Flashback: MSNBC, CNN touted Mueller probe as the end for Trump: 'He's going down'

Jon Stewart recently mocked dramatic 'bombshell' coverage of the Mueller investigation

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Comedian Jon Stewart unleashed on the media in a tirade earlier this month over its handling of the many would-be "bombshell" moments of the sprawling Robert Mueller investigation into alleged collusion between Russia and Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

You motherf---rs spent two years filled with breaking bombshells and urgent explosions and teed up a season finale for the ages," Stewart said on March 17 during his show "The Problem with Jon Stewart."

Indeed, MSNBC and CNN often boasted that Mueller and his Russia investigation would spell the end of Trump and his administration until the final probe report failed to produce criminal charges against the former president. Critics argue coverage of the investigation exacerbated an already increasing weariness of the mainstream media by the American public. 

Last year, a new Gallup poll revealed Americans have a consistent lack of trust in media, with more than three-quarters of the public not saying they had much confidence in newspapers or television news. 

On November 15, 2018, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, while discussing a series of tweets by Trump criticizing Mueller, asserted the former commander-in-chief was "lashing out" because he saw "the walls closing in." 


A photo illustration depicts CNN anchors Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon and Brian Stelter

A photo illustration depicts CNN anchors Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon and Brian Stelter (Photo by Dominik Bindl/Getty Images  |  REUTERS/Mike Blake  |  Getty Images)

Multiple CNN segments repeatedly echoed nearly identical phrases when discussing the seemingly distressing situation that Trump appeared to be heading towards. 

"He’s desperate. He’s obviously flailing around because he knows—he feels the walls closing in," Harvard Professor Laurence Tribe said less than a month later to then-CNN anchor Chris Cuomo. 

MSNBC also used the phrase on multiple occasions during the same time period. 

During an August 2017 appearance on "Morning Joe," former CIA director John Brennan used the "walls closing in" phrase. Meanwhile, New York Times journalist Peter Baker also asserted the "walls" were "closing in" on Trump in August 2018. 

Another New York Times reporter, Michael Schmidt, stated in early 2018 that Trump recognized Mueller as an "existential threat to his presidency."


MSNBC also tirelessly asserted that Mueller’s appointment to the Russia investigation and former FBI Director James Comey’s firing were "the beginning of the end" for Trump.

"You can feel the thread being pulled. You can feel the clothes start to come off the emperor. I believe this is the beginning of the end," Donny Deutsch said in May 2017 on MSNBC. 

The ominous "beginning of the end" phrase was used by hosts and guests at least a dozen times on MSNBC in 2017 following Mueller’s appointment to oversee the Russia probe. The phrase appeared in media publications at least 45 times that year.

Many pundits and guests ventured into more illustrative language when describing the dire straits the former president was believed to have been in at the time.

Disgraced CBS anchor Dan Rather claimed in August 2017 on MSNBC that Trump was "afraid" of the Russia investigation and the "political hurricane" heading his way.

"A political hurricane is out there at sea for him, and we’ll call it Hurricane Vladimir if you will," Rather said, referencing Russian President Vladimir Putin.

(Getty Images)

MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski on multiple occasions promised viewers that developments in Mueller’s investigation appeared damning to the former president. 

During one December 2017 segment of "Morning Joe," Brzezinski got metaphorical when she said that people were "shocked" that the "noose was tightening" around Trump. 

In a separate panel discussion, Scarborough stated that Trump was "going down."

Just prior to his departure from the GOP in 2018, former congressman David Jolly asserted to an MSNBC panel that Trump’s presidency was finished.

"Donald Trump’s done. He’s done," Jolly said. 

On CNN, political analyst Carl Bernstein said that Trump "for the first time in his life" had been cornered by the Mueller investigation. 

Some even speculated that the former president would likely end up in prison.

"He’s got to know his future looks like it’s behind bars," former Solicitor General Neal Katyal told CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota. 

Meanwhile, California representative Adam Schiff claimed on multiple occasions that the Mueller investigation would produce evidence of collusion and that Trump could face criminal charges.

[Donald Trump] may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time," Schiff said in 2018 on "Face the Nation." 


In this May 29, 2019, file photo, Special counsel Robert Mueller speaks at the Department of Justice in Washington, about the Russia investigation. 

In this May 29, 2019, file photo, Special counsel Robert Mueller speaks at the Department of Justice in Washington, about the Russia investigation.  (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

Despite years of promises of substantial revelations regarding the Russia investigation, Mueller delivered his final report to the Justice Department in March 2019, putting an end to speculation by the media that Trump would face repercussions. Months later during a July House Judiciary Committee hearing, Mueller testified there was "insufficient evidence" of culpability by Trump, reiterating the details of report. 

While a number of MSNBC and CNN personalities appeared visibly upset following the submission of the final report, some were forced to admit that the announcement was a positive outcome for the former president. Yet, many have stood by their coverage of the Russia collusion narrative. 

"Now did many commentators and [D]emocratic politicians allege collusion? Yes," "Reliable Sources" host Brian Stelter said on CNN in November 2019. "Did many journalists ask about it? Yes. But there is a giant difference between asking and telling."

Moments later Stelter said that "speculation actually has value, too."


After years of discussing the investigation, "The View" co-host Sunny Hostin said following the results of the investigation she was "reluctant to talk about anything" related to Trump and Russia because "we don’t know anything." 

The Mueller probe, which dominated the news from 2017 until 2019, is now a subject of its own investigation by John Durham into the origins of Russiagate, and Trump has filed a lawsuit against Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee, and a number of other high-profile figures involved in what he calls the "nefarious" "conspiracy" to create a narrative that he colluded with Russia.

Fox News' Cortney O'Brien contributed to this report.