White House lawyers have reportedly written a letter directing CNN, the New York Times and other US media outlets to scrutinize Republican lawmakers more aggressively as they try to impeach US President Joe Biden.
CNN and other recipients of the letter acknowledged getting the missive on Wednesday. “It’s time for the media to ramp up its scrutiny of House Republicans for opening an impeachment inquiry based on lies,” Ian Sams, a spokesman for the White House Counsel’s Office, wrote in the letter. He added that the impeachment efforts should “set off alarm bells for news organizations.”
US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California) launched the impeachment effort on Tuesday, directing committees of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to open a formal inquiry. He said allegations of influence-peddling and solicitation of bribes by the Biden family “paint a picture of a culture of corruption.”
Even before receiving any guidance from the White House, some US media outlets already appeared to be trying to protect the president. CNN and Associated Press, for instance, suggested that Republicans were trying to prosecute Biden without having evidence to justify their investigation.
Those outlets apparently ignored such evidence as the sworn testimony of IRS whistleblowers and the records of bank transfers that lawmakers have already revealed. By launching impeachment proceedings, congressional committees will gain more power to subpoena documents that could help prove or debunk the allegations.
Veteran US journalist Matthew Keys, who has worked for such outlets as Reuters and Fox News, said the White House directive on impeachment coverage was “not OK.” He added, “The White House should not be encouraging, influencing or interfering in the editorial strategies of America’s newsrooms, including CNN and the New York Times.” The letter could backfire, Keys said, because “any time the media does try to hold Republicans to account, those lawmakers can simply counter by questioning whether it’s actual journalism or something encouraged by the Biden administration.”
Legal scholar Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University, said the directive “has an uncomfortable feeling of marching orders to the media.” By trying to influence coverage of the impeachment inquiry, he argued, the administration “removes any pretense of separation between the Biden personal legal team and the White House Counsel’s Office.”
Sams, who also serves as a senior adviser to Biden, claimed that Republicans had failed in nearly nine months of investigation to “turn up any evidence of the president doing anything wrong.” He added that impeachment is “grave, rare and historic,” and the press must treat the claims of Republicans with “appropriate scrutiny.” The White House official attached a 14-page appendix to his memo providing talking points to address Republican “lies.”
Democrats previously controlled the House and twice impeached then-President Donald Trump.