GOP turns furor on media amid impeachment fight

President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE and his allies are embracing a war with the media as part of the growing impeachment fight. 

The president, several congressional Republicans and high-profile pundits are turning their fury toward reporters, accusing them of trying to undercut the president and key officials like Attorney General William Barr. 

The backlash comes amid a steady stream of reports that are broadening the scope of who within the administration has knowledge of Trump's actions toward Ukraine that are at the center of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. 

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“Much of it is corrupt. It’s corrupt. You have corrupt media in this country. And it truly is the enemy of the people,” Trump said during a meeting with the president of Finland, arguing reporters needed to look into former President Obama's conversations with Russia. 

He added as reporters left the Oval Office, “go write some phony stories.”

It’s a familiar play for Trump, who ran as a political outsider against both establishment politics and the national media and has done nothing to shift away from that persona over the past three years. 

But the degree to which Trump’s argument is getting the backing of GOP lawmakers and talking heads, who have struggled with their own high-profile messaging stumbles during the first days of the impeachment fight, are notable.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthySaagar Enjeti expresses concern over MSNBC hosting debate after Weinstein scandal Former Speaker Boehner's official portrait unveiled Saagar Enjeti blasts alleged Epstein cover-up by media MORE (R-Calif.) said “many in the media” and Democrats took the whistleblower complaint and notes from Trump’s call with Ukraine and “twisted it to what they wanted to believe just to fold into their political narrative.” 

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzLawmakers spar over surveillance flight treaty with Russia Senators voice support for Iran protesters but stop short of taking action Prisons chief: FBI investigating whether 'criminal enterprise' played role in Epstein death MORE (R-Texas) accused Democrats and the media of “losing their minds” in the early stages of the impeachment fight. 

The story that appears to be sparking much of the GOP furor is a New York Times piece this week reporting that Trump urged Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to help Barr, according to two officials with knowledge of the call. The Justice Department subsequently confirmed that Trump had contacted foreign governments at Barr's request. 

“We need some independent journalism in America where people get the facts and not just a steady stream of opinion pieces,” Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTensions rise in Senate's legislative 'graveyard' Congress feels heat to act on youth vaping Senate passes legislation supporting Hong Kong protesters MORE (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said during an interview with a Texas radio station. 

Cornyn, who frequently speaks to the media around the Capitol, added that he thought the publication had “really given up any pretense of objectivity” and become a “partisan rag.” 

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham: Report on alleged surveillance abuse in 2016 to be released Dec. 9 McConnell hopes Senate impeachment trial 'not too lengthy a process' Hillicon Valley: Progressives oppose funding bill over surveillance authority | Senators call for 5G security coordinator | Facebook gets questions over location tracking | Louisiana hit by ransomware attack MORE (R-S.C.) added that he thought the piece was an attempt to undermine Barr’s investigation into the origins of the Russia probe. 

“This New York Times article is an effort to stop Barr. ... What are they afraid of? This really bothers me a lot that the left is going to try to say there's something wrong with Barr talking to Australia, Italy and the United Kingdom,” he said during an interview with Fox News’s Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityFox's Neil Cavuto rips into Trump over attacks on Chris Wallace's impeachment coverage Graham: Senate trial 'must expose the whistleblower' Graham says Schiff should be a witness in Trump impeachment trial MORE

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In addition to the Times story, The Washington Post reported on Monday that Barr and U.S. Attorney John DurhamJohn DurhamNo credibility in this braying for Trump's removal Impeachment tests Barr-Trump relationship Democrats doth protest too much against the Durham investigation MORE, who is leading the Justice Department’s inquiry, met with senior Italian officials. Barr has also reportedly requested assistance from British intelligence officials in connection with the inquiry.  

The party’s railing against the media comes as several polls have shown an uptick in support for impeachment in the immediate fallout from the release of the partial transcript about Trump’s call and the whistleblower complaint. 

A Politico-Morning Consult survey found that 46 percent of respondents now say Congress should begin impeachment proceedings, compared to 43 percent who say it should not

But in a number being watched more closely by GOP lawmakers and strategists, self-identified GOP voters are still largely opposed to impeaching Trump. A CNBC All-America Economic Survey released on Monday found that 88 percent of Republicans oppose impeaching Trump. 

Trump and Republicans routinely knocked reporters during the years-long investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Though former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerHouse impeachment hearings: The witch hunt continues Speier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' MORE outlined 10 instances of potential obstruction of justice by Trump in that probe, the president and his allies have touted the findings as a victory and accused reporters of rushing to judgement.

A Pew Research Survey released earlier this year found that 62 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters think made up news is a big problem in the country. Eighty-six percent of Republicans said in a separate 2018 Pew survey that they think the news favors one side. 

Others GOP senators suggested that reporters were ignoring stories including Biden and the origins of the Russia probe in favor of being hyper-focused on impeachment. 

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSondland testifies quid pro quo in Ukraine was real and widely known Dem senator says Zelensky was 'feeling the pressure' to probe Bidens Former Bush aide defends Vindman, criticizes GOP congressmen for 'defaming' him MORE (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said he still had “a lot of questions” on everything ranging from former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonAs Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Harris rips Gabbard over Fox appearances during Obama years Steyer, Gabbard and Yang shut out of early minutes of Democratic debate MORE’s emails to Biden's work in Ukraine. 

“People need to keep an open mind,” Johnson said during an event in Wisconsin. “The narrative from the mainstream media is all, like you say, the worst possible construction on this.”

Graham, who is known for chatting with reporters during the minutes-long walk back to his office, separately questioned in a tweet why reporters weren’t looking into “potential FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] abuse.” 

“Unfortunately, they have written off such accusations as ‘Right Wing Conspiracies,’ ” he added. “Pathetic journalism.“