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Opinion Silly ‘Fox & Friends’: Obama did it too!

Actually, no, he didn’t.

President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference at the White House in 2016. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
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When it comes to minimizing the sins of President Trump, there’s no better option in the spin handbook than this one: President Barack Obama did the same thing! On the subject of Trump’s nonstop lying, for example, people will argue that all presidents lie — and that Obama told people they could keep their health-care plans — all the while ignoring that Trump lies about everything. People will argue, too, that the Trump policy of separating parents from their children at the border was an Obama thing. Heck, even the president himself recently attempted that argument, only to be fact-checked on the spot by a White House reporter.

Another Trump-Obama equivalence argument visited the set of “Fox & Friends” on Monday morning. The fun and games came in response to the news of Friday, when special counsel Robert S. Mueller III dropped some filings in cases with implications for Trump’s future. Perhaps most troubling for the Trump-access junkies on the curvy couch at “Fox & Friends,” Mueller and his team alleged some serious misconduct, as the New York Times summarizes:

Federal prosecutors said on Friday that President Trump directed illegal payments to ward off a potential sex scandal that threatened his chances of winning the White House in 2016, putting the weight of the Justice Department behind accusations previously made by his former lawyer. 
The lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, had said that as the election neared, Mr. Trump directed payments to two women who claimed they had affairs with Mr. Trump. But in a new memo arguing for a prison term for Mr. Cohen, prosecutors in Manhattan said he “acted in coordination and at the direction of” an unnamed individual, clearly referring to Mr. Trump.

Big deal, right?

Not if you’re listening to Brian Kilmeade, the “Fox & Friends” co-host who strategized with commentator Dan Bongino over the best way to minimize the implications. Here’s Kilmeade struggling to knit together the argument via use of the English language. He’s trying to reference, as delicately as possible, the fact that Trump directed former lawyer Cohen to pay off two women — apparently Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal — to suppress their allegations that he’d had sexual relationships with them.

There were two women coming forward that were going to say negative things about the president and relations. If you were running for office — whether it’s a bad business deal where you have a bitter partner — you want to make sure that things are going the best you can to keep everything on your eye on the ball and things on the issues that are going to have a thumbs up or thumbs down in the election. So these things come out there. He, evidently, Michael Cohen writes checks for over $100,000 to two women. Now, that’s a election law violation. Now, according to everybody’s stats, in 2008 Barack Obama’s campaign spent nearly $2 million in illegal election — in violations of election law. They got a fine of $300,000. But you want to throw this president in jail about payments to women that he made or may not have known about? That dwarf the $2 million? We should just accept that?

Bolding added to highlight the part where Brian Kilmeade said, “things about the president and relations” and the part where Kilmeade essentially endorses hush payments.

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Arguing that Trump and Obama had done the “exact same thing,” Bongino remarked with wonder that there was “no clamoring” to have Obama “thrown in jail.”

The billionaire philanthropist has long been a point of conversation for Fox network hosts and guests alike. (Video: Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

That’s because the violations, though serious enough to trigger a $375,000 fine, consisted of technical and paperwork matters — for instance, failing to comply with filing deadlines for substantial donations in the campaign’s final days and not returning excessive donations on time. The violations certainly did not encompass willful efforts to pay off people who could derail the campaign. Accordingly, the Obama violations were treated as civil matters, while the Cohen violations are being treated as criminal matters.

“Fox & Friends” might deserve an attaboy or two from Trump circles if it had invented this propaganda for Monday’s program. It didn’t. When Cohen pleaded guilty in August to campaign-finance violations, Trump tweeted:

In an interview with ultra-friendly Fox Business, Trump said, “If you look at President Obama, he had a massive campaign violation, but he had a different attorney general, and they viewed it a lot different.” Trump said.

The talking point has since taken a beating in various fact-checks. If only we could get some of that material in front of Kilmeade himself.

(H/T Mediaite’s Colby Hall)

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