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  • Trump And Fox Both Attempt "Look Over Here" Strategy To Deflect From Russia Controversy

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Desperate to change the narrative about the probe into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential election, President Donald Trump is hyping ambiguous and tenuous connections between former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and her associates and Russia. Fox News is also utilizing this “look over there” tactic, and Trump is promoting their coverage.

    In the past 24 hours, Trump has twice employed the same strategy Fox News figures used to deflect from the probe into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia: They point to any other person who may have ties to Russia.

    On the March 27 edition of The Sean Hannity Show, host and Trump sycophant Sean Hannity deflected from a conversation about Trump’s ties to Russia by mentioning the “Uranium One fiasco” -- a false, debunked smear that Clinton, acting to benefit a foundation donor, personally approved a deal that eventually gave the Russian government ownership of U.S. uranium mines:

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): We already know a bigger crime, and what about John Podesta's connections to the Russians during the campaign, number one. Number two, look at this whole Uranium One fiasco, while Bill Clinton -- Hillary Clinton is secretary of state, he's giving speeches in Russia, getting paid twice what he normally gets paid. They get -- for the Clinton Foundation -- literally millions and millions of dollars sent to the Clinton Foundation. Hillary herself has to sign off on the Uranium One deal, where Russia literally controls 20 percent of American uranium?

    In a pair of tweets later that evening, Trump regurgitated Hannity’s argument and threw in just about everything else he could think of: “Why isn’t the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill & Hillary [Clinton] deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia, Russian speech … money to Bill, the Hillary Russian ‘reset,’ praise of Russia by Hillary, or Podesta Russian Company.” He ended the second tweet with, “Trump Russia story is a hoax.”

    The next morning, Trump encouraged his followers to “Watch @foxandfriends now on Podesta and Russia!”:

    The segment that he flagged for his fans featured notorious serial misinformer and Breitbart.com editor-at-large Peter Schweizer hyping connections between former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and a Kremlin-backed bank:

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): So tell us about John Podesta and his connection to a Kremlin-backed company.

    PETER SCHWEIZER: Well, in 2011, John Podesta joins the board of this very small energy company called Joule Energy based out of Massachusetts. About two months after he joins the board, a Russian entity called Rusnano puts a billion rubles, which is about $35 million, into John Podesta's company. Now, what is Rusnano? Rusnano is not a private company, Steve. It is a fund directly funded by the Kremlin. In fact, the Russian science minister called Rusnano “Putin's child.” So the you have the Russian government investing in one John Podesta's businesses in 2011, while he is an adviser to Hillary Clinton at the State Department.

    DOOCY: While he’s an adviser to Hillary Clinton.

    Though Fox News and Trump are doing their best to hype the Podesta/Russia connection, there’s some smoke, but no fire. As The Wall Street Journal pointed out:

    It’s not illegal to invest alongside a Kremlin-backed investment vehicle tasked with developing and acquiring valuable technology to benefit Russia. Nor, as far as we know, is it illegal to do so while simultaneously serving as an outside adviser to the U.S. secretary of state.

    The Trump/Fox News echo chamber isn’t a new phenomenon. The president, who has repeatedly praised Fox, has lifted talking points from the network before. For its part, Fox has also repeated Trump’s lines to bolster his spin. Trump’s possible ties to Russia is just the latest manifestation of this echo chamber, and it likely won’t be the last.

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko

  • Trump Tweets Congress Should Investigate Clintons After Hannity Promotes Uranium One Conspiracy

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    President Donald Trump tweeted that Congress should investigate Bill and Hillary Clinton for a “deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia,” hours after Fox News host Sean Hannity promoted the story on his radio show.

    On the March 27 edition of The Sean Hannity Show, Hannity revived the long-debunked conservative claim from discredited Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton allegedly sold “20 percent” of American uranium to the Russian government in exchange for Clinton Foundation donations. Hannity and guest Pat Buchanan argued that the “whole Uranium One fiasco” involved Bill and Hillary Clinton, with the former president “giving speeches in Russia, getting paid twice what he normally gets paid.” Hannity also mentioned “John Podesta’s connections to the Russians” as something that is a “bigger crime” than Trump and Russia:

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): We already know a bigger crime, and what about John Podesta's connections to the Russians during the campaign, number one. Number two, look at this whole Uranium One fiasco, while Bill Clinton -- Hillary Clinton’s secretary of state, he's giving speeches in Russia, getting paid twice what he normally gets paid. They get -- for the Clinton Foundation -- literally millions and millions of dollars sent to the Clinton Foundation, Hillary herself has to sign off on the Uranium One deal, where Russia literally controls 20 percent of American uranium?

    PAT BUCHANAN: Well exactly, all of these things were revealed, but the question is who will investigate the investigators? I mean, I saw, I think it was in the Post this morning or one of the papers, they're said, "Look at these -- they're trying to divert the attention away from the Russia connection to the WikiLeaks and to the getting into the DNC and Podesta files to this other thing." But look, I’m not against doing that, going into the Russian connection, if it's fair, but after eight months of investigating and you’ve turned up -- you can't even say who talked to who?

    A few hours later, Trump, who has pushed the smear before, parroted Hannity’s comments on Twitter, asking, “Why isn't the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill & Hillary deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia.” Trump also said Congress should investigate the “Russian speech" and the "money to Bill,” as well as the “Podesta Russia Company.”

    This appears to be the latest public example of Trump responding to segments from Fox News figures. In January, Trump responded to a segment on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor about crime in Chicago, tweeting, “If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible ‘carnage’ … I will send in the Feds!” Trump has also responded directly to Fox & Friends at least half a dozen times in March. On March 17, Trump blamed Fox News as the reason for his false claim that former President Barack Obama used British intelligence agencies to spy on him. Even after causing an international incident by citing a Fox figure, Trump continues to follow their lead, this time by resurrecting the repeatedly debunked Uranium One smear.

  • Milwaukee Journalists: Sheriff David Clarke Is “Missing In Action”

    “It’s Horrible. He’s Got People Dying In His Own Jails And He Is Nowhere To Be Found”

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee County in Wisconsin has become a fixture on Fox News and at conservative political events, regularly serving as a shameless advocate for President Donald Trump.

    But local journalists who report on the 15-year sheriff of Wisconsin’s most populous county say his newfound national spotlight sharply detracts from his law enforcement duties. They note that he spends much of his time away from home, either promoting Trump or pushing his new book, Cop Under Fire: Moving Beyond Hashtags of Race, Crime and Politics for a Better America

    Wisconsin reporters also point out that his local approval ratings continue to fall as he ignores his responsibilities, as well as a string of troubling incidents that have occurred in the past few years. Chief among the concerns are four inmate deaths that occurred in his jails in 2016, which Clarke has failed to adequately explain, they say.

    “It gives the impression that he is missing in action and that he is an advocate for the Trump administration,” Daniel Bice, a columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel who has reported extensively on Clarke, said about his recent actions. “The perception is that he has gone from being the sheriff to being an advocate for Trump -- that is his primary role right now.”

    Clarke, a Democrat and African-American, is among Fox News' favorite guests. A search of Fox News transcripts on Nexis since 2015 finds he has made prime time appearances more than 100 times, in most cases to discuss national issues, not his home county. (Nexis does not capture Fox News appearances on morning and daytime programming.)

    In addition, a recent Journal Sentinel review of Clarke’s outside income disclosure statements found he had earned more than $220,000 in 2016 from speaking fees and related expenses, along with other gifts, during speeches to 34 different groups in 20 states outside of Wisconsin. These earnings outpace his sheriff salary which is $132,290.

    “He’s not around and he’s not doing his job and not providing any leadership,” said Charlie Sykes, a longtime conservative Wisconsin talk show host now appearing on MSNBC and WNYC Radio in New York. “His approach has been to refuse to comment, refuse to be transparent in any way, and attack anyone who raises questions about it.”

    And then there are the questionable incidents involving Clarke, ranging from his tweet calling CNN’s Marc Lamont Hill a “jigaboo” to his alleged harassment of a fellow airplane passenger.

    Clarke also called for a boycott of a local Fox affiliate, claiming it presented “fake news” and “racist” coverage.

    “He doesn’t talk to the local press except through the county sheriff’s Facebook page, but he does talk to Fox News, which is a contrast,” Bice said. “The assumption nationally among the conservatives is that he is beloved here, but even conservatives are frustrated with how long he is gone and not doing his job.”

    Clarke was first appointed sheriff in 2002, winning re-election later that year and again in 2006, 2010 and 2014. He is up for re-election again in 2018.

    But he didn't gain national prominence until his last election, when groups of gun-safety advocates helped support an effort to have him voted out.

    When he won that election, local reporters say, he started getting national attention as a gun-rights advocate and law enforcement voice. He drew further attention last year when he spoke out against the Black Lives Matter movement, calling it a hate group. He was also an early Trump supporter.

    One of the misconceptions about Clarke, however, is his image as a crime-fighter, local journalists say. His office does very little in the way of policing, with most of its work focused on the county's jails, highways, and parks.

    “The county sheriff has almost nothing to do with crime. The police handle the crime,” said Bruce Murphy, editor of UrbanMilwaukee.com, former editor of Milwaukee Magazine and onetime Journal Sentinel reporter. “He’s the classic example of all hat and no cattle. He talks tough and he has the impression of being this guy who is taking care of crime, and he has very little to do with it.”

    A January 31 report from Public Policy Polling found that Clarke had a 31 percent approval rating among local voters, and it noted that “voters consider him to be somewhat of a national embarrassment.” It also revealed that 65 percent believed Clarke has had a negative impact on Milwaukee County’s image.

    PolitiFact, meanwhile, has deemed 75 percent of his statements that it reviewed false or mostly false.

    “He’s very thin-skinned. He enjoys the limelight, likes the big checks and flying first class,” said Mike Crute, a talk show host on WRRD News Talk 1510 in Milwaukee. “It’s horrible. He’s got people dying in his own jails and he is nowhere to be found.”

    Crute added: “He is a guy who undermines the office and the public service office. It’s all narcissism, building himself as a TV brand, following Trump’s example. The sheriff’s office and its duties are just tedious to him. He doesn’t do anything.”

    James Wigderson, assistant editor of the conservative website RightWisconsin.com, called the outside appearances “a distraction.”

    “The fact that he probably earns more from speaking fees than he does at his day job leads you to believe that his day job has to be suffering at some point in this process,” Wigderson said. “It’s a mixed bag in Milwaukee County when you are more frequently appearing on Fox News nationally than you are on the local news discussing what is going on in Milwaukee County.”

    Journalists also say that he has not properly addressed the jail deaths or his constant trips out of town. When Media Matters approached him at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference in February outside Washington, D.C., Clarke declined to comment on either.

    Most reporters who cover Clarke believe he will not run for re-election in 2018, due in part to his diminishing local image and popularity, but also because of his continued support for Trump, as many believe he still hopes to serve the president in some capacity.

    “He’s become a Fox News commentator/Trump surrogate and at that point has become almost completely disconnected with the community,” said Sykes.

    In response to a request for comment, Fran McLaughlin at Clarke's office sent the following:

    I spoke with the sheriff :

    The left (Progressives, Democrats) doesn't think a black guy is capable of handling many things at one time. Let me introduce them to Sheriff David Clarke. He's added Tammy Baldwin to the list. He's EVERYWHERE! He's too busy to talk to you right now though. #MakeAmericaGreatAgain

  • Obamacare Repeal And The Myth Of Trump As The "Great Negotiator"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Before House Republicans and President Donald Trump were forced to pull the American Health Care Act (AHCA), their ill-fated first attempt to gut health care reform and repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), media repeatedly trumpeted Trump's supposed ability to get the bill passed because of his mastery of the "Art of the Deal." Here's a look back at how they described the "great negotiator," which was "the whole point of Trump":