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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.”
After President Donald Trump admitted in a June 22 tweet that “I did not make, and do not have” any “‘tapes’ or recordings of my conversations with [FBI Director] James Comey,” conservative and pro-Trump media figures and outlets tried to defend his original threat that claimed, “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” The media figures and outlets insisted the move was “brilliant,” “impressive,” and “a victory” and said it was a “smart way to make sure [Comey] stayed honest” in his congressional testimony.
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A disturbing new narrative is building across right-wing media that “the second American civil war” is here, “the mutineers have the momentum,” and President Donald Trump must “burn down the Bastille” and “purge the deep state and flog its media collaborators” if his presidency is to survive.
And his dislike of almost everyone else
The mutually beneficial relationship between President Donald Trump and Fox News has been readily apparent for a while, partly because of the network’s Trump mania during the campaign. But after nearly 150 days of Trump’s presidency, Fox -- and in particular Trump’s favorite morning show, Fox & Friends -- has essentially become a propaganda outlet for the president. In return, Trump has praised Fox and echoed claims made by the network, while also attacking Fox News’ competitors as “fake news.”
One of the main ways Trump shows his adoration for Fox is through his Twitter account, where the president has often been explicit in his appreciation for the network’s coverage. According to a Media Matters search on the Trump Twitter Archive, along with a manual search of Trump’s tweets, between Inauguration Day, January 20, and June 16, Trump has:
tweeted at Fox & Friends (@foxandfriends) 16 times;
retweeted Fox & Friends (@foxandfriends) 15 times;
tweeted or retweeted a link to Fox News or Fox Business’ website at least nine times; and
tweeted at Fox News (@FoxNews) 11 times.
Trump oftentimes retweets misleading or inaccurate Fox reports and graphics. For example, Fox’s tweets highlighting employment gains in the February jobs report failed to note that much of the gains were part of a pattern that preceded Trump’s presidency. In March, Trump retweeted a highly misleading Fox & Friends report claiming terrorists were using religious visas to enter the U.S., even though the report did not cite even one example. And in May, despite his past criticism of anonymous sources, Trump retweeted Fox pushing a dubious report from a single anonymous source who claimed Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, did not suggest to the Russians that they establish a secret communications channel, which was contrary to other reporting.
In addition, Trump has also shared at least 11 Fox videos and graphics, frequently using them to highlight Fox’s misleading portrayal of economic news, which has been framed to look positive for Trump. Trump also seems to nearly exclusively rely on Fox whenever he wants to share footage of himself from events and ceremonies, such as an inaugural ball, the signing of executive orders, and his speech at a NATO gathering. Trump as president has also tweeted links to Fox stories more than to those of any other individual outlet, tweeting at least seven Fox articles.
Trump on multiple occasions has even used his Twitter account to laud Fox’s reporting, saying “@foxandfriends is great,” referencing its “great reporting,” praising its segments, and congratulating the show on its ratings. In return, Fox has at least on some occasions showed or read on air tweets by Trump that mention the network. Most recently, on June 16, Trump retweeted Sean Hannity's tweet that he would have on his show a "monologue on the Deep State’s allies in the media."
Perhaps what makes Trump’s online fawning over Fox most jarring is the sharp contrast to how he talks about other media outlets on Twitter. In line with his administration’s war on the press, Trump has regularly attacked other outlets by name, often calling them “fake news” and even once going so far as to call some media outlets the “enemy of the American People.” Just last week, Trump tweeted, “Sorry folks, but if I would have relied on the Fake News of CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, washpost or nytimes, I would have had ZERO chance winning WH.”
From a Media Matters analysis:
Number of tweets in which Trump invoked “fake news”: at least 49
Number of tweets in which Trump attacked The New York Times: 18
Number of tweets in which Trump attacked ABC: five
Number of tweets in which Trump attacked NBC or MSNBC: eight
Number of tweets in which Trump attacked CBS: two
Number of tweets in which Trump attacked CNN: nine
Number of tweets in which Trump attacked The Washington Post: three
After five people, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), were wounded during a baseball practice in Alexandria, VA, right-wing media figures blamed comedian Kathy Griffin, a New York theater, the investigation into President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, and several others for the shooting.
President Donald Trump’s most loyal conservative and “alt-right” media allies are blaming the mainstream press's Trump coverage for Wednesday’s attack on a Republican congressional baseball practice, with one close ally to the president even calling for banning some critical journalists from the airwaves in response. This cynical campaign is the next step in their ongoing effort to delegitimize any source of unfavorable information about the president.
The shooter has been identified as James T. Hodgkinson, a home inspector and critic of the president with a history of domestic violence.
Paul Joseph Watson, an editor at Alex Jones’ Infowars site, was among the first to blame media coverage for the gunman’s attack, writing on Twitter just minutes after news broke that the culprit was “Trump derangement syndrome, radicalised by mainstream media hysterics.” He later added of journalists and the left, “The blood is on their hands.”
This cynical effort to curtail critical journalism spread from the “alt-right” fringe, through the right-wing press, to Trump’s chief propagandist at Fox News. Several of the theory’s proponents specifically pointed to the media’s coverage of the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
“The fake news media finally got what it wanted,” Mike Cernovich said on Periscope. “They’re getting their mass murderers. They’re getting the mass shooters. This is what they’ve attempted to incite for the past 18 months.” Cernovich, an “alt-right” provocateur and noted misogynist, spent the 2016 election cycle promoting “Pizzagate” smears, and now he has close ties to Trump’s White House and family.
“I have foreseen this coming,” Rush Limbaugh told his millions-strong radio audience soon after the shooting. “You can’t continue to enrage people the way the left and predominantly the mainstream media has been doing.”
Michael Savage, a right-wing radio host with a close relationship with Trump who regularly hosts the administration’s top officials, not only blamed the media for the shooting but also suggested that in response, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and other critical journalists should be removed from the airwaves by the federal government due to their “constant drumbeat of their hatred against Trump and Republicans.” Maddow’s program is notable for its intense focus on the Trump-Russia story.
At Fox, Sean Hannity declared that “the biggest issue we need to address as a country is what is a record level of vicious left-wing hate that is being spewed day after day, hour after hour, by a left-wing news media that wants to destroy the president.”
Notably, the critique these pro-Trump media figures are pushing is largely bereft of concrete examples of journalists using extreme or inciting rhetoric about the president. After making his broad indictment against the press, for example, Hannity highlighted the actions of artists and celebrities, not reporters. In other instances, the claims are simply fabricated, as with Alex Jones’ declaration that a host of newspapers have called for Trump’s death.
Instead, the president’s allies are claiming that negative coverage in general -- and negative coverage about the Russia investigation in particular -- led to violence. This is a patently cynical ploy aimed at bolstering a political strategy that the pro-Trump media have pushed for months.
Trump has been castigating the press and seeking to delegitimize journalists since the presidential campaign. He’s declared the media the “enemy of the American people.” His allies have been bolstering that effort every step of the way.
And now they’re using an attack on U.S. members of Congress as a new way to promote that argument.
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As President Trump's executive orders banning immigration from first seven, then six, majority-Muslim nations have moved through the U.S. court system, they've been met with a series of legal setbacks and direct action and have drawn extensive media coverage. What follows is a timeline of events surrounding the ban, with a focus on right-wing media hypocrisy, denial, and defense of the president's increasingly indefensible policy. This post will be updated.
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Jay Sekulow Has Been Tying Himself Into A Pretzel Trying To Defend His New Client
After using his almost nightly platform on Fox News’ Hannity to push legal defenses of President Donald Trump’s various scandals and effectively audition for a job at the White House, Jay Sekulow, who was recently hired as one of Trump’s personal attorneys, has found himself at the center of rumors that Trump is considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller.
During the June 11 episode of ABC’s This Week, host George Stephanopoulos asked Sekulow if Trump would “promise not to interfere, not attempt at anytime to order the deputy attorney general to fire Robert Mueller.” Sekulow did not give a definitive response, instead saying, “If there was a basis … that raised the kind of issues that are serious, as in the situation with James Comey, the president has authority to take action. Whether he will do it is ultimately a decision the president makes.” Later, Newsmax Media CEO Chris Ruddy, who is a close friend of the president, said that Trump was “considering perhaps terminating the special counsel.” Ruddy also cited Sekulow’s response and said that the fact that Trump is “weighing” this “option” was made “pretty clear by what one of his lawyers said on television recently.”
As explained by the Los Angeles Times, “The public comments from close friends suggest Trump may be testing the waters on a decision that would be among the most controversial he has made since becoming president, recalling the ‘Saturday Night Massacre’ when President Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox amid the Watergate investigation.”
Since Trump’s inauguration in January, Sekulow has appeared on Fox News numerous times to defend the president’s actions and to parrot administration talking points. Highlights of his appearances include his assertion that Trump acted “within his authority” to fire then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates because, as Sekulow argued, “unlike the FBI director,” the acting attorney general and other federal appointees “serve at the pleasure of the president.” Sekulow later claimed that he had been calling for Comey’s removal “for a year,” contradicting his earlier comment that the president cannot remove the FBI director.
In addition, after Comey’s June 8 testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sekulow repeated an erroneous timeline around Comey’s firing that came from one of Trump’s other personal lawyers, Marc Kasowitz. He said Comey lied under oath and committed a “crime” when he leaked the memos about his meetings with Trump, which Comey said he had released after the president made thinly veiled threats on Twitter against him. Sekulow falsely said that the “content” of the memo had actually been reported in The New York Times the day before Trump’s tweets, claiming that the release was “retaliatory” for Comey’s firing. In reality, the Times had cited officials, and not the memos, for its story on the dinner between Trump and Comey in which the president allegedly asked him for loyalty. The story about the memos was published four days after Trump’s tweets.
Although Sekulow appears to not have much experience outside of Fox News punditry when it comes to criminal defense and obstruction of justice, he is a well-known conservative activist and attorney who has both personally and through his organization -- the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) -- promoted hard-right religious ideologies both in this country and abroad.
President Donald Trump appears to be listening to right-wing media’s calls to fire Robert Mueller, the former FBI director who was appointed as special counsel in the investigation of Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.
The same day that Newsmax CEO and Trump ally Chris Ruddy was seen leaving the West Wing, he appeared on PBS Newshour saying that the president is “considering perhaps terminating the special counsel.”
Ruddy’s announcement comes after conservative media figures called for Trump to end the investigation and fire special counsel Mueller. On Fox News Sunday, Fox contributor Newt Gingrich attacked Mueller, claiming his investigation will “be a witch hunt” and saying Congress should “abolish” the special counsel. Other conservatives argued that the president has the legal authority to fire Mueller, citing his close friendship with ousted former FBI Director James Comey.
Fox News host Sean Hannity devoted an entire segment of his show to attempting to “expose” Mueller’s friendship with Comey, arguing that their friendship shows not only that the special counsel should be fired, but also that the entire investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia should be shut down immediately:
UPDATE: On the June 13 edition of CBS This Morning, Gingrich announced that Trump had called him the night before to discuss Mueller, saying, Trump "called me because I have been very clear about the fact that Mueller, hiring four Democrats, -- his first four attorneys are all Democrats, one of them worked for the Clinton Foundation. He apparently couldn't find a single pro-Trump attorney to hire, and I just think that that's a rigged game. And I think it's a mistake to pretend this is going to be a neutral investigation." Gingrich added, "In this kind of environment, I don't give the benefit of the doubt to somebody who can only hire Democrats who claims that we ought to trust him."
Eric Trump retreated to Fox News' Hannity -- hosted by his father’s biggest media sycophant -- to lash out after Forbes reported that charitable activity by the Eric Trump Foundation “seems to defy federal tax rules and state laws that ban self-dealing and misleading donors.”
According to Forbes, filings show that through Eric’s annual charity event hosted at a Trump golf course, the Trump Organization has received more than $1.2 million. In addition, the Donald J. Trump Foundation "apparently used the Eric Trump Foundation to funnel $100,000 in donations into revenue for the Trump Organization," and more than $500,000 in donations to the Eric Trump Foundation "was re-donated to other charities, many of which were connected to Trump family members or interests." Eric had previously stated that his charitable activity has little overhead because it uses Trump Organization “assets 100% free of charge." President Donald Trump himself was scrutinized during the campaign, mostly by The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold, for apparent self-dealing with his foundation.
After Forbes published its report about the potentially illegal activity, Eric appeared on Fox News' Hannity and lashed out against the media and Democrats, claiming he was being “attacked” because “morality is just gone” and because Democrats “don’t have a message, they don’t have leadership, so they obstruct.” Host Sean Hannity chimed in, claiming that opponents are unfairly targeting Trump’s children because “they want to delegitimize his presidency, they want to stop his agenda, and if they can, they want to impeach him.”
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): I actually would use the term, with Kathy Griffin, and a CNN anchor calling your father a “piece of shh” -- all right? -- and a conspiracy theory that every intelligence officer and top Democrats have all said there is no evidence of and thousands of hours of coverage. But they've gone after your 11-year-old brother, they've gone after your soon-to-be-born child. They've gone after you, which is fine. Don, you guys probably are more fair game. But really, your sister? And really, the first lady? And really, Kellyanne and anybody that seems to like your father? They want to, I say they want to delegitimize his presidency. They want to stop his agenda, and if they can, they want to impeach him.
ERIC TRUMP: Who are all in this, by the way, for the right reason. I mean, look at that P.O.S. comment that you made. Somebody on CNN, an anchor on CNN, called my father on the show a piece of --. You might be an opinionated person, but you don't use profanities. You’re not a child when it comes to calling people names. I got attacked today. I’ve raised $16.3 million for St. Jude’s, 16.3. I’ve dedicated my --
HANNITY: By the age of what?
TRUMP: I started when I was 21. I have raised $16.3 million for the greatest hospital in the world, that’s St. Jude, and I get attacked for it. Barron gets attacked. People come out, they look at my wife; “Well, I hope she, you know, I hope the kid is aborted because God forbid there is another Trump in the world.” I mean, the manners, the lack of morals in society is awful, and honestly? I blame most of these politicians and I blame the media because it's out of control. I mean the way they act are out of control and honestly it's because the Democratic Party is sinking. And I mean that sincerely. They don't have a message, they don't have leadership, so they obstruct, and it’s just -- it's really the worst of the worst, Sean.