If you watch Fox News, it is impossible not to notice the intensifying criticism of Russia special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
The New York Times editorial board marked the trend last week, lamenting that President Trump's “TV diet consists overwhelmingly of Fox's sycophants, who have now gathered around one insistent message aimed at their No. 1 fan: Fire Robert Mueller now.”
That was before Fox News host Jesse Watters said it is possible that “we have a coup on our hands in America.”
While the president is hearing from the likes of Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro that Mueller needs to go, he got different advice on Monday from “Fox & Friends.” The hosts of Trump's favorite morning show characterized the notion that he might terminate Mueller as nothing more than a Democratic rumor planted in the media to make the president appear suspiciously worried about the probe.
“We've heard for months that President Trump was going to fire Robert Mueller,” Steve Doocy said dismissively.
“You know what happened: The investigation is turning on its head,” Brian Kilmeade added a moment later, citing recent news that Mueller removed from his team an FBI agent who expressed anti-Trump sentiments in text messages to a bureau attorney. “All of a sudden, things are about to change — unless you throw out a story that says the president's going to fire Mueller. That becomes the No. 1 story. Everything else gets pushed aside on all the national shows. So they successfully changed the conversation — for a non-story.”
Trump said, again, on Sunday that he does not plan to fire Mueller. Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci said on “Fox & Friends” that the president is “certainly not going to fire Mueller.”
“I just think he's too smart to do something like that,” Scaramucci said. “He doesn't need another distraction on top of that distraction.”
Fox News commentators generally agree that Mueller is hunting for nonexistent collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election and that the integrity of his work is compromised. But there is no consensus about the president's best course of action.
Here is Hannity's case for firing Mueller, in its most succinct form: “This is a massive waste of money, and you, the American people, are paying for all of this, which is an attempted political takedown of your duly elected president.”
The guidance to Trump from “Fox & Friends” is to discredit the investigation but allow it to play out. If Mueller ultimately clears the president of wrongdoing, then Trump will be able to say that he cooperated and that even a “witch hunt” couldn't incriminate him. If Mueller's findings are less favorable, Trump's supporters won't recognize the conclusion as legitimate, anyway.
Laura Ingraham, the newest addition to Fox News's prime-time lineup, said two weeks ago that Mueller should resign. But she tweeted during “Fox & Friends” on Monday that liberals are actually the ones who want Trump to fire the special counsel.
The apparent thinking is that Trump has little to fear, because even if Mueller does report evidence of collusion, the president and his backers can argue that the investigation was tainted. Trump can only make himself look guilty by firing Mueller.