Obama Attorney Leads Secret Meetings of TV Legal Commentators to Spin Trump Trials

I’m old enough to remember the hubbub over JournoList, a listserv of leftist reporters from different news outlets who convened regularly in a chatroom to strategize how to spin stories and set narratives, such as how to torpedo Gov.Sarah Palin to get Barack Obama elected president. From 2007 to 2010, JournoList was its own echo chamber, as Politico put it at the timeNow the same thing’s happening again, with TV lawyers acting as rhetorical wetwork teams covering the trials of their political nemesis, Donald Trump.


JournoList was started by Ezra Klein, who now works for the New York Times, with his other JList pal, Matt Yglesias. 

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes was writing for The Nation when he joined JournoList. Politico reported at the time that the list was a who’s who of leftism. The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin, Paul Krugman of the New York Times, and ”staffers from Newsweek, POLITICO, Huffington Post, The New Republic, The Nation, and The New Yorker; policy wonks, academics and bloggers such as Klein and Matthew Yglesias“ were all on the listserv, setting the narrative for the rest of the news media, academia, and think tanks. 

No conservatives needed apply.

And you thought NPR was bad.

In 2010, when JournoList was allegedly disbandedPJ Media’s Ed Driscoll summed up the purpose and power of the listserv by positing a question for Republicans:

So who’s going to be first GOP candidate who understands and articulates to his or her supporters what the new rules are: the media he or she will be doing interviews with on the campaign trail define themselves not as “objective” journalists, but part of the opposition’s “non-official campaign?”

You can’t stop people from meeting together — that’s un-American — but you can remind them that this is not journalism or a public service; it’s a conspiracy. 

Related: Spoiler Alert: Prosecutors’ Tortuous Trump Case Is ‘Confusing’ to Nearly Everyone


And here we go again.

Politico, to its credit, once again outs the cabal. It works like this:

…Every Friday, they meet on Zoom to hash out the latest twists and turns in the Trump legal saga — and intellectually stress-test the arguments facing Trump on his journey through the American legal system. 

The meetings are off the record — a chance for the group’s members, many of whom are formally or loosely affiliated with different media outlets, to grapple with a seemingly endless array of novel legal issues before they hit the airwaves or take to print or digital outlets to weigh in with their thoughts. About a dozen or more people join any given call, though no one takes attendance. Some group members wouldn’t describe themselves with any partisan or ideological lean, but most are united by their dislike of Trump.


“It feels almost like a seminar in law school,” said a participant in the group. Most calls comprise “deliberation, debate and discussion,” albeit “with a distinct anti-Trump tilt to it.”

Leading the legal group is Obama Administration lawyer and former Trump impeachment attorney, Democrat Norm Eisen. He works as one of CNN’s legal analysts now. Among the people who have joined this weekly Zoom meeting are Laurence Tribe, the once sane law professor; George Conway, the Lincoln Project OG; and John Dean, the man who set up Richard Nixon and is widely believed by investigative reporters to have green-lighted one of the Watergate break-ins. 


Related: Judge Says Trump Lawyer Is ‘Losing Credibility’ After Combative Gag Order Hearing

Other regular attendees include Andrew Weissman, the Robert Mueller attack dog who was lead prosecutor for the fake Russia Collusion scandal; Jeffrey Toobin, an original JournoList member, CNN analyst, and Zoom meeting self-pleasurer; and Jennifer Rubin, an opinion writer for the Washington Post who this week wrote a screed called, “Trump was going to dominate the courtroom. Instead, he is shrinking.” 

Politico reports that a constellation of Justice Department and U.S. Attorneys are also on the call: 

…Obama-era U.S. Attorneys Harry Litman, Barbara McQuade and Joyce White Vance. Litman is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, a cable news regular and a podcast host. McQuade and Vance co-host a podcast and are under contract with MSNBC, as are two other regular attendees — Jennifer Rubin, an opinion writer for the Washington Post who often covers Trump’s legal affairs, and Mary McCord, a former federal prosecutor and high-ranking official in the Justice Department who co-hosts a podcast for MSNBC with Weissmann. Karen Agnifilo, a former senior prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and CNN commentator, is an occasional attendee, as is Elliot Williams, also a former federal prosecutor who provides commentary on CNN.

To get an idea of how unsavory, not to mention unethical, this collusion is, you have to remember what journalists are supposed to do. They’re supposed to report the facts of a story and let the hearer make up his or her mind. Commentators are different, of course. They contextualize things, such as the novel way prosecutors have twisted the law to Get Trump. But this legal talking heads confab doesn’t do that. Their objective is to come up with ideas on how to sell this bastardization of justice to leftist audiences so they can sleep at night. 


In other words, the Obama Administration attorneys tell them what to think. And then they repair to the “Brady Bunch” squares of experts or endless panels on cable TV news shows where different legal commentators say pretty much the same things. 

Their amplified messages might be the reason why a Rasmussen Reports Poll on Wednesday found that 81% of strong Biden voters believe Donald Trump can get a fair trial in New York City. 

And the money quote from the article is, “Do some of the people on the call align their positions as a result of their discussions? Yes, probably,” the reporter writes.  ”That can sound nefarious, but it is also the natural result of a group discussion that is working properly. [emphasis added]”

The messages sent by this elite group are amplified multiple times over by scribes, other TV analysts, social media, and Google. They are the hivemind, the narrator setters.

For Our VIP Members: The Only Thing Missing From the NYC Trump Trial Is a Laugh Track

One of my favorite movies is the frothy Nick Cannon vehicle “Drum Line” from back in the day. The university’s hard-ass marching band director keeps harping on his musicians that there’s no room for their own individualism or creativity — they had to stick to the sheet music.  He’d yell “One band, one sound,” and they’d dutifully respond. 

This JournoList 2.0 is one band, one sound, one song sheet. Is it the truth? 

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