The impeachment letter Trump could have sent to Nancy Pelosi

December 22, 2019

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi

Speaker of the House of Representatives

Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Madam Speaker:

I wrote you this past Tuesday to protest in the strongest possible terms the partisan impeachment charade you and your Democrat conspirators were about to perpetrate in the House of Representatives. Nevertheless, you persisted. I have now joined Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton in the ranks of impeachment infamy.

Now I would like to warn you not only about what is going to transpire, but why.

In a nutshell, I will be acquitted by the United States Senate. I would not be surprised if my GOP allies were unanimous in my exoneration. And while the Republicans on Capitol Hill will not abandon me, the ardor of my most fervent supporters will only be increased by my persecution. Seeing my victimhood as theirs, my MAGA base will turn out in massive numbers on Election Day 2020. All the while, the national media will predictably publish “both sides do it” stories with titles like “GOP, Dems Disagree on Merits of Impeachment Case” and “Impeachment’s Impact on the 2020 Horse Race” and “Claiming ‘He’s Like Us,’ Working Class Whites Vow to Support Trump ‘to the End.’”

Why am I so confident about this course of events? Why am I so certain that elected Republicans in Washington and across the nation will never turn their backs on me? Simply because they will pay no political price for doing so.

There will be no price to be paid because we Republicans have already successfully rigged the system. The GOP now has the United States trapped in an unbreakable “Iron Triangle.” Republican media, Republican voter suppression and unlimited Republican campaign cash together create an impregnable cage from which the objective truth and the will of the people are powerless to escape.

To be sure, by any objective standard I am guilty of the charges compiled against me. As the evidence contained in the House Impeachment Report overwhelmingly confirmed, I abused my power as president of the United States by illegally soliciting election interference from a foreign power and attempting to bribe that country’s leadership by withholding military aid appropriated by Congress. You don’t have to take Adam Schiff’s word for it; take mine. I confessed as much—twice. “The conversation I had [with Ukrainian President Zelensky] was largely congratulatory,” I explained on Sept. 22, adding, “It was largely the fact that we don’t want our people, like Vice President Biden and his son, creating to [sic] the corruption already in the Ukraine.” On Oct. 3, I asked Beijing to join Kyiv in investigating my likely 2020 opponent when I proclaimed, “China should start an investigation into the Bidens because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.” My chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was speaking for me when he told the American people:

“We do that all the time with foreign policy,” he said when it was pointed out that he appeared to be describing a quid pro quo. He added: "I have news for everybody: Get over it.”

While a mountain of evidence proves my guilt of abuse of power as asserted in Article I, my obstruction of Congress as charged in Article II is self-evident. Obviously, I defied legal subpoenas to produce documents for and administrative officials to testify before congressional committees. While a federal judge may have rejected my claim that as president “absolute immunity” allows to prevent current and former administration officials from testifying, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has no issue with it. Neither he nor my leading Republican defenders like Senator Lindsey Graham want to hear from John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney or a long list of other White House figures because they have the confidence to admit they are not going to be impartial jurors in the Senate as required by the Constitution.

Madame Speaker, Senator McConnell, Senator Graham and I are doing these things because as Republicans we can. The vast majority of Republicans know they won’t face blowback from our voters. And unless authentic video surfaces showing me and Vice President Pence making sweet love, neither will I.

That is the power of the Iron Triangle.

1. Vote Suppression: We Win, You Lose.

When I say “our voters,” I mean it. Polling may show public support for my impeachment and removal from office and for key witnesses to be called during the Senate trial, but that will not be the public that goes to the polls on November 3, 2020. Over the past two decades, the GOP has seen to that.

Just recall the stories from this past week alone. In Wisconsin, which I won in 2016 by just 23,000 ballots in 2016, a judge ordered that the state must purge 200,000 voters from the rolls, with the vast majority in Democratic districts. In Georgia, the number was 300,000, reducing the pool of registered voters from 7.4 million to 7.1 million overnight.

In recent years, the GOP has been waging a largely successful campaign of voter suppression across the United States. Republicans have used a growing array of tactics to erect an increasingly robust set of barriers to ensure that the votes of lower-income and minority Americans (which is to say, Democrats) are not counted. Nationwide, we have disenfranchised millions of voters, not just in traditionally red states like Texas and Indiana, but in toss-up battlegrounds like Wisconsin, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. And we did it all by propagating the myth of vote fraud. And it is a myth. “Studies regularly conclude that fraud is exceedingly rare; a New York Times survey of 49 state election offices after the 2016 general election found no allegations of widespread fraud, and no fraud claims at all in 26 states.” As the Brennan Center for Justice reported last year:

Ahead of upcoming midterm elections, a new Brennan Center investigation has examined data for more than 6,600 jurisdictions that report purge rates to the Election Assistance Commission and calculated purge rates for 49 states.

We found that between 2014 and 2016, states removed almost 16 million voters from the rolls.

Think of all the ways the GOP immunizes itself from voters’ accountability in so many states. Thanks to barriers to registration, voter identification laws, disenfranchisement of felons (and even millions of registered voters), curbs on union fundraising, frequent redistricting, closing polling places and limiting voting days and hours, jaw-dropping gerrymandering and myriad other tactics of vote suppression, Republicans have manufactured a virtual lock on the House seats the GOP holds today. For the most part, GOP members of Congress fear only their primaries, not general elections. Madame Speaker, in 2018 you already won whatever GOP seats were there to be lost. You won’t be so lucky 2020.

And in all of this we have been ably assisted by the Supreme Court under the wise leadership of Chief Justice John Roberts. In 2008, the court upheld Indiana’s voter identification law. In 2013, Chief Justice Roberts realized his lifelong dream of gutting the Voting Rights Act, overturning the pre-clearance provisions that barred southern states from perpetuating the worst disenfranchisement measures of the Jim Crow era. And it was only in July that Justice Roberts ruled that federal courts have no role in evaluating partisan gerrymandering by the states.

One man, one vote … one big joke.

2. Unlimited Money in Politics: More Money Means More Power for Republicans

When Republicans aren’t rigging who gets to vote when and in which states, we’re fixing the rules regarding whose voice gets heard, how loudly, and how often. The GOP has long had a cash advantage over you Democrats. But here, too, the Supreme Court has long been our side.

While the conservative post-Civil War Supreme Court frequently ruled that the 14th Amendment’s guarantees of due process and equal protection of law didn’t apply to actual humans, corporations were another matter altogether. It was the 1886 case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Co. which established the principal that “corporations are people,” my friend. In 1976, Buckley v. Valeo elevated “money equals speech” to a constitutional standard by proclaiming “that limiting political spending improperly restricts speech because it restricts the quantity of expression.” The Citizens United decision in 2010 took the next major step, concluding not just that political spending is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, but the government may not keep corporations or unions from spending money to support or denounce individual candidates in elections.

Now, corporations and the wealthy have usually ensured that Republican candidates and conservative causes enjoy a large cash advantage over our foes on the Left. Nevertheless, big labor unions—most them representing public sector employers—could still raise substantial amounts of money to counter corporate advocacy. Until, that is, the 2018 case of Janus v. AFSCME. Nonunion workers can no longer be forced to pay so-called agency fees to fund the work of public sector unions. Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion overturned 42 years of precedent to make sure public sector unions would lose members and cash in their fight against corporate political power. (While the top 10 public employee unions lost around 310,000 of the so-called “fair share payers” within a year of the Janus ruling, many had been able to maintain their money on hand through successful new membership drives.)  As I tweeted on June 27, 2018:

Supreme Court rules in favor of non-union workers who are now, as an example, able to support a candidate of his or her choice without having those who control the Union deciding for them. Big loss for the coffers of the Democrats!

That loss is good news for me. After all, my $368 million campaign got outspent by Hillary Clinton’s ($768 million) by a two-to-one margin in 2016. (That was more than offset by my huge advantage in free media coverage, estimated by OpenSecrets at $5.9 billion versus $2.8 billion for Crooked Hillary. And in 2018, Republicans even got outspent by Democrats in a midterm election that cost a staggering $5.7 billion, compared to just $3.8 billion in 2014. But in 2020, everything will be different. As in 2014, Super PACs and dark money will be with the Republicans. By this October, various Trump committees had already spent $531 million toward the 2020 election, compared to just $63 million by May 2016. As the Washington Post described it two months ago:

Now, Trump has a roaring reelection apparatus. There are six main committees working to secure his second term, including the official campaign, the Republican National Committee and a super PAC. Together, they have already raised over $736 million — more than any previous presidential candidate at this point in the campaign.

In 2016, I ran against the Republican Party establishment. Now, I am the Republican Party. It’s no wonder, Madame Speaker, Politico warned, “Democrats shudder at Trump’s money machine.” You should be afraid, too. Very afraid.

3. Media Self-Selection Means There Is No Objective Truth

The GOP’s vote suppression operation and its money machine are two of the necessary conditions to beating back the objective truth of my abuses of power. Necessary, that is, but not sufficient. For that, Americans need to choose for themselves which sources of news they’ll turn to—and believe. And when that happens, as it has been for some time, the very notion of objective truth is no longer operative.

Think back to August 2018. Everyone made fun of my personal attorney, America’s mayor and greatest crime fighter Rudy Giuliani when he explained to Meet the Press host Chuck Todd why I would not testify before special counsel Robert Mueller.

GIULIANI: And when you tell me that, you know, he should testify because he’s going to tell the truth and he shouldn’t worry, well that’s so silly because it’s somebody’s version of the truth. Not the truth ...

TODD: Truth is truth. I don’t mean to go like ―

GIULIANI: No, it isn’t truth. Truth isn’t truth. 

Todd mocked Rudy by saying, “This is going to be a bad meme.” But Rudy was on to something. He knows what I know, which is something most of the American media and most Democrats apparently do not know: This is not 1974 and I am not Richard Nixon. For all intents and purposes, in American politics there is no longer such a thing as “objective truth.” By now, it should be no mystery as to why.

In the 1970s, the U.S. media landscape largely consisted of three national news networks and a handful of newspapers of record. CBS News’ Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in America. With Chet Huntley and David Brinkley of NBC News, and Frank Reynold and Howard K. Smith of ABC News, the three evening news broadcasts delivered the truth—one truth—through Americans’ television screens every night. Run as loss-leaders and governed by the Fairness Doctrine, network news broadcasts were viewed by their owners as a public trust. The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Baltimore Sun brought it to their front doors every morning. Richard Nixon’s fall was certain only when a national consensus over the sheer weight of his crimes became an irresistible force in the late spring of 1974.

But that was before Rush Limbaugh and right-wing radio, the internet, social media, and cable news. As Watergate figure John Dean recently put it:

“Nixon might have survived if he had Fox News and the conservative media that exists today.”

Well, I do have Fox News. And I have Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit, too. And that doesn’t just mean, as the failing New York Times put it last month, “No one believes anything.” And as the Pew Research Center found in 2018, “Republicans and Democrats agree: They can’t agree on basic facts.”

About eight-in-ten Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (81%) say Republican and Democratic voters disagree on basic facts of issues. A similar – albeit slightly smaller – share of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (76%) say the same. Just 18% of Republicans and 23% of Democrats say that voters of the two parties can agree on basic facts even if they disagree over policies and plans.

Think about that. The entire American intelligence community is in agreement that Russia intervened in the 2016 election with the purpose of aiding me at the expense of Hillary Clinton. Even the report of the Senate Intelligence Committee led by Republican Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina concurred with that assessment. Nevertheless, I have repeatedly told the American people, most famously on a stage in Helsinki, Finland, that I had no reason to doubt the disavowals of President Vladimir Putin. And just one day after National Security Council Ukraine expert Fiona Hill authoritatively rejected the “fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves,” I still told Fox & Friends, “A lot of it had to do, they say, with Ukraine.”

John Dean was right. Chris Wallace of Fox News asked Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana, “Who do you believe was responsible for hacking the DNC and Clinton campaign computers, their emails— was it Russia, or Ukraine?” Kennedy’s response? “I don’t know. Nor do you. Nor do any of us.” The very same Richard Burr, whose own committee looked into and rejected allegations of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election, regurgitated my long-debunked talking point.

"Every elected official in the Ukraine was for Hillary Clinton. Is that very different than the Russians being for Donald Trump?"

Now, you know that’s not true and so do Sens. Kennedy and Burr. But thanks to the Fox effect, lots of Americans believe my “Ukraine did it” hoax. A FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos survey released in early December showed that only 30% believed Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, while some 71% believed Russia did so. But as FiveThirtyEight also explained:

There is one group, though, where a substantial chunk of respondents do believe Ukraine interfered in 2016: Fox News viewers. More than 4 in 10 respondents who say they predominantly watch Fox News say that Ukraine did interfere in the 2016 election, a higher share than among respondents who get their news from other networks. Fox News viewers were also less likely than other respondents to believe that Russia interfered with the last presidential election. 

By now, no one should be surprised by that finding. After all, Pew found that during the 2016 election 40% of my supporters said Fox News was their “main news source” compared to only 3% for Hillary’s voters and 19% overall. While online news sources are now number one for Americans under age 50, TV is still the dominant source for those over 50 (and especially over 65). These findings were in keeping with those a 2014 Pew survey which found that 47% of conservatives are “tightly clustered” around one news source—Fox News—and are “more likely like to hear political opinions similar to their own on Facebook.” In stark contrast, liberals turned to a diversity of sources (CNN 15%, NPR 13%, MSNBC 12%, and New York Times 10%). And that’s not all. While liberals said they trusted more than they distrusted 28 of 36 news sources listed for them, among consistent conservatives, by contrast, there are 24 sources that draw more distrust than trust.

By May 2017, these different preferences resulted a shocking change in how American viewed “the watchdog role of the media.” After nearly identical three-quarters majorities of each party supported that watchdog role in February of Barack Obama’s last year in office, within a little over a year a staggering gap of 47 points had emerged:

Today, in the early days of the Trump administration, roughly nine-in-ten Democrats (89%) say news media criticism keeps leaders in line (sometimes called the news media’s “watchdog role”), while only about four-in-ten Republicans (42%) say the same.

Taken together, what does this mean for my future and yours, Madame Speaker?

For starters, it means that Kellyanne Conway was right: In American politics, for all intents and purposes, there are “alternate facts.” It means that a fair number of my supporters believe that Ukraine, and not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election. When Tucker Carlson earlier this month that “I think we should probably take the side of Russia if we have to choose between Russia and Ukraine,” polling showed that some 45% of Republicans agreed with him. Other polling shows a similar impact within the U.S. military, 46% said they viewed Russia as ally! Then again, in 2016—five years after he released his long-form birth certificate—72% of Republicans surveyed doubted that Barack Obama was a U.S. citizen. At the end of the day, Republicans in Congress know they will be rewarded for extremism and punished for moderation.

So, buckle up, Madame Speaker. As the Senate takes up the matter of my removal from office, I can guarantee you there will be no replay of Fred Thompson asking Alexander Butterfield, “Are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the president?” The American people will not be treated to a 21st century version of a Senator Howard Baker pondering “what did the president know and when did he know it?” And if you’re wondering when a reincarnated Republican Senator Barry Goldwater will make the journey to the White House to tell me my defense is “hopeless,” here’s my answer.

Never. Republicans are not afraid of paying any price with the electorate. They, like me, are protected by the New Iron Triangle*. Our money, our voter manipulation, and our media simply won’t allow it.

See you in November.

* I say “New Iron Triangle” because American political analysts have an older one. Among others, Theodore Lowi in his 1969 book The End of Liberalism described how the revolving door between special interest groups, congressional oversight committees, and executive branch agencies leads federal bureaucracies to produce public policy outcomes at odds with the will of the voters.

Listen to 2014 Donald Trump talk about how humiliating being impeached would be

The year was 2014. Donald Trump was still just that obnoxious racist birther idiot, self-promoting on any network or fake news media site available to him. The fundamental difference between Donald Trump in 2014 and in 2019 is the real amount of pain and cruelty he can inflict on people now that he actually has political power. But back in 2014, Donald Trump was still mostly a punchline, and we were all the better for it.

On Friday, by most reports, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives will vote “yes” to impeaching Donald Trump on two articles of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. But back in 2014, while birther Donald Trump was speaking to some iteration of Fox News’ morning blech-fest, he gave his thoughts on the stain a vote for impeachment of then President Barack Obama would be. I’m typing out Trump’s words verbatim because it’s proof of how truly incoherent he has always been.

Donald Trump: Listening to them [Democratic Party officials] say “Love to be impeached. Oh, he’d love to be impeached. He’d love to see the government shut down.” You know whenever it comes to something like the catastrophe that just happened with executive [inaudible and possibly not a word but a mumble]. He’d love to see all the Democrats happy—they must be coached, I mean they must go to school for this. “He’d love to be impeached. Please impeach him. it would be so good for the Democrats. Please shut down the government, it would be so good for Obama.” That’s what they want, shut down the government. What a lot of crap. Because all what they’re doing, they’re actually talking the Republicans into not doing. 

Do you think Obama seriously wants to be impeached and go through what Bill Clinton did?* He would be a mess. He would be thinking about nothing but. It would be a horror show for him. It would be an absolute embarrassment. It would go down on his record permanently.

There’s some more blathering. But once again, the only true things that come out of Donald Trump’s mouth are his projections of his own fears and anxieties, and perceived (and real) humiliations.

x

* I put the question mark in because technically he phrased it as a question even though nothing Trump ever says desires—or frankly, warrants—an answer.

Trump tells Fox to ‘get a new pollster’ after latest poll showing majority support for impeachment

Donald Trump has been a tad pissy about Fox News polling all year, and the outlet's latest poll was no exception. The survey released Sunday found 54% support for Trump’s impeachment, including 50% support for impeachment/removal and another 4% favoring impeachment alone. Just 41% of respondents opposed Trump's impeachment. The findings were nearly identical to the findings of Fox polling in October, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi first announced the inquiry in late September and support for impeachment spiked.

Chart showing survey results on support for impeachment: 50% impeach/remove, 4% impeach, 41% don

The poll also found that 53% of voters say Trump abused his power, while 38% say he did not; and 48% believe he obstructed Congress while 34% don't think so.

In essence, Trump was 13 points-plus underwater on all those key questions. Ouch.

Trump responded Sunday by drawing more attention to the poll, naturally. He said the Fox polls, "always inaccurate, are weighted toward Dems" and suggested the same thing happened in 2016. "Get a new pollster!" he added.

New Daily Kos/Civiqs poll: Most Americans think Trump committed impeachable offenses

The best antidote to hot takes is hard data, and the December Daily Kos/Civiqs poll is here with your cure. This month’s survey of 1,411 registered voters was conducted online from Dec. 7-11 and reveals that most Americans believe Donald Trump has committed impeachable offenses while in office.

Based on what they know, 53% of Americans say that Trump’s conduct qualifies as impeachable. Additionally, if the 2020 presidential election were held today, Trump would lose to a generic Democrat 50-44%.

Other noteworthy findings in this month’s poll include:

The majority of Americans (54%) believe things have gotten worse for the country over the past year. 54% of Americans also disapprove of Trump’s job performance as president. Just 30% of Americans unwaveringly support Trump, while 48% oppose Trump no matter what. Despite Trump’s high disapproval rating and the fact that just 44% of Americans want Trump reelected, 53% expect Trump to win reelection.

Additional issues surveyed include support for impeachment, the importance of the congressional inquiry, and Fox News and MSNBC viewership.

December’s numbers bring more bad news for the Trump administration as most Americans not only believe that Trump has committed impeachable offenses but also would vote for a generic Democratic presidential candidate over him.

This month’s survey also reinforces the fact that frequent Fox News viewers are deeply disconnected from mainstream Americans. While 54% of all Americans disapprove of Trump’s job performance as president, a whopping 93% of faithful Fox viewers approve. And while most Americans believe Trump has committed impeachable offenses (53%), the vast majority of frequent Fox viewers think he has not (95%).

Civiqs is a survey research firm that conducts scientific public opinion polls on the internet through its nationally representative online survey panel. Results of Civiqs’ daily tracking polls can be found online at civiqs.com.

Before clash with Pelosi, Sinclair reporter was ‘let go’ from Fox News amid sexual harassment claims

The reporter for Sinclair Broadcasting who was deservedly chastised by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on Thursday after asking an inane question at the end of a press conference announcing the House would draw up articles of impeachment has a history of being an aggressive asshole to women, it turns out. James Rosen was the prick who decided to yell out, “Mrs. Speaker, do you hate the president?” That prompted Pelosi to come back to the podium to respond to this right-wing grammar school-level question.

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: I think our president is a coward when it comes to helping our kids who are afraid of gun violence. I think he is cruel when he doesn’t help with our DREAMers. I think he’s in denial about the climate crisis. However, that’s about the election. Take it up in the election. However, this is about the Constitution of the United States and the facts that lead to the president’s violation of his oath of office.

And as a Catholic, I resent your using the word “hate" in a sentence that addresses me. I pray for the president all the time. So don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that … I pray for the president. I still pray for the president … So don’t use that word with me.

If you don’t remember James Rosen that’s because he was out of a job for a while last year, after Fox News unceremoniously let him go in January 2018. Of course, as NPR reported at the time, the lack of ceremony probably had to do with the allegations that Rosen was something of a shitheel harasser of female coworkers at Fox News, and in 2018, Fox News needed to clean as much house as possible.

The network cited no reason for Rosen's exit and did not announce it on the air. According to Rosen's former colleagues, however, he had an established pattern of flirting aggressively with many peers and had made sexual advances toward three female Fox News journalists, including two reporters and a producer. And his departure followed increased scrutiny of his behavior at the network, according to colleagues.

According to the story, Rosen partook in the Bill O’Reilly-practice of sending gross sexually suggestive and sexually direct text messages to female Fox News employees. But he didn’t stop there. One Fox News reporter said Rosen groped her during a shared cab ride, while another foreign-born employee said she lowered her complaints of sexual harassment against Rosen in order to be allowed a position at the company that allowed her to stay in the United States for longer. 

Asking Speaker Pelosi whether or not she hates the president of the United States is insipid at best. But, for a person with Rosen’s clear lack of respect for women, it shows something else: a view of women as being emotional rather than intellectual, as people that can be muted by not listening to what they are saying and diminishing the events they are a part of. Nancy Pelosi’s “feelings” about Donald Trump mean nothing, and Nancy Pelosi is not governing her actions by talking about or justifying them with her feelings. People like James Rosen only have feelings—shitty feelings of inadequacy and anger and cynicism that they cannot reconcile with their profound loneliness.

In January of 2019, Rosen landed at Fox News’ right wing competitor Sinclair Broadcasting. The fact that James Rosen ended up as a journalist at Sinclair Broadcasting is about as surprising as finding out Donald Trump is dumb as dirt. The propaganda giant has been busy coming up with horror-filled mythologies to sell right-wing anger and fear to its virtually monopolized media markets for years now.

Almost half of Fox News viewers believe baseless Russian claim that Ukraine meddled in 2016

Most Americans don't believe the GOP’s baseless claim that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 presidential elections, according to a new impeachment survey from FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos. Overall, just 30% of respondents think Ukraine interfered, while 71% correctly believe that Russia attacked the '16 elections. "The theory isn’t even resonating broadly among Trump’s supporters: Republicans aren’t any likelier than Democrats to think that Ukraine meddled in 2016," writes FiveThirtyEight. 

But one segment that has latched onto the Ukraine lie invented by Russian President Vladimir Putin and embraced by Donald Trump and GOP lawmakers is frequent Fox News viewers. Fully 44% of Americans who traffic in the Fox fever swamp of conspiracy theories believe that Ukraine meddled. That same cohort of Fox viewers is also much less likely to believe that Russia interfered in 2016, despite the fact that the U.S. intelligence community, the two-year special counsel investigation, and the GOP-led Senate Intelligence Committee all concluded that Russia launched a coordinated, top-down attack on the U.S. electoral system in the last presidential cycle. 

Chart showing 44.2% of Fox viewers say Ukraine meddled in 2016 while just 56.3% say Russia meddled. By comparison, just 33.1% of ABC viewers think Ukraine meddled, while 72.9% say Russian meddled. Just 10.5% of MSNBC viewers say Ukraine meddled, while 90.7% say Russia did.

The good news is that the GOP’s Ukraine conspiracy theory hasn’t caught on more broadly among the American public. The bad news is that Trump and his Republican henchmen have convinced close to half of his cultists to believe Putin’s propaganda.

It’s time for Fox News and Breitbart to finally be shut down

There is a point where we have to admit the truth. "News" organizations such as Fox News and Breitbart, as well as The Daily Caller, The Blaze, Newsmax, and others, are not journalistic endeavors. They are propaganda. They are strategic disinformation. They are purveyors of lies, slander, libel, and defamation.

They do not seek to honestly inform the public and provide a public service. They seek to twist facts, disguise the truth, and mislead people into believing falsehoods and calumny.

It is simply not true, as some would have you believe, that there are two sides to every issue. Some things are simply not just a matter of opinion. As Julie Hollar of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting wrote in a commentary on Raw Story,

It’s true that both cable outlets are essentially partisan outlets pushing their own party’s line—though ideologically, MSNBC and Fox each represent the right wing of their respective parties (FAIR.org, 6/30/17), which means the television “choose-your-own-news” world is hardly the free-for-all Grynbaum suggests. But at a time when one party adheres to an anything-goes strategy that has taken brazen lying to a new level, denies science, and regularly attacks journalists as “the enemy of the people,” painting a “both sides do it” picture of the partisan media environment glosses over very real and important differences.

For Grynbaum, media outlets simply have “irreconcilable differences”—so Fox’s puerile (but strategically us vs. them) media commentary that veteran foreign service officers testifying against Trump “looked like people who sat by themselves at recess” is equated with MSNBC’s commentary that those same officers gave “a fuller picture of the corrupt abuse of power by the president of the United States.

In one case you have an assessment of honest testimony given by legitimate relevant witnesses; in the other case you have character assassination.

It's past time that we treat these false news outlets exactly like the liars that they are.

This is not an argument against the presentation of conservative ideas or opinions.  What I'm saying isn't about a specific ideology at all. This is about the deliberate distortion of facts, the deliberate mischaracterization of the truth, and disinformation presented to the public. There is room and should be space to present legitimate conservative thought, just as much as liberal thought should be given reasonable consideration.

Simply presenting a conservative perspective is not what Fox News does. It has a clear and deliberate agenda to twist and contort its presentation of information to deceive and to mislead. Jane Mayer reports in The New Yorker,

Hemmer argues that Fox—which, as the most watched cable news network, generates about $2.7 billion a year for its parent company, 21st Century Fox—acts as a force multiplier for Trump, solidifying his hold over the Republican Party and intensifying his support. “Fox is not just taking the temperature of the base—it’s raising the temperature,” she says. “It’s a radicalization model.” For both Trump and Fox, “fear is a business strategy—it keeps people watching.” As the President has been beset by scandals, congressional hearings, and even talk of impeachment, Fox has been both his shield and his sword. The White House and Fox interact so seamlessly that it can be hard to determine, during a particular news cycle, which one is following the other’s lead. All day long, Trump retweets claims made on the network; his press secretary, Sarah Sanders, has largely stopped holding press conferences, but she has made some thirty appearances on such shows as “Fox & Friends” and “Hannity.” Trump, Hemmer says, has “almost become a programmer.”

[...]

The Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, another conservative Never Trumper, used to appear on the network, but wouldn’t do so now. “Fox was begun as a good-faith effort to counter bias, but it’s morphed into something that is not even news,” she says. “It’s simply a mouthpiece for the President, repeating what the President says, no matter how false or contradictory.” The feedback loop is so strong, she notes, that Trump “will even pick up an error made by Fox,” as when he promoted on Twitter a bogus Fox story claiming that South Africa was “seizing land from white farmers.” Rubin told me, “It’s funny that Bill Shine went over to the White House. He could have stayed in his old job. The only difference is payroll.”

[…]

Although Ailes paid occasional lip service to journalistic integrity, Fox News was hardly fair and balanced under his leadership. Gabriel Sherman, in his biography, “The Loudest Voice in the Room,” reports that Ailes was so obsessed with bringing down Obama in 2012 that he declared to colleagues, “I want to elect the next President.”

The Impeachment hearings that were broadcast over the last two weeks were covered one way by major news outlets, and a completely different way by Fox News, as The Atlantic’s Megan Garber noted:

Danielle Misiak, who tweeted back-to-back images comparing MSNBC’s coverage with Fox’s, noted of the differences, “You already know how this is gonna play out.” She was correct. There is an inevitability to Fox’s very Foxiness at this point—and this makes it easy to forget how profoundly undemocratic it is that a major media outlet, as it covers a history-making happening, would insist that the most pertinent facts of the event are the president’s opinions about it. MSNBC, too, had a bias in its coverage (“IMPEACHMENT: WHITE HOUSE IN CRISIS” went its chyron as Taylor delivered his testimony to Congress). But Fox had much more than a slant; in Trump, effectively, it had an author. It had a purpose and a person, and it long ago decided that both were, in every sense, unimpeachable.

And so, across the day’s several formats—as assorted hosts and commentators took to its air to have their say—the Fox News Channel converged around a common message: The impeachment hearings are an affront to the country because they are an affront to the president. Trump, as Fox covered him, was both the question and the answer. He was the only fact that mattered. Here is how Fox’s graphics introduced Adam Schiff, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee: “TRUMP HAS TWEETED ABOUT SCHIFF MORE THAN 100 TIMES SINCE INQUIRY BEGAN.”

Fox’s opinion shows also behaved according to script: They mocked the hearings as alternately biased and pointless and time-wasting and—the greatest offense, if you are a cable-news network—boring. On The Five, Fox’s co-ed, late-afternoon answer to The View, the host Greg Gutfeld began the quintet’s conversation with a message: “Congrats, Adam Schiff,” Gutfeld said, “you found something that makes the Mueller hearing look sexy.” The host proceeded to refer to the hearings as “a crappy horror movie scripted by the Dems for the media, with Schiff and his bunch playing the bug-eyed zombies.” (He later amended that assessment: “Actually, this is worse than a horror film. It’s pornography for Democrats.”)

This is not the presentation of factual information. This is pure spin. This is the presentation of fiction, not fact. Other recent examples, all reported by Media Matters:

Fox's Pete Hegseth: Trump has withstood more then what “any other mortal could understand” Fox News hypes article about unauthorized edit to FISA application without noting that it “did not affect the overall validity” Fiona Hill testified on the dangers of the ‘fictional narrative’ of Ukrainian collusion -- the same conspiracy theory Fox News has relentlessly pushed for years Fox's “news” anchor pushes debunked smear about impeachment witness Marie Yovanovitch Tucker Carlson says that he's rooting for Russia against Ukraine John Solomon falsely claims “nothing” in his reporting “has been challenged by these hearings”​​​​​​​ Fox “news”-side anchor Harris Faulkner lets Trump surrogates spew dangerous anti-abortion misinformation​​​​​​​ Fox guest Chadwick Moore falsely suggests issues facing trans women of color are manufactured problems Fox & Friends lauds Rob Schneider for “standing up for free speech” without noting he was pushing anti-vaccination conspiracy theories Right-wing media launch unhinged attacks on Greta Thunberg Fox News echoes White House talking points attacking Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman Fox News contributor launches absurd dual-loyalty attack on Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman Following Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s testimony, conservatives wrongly claim he committed perjury Fox News uses on-screen graphics to push pro-Trump lies during impeachment hearing

There is a point where this can't be tolerated anymore. There is a point where, for the sake of the nation and the safety of those in it, this has to be made to stop. It has to be made to end. Fox News has to be put down like a rabid dog. It's out of control and it's deadly dangerous.

Specifically, I am suggesting that a campaign to end the misinformation by and of Fox News and other false news outlets be formally instituted. There has to be a response; there has to be a reaction.

What I'm saying is that we fight fire with fire, or, more specifically, we fight lies with SLAPP lawsuits in the same manner that people such as Trump himself and Bob Murray have used them to keep media outlets from addressing certain subjects, as explained here gloriously by John Oliver.

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SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) lawsuits are intended to silence and stifle public debate about a specific target. They are typically used against news outlets when they publish what the plaintiffs consider negative news, with a threat of high damages for continuing to repeat the information. An example of this is the defamation suit that Melania Trump filed against the Daily Mail over the suggestion that she provided "services beyond just modeling." NPR reported in 2017,

The Daily Mail has agreed to pay damages and issue an apology to first lady Melania Trump to settle defamation claims over the British tabloid's insinuations that she "provided services beyond simply modelling."

The basis for the lawsuits in the U.S. and the U.K. was the Mail's report about Melania's time as a model, published online and in a two-page article last summer under the headline, "Racy photos and troubling questions about his wife's past that could derail Trump."

Another example would be the $140 million lawsuit filed on behalf of Hulk Hogan against Gawker for publishing a sex video that featured him. Reported The Hollywood Reporter,

After a review of the stunning verdict in March in Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker over the publishing of an excerpt of a sex tape, Florida Circuit Judge Pamela Campbell on Wednesday decided not to order a new trial nor touch the $140 million verdict.

The decision comes as the case has gained renewed attention thanks to a report that PayPal co-founder and early Facebook investor Peter Thiel provided financial backing to Hogan as the former professional wrestler pursued claims of having his privacy violated and his publicity rights infringed through an October 2012 post viewed by an estimated 7 million people. Campbell's decision will soon allow this dispute to proceed to a Florida appeals court.

Hogan — whose real name is Terry Bollea — pursued Gawker for showing him in sexual intercourse with Heather Cole, the then-wife of his best friend, Tampa-area radio shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge. The existence of the sex tape was reported by TMZ and The Dirty by the time that Gawker had published it alongside an A.J. Daulerio essay about celebrity sex tapes. Gawker attempted to argue that it was within its First Amendment right to decide what was newsworthy, but after a two-week trial that ended in May, a jury decided that Hogan's privacy outweighed this. The jury handed down $115 million in compensatory damages and $25 million more in punitive damages.

Let's be real here. If Gawker can be forced to pay $140 million, which essentially shut that news outlet down, just how much could Fox News be required to pay if it were sued for all of the lies and distortions that it publishes on a regular basis each and every day?

The family of Seth Rich has sued Fox over the false claim that their son was the real source of the DNC hack. According to NPR,

A federal appeals court Friday reinstated a lawsuit against Fox News and two other defendants over its coverage of the death of Seth Rich, a 27-year-old Democratic Party aide who was murdered in July 2016.

The suit was filed by Rich's parents over a Fox News story from May 2017. The story reported that Rich had been linked to the leak of thousands of Democratic Party emails to WikiLeaks and suggested his death might be related to the release of those emails. The police department in Washington, D.C., believes Rich's shooting death was the result of a botched robbery. Fox retracted its story a week later, saying "the article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all of our reporting."

When Fox News repeats claims about CrowdStrike and Ukraine being involved in meddling in the 2016 presidential election, it is essentially repeating the smear against Seth Rich, because the center of those theories is that the DNC hack was an "inside job" that CrowdStrike endeavored to cover up, misdirecting blame onto Russia. The person who supposedly accomplished that "inside job" was Seth Rich.

If Fox can be sued over Seth Rich, it can be sued for what it’s said—and lied about—Hunter Biden. It can be sued for what it’s said about Marie Yovanovitch, what it’s said about Fiona Hill, what it’s said about Ukraine being involved in the DNC hack without any evidence.  And, in fact, it is on the verge of being sued by Lt. Col Alexander Vindman, who has demanded that it retract some of its claims. According to Deadline,

An attorney for Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman fired off a letter to Fox News on Wednesday, asking the network to retract an October 28 segment of The Ingraham Angle in which a guest suggested that he engaged in espionage.

Vindman’s attorney, David Pressman of Boies Schiller Flexner, said in the letter that the segment “created a false factual basis to render sinister otherwise innocuous facts.” He wrote that the segment “sparked a torrent of republications and copycat false charges,” as President Donald Trump retweeted innuendo that he had dual loyalties.

This needs to happen more.

It needs to happen a lot more. In fact, I think it should be a campaign. It should be a crusade. I think that high cash donors should openly state that they are willing to put their money where their mouth is and pay for legal costs—as Peter Thiel did in the Hulk Hogan lawsuit—and stand behind lawsuits against right-wing lies and distortions. It should be something that Tom Steyer or Michael Bloomberg or George Soros should be willing to fund.

If you've been slandered or libeled by Fox News or Breitbart, there should be ready cash for you to sue their pants off and gag the crap out of them to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars per offense.

Barack Obama should have sued the crap out of Donald Trump for claiming there was something wrong with his birth certificate and that he was really born in Kenya. Hunter Biden should sue the tits off of Devin Nunes, Lindsey Graham, and Fox News. Make them prove their assertions in court or else shut the hell up.

If Bob Murray and Peter Thiel can do it, we can do it. It's long past time we started fighting bullshit fire with real legal fire. 

Make. Them. Pay.

Then we'll see how the discourse in the nation suddenly starts becoming considerably more fact-based.

Right-wing hypocrisy run amok: Lt. Col. Vindman, Rep. Omar, and the anti-Semitic ‘dual loyalty’ slur

Shameless. Republican hypocrisy this week reached a new level of shamelessness. That was true on multiple fronts—how shameless do you have to be to pretend that Trump saying “I want no quid pro quo” after he already knew he had been caught demanding one means he’s in the clear? However, the hypocrisy I want to focus on here relates to Republicans and anti-Semitic rhetoric, in particular the use of the anti-Semitic slur of “dual loyalty” against Jewish Americans.

One of the most powerful witnesses to appear this week as part of the House impeachment inquiry was Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. Vindman, who is Jewish, was born in Soviet-era Ukraine, and fled for the United States with his family at the age of three. For weeks now, Republicans and their allies have been attacking Vindman, hurling charges of disloyalty.

John Yoo, a high-ranking attorney in the George W. Bush Administration who helped draft the so-called “Torture Memo,” actually accused Vindman of “espionage,” and Fox News’ Laura Ingraham claimed Vindman was “advising Ukraine,” and working “against the president's interest.” During his House testimony, Vindman faced similar charges of disloyalty from Steve Castor, the Republican lawyer who questioned him—in other words, from the people officially charged with defending The Man Who Lost The Popular Vote in the impeachment inquiry.

In sum, Republicans and their right-wing allies in the media have been claiming that Vindman is somehow more loyal to Ukraine than to the United States, the country he has served as a soldier—earning a Purple Heart in Iraq in 2004—and a high-ranking security official for decades. This slander falls under the category of “dual loyalty,” and is a particularly notorious form of anti-Semitism. Rightfully, many have called out those who perpetrated it.

One of the most powerful condemnations came from GQ journalist Julia Ioffe. Like Vindman, she is a Jew born in the Soviet Union (Moscow, in her case) who fled that country for the U.S. as a child. Her insights and experience are thus particularly relevant here.

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Here’s more from Ioffe:

While Trump has a history of attacking anyone who questions his power, there is a particularly insidious history to questioning the loyalty of Jewish émigrés. According to a source who knows the family, Vindman’s grandfather died fighting for the Soviet Union in World War II. After the war was over and the state of Israel was founded, Stalin unleashed a bloody and ruthless campaign against Soviet Jewry. He called them “rootless cosmopolitans,” a wandering people who had no real roots in the Russian soil, and therefore no loyalty to the Soviet state. The campaign continued even after Stalin died, with harsh quotas imposed in universities. Politically sensitive jobs were closed to Jews because their loyalty could not be trusted. In everyday life, Soviet Jews, whose ancestors had been living in Russia for centuries, were told to “go to your Israel” or to return to their “historic homeland.”

This constant harassment and discrimination, combined with Western pressure, triggered a mass exodus, with millions of Jews leaving the Soviet Union because it had decided that they were second-class citizens and not to be trusted. The Vindmans were part of that exodus. [...]

Then 2016 came around, bringing to power [in the U.S.] a set of people all too eager to remind us of a thought we’d left in the old country: No matter what you do for this country, even if you give it your life and limb, you will always be foreign, suspect. And if, like Alexander Vindman, you dare to flag the president’s deeply problematic behavior and talk about it to congressional Democrats trying to impeach him, none of your service to your country will matter. There will be an effort to discredit you—you won’t be suspected of being secretly loyal to Israel, as your parents once were in the Soviet Union, but to Ukraine—any country but the one you actually serve.

The “dual loyalty” attacks on Vindman evoke an earlier episode in history, namely the Dreyfus Affair. Here’s Matthew Rosza at Salon making that connection and more:

There is a long history of accusing Jews of being disloyal to the countries where they reside, which is a form of anti-Semitism. In the 1890s, a French captain named Alfred Dreyfus was accused of being a German spy and publicly disgraced despite exculpatory evidence. The dual loyalty slur appeared more recently when Trump claimed that American Jews who vote for Democrats, whom he in turn claimed were anti-Israel, were “disloyal.”

There’s been even more right-wing anti-Semitism on display during this whole Trump Ukraine scandal, as numerous figures have brought up the supposed mastermind behind everything: George Soros. We heard some discussion of this Thursday, during Fiona Hill’s House testimony:

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On Dr. Hill directly, here’s Trump loyalist and convicted felon Roger Stone from two years ago speaking on Infowars, hosted by Alex Jones: “We here at Infowars first identified Fiona Hill, the globalist, leftist, George Soros-insider who had infiltrated [Former United States National Security Advisor H.R.] McMaster’s staff.” Globalist is another term with strong anti-Semitic connotations.

I began this post talking about the shameless hypocrisy on the right regarding anti-Semitism and “dual loyalty.” Earlier this year, Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar or Minnesota made statements that employed the “dual loyalty” canard about American Jews and Israel, and I called her out for it here. However, a couple of weeks later Omar wrote a piece for the Washington Post that showed she had learned a great deal from the previous incident, and I praised her for what she wrote:

Omar explicitly endorses a two-state solution, which means she acknowledges the right of Israel to exist as a state alongside a Palestinian state. She speaks of the need for “self-determination” and a “sanctuary” for each of the two peoples, and speaks of “the Jewish people’s connection to their historical homeland,” as well as recognizing their need for “security,” while noting that Palestinians have similar rights, needs, and interests, as well as their own connection to the land.

Omar also shows real empathy for Jews by highlighting the “urgency of establishing a nation” after the Holocaust and “centuries of anti-Semitic oppression leading up to it.” This is not the language of someone who hates Israel, or who denies the right of Jews to have a homeland in the land of their forefathers. One can, without question, call out Israel when it is wrong and advocate for the right of Palestinians to have their own state, yet still show respect for the rights of Jews as individuals and their collective rights as a self-identified national group. That’s exactly what Rep. Omar does here.

Furthermore, Rep. Omar has refrained from using language that connects to anti-Semitic tropes in the months since. She made real progress in convincing folks that her intent was not to inflame hate against Jews.

And let’s get something else clear, Jews in our country face far more danger from hatred coming from the right than anything coming from the left. To take just the most blood-filled example, the Pittsburgh terrorist murderer who killed 11 Jews in a synagogue hated Jews because, in his mind, they were helping immigrant “invaders.” This is hate inspired by the right-wing, not the left.

Regarding the dual loyalty language, the right-wing harshly criticized Rep. Omar. Most of their criticisms left little room for the possibility that she was anything but a through-and-through Jew hater. This did not change even after her Washington Post article. As I wrote then:

From the right, however, the reaction to her Washington Post piece was a different story. Right-wing media published attacks (see here and here, for example) that, in sum, argued that Omar is a liar, and still an anti-Semite: “Omar has already shown us who she is.” Why do they make these claims? Because for much of the right wing, including, of course, Individual 1, the issue is not sincere concern about anti-Semitic rhetoric but rather fostering division among Democrats. The difference between the response from Democrats and Republicans to Rep. Omar’s Washington Post article speaks for itself.

This is the larger point, the larger hypocrisy. If Republicans actually cared about anti-Semitism, and they actually believed it was wrong to throw the charge of dual loyalty at Jewish Americans without any real evidence to back it up, they wouldn’t be doing it themselves.

It is fitting, but hardly surprising, that this hypocrisy rears its head in relation to the defense of President Individual 1. We have all watched, shaking our heads or screaming at the television, as his Republican defenders shred any notion of truth or principle in the name of defending their chieftain. Anti-Semitism is one of the most important problems we face in America. For the Ever-Trumpers, however, it’s just another tool in their bag of dirty tricks.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of  The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh's Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (foreword by Markos Moulitsas).

John Solomon and The Hill’s Ukraine reporting debacle: What it tells us about the D.C. media

Closing the barn door two years too late, the editor of The Hill this week announced that the publication is going to review all the dubious Ukraine conspiracy reporting John Solomon did while he worked there as an executive vice president. We "are reviewing, updating, annotating with any denials of witnesses, and when appropriate, correcting any [of Solomon's] pieces referenced during the ongoing congressional inquiry," announced Bob Cusack.

Solomon is a well-documented fabulist who essentially works for the Republican Party, helping it launder its smear campaigns in public. At The Hill, Solomon played a leading role in advancing debunked claims about Ukraine and the supposed corruption of Joe Biden's son. For years, The Hill published the equivalent of a 9/11 Truther, but only now is the publication going to look back and see if something went wrong.

The Hill's reckless debacle, as it purposefully contributed to partisan misinformation under the guise of investigative journalism and applied virtually no standards to Solomon's work, tells us a lot about how the Beltway press functions in general, and that there seem to be no guidelines for handling right-wing falsehoods.

Indeed, Solomon's work has been consistently wrong for going on more than a decade, stretching back to his days at the Associated Press and The Washington Post.

From Media Matters:

Solomon falsely claimed Edwards “opposes” subprime lending (washingtonpost.com; 5/16/07) Solomon -- whose “investigations” fuel right-wing attacks -- suggested Clinton nonprofit is somehow corrupt (The Washington Post; 2/27/07) Wash. Post baselessly linked Abramoff to Democratic fundraisers (The Washington Post; 2/24/07) Solomon baselessly suggested Edwards broke campaign finance law (washingtonpost.com; 1/23/07) In follow-up article on Reid, Solomon continued pattern of distortion (The Associated Press; 6/01/06)

Yet Solomon has never had trouble finding work, as publications welcomed him onboard and let him spin wildly anti-Democratic conspiracies. For the Beltway media, being wrong about Democrats is often chalked up as being savvy, whereas being wrong about Republicans can damage your career.

Solomon arrived at The Hill in 2017 with a deeply checkered past. "In 2012, the Columbia Journalism Review concluded that Solomon ‘has a history of bending the truth to his story line’ and “’distorting facts and hyping petty stories.’ Among his claims to infamy is publishing the debunked Uranium One conspiracy," Sidney Blumenthal recently noted.

In the Ukraine debacle, Rudy Giuliani basically dumped a lot of nonsense into Solomon's lap saying that it was Democrats and not Republicans who colluded with a foreign power in the 2016 election, and that former Vice President Joe Biden worked hard to quash the prosecutor’s probe of his son Hunter’s involvement with Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company. Solomon dutifully typed it all up as blockbuster news—pure stenography. (According to The Daily Beast, Giuliani at one point obtained a full draft of an unpublished Ukraine story by Solomon prior to publication.)

Last March, Solomon began publishing Giuliani-fed stories—45 in six months—that then led to more than 70 appearances on Fox News, while Giuliani praised Solomon’s “reporting” as worthy of a Pulitzer Prize.

Here's a flavor of Solomon's flimsy, untrustworthy work:

“This is a bombshell that unequivocally shows the real collusion was between the FBI and Donald Trump’s opposition — the DNC, Hillary and a Trump-hating British intel officer — to hijack the election, rather than some conspiracy between Putin and Trump,” a knowledgeable source told me.

A "knowledgeable source" in terms of Beltway reporting could be literally anybody. (Spoiler: It was likely Rudy.) Solomon couldn't even get conspiracy theorists to go on the record with their wild claims.

Now, as the Trump impeachment proceedings progress, and scores of administration officials confirm the attempted bribery scheme that the Trump White House cooked up, The Hill is left to answer for its role in the scandal and the central role Solomon's misinformation played in the scandal. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a key player in the Ukraine story who has testified about his alarm over the White House's attempts to lean on the country's new leader, said of one of Solomon's key stories, "I think all the key elements were false." Pressed further, Vindman said, "I haven't looked at the article in quite some time, but you know, his grammar might have been right." Meanwhile, senior State Department official George Kent, in his deposition in the impeachment inquiry, described some of Solomon's Ukraine work by saying, “If not entirely made up in full cloth, it was primarily non-truths and non-sequiturs."

Another telltale sign from The Hill scandal is the revelation that its owner, Jimmy Finkelstein, has deep ties to the Republican Party. "Beyond his relationship with Solomon, Trump, and Giuliani, Finkelstein was Solomon's direct supervisor at The Hill and created the conditions which permitted Solomon to publish his conspiratorial stories without the traditional oversight implemented at news outlets," CNN reported.

Democrats are justifiably incensed that a supposedly reputable longtime Capitol Hill publication was so willing to become a central player in a Trump-fueled smear campaign against Joe Biden. “I just find it reprehensible that any newspaper would just be willing to put that kind of crap out that is not — has no veracity whatsoever, and not check to see if it had any veracity,” Rep. Jackie Speier said to Scott Wong after he identified himself as a Hill reporter last week. “And then it becomes a talking point. And he becomes a nonpartisan commentator. It’s corrupt. It’s just corrupt.”

Note that nearly two years ago, staffers at The Hill were complaining about Solomon's work, nervous that his reckless writing was harming the publication's reputation. In fact, The Hill's then-publisher warned the company's president that Solomon was in danger of destroying the publication's reputation. Six months later, the publisher was forced out of the company.

It wasn't until May 2018, when Solomon announced that Sean Hannity deserved a Pulitzer Prize for journalism, that The Hill decided to label his work "opinion." Instead, it should have shown Solomon the door.

Eric Boehlert is a veteran progressive writer and media analyst, formerly with Media Matters and Salon. He is the author of Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush and Bloggers on the Bus. You can follow him on Twitter @EricBoehlert.

This post was written and reported through our Daily Kos freelance program.

Impeachment witness Lt. Col. Vindman demands Fox News retract violence-stoking claims against him

The Donald Trump Screaming Monkey Carnival of Daily Grievances, aka Fox News, has followed Trump's own strategy of attacking and belittling each impeachment witness as news of their testimony is published or leaks out. This is because the executives and hosts of Fox News are (extremely rich) garbage. As usual, the Fox talking heads feel no apparent need to pull back their attacks even as their targets are, predictably, subjected to death threats and other threats of violence; this has been true since the days of Bill O'Reilly and his attacks on a single, specific Kansas doctor who would soon afterward be executed by a far-right gunman.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified on Tuesday that he was so concerned about the Trump team's actions towards Ukraine that he reported them to National Security Council officials, was attacked by the network after his private testimony in October. Host Laura Ingraham claimed during her program that Vindman was "advising Ukraine, while working inside the White House, apparently against the president's interest." Bush-era legal enabler of war crimes John Yoo (remember: garbage) escalated further, saying "Some people might call that espionage."

At least one of the human trash cans in question soon realized they had oozed over a line of discourse they should not have, leading actual war criminal Yoo to hastily pen an op-ed days later insisting he did not call Vindman a spy, he was merely suggesting that Ukraine were engaged in "espionage" against us in their conversations with him.

But Fox itself never bothered to correct the record, and as the military now contemplates steps to keep Lt. Col. Vindman and his family safe from violence instigated by the widely-broadcast Trump and conservative attacks, Vindman's lawyers are now demanding Fox News issue a retraction for Ingraham's segment. The letter also notes other instances of the network attacking Vindman, and that Donald Trump and offspring Uday both used Fox to amplify their attacks.

It is not likely that Fox News will grant Vindman that retraction, because everyone in the Murdoch family is garbage, everyone they have ever hired is garbage, and Laura Ingraham is one of their most cherished of odiferous piles, willing to use her network post to attack each of Trump's declared enemies based on nothing more than one of his public tweet-burps against them. Vindman's lawyer David Pressman is at the least, however, putting the network on notice that they consider Fox News to be in large part responsible for the physical threats Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman now faces.

If Fox wants to refuse to correct the record—insulting someone is, after all, constitutionally protected speech, something even fossilized bag of Hitler-loving whale pus Laura Ingraham and top national child torture fetishist John Yoo are aware of—that is fine. But the Murdoch family, sitting very compostly on the fruits of decade of their own garbageness, has an absolute mountain of money and could easily pay for whatever security measures the military and Lt. Col. Vindman feel his family now need.

So step up, trashbags.