Fox News host: No one could expect Trump to vet Manafort and Gates for the things they're accused of
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While Trump was watching, they found time to hype another attempt to discredit the Mueller investigation
President Donald Trump’s favorite show Fox & Friends completely ignored a new indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates. Instead, the show devoted time to a Republican effort to discredit the Mueller investigation.
Manafort and Gates were indicted on February 22 for a combined 32 counts, for allegedly committing tax, financial, and bank fraud, with Manafort allegedly laundering up to $30 million with Gates’ help. These charges are in addition to the previous charges filed against them on October 30.
On February 23, Fox & Friends failed to mention the new indictment, a Media Matters’ search of SnapStream closed captioning revealed. The show did, however, find time to give a platform to two pro-Trump Republican congressmen to promote “phase two of their investigation” attacking the Christopher Steele dossier -- an investigation which is widely seen as an effort to discredit Mueller’s probe into whether the Trump campaign assisted Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Fox & Friends, which Trump habitually watches and engages with over Twitter (including today), has a recorded history of downplaying or simply ignoring negative stories about Trump and those close to him. On January 30, the show failed to cover Trump’s refusal to enact sanctions on Russia related to the country’s interference in U.S. elections (the deadline to do so was January 29). The show also ignored three separate breaking news stories about the Russia investigation on February 1, former White House staff secretary Rob Porter’s alleged history of domestic abuse on February 8, and that the Trump White House first learned of allegations against Porter a year prior to the media reports. Additionally, Fox & Friends covered the first October 30 indictment against Manafort and Gates far less than its CNN and MSNBC competitors.
In the aftermath of the Flynn plea, Fox News’ attacks on Robert Mueller have become completely unhinged
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.
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In response to the news that President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was indicted for, among other things, money laundering and acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign principal, Trump tweeted a Fox News talking point that Manafort’s alleged criminal activity occurred before he joined the campaign. But the first page of the indictment states that in an attempt to hide payments he received from Ukraine, Manafort was laundering money at least through the election year; Manafort served as Trump’s campaign manager between March and August 2016.
The first page of the indictment reads (emphasis added):
MANAFORT and GATES generated tens of millions of dollars in income as a result of their Ukraine work. In order to hide Ukraine payments from United States authorities, from approximately 2006 through at least 2016, MANAFORT and GATES laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships, and bank accounts.
Trump falsely claimed on Twitter that Manafort’s alleged criminal actions didn’t occur during his time with the campaign:
Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren't Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30, 2017
Fox News had repeated this false talking point several times prior to Trump’s tweet. On Fox & Friends earlier this morning, co-host Steve Doocy commented that Manafort had “some suspicious wire transfers back in 2012, 2013, many years before he joined Trump.” Doocy later seemed to suggest the White House adopt the talking point that Trump eventually tweeted: “But ultimately, I would imagine the people in the White House are going to start talking later today about, ‘Well, if that's all they've got, something -- the guy who ran the campaign last year, something he did 5, 10 years earlier, we're OK.’”
It’s been well documented that Trump regularly watches Fox’s morning programming. Even this morning, before details of Manafort’s indictment were reported, Trump tweeted his thanks to a guest on Fox & Friends for his performance on the show.
The same talking point was repeated later on Fox News, before Trump’s tweet. On America’s Newsroom, Fox contributor Byron York said, “These are all alleged crimes that, if they took place, took place years before he joined the Trump campaign.” A few minutes later, Fox guest David Hoppe said the indictment “is for things that happened well before Paul Manafort was ever involved with the Trump campaign.”
Some Fox personalities also shared this talking point on Twitter prior to Trump’s tweet:
— Geraldo Rivera (@GeraldoRivera) October 30, 2017
— Geraldo Rivera (@GeraldoRivera) October 30, 2017
Here’s the Manafort indictment. Charges appear to predate Trump campaign, which is never mentioned in it. https://t.co/5oIwjcAdLG
— Brit Hume (@brithume) October 30, 2017
Fox & Friends devoted less than 20 minutes to the news that special counsel Robert Mueller was filing charges against two of President Donald Trump’s top campaign aides, while other cable news morning shows spent over an hour on the story this morning.
On October 30, a federal grand jury indicted Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chief, and Rick Gates, Manafort’s longtime business associate who also served as his deputy on the Trump campaign, as part of Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The indictment includes 12 counts, including conspiracy against the United States and acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign principal. The Daily Beast called the indictments “stunning.”
After the news of the indictment came out shortly before 8 a.m., MSNBC’s Morning Joe and CNN’s New Day stayed on the story until their respective shows ended at 9 a.m. Fox News’ Fox & Friends, on the other hand, devoted only 18 minutes and 48 seconds to the story in the same time period.
This is hardly the first time Fox News has attempted to downplay or mislead about the Russia probe. Fox has also tried to deflect attention by scandalizing innocuous stories, such as attempting to link former President Barack Obama to the dossier about Trump’s relationship with Russia or repeatedly covering the debunked story involving former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a Russian uranium company.
Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of the world “Manafort” on the October 30 editions of CNN’s New Day, MSNBC’s Morning Joe, and Fox News’ Fox & Friends. We timed the mentions if they were part of a significant discussion of the indictments, with “significant discussion” defined as a back-and-forth exchange between two or more people on the indictment, a packaged report where the indictment was the stated topic of discussion, or a host monologue where the indictment was the stated topic of discussion.
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Right-wing and fringe media are claiming yet again that President Donald Trump was correct when he accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping in Trump Tower, now arguing that a legal wiretap targeted at former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is proof of Trump’s claim. However, said wiretap was pursuant to a warrant and targeted at Manafort, not Trump. This is at least the fifth time in six months right-wing media has attempted to validate Trump’s lie.
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After President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was issued a search warrant regarding the Russia investigation, pro-Trump media -- including Fox personalities, fringe blogs, neo-Nazi sites, and fake news purveyors -- lashed out, stating that it was “not about Trump,” and insisted that this was a witch hunt and another attempt to undermine the 2016 presidential election. Others claimed the FBI was acting as “someone’s personal Gestapo,” and that the raid was a form of “witness intimidation.”
The Associated Press reported today that Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman for President Donald Trump, “secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago.” The revelation underscores the unreliability of Trump adviser Roger Stone, who has repeatedly claimed that Manafort, his longtime friend and former business partner, has “no Russian ties” and “never” worked for the Russians.
The AP reported that Manafort “secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics.” The news organization reported:
Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse.
Manafort pitched the plans to Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10 million annual contract beginning in 2006, according to interviews with several people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by the AP. Manafort and Deripaska maintained a business relationship until at least 2009, according to one person familiar with the work.
In a statement to the AP, Manafort confirmed that he worked for Deripaska in various countries but said the work was being unfairly cast as "inappropriate or nefarious" as part of a "smear campaign."
"I worked with Oleg Deripaska almost a decade ago representing him on business and personal matters in countries where he had investments," Manafort said. "My work for Mr. Deripaska did not involve representing Russia's political interests."
Manafort reportedly pitched plans to Deripaska in 2005 that could "benefit the Putin Government if employed":
"We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success," Manafort wrote in the 2005 memo to Deripaska. The effort, Manafort wrote, "will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government."
The AP noted that its reporting about Manafort’s work “appears to contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort himself that he never worked for Russian interests.” During a recent briefing, White House press secretary Sean Spicer laughably attempted to minimize Manafort’s role in the Trump campaign as “very limited.”
Stone is a longtime adviser and confidant to Trump. He has a decades-long history of employing political dirty tricks and lying, and he regularly spouts violent, racist, and sexist rhetoric.
Stone worked as both a paid and unpaid adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign, and he was a partner with Manafort in the lobbying firm Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly during the 1980s through the mid-90s. Stone wrote in his book that he “introduced Manafort to Donald Trump at the 1988 Republican National Convention in New Orleans.” The Washington Post reported that Manafort “was recommended for the job by Roger Stone, the longtime Trump associate who officially parted ways with the campaign last summer but remains influential.”
United States law enforcement and intelligence agencies are reportedly investigating both Stone and Manafort “as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of … Trump.”
But Stone has repeatedly claimed that Manafort has never worked for the Russians and has attempted to distance Manafort from any claims of Russian influence. (Stone has similarly claimed he has no Russian ties.)
Stone said on August 15 edition of The Alex Jones Show that Manafort “has never worked for the Ukrainian government or for the Russian government.”
Stone said on the August 18 edition of Breitbart News Daily that the claim that Manafort is in bed with Putin is a “conspiracy theory.” He made similar remarks defending Manafort during an August 18 appearance on C-SPAN.
During an August 19 appearance on The Alex Jones Show, Stone claimed that “Manafort has not worked for the government of Ukraine or Russia.”
Stone wrote an August 19 piece for his website denying that Manafort is “somehow in bed with Putin and the Russian’s when Trump has never met or communicated with Putin and Putin dislikes Manafort”:
The entire spin by the Clintonistas that Trump and Manafort are somehow in bed with Putin and the Russian’s (sic) when Trump has never met or communicated with Putin and Putin dislikes Manafort because of the latter’s pushing of [Ukrainian politician Viktor Yanukovych] to have Ukraine join the EU. This is the “New McCarthyism[.]” The Clinton’s (sic) and their vassals essentially accuse Trump and Manafort of treason against their own Country when in fact it’s Bill and Hillary who have profiteered in the Ukraine as well as taking millions from oligarchs and interests aligned with Putin.
(As CNN noted, “Trump has at least nine times claimed to have spoken to, met, or made contact with Putin.”)
Stone tweeted on October 31 that “@PaulManafort has NO Russian ties to investigate” and that contrary claims are “100% made up horseshit.”
— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) November 1, 2016
Stone also wrote a January 13 op-ed for The Daily Caller in which he claimed that there’s “no evidence” that Manafort was “working for the Russians”:
The persistent insistence that I knew of Russian assistance to Assange and advised Trump of it is a lie. Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, and Donald Trump were working for the Russians? Please. It’s tedious and no evidence in the possession of our vaunted Intelligence Agencies proves this.
The New York Times is reporting that American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are investigating “intercepted communications” that potentially show ties between longtime Donald Trump ally Roger Stone and Russian officials.
The report confirming the ongoing investigation comes after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that the Russian government meddled in the 2016 election by hacking the Democratic National Committee, as well as reports that the FBI and five other intelligence agencies have been investigating whether money from the Kremlin covertly aided Trump’s presidential run.
In July, reports surfaced that Trump’s foreign policy advisor on Russia and Europe, Carter Page, made almost his entire fortune off of investments in Russia. Soon after, NBC News reported on alleged payments to Donald Trump’s then-campaign manager Paul Manafort from former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych from 2007-2012. Roger Stone, a racist, sexist conspiracy theorist -- who has previously claimed that there’s “greater freedom of the press” and expression in Russia than in the U.S. -- has now also been implicated as another one of Trump’s associates currently under investigation. Media Matters first exposed Stone in August 2016, after he claimed to be in contact with Julian Assange regarding an "October Surprise." In early October, Stone reassured anxious Alex Jones listeners that the "motherload" was coming.
The report, which will appear in the January 20 edition of The New York Times, confirms that intelligence agencies are investigating “intercepted communications and financial transactions” between Russian officials and Trump allies Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, and Carter Page. The report notes that the “continuing counterintelligence means that Mr. Trump will take the oath of office on Friday with his associates under investigation and after the intelligence agencies concluded that the Russian government had worked to help elect him.” From The New York Times:
American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, current and former senior American officials said.
The continuing counterintelligence investigation means that Mr. Trump will take the oath of office on Friday with his associates under investigation and after the intelligence agencies concluded that the Russian government had worked to help elect him. As president, Mr. Trump will oversee those agencies and have the authority to redirect or stop at least some of these efforts.
The counterintelligence investigation centers at least in part on the business dealings that some of the president-elect’s past and present advisers have had with Russia. Mr. Manafort has done business in Ukraine and Russia. Some of his contacts there were under surveillance by the National Security Agency for suspected links to Russia’s Federal Security Service, one of the officials said.
The F.B.I. investigation into Mr. Manafort began last spring, and was an outgrowth of a criminal investigation into his work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine and for the country’s former president, Viktor F. Yanukovych. In August, The Times reported that Mr. Manafort’s name had surfaced in a secret ledger that showed he had been paid millions in undisclosed cash payments.
The Associated Press has reported that his work for Ukraine included a secret lobbying effort in Washington aimed at influencing American news organizations and government officials.
Mr. Stone, a longtime friend of Mr. Trump’s, said in a speech in Florida last summer that he had communicated with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy group that published the hacked Democratic emails. During the speech, Mr. Stone predicted further leaks of documents, a prediction that came true within weeks.
In a brief interview on Thursday, Mr. Stone said he had never visited Russia and had no Russian clients. He said that he had worked in Ukraine for a pro-Western party, but that any assertion that he had ties to Russian intelligence was “nonsense” and “totally false.”