Watching Fox

Fox News Has Spent All Day Begging Donald Trump Not to Tweet About the Mueller Indictments

He’s concentrating very hard on trying not to tweet.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

It’s been a big news day thus far, especially for Fox News, which has had to simultaneously report on the charges brought by special prosecutor Robert Mueller and spin that news to deflect attention away from President Donald Trump. Fox News, as an entity, really wants to create plausible distance between the Trump campaign/administration and Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and George Papadopoulos. Their work on this would be made easier if Trump would agree to shut up on Twitter.

Fox has been adamant Monday that Donald Trump should absolutely not tweet about the Mueller investigation and the Manafort indictment. The network’s hosts and guests have made this point at least four separate times on four separate shows. I first took note of this during the 10 a.m. hour on America’s Newsroom, when co-host Bill Hemmer noted that the president had recently tweeted the following:

“How should the president go through this, conduct himself, choose to react and respond at appropriate times and perhaps not respond at others?” Hemmer asked his guest, Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican and staunch Trump supporter. “And I ask you that question because there have been a lot of analysts yesterday and today suggesting [he] just lie low.”

“I agree with that—I would advise the president to stay away from this. Don’t lower himself to get involved in this. The fact is that there is nothing there. His lawyer can put out a one-line statement saying that,” said King. “So the president, to me, he’s just giving—he is dignifying all of the rumors that are out there. Forget it. So far there is nothing. I doubt there will be. But, again, we have to wait and see. “

Hemmer seemed skeptical. “If he fought back against Sen. Corker and Jeff Flake, you imagine what sort of response he may give on this,” said Hemmer. You sure can!

The next hour, on Happening Now, University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato directly referenced Trump’s tweets. “The president is convinced that there was no collusion. He feels that very strongly. He’s tweeted it out,” said Sabato. “I’m sure his lawyers have told him to say little. To say as little as possible. If he says as little as possible, if he doesn’t have any pre-emptive pardons, then I’m not going to say that he is free and clear, but in a much better position than he would be otherwise.”

Good advice. Will he follow it? “The president would help himself if he stopped generating side controversies. Those things are just not helpful,” said Sabato. “Anyway, he would be better just issuing a press release daily about the latest good number on the economy.”

Next up, on Outnumbered, Harris Faulkner and Sandra Smith used Sabato’s remarks to pivot into a discussion on how very, very important it is for the president to be quiet. “[Sabato] said ‘Be quiet. Do not tweet, don’t even comment on this.’ He said that last hour on Fox News Channel,” said Smith.

Mononymous panelist Kennedy, the former MTV VJ who now hosts a slightly less hip program on Fox Business Channel, showed some sympathy for our logorrheic leader. “I actually understand the president’s frustration here because if you feel like you haven’t done anything wrong and you feel like there are great and powerful forces working against you—and his greatest political opponent, Hillary Clinton, he feels like she has done so much wrong and has gotten off scot-free and will probably never meet real justice in her lifetime—I understand that and I understand that urge to protect what you’ve worked very hard for,” said Kennedy. “Having said that, you can do more damage to yourself and to your administration by feeding those impulses for justice in the moment.”

There are a lot of good reasons for Trump to stay quiet on the Mueller investigation, not least that his tweets could theoretically be used as investigative fodder. A cautious man would leave it to the lawyers here. Donald Trump is not that man. “I’m trying to think, Katie, of all the times since he has been president that Trump was warned: ‘Don’t respond, don’t say anything, be quiet,’ and if he ever really did just that,” Smith asked Katie Pavlich.

“There are political moments where he says things where Republicans wish that he wouldn’t. That is not really an issue, but when it comes to the legality of what the special counsel is investigating, he does have the potential to get himself in trouble because he doesn’t know the scope of the special investigation,” Pavlich replied. “There are many, many, many avenues that he could stumble into, on accident, by simply talking about things he is unaware of. And it’s a distraction to his agenda.”

That was that for Outnumbered. I was worried that Outnumbered Overtime wouldn’t get around to talking about Trump’s tweets, since most of the program was spent waiting for and then airing Monday’s White House press briefing. But right after the briefing ended, Faulkner spoke with Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Republican from New York. “Our economy’s done great in 2017. It could do better in 2018,” said Zeldin. “Consumer spending is up. We saw new numbers today. I want to see them go higher. GDP, two consecutive quarters at 3 percent, it can continue. But we have to improve the business climate as much as possible as quickly as possible.”

“I bet you would like for the president to be focusing his tweets on that,” said Faulkner. Indeed!