Tag: joe biden
Trump and Biden

How Right-Wing Echo Chamber Amplified Biden 'Assassination Plot'

Over a handful of hours on Tuesday, the right’s conspiracy theory ecosystem concocted a sinister plot by President Joe Biden to assassinate his predecessor out of the banal fact that FBI agents received standard instructions on the use of force before conducting a court-ordered search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in 2022.

Hundreds of pages of filings were unsealed on Tuesday in Trump’s classified documents case, revealing that the former president — who is charged with 40 federal criminal counts related to his alleged willful retention of documents after leaving the White House — had multiple documents marked “classified” in his bedroom that were discovered months after the 2022 search.

Credible outlets reviewed the documents and produced a wave of news stories detailing what a judge described as “strong evidence” of Trump’s allegedly criminal acts. Meanwhile, Trump’s MAGA media supporters ginned up a counternarrative based on a credulous reading of a deceptive argument from Trump’s lawyers that was included in the unsealed documents.

The story that emerged from the right-wing media echo chamber posits that pro forma language provided to FBI agents before the 2022 search which stated that “law enforcement officers of the Department of Justice may use deadly force when necessary” was actually part of a Biden scheme to assassinate Trump. This is both a horrific accusation to make without evidence and facially absurd for any number of reasons. (Why would the Biden administration issue assassination orders in writing and then conduct the Mar-a-Lago search on a date specifically selected because Trump would be in New York instead?) But it spread quickly from its initiation by a key figure in the right’s January 6 disinformation community, through the ranks of MAGA influencers, to Trump himself, and then to the Fox News airwaves.

By Tuesday night, Trump’s campaign had issued a fundraising email in which the presumptive Republican presidential nominee alleged of the Biden administration, “You know they’re just itching to do the unthinkable … Joe Biden was locked & loaded ready to take me out & put my family in danger.”

The startlingly quick adoption of an unhinged conspiracy theory shows how the right-wing media apparatus operates, dreaming up convoluted but inflammatory nonsense and bombarding their audience with it. Here’s how it happened.

Right-wing fabulist turns standard FBI policy into “mind-blowing” story

The right-wing writer Julie Kelly, in a series of Tuesday afternoon posts on X (formerly Twitter), purported to reveal the “bombshells” she had uncovered by scouring the unsealed documents.

“Tons of new unsealed filings on classified docs case--I will try to post as much as I can (there goes the workout) but this is mind-blowing,” she posted at 1:21 p.m. ET. “FBI authorized the use of deadly force at Mar-a-Lago.”

She included a screenshot of a filing from Trump’s lawyers which stated that the FBI’s “Operations Order” for the Mar-a-Lago search “contained a ‘Policy Statement’ regarding ‘Use of Deadly Force,’ which stated, for example, ‘Law enforcement officers of the Department of Justice may use deadly force when necessary.’”

Kelly went on to post the “Policy Statement” and claim that the instructions show that “the FBI risked the lives of Donald Trump, his family, his staff, and MAL guests for a publicity stunt to make it look like Trump stole national security files.” She added, “People need to be arrested for this.”

In reality — and as more credible journalists pointed out — those instructions are standard for FBI searches.

“These are the rules that apply to FBI agents whenever they do anything,” Reuters reporter Brad Heath wrote in response to Kelly’s initial claim on X. He added, “Agents - like all cops - can use deadly force when met with a sufficiently serious threat. The policy the FBI followed here applies all the time; they are the same rules agents follow when walking down a sidewalk.”

“One clue that this is the generic DOJ use of force policy — not something cooked up for Mar-a-Lago, let alone ordered by the president — is that it talks about the use of warning shots in prison,” Heath noted in response to Kelly’s post with the “Policy Statement.”

The FBI would later issue a statement confirming that the bureau had “followed standard protocol in this search as we do for all search warrants, which includes a standard policy statement limiting the use of deadly force.”

Kelly is among the foremost proponents of the right’s January 6 counternarrative. She has argued that the violent rioting at the U.S. Capitol by Trumpists who assaulted scores of law enforcement officers “was probably the biggest instance of police brutality that this country has seen since the Civil Rights movement,” described a police officer who testified before the January 6 select committee as a “crisis actor,” and suggested that the FBI fabricated the pipe bombs discovered at the Republican and Democratic national headquarters that day because it is “an enforcement arm, a surveillance arm of the Democratic Party.” And her interpretation of the filings made no sense and was quickly debunked.

None of that slowed down the ranks of MAGA influencers, who quickly seized on her story.

MAGA influencers run with “assassination” nonsense

Within minutes, influential figures in the MAGA movement adopted Kelly’s interpretation and effectively began competing for the most overwrought response as they furiously posted on X. Many alleged that the document showed a Biden-directed assassination plot against Trump.

“The FBI authorized the use of **deadly force** when they raided Mar-a-Lago,” Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk commented. “You read that right. They were authorized to kill Trump employees, possibly even assassinate Trump himself, to exact their political revenge.”

“The FBI authorized the use of deadly force when they raided Mar-a-Lago?” wrote podcaster and former One America News host Liz Wheeler. “Were they hoping to assassinate Trump or his family or employees? This is insane.”

“So that was the real reason for the FBI raiding a president’s home: an excuse to use deadly force against Donald Trump,” offeredThe Federalist’s Sean Davis. “The court case was just plan B for the corrupt DOJ and FBI.” He added, “The FBI is a domestic terrorist organization.”

Trump ally Laura Loomer similarly argued that the document shows “a possible assassination attempt of President Trump by the Biden regime and FBI!”

Trump and the GOP lie that this shows Biden is “A SERIOUS THREAT TO DEMOCRACY”

Trump and his campaign are very attuned to the nonsense his online supporters generate, and within hours they adopted their bogus narrative.

At 5:21 p.m. ET — just four hours after Kelly’s initial post — Trump posted on his Truth Social account: “WOW! I just came out of the Biden Witch Hunt Trial in Manhattan, the ‘Icebox,’ and was shown Reports that Crooked Joe Biden’s DOJ, in their Illegal and UnConstitutional Raid of Mar-a-Lago, AUTHORIZED THE FBI TO USE DEADLY (LETHAL) FORCE. NOW WE KNOW, FOR SURE, THAT JOE BIDEN IS A SERIOUS THREAT TO DEMOCRACY. HE IS MENTALLY UNFIT TO HOLD OFFICE — 25TH AMENDMENT!”

Trump’s campaign posted his comment to X, where it was quickly reposted by an arm of the Republican National Committee.

The former president’s most unhinged congressional supporters chimed in.

“The Biden DOJ and FBI were planning to assassinate Pres Trump and gave the green light. Does everyone get it yet???!!!!” commented Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).

His biggest media supporters were not far behind.

Fox “news” and “opinion” sides parrot the MAGA spin

Right-wing commentators have spent the last nine years figuring out how to respond to Trump’s massive lies. At this point, everyone who retains a major platform knows their role is to, at the least, soft-pedal his unhinged claims, and at most, to prove they are on board with the MAGA movement by treating them as truth.

That’s what played out on Fox’s airwaves after Trump declared that the FBI’s use of standard orders for the Mar-a-Lago search showed that Biden is “A SERIOUS THREAT TO DEMOCRACY.”

Fox could have provided credible reporting tamping down on the lies circulating online. The network employs people who report on the Justice Department and FBI and even has Kerri Kupec Urbahn, a former top aide in the Trump DOJ, on the payroll. If the network wanted to find out if the FBI orders were standard, it would be really easy to do so.

But Fox’s business model and its political agenda both depend on propagandizing for Trump, so that’s not what happened. Instead, around an hour after Trump’s Truth Social post, FoxNews.com sent the following push alert: “BREAKING NEWS New docs reveal Biden DOJ authorized ‘deadly force’ in Mar-a-Lago raid.’” Here’s how the story’s promotion looked on the website’s front page:

From FoxNews.com at approximately 6:23 p.m. on May 21, 2024.

When the network first discussed the story later that hour on the flagship “news” show Special Report, the segment focused on the same “deadly force” language Kelly had flagged.

Bret Baier, the network’s chief political anchor, opened by highlighting that “former President Trump's attorneys argue the Biden administration Justice Department authorized the use of deadly force if necessary” during the Mar-a-Lago search. Correspondent Kevin Corke responded that the order is “quite shocking.”

Baier went on to downplay the notion that the FBI instructions were standard.

“There may be some people, Kevin, who say that this is just a policy statement of standard operating procedures put inside this operations order for this specific raid,” he said. “But obviously it's not standard operating procedure when you're going into the house of the former president, who happens to be protected by Secret Service.”

When Baier offered a similar comment later in the hour during a panel segment, contributor Byron York described the situation as “kind of worrisome” because the FBI was supposedly “loaded for bear and prepared for the possibility of some sort of violent confrontation with the Secret Service. … The idea that it was prepared for this way, as opposed to, say, worked out in advance, is really troubling.” (In fact, the FBI ensured that “the Secret Service would receive a heads-up a few hours before FBI agents arrived to avoid any law enforcement conflict,” The Washington Post has reported.)

Fox’s “opinion” hosts have been running with the story ever since.

“They were actually thinking of using deadly force, or it's on the table that might be necessary at Mar-a-Lago?” Laura Ingraham asked Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-MO). “Deadly force? OK. It’s really lawfare, it’s not funny. Something actually could have gone down I guess at Mar-a-Lago, beyond just looking for the documents.”

Jesse Watters and Jeanine Pirro went even further on Watters’ show, with the host declaring, “Authorized armed agents to use deadly force in the Mar-a-Lago raid. That is insane. Is there any justification for that?”

“Absolutely not,” Pirro replied, adding that “my mind as a prosecutor goes to maybe they wanted the engagement of physical force. Maybe they wanted to come in without FBI, without DOJ, without all of that identifying so that they could engage in deadly physical force.”

Sean Hannity called the “deadly force” language a “shocking new revelation.” He acknowledged it was “boilerplate language” but nonetheless asked, “Why was Merrick Garland prepping for a possible, what, shootout?”

Fox was still carrying Trump’s water on Wednesday morning:


Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Marjorie Taylor Greene

FBI Publicly Rebuts MAGA Fantasy Of Biden Plot 'To Assassinate Trump'

Similarly to his MAGA colleague — Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) — on Tuesday, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) claimed that President Joe Biden wanted to have former President Donald Trump killed during the FBI's raid on the Mar-a-Lago estate.

Referencing the statement, "Law enforcement officers of the Department of Justice may use deadly force when necessary ...." Gosar claimed via X/Twitter: "Biden ordered the hit on Trump at Mar-a-Lago."

About an hour prior to the Arizona congressman's claim, Rep. Greene baselessly claimed that "Biden and the FBI planned to assassinate" the former president.

ABC News Justice Department reporter Alex Mallon reported via X/Twitter, "FBI issues rare statement directly responding to this attack from Trump and his allies. Says 'standard protocol' was followed - 'No one ordered additional steps to be taken and there was no departure from the norm in this matter."

ABC News contributor Sarah Isgur noted: "Anytime the fbi takes an adversarial action like executing a search warrant, there is a deadly force policy. If there is danger to you or public and there’s no alternatives, you are authorized to use deadly force. This is standard policy."

She added, "And of course they gave the Secret Service and local law enforcement a heads up. Authorized to use deadly force is not the same as 'planning to shoot people.' But every briefing has to include a deadly force policy that is acknowledged by every agent before they go in."

Adam Kinzinger replied: "Gosar is a clown."

Lawyer Bradley P. Moss said: "Per Trump, Biden has complete immunity"

A former CIA attorney under the account @secretsandlaws wrote: "As a general rule, I don't judge any lawyer for zealously representing a criminal defendant, but blatant distortions in legal filings like this were clearly designed to generate over-the-top responses from Trump's supporters, just like the one below. It's unethical and immoral."

Lawrence Hurley said: "Based on Trump's arguments in his election interference case, Biden could not be prosecuted if he had actually ordered this..."

Doug Thompson replied: "I try not to retweet nonsense but this is outrageous.Pre-authorization for use of deadly force is routine when issuing a search warrant. 'Go search for and seize evidence at the scene of a serious crime but go unarmed' would be absurd."

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Trump and Biden

Wrong Again: Right-Wing Media Said Biden Would Never Debate Trump

After President Joe Biden expressed interest in debating presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump ahead of the 2024 election, right-wing media claimed Biden is running another “basement campaign” and his “puppeteers” would never allow any debates because it would be the “kiss of death” to the president's campaign. Those claims have followed years of right-wing and mainstream media fixating on the president’s age and mental acuity.

On May 15, Biden announced he had accepted an invitation to a CNN debate, and within hours, Biden and Trump mutually agreed to two debates, one each on CNN and ABC.

  • Biden and Trump have agreed to participate in two debates

    • On May 15, Trump and Biden mutually agreed to participate in a series of two debates, which will be hosted by CNN and ABC, respectively. The candidates are now scheduled to debate on June 27 and September 10 after Biden posted on X (formerly Twitter) that he had accepted debate invitations from the respective networks. Trump has a history of skipping presidential debates, most recently skipping those scheduled for the GOP primaries, but he has agreed to the two debates with Biden. [CNN, 5/15/24; NPR 5/16/24; The Associated Press 8/21/23; Twitter/X, 5/15/24, 5/15/24]
    • Weeks before Biden and Trump agreed to the debates, Biden had publicly expressed his desire to do so. In April, radio host Howard Stern asked Biden if he would debate Trump. Biden replied: “I am, somewhere, I don’t know when, but I am happy to debate him.” On May 9, Biden was asked when he would debate Trump during a White House event, to which he responded, “Set it up.” [The New York Times, 4/26/24; The White House, 5/9/24]
  • Right-wing and mainstream media have fixated on the president’s age and mental acuity

    • Right-wing media have repeatedly attacked Biden for his age and claimed that he is too old and mentally unfit to campaign and continue serving in office. Beginning in 2020, Trump and his right-wing media allies attacked Biden for hosting virtual campaign events during the COVID-19 pandemic, claiming that he was hiding in the “basement” to hide his age and lack of stamina. [Media Matters, 7/1/20, 2/9/24, 3/8/24; The Hill, 9/11/23; Politico, 6/24/20]
    • Right-wing and mainstream media outlets have disproportionately fixated on Biden’s age and mental acuity, even though Trump is nearly the same age. In various studies, Media Matters has found that both cable news and widely circulated newspapers mentioned Biden’s at a much higher rate than Trump’s. [Media Matters, 9/29/23, 10/20/23]
  • Right-wing media claimed Biden's “puppeteers” would not allow him to debate Trump

    • In response to Biden’s “set it up” comment, former White House press secretary and Outnumbered co-host Kayleigh McEnany said, “I won’t believe that Biden debates until I see it with my own eyes.” “Make no mistake this is basement campaign 2.0, it’s just run out of the Oval Office,” she said. “So do you really think the basement campaign is going to let him out of the Oval Office to go get demolished by Donald Trump? He will sit in the metaphorical basement. I hope to be proven wrong though.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 5/10/24]
    • In response to McEnany, Fox News contributor and former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said, “Kayleigh’s right, there can’t be debates. If he debates it’s going to be the kiss of death for Joe Biden as well as the Democratic Party.” Referring to Biden’s “set it up” comment, Fleischer continued, “He can't even walk up the stairs to Air Force One, yet he can stand up on stage for an hour and a half at prime time? No. They’re going to have to hide him.” Then, referencing McEnany’s basement attack, Fleischer added, “You know there is a basement underneath the Oval Office. It’s located next to the Mess. And that’s what you’re going to have with Joe Biden if he takes the stage — a mess.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 5/10/24]
  • As The Ingraham Angle's chyron displayed “Will Biden Actually Debate?,” Fox News contributor Byron York said that Biden did “get through” a “fawning, flattering, positive, easy” interview on The Howard Stern Show, but commented, “The idea of getting through an actual debate, clearly his team doesn’t want that.” During the segment, host Laura Ingraham played a clip of former White House secretary Jen Psaki on Meet the Press commenting on Biden saying he would debate Trump. “I was thinking, if I was in my old job from two years ago — you also don’t want him to say ‘no’ because no is weak and no is fear,” she said. [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 4/29/24; NBC, Meet the Press, 4/28/24]
  • When asked about Biden’s statement to Stern, Fox News contributor and former House Rep. Jason Chaffetz said that he would “be shocked if Joe Biden debated” and suggested that Biden did not check in with his “puppeteers” before making the statement. “I don’t know that he checked in with the puppeteers that help control this,” Chaffetz said. “I would be shocked if Joe Biden debated. I don’t think anybody on his team can afford to allow him to answer spontaneous questions and joust with probably one of the better debaters in Donald Trump.” He added, “He’s got to have people surrounding him just to walk to Marine One. The idea that he’s actually going to debate, I don’t think he’ll actually ever show up for that.” [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 4/26/24]
  • During a Fox appearance two days later, Chaffetz once again claimed there was no way Biden’s “puppeteers” would “allow that guy out onto the stage to debate.” “The cognitive capability of this president does not allow him to debate,” Chaffetz added. Then, referencing Psaki’s appearance on Meet the Press, Chaffetz added: “Those five people on MSNBC or whatever network that was, they all know Joe Biden does not have the wherewithal to go toe-to-toe with the single best debater we’ve seen in Donald Trump.” [Fox News, The Big Weekend Show, 4/28/24]
  • Podcaster and RNC co-chair Lara Trump claimed on Newsmax:“Joe Biden can barely read off a teleprompter, let alone stand on a stage and debate Donald Trump.” “We need debates,” she said. “But the team that Biden has is in a full-blown panic because that is the last thing they want.” [Twitter/X, 4/30/24]
  • Real America’s Voice host John Fredericks played the clip of Psaki and claimed: “Of course he’s not going to debate, he can’t get three sentences out.” Michael Faulkender, America First chief economist, commented, “This is the guy that we would want to put in place for another four years to battle with Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, and he doesn’t even know what steps to go down on Air Force One or which way to exit a stage?" He went on, “So they’ve got to hide him, they’ve got to keep him in the basement, they’ve got to keep him on a beach in Delaware because he can’t possibly get out there for 90 minutes and have anywhere near the energy that Trump has.” [Real America’s Voice, Outside the Beltway with John Fredericks, 4/30/24]

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Debate Commission Chief Says Biden Imposed His Own Terms On Trump

Debate Commission Chief Says Biden Imposed His Own Terms On Trump

President Joe Biden's campaign pulled a fast one on former President Donald Trump's team, according to the co-founder and co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD).

In a recent interview with Politico, Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr. — the former chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC) who has helmed the CPD for several decades — insisted the CPD was still alive and well despite the two campaigns going around his organization to hold their debates. The CPD chief did a combination of pushing back against the Biden team's assertions that its scheduled September and October general election debates were held too late in the election season, and praise for Biden's reelection campaign for managing to get Trump to agree to terms that were not the most favorable for the ex-president.

Fahrenkopf described the Trump team's acceptance of two general election debates hosted by CNN and ABC News "political malpractice," noting that the ex-president should have read the fine print before signing on the dotted line.

"Donald makes decisions like this and I’m not sure he listens to the staff," he said. "And I don’t think he ever saw all of the details that were in there. And that is a pretty spectacular job by the Biden people."

One of the major sticking points Biden's team wanted for both debates was not having a crowd present. An unnamed Biden aide speaking anonymously told Politico that because "Trump feeds off the crowd" and that cheering supporters "give him life," they demanded the debate room be empty save for the two candidates and the moderators.

"We wanted to take that away," the aide said.

Other demands Biden wanted that Trump agreed to included microphones that can be muted if a candidate speaks out of turn, and having moderators who didn't have a pro-Trump bias. That second demand sparked outrage from Fox News, with several of the networks prominent hosts worrying that CNN and ABC moderators would fact-check Trump while he was in mid-sentence.

Aside from the terms of the debate themselves, Trump may also not perform well due to his relative lack of experience. The former president hasn't debated since 2020, when he and Biden squared off in a shouting match that moderator Chris Wallace helplessly failed to control as Trump continuously interrupted his opponent. He notably did not participate in any of the Republican primary debates hosted by the RNC, and usually held competing events on nights his rivals debated.

In the two debates, which will take place in June and September, Biden will likely hammer the former president on his embrace of the Supreme Court's decision to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that allowed for legal abortions. Republicans have yet to notch a win in any election when abortion is on the ballot — even in typically red states like Kansas, Kentucky and Montana. Biden is also aiming to highlight Trump's multiple threats to democracy in the upcoming debates.

Fahrenkopf told Politico that even though the CPD likely won't get to host a general election debate this cycle, that he hopes the Biden-Trump debates on CNN and ABC will be informative and educational for voters.

"We were created for one purpose and one purpose only... we want to make sure in every presidential election cycle that the man or woman who wants to be president or vice president of the United States debates their opponents. That’s our purpose," he said. "Now, if the Biden and Trump campaigns can reach some agreement and go forward with two debates, and that happens and they do a good job? That’s the only thing we exist for. I don’t get anything out of this in any other way. What happens to the debate commission thereafter, I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see."

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.