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Legal experts and Trump’s attorney general agree it would be “improper and illegal”
Conservative media figures have repeatedly downplayed possible collusion between associates of President Donald Trump and the Russian government, suggesting that “it’s not a crime” to collude with a foreign government to influence U.S. elections. Legal experts and Trump’s own attorney general, however, agree that such collusion would be “improper and illegal.”
PolitiFact rated Fox anchor Gregg Jarrett’s claim that collusion with a foreign government in an election isn’t a crime “false,” citing three election law experts who named four statutes that could have been violated. Amid an FBI probe into whether members of President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election, various conservative media figures have piled on to make similar claims that such actions -- if they occurred -- are not illegal.
On May 10, Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera was among the first to say that collusion with the Russian government in an election wouldn’t be a crime. Fox host Sean Hannity said on his radio show on May 22, “Let’s say they did [collude], they said to Vladimir Putin, ‘Hey Vladimir, release everything you got.’ And Vladimir released it to Julian Assange. You know, is that a crime?” On May 30, Fox’s Jarrett asserted on air that “collusion is not a crime. … You can collude all you want with a foreign government in an election. There is no such statute.” Jarrett made a similar argument in a FoxNews.com op-ed. And on May 31, conservative author Michael Reagan claimed on CNN, “Collusion is not breaking the law,” and repeatedly asked “what law” collusion breaks.
In a June 1 fact check, PolitiFact, responding to Jarrett, wrote, “We ran Jarrett’s argument by three election law professors, and they all said that while the word ‘collusion’ might not appear in key statutes (they couldn’t say for sure that it was totally absent), working with the Russians could violate criminal laws”:
Nathaniel Persily at Stanford University Law School said one relevant statute is the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.
"A foreign national spending money to influence a federal election can be a crime," Persily said. "And if a U.S. citizen coordinates, conspires or assists in that spending, then it could be a crime."
Persily pointed to a 2011 U.S. District Court ruling based on the 2002 law. The judges said that the law bans foreign nationals "from making expenditures to expressly advocate the election or defeat of a political candidate."
Another election law specialist, John Coates at Harvard University Law School, said if Russians aimed to shape the outcome of the presidential election, that would meet the definition of an expenditure.
"The related funds could also be viewed as an illegal contribution to any candidate who coordinates (colludes) with the foreign speaker," Coates said.
To be sure, no one is saying that coordination took place. What’s in doubt is whether the word "collusion" is as pivotal as Jarrett makes it out to be.
Coates said discussions between a campaign and a foreigner could violate the law against fraud.
"Under that statute, it is a federal crime to conspire with anyone, including a foreign government, to ‘deprive another of the intangible right of honest services,’ " Coates said. "That would include fixing a fraudulent election, in my view, within the plain meaning of the statute."
Josh Douglas at the University of Kentucky Law School offered two other possible relevant statutes.
"Collusion in a federal election with a foreign entity could potentially fall under other crimes, such as against public corruption," Douglas said. "There's also a general anti-coercion federal election law."
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Fox News staffers are reportedly "embarrassed' by the network's promotion of Seth Rich conspiracy, asking "ARE WE STILL AIRING THAT SHIT?!"
Fox News personalities are continuing to push an evidence-free conspiracy that former Democratic staffer Seth Rich was murdered for providing WikiLeaks with emails from the Democratic National Committee, even after the family expressed “severe mental anguish and emotional distress.” The family is so outraged by Fox’s actions, they have sent a cease and desist letter to a Fox contributor responsible for the conspiracy theory’s resurgence.
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Following Megyn Kelly’s announcement that she will be leaving Fox News for NBC, the network moved quickly to install pro-Trump host Tucker Carlson into her prime-time slot. Fox’s move cements its ongoing audition to serve as Trump’s go-to network for spreading his agenda, which has included the network devoting disproportionate airtime to his candidacy, then-Fox News CEO Roger Ailes advising Trump, and network figures shielding and defending him from negative coverage. Trump also retreated to the network toward the end of the campaign, and since his election he has considered or selected a number of Fox News figures to serve in his administration.
Bolling Refuses To Answer If He's In Consideration For A Position In A Trump Administration
Fox News co-host Eric Bolling refused to answer when asked if he has “been asked to visit Trump Tower to get a job,” stating “I wouldn’t tell you that one way or the other.” Fox, which has a long history of suspending or ending contracts with on-air talent that take political positions, should take swift action to address these concerns.
Politico reported Bolling “has discussed the possibility of taking a position in Donald Trump’s administration” in the Department of Commerce, but neither Bolling nor Fox would comment on the report. Bolling told Politico “at this time I can’t confirm anything” and “A Fox News spokesperson said they did not have anything further to add.”
The network has a long history of parting ways with on-air talent when it is clear they are taking on new political roles. Fox News previously suspended Newt Gingrich’s contributor position “effective immediately” after speculation Gingrich could become Trump’s running mate, and terminated Scott Brown’s contributor contract when Brown told the network he was planning a New Hampshire Senate run. Rick Santorum also lost his paid Fox commentator contract for 60 days after he announced he would run for president in 2011.
If Bolling refuses to address the controversy, Fox News should. From the November 21 edition of Fox News' The Five:
KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE (CO-HOST): Let's talk about hop alongs and the transition.
GERALDO RIVERA (GUEST CO-HOST): Why don't you ask -- why don't you ask Bolling if he's been asked to visit Trump Tower to get a job yet?
GUILFOYLE: I believe you just did.
ERIC BOLLING (CO-HOST): I've been to Trump Tower, I talked to all my friends over there, very close friends over there, and there's --
RIVERA: Can you tell us for the record whether they offered you a job? Or --
DANA PERINO (CO-HOST): Why are you doing that to your co-host?
BOLLING: I wouldn't tell you that one way or the other. I would just tell you that they are good friends of mine, and I love my job, and I have every intention to stay right here for as long as Fox will have me sitting next to you, Geraldo.
RIVERA: Oh, well that sounded a little equivocal.
GUILFOYLE: Make Fox News great again, from the center seat.
At Fox News, Bolling Has Pushed Racism, Anti-Muslim Views, Conspiracy Theories, And More
Fox News host Eric Bolling is reportedly in discussion to take a position in the Department of Commerce in the upcoming Donald Trump administration. During his employment by Fox News -- where the self-described Trump “fan” was one of the loudest pro-Trump voices on a pro-Trump network -- Bolling has trafficked in racist stereotypes, spread fear of Muslims in America, and engaged in conspiracy theories, including the birtherism made famous by Trump.
Bolling: "I Don't Think There's Racism," Because We Have A Black President And Black Entertainment Channels.
Bolling: Rappers Should Be Happy White People Are Buying “The Black” Music And “Financing Their Lifestyles.”
Bolling: El Chapo Is "The One Mexican We Want, We Can't Get."
Bolling Calls Obama, Holder "Race Merchants" For Defending Voting Rights Act.
Fox's Bolling: "In America, We Create, We Make iPhones," Whereas The Chinese Make "Finger Trap[s]."
Bolling Tweet: President Obama Is "Chugging 40's" In Ireland "While Tornadoes Ravage MO."
Bolling: "What's With All The Hoods In The Hizzy?" During the June 10, 2011, edition of his Fox Business show, Bolling teased a segment about President Barack Obama hosting Ali Bongo Ondimba, president of Gabon, by saying: "Guess who's coming to dinner? A dictator. Mr. Obama shares a laugh with one of Africa's kleptocrats. It's not the first time he's had a hoodlum in the hizzouse." In a subsequent tease, Bolling said, "Smile for the birdie," while footage of a smiling Bongo with a flashing tooth, apparently made to resemble a gold-plated tooth, was shown on-air. Bolling continued: "Our president's sitting with one of Africa's most wanted. It's not the first time he's had a hood in the big crib." Footage of rapper Common appeared on air as Bolling spoke. Bolling began the actual segment by saying: "So what's with all the hoods in the hizzy?"
Bolling: "There's No Racial Aspect Of Profiling."
Fox's Eric Bolling: "Every Terrorist On American Soil Has Been A Muslim."
Bolling: Downtown NYC Islamic Center "May Be A Meeting Place For Some Of The Scariest Minds -- Some Of The Biggest Terrorist Minds."
Bolling: "The People Who Flew Planes Into [The Twin Towers] Are Going To Be Represented 500 Feet Away" At The Downtown NYC Islamic Center.
Bolling Defended GOP Presidential Candidate Ben Carson’s Objection To A Muslim Being President. On the September 21, 2015, edition of Fox News’ The Five, Bolling said, “unless you're willing to denounce Sharia law as the governing law over yourself, and anyone you oversee, I wouldn't vote for a Muslim either.”
Bolling Defended Trump Lie About U.S. Muslims Celebrating 9/11: "I Know There Were Muslims" In The U.S. "Who Were Happy That The World Trade Center Came Down."
Bolling Claimed The Obama Administration "Answers To The Quran First And The Constitution Second." On the September 17, 2012 edition of Fox News’ The Five, Bolling said, “the Obama administration, through all this appeasement and apologizing, answers to the Quran first and to the Constitution second.” Later in the show, Bolling said, “I have to clarify something very quickly. You remember when I said Obama, he answers to the Quran before the Constitution? What I meant was, rather than appeasing the Muslims, he should worry about free speech first. That's it. I'm done with it, and I don't want to hear about it."
Bolling: Border On Obama’s Long-Form Birth Certificate "Had To Be Photoshopped In." Following the release of Obama's long-form birth certificate, Bolling claimed that the birth certificate's "green border … had to be Photoshopped in." Bolling also suggested Obama's birth certificate wasn't authentic because the doctor "who signed it" didn't tell his family he had helped deliver baby Obama. [Fox Business, Follow the Money, 4/27/11]
Bolling Repeatedly Suggested That Obama "Let" The Deepwater Horizon Rig Leak So He Could Limit Offshore Drilling. Following the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, Bolling suggested on the May 3, 2010, edition of Fox & Friends that the Obama administration might have "let" the rig leak before "address[ing] it." On the May 27, 2010, edition of Happy Hour, Bolling again speculated about whether Obama "let" the rig leak so he "could renege on his promise ... to allow some offshore drilling." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/3/10; Fox Business, Happy Hour, 5/27/10]
Bolling Allowed Ann Coulter To Bring Lie That Obama “Attended Madrassas”Onto Fox News. While serving as a guest host for The O'Reilly Factor on December 28, 2009, and for Fox News' Glenn Beck on December 30, 2009, Bolling hosted conservative author Ann Coulter, who falsely claimed Obama "attended madrassas" or Islamic schools. As previously reported by Media Matters, Bolling did not challenge Coulter's claims on either show. [Media Matters, 12/31/09]
Bolling Floats Conspiracy Theory That DNC Staffer Murdered In DC “Was A Hit.” As guest host on the August 10 edition of The O’Reilly Factor, Bolling and frequent Fox News contributor Monica Crowley floated the idea that a Democratic National Committee staff murdered in Washington, D.C, was the victim of a “hit” and that there was “something more here” than what the official reports of the murder stated. “Where there is smoke, there is fire,” Bolling said. “Lots of smoke right now.” [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 8/10/16]
Bolling Claimed United Nations Was Working To Achieve "Centralized Control Over All Of Human Life On Planet Earth." Bolling adopted conservative commentator Glenn Beck’s conspiracy theory that President Obama's White House Rural Council was evidence that he was implementing a United Nations plan aimed at achieving "centralized control over all of human life on planet Earth" and then creating a new "One World Order." [Media Matters, 6/25/11]
Bolling Thought Obama Would Conduct A Military Strike In Libya To Benefit His Re-Election. During the 2012 presidential campaign, Bolling spun a conspiracy theory that claimed that when Obama mentioned a “bump in the road,” he was talking about American deaths in Libya, and that he might conduct a military strike in retaliation for those deaths -- but really for the benefit of his own re-election. Bolling said Obama should use a military strike “for the right reasons” instead of as “a campaign event.” [Media Matters, 9/26/12]
Bolling Claimed The Muppets Was “Brainwashing” Children With A Liberal Agenda. In 2011, Bolling speculated that the writers of the movie The Muppets were trying to “brainwash” children with an anti-oil-industry liberal agenda, asking, “Is there any Occupy Wall Street muppets?” [Fox Business, Follow the Money, 12/2/2011]
Bolling Thought Obama Was Trying To "Bring People Closer To The Cities" To Keep An Eye On Them. In 2012, Bolling claimed that “a lot of people” think the Obama administration is conducting “a whole social engineering thing” to bring people “closer to the cities” where there are “a lot more eyeballs they can keep on them.” [Fox News, The Five, 6/1/12]
Bolling: "Did [Soros] Know? Does He Know" About $2 Billion Petrobras Deal? During a guest appearance on Fox News' Fox & Friends, Bolling revived the false conspiracy theory that Obama arranged for an Export-Import Bank of the United States loan to a Brazilian oil company in order to enrich billionaire philanthropist George Soros at the expense of the United States. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/24/11]
Daily Beast Reported That Bolling’s Colleagues Described Him As A “Trump Apologist.” The Daily Beast reported in a March 7 article that Bolling was “an unabashed Trump fan” whose colleagues have described him “as a Trump ‘apologist’ who ‘Trumpsplains’ the candidate's various offenses”:
[Eric] Bolling himself is an unabashed Trump fan.
The self-described "friend of [the] Trump family" has been described by his own colleagues as a Trump "apologist" who "Trumpsplains" the candidate's various offenses. Bolling's special guest for the network's New Year's Eve was none other than The Donald; and his interviews with the GOP frontrunner are games of slow-pitch softball. [The Daily Beast, 3/17/16]
Bolling: "I'm A Fan" Of Trump. When discussing Trump's decision to sue Univision on the July 1, 2015, edition of The Five, Bolling said, "Donald Trump is just being Donald Trump on and off the campaign trail. I'm a fan." [Fox News, The Five, 7/1/15, via Nexis]
Bolling Agrees With Greg Gutfeld's Assertion That Bolling "Love[s] Talking About Trump." On the July 24, 2015, edition of The Five, co-host Greg Gutfeld said, "You love talking about Trump." Bolling responded by saying, "No, no, I do":
ERIC BOLLING: And so this is Friday, right? And now we're talking about this. And Martin O'Malley said, did mention this on Sunglass Sunday, right?
BOLLING: Five days later, because of the big Trump announcement, the big Trump hoopla that the media that's been following Donald Trump around everywhere, this was something we started to talk about on Monday.
GREG GUTFELD: But you love talking about Trump.
BOLLING: No, no, I do.
GUTFELD: That's what's you talked about. [Fox News, The Five, 7/24/15, via Nexis]
Bolling Praised Trump In Interview: "I Like What Donald Trump Is Saying. I Like What He's Doing." During an interview with Trump on the August 1, 2015, edition of Fox News' Cashin' In, host Eric Bolling praised the then-candidate, saying:
ERIC BOLLING: Yeah, so I've come out and said I like what Donald Trump is saying, I like what he's doing. I have a lot of -- a lot of my fans supports him, my fan base says I like Donald because he says what he means, means what he says, and it's refreshing to hear it. But I get beat up, even from some people in my own tent at times, for defending some of the things you're saying. [Fox News, Cashin' In, 8/1/15]
Bolling: Trump Is Making The Rest Of Republican Presidential Field Better. On the June 17 edition of The Five, Bolling said Trump “is making the rest of the field better because he's speaking his mind" and "he's got the rest of the field thinking":
[ERIC] BOLLING: Well. Look, I'm not done Donald Trump's spokesperson, but I will tell you I understand where he's coming from. We need to get tough with China. We need to get tough with all the other countries that are dumping their goods into America without any fees, but if we try to sell into Brazil, we try to sell into China, Japan, some of the other developed and developing countries, they charge us a fee, a tax. So it's like this unfair trade balance that goes on. I get it. He says get tough with them.
With regards to the southern border, we talked about it yesterday. And I had no idea what his plan was, but I suggested maybe -- I don't know, maybe telling Mexico we're going to pay you $2 less per barrel of oil. Every barrel we buy from you, all the millions of barrels per day that we buy from you and spend the money securing the border. Whether it's a fence, whether it's a moat, whatever you do. Even if it's not even a fence, even if it's a border patrol, pay the border patrol through that. Look, here's the thing. Donald Trump is making the rest of the field better because he's speaking his mind. He's talking to people who have ideas and who are angry about the way politics have been for the last 20, 30, 40 or 50 years. And then finally, someone's willing to step up and have some other ideas. Let's at least try them. Let's at least think about them. See whether or not you like Donald, but you think he can be your president or not, he's got the rest of the field thinking. I think that's a good thing. [Fox News, The Five, 6/17/15, via Nexis]
Bolling Gushes Over Trump Family: "When The Kids Talk, It's Just, It's Amazing." On the July 18 edition of Fox News’ The Five, Bolling showered the Trump for raising “kids like that who love him the way they do” and who are “amazing” when they speak. Bolling also said Trump’s marriage seemed like “a great relationship all the way around.” [Fox News, The Five, 7/18/16s]
Bolling Describes Himself As “A Friend Of Trump Family” In a Tweet.
Actually I've been a friend of Trump family for well over a decade.. but thanks for the cheap shot.. https://t.co/aejHQrOTpa
— Eric Bolling (@ericbolling) October 2, 2015
Bolling: People Calling For Boycotts Of Trump Products Are "Economic Terrorists." On the July 2 edition of The Five, Bolling criticized those calling for boycotts of Trump's products as "economic terrorists." [Fox News, The Five, 7/2/15]
Bolling Defended Trump After He Attacked John McCain's War Heroism. On the July 20 edition of The Five, Bolling defended Trump's remark that Senator John McCain wasn't a war hero, suggesting "it just kind of fell out of his mouth" and that Trump "wished he could take it back":
BOLLING: Geraldo, do you really think that Donald Trump has disrespect or doesn't think that someone who is captured by the enemy and spent five years in captivity isn't a war hero? Do you honestly think that.
RIVERA: I think.
BOLLING: Do you think it just kind of fell out of his mouth and he, you know, he would wished he could take it back. Don't forget, the context of this was someone asked him about John McCain's service to the veterans and he said John McCain who dropped the ball as far as the veteran's administration. [Fox News, The Five, 7/20/15, via Nexis]
Bolling Had To Apologize For Asking If The First Female UAE Pilot Who Bombed Islamic State “Would Be Considered Boobs On The Ground.” Bolling had to apologize for asking if the first female pilot leading the United Arab Emirates who conducted bombing against Islamic State terrorists “would be considered boobs on the ground.” Bolling said he “got home” and “got the look” from his wife and “realized some people didn’t think it was funny at all.” [Fox News, The Five, 9/25/14]
Bolling Forced To Apologize For Claiming Obama Was A Drug Dealer.
Said yesterday that I thought the President had admitted to buying or selling drugs.I was wrong.and I apologize to him for my mistake
— Eric Bolling (@ericbolling) May 11, 2012
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Media figures took on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s reference to immigrants as “bad hombres” who “we’re going to get … out” in the third presidential debate, explaining that the remarks are an offensive smear and stereotype of Latinos.
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