Viewers tuning into Fox News Tuesday expecting the network’s more typical pro-Trump reporting may have been surprised to hear a different kind of message. Anchor Shepard Smith, one of Fox News’s few hosts who regularly criticizes the president, used news of House Democrats’ latest act against the White House’s stonewalling to urge his viewers to go read the Mueller report already—because it doesn’t exonerate the president as President Donald Trump and his base love to claim. “Everyone in America should read” the 400-plus page report, Smith said. “Everyone.”
The Fox anchor’s reminder about the Mueller report’s actual contents came as Smith reported that the House has escalated their fight against the Trump administration, passing a resolution along party lines that makes it easier for lawmakers to sue those who don’t comply with congressional subpoenas. Smith told viewers to “remember” that Mueller’s report “laid out ten instances of apparent obstruction of justice, criminal obstruction of justice, potentially, by President Trump.” “The special counsel did not exonerate the president,” Smith added. ”They said if they could’ve they would’ve but they couldn’t so they didn’t. Mueller explained that if he and his team had confidence that the president did not commit obstruction, they would have said so.” The anchor also explained to his viewers why it was now Congress’s job to act on the Mueller’s report’s contents, saying that Mueller’s report states “that under Justice Department guidelines, charging the president with a crime was never an option to him. He said the Constitution requires another process.” Such a blatant explanation may be necessary for Smith’s viewers, as recent polls have indicated that despite the Mueller report’s findings, Americans still remain divided on whether or not the report cleared Trump of any wrongdoing.
Smith’s comments aren’t exactly anything new from the frequent Trump critic, who’s previously denounced everything from Trump’s “Spygate” allegations to the idea that Mueller’s investigation was a “witch hunt.” (Trump, naturally, is no fan of Smith; he’s described him on Twitter as Fox’s “lowest rated anchor” who “should be working” at CNN.) But Smith’s public emphasis on the Mueller report’s findings puts him in a tiny yet vocal minority of public figures with Republican audiences who have seemingly been alarmed after reading the full report. Republican Rep. Justin Amash officially departed the House Freedom Caucus Tuesday amid his outspokenness on Trump’s impeachment, which came only after he read Mueller’s findings in full. “I initially fell for Attorney General Barr’s March 24 letter of principal conclusions—but then I read Mueller’s report,” Amash tweeted Friday.
But will these pleas actually get anyone to read the lengthy report? The American public hasn’t seemed particularly interested so far; a CNN poll released May 1 found that 75% of respondents hadn’t read any of the Mueller report, and only 3% had read it in its entirety. And even some lawmakers on Capitol Hill can’t be bothered to pick it up. A Washington Post investigation found that of 92 congressional and Senate offices surveyed, only 60-65% of lawmakers had read the Mueller report in its entirety, including only 48% of Republicans. “The role I play in Congress, I promise you, is not to try to bring down a sitting president,” Republican Rep. Rob Woodall said on MSNBC in an attempt to explain why he hadn’t read the full report. Whether the increased efforts by Amash and Smith will inspire Americans both inside and outside Washington to re-think their reticence to diving into the report remains to be seen—though Amash has suggested there may be signs of hope. ”I’ve had people who, after I made my tweets, said, boy, they better review [the Mueller report] more carefully now, and they hadn’t really gone through it before,” Amash told the Detroit News in May. “When you read Volume Two and see the totality of it, it speaks for itself. . . . There’s a difference between skimming the pages and actually reading it and understanding it.”
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