Gregg Jarrett | Media Matters for America

Gregg Jarrett

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  • Here are the right-wing media figures using the Nunes memo to attack Rosenstein and Mueller

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted on January 31 to release a memo, written by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), which they claim shows partisan abuse of power on the part of the FBI to obtain a FISA warrant. The full four page text of the memo was released on February 2 and, led primarily by Fox News host Sean Hannity, right-wing media figures have used its contents to slam, discredit, and call for the firing of both special counsel Robert Mueller and U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

    Fox host Sean Hannity claimed that Mueller “never should have been appointed based on what we know tonight” and that “he needs to go, yesterday.” He also called the investigation “a witch-hunt from the very beginning” and called for charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn “to be dropped.” Hannity also declared the investigation an attempted “coup” and “an attempt to unseat an elected president” based on the memo.

    Right-wing author Ann Coulter tweeted, “Rosenstein should be fired for opposing the release of the memo.”

    Conservative radio host and frequent Fox guest Dan Bongino tweeted that Rosenstein “STILL” has a government job despite being one of the “central figures in the most significant political spying scandal in US history.”

    Tea Party Patriots tweeted, "It's time for DAG Rod Rosenstein to do his job or resign!"

    Former Trump aide and Fox News national security strategist Sebastian Gorka tweeted, "Rosenstein should be suspended from his position immeidately." 

    Frequent Fox News guest Ben Stein said Rosenstein should be "fired without question."

    Tom Fitton, frequent Fox guest and president of Judicial Watch, said Rosenstein “has some explaining to do” and that “it’s fair to ask whether he’d be fired.” Fitton also told Fox host Harris Faulkner that the probe is subject to “being called off now by the Justice Department.”

    Fox legal analyst Gregg Jarrett tweeted that a “source” told him Rosenstein in a meeting with Nunes “threatened to subpoena the texts and emails of Congress,” and called for Rosenstein to “resign or be fired” if true.

    Fox News host Todd Pirro asked former Trump aide Corey Lewandowski if "it's time for Rod Rosenstein to go." Lewandowski responded that Rosenstein's involvement with the FISA application "should give people in the Justice Department grave concern ... and Rod needs to answer for those questions." 

    Conservative radio host, Townhall columnist, and birther Jeff Crouere wrote, the memo showed Mueller is “investigating the wrong administration” and claimed Mueller was “compromised from the very beginning of his probe.” Crouere went on to call for an end to this “witch hunt” after the release of the “bombshell memo.”

    Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh alleged that the memo means Mueller is investigating the wrong people “on purpose,” and called the FBI's activities a “Democrat-run operation.” 

    Conservative radio host Mark Simone tweeted that Rosenstein is on the same "team" as former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

    Far-right blog The Gateway Pundit claimed Rosenstein "threatened" Nunes and House Intelligence Committee members. 

  • Right-wing media figures have led Trump's purge of Department of Justice officials they perceive as threatening

    Here’s who they have left

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS & GRACE BENNETT

    Right-wing media have consistently lined up behind Donald Trump to defend him against any and all allegations regarding Russian interference in the presidential election. Led primarily by Fox News and primetime host Sean Hannity, right-wing media figures have denounced, undermined, or maligned Department of Justice and FBI officials involved in the broader Russia investigation since it began. 

  • The Fox propagandists urging Trump to criminally investigate Robert Mueller

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    NBC News reported today that President Donald Trump has been “talking to friends about the possibility of asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions to consider prosecuting” special counsel Robert Mueller and members of his team on unstated charges as part of the administration’s effort to discredit and defang the Russia investigation. One Trump adviser explained to the network, “Here's how it would work: 'We're sorry, Mr. Mueller, you won't be able to run the federal grand jury today because he has to go testify to another federal grand jury.’"

    Several of Trump’s closest media allies, similarly seeking to protect the president by undermining the Mueller probe, have been declaring Mueller guilty of crimes and calling for his arrest and prosecution for months.

    On May 19, 2017 -- just two days after Mueller was announced as special counsel -- Fox judicial analyst Gregg Jarrett wrote that Mueller should resign because he had a conflict of interest in violation of the law governing the special counsel. The conflict, per Jarrett, was that “He and [former FBI director James] Comey are good friends and former colleagues who worked hand-in-hand at the FBI and Department of Justice. Agents will tell you they were joined at the hip.”

    This is apparently nonsense -- Mueller and Comey were longtime colleagues but not personally close, and experts say the relationship does not rise to the level of an illegal conflict of interest.

    Nonetheless, Jarrett’s claims found a ready audience with Fox News host Sean Hannity, who repeatedly cited his theory while arguing that Mueller had broken “not one, but two laws” and needed to resign or be fired. The Fox host has also regularly denounced Mueller’s team as a “Democratic hit squad,” suggesting the team members have a multitude of conflicts of interest of their own.

    Hannity -- who has spent much of the past year defending Trump from the Russia probe and denouncing his foes in increasingly vitriolic terms -- has the ear of the president, who regularly calls Hannity after his nightly broadcast.

    Then there’s Jeanine Pirro, a former district attorney and current Fox host who is a friend of the president and was interviewed for the deputy attorney general slot during Trump’s transition. During a November meeting with the president and his top aides in the Oval Office, she reportedly blasted Sessions for not investigating the Uranium One pseudoscandal, urging the appointment of a special counsel to handle the matter.

    Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone has claimed that a Uranium One special counsel would be the key to ending the Mueller investigation, because the incident occurred while he was the head of the FBI and Mueller “can’t be a special prosecutor when he himself is under investigation.” Experts say this doesn’t really make sense -- unless Mueller was the target of the second special counsel’s probe.

    Pirro has repeatedly called for a criminal investigation of Mueller on Fox. Discussing Uranium One during an October appearance on Fox & Friends, the president’s favorite morning show, she said that Sessions “needs to do a grand jury” because Mueller “is totally conflicted.” She also criticized Mueller during a December rant in which she asserted: “There is a cleansing needed in our FBI and Department of Justice. It needs to be cleansed of individuals who should not just be fired but need to be taken out in handcuffs."

    Then there’s the Fox Business host the president calls “the great Lou Dobbs.” “A call for the firing of Robert Mueller no longer really truly satisfies any call for accountability,” Dobbs said on December 4, adding that Mueller and a few others “should be the subjects of criminal investigations and held fully accountable for crimes against the sitting president and the voters who supported them.”

    The president’s media allies have also urged him to fire Mueller, and demanded the firing or imprisonment of key Justice Department and FBI leaders.

    A presidential demand for a criminal investigation into a prosecutor investigating his own conduct would be a step down the dark path toward authoritarianism. It would also fly in the face of long-standing protocols that seek to ensure the rule of law by firewalling the Justice Department’s investigations from White House dictates.

    But given Trump’s reported inability to “understand why he cannot simply give orders to ‘my guys’ at what he sometimes calls the ‘Trump Justice Department,’” and his past attempts to pressure senior law enforcement officials to do his bidding and fire those who refuse, the sanctity of those protocols can no longer be guaranteed.

    Tonight, the president will reportedly address the need to “see our country united” during the State of the Union speech. His media allies will be cheering him on -- and hoping that the next day brings a renewed push to purge the law enforcement apparatus of those insufficiently loyal to the president.

  • Amid reports Trump may fire Rosenstein over Mueller inquiry, a Fox News drumbeat urges him on

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    President Donald Trump is newly frustrated with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, according to several recent reports, some of which suggest the president is contemplating firing him. While the president fumes, an array of his closest allies at Fox News are encouraging him to remove or even imprison the Republican longtime federal prosecutor who currently oversees special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

    The pro-Trump media’s attacks on Rosenstein are not new -- his appointment of Mueller last May and his refusal to countenance removing the special counsel has made him a regular target. Sean Hannity called for Rosenstein's resignation as early as June, while other network figures have described him as part of a Justice Department “cartel, the equivalent of the mob” engaged in “what essentially amounts to a coup d'etat against Trump.

    But the tempo of the criticisms has dramatically increased over the past 10 days, as Trump’s propagandists have focused on the need to release a memo drafted by Republicans on the House intelligence committee. GOP members claim the memo shows the FBI and DOJ were biased against the president during the early phases of their investigation into improper communications between Trump associates and Russia, while Democratic members call it a cherry-picked weapon aimed at dismantling Mueller’s investigation.

    According to The New York Times, the memo focuses in part on Rosenstein’s actions, which the paper reports “indicates that Republicans may be moving to seize on his role as they seek to undermine the inquiry.” That could give Trump cover to fire Rosenstein and replace him with someone more amenable to either ending or curbing the special counsel’s investigation.

    Since Republican members of Congress first began discussing the memo on January 18, the president’s friends at Fox have engaged in a withering drumbeat of Rosenstein criticism, at times calling for his firing or even his arrest.

    Hannity, a sometime presidential adviser who has turned his show into a nightly assault on the rule of law in an effort to protect Trump from the Russia investigation, said the night after the memo story first gained credence: “Rod Rosenstein, you need to explain your role in all of this and specifically if you were involved in extending this FISA warrant. And, frankly, Rod Rosenstein needs to be fired.” Hannity again called for Rosenstein to be “fired and investigated” on January 22. He has described the deputy attorney general as “corrupt,” suggesting he was part of a “rogue group of Obama administration holdovers that despise Donald Trump” that were “abus[ing] the powerful, unmatched tools of intelligence that we give our government to protect us” in order to “influence first the election and then undermine the choice of the American people.” He also questioned whether Rosenstein might be part of a non-existent anti-Trump “secret society.”

    Gregg Jarrett, a low-profile Fox News anchor who emerged last year as the network’s leading legal defender of the president, told Hannity on Wednesday night that Rosenstein had approved an “illegal investigation.” In an appearance on Lou Dobbs’ Fox Business show the same evening, he claimed that Rosenstein has “serious political bias” and may have committed a federal crime that carries a 10-year prison sentence. Dobbs, who frequently suggests that various people have broken the law by not being sufficiently supportive of the president, replied, “So when do the arrests start?” After Jarrett said that should have happened long ago but “it was hidden for a long time,” Dobbs replied, “I hope that’s also a federal crime.”

    Discussing the memo on Justice with Jeanine Pirro on Saturday, Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton claimed that there needs to be “pressure on the FBI to clean out its ranks at the leadership level,” adding, “If Rod Rosenstein isn’t going to do it, they should find someone who will.” Pirro, who has repeatedly called for the arrests of DOJ and FBI leaders and met with Trump in the White House in November, responded, “I got to tell you I couldn’t agree with you more. That place is dirty.”

    And in an appearance on Fox’s The Ingraham Angle, former Trump adviser Roger Stone said that Rosenstein “is not on the level” and should be fired.

    Is Trump angry at Rosenstein and contemplating firing him because of Fox’s coverage? Is Fox providing so much negative coverage about Rosenstein because its hosts know the president wants him out? Are the two efforts happening entirely in parallel? Fox’s dual role as the president’s news source and the propaganda megaphone trumpeting his message to his base, as well as the propensity of several Fox figures to advise him privately, makes it difficult to draw causality arrows. But what’s clear is that if Trump does move against Rosenstein, his most loyal followers will already be primed to accept the effort as the logical response to a purportedly disloyal Justice Department official.

  • Hannity repeatedly called for special counsel's removal in June 2017 when Trump attempted to fire Mueller

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    The New York Times reported that in June 2017, President Donald Trump ordered White House counsel Don McGahn to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. According to the Times, Trump “began to argue that Mr. Mueller had three conflicts of interest that disqualified him from overseeing the investigation,” but relented after McGahn threatened to resign.

    During that month, Fox host Sean Hannity and his guests repeatedly called for Mueller to be removed. According to a Media Matters analysis, Hannity and Fox legal analyst Gregg Jarrett called for Mueller to resign, recuse himself, or to be fired at least 39 times in June. Additionally, Hannity and his guests claimed that Mueller had a “conflict of interest” 102 times.

    Hannity: "Mueller needs to, I'm sorry, he needs to be removed."

    [Fox News, Hannity, 6/8/17]

    Hannity: "This special counsel, Mueller, needs to be shut down immediately."

    [Fox News, Hannity, 6/12/17]

    Gregg Jarrett: "The acting attorney general who appointed Mueller should fire him." 

    [Fox News, Hannity, 6/12/17]

    Hannity: "Mueller and Rod Rosenstein, recuse themselves, resign immediately." 

    [Fox News, Hannity, 6/14/17]

    Hannity: Mueller "should recuse himself," "needs to end this witchhunt right now." 

    [Fox News, Hannity, 6/20/17]

  • As multiple Fox News figures suggest the FBI is corrupt, Chris Wallace says that no one is attacking the FBI as an institution

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News anchor Chris Wallace claimed that recent criticism regarding the FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation was not against the agency in general. Yet multiple figures at his own network have criticized the FBI in broad terms, suggesting the agency was “like the old KGB,” that it was participating in “a coup,” and acted as if it was in “a third world country.”

  • Why the anti-Mueller sentiment on Fox keeps getting worse

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News’ coverage of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is growing ever-darker, as my colleague Simon Maloy noted last week, with the network’s Trump-loving commentators offering up increasingly hysterical warnings that Mueller needs to be fired before he destroys the rule of law and the republic.

    Eight nights ago, for example, Sean Hannity declared Mueller a “direct threat to you, the American people and our American republic.” Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett chimed in, claiming that “Mueller has been using the FBI as a political weapon,” turning the bureau into “America's secret police” just like “the old KGB.”

    This discussion was irresponsible and dangerous. But it also set a new bar for fearmongering about the Mueller investigation. And so the president’s lackeys, who are eager to kill Mueller’s probe before its completion, have spent the last week going on Fox and trying to clear it.

    They are on an invective escalator. Every new development in the Russia probe requires ever-more-inflammatory rhetoric -- for Jarrett and Hannity, the false KGB comparison was just the logical next step from comparing the Mueller team to the Mob. The tenor of the criticism only becomes more hysterical. A new, baseless “conflict of interest” for a member of Mueller’s team raises the bar. But so does a former Trump aide copping a plea in exchange for working with the special counsel’s office -- it gets presented not as evidence Mueller’s probe is on the level, but evidence that it is not.

    Meanwhile, their audience -- which at times includes the president -- receives increasingly dire warnings that a professional probe run by a Republican who was appointed FBI director by a president of each party is actually a corrupt effort at a deep state coup.

    But how do you top comparing the FBI to the KGB?

    Jeanine Pirro calls for a “cleansing” of the FBI and DOJ

    Here’s how Fox News host Jeanine Pirro opened her show on Saturday night:

    Over a seven-plus-minute monologue, she specifically called for “handcuffs” for FBI agent Peter Strzok and Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe, and piled on criticism for Mueller, James Comey, senior DOJ official Bruce Ohr, and current FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The stench coming out of the Justice Department and the FBI is like that of a Third World country, where money and bullies and clubs decide elections. It all started when ‘Cardinal’ Comey destroyed our FBI with political hacks to set events in motion to destroy the republic because they didn’t like the man we chose to be our president. Well, it’s time to take them out, in cuffs,” she concluded.

    Pirro is a friend and sometime adviser to the president, who regularly tunes in to her program. She reportedly took her conspiracy theories to the White House last month, denouncing Comey and Mueller in an Oval Office meeting with the president and his top aides. Pirro may be angling to join the administration so she can carry out this purge of the law enforcement apparatus; she reportedly interviewed to be deputy attorney general during the transition

    Tom Fitton asks if the FBI needs to be shut down because it is now a “KGB-type operation”

    For Tom Fitton, head of the conservative advocacy group Judicial Watch, those who are simply calling for Mueller’s firing haven’t gone far enough:

    Fitton’s comments last night are an obvious one-up on last week’s KGB comparison -- the situation may now be so dire that it requires destroying the entire bureau in order to save it.

    Lou Dobbs: Trump should be exonerated because he won the election

    On December 11, Lou Dobbs said on his Fox Business show that Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigation may be because he’s been blackmailed by the “deep state.” After Fox contributor Jason Chaffetz criticized Sessions, calling for congressional action but clarifying that he’s “not saying it has to go the Republicans' way,” Dobbs replied, “Why the hell shouldn't it go the Republicans' way? We elected a Republican president.” Dobbs added that the congressional Republican leadership should be “standing shoulder to shoulder with Trump” and “bring this thing to a conclusion.”

    And there it is, a direct call for ending the Mueller investigation purely because it targets the Republican administration. It’s hard to top that. But they’ll find a way.
  • Fox News is practically begging Trump to fire Mueller

    In the aftermath of the Flynn plea, Fox News’ attacks on Robert Mueller have become completely unhinged

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News’ prime-time block of programming these days is extremely dark. The network’s evening hosts have been in a highly agitated state, filling the airwaves with grave warnings about totalitarianism, covert subversion by anti-democratic forces, and midnight raids on the quiet homes of unsuspecting citizens. This churning miasma of corruption and menace is sourced to a single nefarious person whose scheming -- if left unchecked -- could undermine civil society and pose a threat to the very fabric of American democracy itself.

    That person is special counsel Robert Mueller.

    Mueller has never been the most popular person at Fox News given that he’s busily investigating Donald Trump, whom the network treats less as a president and more as a living sun god. Fox’s biggest names have been working to discredit Mueller and calling for his head for months. (A Media Matters study found that Sean Hannity had called for Mueller to resign or be fired 40 times between May and the beginning of November.) But ever since news broke that Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn had cut a deal with the special counsel and pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI, the level of anti-Mueller histrionics at Fox has spiked as the network’s hosts and contributors paint Mueller and his investigation as existential threats to the country.

    Sean Hannity kicked off his December 6 show by ripping into “Robert Mueller's partisan extremely biased hyper-partisan attack team.” To Hannity, the fact that Mueller (a registered Republican as of several years ago) hired investigators who donated to Democratic campaigns meant that “Robert Mueller has assembled the most partisan special counsel in history. Now, they are in utter disgrace in terms of equal justice under the law.” Per Hannity, Mueller and his team “now pose a direct threat to you, the American people and our American republic.”

    Then Hannity turned to Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett, who piled on the hysterics. “I think we now know that the Mueller investigation is illegitimate and corrupt,” he said, referring to Mueller’s dismissal of investigator Peter Strzok, who had sent text messages in 2016 mocking Trump. “Mueller has been using the FBI as a political weapon. And the FBI has become America's secret police,” Jarrett added, explaining that it has become “like the old KGB that comes for you in the dark of the night, banging through your door.”

    Hannity was in complete agreement. “This is not a game. This is not hyperbole you are using here,” he said of Jarrett’s obvious hyperbole. “Ask Paul Manafort,” Jarrett replied. “They came for him and broke through his front door.” Hannity was shocked. “If it can happen to him, Gregg …” Jarrett finished the thought. “It can happen to all of us. Absolutely. The FBI is a shadow government now.”

    Pardon me while I get a change of pants.

    This is all quite insane. When Paul Manafort, the onetime Trump campaign chairman and shadowy millionaire lobbyist who is wrapped up in off-the-book Ukrainian financial deals, is your avatar of the persecuted everyman, you’re playing a desperate and losing hand.

    As for the KGB nonsense, it is true that the FBI conducted a no-knock raid on Manafort and subsequently arrested him after a grand jury returned indictments for conspiracy and money laundering. But doing things like obtaining warrants and presenting evidence to a grand jury are precisely what secret police forces -- KGB and otherwise -- don’t do. The whole point of a “secret police” is to obviate due process, and by all indications the arrest of Paul Manafort was by the book.

    Later the same evening, Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich appeared on Laura Ingraham’s program and started howling about the threat Mueller poses to America itself. “Mueller is corrupt, the senior FBI is corrupt. The system is corrupt and until you get back up and say -- realize how really truly corrupt this is, there's a sickness here,” Gingrich said. “I think it is frightening,” he added. “If you believe in the rule of law and you believe in America, what we are learning is genuinely frightening.”

    On December 4, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs went the extra mile, slamming Mueller as a partisan hack but also calling for him to be prosecuted for unspecified “crimes” against Trump. “A call for the firing of Robert Mueller no longer really truly satisfies any call for accountability,” Dobbs said. “Strzok and Mueller and Comey, in my judgment, should be the subjects of criminal investigations and held fully accountable for crimes against a sitting president and the voters who supported them. Just one man's opinion.”

    All this overwrought talk of the KGB and threats to democracy made a compelling show for Fox News’ core audience of angry seniors. My suspicion is that the message is intended for one specific angry senior who is known to be a devoted Fox viewer: Donald Trump.

    As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent wrote in October, there exists “a vast, multi-tentacled, largely-fictional alternate media reality that casts large swaths of our government as irredeemably corrupt -- with the explicitly declared purpose of laying the rationale for Trump to pardon his close associates or shut down the Russia probe, should he deem either necessary.” In the aftermath of the Flynn bargain, Hannity, Jarrett, and pals are putting in extra work to frame Mueller and his investigation as over-the-top threats to the country and Trump’s presidency that must be eliminated. That’s a message Trump wants to hear, and everyone knows he’s watching.