CNN, MSNBC Insiders Shudder at Idea of Hiring MAGA Mouthpieces

Of note:

If soon-to-be former Trump White House officials were hoping to snag paid talking-head roles at the major television networks, they may be in for a rude awakening.

It’s become a political ritual every four years: After each presidential election cycle, cable and broadcast news executives race to woo outgoing administration officials or top figures from the winning and losing campaigns for cushy roles as talking heads.

Not this time. With Trump’s top aides and advisers all taking their sycophancy to perilous new heights, actively participating in the outgoing president’s efforts to undermine the integrity of the vote, their utility as political pundits may have expired.

The Daily Beast spoke with executives and insiders from many of the top cable and broadcast news networks including CNN, MSNBC, CBS News, and ABC News, and most relayed the same message: Unless they retreat to the comforts of Fox News or even far-right outlets like Newsmax or One America News Network, the former Trump officials who have repeatedly lied to or denigrated reporters shouldn’t expect to land a network paycheck.

CNN, in particular, has traditionally been a safe landing spot for former top campaign officials, regardless of party affiliation. Just days after he exited Trump’s 2016 campaign team, former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski landed a commentator gig at CNN, despite his at-times physically aggressive relationship with the press and the fact that he had a non-disparagement agreement preventing him from speaking freely about the president. His colleague, Trump 2016 spokesman Jason Miller, was also hired by CNN, until being canned in 2018 over allegations (which he vehemently denied) that he impregnated a woman and secretly slipped her an abortion pill.

But the post-2020 outlook for former Trump campaign and administration officials will likely not be as friendly.

“Most of us probably are hoping that we will be seeing very little of these people—unless they are willing to be more honest,” a well-placed CNN insider told The Daily Beast. “The ones that are still out there who are well-known creeps like Jason Miller and Boris Epshteyn—nobody is going to be hiring these people.”

People who work with CNN chief Jeff Zucker relayed that he has been personally offended by the frequent and vicious attacks on CNN from Trumpworld figures, who’ve flamed any and all news outlets reporting remotely negative information on the president. Throughout the Trump era, the network became increasingly emboldened in taking the fight back to a hostile administration. Aside from on-air chyrons fact-checking various Trump lies in real-time, some of the network’s top news personalities have been publicly critical of the administration, in some cases abruptly ending interviews mid-broadcast when Trump officials refuse to substantively engage with the questions, and instead launch ad hominem attacks against journalists.

CNN insiders who spoke with The Daily Beast said there would likely be internal discontent if network bosses decided to pay ex-Trump officials who’ve repeatedly denigrated the network and are now working to undermine the 2020 election on behalf of the outgoing president. There seems to be zero interest, these sources said, in trying to poach even the most visible Trump campaign and White House staffers like Hogan Gidley and Tim Murtaugh—who both have extensive comms backgrounds in D.C.—or Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, a career right-wing pundit with previous stints at Fox News and CNN.

But Zucker himself may not be a part of the network’s future for long. It’s widely known in media circles that the CNN boss is unhappy with parent company WarnerMedia’s restructuring moves, which reduced his role, and has not yet re-upped his soon-to-expire contract. It’s possible that a CNN without Zucker—who personally meets with and vets many on-air contributors—could be more receptive to some ex-Trump officials, sources cautioned.

Unlike CNN, MSNBC does not have the same extensive history of paying partisan contributors for on-air appearances, though throughout Trump’s term the network cultivated a stable of so-called “Never Trump” Republicans. Multiple network insiders said the liberal-leaning, Comcast-owned cable network is unlikely to welcome any high-profile Trump loyalists, even gratis, to share their insights into the ongoing failures of a Joe Biden presidency.

“If you’re a person who was a career government official who happened to serve the Trump administration—somebody like Mark Esper or Elliott Abrams—we might have them on,” said an MSNBC insider, “but it’s likely that if Kayleigh McEnany has a book she’s selling, she will definitely be blacklisted. The same goes for someone like Hogan Gidley.”

But it’s not as though they aren’t already trying to get back into the professional pundit class. Even as top Trump officials entertain the president’s “voter fraud” delusions, one agent told The Daily Beast, “They’re all emailing saying, ‘Can you come meet up next week?’” Fox News reported on Wednesdaythat Trump’s communications director Alyssa Farah has been interviewing TV agents, pursuing a job after her White House exit. (Farah declined to respond to The Daily Beast on the record.)

Another MSNBC insider suggested that some shows like Morning Joe would consider booking less aggressive Trump supporters like former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, currently a contributor at ABC News, “because he has had enough access to be in the room for Trump’s debate prep and get COVID, but at least he’s rooted in reality.”

Meanwhile, predictions that MSNBC’s and for that matter CNN’s ratings are likely to decline under the relative normalcy of a Biden administration might be inoperative if Trump—as seems likely—continues to exert political and cultural influence and presides over a kind of resistance shadow presidency after leaving the White House on Jan. 20.

MSNBC, for one, found a solid business model over the past four years in the relentless narrative, especially in primetime, that Trump was a malevolent force whose presidency was apt to end at any moment in impeachment.

It’s possible, said one cable-news executive, that Trump could still drive ratings even when out of office. “It remains to be seen whether that would compel people to watch obsessively every day like they’ve been doing for the last four years,” the exec said.

Some networks also now have the added concern that Trump-loving contributors could use their perch to feed inside information to anti-media activists as part of Trumpworld’s ongoing efforts to discredit any and all of his critics.

“As a news org, how do you allow someone in your news organization who could James O’Keefe you in a second?” one network executive wondered, referring to the founder of Project Veritas, a right-wing group that uses hidden-camera footage to attempt to show bias at media organizations.

Of course, lack of network interest likely won’t stop some of the most high-profile Trump White House and admin figures from ever popping up again on television.

Gidley, McEnany, Murtagh, and others already get top billing when they appear on Fox News, where they could well join former Trump White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who regularly appears on-air and has a network contributor contract. Other former administration officials like Sean Spicer have found gigs at Newsmax, while others like Sebastian Gorka and Steve Bannon—the federally indicted (for alleged fundraising fraud) former White House chief strategist—have expended their talking-head energies in right-wing radio and podcasting.

“Can I see Mark Meadows appearing as an analyst on MSNBC? No, but on Fox News, yeah, for sure,” one network executive remarked, singling out Trump’s pugnacious chief of staff. Another cable-news insider suggested Fox News might look to hire several MAGA officials to boost its suddenly lagging credibility with Trumpkins angry with the network for calling the election for Biden and not fully playing along with the president’s baseless voter-fraud allegations.

And for networks like CNN and MSNBC—self-styled guardians of democratic norms and civil discourse—President-elect Joe Biden’s reconciliatory Saturday evening victory speech may loom large over decisions on whether to extend an olive branch to ex-Trump henchmen and women.

“Let’s give each other a chance. It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric. To lower the temperature. To see each other again,” he implored. “To listen to each other again. To make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy. We are not enemies. We are Americans.”

“Obviously there are 71 million people who voted for the president and there should be someone that represents their views and can talk about the political landscape,” another network executive told The Daily Beast.

And the networks are already seeking workarounds for representing conservative views on their air without hiring toxic ex-Trump officials. One TV industry insider said there has already been interest from various outlets in hiring the Republican Senate candidates who lost this year, as well as other outgoing GOP members of Congress. Like former Sen. Rick Santorum—a CNN contributor who essentially acts as a the network’s pro-Trump punching bag—these outgoing conservative lawmakers would likely be expected to speak about Republican politics as well as the ravings of the soon-to-be former president and his devoted base.

But some cable-newsers are skeptical that even the most repulsive ex-Trump officials will be totally shunned from a career in punditry.

“I won’t be surprised if some of the folks who were most reviled by mainstream media, Democrats, the resistance, etc., find pretty good jobs when this is over—in the media and in Washington—because ultimately politics is transactional,” said one CNN insider. “And the impulse to punish people leaving the Trump administration will be overshadowed by the impulse to profit off the people leaving the Trump administration.”

Source: CNN, MSNBC Insiders Shudder at Idea of Hiring MAGA Mouthpieces

Passports for Sale – CBS News

Follow-up interview to CBS’s 60 Minute exposé of citizenship-by-investment schemes. Long article but interviews revealing:

It’s provided St. Kitts and Nevis with hundreds of millions of dollars for infrastructure projects, private development, and tourism but a lot of the money is unaccounted for. More than 10,000 people have purchased citizenship here, but it’s almost impossible to tell who they are because the information is not public. Chris Kalin doesn’t like the words citizenship for cash, or any suggestion that all you need is money to get a passport.

Chris Kalin: You have to go through a process. You have to apply. And you have to answer a million questions. And you have to undergo a background verification. And you have, at least in the properly run programs, you have to be a reputable person. And that’s checked.

But evidently, not that carefully. About the only way to identify people who have purchased St. Kitts citizenship is if they’ve happened to turn up on a list of international fugitives or gotten in trouble with the law, and St. Kitts and Nevis has had more than its share for two sleepy, little islands. Its passport holders have included a Canadian penny stock manipulator… a Russian wanted for bribery… a Kazak wanted for embezzlement… two Ukrainians suspected of bribing a U.N. official… and two Chinese women wanted for financial crimes.

Chris Kalin: I think it’s no secret that these islands have made decisions that are not always optimal.

Steve Kroft: They’ve taken some bozos, as you would call them?

Chris Kalin: Yes, exactly.

Steve Kroft: What about crooks?

Chris Kalin: Yes. It’s goes all the way down to crooks, yeah, absolutely. And it tended for some time to attract quite a few people that I would never let into the country. But I’m not the government of St. Kitts and Nevis.

Steve Kroft: But you set up their program.

Chris Kalin: We helped to set up the program. But, you know, as it is, advisers advise, ministers decide.

The island nation drew the ire of the U.S. Treasury Department three years ago after three suspected Iranian operatives were caught using their St. Kitts passports to launder money for banks in Tehran in violation of U.S. sanctions. It also had to recall more than 5,000 passports because they either didn’t include a place of birth or were issued to people who had changed their names. Since then a number of reforms have been made, but questions remain.

Peter Vincent: They’re not transparent programs. There are not safeguards in place.

Until 2014, Peter Vincent was the top legal adviser for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, part of the department of Homeland Security, which he says is well aware of all the vulnerabilities. In fact, before General John F. Kelly became secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, he expressed concern in a 2015 report that “cash for passport programs could be exploited by criminals, terrorists or other nefarious actors.”

Steve Kroft: Does that present a security threat, do you think?

Peter Vincent: It does. In my opinion, the global community has established a very effective global security architecture to prevent terrorist attacks. I see these cash for citizenship programs as a gaping hole in that security architecture.

antigua-ciu-program-door-sign.jpg

Government of Antigua and Barbuda’s Citizenship by Investment Unit

CBS NEWS

But it’s not stopped the programs from multiplying across the Caribbean…Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, and Antigua are all competing with St. Kitts now for customers and badly needed cash.

Gaston Browne: So what are we supposed to do? Sit back and do nothing? You tell me.

Gaston Browne, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, says the revenue from its four-year-old program has kept the government from defaulting on its international loans and has turned the economy around. Antigua also claims to have among the strictest programs in the Caribbean. You actually have to show up here to get citizenship, albeit very briefly.

Gaston Browne: Our law provides them to spend at least five days here.

Steve Kroft: That sounds like a vacation.

Gaston Browne: Yes. I understand. But however, we have made sure that at least there must be some face-to-face contact so we know who these people are.

Steve Kroft: For five days.

Gaston Browne: Minimum.

Steve Kroft: What kinda people are you looking for?

Gaston Browne: We’re lookin’ for high net worth individuals. People who are established business people. Who are well-known. And to make sure that we get the crème de la crème.

If so, they are recruiting them in some odd places. Last summer, Antigua announced it was opening an embassy in Baghdad hoping to sell passports to Iraqis. It didn’t work out. But it’s doing better next door in Syria after hiring a relative of President Bashar Al-Assad to represent them.

Steve Kroft: Have you had any applications from Syria?

Gaston Browne: Yes. We have had applications from Syria.

Steve Kroft: And you’ve approved them.

Gaston Browne: Syria is one of the areas in which we have had some concerns but did not place it on a restricted list.

Prime Minister Browne told us instability breeds opportunity. Besides Syria, Antigua has sold citizenship to Iranians, Libyans, Pakistanis, and the people who brought condos in this half-built complex in the desert outside Dubai, 7,300 miles away from Antigua. Its website advertised, “Buy a villa in the UAE and get citizenship of Antigua.”

Steve Kroft: I mean, you said that you were looking for the crème de la crème.

Gaston Browne: Crème de la crème.

Steve Kroft: I mean, there’s a developer in Dubai.

Gaston Browne: Yes.

Steve Kroft: Sweet Homes.

Gaston Browne: Yes.

Steve Kroft: Who is advertising that he’s giving away passports to anyone who buys a condominium there.

Gaston Browne: You don’t believe that, right?

Steve Kroft: Like you open a bank account, you get a free toaster.

Gaston Browne: That is not so.

Browne dismissed the sweet homes ads as advertising hype, saying the citizenship is not free or guaranteed. Somebody has to come up with $250,000 for Antigua and condo buyers must pass a background check.

Gaston Browne: You have to go through all of the due diligence.

Steve Kroft: What kinda due diligence do you do?

Gaston Browne: Well, and that is where the crux of the matter lies.

dominica-diplomatic-passport.jpg

A diplomatic passport from Dominica

CBS NEWS

The prime minister claimed that the names of all applicants for Antiguan citizenship are screened by American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and generally speaking due diligence in the Caribbean has improved substantially since the scandals in St. Kitts. The small island offices with a few people are now backed up by international firms that take the screening to a higher level. But ultimately it’s up to each country to decide who gets a passport, and the Caribbean has a rich history of turning a blind eye to official corruption. It’s affected the way the way passports are handed out, especially diplomatic passports, that entitle the bearer to all sorts of special privileges, which Peter Vincent says represents a much more serious security threat.

Peter Vincent: The border officials at the receiving country, even without a visa, almost always admit an individual carrying a diplomatic passport. In addition, border forces are not entitled to search the luggage of diplomats like they are for regular tourists. They simply wave them through.

The sale of diplomatic passports is not part of the citizenship by investment program, but it’s gone on under the table, according to U.S. authorities, in places like Dominica, which has had a lot of dodgy diplomats.

Lennox Linton: We had a diplomatic passport in the hands of Francesco Corallo, who, at the time, was on INTERPOL’s list of most-wanted criminals.

Lennox Linton, who heads the opposition in Parliament, says no one in Dominica had ever heard of Corallo until he was stopped by authorities in Italy.

Lennox Linton: He said, “You can’t detain me. I’m a diplomat.” They said, “Diplomat? Diplomat of where?” He said, “Dominica.”

Then there’s Dominican diplomat Alison Madueke, a former Nigerian oil minister charged with bribery and money laundering. And Rudolph King, a Bahamian fugitive from U.S. justice, who presented himself as Dominica’s special envoy to Bahrain.

Lennox Linton: What we were doing with an ambassador in Bahrain, I don’t quite know. But they seem to think that there was some benefit in there for us.

Steve Kroft: I assume that you’ve asked the prime minister…

Lennox Linton: Yes.

Steve Kroft: How he ended up appointing these people, diplomats.

Lennox Linton: Yes.

Steve Kroft: And what was the answer?

Lennox Linton: The prime minister doesn’t answer those questions.

With vast sums of money flowing into these island nations, and more and more countries selling their citizenship, there is consensus that still more oversight and transparency is needed. But privacy and secrecy have always been a major selling point for people buying multiple passports, including Chris Kalin, the man who invented the business plan.

Steve Kroft: How many do you have?

Chris Kalin: I have multiple.

Steve Kroft: So you don’t wanna tell us how many you have?

Chris Kalin: There’s a few things in my life that, that I don’t talk openly about. And I keep for myself. But I am Swiss originally and many people think I’m very Swiss and so I’ll leave it at that.

Our report in January sparked a flurry of reaction in the Caribbean. In Dominica, there were riots demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit for his handling of diplomatic passports. He denies any improprieties. The St. Kitts government deactivated more than 15,000 passports, including 91 diplomatic passports. And Antigua’s program — singled out by the U.S. State Department as “among the most lax in the world” — has also recalled many of its diplomatic passports.

Source: Passports for Sale – CBS News