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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The impeachment process has widened the rift between solidly pro-Trump media and conservative-leaning news outlets — especially at Fox News, where daytime news anchors and primetime opinion hosts often find themselves at odds.

Why it matters: It's rare for the tensions between conservative outlets to be aired so openly, as they're being forced to choose between backing President Trump at all costs and reporting candidly on his troubles.

Trump's reliable media allies are feeling the pressure over impeachment:

  • Fox News host Tucker Carlson, with his Daily Caller co-founder Neil Patel, penned an op-ed criticizing the president's Ukraine call: "Some Republicans are trying, but there’s no way to spin this as a good idea." They went on to criticize "a purely partisan impeachment process."

Fights between reliably pro-Trump outlets and other conservative news sites are heating up, too.

  • Gateway Pundit called out Matt Drudge for headlines that seemed to suggest a pro-impeachment stance on his website. CNN's Oliver Darcy noted at the time that the swipe is notable, given the fact that the Drudge Report "has for a long time been a prominent source of traffic for The Gateway Pundit."
  • Rush Limbaugh said Fox News Channel could change its name to "Fox Never Trumper Network."

And this week, Trump is testing the loyalty of conservative media with his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria, leaving the Kurds vulnerable to attacks from Turkey.

  • Members of conservative-leaning media, including "Fox & Friends" host Brian Kilmeade, denounced Trump's decision.
  • Even Breitbart — one of the most reliable pro-Trump media outlets — carried a headline that didn't flinch from the outrage the decision has caused on the right: "Kurdish forces who defeated Islamic State call Trump Syria withdrawal 'a stab in the back.'"

Between the lines: Impeachment is creating clear internal tensions at Fox, where the divide between daytime news anchors and prime time opinion hosts is becoming even more prevalent — even resulting in on-air spats.

  • Last week, "Fox News Sunday" anchor Chris Wallace pushed back against White House adviser Stephen Miller's claim that the now infamous Ukrainian call whistleblower is a "deep state operative," but Miller faced no pushback from Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs days later, Politico notes.
  • Two weeks ago, Tucker Carlson and Shepard Smith took swipes at each other's programming. Smith called the comments of a guest on Carlson's show "repugnant," after the guest called Fox News Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano a fool for saying it was "a crime for the president to solicit aid for his campaign from a foreign government." Carlson mocked Smith on air for criticizing the guest.
  • In an opinion column published last week on FoxNews.com, Napolitano wrote that "Trump’s call with Ukraine president manifests criminal and impeachable behavior." Sean Hannity said on Friday that there were a few "resistance" people at Fox News.

Flashback: The tension between Fox News' news programming and journalists and its primetime programming and opinion hosts has intensified over the past few months leading up to the impeachment news cycle.

  • In August, Trump publicly turned against Fox News, tweeting that the conservative-leaning cable network "isn't working for us anymore" and that "[w]e have to start looking for a new News Outlet."
  • On Sunday, Axios' Jonathan Swan reported that Trump "has grown disillusioned with Fox News" and has begun to rely more heavily in recent weeks on Breitbart News.

The bottom line: Trump's reliable conservative media machine is becoming more narrow and more loyal while other members of the conservative media back away from him.

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”