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Two lawyers for President Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow, have begun publicly making the case on behalf of their client that colluding with a foreign country to swing an election is not be a crime. During a July 30 appearance on Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Giuliani claimed that “collusion is not a crime,” an argument he went on to repeat that same day to CNN’s Alisyn Camerota. The next day, Sekulow appeared on Fox & Friends and declared multiple times that “collusion is not a crime.”
This isn’t the first time that Giuliani has suggested that potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia may not have been illegal. In May, he told Fox’s Laura Ingraham that there is “nothing illegal” about “looking for dirt” on political opponents, even “if it comes from a Russian or a German or an American.” And Trump in December himself told The New York Times, “Even if there was [collusion], it's not a crime." These claims from the president and his lawyers echo more than a year of similar protestations by right-wing and pro-Trump media figures:
Fox’s Sean Hannity: “The breaking news today is [special counsel Robert] Mueller is just now starting investigating Russia collusion, which isn’t a crime.”
Hannity: “Today is the one-year anniversary of the Mueller witch hunt, and so far the special counsel has not provided a single shred of evidence of any collusion. And collusion is not against the law.”
Hannity: “Collusion is not a crime.”
Hannity : “Collusion’s not a crime. That’s the whole irony here.”
Fox’s Jeanine Pirro: Trump “only needs to answer questions about crimes. If it’s not a crime to fire [former FBI Director] Jim Comey, then what crime are we talking about? Collusion? Russian collusion is not a crime.”
Pirro: “Collusion is not a crime, so why are all the Democrats saying we’re looking for collusion? Collusion is not a crime. How stupid are they?”
Fox’s Laura Ingraham: “Collusion’s not a crime. ... As Andy McCarthy keeps saying, collusion -- there is not a crime in actually speaking to Russian officials during an election cycle.”
Fox’s Gregg Jarrett: The FBI “launched the investigation, as I argue in my book, to frame Donald Trump for things he didn’t do, for crimes he didn’t commit. Collusion is not even a crime in a political campaign."
Jarrett: “You can collude all you want with a foreign government in an election.”
Jarrett: “It was always a myth that collusion in a political campaign is a crime. It’s not.”
Jarrett: “Collusion is only criminal in an antitrust setting. It has nothing whatsoever to do with elections.”
Fox Business Network’s Lisa Kennedy Montgomery: “As the president’s attorney Jay Sekulow has pointed out a bunch of times, collusion is not a crime. And that’s absolutely true.”
Frequent Fox guest Alan Dershowitz: “You cannot impeach a president unless he’s committed a crime. Collusion is not a crime.”
Dershowitz: “Collusion is not a crime. I have seen no evidence of collusion.”
Dershowitz: “I’ve been teaching criminal law for 50 years, and I know the federal criminal code pretty well. The word ‘collusion’ appears only in one context, and that is if businesses collude with each other in violation of the antitrust law, that’s a crime. But there’s no crime of collusion with a foreign government.”
Dershowitz: Mueller is “inventing a crime. There’s no such crime as 'collusion' in the federal statute.”
Fox's Brit Hume: “Can anybody identify the crime? Collusion, while it’d obviously be alarming and highly inappropriate for the Trump campaign -- of which there is no evidence by the way, of colluding with the Russians, -- it's not a crime.”
NRATV’s Dan Bongino: “I don’t believe the collusion story at all. But the fact is, Tucker, even if there was collusion, collusion isn’t even a crime.”
Fox’s Geraldo Rivera: “What is the crime? If the Russian KGB chief is talking to Paul Manafort and the chief says, ‘You know, I've got this dirt here that says Hillary Clinton was this or that.’ And Paul Manafort says, ‘Next Wednesday, why don't you release that. That'd be great for us.’ I don't know that that's a crime at all, what’s the crime?”
Conservative author Ronald Kessler: “There’s no violation of the law if, in fact, the campaign colluded with Russia, whatever that means.”
Conservative author Michael Reagan: “Collusion is not breaking the law.”
Pro-Trump Twitter troll Bill Mitchell:
Mueller was appointed to investigate crimes related to Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Since the type of collusion they have been investigating for Trump was never a crime, what "crime" are they investigating?
Right. Clinton. Bank on it. Tick-tock.
— Bill Mitchell (@mitchellvii) March 31, 2018
Lib talking heads saying, "When Mueller indicts Trump for Russian collusion, his supporters have to choose between America and Trump!"
There will be NO INDICTMENTS of Trump. It is pure liberal fantasy. Trump did not collude and it wouldn't even be a crime if he had!#WalkAway
— Bill Mitchell (@mitchellvii) July 15, 2018
There's no possible crime. Collusion is not a crime under any US law. It's not treason unless we are at war with the country. Foreign nationals are allowed to work on or for campaigns, as long as they're not paid, under FEC laws: https://t.co/5gSu8oAG1C #RussianCollusion
— MARK SIMONE (@MarkSimoneNY) May 17, 2018
Frequent Fox guest Jonathan Turley on Fox & Friends: “Collusion itself is not a crime”
Video by John Kerr
Meadows and Nunes laid the groundwork to impeach Rosenstein on Fox months ago, and Hannity, Pirro, and Dobbs have driven the message ever since
A group of House Republicans introduced articles of impeachment in an attempt to remove Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is responsible for overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The impeachment proceedings come after Reps. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Devin Nunes (R-CA) and attorney Joe DiGenova, whom President Donald Trump almost hired, introduced the idea on Fox News in late March and early April. Since then, Fox hosts Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, and Lou Dobbs have consistently pushed for Rosenstein’s removal, regularly hosting members of Congress and pundits to sound off and advocate for impeachment proceedings to begin.
During a July 23 press conference, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that President Donald Trump is considering revoking the security clearances of several former high-ranking U.S. officials. Right-wing media figures -- including several people on Trump’s favorite cable network, Fox News -- have pushed the possibility of pulling the clearances of these officials in recent months, and have boosted Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) recent efforts on the matter.
According to Sanders, Trump is taking aim at the clearances of former CIA Director John Brennan, former FBI Director James Comey, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden, former National Security Agency Director Susan Rice, and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
On April 30, conspiracy theory site The Gateway Pundit published an article complaining that “corrupt” and “Trump-hating” Brennan and Clapper still had clearances despite “working with the ‘destroy Trump media.’” Less than a month later, Fox News strategist Sebastian Gorka called for the Trump administration to revoke clearances of former officials during an appearance on Fox News’ Hannity. Gorka argued that Trump “needs to pull the clearances of Clapper, Comey, Brennan, and Hillary [Clinton].” Guest host Jeanine Pirro responded, “Hold on a second. These people are not in office anymore, and they still have security clearances?” She then agreed with Gorka, saying that Trump ought to “take their security clearance.”
More recently, Sen. Paul has begun to champion stripping the former officials of their clearances, and right-wing media has been happy to publicize his efforts. On July 20, Fox’s Tucker Carlson hosted him to discuss the issue, calling it “terrifying” that “out-of-the-closet extremist” John Brennan still has a clearance, arguing that Brennan “is not the only reckless partisan with a history of dishonest who retains a security clearance," and complaining that James Clapper and Michael Hayden also still have clearances.
And just this morning, The Gateway Pundit published a post headlined "Senator Rand Paul Meeting With Trump to Request John Brennan’s Security Clearance Be Revoked."
Despite right-wing media’s calls and the White House’s apparent interest, it is unclear whether all of these officials still have clearances at this point.
Liars, Leakers, and Liberals is an absurd, unintentional indictment of its author
You only get about one page into Jeanine Pirro’s new book, Liars, Leakers, and Liberals: The Case Against the Anti-Trump Conspiracy, before she calls herself an idiot. It’s not entirely clear whether she meant to do it or if she just got lost in the rapture of the prose, but she definitely calls herself an idiot. “We know what the liberal media think of Trump voters: They’re deplorables, idiots, rednecks, and people who cling to God, guns, and religion,” Pirro writes. “To those charges, I plead guilty--guilty and proud!”
It’s confusing, and you’re left wondering why Pirro seemingly went out of her way to make herself look stupid. But intentional or not, it serves as an apt table-setter for the rest of the book, in which the Fox News host inflicts upon the reader a frenetic conspiracy theory that absolutely obliterates all logic and does violence upon the very notion of observable truth, and effectively discredits herself by painstakingly demonstrating that she is committed solely to the mission of kissing the ass of her friend, President Donald Trump.
To be honest, I’m not entirely confident that anything I could write about this book (which is currently number one on the Amazon bestseller list) would be more damning of the author than the poison-laced nonsense she herself has committed to paper. The book’s conceit is that there exists an “anti-Trump conspiracy” to “nullify the decision of the American people and continue the globalist, open-border oligarchy that the people voted to dismantle in 2016.” The culprits she identifies “include, but are not limited to, the leadership at the FBI, the CIA, NSA, and other intelligence agencies, the Democrat (sic) Party, and perhaps even the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) courts. And let’s not forget the media and entertainment industries that are waging a nonstop propaganda campaign that would render envious their counterparts in the worst totalitarian states of history.”
Hoo boy. Pirro, like literally every other conspiracy theorist on the planet, starts at the conclusion and then sets about backfilling her outlandish assertions. And, also like every other conspiracy theorist, her overriding zeal leads her to contradict herself and make a series of embarrassing fuck-ups.
Let’s start with her treatment of the Justice Department investigation into the Trump campaign’s links to Russia, which is hampered by Pirro’s howling ignorance. Pirro argues that it was former CIA Director John Brennan who “started the whole phony Russian collusion investigation” with the help of the dossier written by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele and “pressured the FBI into investigating the Trump campaign.” But she also writes, confusingly, that Brennan “tried to get the FBI to investigate the Trump campaign, but [former FBI Director James] Comey turned a deaf ear” and would not “buy the crap Brennan was selling.”
She continues, writing that Brennan “cornered” former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid “and spewed his cooked-up tale about Putin and Trump,” and Reid “sent a letter posthaste off to the FBI director, urging him to open an investigation. Cardinal Comey didn’t open one, at least that the public knew about.” So by her own reckoning, Brennan did an extremely poor job of starting the Russia investigation she alleges he started. And the reason Comey did not start an investigation after Reid contacted him is because the investigation was already open at that point.
To confuse things even further, Pirro writes later in the book that Comey was “too busy trying to concoct a Russia collusion case” to properly run the FBI. So was it Brennan or Comey who supposedly invented this collusion lie? And wasn’t it Comey who was supposed to have summarily rejected Brennan’s “crap” about Trump and Russia? What the hell is going on here?
It gets still more baffling. She writes at one point that Barack Obama was “so desperate to keep Donald Trump from being elected that his Justice Department, prodded by his CIA chief John O. Brennan, misled the most secret court of the United States. The goal was simple: spy on the Trump campaign to undermine a presidential election.” But just a few paragraphs later she writes that Obama “knew all along what Russia was up to. He didn’t do anything because he, and the establishment pollsters, thought Hillary would win.” So Obama was both “desperate” and complacent, determined to undermine Trump but also content to do nothing about Russian efforts to help Trump because he thought Hillary was a lock.
Pirro’s book transitions from factless absurdity to disgraceful hypocrisy in its treatment of sexual misconduct by the powerful and wealthy. A section of her book is devoted to the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse story as the “perfect example of Hollywood hypocrisy.” Pirro writes that Weinstein “silenced those around him with his ability to intimidate victims, pressure business associates, buy powerful Democrats, and leverage hungry Hollywood actors.” She viciously attacks people she argues enabled Weinstein, like Hillary Clinton and actor Meryl Streep, accusing them of turning a blind eye to Weinstein’s abuses in exchange for money and power. “I have a particular animus for Harvey Weinstein and people of his ilk,” she writes.
The problem here is obvious: Pirro’s book is a rabid defense of Donald Trump, the most powerful alleged sexual assaulter on the planet. As I wrote in my profile of Pirro, she has enthusiastically set fire to her reputation as a crusading champion of sexual assault victims in order to shill for Trump, and this book is an especially disgusting expression of her moral self-immolation. While lashing out at Hollywood and Democrats for their “hypocrisy” over Weinstein, she comes nowhere close to addressing the many allegations of sexual assault leveled against Trump over the years. Instead, she writes: “It bothers me that the president has become such a target of LIBERALS for his treatment of women.”
There’s no great mystery to why Pirro runs interference for Trump’s sexual misconduct in this way: The president is her friend, and her proximity to him gives her power and influence. Pirro was granted access to the highest echelons of Trump’s world for this preposterous farce of a book. It features quotes from interviews Pirro conducted with senior Trump officials like Kellyanne Conway and White House chief of staff John Kelly. The text is peppered with quotes from Trump’s children, which alternate between the sad (“You think that there’s anyone on earth that could change DJT?” says Donald Trump Jr., referring to his father by his initials for some reason) and the comically self-unaware (“You have certain individuals from the mainstream media, who sit in their ivory towers, their fancy offices and multi-million-dollar apartments,” says Eric Trump, who owns a $2 million apartment overlooking Central Park).
She goes on at exhausting length about how she and Trump are great personal friends and have shared so many special memories together flying to and from Florida on the president’s private jet. These treacly stories are presumably intended to convey a warmer, more personable side to Trump, but really they just make it clear how compromised Pirro is by her relationship to the president.
Liars, Leakers, and Liberals stands as an unintended self-indictment of the author: She tries to prosecute the president’s critics as slavish defenders of the entrenched power structure, but in the process she enthusiastically outs herself as an unprincipled, untrustworthy, and thoroughly rotten vassal of the president’s. Pirro is the embodiment of the media corruption she rails against.
And if she wants to call herself an “idiot,” well, there’s no reason to object to that either.
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Amid bipartisan criticism of President Donald Trump’s capitulation to Russian President Vladimir Putin, some of Trump’s fiercest media allies are standing behind him, even as many of his loyalists defect.
During a July 16 press conference with his Russian counterpart, Trump questioned the findings of his own intelligence community and legitimized Putin’s false claim that Russia did not meddle in the 2016 election, calling his denial “extremely strong and powerful.” His shameful performance garnered sharp rebukes from intelligence community veterans, Democrats, Republicans, and even friends of Trump who have defended the president through some of his most egregious slip-ups.
Nonetheless, a group of Trump’s most ardent supporters in the media rejected the overwhelming consensus and defended the president:
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On July 12, British tabloid The Sun published a wide-ranging interview with President Donald Trump in which he disparaged British Prime Minister Theresa May and espoused white nationalist views. Conservative media figures responded to the interview by praising the president and berating his critics.
Trump sat down for an interview with the Murdoch-owned paper shortly after the conclusion of the NATO summit, at which he insulted world leaders, missed and was late to a number of meetings, and took credit for convincing other nations to increase their NATO contributions, which he did not actually do. After alienating allies at the summit, the president proceeded in the Sun interview to undermine May and criticize her Brexit blueprint, praise her chief political rival, and threaten and threaten to kill a potential trade deal between the U.S. and Britain. Trump also used white nationalist rhetoric to talk about immigration to Europe, saying, “I think what's happened to Europe is a shame. I think the immigration - allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a shame. I think it changed the fabric of Europe. And unless you act very quickly, it's never going to be what it was. And I don't mean that in a positive way.”
Here’s how conservative media figures have responded to Trump’s latest outburst:
Following President Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, right-wing media have attempted to downplay the odds that, if confirmed, Kavanaugh would cast a deciding vote on abortion rights. In reality, Kavanaugh’s background demonstrates that he will most likely be key to overturning or further gutting Roe v. Wade -- and such an outcome would have devastating consequences for abortion access in the United States.
On July 9, Trump nominated D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court to fill a vacancy left after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement in late June. Kavanaugh’s name was included on a list put out by the White House that was “preapproved by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation.” According to New York magazine, this list was “extremely important to Trump’s relationship with the conservative movement and particularly with conservative Christian leaders.” Subsequently, anti-abortion groups praised Kavanaugh’s nomination as an opportunity to finally overturn Roe v. Wade and put an end legal abortion. And despite right-wing media’s gaslighting, Kavanaugh's record demonstrates that he will likely do just that.
In 2017, Kavanaugh dissented in a case involving an unaccompanied pregnant immigrant teen (called Jane Doe) who was in federal custody and wanted to have an abortion. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement was prohibiting Doe from leaving the facility to have an abortion because the agency did not want to “facilitate” the practice.
Beyond the substance of his opinion in the Jane Doe case, others have pointed to Kavanaugh’s reliance on “coded language” as evidence of his underlying intentions about abortion rights.
Kavanaugh’s decision in Doe’s case, as well as his previous comments on abortion-related matters, also demonstrate that he might leave Roe on the books while still obliterating abortion rights.
Even before Kavanaugh was officially nominated, right-wing media were already claiming that a Trump-nominated justice wouldn’t be that bad for abortion access. However, with Kavanaugh on the court, a decision gutting or overturning of Roe is likely and would have devastating consequences.
Although some (including Trump) have argued that overturning Roe will only return abortion regulations “back to the states,” this would functionally outlaw abortion across large parts of the country.
Independent of how abortion is regulated, economic and logistical barriers that already impede access will only grow worse in a world without Roe. As Carole Joffe, a professor in the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health program at the University of California, San Francisco, explained:
Geographic areas without access to abortion place an extreme burden on the disproportionate number of abortion patients who are poor (50 percent are below the official poverty line and another 25 percent are classified as low income). Besides having to pay for the procedure, they need the funds to pay for lodging (some states have waiting periods of 24 hours or more, necessitating overnight stays), child care (about 60 percent of abortion patients are already parents) and of course for the travel itself. And this journey also involves confronting one or more days of lost wages as well.
Regardless of state regulations, conservatives have recently attempted to push federal regulation on abortion. As author and lecturer Scott Lemieux explained for Vox, “a Republican government with slightly larger Senate majorities than it has now would be able to pass national abortion regulations” that could outright or effectively ban abortion.
Despite the threat that Kavanaugh poses to abortion rights, right-wing media have been busy gaslighting viewers in an apparent attempt to paint Kavanaugh as a “moderate” or otherwise suggest he wouldn’t overturn Roe:
Bill O'Reilly scrubbed a mention of Pirro from his website
On July 10, Media Matters reported on Bill O’Reilly’s announcement that Fox News host Jeanine Pirro was going to appear on his digital show to discuss President Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
A Google cache version of the preview for O’Reilly’s show has Pirro’s name:
At some point after publishing, her name was removed from the post.
Pirro never showed up, and O’Reilly instead discussed the matter with former U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman:
Media Matters emailed Fox News and Pirro, asking for comment about whether Pirro and Andrew Napolitano (who had reportedly been slated to be O’Reilly’s guest July 12; as of now, nothing on O’Reilly’s site from this week mentions Napolitano) were pulled from the program. So far, we have not received a response.
In April, O’Reilly announced that he was appearing at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., for “An Evening With Bill O’Reilly.” Patrons who gave contributions of more than $5,000 were slated to be rewarded with an “invitation to behind the scenes tour of Fox & Friends.” After a Media Matters post on the matter, a Fox spokesperson told The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple, “We had no knowledge of this and we are not allowing Fox & Friends to be part of any donation package.”
O’Reilly left Fox News in April 2017 after a sustained pressure campaign following revelations of multiple sexual harassment settlements. O’Reilly has since made multiple appearances on Sean Hannity’s radio show and one appearance on Hannity’s Fox News show.
Bobby Lewis contributed research to this post.
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