On Friday morning, former Trump campaign official and National Security Advisor Gen. Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his repeated contact with Russian officials before, during, and after the Trump campaign.
More significantly, the guilty plea suggests that Flynn is cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into the Trump White House’s efforts to collude with Russia in order to win the 2016 presidential election.
Shortly after Flynn appeared before a federal judge to enter his plea, ABC News reported that Flynn is prepared to testify under oath that “as a candidate, Donald Trump ‘directed him to make contact with the Russians.’”
For anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to the news, that revelation constitutes what we in the biz call a “bombshell.” Every reputable news network shifted all of their attention to the Flynn news, calling upon legal experts to explain the ramifications of a plea deal, politicos to discuss potential fallout within the administration, and economists to comment on the subsequent plummet of the Dow Jones following the news. Even Chris Cillizza appeared to grasp the enormity of Friday’s developments.
For everyone else, there was Fox News.
That was Fox News’ homepage well after the Flynn news first broke. If you look closely, you can see a tiny photo of Flynn on the bottom left corner of the page, right beside a full splash page devoted to — who else? — Hillary Clinton.
On their airwaves, the coverage wasn’t much better.
There was former White House official and current chairman of the American Conservative Union Matt Schlapp, who tried valiantly to spin the Flynn news as an indictment of President Obama.
“The fact that the charge is a serious one, but legally a rather minor one…remember, he wasn’t put under oath,” he told Fox News host Sandra Smith. “They’re simply saying in their conversations with him, they believe that he wasn’t honest. This is not collusion with the Russians over fixing the election. It has nothing to do with why the special counsel was actually brought in. What it does have to do with, interestingly enough, is this whole question about what was the Obama administration doing in monitoring members of team Trump? That’s the real interesting part of this that I want to learn more about.”
Moments later, Andrew Napolitano, a frequent guest on Fox News for any legal-related stories, again sought to tie Flynn to the Obama administration, noting that the early reporting about Flynn’s contact with Russia were leaked to the press while Obama was still in office.
“Somebody in the White House asked either the NSA or the FBI for transcripts of conversations that Ambassador Kislyak was having with Americans,” said Napolitano. “Either the NSA or FBI — we don’t know who had it at this point — told somebody in the Obama White House ‘this is Mike Flynn, this Person A. Person B is the ambassador.’ A portion of that was leaked to the Washington Post. That act of leaking is a felony.”
Tying Michael Flynn to the Obama administration was a common theme elsewhere within the Republican party as well.
The president of Judicial Watch, a far-right watchdog group, falsely accused several Obama appointees of “targeting” Michael Flynn, and suggested today’s news was a “Deep State victory.”
Even the White House itself pushed Flynn’s Obama ties in a formal statement released after Flynn’s court appearance.
“Today, Michael Flynn, a former National Security Advisor at the White House for 25 days during the Trump Administration, and a former Obama administration official, entered a guilty plea to a single count of making a false statement to the FBI,” said Trump Administration lawyer Ty Cobb.
Fox News and the Republican media was also happy to downplay the Mueller investigation entirely, frequently breaking away from the Flynn story to discuss, among other things, yesterday’s acquittal of an undocumented immigrant for the shooting death of a California woman. Several times throughout the morning, Fox News’ hosts — and a handful on-air guests like Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) — pivoted away from the revelation that Donald Trump might well have colluded with Russia to steal a presidential election to instead quarrel with a jury’s not-guilty verdict in a 2015 murder. Notorious Nazi sympathizer and Trump stan Mike Cernovich went so far as to suggest that the verdict somehow discredits Robert Mueller’s entire investigation.
“Mueller’s Grand Jury is every bit as lawless and vindictive as #KateSteinle jury. It is time for @realDonaldTrump to fire Mueller, these are lives he’s ruining, savings he’s draining, potential deaths he’s causing,” he tweeted.