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David Cay Johnston: The future of Trump’s presidency is up to Fox News

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President Donald Trump (left) and Fox News host Sean Hannity (right). Image via screengrab.

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David Cay Johnston
David Cay Johnston

Finally, a major breach in Donald Trump’s wall of secrecy. But before America can rid itself of this con artist one more development must occur.

For this to happen Americans who love their country must focus on making just two men act in the national interest. These two are exceptionally sensitive to their own commercial interests means that voters, who are also consumers, can have a lot of sway provided they act.

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The whistleblower showed, beyond a doubt, that what we have been saying at DCReport from the get-go is spot on: Donald is disloyal to America. He has to be. Donald is loyal only to Donald.

The read-out of his July telephone call with the professional comedian who is president of Ukraine shows Donald soliciting foreign interference in our 2020 presidential election. That’s illegal.

History will record that Trump’s downfall began not with his imagined cabal of ‘deep state’ enemies, but with a single honest soul, a mere cog in the national security machine.

Anyone who has read or seen The Godfather can grasp that Trump made Ukraine’s president an offer he could not refuse. Withholding American military aid, as Trump did, increased the risk that Russian tanks would roll into Kyiv.

How ironic that what broke through Trump’s wall of secrecy was a Central Intelligence Agency staffer posted to the White House. He listened with care, meticulously gathering information and then distilling it into a crisply worded complaint that strictly followed complex rules and procedures required of whistleblowers.

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History will record that Trump’s downfall began not with his imagined cabal of “deep state” enemies, but with a single honest soul, a mere cog in the national security machine.

Even timid creatures like Mitt Romney have declared themselves “troubled” by Trump’s soliciting Ukrainian interference in our 2020 election. Still, most Republican officeholders say nothing.

The House as Courtroom

After waiting patiently for just such a moment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seized the opportunity to launch a formal impeachment inquiry. This makes the House into a sort of a court, one that need not run to the Article III judges to enforce its subpoenas and compel testimony. While it hasn’t happened since 1935, we soon may see the House sergeant-at-arms arrest people and conduct raids for documents.

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As of Thursday, NBC News counted 223 House Democrats and one independent favoring impeachment, five more than a majority. That number will almost certainly grow. Depending on the facts, and public reaction, it will likely include some Republicans. Perhaps, as with Nixon, all of them.

But impeachment is only a charge, a political indictment. As of now, all 53 Senate Republicans will, if given the chance, vote to acquit Trump.

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We the people have the power to change that political calculus. Will we?

What remains for the Trump secrecy wall to come tumbling down is for one United States Senator of the Republican persuasion to step forward and say Trump must go.

We’ve known from before Trump took office that some Republican senators were alarmed, dismayed and shocked that a lifelong fraudster had become the leader of their party. But one look at the polling data showing nearly 90% of Republicans support Trump turned them all into towers of moral Jell-o.

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Consider Jeff Flake, the libertarian Arizona senator who quit to avoid being Trumped in a 2018 primary. Flake could not develop enough courage to declare Donald unfit.

Just one Republican Senator

So, the focus that matters now is to cajole, persuade and maybe threaten — politically – just one Republican senator to say that Trump must go. Getting two to do this would be 10 times more influential.

Once that wall of cowardice, reinforced by Mitch McConnell, is breached other Republican Quislings will also declare that Trump must go.

Anthony Scaramucci offered a revealing comment on Friday on the BBC, which I watched from my hotel in Hamburg at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference. Trump announced that Scaramucci would be his communications director, but before he formally started Trump dumped him.

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Scaramucci said as an entrepreneur when he makes a mistake, like agreeing to work for Trump, he owns up to it and corrects. He said Trump must go. And he said he believes 30 or so Republican senators would vote today to convict Trump if they could cast their ballots in secret.

In criminal cases, juries vote in secret. But impeachment is a political process, not a criminal one. Senators must record their votes and live with the political consequences.

So, what will it take to help the moral cowards in the Senate GOP caucus develop some spine so they would vote openly to remove Trump?

New revelations from the CIA whistleblower may do it. Getting others who worked on Team Trump to reveal his perfidy may do it. More hidden read-outs of Trump’s telephone calls—buried in a super-secret server reserved for our government’s deepest secrets—to world leaders might do it.

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The Murdoch Family

But what is sure to do it is making Trump so toxic that Republican senators no longer fear being primaried. And that is where two people, a father and son, hold the greatest power.

Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch decide what propaganda gets sold as news on the Fox cable channel. They helped create the false image of Trump the great leader. Their compliant and highly paid program hosts have sustained Trump, attacking anyone who challenges the president, riling up his base. But the relationship between the network and Trump has been fraying for months. Now may be the time for the Murdochs to finally let it unravel.

Rupert is a purely commercial animal, his subordinates joking that he sold his soul to the devil for riches and power. Lachlan, being much younger, thinks more about the future of News Corp. and Fox News channel and is known to be uncomfortable about Fox being called Trump TV.

If the Murdochs direct the entertainer Sean Hannity to stop with his ludicrous assaults on Trump critics, then Hannity will. If they give new scripts to the actors playing journalists on Fox & Friends they will follow those scripts. If they generally signal to Fox News and Fox Business hosts that Trump is persona non grata they will get the message and repeat it.

That is what makes Fox unlike legitimate news organizations where editors or producers who try to issue such orders would at best be refused and at worst be forced out. This Murdochian style can be adopted to benefit our nation.

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The need is for Americans to press the Murdochs to do the right thing.

Continuing anti-Fox demonstrations will help. Telling Fox advertisers you will no longer buy their products will get the attention of the Murdochs.

And for those in Manhattan’s elite circles, treating the Murdochs as social pariahs will get their focused attention.

The strategy is to make the Murdochs see that their own interests no longer align with Trump’s. Keep in mind that the Murdochs, like Trump, see the national interest in terms of their own financial interest.

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It will take persistence to wring change, but it can be done. Think of a political variation of what Professor Richard Armour wrote, riffing on Ogden Nash, long ago:

“Shake and shake the catsup bottle.

None will come, and then a lot’ll.”

Just one Republican senator saying Trump must go will do it, likely a senator not up until 2022 or 2024. First one will come and then a lot’ll.

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