To Fox News viewers, Robert Driscoll had all the credentials of someone who could comment on the ongoing investigations surrounding Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Often in a bow tie and glasses, the former chief of staff in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division had a certain air of gravitas — especially when he appeared on Fox News multiple times to slam any insinuation that Trump’s campaign may have had help from Moscow.
But as NPR pointed out on Monday, there was another facet of Driscoll’s work that Fox News viewers never knew about: his work as the lawyer for Maria Butina, the alleged Russian agent who infiltrated the National Rifle Association (NRA). Another person Driscoll has helped in the past? Sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who was involved heavily with convicted felon and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort — and who was helped by a lobby group Driscoll worked for during part of the Obama administration.
For months, Driscoll failed to disclose his ties to Butina to Fox News’ viewers — and he’s still never disclosed his former work with the team lobbying for Deripaska. (Driscoll denied to ThinkProgress that he ever lobbied for Deripaska directly, writing in a statement that he “never met Deripaska, don’t recall what work [the lobbying firm] did for him, and certainly never lobbied for him.”)
Driscoll told NPR that he began working as Butina’s lawyer in February, but that he didn’t bother to disclose that information until July, around the time of Butina’s arrest. (In a recent filing, Driscoll bizarrely claimed that Butina’s decision to set up an LLC in South Dakota — one that appeared to do no real business — was actually meant to show that Butina “intended to deepen her roots” in South Dakota.) Driscoll told NPR that he didn’t disclose his relationship with Butina because “there’s no conflict because she is being prosecuted by the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, not [Special Counsel Robert] Mueller.”
In that time frame, Driscoll made multiple appearances on both Fox News and Fox Business, condemning criticism Trump has faced for his campaign’s interactions with Russian operatives — always as a “former DOJ official,” and never as someone with a personal, professional stake in the ongoing investigations.
NPR uncovered a total of four appearances from Driscoll discussing Russia-related affairs on Fox. But it turns out there were even more appearances Driscoll made on Fox, taking the president’s line and batting back accusations that Russia ever had any designs on interfering in the United States — and calling on Mueller, as recently as June, to get his investigation “wrapped up.”
In May, for instance, Driscoll appeared on Fox Business’s Cavuto Coast to Coast to discuss Mueller. Identifying only as a “former Justice official,” Driscoll — who had by this time been working with Butina for three months — made an appearance to discuss the Mueller investigation.
A few weeks later, “former Justice Department official” Driscoll appeared on Fox News to question the basis for the investigations into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Also in May, Fox News’ Laura Ingraham hosted Driscoll — without the lawyer disclosing his relationship with Butina — to again question the validity of the ongoing investigation and defend Trump.
Ingraham continued to host Driscoll. On June 5, Driscoll discussed the Trump campaign’s links with Russia, and the strained relationship between the FBI and Trump — yet again not bothering to discuss his own ties with Butina.
A few weeks thereafter, Ingraham yet again hosted Driscoll — and once more, the lawyer didn’t share who he was representing.
As Driscoll said in that final appearance, “The damage has been done.” So, too, has the damage to his own credibility — all because he didn’t bother to disclose, time and again, that he was directly representing one of the key figures involved in the investigations into Russian interference in the United States.
CORRECTION: This piece previously stated that Driscoll lobbied on behalf of Deripaska. The piece has been updated to include his comments that he was not a direct lobbyist for the group, Alston & Bird, LLP.