Why aren't Democrats weaponizing Fox News on impeachment?

President Trump’s impeachment defense rests entirely on thoroughly debunked right-wing conspiracy theories. As Senator and former GOP presidential nominee Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneySenate Republicans muscle through rules for Trump trial Senate blocks push to subpoena Bolton in impeachment trial Impeachment trial begins with furor over rules MORE aptly noted, Republicans now find themselves on a Machiavellian (and Faustian) crusade to maintain power at all costs — facts, logic and duty to country be damned.

If historically-timid Democrats take their dedication to the rule of law and the Constitution seriously, they'll realize that much of Trump’s political base is impervious to arguments – no matter how logical or factually sound – made outside of the truth-starved, conspiracy theory-peddling right wing media bubble. Welcome to Trumpian America.

With that reality in mind, Democrats should relentlessly promote the astutely spirited analysis of Fox News’ chief judicial correspondent. Judge Napolitano has stated on multiple live television interviews that in pushing a foreign leader to perform a political “favor” for him, Trump engaged in “criminal and impeachable behavior.” In an era where powerful right wing echo chambers reign supreme, Napolitano’s assessment is a messaging gold mine for constitutionally-minded (yet painfully PR-illiterate) Democrats.


Indeed, given Fox News’ catnip-like effect on Trump’s red-meat base, one must ask why Democrats are not squeezing every ounce of messaging value out of Napolitano’s spot-on legal analysis. Democrats, apparently, continue to lack the go-for-the-jugular mentality that their right wing counterparts have successfully embraced for decades.

Judge Napolitano’s blistering take, especially in the context of the roiling internal conflict between Fox News’ reporting and commentary divisions, should be a Democratic talking point, repeated ad nauseam, in every single media appearance. The same goes for Fox News characterizing a series of text messages exchanged by U.S. diplomats as “devastating” to Trump. Equally noteworthy is a former Republican senator’s stunning suggestion that “at least 35” of his former GOP colleagues would privately vote to impeach Trump. 

Relentless promotion of these explosive Fox News pieces knocks the GOP on its heels and forces Trump’s base into the challenging position of defending its own propaganda machine.

Of course, in an era of (per Fox News) “astonishing” and “deeply misleading” right wing spin, the occasional dissension from Trumpian orthodoxy, by itself, is not going to cut it.

Indeed, in previous decades, the transcript of Trump’s phone call with the president of Ukraine would have sufficed as the “smoking gun” leading directly to impeachment. Not anymore. As Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera rightly noted, a powerful right wing propaganda machine is shielding Trump from Nixon’s fate.


With that reality in mind, Democrats need more evidentiary “meat” – in tandem with a blistering, Twitter-ready marketing strategy – to overcome the decades-long psychological operation that right wing media have mounted against the American public. 

Democrats can start with the issue of U.S. security assistance to Ukraine. Why, after five years, did Trump suddenly and unilaterally halt critical American military aid to an ally at war? Trump’s own national security team – let alone Congress, which authorized the funding – was left utterly baffled and blindsided by the decision. The same goes for the Ukrainians.

While Fox News has reported that Trump engaged in an impeachable “quid pro quo,” his abrupt halt of U.S. assistance to Kyiv strikes at the heart of the crisis. Not only did the president of the United States illegally solicit foreign interference in an American election for personal gain, he did so by withholding crucial aid to an ally in the midst of a bloody conflict. As noted separately, Trump’s excuse for suddenly and inexplicably halting assistance to Ukraine is utterly laughable. 

Moreover, Democrats must investigate how Trump used Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiSenate rejects subpoenaing Mulvaney to testify in impeachment trial GOP rejects effort to compel documents on delayed Ukraine aid Citizens United put out a welcome mat for Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman MORE’s highly improper backchannel with Ukraine to extort the Ukrainian president into opening a baseless, politically-motivated investigation into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSanders joins Biden atop 2020 Democratic field: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Trump says impeachment lawyers were 'really good' MORE. In dispatching Giuliani to do his political dirty work, one must wonder if Trump figured that he could hide behind attorney-client privilege if the plot ever came to light, as it now has. In much the same vein, the firing of a widely-respected American diplomat in order to enrich Trump’s cronies reeks of swampian corruption

If nothing else, Trump is transactional. He has to personally get something out of every “deal.” As such, Democrats should also investigate whether Trump pushed the Ukrainian government to drop criminal investigations into his campaign manager’s enormously corrupt dealings in exchange for then-newly approved lethal military aid.

The constant drip of “devastating” revelations, Fox News’ (occasional) crushing analysis and diligent investigation by congressional Democrats have landed Trump in truly hot political water. It is high time for more patriots at Fox News (and in the overarching right wing media bubble) to set blind tribalism aside and speak out against a rogue president.

Marik von Rennenkampff served as an analyst with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, as well as an Obama administration appointee at the U.S. Department of Defense. Follow him on Twitter @MvonRen.