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Dr. Mehmet Oz

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Senate candidate Mehmet Oz thanked Fox News host Sean Hannity for advising him “behind the scenes,” helping to bring him to the cusp of a potential victory in Tuesday night’s primary in Pennsylvania — a revelation that further illustrates Hannity’s position as a Republican operative who leverages his media presence for political influence.

The Republican primary race could potentially go to a recount, with Oz currently ahead of former hedge fund manager Dave McCormick by a slender margin. The winner will face Democratic nominee Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who won his primary by a landslide. During a speech on Tuesday night, Oz first thanked his wife, his children, and his campaign staff and then called out two key political figures who endorsed him and advised him throughout the campaign: former President Donald Trump and Hannity.



MEHMET OZ (U.S SENATE CANDIDATE): And I want to thank some other individuals who are actually unbelievably close friends, made a big difference in my life, are always there at every moment. Let's start with 45, President Trump. President Trump, after he endorsed me, continued to lean in to this race in Pennsylvania. He knows all the subtleties of it. He was willing to participate with tele-town halls, which he advised that I do, it was a brilliant idea. He participated in a massive rally out in Westmoreland County. God bless you, sir, for putting so much effort into this race. I will make you proud.

I want to thank Sean Hannity. Sean is like a brother to me. When Sean punches through something, he really punches through it. He understands exactly how to make a difference, and he's been doing that this entire campaign — much of it behind the scenes, giving me advice on late night conversations — again, the kinds of things that true friends do for each other.


Hannity previously had an eerily similar role during the Trump campaign and administration, serving as the “shadow” chief of staff to the then-president and often holding late-night phone conversations in which he functioned as a sounding board for Trump’s policies.

Hannity also endorsed Oz’s Senate campaign, helping Oz launch his candidacy with a nearly ten-minute interview on his prime-time Fox show in late November. Hannity also reportedly lobbied Trump to endorse Oz, which may have made the difference if indeed Oz’s currently thin lead holds up through the vote count.

Hannity also used both his TV show and his radio show last week to attack the campaign of insurgent candidate Kathy Barnette, telling his audience that Barnette should not win in the primary due to her history of anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ statements. (Hannity did not acknowledge his own history of spewing similar bigotry.)

During one such segment trashing Barnette, Hannity reiterated his endorsement of Oz, saying he would “always tell you how I feel,” before interviewing Oz to continue attacking Barnette. But, while Hannity might acknowledge his candidate preference, he did not reveal that he had been advising Oz behind the scenes, nor admit his role in securing Trump’s endorsement for the candidate.

Oz’s revelation Tuesday night should also be placed in further context of how Hannity uses his Fox platform to spread misinforming Republican campaign talking points.

Previously released text messages between Hannity and then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows revealed that Hannity took direct instructions on coordinating get-out-the-vote messaging on Election Day in 2020, and Hannity later described himself as being “at war with” the network’s purported news figures such as then-Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace over the network’s declaration that Joe Biden had won the election. (The network undermined its own decision desk’s election call nearly 600 times in just nine days after that call was made.)

The texts have also shown the extent to which Hannity wears two faces along with his two hats. On the one hand, he publicly claimed the attackers who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, were left-wing infiltrators. On the other hand, he urged Meadows during the attack to ask Trump to call off his supporters, and afterward, he worked on damage control with the White House.

Whether Oz even wins or loses in the final result is almost beside the point. Hannity’s role in elevating his candidacy and orchestrating another instance of the Trump-Fox feedback loop provides yet another example of Fox's evolution from its earlier role as a propaganda outlet on behalf of the Republican Party to a major engine of the party itself.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

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Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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