Fox News’ Outnumbered couch was scathing in its condemnation of Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian operative during the 2016 campaign. But the Trump-cheerleading show also revealed either suggestions for the Trump White House or else put to use White House talking points they already had.
The discussion was one of Fox’s earliest reactions to the release of Trump Jr.’s very damning emails showing his enthusiasm for a meeting to receive damaging information about Hillary Clinton from the Russian government and his arrangement to include then-campaign manager Paul Manafort and Trump Jr.’s brother-in-law, Jared Kushner in the meeting.
Newly-minted Fox News contributor Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for George W. Bush, kicked off the discussion by blasting the Trump White House over its handling of the whole Russia matter.
“I do not understand why the White House, months ago didn’t get its arms around everything Russian” and “proactively put it out themselves,” Fleischer admonished. “They have let this become a drip, drip, drip, which is not in the White House’s interest. It’s bad management.”
But then, on the “substantive level,” Fleischer came up with the spin.
“Was it bad judgment to take a meeting or was it a crime? It seems to me it was bad judgment,” Fleischer said. He added, “It certainly seems to me to be opposition research” rather than collusion.
Later, Fleischer reiterated his opinion: “There is no evidence of collusion, this is about opposition research and I think, bad judgment. People need to just keep the temperature down before they accuse it of being anything beyond that.”
OK, fine. But nobody explained what constitutes collusion and why this was not it. Fortunately for Americans who care about facts and information, The Washington Post delved into the subject nicely – and fairly. For one thing, it turns out that “collusion” is a political term and there’s no actual law broken by colluding with a foreign adversary.
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But you can go to jail for conspiring with a foreign adversary to influence or undermine an election …
What special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and his team of a dozen or so practiced investigators are probably looking for is evidence that the Trump campaign intended to illegally conspire with Russia to help its campaign or hurt Clinton’s. (Russia is also known for tricking people into doing its bidding.)
The fact that Trump Jr. took this meeting while being told what the Russians were up to is as clear as intent can get, legal experts say.
Whether Trump Jr. committed a crime or not, it speaks volumes that Outnumbered hosted a PR person and not a legal expert as the sole guest for this discussion.
Cohost Megham McCain helped put the brakes on questioning whether Trump Jr. broke the law. “I don’t think we should get out over our skis too much on the left or the right, she said.
But McCain also found it problematic that the email to Trump Jr. setting up the meeting called the supposedly forthcoming information “high level and sensitive” and “part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump.” She argued that claims by Trump Jr., White House adviser Kellyanne Conway and Vice President Mike Pence that the campaign had had no contact with Russian officials have now been proven “a lie.”
“How they have let this spin so completely out of control at this point is beyond my comprehension,” McCain said.
But then she immediately segued into blaming Manafort.
MCCAIN: I will say, I blame Paul Manafort for all of this. I think he is one of the worst people that work in politics, period. … To let Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner come into a meeting with this person is beyond incompetent and I’m sure his head will probably at some point roll over this.
Cohost Harris Faulkner seemed on board with the “blame Manafort” talking point. “I have a lot of questions about how it happened… when you have a Paul Manafort,” she said.
Meanwhile, Fox News wasted little time promoting the “bad judgment, not collusion” talking point.
Watch the meme take shape above, from the July 11, 2017 Outnumbered.
Crossposted at News Hounds.
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