Gregg Jarrett

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  • New right-wing media talking point: It's no big deal if Trump colluded with the Russians

    Legal experts and Trump’s attorney general agree it would be “improper and illegal”

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    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.”

  • Collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia probably would have been illegal, contrary to conservative claims

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    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."

  • Lawfare Debunks Fox News' "Bogus Argument" That James Comey Broke The Law

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Lawfare’s Robert Chesney, a legal expert on national security, debunked a claim from Fox News’ Gregg Jarrett that former FBI Director James Comey may have broken the law by not reporting that President Donald Trump pressured him to drop the FBI’s investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Chesney called Jarrett’s op-ed “nonsense,” explaining that, of the two statutes he cited, one “does not apply” and the other “is not a criminal law at all.”

    The New York Times broke the news on May 16 that Comey wrote a memo after a February meeting with the president in which he recounted that Trump had asked him to end the investigation into Flynn. Right-wing media leapt to Trump’s defense. That day, Jarrett wrote that Comey may actually be the one facing criminal charges, claiming, “Comey is required to immediately inform the Department of Justice of any attempt to obstruct justice by any person, even the President of the United States.” Several other conservative media figures quickly picked up this line of attack.

    In a May 17 Lawfare post, Chesney roundly debunked Jarrett’s assertion. Chesney noted that Jarrett overlooked a statute requirement that “affirmative steps to conceal [the obstruction] are required” for Comey’s actions to be criminal and that he did not take such steps. Furthermore, Jarrett incorrectly implied that the recipient of such a report would be Justice Department prosecutors; Chesney wrote that “the more obvious recipients for any such notificiations (sic) would be...the FBI. Jim Comey was, of course, FBI Director at all relevant times, and deeply engaged” in the investigation he would report to himself. Finally, Chesney observed that Jarrett also cited “28 USC 1361,” which “is not a criminal law at all” and “makes no sense [to cite] in this context”:

    First, note the word "concealment." This is a stand-alone element of the offense, not just a superfluous verbal flourish restating the point that one must report.  Just look at any federal pattern jury instruction: affirmative steps to conceal are required, not just the fact of failing to report the crime.  See, e.g., Lancey v. United States, 356 F.2d 407, 4010 (9th Cir. 1966) (silence alone, without affirmative act of concealment, is insufficient).  There is no basis for claiming that Jim Comey took affirmative steps to conceal any alleged obstruction by Donald Trump.  To argue that Comey somehow affirmatively concealed something by taking care with who got to see his memo entirely collapses this distinction, and would extend liability for misprision to just about every criminal investigator and prosecutor in this country (given how routine it is for both investigators and prosecutors to create but limit circulation of documents with evidentiary content in this sense). 

    Second, and more fundamentally, Jarrett's op-ed implies that the obligation to report runs specifically to Justice Department prosecutors.  That's not what the statute says, however, and of course the more obvious recipients for any such notificiations (sic) would be...the FBI.  Jim Comey was, of course, FBI Director at all relevant times, and deeply engaged in supervision of existing, related criminal (and probably also counterintelligence) investigations.  It's more than a stretch to suggest that the misprision statute somehow creates a "two-person" requirement for knowledge of possible federal crimes, such that it is not enough for one FBI person to be aware of the possible criminal behavior. A "crooked cop" scenario would of course be different, but no one is alleging (nor could they) that Jim Comey was in cahoots with a plan to obstruct the Flynn investigation.

    Third, even if misprision concerns required Jim Comey to convey knowledge of Trump's actions to others at FBI, it remains quite possible that he did exactly this.

    Well, enough about misprision.  It's a bogus argument.  What about the other statute Jarrett cites?

    I'm at a loss here.  The statute—28 USC 1361—provides federal courts with jurisdiction to issue writs of mandamus.  All lawyers in the U.S. will recall the writ of mandamus from good ol' Marbury v. Madison: it is a name for an order that obliges a government official to perform some non-discretionary act.  Needless to say this is not a criminal law at all, and its application here is a bit of a mystery to me.  I suppose he has in mind some notion that the FBI Director has a non-discretionary obligation to contact DOJ prosecutors when there is evidence of obstruction or any other crime, posthaste, and thus one might in theory follow the path of William Marbury, filing a petition for a writ of mandamus to make the Director do so.  You can see that this makes no sense in this context. 

  • Conservatives Deflect From Trump's Cover-Up By Calling Comey A Criminal

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT & JARED HOLT

    President Donald Trump’s conservative media allies are attacking former FBI Director James Comey and accusing him of wrongdoing for writing and keeping a memo about a February meeting with Trump. The memo reportedly revealed that Trump asked Comey to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Mike Flynn. Despite the outrage aimed at Comey by conservative media figures for not divulging the memo earlier, experts have explained that doing so could have interfered with the FBI’s investigation.

  • Five Times Comey Corrected Right-Wing Media Misinformation During His Congressional Testimony On Clinton Email Probe

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    During his July 7 testimony on Capitol Hill, FBI Director James Comey dismantled several right-wing media myths about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she served as secretary of state. In his testimony about the FBI’s recommendation against pursuing criminal charges, Comey debunked flawed comparisons and corrected faulty definitions that right-wing media have repeatedly pushed.

  • The “Gross Negligence” Claim About Clinton Emails That The FBI Specifically Rejected

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    FBI Director James Comey announced that he would not recommend criminal charges be filed against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server. Right-wing media, echoing Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, soon baselessly accused Comey of excusing Clinton’s “gross negligence” in violation of the Espionage Act.

  • Fox Figures Cheer Trump’s Foreign Policy Speech As “Presidential” 

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News figures praised Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s foreign policy address as “presidential” and “a significant step forward.”

    Donald Trump Delivers Major Foreign Policy Address

    Trump Claims His Foreign Policy Will Put "America First." According to an April 27 New York Times article, Trump gave a speech on his vision for foreign policy, criticizing President Obama and Hillary Clinton for what he described as “missteps that have disillusioned the nation’s allies and emboldened its rivals": 

    Donald J. Trump, exuding confidence after his resounding primary victories in the East, promised a foreign policy on Wednesday that he said would put “America first.” He castigated President Obama and Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state and a possible opponent in the general election, for what he described as a string of missteps that have disillusioned the nation’s allies and emboldened its rivals.
     
    Mr. Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, pledged a major buildup of the military, the swift destruction of the Islamic State and the rejection of trade deals that he said tied the nation’s hands. But he also pointedly rejected the nation-building of the George W. Bush administration, reminding his audience that he had opposed the Iraq war.
     
    “America is going to be strong again; America is going to be great again; it’s going to be a friend again,” Mr. Trump said. “We’re going to finally have a coherent foreign policy, based on American interests and the shared interests of our allies.” [The New York Times4/27/16]

    Right Wing Media Figures Hail Trump’s Speech 

    Sean Hannity: “This Was A Pretty Amazing Speech Today, Obviously Presidential In Nature.” On the April 27 edition of Fox’s Sean Hannity’s radio show The Sean Hannity Show, Hannity praised Trump’s speech as “amazing” and “obviously presidential in nature” and said:

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): This was a pretty amazing speech today, obviously presidential in nature, obviously depth and -- just the opposite of the way Trump has run his campaign up to this point, where he gave a scripted foreign policy speech that went into much detail at the Center for National Interests. He used lines like, "It’s time to shake off the rust of America's foreign policy, invite new voices, new visions into the fold is something that we have to do.”  The direction he outlines he said will also return us to a timeless principle and that “foreign policy will always put the interests of the American people and American security above all else.” It has to be first, it has to be. And then he went on to say that America first will be the major overriding theme of his administration. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show4/27/16]

     

    John Bolton: Trump’s Speech Was “A Significant Step Forward.” On the April 28 edition of Fox News’ Happening Now, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Fox contributor John Bolton lauded Trump’s foreign policy speech as “a significant step forward.” Bolton claimed the address “brought Trump more into the mainstream” of GOP thinking and added that the purpose of the speech was to put Trump’s campaign “in a more presidential mode”:

    GREGG JARRETT (HOST): John Bolton is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a Fox News contributor. Ambassador, good to see you.  He advocated aggressiveness while advocating disengagement. Confusing?

    JOHN BOLTON: Well, I don’t think that’s exactly what he was saying. I think the points that he was trying to make, as I heard the speech, center on making American national interests the touchstone of what our foreign policy’s based on. And I think in far too many cases we have strayed from that into a kind of abstract philosophy about what's good for the whole world. The job of the president is to protect America. Others can look after themselves. So in that sense, I think by focusing on what’s important to us, he was able to go into a critique of Obama over the last seven years, and he basically repeated there what virtually every Republican member of the House and the Senate has said, namely, that under Obama our friends don’t respect us and our enemies don’t fear us. So I actually think the speech brought Trump more into the mainstream of Republican foreign policy, we can have a debate on it obviously on specifics, but I thought it was a significant step forward. [Fox News, Happening Now4/28/16]

    Laura Ingraham: Trump’s Foreign Policy Is “The Only Thing We Should Be Doing.” On the April 28 edition of Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham’s The Laura Ingraham Show, Ingraham compared Trump’s “sane” foreign policy speech with President Obama’s “muddled” international efforts and described the priorities Trump outlined as “the only thing we should be doing ”:

    LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): What's more in tune with the way your family talks about foreign policy? You hear your friends down the road, you know, conversation at work. What's more sane? Thinking you’re going to turn Middle Eastern countries into Western democracies or the idea of conserving our resources, rebuilding the homefront, and only getting involved in conflicts when it makes sense for the United States of America? To me, to me the latter is the only thing we should be doing. I love how people act like it's still 2004, or, frankly, 1996 and our economy, we have a budget, budget balanced, we have no heavy debt to really speak of. And people just act like it doesn't matter how much debt we have, it doesn't matter how much we owe the world, it doesn’t matter much in the way of bonds we have outstanding. None of that matters; we can keep just spending money like there’s no tomorrow. Hey, if the next generation has to have its social security cut, or draconian cuts in things that they paid into, then so be it. That’s just what we have to do. Then you have Obama that just has no coherent foreign policy at all except just to weaken us. So on the one hand you have the neoconservative foreign policy, which is basically you’ve never met a war you don't like. On the other hand you have Obama, which is completely muddled, and I guess it's foreign policy by drone. [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show4/28/16]

    Harris Faulkner: “Clearly [Trump’s] Got Something Behind Him Now That’s Working.” On the April 28 edition of Fox News’ Outnumbered, co-host Harris Faulkner praised Donald Trump for his “real, intimate understanding” of “where the Obama doctrine...has failed” and said Trump “was connected with the material” and “clearly he’s got something behind him now that’s working”:

    HARRIS FAULKNER (CO-HOST): Even as you were watching that speech yesterday, what Donald Trump did at first was lay out where the Obama doctrine, if you will, has failed. He had a real, intimate understanding of that, and I realize there was a prompter involved, but I never, you know, just from watching, because we covered it live here on Outnumbered, it happened during our hour. We have dissected enough of these types of speeches and news conferences by a lot of people to know when somebody is kind of faking the funk. I mean, he was connected with the material. Now, he's got a lot of advisers, we don't know who the lists are, but clearly he's got something behind him now that's working. [Fox News, Outnumbered4/28/16]

    Fox’s Gillian Turner: “This Was The Best Tone And Tenor We’ve Heard From Him.” On the April 28 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, Fox's Gillian Turner said Trump’s speech “was the best tone and tenor we’ve heard from him on the national defense, probably for the duration of the campaign so far” and said she “would have liked to have seen it six to eight months ago”:

    JON SCOTT (HOST): Gillian, I know that all of Washington, the foreign policy establishment, you might say, has been waiting for this speech. What do you think they heard? How is it being received?

    GILLIAN TURNER: A lot of anticipation surrounding it. The question was is this going to be Mr. Trump’s sort of come to Jesus moment with the establishment, and I believe that it was. This was the best tone and tenor we’ve heard from him on the national defense, probably for the duration of the campaign so far. I agree with the ambassador, I would have liked to have seen it six to eight months ago, would have made me feel a lot better about his prospects as commander in chief, but what I think he did today was he brought the substance to the heart of the Washington establishment. And I think that’s going to go a long way towards engendering some good will going forward as he tries to build his foreign policy team. [Fox News, Happening Now4/27/16]

    Fox’s Newt Gingrich: “He Said The Most Important Word Correctly: America. He Gets It.”

    [Twitter, 4/27/16]

    Fox’s Richard Grenell: “This Speech Shows Trump Is Growing As A Candidate. It Will Help Him A Lot.”

    [Twitter, 4/27/16]