To President Trump, and Fox News, there’s always room for a conspiracy, no matter what the facts say.
Even when a former Trump aide’s lawyer admits in court that he was not entrapped by the FBI, Trump backers on Fox News don’t budge, and neither does the White House.
On Tuesday, Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was scheduled to be sentenced for the crime to which he pleaded guilty last December — lying to the FBI about his contact with the Russian ambassador. Instead, Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia postponed Flynn’s sentence after a dramatic courtroom exchange in which Sullivan got Flynn’s defense team to admit that Flynn had not been coerced to plead guilty — the argument pushed by Trump’s conservative allies on Fox News.
When Sullivan asked them, “Is it your contention that Mr. Flynn was entrapped by the FBI?”, Flynn’s lawyer responded, “No, your honor.”
This admission had no effect on the dug-in position of the Trump’s White House and allies at Fox News.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders argued during a press briefing following the hearing that the FBI had “ambushed General Flynn”:
We know that was inappropriate by own self-admittance of James Comey is that the FBI broke standard protocol in the way they came in and ambushed General Flynn and in the way they questioned him and the way they encouraged him not to have White House counsel present. James Comey told us that and they said the reason they did it was because it was the Trump administration and they thought they could get away with it.
Sanders had already said on Fox News earlier on Tuesday that the White House was waiting to see how Sullivan “will react to what we know the FBI did in terms of the way that they ambushed Michael Flynn in the interview process.”
This spin mirrored that found elsewhere on Fox News.
To one of the network’s guests, just because Flynn’s team said he had not been entrapped does not meant he was not entrapped. Andy McCarthy, a Fox News contributor and a former assistant U.S. attorney, argued that Flynn could still have been entrapped, even if he chose not to use a legal defense based around such entrapment.
“I think to say that, as Flynn did, that he was not entrapped — means that he doesn’t believe that he has a legal entrapment defense,” McCarthy told Fox News’ Bill Hemmer after the hearing began. “That’s a very different thing from saying that everything that happened here was by the book.”
Fox News' spin: Just because he said he wasn't entrapped doesn't mean he wasn't entrapped (h/t @stevemorris__ )
"I think to say that, as Flynn did, that he was not entrapped – means that he doesn't believe that he has a legal entrapment defense." pic.twitter.com/rShojEPsa4
— Lis Power (@LisPower1) December 18, 2018
Hemmer then said that one reason Flynn might have lied to the FBI was that it was early in the Trump administration and “you can call it chaos, but there are a lot of things going on when people are trying to figure out their new lives as they come into the White House.”
Sara Carter, a Fox News contributor, declared in a tweet after the hearing that the delay in sentencing was because Sullivan “has more questions about Special Counsel’s and FBI conduct.” In reality, Sullivan expressed disbelief at Flynn’s actions during the hearing, and prosecutors only agreed to the delay after Flynn’s defense team said that it would allow for greater cooperation on a separate case related to illegal lobbying for the Turkish government.
The latest spin falls in line with earlier theories spread by Trump allies.
Alan Dershowitz told Fox News’ Bill Hemmer earlier on Tuesday that he believed “Flynn was coerced into pleading guilty to a crime of which he was innocent. He was coerced by threats against his son, against his fortune, and the reason I think he was innocent is even if he told an untruth — which it seems as if he did — it was not a material untruth.”
Trump ally and American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp argued on Tuesday before the hearing that his crimes, and the crimes of the other people close to Trump’s inner circle are equivalent to “pulling off mattress tags, jaywalking, parking tickets.” Schlapp argued that “they’re finding anything they can — anything they can — to delve into these people’s careers, to kind of legally blackmail them into agreeing to some minimal crimes.”
Another Trump ally, Jeanine Pirro, argued over the weekend on her Fox News show that if Sullivan vacated Flynn’s guilty plea after concluding that the FBI interfered with Flynn’s right to counsel, the Mueller investigation falls apart.
“So the issue is, will this judge make a decision on his own to vacate the plea which Flynn has not asked for?” she said in an interview with Mike Huckabee. “And the amazing part of it, if he does, the house of cards of Robert Mueller falls.”
Pirro had described Sullivan this way: “A judge unafraid of the swamp. A judge with a track record of calling out prosecutorial misconduct. A judge who does not permit injustice or abuse of power.”
Instead, Sullivan admonished Flynn. “I’m not hiding my disgust, my disdain for this criminal offense. Arguably, you sold your country out.”