In my last post, I took a dig at Fox News’ White House correspondent John Roberts for doing a solid for White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. But Roberts was no Trump lapdog when it came to questioning Spicer about the news that former national security advisor Mike Flynn just retroactively registered as a foreign agent for Turkey. When you add in Chris Wallace’s later comments and Shepard Smith’s remarks from yesterday and today – well, you’re looking at a good chunk of criticism of the Trump administration from the network that often looks like Trump TV.
As Fox News anchor Shepard Smith reported yesterday, Flynn acted as a foreign agent for Turkey while also serving as an advisor to Donald Trump during the presidential campaign. Despite Flynn’s hatred for Islam, “he was paid to play by a businessman that supported the Turkish leader who’s voting base is Islamic voters,” Smith said.
The New York Times reported this today:
A White House official said on Thursday that Mr. Trump was not aware that Mr. Flynn was working for Turkey’s interests during the campaign but deflected questions about its propriety.
But The Times also noted that the White House had been warned of Flynn’s conflicts of interests, specifically involving Turkey and Russia, last fall:
Democrats have raised concerns about Mr. Flynn’s private lobbying since last fall, including his decision to accept a fee reported around $40,000 to attend and speak at a Moscow gala celebration honoring RT, the Russian government-financed, English-language television network viewed in the West as a propaganda organ.
“Lt. Gen. Flynn’s involvement in advising Mr. Trump on matters relating to Turkey or Russia — including attending classified briefings on those matters — could violate the Trump for America, Inc. Code of Ethical Conduct,” Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote [Vice President] Pence after the November election.
During his White House press briefing today, Spicer claimed that because Flynn only filed as a foreign agent two days ago, there was no reason Trump should have had a problem naming Flynn as national security advisor. “How would anyone know?” Spicer asked with a straight face.
Roberts was not buying it, especially given that Trump’s transition team had been told before the inauguration that Flynn might register as a foreign agent.
ROBERTS: How did that not raise a red flag?
SPICER: You already got your question, John.
ROBERTS: Sean, but this is an important point.
SPICER: No, it’s not
ROBERTS: … Because you have an attorney calling the transition saying that the person who is in line to be the national security adviser may need to register as a foreign agent. That doesn’t raise a red flag?”
Raw Story has more about the continued questioning of Spicer:
“This is an issue of judgment about who you guys wanted in your administration,” New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush pointed out. “If there were published reports that the potential national security adviser had dealings with the government of Turkey—a controversial regime at this moment in time—and Congressman [Elijah] Cummings (D-MD) sent a letter to Mike Pence during the transition informing him of this and raising a red flag … What does this say about the transition team’s judgment about still appointing him as national security adviser when you had knowledge of this information?”
Spicer then launched into a semantic argument, professing his inability to “forget about the legalisms” because all the administration asks is that “people … follow the law.”
Later, on Shepard Smith Reporting, Fox host Chris Wallace was blistering as he followed up on the issues raised by Roberts.
WALLACE: It was interesting to watch Sean Spicer. He was trying to deflect this into a [legal] question … That precisely misses the point and I suspect Sean knew that it missed the point but he just didn’t want to answer because the real point is that - let’s assume that they didn’t know that Michael Flynn was working as a foreign agent for Turkey at the time, that he was in effect the top security advisor to the president during the campaign. Let’s assume they didn’t know it until the transition.
Wouldn’t you think – to me, it seems inconceivable – I know that Sean said it – it seems inconceivable that it wouldn’t percolate up the transition chain and somebody would have said to Donald Trump, the new president-elect, “Hey did you know that Mike Flynn was working as a foreign agent?”
And one, if he didn’t know, then why would you ever want him as a national security advisor? He’s the guy that’s advising you on foreign affairs, he was with him in the briefings that were held as a candidate, with the CIA, and he has never told the candidate, Donald Trump, that he’s on a retainer, a half-million dollar retainer from the government of Turkey? I find that very hard to believe.
And that if he didn’t know it in the campaign, he clearly - the transition was given the information during the transition. And you’ve gotta think that somebody told the president at that point, the president-elect. And why he would’ve named him as the national security advisor, it seems inconceivable.
SMITH: It was after the election that President Erdogan of Turkey, Chris, accused the United States of supporting ISIS and it was during that same period that General Flynn wrote an op-ed in support and praise of President Erdogan. Certainly, I don’t know if there’s anything illegal here, I defer to you on that, but something is missing, at least in the vetting process, the communication process, wouldn’t you say?
WALLACE: Well, certainly in the communications process.
And lookie here, there’s another Russia connection!
SMITH: There’s more intrigue here in that the Russian government is very much aligned now with the Turkish government. They have very nice things to say about each other.
… With all of these different concerns within this White House, the people who are now or were at least close to the president, questions about Russia continue to come up.
Wallace didn’t want to go there. He said, “I understand there’s smoke but there is no indication, no hard evidence of any fire, any collusion between the Russians and Trump World.”
No, not yet. But there is plenty we don’t yet know. One thing we do know is that Flynn took the side of Russia-friendly Turkey over the side of the U.S. in a very public way.
And Trump didn’t seem to mind a bit.
Don't get overly excited by these departures from Fox orthodoxy. Although I believe each of these guys is sincere in their questioning, I don't for one minute think that Fox is backing off its Trump love. Otherwise, the same issues would have been explored in prime time and, for all intents and purposes, they were not.
I believe this is a matter of Fox covering its you-know-what. If Trump lands in big trouble over this, Fox can say it did some honest reporting. That still leaves plenty of time to let hosts like Hannity continue to portray Trump as a political victim.
Meanwhile, get the popcorn going and watch the videos below, from the March 10, 2017 White House press briefing and the March 10, 2017 Shepard Smith Reporting.
I’m admittedly a spelling Nazi. Dad was a superintendent of schools. It’s my own little way of driving the right wing trolls on comment sites crazy.
Flynn should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. He needs a cold dark cell in Kansas, on the same block as Manning, Assange, and Snowden. Perhaps, now that the blind sheik has croaked, there is some space for him?
Turkey needs to be booted from NATO. They are a disingenuous supporter of our enemies, making them a non-ally and, in fact, simply another enemy.
We should pull those Patriot batteries out, and move them back to Europe, where they belong. Then, we should forward deploy them to Poland and the Baltic States, where they might do some good, helping deter further Russian aggression.
We should throw our weight behind the Kurds. All of them, including the PKK. We should arm them to the teeth, so they can continue fighting our enemies, and winning. They deserve a state of their own, carved from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.
Unlike the Turks, the Kurds will prove to be loyal and grateful allies. Second only to Israel in the region.