Fox News’ reflexive need to run cover for Donald Trump has resulted in people on the network claiming that special counsel Jack Smith targeted “random” Mar-a-Lago employees you should “feel sorry” for in his latest indictment related to the former president’s retention of government documents.
The network is not bothering to explain to viewers what Smith actually alleged: That the employee in question received orders from Trump to destroy evidence at that location and subsequently lied to the FBI.
Fox spent Trump’s presidency offering a zealous defense of his every move, no matter how transparently bigoted or corrupt. This year, as his actions led to state and federal charges with the prospect of more to come, its hosts and guests have responded with incendiary rhetoric that paints him as the victim of a politicized Justice Department that President Joe Biden is using to turn the United States into a “banana republic.”
The network received another opportunity to cease its defenses of Trump’s allegedly criminal conduct on Thursday, when prosecutors announced additional charges in the documents probe.
A June indictment detailed how Trump, when he left office in January 2021, took with him highly classified documents which were stored in boxes at Mar-a-Lago in unsecured locations such as a ballroom and a bathroom, many of which he did not return even under subpoena. Prosecutors had already charged Trump with 31 federal counts of illegally retaining national defense information. They also charged the former president and his personal aide Walt Nauta with five more counts for allegedly conspiring to hide the documents from authorities, as well as one count each over false statements allegedly made to the FBI and federal grand jury to conceal that Trump retained documents.
A superseding indictment, unsealed Thursday, added additional counts and a third defendant, Carlos De Oliveira, who has reportedly worked for Trump for “nearly 20 years” and is Mar-a-Lago’s property manager. Prosecutors charged Trump with an additional count of illegally retaining national defense information over a top secret document detailing plans for a potential U.S. attack on Iran that he showed off at a 2021 meeting at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. They also alleged that Trump, Nauta, and De Oliveira conspired to get another Trump employee to “delete security camera footage at the Mar-a-Lago Club to prevent the footage from being provided to a federal grand jury.” As The Washington Post reported regarding the new defendant:
The new version of the indictment recounts an alleged exchange between De Oliveira and another Trump employee on June 27, 2022, in which De Oliveira allegedly asked to have a private discussion in an “audio closet” at Mar-a-Lago.
De Oliveira allegedly asked the other employee how long the footage from the security cameras were stored on their computer server. When the employee replied 45 days, De Oliveira told the employee “that ‘the boss’ wanted the server deleted,” the indictment alleges. The other employee is referred to only as “Employee 4” in the indictment, but a person close to the investigation, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss it, has said that person is an IT worker named Yuscil Taveras.
The employee replied “that he would not know how to do that, and that he did not believe that he would have the rights to do that,” according to the indictment. “De Oliveira then insisted to Trump Employee 4 that ‘the boss’ wanted the server deleted and asked, ‘What are we going to do?’”
De Oliveira is also reportedly the Mar-a-Lago employee who CNN reported “drained the resort’s swimming pool last October and ended up flooding a room where computer servers containing surveillance video logs were kept.”
The Post reports that the Mar-a-Lago property manager was further “charged with lying to the FBI in a January interview in which he allegedly denied seeing boxes being moved or helping move boxes.” The indictment also details efforts by Trump and Nauta to ensure that De Oliveira remained “loyal” after the FBI found government documents during an August 2022 search of Mar-a-Lago.
These specifics all seem quite damning — which is perhaps why Trump’s Fox allies are doing everything they can to avoid discussing them.
Fox prime-time host and Trump political operative Sean Hannity discussed the indictment at the top of his Thursday monologue. He brought out the typical talking points: Hunter Biden whataboutism, false claims that Joe Biden had gotten away with doing the same thing as Trump, and overheated rhetoric about how the charges indicate the death of the rule of law in the U.S.
But regarding De Oliveira, all he offered his audience was, “meanwhile, a maintenance worker — they are going after maintenance workers at Mar-a-Lago — was also charged with obstruction.”
Hannity isn’t the only one at Fox playing these games.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) graduated from Yale Law School, served as his state’s attorney general, sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and presumably knows how to read an indictment. But after Fox host Laura Ingraham portrayed the new charges as part of a “distraction game” to keep attention away from Hunter Biden, Hawley claimed that Smith is now “down to charging random people, just throwing those into the indictment.”
Discussing the new charges on Friday, Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt similarly asked her guest why Nauta and De Oliveira have been indicted simply for doing what Trump, their boss, told them to do.
“Why do you think they are going after these people?” she said. “There are two staffers that worked for him, one is the valet that turned into the property manager, worked for him for 20 years. Why are they going after these guys? Their boss might have said, ‘We’re not going to hand over the video or whatever, and they just did what the boss said.”
Having told her viewers that she thinks Trump did in fact try to obstruct justice by refusing to provide the subpoenaed security footage and that she is fine with that, Earhardt went on to urge her audience to sympathize with the alleged participants in Trump’s scheme.
“These guys just worked for them, you feel sorry for them,” she said. “One started as a valet and then he’s running the property 20 years laters, he probably was providing for his family and now they’re trying to charge these guys so that they’ll flip on Donald Trump.” She then moved on to Hunter Biden, demanding, “Where’s that special counsel?”
It takes a startling level of contempt for your audience to bullshit them like this. But that’s the bargain Fox has apparently made as it goes full-throttle to put Trump back in the White House.