Donald Trump may be stuck in a Manhattan courtroom, but he knows his fave legal analysts

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Former President Donald Trump speaks alongside his attorney Todd Blanche following the day's proceedings in his trial Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Manhattan Criminal Court in New York. (Michael M. Santiago/Pool Photo via AP)

NEW YORK – If there are bragging rights associated with Donald Trump praising your legal acumen when he speaks after a day's testimony at his criminal trial, Fox News analyst Andy McCarthy has already been cited at least a dozen times.

The former president and current presidential candidate has routinely stepped to a metal barricade outside the courtroom in lower Manhattan to face cameras and get the last word on the day's proceedings. As the trial has wound down, his speeches — he rarely acknowledges shouted questions — more frequently consist of reading the words of friendly commentators from a sheaf of papers.

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Besides McCarthy, a former Manhattan prosecutor and writer for National Review, Fox commentators Jonathan Turley, Gregg Jarrett and Mark Levin get frequent shoutouts.

“Every legal scholar says, `They don't have a case,'” Trump has said more than once while reading back supportive quotes.

McCarthy, quoted by the former president three separate times on May 13, is a “great analyst,” Trump said. Some favorites get personal praise: Byron York is “a great person, great reporter.” Alan Dershowitz is similarly “a great person,” Trump said. Occasionally, someone from CNN slips in. MSNBC gets the silent treatment.

For television, New York’s ban on cameras in the courtroom means plenty of airtime for legal analysts. It evokes the high point of the form three decades ago, when the O.J. Simpson murder trial made household names of the likes of Jeffrey Toobin, Nancy Grace and Greta Van Susteren. Fox’s Jarrett, who worked at Court TV in the 1990s, straddles the eras.


Naturally, it's not hard to find those who contradict Trump. On the television news networks covering the trial extensively, prevailing opinions tend to reflect the audiences they seek: little sympathy for the prosecution's case on Fox, equally difficult to find praise for the defense on MSNBC. On CNN, it's more mixed.

The more experienced legal minds, like Chuck Rosenberg speaking on MSNBC on Wednesday, note that it would be foolish to predict an outcome. The only opinions that really matter are the jurors'.

More nuanced coverage can usually be found offscreen. Sunday's edition of The New York Times, for example, had a news story quoting experts that concluded: “Several experts say the case remains the prosecution's to lose.” In the same day's opinion section, columnist Ross Douthat concluded that the case has been a political winner for Trump so far.

“Just as even paranoid people can have enemies, even sinful demagogues can face a politically motivated prosecution — and stand to gain from the appearance of legal persecution,” Douthat wrote. “And that appearance, so far, has been the trial's political gift to Donald Trump.”

MSNBC was devoting a large part of its day to Trump's legal issues well before the current trial. Former prosecutor Andrew Weissmann is a huge presence there; he also contributes a podcast, “Prosecuting Donald Trump,” with fellow analyst Mary McCord.

Even MSNBC's biggest stars, including Rachel Maddow, have spent time in the courtroom. After listening to Trump's defense earlier this week, she reported that it was “discursive, sprawling and uninteresting.”


Fox's commentators on this case have drawn much of Trump's attention. Turley made 47 appearances to talk about the trial on Fox's weekday programs from the start of the trial through May 15, with McCarthy logging 35, according to the liberal watchdog Media Matters.

McCarthy once prosecuted terrorism cases in the U.S. attorney's office in New York's Southern District and represented Rudolph Giuliani. Turley is a professor at George Washington University's law school and founded the Project for Older Prisoners, which helps seek release of geriatric prison inmates.

Writing about the trial in the National Review, McCarthy said that “Trump ought to be acquitted for the simplest of reasons: Prosecutors can't prove their case.” He criticized prosecution witness and former Trump attorney Michael Cohen on the air, saying Cohen's dishonesty and bias against Trump will be problems he has to overcome with the jury.

Turley, speaking to Fox's Jesse Watters last week, called Cohen “the most compromised, unbelievable witness in the history of the federal legal system.” On another Fox appearance, Turley said the judge, Juan Merchan, shouldn't even give the case to the jury.

“I think this case is gone,” Turley said. “They didn't state the basis for a crime.”

Trump began leaning more on the conservative commentators after Merchan deemed him in violation of a gag order that bars him from criticizing prosecutors, court staff and witnesses. He sometimes stops himself from reading passages, citing the order.

Trump's legal team at one point asked if they could submit articles to the judge to pre-approve before Trump posted them on his Truth Social site. Merchan refused.

On Fox this week, anchor Martha MacCallum said that “if you watch the legal experts on the other channels, this case is airtight.”

The network on Monday, as it usually does, ran Trump's daily wrap in its 5 p.m. ET hour — the time slot of “The Five,” the most popular program on cable news. MSNBC didn't carry Trump. CNN showed the former president and immediately followed him with a fact-check.

As happened that day, and occasionally others, Trump singled out some CNN commentators for praise. He quoted CNN's Laura Coates, Elie Honig and Tim Parlatore, the latter a former Trump lawyer hired as an analyst.

CNN's fact-checker, Tom Foreman, said that Trump was doing “a lot of cherry-picking” in his citations.

“It is certainly true that we have some panelists who say this is not a good case,” CNN's Jake Tapper said. “There are also people who feel the other way. And that's what we try to do here — bring a diversity of viewpoints.”


Associated Press correspondent Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.


David Bauder writes about media for The Associated Press. Follow him at

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