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  • Trump’s favorite Fox News propagandists are avoiding reports about Paul Manafort’s legal troubles

    Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine have steered clear of reporting on Paul Manafort’s legal exposure, but they spent significant time on a judge’s strong words for the special counsel's team

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Update:

    On June 14, a federal judge revoked Manafort's bail for allegedly tampering with witnesses, landing him in federal prison until his trial.


    President Donald Trump’s favorite Fox News shows are all but ignoring the cascade of damning reports regarding former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his legal troubles. Since May 2017, special counsel Robert Mueller has been scrutinizing various relationships between the Trump campaign and Russian nationals closely tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin, appearing to focus closely on Manafort’s business history and associates. As the legal pressure ramps up against Manafort, the president’s propagandists at Fox News have sought to distance Manafort from Trump and, through selective reporting on Manafort’s legal troubles, discredit the probe against Trump’s former campaign manager.

    Since the beginning of 2018, Manafort’s legal exposure has grabbed mainstream media attention, but the topic has not managed to break through on Trump’s favorite Fox News programs. Media Matters reviewed transcripts and video of the first editions of Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine after significant reports surfaced about new developments regarding the investigations into Manafort this year. We found little to no coverage of notable turns in the multiple high-profile legal cases against Trump’s former campaign manager. But we did find extensive coverage of the strong words a judge had for the special counsel’s team.

    Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine all but ignored major turns in legal cases against Manafort

    Manafort sues Department of Justice, alleging special counsel exceeded mandate

    On January 3, NPR reported that Manafort was suing the Department of Justice, alleging that “Mueller's team has ‘diverged’ from its stated focus on potential collusion with the Russians who attacked the 2016 election and instead zeroed in on Manafort for ‘unrelated, decade-old business dealings’ in Ukraine.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the development.

    Company tied to former Manafort business associate and Russian oligarch sues Manafort and business partner

    On January 10, according to NBC News, “a company controlled and funded by” Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, a crony of Russian President Vladimir Putin and one-time business associate of Manafort’s, sued Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates for allegedly “bilk[ing] his company by taking $1.1 million in capital and paying it to themselves.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the lawsuit.

    Special counsel tells judge investigation has revealed “additional criminal conduct” by Manafort

    On February 16, according to Politico, the special counsel’s office submitted a court filing informing a federal judge of “additional criminal conduct that [the office has] learned since the Court’s initial bail determination” on Manafort’s federal case that “includes a series of bank frauds and bank fraud conspiracies.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the court filing specifically. Though a guest on Fox & Friends, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, briefly mentioned general “charges” against Paul Manafort, he downplayed them as “unrelated to the campaign.”

    Former Trump aide Richard Gates will “plead guilty” and has agreed to “testify against Manafort”

    On February 18, the Los Angeles Times reported that Gates, who is also a former Trump campaign aide, would “plead guilty to fraud-related charges within days” and that he “made clear to prosecutors that he would testify against Paul Manafort.” While the Times report was unverified by other media outlets at the time, according to a Media Matters review, Hannity and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the report. Fox & Friends briefly mentioned it but added that Catherine Herridge, Fox News’ chief intelligence correspondent, “says, as of now, no deal, and Gates is not cooperating.” Five days later, The New York Times confirmed that Gates would plead guilty “to financial fraud and lying to investigators” and “has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel inquiry.” According to a Media Matters review, Hannity and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the development. Fox & Friends all but ignored the report other than airing a 15-second teaser from co-host Brian Kilmeade (who did not identify how Gates is tied to the Trump campaign) and a softball question from co-host Steve Doocy during an interview with former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. Priebus also attempted to downplay the significance of the report, claiming Gates’ and Manafort’s conduct was “independent of the Trump campaign.”

    Dutch lawyer tied to Manafort business partner sentenced to 30 days in federal prison for pleading guilty to lying to federal investigators

    On April 3, according to CNN, Alex van der Zwaan, a “Dutch lawyer tied to former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates,” was “sentenced … to spend 30 days in prison and pay a $20,000 fine after he admitted to lying to” the special counsel regarding his “communications with Gates and a person with Russian intelligence ties.” According to a Media Matters review, Hannity briefly mentioned the sentencing, downplaying it as having “nothing to do with Russia collusion,” and saying, “In reality, it looks like a giant waste of your money.” Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the sentencing, which was the first in the special counsel’s investigation. Fox & Friends twice mentioned the development in passing while attempting to downplay its significance, once saying the sentencing is “unrelated” to Trump and Russia.

    Special counsel obtains seven new search warrants against Manafort

    On April 5, CBS News reported that prosecutors on the special counsel’s team “revealed in court filings ... that they had obtained on March 9 seven new search warrants against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort” for “various properties” including “a storage unit, bank accounts, email addresses and devices.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the report.

    Federal judge rejects attempt to get Manafort case dismissed

    On May 15, according to Politico, a federal judge “rejected an attempt by Paul Manafort … to get an indictment against him dismissed by claiming that special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment was flawed.” The judge wrote that “given the combination of his prominence within the campaign and his ties to Ukrainian officials supported by and operating out of Russia, as well as to Russian oligarchs, Manafort was an obvious person of interest” for U.S. law enforcement. According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the judge’s decision.

    Manafort’s former son-in-law cuts plea deal, will testify against Manafort

    On May 17, Reuters reported that Manafort’s former son-in-law and “business partner” Jeffrey Yohai “cut a plea deal with the Justice Department” requiring him “to cooperate” with the special counsel’s prosecutors. According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the report.

    Special counsel accuses Manafort of attempting to tamper with witnesses

    On June 4, according to The New York Times, “federal prosecutors ... accused President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, of attempting to tamper with witnesses in his federal tax and money laundering case,” with one witness telling the FBI “that Mr. Manafort was trying to ‘suborn perjury.’” Yet again, according to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the court filing, even though the charges leveled against Trump’s former campaign manager can mean up to 20 years in federal prison if he is found guilty.

    Special counsel unseals additional charges against Manafort, Russian business associate

    On June 8, according to NPR, the special counsel’s office “unsealed more charges” against Manafort, alleging “that a Russian partner of Manafort's, Konstantin Kilimnik, helped him try to persuade witnesses to lie to the jury when Manafort's case comes to trial in Washington, D.C., this autumn.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the additional round of charges against the president’s former campaign manager.

    But Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine all covered a judge’s sharp questioning of the special counsel’s motivations extensively

    On May 4, according to The Washington Post, “a federal judge in Virginia ... sharply questioned the motivations of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s fraud prosecution of President Trump’s former campaign manager.” According to the report, Judge T.S. Ellis III told prosecutors on Mueller’s team, “You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud. … You really care about getting information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine all covered the judge’s rebuke of the Mueller team extensively.

    On the May 4 edition of Hannity, host Sean Hannity spent a total of 14 minutes and 46 seconds discussing Judge Ellis’ comments, calling his remarks the “single biggest beatdown I have ever seen in my life by a judge.” The nearly 15 minutes Hannity devoted to Ellis’ comments were significantly more than the time he spent covering any development in the various cases against Manafort in 2018 combined, which totaled about 1 minute and 57 seconds.

    On the May 5 edition of Justice with Judge Jeanine, host Jeanine Pirro spent a total of 15 minutes and 27 seconds discussing Judge Ellis’ remarks. In contrast, Pirro did not mention any of the other stories regarding Manafort's legal troubles in 2018.

    On the May 7 edition of Fox & Friends, the hosts devoted 11 minutes and 5 seconds to Judge Ellis’ comments over three hours of airtime. Fox & Friends spent a total of 2 minutes and 43 seconds on the other turns in the various cases against Manafort, and during those reports the hosts usually downplayed the events as “unrelated” to Russia or “independent from the Trump campaign.”

    As Fox buries reports on Manafort, majority of Americans are unaware of numerous special counsel indictments

    Given Manafort’s past and the people he has been willing to associate with professionally, it is no wonder Fox News’ chief Trump propagandists have attempted to distance the president from him. According to The Atlantic’s Franklin Foer, Manafort’s career was built on lobbying on behalf of “dictatorial governments in Nigeria, Kenya, Zaire, Equatorial Guinea, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia, among others.” Manafort’s experience representing repressive regimes eventually landed him a job in Ukraine, assisting the “former gangsters,” as Foer wrote, in the Party of Regions in improving their image domestically, eventually guiding pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych to presidential victory in 2010.

    Fox News’ efforts to bury Manafort’s legal exposure seem to be having an impact. According to a recent survey conducted by Navigator Research, 59 percent of Americans are not aware that the special counsel’s investigation has uncovered any crimes, even though Mueller has amassed five guilty pleas and numerous indictments. Should the special counsel’s investigation turn up evidence that supports allegations of a criminal conspiracy between members of the Trump campaign and foreign actors, Manafort would surely be implicated as a key player.

    Suppressing reports regarding (arguably) the most corrupt member of Trump’s campaign team -- and following Fox’s usual playbook of downplaying and ignoring other consequential reporting on the special counsel’s investigation -- appears to be part of the network’s larger strategy to pre-emptively downplay any possible findings that could implicate the president and his campaign.

  • An NRA source just admitted that NRA representatives met with Putin’s inner circle during the 2016 campaign

    NRATV called the Russia investigation a lie, even as there is an FBI investigation into whether the Russian government used the NRA to illegally funnel money to support Trump

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE

    We already knew, thanks to previous reporting and a Senate Judiciary Committee report, that the Russian government may have used the NRA to aid Trump’s campaign in 2016. And per previous reporting from McClatchy, the FBI is investigating whether Russian banker and NRA member Alexander Torshin used the NRA to illegally funnel money to support Trump's election. 

    Now, a new McClatchy story cites an NRA source to confirm that high-level meetings took place between members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and NRA representatives during the election:

    Several prominent Russians, some in President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle or high in the Russian Orthodox Church, now have been identified as having contact with National Rifle Association officials during the 2016 U.S. election campaign, according to photographs and an NRA source.

    The contacts have emerged amid a deepening Justice Department investigation into whether Russian banker and lifetime NRA member Alexander Torshin illegally channeled money through the gun rights group to add financial firepower to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential bid.

    Other influential Russians who met with NRA representatives during the campaign include Dmitry Rogozin, who until last month served as a deputy prime minister overseeing Russia’s defense industry, and Sergei Rudov, head of one of Russia’s largest philanthropies, the St. Basil the Great Charitable Foundation. The foundation was launched by an ultra-nationalist ally of Russian President Putin.

    The Russians talked and dined with NRA representatives, mainly in Moscow, as U.S. presidential candidates vied for the White House. Now U.S. investigators want to know if relationships between the Russian leaders and the nation’s largest gun rights group went beyond vodka toasts and gun factory tours, evolving into another facet of the Kremlin’s broad election-interference operation.

    Even as the contacts took place, Kremlin cyber operatives were secretly hacking top Democrats’ emails and barraging Americans’ social media accounts with fake news stories aimed at damaging the image of Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton and boosting the prospects of Republican Donald Trump.

    NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch dismissed the reporting as old news:

    While NRATV has largely avoided mentioning Russia, contributor Dan Bongino has been railing against special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. On Fox & Friends in May, he called the Russia investigation “an obvious frame job.” On a June 2 Fox & Friends Saturday appearance, Bongino blasted the investigation as a “total scam,” leading to a Trump tweet on the matter quoting him.

    On June 4, jumping off that Trump tweet, Bongino went on a wild rant on his NRATV program, complaining that the entire Russia investigation was fake and that he had spent six months studying the matter for a book he is working on. He even argued, referring to Australian diplomat Alexander Downer, that going through non-official channels implies guilt -- which is incredible as an investigation is looking at the possibility that the NRA was used by a foreign government to illegally intervene in an American presidential election.

    Here’s the entire rant:

    The whole thing’s a scam, folks. This Russia investigation’s a scam. So, the president must have saw it, tweeted out the comments, which I always appreciate, but I meant it. I meant every word of it.

    This is a scam. The whole thing is a scam and the entire story is falling apart. I have some incredible sound here I’m going to play in a minute, and video, from Congressman Devin Nunes [(R-CA)], who’s been doing an unbelievable job uncovering the scam that this whole Russia thing has been. But before I play it I just want to set you up what we’re talking about here.

    Folks, the media cannot agree on a story how the darn investigation started, because the investigation’s crap -- it's garbage. The reason they can’t cite to you what paragraph one of this investigation reads -- in other words, at this time, at this place, this happened, and therefore we investigated Donald Trump -- is because no one can explain why it started, because it started for political, not law enforcement or counterintelligence, reasons. We were told initially that the case started because of a guy named Carter Page, who went to Russia; we now found out that a lot of that information contained in that dossier was false. The media narrative then changed to, “Oh, it was a meeting between Alexander Downer and a guy named George Papadopoulos working for the Trump team where some information about Russian emails were exchanged.” I’m going to get to Nunes in a second. Now that narrative is falling apart. The media is now trying to change the narrative again -- to, “Well, no, it started when a spy interacted with the Trump team and the British gave us information on the Trump team as early as 2015,” which begs the very simple question, if you knew about Russians trying to involve themselves in our election back in 2015, why the hell didn’t you do anything about it? Fair question? Heh? Kinda? Sorta?

    Well, with regards to story number two, because again there’s four or five different iterations about how the FBI started this case, none of which make any sense. On story number two, about a low-level Trump operative by the name of George Papadopoulos interacting with an Australian in London, an Australian diplomat by the name of Alexander Downer, and exchanging some information about the Russians having emails on Hillary, the FBI says, “Oh well we had to investigate, look at that,” and the Democrats will parrot that line. Here’s Devin Nunes again debunking critical elements of story number two.

    That liberals still defend this, right, and they just don’t take a bath on it and just come out and admit at this point that this whole thing’s been a scam, is beyond perplexing to me. It’s dragging them down at the polls. It’s obviously a scam. They obviously have no evidence of any Russian collusion at all, and yet they continue -- it reminds me of a shirt I saw once at Six Flags Great Adventure New Jersey, remember that? Was that exit 7a or something? The shirt said “The beatings will continue until morale improves.” How -- are you going to continue to smash your head against the desk, liberals, with this dopey case? Nothing you’ve said is true. Nothing. The whole case is a fabrication.

    There are two critical takeaways from that commentary by Devin Nunes on Maria Bartiromo’s show (again hat tip Fox News there). Two points. Number one, he brings up again how this information supposedly that was so devastating about a Trump team member who mentioned something about emails, he mentions again how it was passed through non-official channels. Folks, why would you do that? Why would you do that? What movie is that from? Anybody in this studio know? Denise, who’s our pop culture guy? Why would you do that? That’s from a movie. That’s going to drive me crazy the whole time. Why would you pass the information through non-official channels? You would pass it through non-official channels because if it went through official intelligence channels and it was fake, it would be exposed as fake. This isn’t hard. There’s a reason they went through political channels with what they deemed to be counterintelligence and intelligence information, because if they passed it through official intelligence channels, it would have been laughed at as garbage.

    There’s another takeaway from that, not specifically mentioned in the piece but that’s been breaking about this Downer piece. Remember, Downer’s the Australian diplomat who allegedly dealt with this Trump kid on the Trump team who had information about the emails. Now Downer himself is saying, ”Well, the Trump team member never mentioned anything about emails.” Folks, is anything about this story true? Anything? The answer is no. Nothing about this story’s true. You’re being worked, as I said in the tweet.

    All right, let me move on, because this is going to drive me crazy. I could talk about this all day, but just trust me on this. I’m putting a book together on this -- it’s been my entire life for the last six months.

    There is not a single critical fact in this case that the liberals, the swamp rat Republicans, and the people advocating for this Trump/Russia collusion fairy tale, not a single critical fact that has turned out to be true. Not one. It is garbage.

  • Fox & Friends ignores report that Trump pressured Sessions multiple times to "reclaim control of the Russia investigation"

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    President Donald Trump’s favorite morning cable program, Fox & Friends, is continuing its longstanding model of ignoring important reporting on potential legal troubles for the Trump administration. On June 1, the  show chose not to cover a new report from Axios that the president “pressured Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reclaim control of the Russia investigation on at least four separate occasions.”

    On May 31, Axios’ Jonathan Swan reported that in “multiple conversations” with the attorney general, Trump “pressured” Sessions “to reclaim control of the Russia investigation” into possible coordination between the country and the Trump campaign. According to Swan, “The sustained pressure made several officials uncomfortable, because they viewed it as improper and worry that it could be politically and legally problematic.” The New York Times had reported two days earlier about one of those conversations, and the piece noted that special counsel Robert Mueller regarded Sessions as “a key witness in the investigation into whether Mr. Trump tried to obstruct the inquiry itself.”

    Indeed, multiple political and legal analysts have suggested that such a request would be further evidence of the president attempting to obstruct justice.

    But Trump’s favorite morning cable news program, Fox & Friends, has all but ignored the news. A Media Matters review found that on the morning of June 1, Fox & Friends did not mention Sessions or Trump’s multiple requests that he “unrecuse” himself from the investigation, which follows the show’s transparent and well-documented trend of all but ignoring negative reporting regarding the Trump administration.