In private, many Republicans are in crisis mode over Trump’s scandal in Ukraine, reportedly claiming that an impeachment inquiry could permanently derail his presidency. One Senate Republican told the Washington Post that releasing the limited transcript of Trump’s call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy was a “huge mistake.” One former administration staffer told Politico that, due to the scandal, the remainder of Trump’s legislative agenda “probably doesn’t get done.” Another prominent Republican told Vanity Fair that “this could unwind very fast, and I mean in days.”
Though there’s turmoil under the surface, in public the GOP amidst Trump’s impeachment inquiry is having a much quieter crisis, as Republicans weigh in with responses ranging from it “raises a number of important questions” but we’re not going to do anything, to “Biden is the one who threatened Ukraine’s aid, not Trump.” And as the party goes, so does its organ. According to a new report from Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman, Fox News is grappling with how to deal with Trump’s worsening Ukraine scandal and the developing impeachment inquiry. On Thursday morning, Sean Hannity reportedly told friends that the whistle-blower’s report is “really bad,” and that Fox Corporation CEO Lachlan Murdoch is considering how to set up the network for its inevitable post-Trump future. But unlike the party at-large, the turbulence is being felt a little more publicly. As Sherman reports:
Fox has often taken a nothing-to-see-here approach to Trump scandals, but impeachment is a different animal. “It’s management bedlam,” a Fox staffer told me. “This massive thing happened, and no one knows how to cover it.” The schism was evident this week as a feud erupted between afternoon anchor Shepard Smith and prime-time host Tucker Carlson. It started Tuesday when Fox legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano told Smith on-air that Trump committed a “crime” by pressuring Ukraine’s president to get dirt on Biden. That night, Carlson brought on former Trump lawyer Joe diGenova, who called Napolitano a “fool” for claiming Trump broke the law. Yesterday, Smith lashed back, calling Carlson “repugnant” for not defending Napolitano on air. (Trump himself is said to turn off Fox at 3 p.m., when Shep Smith airs.) Seeking to quell the internecine strife before it carried into a third day, Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and president Jay Wallace communicated to Smith this morning to stop attacking Carlson, a person briefed on the conversation said. “They said if he does it again, he’s off the air,” the source said. (Fox News spokesperson Irena Briganti denied that management had any direct conversation with Smith).
Another gem from the report: Paul Ryan, who joined the Fox board a few months after his retirement, is among those at the network pushing for hosts to break with the president. “Paul is embarrassed about Trump and now he has the power to do something about it,” an executive close to Ryan said — as if he has more power to check Trump’s authoritarian tendencies as a TV board member than he did as Speaker of the House.
But having an adverse relationship with holding the president accountable appears to be a theme among Republican lawmakers:
More on the Trump-Ukraine Scandal
- Trump’s Impeachment Trial and the Verdict of History
- Trump Fires Impeachment Witnesses Alexander Vindman and Gordon Sondland
- Trump Impeachment Hearing Schedule: What’s Next?