In President Donald Trump's first interview since the conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Fox News host Sean Hannity asked the president whether he would consider pardoning campaign aides who pleaded guilty or were found guilty of crimes as part of the probe. The president demurred, saying that “many, many people were hurt, incredibly hurt by this whole scam,” but he doesn’t “want to talk about pardons now.”
After spending years undermining Mueller’s probe even as the special counsel obtained guilty pleas and verdicts against several top Trump campaign advisers, Fox personalities like Hannity have responded to the conclusion of the investigation last week by calling for pardons for Mueller’s so-called “victims.”
The network’s hosts have been particularly interested in obtaining pardons for former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign foreign policy aide George Papadopoulos, who both pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI, and for Trump confidant Roger Stone, who has been indicted on seven counts including lying to Congress and witness tampering.
These calls may end up having an impact — Trump regularly watches Fox and has previously issued pardonsin response to the network’s programming.
Tucker Carlson has led the way, pushing for pardons on three different broadcasts of his show in the last week, particularly for Stone. Trump reportedly loves Carlson’s show and watches it regularly, and he often tweets about Carlson segments that catch his attention.
During Wednesday night’s show, just minutes before the president’s live interview on Hannity, former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo concluded an interview by saying, “I just want to say one thing, Tucker: Pardon General Flynn, pardon George Papadopoulos, and pardon Roger Stone right now, Mr. President.”
“Immediately,” Carlson replied. “That's exactly right. I couldn’t agree with — don't wait until after the election, do it now. They deserve it now. Thank you.”
“Do it right now on Twitter,” Caputo responded.
“I agree! I agree!” Carlson said.
“Where are the pardons here? Carlson asked retired CIA officer John Kiriakou after mentioning Stone on Tuesday’s broadcast. “I mean, is it time for the executive branch to send a really clear message we're going to stop the destruction of innocent people by completely out of control bureaucrats?”
“I think it is the time for pardons,” Kiriakou replied.
Carlson later added that “it doesn't make sense not to pardon people” and said Trump has an “obligation” to do so since the Mueller probe was “a scam and a hoax.”
And on Friday, Carlson argued that “there was no collusion,” but “Stone is still looking at life in prison.” Carlson asked, “Where is Roger Stone's pardon? His pardon from the president? Let's hope it comes very soon.”
Later in the program, Carlson asked Ed Henry, who is both Fox News’ chief national correspondent and a co-host of "Fox & Friends’" weekend editions, whether Henry had heard that the president was considering a pardon for Stone. Henry replied that he had not, but that “based on the conversations I have had,” he thinks “it is entirely possible that you could see [former Trump campaign chair Paul] Manafort, Stone, and others pardoned.”
While Carlson has been the loudest Fox voice urging Trump to issue pardons, he is not the only one. On Tuesday, Papadopoulos announced that his lawyers had formally requested a pardon from the president, triggering debate on several of the network’s programs.
Fox’s Steve Hilton told "Special Report" guest host John Roberts that he would recommend Trump issue the pardon to ensure “fairness and equal justice.” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) told Fox’s Neil Cavuto that the president should instead pardon Flynn, whose investigation Paul claimed had been “unfair.” And Fox Business’ Stuart Varney said that he expected pardons for both to be granted.
On Tuesday night, Papadopoulos was able to make his pitch to the president directly through a friendly interview with Fox’s Martha MacCallum.
“Do you think you’re going to get a pardon from President Trump?” MacCallum asked, after credulously allowing Papadopoulos to tell his story of purportedly being “set up.”
“I have no idea. I have no expectation for it,” he replied. “I know my lawyers have formally applied for one and if I'm granted one it would be a tremendous honor, and of course I would accept.”
“You already spent 12 days in federal prison, which I'm sure was not a picnic,” MacCallum responded. “But you'd like to have that off your record.”
If Trump is heeding the messages he’s been getting from Fox, Papadopoulos may get his wish.