In early 2019 it was reported that Napolitano, a New Jersey superior court judge who joined Fox News in 1998, told friends he had been on Trump’s shortlist for the supreme court
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The attorney general, William Barr, told Rupert Murdoch to “muzzle” Andrew Napolitano, a prominent Fox News personality who became a critic of Donald Trump, according to a new book about the rightwing TV network.
Barr’s meeting with Murdoch, at the media mogul’s New York home in October 2019, was widely reported at the time, with speculation surrounding its subject. According to Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth, by CNN media reporter Brian Stelter, subjects covered included media consolidation and criminal justice reform.
“But it was also about Judge Andrew Napolitano.”
Stelter’s in-depth look at Fox News, its fortunes under Trump and its links to his White House will be published on Tuesday. The Guardian obtained a copy.
In early 2019 it was reported that Napolitano, a New Jersey superior court judge who joined Fox News in 1998, told friends he had been on Trump’s shortlist for the supreme court. But he broke ranks later in the year, labeling Trump’s approaches to Ukraine, seeking political dirt on rivals, “both criminal and impeachable behavior”.
“The criminal behavior to which Trump has admitted,” Napolitano wrote, in a column dated 3 October, “is much more grave than anything alleged or unearthed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and much of what Mueller revealed was impeachable.”
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.”
Barr has been widely accused of riding roughshod over the rule of law, in service of Trump and his own authoritarian view of the presidency.
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.
Fox News’ audience, of course, remains loyal to Trump as his campaign for re-election continues. Some Fox employees, Stelter writes, “justified the benching of the judge by claiming that viewers hated him: ‘Why are we going to book someone who kills our ratings?’”
Napolitano has continued to appear on Fox News and to publish opinion columns. He has remained critical of Trump, for example slamming the actions of federal officers sent to confront protesters in Portland, Oregon; opposing attempts to provide coronavirus relief without congressional involvement; and saying Senate Republicans should have called new witnesses in the president’s impeachment trial.
He has also had harsh words for Barr, for example calling his conduct in the case of Trump ally Roger Stone “Stalinistic”; blasting his handling of the Mueller report to Trump’s advantage; and hitting him for “insulting” Congress.
Napolitano did, however, back Barr’s attempt to drop charges against Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with Russian officials.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is telling associates he had no idea his Justice Department seized phone records of two top Democratic congressional critics of then-President Donald Trump. In the hours since The New York Times broke the news on Thursday that prosecutors subpoenaed Apple metadata from Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA), former Attorney General Sessions has privately told people that he wasn’t aware of, nor was he briefed on, the reported data seizures while he led the Trump DOJ. This week’s revelations were a surprise to him, according to a source familiar with the matter, and another person close to Sessions.
The US justice department’s internal watchdog launched an investigation on Friday after revelations that former president Donald Trump’s administration secretly seized phone data from at least two House Democrats as part of an aggressive leaks inquiry related to the Russia investigation into Trump’s conduct.
Donald Trump called Joe Biden a “mental retard” during the 2020 election, a new book says, but was reluctant to attack him too strongly for fear the Democrats would replace him with Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama. Biden went on to beat Trump by more than 7m in the popular vote and by 306-232 in the electoral college, a result Trump deemed a landslide when it was in his favor against Clinton in 2016.
The deadly insurrection at the US Capitol was “planned in plain sight” but intelligence failures left police officers exposed to a violent mob of Trump supporters, a Senate investigation has found. The Capitol police intelligence division had been gathering online data since December about plots to storm the building on 6 January, including messages such as: “Bring guns. It’s now or never.” But a combination of bad communications, poor planning, faulty equipment and lack of leadership meant the warnings went unheeded, allowing the insurrectionists to overrun the Capitol and disrupt certification of Joe Biden’s election victory. Five people died.