also dismiss criticism of these harassment campaigns, claiming that they're legitimate because “both sides” do it (regardless of whether that's true).

    The rise of the meme warfare from fringe message boards

    Right-wing and “alt-right” trolls successfully weaponized memes in support of Trump throughout the 2016 presidential election in what experts documenting troll culture refer to as “The Great Meme War.” Message board users created memes and deployed them on social media daily to attack political candidates. During this phase of meme-ing their favorite candidate into office, factions like the “alt-right” and other right-wing trolls were indistinguishable.

    2017 saw the meme warfare kick into high gear, with many meme campaigns transcending the message boards and becoming a source of harassment on college campuses, or turning into terrifying harassment campaigns against journalists. Such was the case with the “It’s okay to be white” meme, designed specifically to be “tame and inoffensive” yet elicit reactions that would portray any criticism or outcry as absurd. The meme quickly became a battle cry in the campus culture wars, culminating in professional troll Lucian Wintrich’s “It is OK to be white” speech at the University of Connecticut, which spurred disruptions, fights, and arrests.

    Similarly, there was a meme campaign against CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski following his story that an anti-CNN meme tweeted by Trump had been created by a Reddit user with a history of “racist and anti-Semitic imagery.” The campaign quickly transcended the digital world and resulted in death threats against CNN staffers and Kaczynski himself.

    Sloppy media coverage that allowed trolls to rebrand away from the toxicity of the “alt-right”

    Journalists have been complicit in aiding right-wing trolls who rose to prominence by riding coattails of the “alt-right” to rebrand away from its toxicity by either writing soft-focus profiles of trolls or by showing up woefully unprepared to interview them. After Richard Spencer -- the original “alt-righter” -- gained national media coverage due to his explicit white nationalistic views, many prominent trolls who were earlier happy to align with the “alt-right” commenced a rebranding campaign that was largely aided by media’s failure to hold them accountable.

    Cernovich, who has shown an inclination for “pivoting” whenever it becomes politically expedient for him, was at the forefront of hijacking the term “new right,” which was quickly adopted by other trolls like Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson, Posobiec, Wintrich, and Gavin McInnes, founder of the violent “Western chauvinist” organization Proud Boys.

    But the figures of the so-called “new right” can’t sanitize their past adherence to the pro-Trump “alt-right” during the 2016 presidential election when they trafficked in anti-Muslim tropes, attacked transgender people, associated with Spencer, or openly pushed dangerous conspiracy theories like “Pizzagate” -- which falsely claimed Democratic operatives close to Hillary Clinton and her presidential campaign were running a child sex ring from a Washington, D.C., family pizzeria. More recently, the appearance of a known “alt-right” troll featuring a swastika flag and Adolf Hitler apologism on Wintrich’s Periscope illustrated that there’s little substantive difference between the “new right” and more extreme factions.

    A complicit presidential administration that gave these trolls further prominence

    In the Trump administration, right-wing trolls found powerful allies who admired and promoted their content and media appearances.

    The White House has been complicit in fueling the trolls’ war on journalists and mainstream media. The Trump administration granted them access to White House press briefings that allowed conspiracy theory websites like The Gateway Pundit to present themselves as legitimate news outlets and provided them with a prestigious platform from which to perform stunts and explicitly troll journalists. Reportedly, Trump’s sons, Eric and Donald Jr., directly provide Cernovich with insider information. It’s clear from Donald Trump Jr.’s Twitter activity that he has a penchant for far-right trolls and their content as he has used the weight of his name to promote right-wing trolls who defend his father and smear mainstream media.

    The president, himself, retweeted a tweet by Posobiec to his more than 44 million followers, resulting in Posobiec celebrating the presidential validation.

    Twitter and YouTube dropped the ball on cracking down on harassment and extremism

    Right-wing trolls largely owe their rise to social media platforms like YouTube and Twitter, which have allowed them to grow their platforms and reach massive audiences. In the process, Twitter was extremely lax in applying its anti-harassment policies, and allowed right-wing trolls’ harassment campaigns to successfully drive targets, like feminist writer Lindy West, off the platform.

    Meanwhile, YouTube provided a platform to white supremacists and conspiracy theorists. Though YouTube launched a demonetization initiative so people wouldn’t be able to profit from uploading extreme content and vowed to take down explicitly extremist content, the platform still remains the “talk radio” for right-wing trolls, allowing the spread of misinformation to a massive audience, often without consequence.

    Similarly, Twitter also just moved to crack down on its most toxic content creators. But it remains to be seen whether these policies will be successful in curbing the influence of MAGA trolls who often operate with the same harassment tactics as extremists. While Twitter removed the verification badges of many far-right personalities and expelled the most offensive users (some more than once), the fact that right-wing trolls remain in the platform only evidences Twitter’s problem with interpreting its own rules and applying them coherently.

    While the right-wing trolls’ current influence is undeniable, it’s not all doom and gloom. Their online influence hasn't translated into other political victories following Trump’s election (the candidates these trolls put their weight behind, Republicans Ed Gillespie in Virginia, and Roy Moore in Alabama, both lost). It could also be an indicator that their influence, at least in electoral politics, might have reached its peak. But whether their influence in inserting divisive cultural and political narratives into the mainstream will wane at all is yet to be seen.

  • Right-wing media misrepresent interview with Moore accuser to claim she admitted to forging yearbook with Moore’s signature 

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Right-wing and far-right media outlets and figures are falsely claiming that Beverly Young Nelson, who has accused Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of sexually assaulting her when she was 16, admitted that she forged a high school yearbook that contains Moore’s signature. Nelson actually said she added some notes next to the signature, but that it was Moore’s signature.

  • Donald Trump Jr. can't stop liking tweets that link to this Pizzagate-pushing fake news website

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Donald Trump Jr. has repeatedly liked tweets that link to prominent fake news purveyor True Pundit, which played a major role in pushing the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. The president’s son also tweeted a True Pundit link on July 26, one of many times he personally promoted a serial misinformer.

    Since July, Trump Jr. has repeatedly liked tweets linking to articles from True Pundit, including this one today:

    On July 26, Trump Jr. tweeted a link to a story from the website.

    Last year, True Pundit fabricated NYPD and FBI sources to push the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which falsely alleged that a Washington, D.C. pizzeria was a front for a pedophile ring run by former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. The lie eventually led a gunman to “self-investigate” the matter and he opened fire inside that pizzeria. True Pundit repeatedly invented and pushed wild stories about Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign, including that she wanted to “just drone” Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, that she wore an earpiece at a debate, that she used hand signals to communicate with debate moderator Lester Holt, that she was potentially “suffering from a plethora of medical ailments, and that she was drunk the morning of a campaign rally. The website has also claimed that Coretta Scott King thanked now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a speech in the 1980s. She did not.

    Trump Jr. has a history of personally sharing fake news and promoting conspiracy theorists and internet trolls. In May, Infowars host Alex Jones even claimed that Trump Jr. was one the main sources for right-wing troll and discredited media personality Mike Cernovich.

  • 22 ways Sean Hannity has tried to undermine the Russia probes

    And counting...

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News host Sean Hannity has been one of President Donald Trump’s biggest propagandists and defenders, lashing out at the president’s perceived enemies and critics to defend his actions and policies.

    But Hannity has not defended Trump on any issue more staunchly than on the ongoing controversy surrounding Trump and his administration’s possible ties to Russia, which the Justice Department and both chambers of Congress are investigating. Hannity has sunk to unprecedented levels to undermine these investigations. He has made up often inconsistent conspiracy theories about who actually was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails, has hyped dubious scandals involving former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama, has attacked former FBI Director James Comey and the special counsel for the Russia probe, Robert Mueller, and has even suggested that collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government is fine. Here are 22 examples of Hannity ignoring facts, promoting falsehoods and conspiracies, and attempting to cast blame on others in order to defend, deflect, and downplay accusations that Trump's campaign colluded with Russia to interfere in the U.S election.

    1. Hannity has repeatedly pushed the conspiracy theory that murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich, and not Russia, was involved in the hacking of DNC emails and that he was murdered as retribution for providing the emails to WikiLeaks. Even after Rich’s family asked him to stop, Hannity continued to push the conspiracy theory and even promoted dubious figure Kim Dotcom’s conspiracy theories about Rich, which were picked up by multiple fringe media outlets and Reddit users. A recent lawsuit from a Fox contributor, who was quoted pushing the conspiracy theory in a since-retracted FoxNews.com article, alleged that some of the talking points used by Hannity about Rich were crafted by a GOP donor in order to undermine allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. election.

    2. In June, Hannity said that even if the Trump campaign had “talked to somebody in Russia” about releasing hacked Clinton emails, “Is that a crime?”

    3. In March, Hannity suggested that the CIA framed Russia for 2016 election interference, a conspiracy theory pushed by Breitbart.

    4. After former acting Attorney General Sally Yates testified before the Senate that she warned the Trump administration about then-national security adviser Michael Flynn and his contacts with Russian officials, Hannity tried to downplay it by claiming the Obama administration had unlawfully “unmasked” Flynn and other officials caught in surveillance.

    5. Hannity has repeatedly brought up so-called “Clinton scandals” to distract his viewers from issues surrounding the Trump administration. Hannity has falsely claimed that Clinton committed multiple felonies, that the Clinton Foundation got millions of dollars due to a uranium deal with Russia (a falsehood which Trump has since pushed), and has wildly speculated about how "damning" FBI documents about the probe into Clinton’s private email server must have been.

    6. After Trump fired Comey, Hannity immediately defended the move, smearing Comey as “very lucky that President Trump kept him around this long because of his now unhinged and very erratic behavior.” A week later, as Trump was being scrutinized for his decision, Hannity again called Comey “a national embarrassment” and “an utter and complete failure” who “deserved to be fired.”

    7. When Trump issued a threat on Twitter suggesting that he may have recorded tapes of his conversations with Comey, Hannity called it one of the “most brilliant … tweets in the history of mankind.”

    8. In May, Hannity promoted a highly dubious claim from far-right troll Jack Posobiec that Comey leaked classified information to the media and dropped a supposed probe into former national security adviser Susan Rice because it would have implicated him too, saying Comey “did nothing about the violation of fourth amendment privacy rights, and of course, leaking of classified information, which is a crime.”

    9. After the revelations that Donald Trump Jr. had a meeting during the presidential campaign with Russians to get supposedly damaging information on Clinton, Hannity pushed a false claim originating from pro-Trump fringe media (and which Trump’s legal team encouraged) saying the meeting was some kind of a Democratic set-up against the Trumps and that former Attorney General Loretta Lynch was somehow involved in the plot.

    10. Hannity tried to downplay the Trump Jr. meeting by falsely claiming that Clinton’s presidential campaign and the DNC had colluded more closely with the Ukrainian government than Trump had with Russia.

    11. Hannity dubiously claimed that “the Russian lawyer” in the Trump Jr. meeting “didn't give the Trump organization any information whatsoever,” and allowed Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow to claim Trump Jr. could have been the victim of “a blackmail job.”

    12. Hannity has repeatedly claimed that the so-called “deep state” is out to get Trump, even saying that “a soft coup is underway" against Trump with "sinister forces quickly aligning in what is becoming now, in my mind, a clear and present danger” to Trump.

    13. In June, Hannity promoted another false talking point from Posobiec, spread by fake news purveyors and other figures in the far-right fringe, that Comey said in May that Trump never asked him to halt any FBI probe.

    14. After Comey testified before the Senate about Trump firing him and the release of memos describing his interactions with the president, Hannity invited Trump Jr. on his radio show to smear Comey as "weak and feckless."

    15. When The Washington Post reported on June 14 that Mueller was investigating Trump for potential obstruction of justice, Hannity called it the "biggest act ... of retribution we have ever seen from the deep state in the history of this country."

    16. As the meeting between Trump Jr. and Russian officials was under scrutiny, Hannity asked Vice President Mike Pence on his radio show to get Clinton investigated rather than “Russia, Russia, Russia.”

    17. On July 24, Hannity urged his viewers to harass journalists who had been reporting Trump-Russia stories, saying to “write a message to their bosses” and “take to the social media.”

    18. Two days after pro-Trump website The Gateway Pundit and multiple fake news purveyors claimed in July that a “mysterious IT specialist” published a report proving Russia did not hack the DNC, Hannity said on his radio show that “there are reports out there that” the hacking of the DNC emails “was all done domestically.”

    19. In July, Hannity gave credibility to Fox correspondent-at-large Geraldo Rivera’s conspiracy theory that a former IT staffer for former DNC Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) could have been the source of the DNC emails Wikileaks published, asking, “Doesn’t that blow the whole [Russia narrative] out of water?”

    20. Hannity has repeatedly hosted reporters from pro-Trump outlet Circa News, owned by conservative media giant Sinclair Broadcasting, who have discussed supposed “improprieties by former President Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice and fired FBI Director James Comey, and [have cast] doubt on rival media reports of possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia,” according to The Daily Beast. Most recently, Hannity hosted a Circa reporter on his show who dubiously hyped supposed wrongdoing by former Obama aide Ben Rhodes.

    21. Hannity has called for Mueller’s investigation to be shut down, claiming that “there is no way that this investigation can be fair or objective” because Mueller will “side with” Comey. He has also alleged that the investigation is biased because some members on Mueller’s team have donated to Democrats (Trump and his family have also donated thousands of dollars to Democrats.)

    22. Hannity has suggested Mueller is engaging in criminal acts.

  • How Trump's lawyers, Sean Hannity, and a Sinclair outlet tried to cover up Trump Jr.'s Russia meeting

    Trump's legal team suggested giving Trump Jr. meeting details to Circa, spinning meeting as "setup” by Democrats

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    President Donald Trump’s legal team proposed using the Trump-friendly media outlet Circa to promote the evidence-free claim that Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russians during the 2016 presidential election was a Democratic “setup.” Not only did Circa run with the story on July 8, two days later, Fox News host Sean Hannity was more than happy to further the story with Circa’s Sara Carter and John Solomon, frequent guests on Hannity’s shows.

    On July 31, The Washington Post reported that when Trump’s legal team recently discovered incriminating details about Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a possible Russian agent, the lawyers proposed an alternate version of the encounter “be given to Circa, an online news organization that the Kasowitz team thought would be friendly to Trump.” The Post additionally noted that “the president’s legal team planned to cast the June 2016 meeting as a potential setup by Democratic operatives hoping to entrap Trump Jr.”

    Circa’s Carter wrote about Trump Jr.’s meeting with the Russian in a July 8 article which included a statement from a spokesman for Trump’s legal team, as well as the assertion that “the president’s legal team said Saturday they believe the entire meeting may have been part of a larger election-year opposition effort aimed at creating the appearance of improper connections between Trump family members and Russia.”

    On July 10, Fox host Sean Hannity invited Carter and then-fellow Circa reporter John Solomon to discuss whether “this whole meeting with Donald Trump Jr” was “possibly a setup” (emphasis added):

    HANNITY: All right, Sara Carter, let's go to you and your reporting along with John. Good to have you both back, by the way. Let's start with your reports about was this possibly a setup? In other words, this whole meeting with Donald Trump, Jr. -- is this a very different story than the American people are being told?

    SARA CARTER: Yes, I think there's a story here that people aren't getting from the mainstream media. And one is this. Natalia Veselnitskaya -- she was the attorney that Donald Trump, Jr., met with -- was actually connected to a company called Presevan Holding, which was run by a Russian named Dennis Katzik . And Dennis Katzik actually hired Fusion GPS. Remember, this was the security investigative firm behind the Christopher Steele dossier. So the Christopher Steele dossier, which has been disreputable, which people have not been able to prove anything, that tried to connect, you know, Donald Trump to the Russians, was actually the company that this woman was working for.

    So it makes sense. And I know that congressional investigators are looking into this. What was her connection to Fusion GPS? And how does that play out with the meeting that she held with Donald Trump, Jr., which he said he did not know prior to that meeting exactly who she was and what she was representing. So that is a very, very important part of this story.

    [...]

    HANNITY: Do you believe that this was a setup by the DNC and this Fusion group that we're talking about?

    JOHN SOLOMON: You know, there's not enough facts and evidence to assume that yet. I think there is clearly a lot of people that were working at once, and what overlays they have and what intersections they have, we don't know in part because Fusion GPS hasn't answered a lot of the questions that the Senate has put to them. Until we find out who was funding the dossier, until we find out who brought Natalia into the country, until we learn those sort of questions, we're not going to know the full picture, and I think it's too soon to make any assumptions. [Fox News, Hannity, 7/10/17]

    The Trump team narrative, with the help of Hannity and Circa, was quickly picked up and spread throughout right-wing media and fake news purveyors.

    Circa is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, which is known for its conservative bias and connections to Trump associates. During the 2016 campaign, Sinclair made a deal with Trump’s team to push stories favorable to the future president. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Carter and Solomon have used Hannity’s platform to do just that.