Fox News rushes to downplay GAO report that found Trump broke the law by withholding aid from Ukraine

Many Fox personalities pushed conspiracy theories about the timing of the report

On January 16, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a legal opinion that found President Donald Trump broke the law when he froze congressionally approved military aid for Ukraine to pressure the country’s president to publicly announce an investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Now, Trump’s allies at Fox News are rushing to spin, downplay, and discredit the GAO’s findings.

The GAO, which acts as a nonpartisan, independent agency working on behalf of Congress, found that Trump violated the Impoundment Control Act when the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) withheld funds for a “policy reason.”

Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law. OMB withheld funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act (ICA). The withholding was not a programmatic delay. Therefore, we conclude that OMB violated the ICA.

Many on Fox News have insisted throughout the Ukraine scandal that Trump couldn’t possibly have committed a crime. Now, Fox News is predictably reacting to the news of the GAO decision the same way that the network has approached most impeachment facts that are unfavorable to Trump: downplay the story, discredit the source as biased toward Democrats, claim it’s all part of a plot to take down Trump, and attack the media for covering it.

Fox & Friends introduced a conspiracy theory suggesting that the GAO released the report as the Senate impeachment trial began in order to hurt Trump. Co-host Steve Doocy asked if it’s “just a coincidence that that news would drop exactly the same day the same trial started.” Guest co-host Pete Hegseth sarcastically asked, “Yeah, how did that work out?”

Later in the show, the co-hosts again questioned the “timing of it.” Doocy chided the fact that “the same that the trial starts in the Senate and suddenly, the GAO comes in and says, ‘Aha! They broke the law. Stop the presses.” Co-host Ainsley Earhardt commented that “the media is giddy.”

Also on Fox & Friends, Fox News correspondent-at-large Geraldo Rivera said that he doesn’t “believe in coincidences,” responding to the co-hosts’ conspiracy theory that the report was nefariously released to hurt Trump. Rivera added that the GAO “does work for the Congress, and we know who runs the Congress, so the report is suspect in its timing,” implying that the Democratic control of the House influenced the nonpartisan agency to release the report, which Rivera insisted is “not an indictment” of the president.

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Citation From the January 17, 2020, edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends

Fox prime-time host Laura Ingraham said on her January 16 show that the GAO’s ruling is a “toothless declaration” and it is “not all that surprising they would side with Congress.”

Fox host Sean Hannity dismissed the ruling because the GAO had issued similar rulings toward former President Barack Obama. Fox political commentator Alan Dershowitz argued that Trump withholding congressionally approved military aid for political reasons is “completely within his constitutional power,” adding that the GAO “always side with Congress over the president.” Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz agreed with Hannity and Dershowitz, saying that the GAO is “absolutely” and “totally 100% wrong.”

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Citation From the January 16, 2020 edition of Fox News' Hannity: 

On Hannity, Fox host Mark Levin snidely commented that the new report was “perfectly timed,” dismissing the GAO as “another bureaucracy.” Levin also claimed that “if Donald Trump broke the law” by withholding aid to Ukraine, “then so did Joe Biden.”

Fox Business host Lou Dobbs described the GAO as “an arm of the legislature” that is “led by an Obama appointee,” which “conveniently dropped a report … on the day of the House delivery of its so-called articles of impeachment.” Dobbs also suggested that the GAO report is part of House Democrats’ “cynical attempted deceit of the American people and their frivolous assault to harass and subvert President Trump and his administration.”

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Citation From the January 16, 2020, edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight