By Calling Impeachment Proceedings a 'Witch Hunt,' Trump Ignites the Right

Donald Trump has continually dubbed allegations against him a "witch hunt" since the early days of his presidency, as reports emerged about Russian interference in the general election, and his defiant response in the face of impeachment is no exception.

"There has been no President in the history of our Country who has been treated so badly as I have," Trump tweeted early Wednesday morning. "This should never be allowed to happen to another President. Witch Hunt!"

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the launch of an impeachment inquiry against the president on Tuesday. Democrats decided to move forward with the inquiry in response to Trump's decision to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine just days before he had a phone conversation with the nation's president and pressured him to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden's son, Hunter.

The White House released a transcript of the phone call later on Wednesday.

Trump previously admitted to pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the Bidens, but he has denied any connection between the conversation and the withholding of aid. Since Pelosi's announcement, Trump's eruption in his own defense has quickly spread to right-leaning news outlets, Republican lawmakers and, of course, his loyal Twitter following.

"It's a national disgrace," wrote author Nick Adams. "You are saving this country, Mr. President!"

Many others argued the impeachment inquiry would only help Trump's re-election campaign.

"They have wanted to impeach President Donald Trump from Nov 8, 2016," wrote conservative writer Carmine Sabia. "They have gotten our president elected again in 2020."

Readers on the conservative site Breitbart.com responded to the impeachment inquiry by the thousands. In response to an article posted Tuesday, regarding Democrats' demands for the phone call transcript, the most popular comment suggested Democrats have an ongoing objective.

"The transcript doesn't matter, the Mueller Report doesn't matter, the Electoral College doesn't matter, the economy doesn't matter," wrote Alex Haig. He argued that Democrats are simply trying to secure power.

Tucker Carlson of Fox News was dismissive of the impeachment inquiry on his show Tuesday night. He branded the Democratic case for impeachment "confusing and not all that interesting," while defending Trump's actions over the Ukraine affair.

Carlson then turned his attention to the unsubstantiated allegations of corruption against the Bidens and argued that Democrats will have to defend them in the lead-up to the election.

"Good luck with that," Carlson said.

Fox News' Chris Wallace seemed to take the controversy more seriously Tuesday night. He acknowledged there's "meat on the bones" for this investigation, in part because of things the Trump administration has said.

"Two parts of the basic story here—that the president wanted Biden investigated, and that he had previously stopped aid that had been approved by Congress for Ukraine—those have been confirmed by the administration," Wallace said.

The controversy began with a complaint by a whistleblower from the intelligence community to the inspector general. The complaint, which the Trump administration has not released, reportedly refers to the president's phone call on July 25 with Zelensky.

According to the transcript of the call, Trump repeatedly pressured Zelensky to investigate the Bidens.

"There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution, and a lot of people what to find out about that," Trump said. "So whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great."

Donald Trump on the phone
President Donald Trump speaks on the phone in the Oval Office of the White House on June 27, 2017, in Washington, D.C. Alex Wong/Getty

Two presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, have been impeached, while Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 under threat of impeachment. Privately, it was said Nixon called the Democratic allegations a "witch hunt," but publicly he deferred to the judicial and congressional processes.

"It would be neither fair nor appropriate for me to assess the evidence or comment on specific witnesses or their credibility," said Nixon in a statement prior to a national address in 1973. "That is the function of the Senate committee and the courts."

According to a 2017 study by Pew Research Center's Journalism Project, news reports about Trump have been more focused on his personality than his policy. They're also more likely to carry negative assessments of his actions.

A more recent study by the Media Research Center—endorsed by Trump's Twitter account—found 92 percent of Trump coverage was negative after reviewing more than 1,000 evening news stories from ABC, CBS, and NBC, adding broadcast networks' stories on Trump have been the most hostile in TV news history.

More than two-thirds of evening news coverage of the Trump presidency focused on the Russia investigation, immigration policy, the Brett Kavanaugh nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, North Korea diplomacy and U.S. relations with Russia, according to the study.

The New York Times is tracking 29 investigations related to Trump, including 11 congressional investigations, 10 federal criminal investigations and eight state and local investigations. The complaints range from alleged attempts to obstruct justice to the possible role of Trump and others in concealing hush money payments related to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.