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Trump’s most important legal team is not in court. It’s on Fox News.

“Everyone – Alan Dershowitz “Everyone says there is no crime here,” Donald Trump said before his trial resumed in Manhattan on Thursday. “There is no crime. Jonathan Turley, every person, Gregg Jarrett, Andy McCarthy, anyone you want to name, Mark Levin, a great lawyer, everyone. Great lawyers, great jurists, all said there was no crime. The crime is that they are taking care of this matter.

What do Dershowitz, Turley, Jarrett, McCarthy and Levin have in common? Each of them was featured on Fox News during its coverage of the Trump trial. The five have totaled at least 116 weekday appearances on Fox since jury selection began April 15 through Wednesday, according to the Media Matters database (Levin also hosts his own show that airs on Fox on Saturdays and Sunday evening).

Trump’s efforts to delegitimize this trial rely largely on favorable comments from his friends at Fox. The former president regularly promotes lawsuits from the network, which has offered a staunch defense of Trump and a relentless attack on everyone involved in his prosecution. Indeed, as Trump finished speaking and entered the courthouse on Thursday, Fox called on McCarthy and Turley to preview the day’s testimony.

It’s impossible to overstate Fox’s impact on Trump’s worldview. The information he gathered about the GOP base as a regular on “Fox and friends» helped him win the presidency. As chief executive, he reportedly used what he called a “Super Tivo” at the White House to watch hours of network programming each day. (In fact, the “Super Tivo” may have been a regular DirecTV.) He filled his administration and personal legal teams with familiar faces from the network’s green rooms; consulted Fox stars as if they were Cabinet members; and took positions on a wide variety of federal policies, from pardons to contracts to spending laws to the pandemic response, based on what he heard from people on his television screen.

While Fox has transformed under the Trump administration into a propagandistic extension of his White House, Trump has habitually promoted his incessantly favorable comments as part of his communications strategy. He regularly tweeted in near real time in response to what he saw on the network, a phenomenon I call the Trump-Fox feedback loop. He also frequently shared video clips of the network stars defending him and attacking his enemies.

After Trump lost his reelection bid, tried to stay in power by overturning the election results, and ultimately left the White House, his relationship with the network became a bit more complicated. Fox founder Rupert Murdoch preferred that Trump disappear from the political scene, and for a time the network supported his potential rivals and even reportedly instituted a “soft ban” on Trump interviews. But the network’s stars never truly broke with Trump, and as he reconsolidated support from the Republican base, it was inevitable that Fox would return to its role as a voice.

The New York trial, which comes after Trump established himself as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, provided Fox with an opportunity to prove its loyalty. Commenters criticized District Attorney Alvin Bragg, his prosecutors, and the case they presented; criticized the judge, witnesses and jurors at the trial; and baselessly blamed President Joe Biden for Trump’s legal peril. Fox hosts even went so far as to praise Trump for repeatedly falling asleep in court, with some even saying they, too, would doze off under the circumstances.

Turley, Dershowitz, Jarrett, McCarthy and Levin haven’t been as comically sycophantic, but all are using their Fox perches to throw cold water on Bragg’s case. And you can tell Trump appreciates their work because he keeps emphasizing it in his public appearances.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said in court on May 6. “Take a look at Gregg Jarrett this morning, he’s gone. Take a look at Andrew McCarthy, Jonathan Turley or Mark Levin. They say there are no cases here.

In court on May 9, Trump claimed to give the opinion of “the greatest jurists in the country.” He then read comments criticizing the prosecution and the judge from Turley, Dershowitz, McCarthy and Fox contributor Newt Gingrich.

Trump went through a similar litany in court on May 14, reading quotes attacking the case or the judge (and frequently intervening with his own criticisms) from Levin, McCarthy, Turley and Fox host Jeanine Pirro.

Likewise, Trump’s Truth Social feed has become an endless stream of clips in which Fox hosts, contributors and guests attack the various cases against him, including videos featuring Turley, Dershowitz, Pirro, McCarthy and Jarrett.

Trump may not have scoured Fox’s stable of legal analysts to fill out his defense team, as he did in 2020 for his first impeachment trial. But as the 2024 presidential election gathers pace, it’s clearer than ever that the network is doing everything it can to help, including undermining the rule of law.

This article was originally published on MSNBC.com

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