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Trump Cases, Supreme Court Bring 'Golden Age of TV Legal Analysts'

As a CNN legal analyst, former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams has weighed in on such topics as immigration policy, rules of evidence and federal sentencing guidelines. Some 12 hours after Donald Trump said he had been hit with federal charges in the Mar-a-Lago documents case, Williams appeared on the air six times between 8 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. When Trump appeared in federal court four days later, Williams appeared another seven times in 12 hours, reports the Washington Post. The lawyer calls this “a golden age of TV legal analysts.” Besides Trump cases, TV news bookers call for legal analysts to discuss Supreme Court decisions, police shootings, the investigation of the Alec Baldwin “Rust” incident, Hunter Biden’s tax and gun misdemeanor plea deal and the Fox-Dominion defamation case. Among other frequent commentators are Laura Coates of CNN, Jonathan Turley and Andrew McCarthy of ox News, and Joyce Vance and Barbara McQuade of MSNB.

Some analysts' comments become news. Turley, who has been sympathetic toward Trump, generated headlines earlier this month when he described the federal government’s evidence against the former president as “extremely damning” and said that Trump could spend the rest of his life in prison if found guilty on even one of the 37 counts. Getting face time on CNN and MSNBC include former federal prosecutors Elie Honig and Andrew Weissmann, and Fox' Gregg Jarrett. Trump’s pair of indictments in New York and Miami, as well as the defamation and sexual battery lawsuit won by the writer E. Jean Carroll and the prospect of more federal or local charges, means continued full employment for TV’s legal fraternity. Williams, a principal with a Washington, D.C., public-affairs firm, appeared on CNN at least 300 times last year, more than many of the network’s reporters. TV news seems to prefer ex-prosecutors over defense attorneys. The dean of the TV legal slingers may be Turley, a law professor at George Washington University who has worked for CBS, NBC, the BBC and now Fox. Turley’s defenses of Trump — he cast doubt on the case for the first impeachment in 2019 and savaged New York City’s Trump prosecution in April — have made him anathema at times to Democrats. He says, "I hope I’m reincarnated as a political analyst, because then I don’t have to be right. As an academic and a legal analyst, there’s more pressure on me to be right.”

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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