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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Fox News host Brian Kilmeade offered up a novel and deeply ironic retort to The New York Times’ Sunday night bombshell that President Donald Trump told then-national security adviser John Bolton military aid to Ukraine was conditioned on officials there aiding “investigations into Democrats including the Bidens,” which the paper reported based on descriptions by multiple sources of an unpublished manuscript of a forthcoming Bolton book. 

“The one thing the president should take from this,” he said on Monday morning’s Fox & Friends, is that “he’s got to do a better job vetting his staff to find out if they actually want to work for him or not, or they actually want to leak out information about him.” 

But if anyone could be said to have vetted Bolton for a top position in Trump’s administration, it was Fox. 

Bolton spent the decade between his stints in the Bush and Trump administrations as a Fox contributor, serving as the network’s face for national security policy in frequent interviews on Fox & Friends and other Fox programs. Trump reportedly selected Bolton for the national security adviser position specifically on the strength those Fox appearances. And the network personalities Trump values most repeatedly vouched for Bolton on air, urging the president to give him a top post and applauding him when he did.

Indeed, when Bolton was under consideration for a senior State Department role back in December 2016, Kilmeade himself bolstered his colleague’s aspirations.

Kilmeade trumpeted fellow host Mike Huckabee’s call for Trump to name Bolton his pick for deputy secretary of state, while Fox & Friends’ chyron read “Number 2 Diplomat?” As co-host Steve Doocy led Bolton onto the set and urged him to get on a Simply Fit board, Kilmeade shouted, “Trump wants to see if you’re in shape! He’s watching! Mr. President-elect, this is what you could have!”

Fox & Friends wasn’t the only Fox show looking favorably on the notion of Bolton ascending to a top State role. Discussing his own decision not to make a bid for secretary of State, Rudy Giuliani told Sean Hannity that “John Bolton was on the list at that point, and I guess John was probably my favorite.” Hannity replied, “I think you and John together would have been a great team. That’s my opinion.”

Giuliani later became Trump’s personal lawyer, and his Ukraine machinations are at the heart of the scandal reportedly detailed in Bolton’s book, while Hannity became a close adviser to the president as well as the chief propagandist defending his actions.

Bolton ultimately did not take a position among Trump’s initial administration hires. Instead, he remained on Fox, where he lavished praise on the president’s decisions. That reportedly caught the eye of the president, who “relished the way he validated the administration’s policies,” and so when Trump soured on H.R. McMaster, his second national security adviser, he picked Bolton to replace him.

Bolton’s hiring earned plaudits on Fox, with the network’s hosts specifically highlighting his loyalty to the president and his agenda.

“This is, a friend of mine put it, a great day for the America and as well for the president,” argued Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs, perhaps Fox’s most sycophantic Trump fan and a sometime adviser to his White House, on his program the night the move was announced. “I think anyone who knows John Bolton is celebrating because of his intellect, his capacity, his experience, his talent,” he added.

Hannity likewise described Bolton’s hiring as “good news” and a “huge improvement” from McMaster on his March 22 program. “He will serve the president, right, and his agenda,” Hannity added. 

“I know John Bolton,” former Bush White House press secretary and Fox contributor Ari Fleischer told Hannity the next night. “With John Bolton at NSA, even more is about to get done. John Bolton is one of the sharpest, savviest operators in Washington. And he is a true north. He is a principled conservative and I welcome John Bolton into this administration.” “Yes, me too,” Hannity replied.

On Fox & Friends, Pete Hegseth, another Fox host who also advises the president, claimed there was a “sense” that McMaster “felt like he was saving America from President Trump, as opposed to  channeling why President Trump was elected and helping him do that.” 

“That’s the switch you’re getting with Ambassador John Bolton,” Hegseth added. “We know him from this channel, and you know him from hearing from him, but those on the inside have seen him work inside bureaucracies and elsewhere and are very hopeful that this is the kind of guy that will advance the agenda this president ran on.”

And Fox contributor Dan Bongino said that unlike past members of the administration, Bolton would be loyal to the president. “One thing about Donald Trump we all know, and what I’ve heard from a lot of people who know him, and friends of mine who obviously still work there is he prizes loyalty over anything else, everything,” Bongino said, noting that his National Security Council members were “loyal to themselves, they’re loyal to the swamp, and strangely, they’re loyal to the press that will screw them over in a minute.” 

“Now, he brings in John Bolton, and though John Bolton has some establishment ties, no one questions his loyalty,” Bongino went on. “He’s going to go in there, it’s going to be a housecleaning, and I think it’s exactly what Donald Trump needs to right this ship.”

That doesn’t seem to be the way events have played out. 

The House impeachment investigation produced testimony that Bolton had opposed what he called a “drug deal” to condition a White House visit by Ukraine’s president on Ukraine opening an investigation into the Bidens. And after criticism from Fox host Tucker Carlson, who had Trump’s ear, forced him out of the administration, Bolton has now moved to the center of the Ukraine scandal, which developed because of the president’s affinity for the network and played out on its airwaves.

That makes him an obstacle his former colleagues must overcome if they hope to keep Trump in office, and so they are gearing up to tear him down.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was forced to defend President Donald Trump's recent attacks on MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Tuesday, an unenviable task she nevertheless intentionally signed up for. She desperately tried to divert the attention back to Scarborough — without engaging in the president's conspiracy theorizing — but offered no credible defense of the president's conduct.

Trump has been spreading the debunked theory that Scarborough killed a staffer in 2001 while he was in Congress, even though it was determined she died of natural causes. The staffer's widower wrote a released a letter on Tuesday pleading with Twitter to take down the president's offensive tweets promoting the thoery. He said he was "angry," "frustrated," and "grieved" by the president's promotion of the harmful allegations. Trump is perverting his late wife's memory, he said, and he fears her niece and nephews will encounter these attacks.When asked about the letter, McEnany said she wasn't sure if the president had seen it. But she said their "hearts" are with the woman's family "at this time." It was a deeply ironic comment because the only particularly traumatizing thing about "this time" for the family is the president's attacks, which come nearly two decades after the woman's death.

McEnany refused to offer any explanation of Trump's comments and instead redirected reporters to a clip of Scarborough on Don Imus's radio show in 2003. In that show, Imus made a tasteless joke obliquely referring to the death, and Scarborough laughed at it briefly.

"Why is the president making these unfounded allegations?" asked ABC News' Jonathan Karl. "I mean, this is pretty nuts, isn't it? The president is accusing someone of possible murder. The family is pleading with the president to please stop unfounded conspiracy theories. Why is he doing it?""The president said this morning, this is not an original Trump thought. And it is not," she said, bringing up the Imus clip. But she made no mention of why the president is bringing up the issue 17 years later and with a much larger platform.

When pressed further on the president's conduct, she again diverted blame to Scarborough, saying his morning show unfairly criticizes the president. But again, she offered no substantive defense of Trump.

After McEnany had moved on, PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor brought it up again: "Why won't the president give this widower peace and stop tweeting about the conspiracy theory involving his wife?"

McEnany said she had already answered the question, which she hadn't, and said the onus is on Scarborough to explain the Imus clip."The widower is talking specifically about the president!" Alcindor shot back. But McEnany called on Chanel Rion, with the aggressively pro-Trump outlet OAN, who changed the subject to conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russia investigation.

"Are you not going to answer that?" Alcindor called out, still trying to get a substantive response to her question, but Rion spoke over her.

At the end of the briefing, another reporter asked whether Trump was looking for any actual law enforcement steps be taken in response to his conspiracy theory. But McEnany had nothing to add, and simply told people to listen to the Imus clip again. As she hurried out of the briefing room, a reporter asked if Trump would stop promoting the theory — but she left without answering.

Watch the exchange about Klausutis, which begins at 48:45.