The on-going Department of Justice investigation into allegations of misconduct at Fox News could potentially be hindered by the close relationship between President Trump and the media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, some claim. As has been widely reported, the probe has now expanded to include the U.S. Postal Service to establish whether the corporation disclosed financial settlements to their shareholders, or concealed them.
The president and the media baron have a long, often turbulent and convoluted history. Now, however, Rupert Murdoch is rumored to be advising Donald Trump on an almost daily basis, according to the New York Times.
“The president speaks to Murdoch now almost every day. And Murdoch speaks with Jared Kushner as well. Murdoch is one of the people who urges the president to stay focused on the economy narrowly and foreign policy more broadly.”
This new, placatory alliance has raised eyebrows in some quarters, prompting questions as to whether their close association breaches ethical standards when a criminal investigation is on-going. Moreover, the Murdoch-Trump union is not confined to the head of state and the media tycoon; Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and advisor, is also believed to meet with the Fox chief on a regular basis. Ivanka Trump, Kushner’s wife and the president’s daughter, was once a trustee for Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng’s two daughters, and is reported to enjoy a warm relationship with the Fox boss.
At a recent Austrailia-U.S. event, Rupert Murdoch made no secret of his close ties to the U.S. president, introducing him as “my friend.”
“It is my distinct honor to introduce the commander in chief, the president of the United States, my friend Donald J. Trump.”
Historically, safeguards were put in place to protect the Department of Justice from political pressure. Under the George W. Bush administration, however, these safeguards were relaxed. In 2007 and 2009, after the Justice Department Inspector General raised concerns about the probity of the department’s prosecutions, safeguards were strengthened to insulate the DOJ. As a result of former-Attorney General Eric Holder’s guidelines of 2009, communications between White House officials and the DOJ are limited.
In light of the close relationship between Murdoch and Trump, questions are being raised about whether Trump or his advisors are exchanging information with the DOJ, in relation to the Fox investigation. Mr Trump’s recent decision to fire Preet Bharara, the U.S attorney who initiated the investigation into Fox News, has further fueled the controversy.
Preet Bharara has been replaced by Joon H. Kim, but this is a temporary position until President Trump appoints a replacement. In November, however, the New York Post, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, hinted that Trump’s shortlist for replacing Bharara included Marc Mukasey, personal attorney of Roger Ailes, Fox’s former CEO.
In the U.K, Ofcom is assessing the recent bid by 21st Century Fox for full control of the Satellite broadcaster, Sky. Although the regulator will examine the bid in the context of media plurality, a “fit and proper person” test will also be undertaken. Under the Broadcasting Acts of 1990 and 1996, Ofcom has a responsibility to ensure that any relevant misconduct by a broadcasting licensee, including controlling directors and shareholders, is taken into consideration. If it is deemed that the licensee is not a fit and proper person, then the licence will be withdrawn.
Wendy Walsh, who accused Fox’s Bill O’Reilly of sexual harassment, has stated that she will appear before Ofcom and offer her evidence. The regulatory body is due to report on the fit and proper person test in June, after the U.K. general elections.
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