Attorney General Bill Barr personally sought to sideline Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano on Donald Trump’s orders for agreeing that his misconduct regarding Ukraine was impeachable.
Last summer, Trump refused to release crucial military aid to Ukraine in an effort to blackmail Ukrainian leaders into conducting a sham investigation into Joe Biden. Trump even admitted to asking Ukraine to dig up dirt on Biden, according to a transcript of a phone call between him and the Ukrainian president.
Trump’s attempt to enlist foreign interference with the 2020 Election drew criticism from Napolitano not long after the House opened an impeachment inquiry.
“The criminal behavior to which Trump has admitted is much more grave than anything alleged or unearthed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and much of what Mueller revealed was impeachable,” Napolitano wrote in October.
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Trump saw Napolitano’s analysis as such a threat that he sent Barr to meet with Fox News CEO Rupert Murdoch, which Brian Stelter wrote about in his upcoming book about the network’s relationship with Trump.
According to The Guardian:
Citing an unnamed source, Stelter writes that Trump “was so incensed by the judge’s TV broadcasts that he had implored Barr to send Rupert a message in person … about ‘muzzling the judge’. [Trump] wanted the nation’s top law enforcement official to convey just how atrocious Napolitano’s legal analysis had been.””
While Murdoch allegedly did not outright order that Napolitano be yanked off the air, the retired judge did end up seeing his airtime reduced. And if he was featured on the air, hosts avoided talking to him about Trump or the impeachment.
Though Barr’s words to Murdoch “carried a lot of weight”, Stelter writes, “no one was explicitly told to take Napolitano off the air”. Instead, Stelter reports, Napolitano found digital resources allocated elsewhere, saw a slot on a daytime show disappear, and was not included in coverage of the impeachment process.
In Stelter’s telling, Napolitano thought he was being kept off air by “25-year-old producers” who didn’t think viewers could handle his analysis. Stelter, however, says an unnamed “twentysomething staffer” confirmed that one host, Maria Bartiromo, would only book Napolitano to discuss non-Trump topics, because he would upset Bartiromo too much if he criticised the president.”
So, Trump and Barr once again abused their power by pressuring a television network to pull a Trump critic off the air, basically punishing him for daring to correctly call Trump’s activities illegal and impeachable.
The House would go on to formally impeach Trump that December by passing two articles of impeachment. However, Senate Republicans rigged the trial and voted to acquit him, which Napolitano also criticized.
Featured image via Flickr/Office of Public Affairs at the DOJ, under Creative Commons license 2.0