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Conservative media, even on a dismal news day for Trump, stand by their man

Conservative media, even on a dismal news day for Trump, stand by their man
Hours after Tuesday's news about Paul Manafort's guilty verdicts and Michael Cohen's guilty plea, President Trump attends a rally in Charleston, W.Va. (Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

They stood at his side as he questioned the citizenship of the nation’s first black president, when audio captured him boasting about grabbing women’s genitals and after a pair of chummy summits with dictators.

For President Trump, his core backers are an unflappable network of support.

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On Wednesday, a day after his former attorney, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to fraud and campaign finance crimes and admitted he illegally paid off two women who had threatened to expose sexual affairs with Trump — at Trump’s direction, he alleged — right-wing news outlets and pundits had a similar reaction: silence.

Breitbart News, which has provided glowing coverage to Trump for, among other things, his immigration policies and “America First” philosophy, offered no indication on its home page of the controversies clouding the White House.

Instead, a lead headline focused mostly on the death of Mollie Tibbetts, an Iowa woman whose killer was suspected to be a man living in the country illegally. (Later Wednesday, a lawyer for the suspect filed a court document saying his client is in the country legally.) The headline of another lead story on Breitbart read, “Former Clinton pollster: Hillary broke campaign finance laws.”

A story on the Breitbart home page did allude to the Cohen guilty pleas, but centered on Trump criticizing his former personal attorney and, in turn, bringing up former President Obama.

“Michael Cohen plead guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime,” Trump said on Twitter on Wednesday. “President Obama had a big campaign finance violation and it was easily settled!”

In a separate tweet, Trump addressed the guilty verdicts handed down on Tuesday by a Virginia jury against his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, for tax evasion and bank fraud.

“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family,” Trump tweeted. “‘Justice’ took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ — make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.’ Such respect for a brave man!”

Several conservative commentators, along with the White House, on Wednesday attacked media coverage of Manafort’s conviction and Cohen’s guilty plea — and of the administration in general.

Steve Cortes, a conservative pundit, wrote an op-ed for RealClearPolitics that castigated “Washington-New York media elites” for their focus on scandals surrounding the administration.

“In contrast, the second ‘city’ of non-politically obsessed everyday Americans focuses on bread-and-butter issues that actually matter to their everyday lives,” Cortes wrote.

The White House also sought to downplay any Cohen and Manafort news and to continue the administration’s attacks on the press. An official White House email linked to Cortes’ column and contained the subject line: “Mainstream Media vs. Main Street USA.”

On the Federalist website, another stalwart in conservative media that offers unyielding support of Trump, Mollie Hemingway supplied “6 takeaways about Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen’s legal woes.”

Among them, the suggestion that this week’s news could all backfire on the Democrats: “A trap for the resistance?”

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Hemingway wrote that it’s possible that the reaction to the Cohen and Manafort news is “yet another example of overreach from an elite establishment out of touch with the American electorate that put Trump in power and that the previous attempts to unseat President Trump from his rightful election will bear poorly on latter-day attempts.”

“Democrats, Never Trump, and some media voices have been calling for impeachment for months, if not years. The details for impeachment are unimportant since the real crime seems to have been winning the 2016 election,” read the post.

Ann Coulter, who backed Trump throughout the 2016 election and has lauded him for his immigration policies, said on CSPAN that these convictions were an effort to undermine the president.

“The Manafort case has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Trump.... Liberal Democrats [are] just searching for crimes of anyone around Donald Trump,” she said.

Trump enjoys strong support from his base, despite the many troubles surrounding him — the special counsel’s Russia investigation and legal threats related to alleged affairs, among them. In a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll before this week’s events, his approval rating among Republican voters was 88%. Out the previous four presidents, only George W. Bush, in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, had a higher approval rating within his own party at the same point in his presidency.

Some conservatives, however, offered a bit of criticism of the president.

“President Trump swore an oath to ‘faithfully execute the office of President of the United States’ and, ‘to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.’ He should reflect on that more often,” Adam White, a research fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution, tweeted.

Hours after the Manafort verdicts and Cohen plea were announced, Trump traveled to West Virginia for a rally on Tuesday.

Thousands packed inside an auditorium holding signs and wearing hats emblazoned with his signature “Make America Great Again” slogan. He focused on illegal immigration and NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. He said nothing about Cohen and Manafort. At one point, the crowd — as it often times does — broke into a chant centered on Hillary Clinton.

“Lock her up!” they boomed. “Lock her up!”

Trump grinned and pumped his fist.

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