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CNS On Impeachment, Part 3: Ridiculousness

More bias! More copy-and-paste boilerplate! The most ridiculous defenses of Trump presented with a straight face! knows how to protect its favorite president.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 3/18/2020

In its coverage of the events that led up to President Trump's impeachment, has behaved exactly the way an effectively state-run, pro-Trump "news" outlet would behave: Laboring to spin away the messier aspects of Trump's Ukraine entanglement, and using repetitious copy-and-paste talking points to defend the president. As the trial itself approached, CNS doubled down on this editorial agenda -- more bias and more copy-and-paste, with an added dose of taking ridiculous defenses of Trump with the utmost seriousness.
More bias

CNS editor in chief Terry Jeffrey spent his Dec. 11 column complaining that Democrats aren't interested in finding the whole truth about "what Trump was trying to do with the Ukraine":

If the House Democrats were intent on getting firsthand testimony of what Trump was trying to do with the Ukraine, they would pursue testimony from White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, former national security adviser John Bolton and Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

But they are not.

Professor Jonathan Turley of The George Washington University Law School last week presented the House Judiciary Committee with a powerful argument against impeachment.

He does not support Trump but thinks what the House is doing is wrong.

"First, this is a case without a clear criminal act and would be the first such case in history if the House proceeds without further evidence," he said in written testimony.

"As I have stressed, it is possible to establish a case for impeachment based on a non-criminal allegation of abuse of power," Turley testified. "The problem is that this is an exceptionally narrow impeachment resting on the thinnest possible evidentiary record."

"In the current case, the record is facially insufficient," Turley said. "The problem is not simply that the record does not contain direct evidence of the president stating a quid pro quo, as Chairman Schiff suggested. The problem is that the House has not bothered to subpoena the key witnesses who would have such direct knowledge. This alone sets a dangerous precedent."

Strange that Jeffrey cited only Turley here -- or maybe not so much. In covering the Dec. 4 hearing in which legal experts testified about the issues involving impeachment, CNS completely ignored the testimony of the three experts chosen by Democrats. It did, however, devote two articles to the arguments of Turley, the expert chosen by Republicans:

Not only did CNS ignore the testimony of the Democrats' chosen witnesses, CNS' Susan Jones tried to baselessly cast aspersions on their qualifications. In one article, Jones dismissed them as "three liberal witnesses, billed as constitutional and legal experts." By contrast, Turley was repeatedly and uncritically described with full credentials as a "George Washington University Law School professor" who, as Jones highlighted in another article, was "not a Trump supporter."

The only article CNS did about the hearing that featured a Democrat in the headline had nothing to do with the hearing's content at all or anything said at it by a Democrat or one of the Democrats' witnesses; the piece by Melanie Arter focused on how "Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) took to the House floor Wednesday to complain that 'not one person of color' is represented among the constitutional scholars testifying at the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment inquiry hearing."

The fact that Jeffrey's column quoted only the one expert who supports his preconceived notions about impeachment of a Republican president is further proof he's falling down in his duty as a self-proclaimed journalist to report the truth.

With such biased, incomplete reporting, it appears that Jeffrey and CNS are the folks who, as Jeffrey's headline stated, "don't want to know the truth."

That right-wing bias extended to its coverage the arguments on the Senate floor in Trump's impeachment trial. CNS presented the arguments of Trump's defense team in a straightforward manner without additional editorial comment and leaving their arguments unchallenged:

By contrast, CNS' news stories on the arguments made by the House impeachment managers were not only fewer in number, they regularly included editorial comment, usually by Susan Jones, and focused solely on the words of leader Adam Schiff despite the fact that several other House managers also spoke:

Jones began one Schiff article by sneering: "To those who have been listening all along, nothing new emerged at the Senate impeachment trial on Wednesday, as House Democrats laid out their case, repeating many of the arguments they used in the lead-up to impeachment." In another one, however, Jones did seem to concede the fact that Trump's claim that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election has been "debunked," even though she has uncritically promoted the conspiracy theory in the past.

The utter imbalance in quantity and tone of how the House managers were reported, compared with how Trump's defense team was reported on, seems to violate CNS' mission statement to "fairly present all legitimate sides of a story." CNS absolutely cannot claim that happened here.

More copy-and-paste

Managing editor Michael W. Chapman served up a copy-and-paste take in a Dec. 17 article:

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) challenged the skewed reporting of CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday, calling out his misrepresentation of President Trump's July 25 phone call with the president of Ukraine and noting that what Tapper "said is completely untrue." Paul later added, "you guys are not being honest with the facts here."

CNN's Tapper has made it abundantly clear that he believes the Democrats' version of the July 25 phone call, often asserting that Trump was calling on the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden in exchange for foreign aid. Tapper calls this interpretation "a fact."

However, as Sen. Paul explained, it is not a fact. If you read the transcript in context, Trump first asked about alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election and then asked about alleged corruption involving Hunter Biden, who was put on the board of a Ukrainian gas company in 2014, the Burisma Group, which paid him a reported $50,000 a month for five years (until April 2019), totaling at least $3 million.

Focusing on corruption from 2016, Hunter Biden -- who has a long history of drug abuse -- and Joe Biden's demand (in late 2015) that a Ukrainian prosecutor investigating corruption be fired before loan guarantees to Ukraine were okayed is not an unreasonable interpretation of the phone call.


During the July 25, 2019 telephone call, President Trump alluded to corruption in Ukraine, possible interference with the computers of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), and possible corruption involving Hunter Biden and perhaps Joe Biden.

This was followed by a copy-and-paste transcript of the Tapper-Paul exchange with selective bits from Paul bolded, a selective excerpt from the Trump-Zelensky phone call (like his reporter Susan Jones, Chapman apparently thinks Zelensky's first name is too difficult to spell to be included in his article) and a transcript of Biden's statement that he got the Ukrainian prosecutor fired.

Despite Chapman's protestations, it has become increasingly clear that Trump intended to link U.S. aid to Ukraine to an announced investigation of Hunter Biden (whose purported "long history of drug abuse" is irrelevant to this scandal). It has since been revealed that Trump ordered military aid to Ukraine to be put on hold less than two hours after his phone call with Zelensky, and recently released emails show that the order to block aid to Ukraine came directly from Trump.

Further, Chapman's claim that Joe Biden demanded the firing of a "Ukrainian prosecutor investigating corruption" is false; the prosecutor was fired because he was not investigating corruption, and the international community joined Biden in this demand.

So not only has Chapman's article not aged well as his boilerplate defense of Trump crumbled, it contains a blatantly false statement as well. Not a good look for a "news" operation.

More ridiculousness is such a loyal pro-Trump, pro-Republican talking points stenographer on impeachment that it promote the most ridiculous defenses with needless seriousness -- as editor in chief Terry Jeffrey demonstrated when he tried to downplay the validity of the impeachment trial by unfavorably comparing its audience in the Senate gallery to that of a high school basketball game -- deliberately ignoring the inconvenient fact that millions of people were watching the trial on TV.

But that was far from the only fit of ridiculousness CNS foisted on its readers. Susan Jones (of course) treated a Republican's senseless tantrum seriously in a Dec. 13 article:

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler postponed a planned impeachment vote late Thursday night, infuriating Republicans who were not consulted about the schedule change, and prompting ranking member Doug Collins to say, "This committee is more concerned about getting on TV in the morning than it was finishing its job tonight and letting the members go home."

A short time later, Collins spoke to reporters:

"I have just witnessed just the most bush-league stunt I've ever witnessed in my professional life," Collins said after Nadler abruptly ended the 14-hour impeachment debate late Thursday night, telling the committee to return at 10 a.m. on this Friday the 13th to vote.

"But in the midst of impeachment, the chairman just ambushed the entire committee, did not have any consultation with the ranking member and tell him we're going to have votes at 10:00 a.m. in the morning?" Collins said.


Collins said the American people "know it's all about these TV screens. It's all about getting at a president because they want the prime time hit.

“This is Speaker Pelosi and Adam Schiff and the others directing this committee -- I don't have a chairman anymore. I guess I just need to go straight to Ms. Pelosi and say, what TV hit does this committee need to do? Because this committee has lost all relevance. I'll see y'all tomorrow.”

Jones made no mention of the fact that Collins' tantrum was nonsensical because it has long been a Republican talking point that the impeachment process was moving too quickly. It was also hypocritical because Republicans were the ones who prolonged the hearing by offering numerous amendments. Collins' insistence that Democrats wanted to delay the vote for a "prime time hit" on television also fails the smell test since 10 a.m. is not TV "prime time."

One can also argue that delaying the vote short-circuited another possible GOP attack line over the timing of the vote; had it taken place after 11 p.m., Republicans could have argued that the lateness of the vote was more evidence the process was being rushed or being done as a quiet midnight vote designed to obscure the process from Americans.

Jones did quote Nadler saying that he wanted "members on both sides of the aisle to think about what’s happened over these last three days and to search their consciences before we have our final votes," but she did not point out that nothing Collins said was in response to Nadler's statement.

You'd think that such blatant stenography would eventually get embarrassing to Jones and CNS. Apparently not -- CNS is so in the tank for President Trump that it lets the most ludicrous defenses of him pass without editorial comment or even a simple fact-check. Craig Bannister reported in a Dec. 18 blog post:

While presiding over the “sham trial” of Jesus, even Pontius Pilate granted the accused more rights than House Democrats have granted President Donald Trump, Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Georgia) said Wednesday.


And, with Christmas approaching, Loudermilk said, Democrats should consider that they have denied President Trump something that even Pontius Pilate was willing to give Jesus - the opportunity to face his accuser:

“Before you take this historic vote today – one week before Christmas – I want you to keep this in mind:

“When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers. During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus, than the Democrats have afforded this president in this process.”

You'd think that as the devout Christians the CNS crew claims to be, Loudermilk's claim would have raised some red flags about its accuracy (not to mention find his likening of Trump to Jesus more than a little ludicrous). Instead, it was left to an actual fact-checker to report: "Biblical accounts cited to us by experts in law and religion say Jesus was questioned by the Roman governor, not given an opportunity by Pilate to face his accusers. Trump has yet to go on trial in the Senate. But before being impeached by the House, he was given the opportunity to present a defense."

On Jan. 20, Bannister again presented a ridiculous claim with a straight face:

Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision was equality and unity – not a baseless impeachment designed to tear the country apart – Top White House aide KellyAnne Conway said Monday, when asked to comment on President Donald Trump’s plans for the holiday honoring the late civil rights leader.

Conway said Trump shares Dr. King’s vision for unity and equally, and that she believes Dr. King would not have supported putting the nation through an unfounded, divisive impeachment – especially, one where no crimes have been alleged:

“Well, I can tell you that the president is preparing for Davos and agrees with many of the things that Dr. Martin Luther King stood for and agreed with for many years, including unity and equality. And he’s not the one trying to tear the country apart through an impeachment process and a lack of substance that really is very shameful at this point.”


“When you see the articles of impeachment that came out, I don’t think it was within Dr. King’s vision to have Americans dragged through a process where the president is not going to be removed from office, is not being charged with bribery, extortion, high crimes or misdemeanors.”

Again, it was left to an actual news outlet to add response and context:

Her comments were immediately ridiculed as one of the most bizarre attacks on the impeachment process to date.

Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, called the remark an “embarrassingly incompetent answer.” Trump, she suggested, has in fact strayed far from King’s legacy — by redefining the presidency and pushing it away from leadership.


Yet Trump, who was sued in the 1970s for housing discrimination against blacks, has not fared much better in office: He has been largely panned by black Americans, an overwhelming majority of whom say they think he is a racist and has made racism a larger problem in the United States.

Of course, defense of Trump comes ahead of reporting facts at CNS.

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