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Conservative Media Portray Russia Developments As Unfair Attack On Trump


The Trump administration has been trying to distance itself from the former campaign aides indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller yesterday. But by almost any measure, it's not a good moment for the White House. Even so, much of the country's conservative media portrayed Monday's developments very differently, as an unfair attack on the president by the mainstream media and Washington insiders. North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann reports.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: For weeks now, conservative media outlets have prepared their audiences for this moment, working to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller, echoing President Trump's tweets framing the probe as a witch hunt, fake news.


RUSH LIMBAUGH: None of this is real.

MANN: That's radio talker Rush Limbaugh, one of the most influential voices on the right opening his show Monday. He argued that none of these indictments have anything to do with Donald Trump. And when a caller asked if Mueller was attempting a coup against the president, Limbaugh said yes.


LIMBAUGH: This is the coup.


LIMBAUGH: If Hillary had been elected, none of this would be happening other than trying to still put Trump in jail as a message to the next outsider, don't dare try this.

MANN: Limbaugh issued a dark warning to listeners that Mueller's team might pressure Paul Manafort to lie about the Trump campaign and its ties to Russia. Another conspiracy theory dominating a lot of the right-wing coverage yesterday was the claim that Hillary Clinton is actually the one who colluded with Russia when she was secretary of state. Fox News star Sean Hannity told his audience the people investigating Donald Trump are all complicit in the decision in 2010 allowing a Russian company to gain a financial interest in part of America's uranium reserves.


SEAN HANNITY: But all the people involved in this, from Rosenstein who appointed Mueller, both of them and Eric Holder and likely even President Obama himself. Hillary was up to her eyeballs, as were her husband, in the Uranium One deal.

MANN: Fact-checkers with The Washington Post and snopes.com looked at these conspiracy theories involving Clinton and found they don't check out nor do these claims have anything to do with yesterday's indictments or the question of whether Donald Trump's campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election. And despite these counternarratives, there was still deep alarm Monday in some right-wing media. Speaking on Fox News, Byron York, with the conservative Washington Examiner, warned the indictments might mark a turning point.


BYRON YORK: Could they be used to pressure Manafort into giving them information about any possible wrongdoing on the Trump campaign? The only problem is we don't know of what such wrongdoing might be, but certainly Manafort is now under pressure.

MANN: Even the right-wing website Breitbart, run by Steve Bannon, acknowledged to its readers that another former Trump adviser, George Papadopoulos, had pleaded guilty after lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians during the presidential campaign. His guilty plea directly contradicts a claim made by conservative media for months that Mueller's entire probe is fake news. Brian Mann, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF BERRY WEIGHT'S "YETI'S LAMENT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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