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Conservative media stands by Trump
By Akintunde Ahmad

It was only a month ago that Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker, announced a formal impeachment inquiry of President Trump. As the inquiry has proceeded, more and more damning information has been uncovered. Trump has openly admitted, standing in the White House driveway, to asking Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, to investigate the Biden family. Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, has confirmed quid pro quo to the press, saying that Trump told him to withhold nearly $400 million in military aid from Ukraine in order to leverage the assistance. A senior Justice Department official has said, “That is news to us."

Trump’s strategy in defending himself hasn’t been to offer counter arguments. Perhaps that is because the facts are not on his side. Instead, he’s been attacking the process of the impeachment inquiry itself, while shaming any Republicans who don’t defend him. On Wednesday, he tweeted, “The Never Trumper Republicans, though on respirators with not many left, are in certain ways worse and more dangerous for our Country than the Do Nothing Democrats. Watch out for them, they are human scum!”

As Trump and his supporters call the impeachment inquiry process unfair, conservative media outlets help amplify their sentiments. On Tuesday, Lindsey Graham, Republican Senator, appeared on Fox’s Sean Hannity Show and said, “What the House of Representatives is doing is a process of political revenge. It is alien to American due process.” 

Stirring up more confusion, on Wednesday around 10am, a group of conservative House members chanted “Let us in!” as they barged into the secure rooms of the House Intelligence Committee, also known as SCIF, where a private impeachment investigation was being held. They criticized the impeachment investigation for being “Soviet-style” and non-inclusive, yet about a quarter of House Republicans sit on the panels conducting the inquiry—there are three—and those members have been allowed to participate in the process since the beginning. 

That didn’t stop Lou Dobbs, who praised the storming of SCIF during his show on Fox Business that Wednesday evening, and condemned “the illegal efforts of the radical Dems who are holding secret hearings in their attempts to unseat the president.” He followed up: “The Republicans, God bless them for actually doing something. I am so impressed.” His statements came the day after former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker told Laura Ingraham on her Fox show, The Ingraham Angle, that “abuse of power is not a crime.”

Also on Wednesday, just hours after the New York Times reported that Ukraine knew the Trump administration was withholding aid, Fox’s Jesse Watters said on The Five, “There is no quid pro quo because the Ukrainians didn’t even know that any of the money was being withheld.” Some have wondered whether Fox would break away from Trump in the wake of the impeachment inquiry, but so far, even without facts on their side, conservative pundits appear to be standing by their man.

More on conservative media and the impeachment inquiry: 

  • Why did Republicans storm the Capitol? They’re running out of options, the New York Times editorial board writes. “The entire spectacle was a circus—which was the point. This was a publicity stunt aimed at delegitimizing the impeachment investigation that Mr. Trump and his defenders have portrayed as a partisan inquisition.”

 

  • A CNN investigation of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, the businessmen who were arrested earlier this month trying to flee the country at Dulles International Airport, shows their influence. “Two weeks ago, when they were arrested, Parnas and Fruman were preparing to fly to Vienna, Austria,” CNN reports—to meet Rudy Giuliani; Viktor Shokin, Ukraine's former prosecutor general; and to help arrange an interview with Sean Hannity. “We never reveal our sources, potential sources, or persons they may or may not request to interview,” Hannity’s spokesperson said. “Sean Hannity takes the first amendment seriously.”

 

  • On Thursday, as Senate Republicans prepared to introduce a resolution condemning the impeachment inquiry, Trump tweeted, “Thank you to House Republicans for being tough, smart, and understanding in detail the greatest Witch Hunt in American History.”



Other notable stories: 

  • A transcript of the telephone conversation between Kellyanne Conway, counselor to Trump, and Caitlin Yilek, breaking news reporter at the Washington Examiner, was published and widely shared. The conversation, which took place after Yilek returned a phone call from Tom Joannou, who works at the White House, consists mainly of Conway lambasting Yilek: “What is your job exactly? Is your job to rely upon derivative reporting without picking up the phone and trying to ask questions or write things that are relevant?”

 

  • A year ago, eleven children died from a viral outbreak at a long-term care facility in New Jersey and, last December, NorthJersey.com filed a lawsuit against the state’s department of health seeking documents that would help explain what happened. “Since then, the agency has slowly released more than 1,400 pages of emails, status reports and other communication that are either irrelevant or contain so many redactions that it is impossible to determine what the state government was doing during the height of the crisis,” according to NorthJersey.com, which is continuing to fight for more transparency.

 

  • The Los Angeles Times reports that 20,000 have signed a petition calling for the firing of Noah Oppenheim, president of NBC News, because of his role to “cover up abuse.” Shaunna Thomas, co-founder and executive director of an activist group called UltraViolet, which presented the petition, said that Catch and Kill, the new book by Ronan Farrow, makes clear “that Comcast needs to do more to shift the work culture and prevent harassment at NBC and MSNBC.”

 

  • And Exxon Mobil went to court this week, accused by New York’s attorney general of defrauding shareholders and the public about how carbon regulation would affect its business. The case began in 2015, when an InsideClimate News investigation, led by Neela Banerjee, found that the company was conducting its own research into the environmental harms of fossil fuels even as it publicly denied climate change.
Questions or comments about what you’d like to read with your coffee? 
Reach today's newsletter editor, Akintunde Ahmad, at aa4245@columbia.edu.
 
Our weekly podcast on media news, The Kicker, is available on Apple PodcastsStitcher, and SoundCloud.

Catch up with all of our coverage at CJR.org.
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