Michael Flynn | Media Matters for America

Michael Flynn

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  • Fox wants President Trump to pardon Robert Mueller’s “victims”

    The Trump propaganda network’s clemency list includes Stone, Flynn, and Papadopoulos

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In President Donald Trump's first interview since the conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Fox News host Sean Hannity asked the president whether he would consider pardoning campaign aides who pleaded guilty or were found guilty of crimes as part of the probe. The president demurred, saying that “many, many people were hurt, incredibly hurt by this whole scam,” but he doesn’t “want to talk about pardons now.”

    After spending years undermining Mueller’s probe even as the special counsel obtained guilty pleas and verdicts against several top Trump campaign advisers, Fox personalities like Hannity have responded to the conclusion of the investigation last week by calling for pardons for Mueller’s so-called “victims.”

    The network’s hosts have been particularly interested in obtaining pardons for former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign foreign policy aide George Papadopoulos, who both pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI, and for Trump confidant Roger Stone, who has been indicted on seven counts including lying to Congress and witness tampering.

    These calls may end up having an impact -- Trump regularly watches Fox and has previously issued pardons in response to the network’s programming.

    Tucker Carlson has led the way, pushing for pardons on three different broadcasts of his show in the last week, particularly for Stone. Trump reportedly loves Carlson’s show and watches it regularly, and he often tweets about Carlson segments that catch his attention.

    During Wednesday night’s show, just minutes before the president’s live interview on Hannity, former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo concluded an interview by saying, “I just want to say one thing, Tucker: Pardon General Flynn, pardon George Papadopoulos, and pardon Roger Stone right now, Mr. President.”

    “Immediately,” Carlson replied. “That's exactly right. I couldn’t agree with -- don't wait until after the election, do it now. They deserve it now. Thank you.”

    “Do it right now on Twitter,” Caputo responded.

    “I agree! I agree!” Carlson said.

    “Where are the pardons here? Carlson asked retired CIA officer John Kiriakou after mentioning Stone on Tuesday’s broadcast. “I mean, is it time for the executive branch to send a really clear message we're going to stop the destruction of innocent people by completely out of control bureaucrats?”

    “I think it is the time for pardons,” Kiriakou replied.

    Carlson later added that “it doesn't make sense not to pardon people” and said Trump has an “obligation” to do so since the Mueller probe was “a scam and a hoax.”

    And on Friday, Carlson argued that “there was no collusion,” but “Stone is still looking at life in prison.” Carlson asked, “Where is Roger Stone's pardon? His pardon from the president? Let's hope it comes very soon.”

    Later in the program, Carlson asked Ed Henry, who is both Fox News’ chief national correspondent and a co-host of Fox & Friends’ weekend editions, whether Henry had heard that the president was considering a pardon for Stone. Henry replied that he had not, but that “based on the conversations I have had,” he thinks “it is entirely possible that you could see [former Trump campaign chair Paul] Manafort, Stone, and others pardoned.”

    While Carlson has been the loudest Fox voice urging Trump to issue pardons, he is not the only one. On Tuesday, Papadopoulos announced that his lawyers had formally requested a pardon from the president, triggering debate on several of the network’s programs.

    Fox’s Steve Hilton told Special Report guest host John Roberts that he would recommend Trump issue the pardon to ensure “fairness and equal justice.” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) told Fox’s Neil Cavuto that the president should instead pardon Flynn, whose investigation Paul claimed had been “unfair.” And Fox Business’ Stuart Varney said that he expected pardons for both to be granted.

    On Tuesday night, Papadopoulos was able to make his pitch to the president directly through a friendly interview with Fox’s Martha MacCallum.

    “Do you think you’re going to get a pardon from President Trump?” MacCallum asked, after credulously allowing Papadopoulos to tell his story of purportedly being “set up.”

    “I have no idea. I have no expectation for it,” he replied. “I know my lawyers have formally applied for one and if I'm granted one it would be a tremendous honor, and of course I would accept.”

    “You already spent 12 days in federal prison, which I'm sure was not a picnic,” MacCallum responded. “But you'd like to have that off your record.”

    If Trump is heeding the messages he’s been getting from Fox, Papadopoulos may get his wish.

  • Fox & Friends barely covers Michael Flynn’s first sentencing hearing

    Flynn’s admission that he was not entrapped by FBI investigators annihilated a popular right-wing talking point

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters
     

    U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan tore into President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn in a Washington, D.C., courtroom on December 18 and all but destroyed nearly a week’s worth of right-wing talking points in the process, but viewers wouldn’t know it from watching Fox & Friends. According to a Media Matters review of the December 19 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News’ flagship morning program only briefly mentioned Flynn’s sentencing hearing to attack the judge in the case during three hours of programming.

    A popular right-wing talking point pushed extensively on Fox News has argued that Flynn was entrapped by the FBI when they questioned him in January 2017, and that the actions for which he was in legal trouble were minor and overblown. But according to a CNN report on the sentencing hearing, “the judge threw a series of questions at him that highlighted how unusual Flynn's case is and how consequential his actions may be.” Later in the hearing, according to ABC News, Sullivan asked “if Flynn believed he had been entrapped by the FBI,” but “his attorneys replied ‘no your honor.’” Though Sullivan eventually decided to postpone the sentencing hearing, he did so only after shredding Flynn’s defense and mulling the prospect of ignoring the prosecution’s sentencing suggestion that Flynn receive no jail time as a result of his cooperation.

    A Media Matters review found Fox & Friends covered Flynn’s devastating first sentencing hearing, which thoroughly debunked their main talking point, for less than five minutes in its three hour program. Aside from a brief mention of the sentencing hearing during an interview with counselor to the president, Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s favorite morning propaganda program only discussed Flynn in one segment with Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich; in each discussion, which lasted a combined 4 minutes and 35 seconds, the hosts and guests used their platform to downplay the severity of Flynn’s guilty pleas and to attack Sullivan -- the same judge that Trump’s propagandists praised just days earlier. Most of the discussion focused on attacking the judge, saying Sullivan went “off the deep end” and accusing him of “winging it.”

    Fox & Friends has dutifully played its public relations role for the Trump White House for nearly two years, and it continues fighting that losing battle even in the face of Flynn’s sentencing hearing -- just like it has with nearly every other damning report about the conduct of the Trump campaign, transition, and administration.

  • Watch a Fox News contributor laughably spin all of Trump’s talking points on the Michael Flynn guilty plea

    Steve Cortes' disgraceful performance was even labeled as a "Baghdad Bob" moment by a Fox colleague

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Fox News contributor Steve Cortes, who acted as a Trump campaign surrogate during the 2016 presidential election cycle, pulled out all the stops in response to breaking news that former Trump administration national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with agents of the Russian government. Cortes downplayed the bombshell news, saying it wasn’t “even a firecracker,” claimed the whole narrative was a “collusion delusion,” and asserted that “regular Americans” are not concerned with Russia.

    President Donald Trump’s numerous other right-wing media defenders also downplayed the significance of reports that Flynn had agreed to plead guilty to charges emanating from special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and attempted to deflect attention to other pseudo-scandals. The White House also issued a statement to further downplay the severity of the situation.

    Cortes’ performance during a December 1 appearance on Fox's Outnumbered Overtime offered arguably the most succinct synopsis of these defensive talking points you'll find anywhere, including:

    • “We already knew [Flynn] lied … that’s why he was fired.”
    • “We are still so far away from collusion … that is tied directly to the president himself.”
    • “What Gen. Flynn did, in terms of outreach [to Russia], I don’t think was wrong.”
    • “There’s an obsession with Russia, there is a ‘collusion delusion’ here.”
    • “This election was not won because of Russia.”
    • “Part of the problem of a special counsel … is that it can be open-end[ed].”
    • “People who ... generally despise Trump are pretty obsessed with Russia, regular Americans are not.”
    • “Gen. Flynn committed a ‘process crime’ … not a crime in action, not anything remotely close to treasonous.”
    • The “Russia obsession” is nothing more than “swamp machinations.”

    Minutes later, Weekly Standard editor-in-chief and long-time Fox contributor Steven Hayes appeared on the same program and expressed disbelief at Cortes’ performance, comparing him disfavorably to the infamous Iraqi propagandist Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, known colloquially as “Baghdad Bob.”