Shortly before news broke Monday that former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort and his longtime protégé Rick Gates faced charges in the Mueller probe, Fox & Friends seemingly sought to comfort their most important viewer: President Donald Trump.
The Fox News gabfest’s trio of hosts discussed Hillary Clinton’s alleged connection to an anti-Trump dossier. They covered the Obama-era Uranium One deal. They wondered whether charges of “collusion” might best be directed at Democrats. Mainly, they attempted to connect potential Mueller charges to anything but Team Trump.
“It makes you wonder about the credibility of the whole thing,” host Brian Kilmeade said of news of an impending indictment, after noting that federal investigators have leaked grand-jury information to the press on multiple occasions.
If the charges are related to Manafort, Kilmeade added, then maybe it’s “something that happened before he even joined the Trump administration.” (It was, though Manafort never actually joined the administration.)
Further seeking to comfort their key demographic of U.S. presidents aged 71 and watching from D.C., co-host Steve Doocy added: “[Republican Senator] Susan Collins said there’s no evidence of collusion. That’s important, but there are a couple of stories out there that Paul Manafort apparently back in 2012 apparently he had some money infusions from overseas to the tune of $3 million.” (Collins actually said she has “not yet seen any definitive evidence of collusion.”)
And besides, it wouldn’t mean anyone is actually guilty of anything, Kilmeade reminded viewers.
“Just keep in mind this,” the host explained. “Just because they indict you, it doesn’t mean you are guilty. So if it is Paul Manafort, then they get to fight back. Mount a defense and find out what they have and go to trial and see where it goes from there.”
And then came a stunning segue back to Hillary Clinton.
“And I’m wondering if it’s related to last week in the beginning of the week there is a lot of talk about GPS and Fusion GPS and who hired what and who was telling the truth about that,” Kilmeade transitioned. “And if maybe people were feeling pressure inside the Mueller investigation to do something to let people know they were making some progress. Meanwhile, let’s talk about Fusion GPS.”
That was just the 6 a.m hour. In the following hour, former Trump aide Michael Caputo spent several minutes on how that Fusion GPS anti-Trump dossier “exposes the Russian connections to the Clintons and the Democrats.”
The president was pleased. “Great job by MichaelCaputo on @foxandfriends,” Trump tweeted, just minutes before 8 a.m. ET.
And when the news of Manafort’s and Gates’ charges dropped shortly thereafter, Fox & Friends took the longest of the cable-news morning shows to get to it—at first, devoting more time to a blurb about the “controversial” new cheeseburger emoji.
A few minutes later, the Friends brought out Alan Dershowitz—a “lifelong Democrat” they continually noted, obscuring his newfound reputation for being a Trump attack dog on Russia—to fill them on any potential legal implications.
“What if Manafort doesn’t have anything on the president? No more ‘Russia collusion’? Are we done with this?” an exasperated Ainsley Earhardt asked the law professor, who jovially explained that Manafort’s downfall is likely the Mueller team’s attempt to see which dominoes will fall.
Shortly thereafter, they were back to discussing cheeseburger emojis.