- Accuracy in Media - https://www.aim.org -

Liberal outlets use single judge’s opinion to make case against Trump

In a procedural dispute between the J6 committee and former President Donald Trump’s lawyers, a highly partisan federal district judge [1], who was appointed by former President Bill Clinton, David O. Carter, opined that he thought it was “more likely than not” that Trump committed crimes, including trying to obstruct a federal election, according to progressive outlet Vox [2].   

And that was all it took to get the media to say that finally, yes, finally, Trump would be convicted of something… if only they could get Attorney General Merrick Garland to agree to go along with what the judge said.  

The liberal media, including Vox, BuzzFeed [3], the New York Times [4] and the Washington Post [5] trumpeted that Trump was finally guilty of a crime, according to the opinion of a single federal judge. 

The problem, of course, is that whatever the judge’s opinion might have been in the procedural dispute, the court was not a criminal court and the proceedings were not criminal proceedings, and as the judge noted, they weren’t even civil liability proceedings. 

“The court is tasked only with deciding a dispute over a handful of emails. This is not a criminal prosecution; this is not even a civil liability suit,” said Carter according to the New York Times [4]. 

The opinion of the judge was important for the decision taken in the procedural dispute, but in any criminal case against Trump — if such a case ever materializes — this judge’s opinion has about as much legal weight as Rep. Adam Schiff’s opinion [6] on whether Trump colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 elections.  

The burden of proof in a criminal of case, as the media knows, lies with prosecutors who have to convince jurors of Trump’s guilt, in the likely event that Trump would pick a jury trial. 

The burden of proof does not lie with this judge, who, in a procedural dispute, was inclined to think the worst of Trump from the very beginning. 

“A judge making a finding to decide whether evidence has to be disclosed is nowhere near the level of proof that you’ll need for a criminal case,” Laurie L. Levenson, a criminal law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, told the New York Times. “‘Beyond a reasonable doubt’ means that jurors are almost positive that, in fact, Trump did this — and he did it with the intent required by the law.” 

Most likely the media stories, like the ones at Vox and BuzzFeed, suggesting that the judge’s comments were salient had a two-fold objective: Firstly, it was to influence the pool of jurors who might hear the case; and secondly it was to influence Attorney General Merrick Garland, who will have to prosecute the case. 

“A federal judge agreed Trump likely committed crimes. Will Merrick Garland?” asked Vox in one of those telling questions the media lobs out to give the wink-and-a-nod to the target (in this case Garland) about what liberals expect of him.  

But even then, the prosecutor isn’t the ultimate arbiter, no matter what liberal judges and  liberal media opine.  

“Proving something by preponderance of the evidence to a judge is a very different thing than proving it beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury,” said David Alan Sklansky, a Stanford University criminal law professor told the Times according to Stanford university’s press archives [7]. “It’s reasonable to expect that prosecutors would be particularly careful not to jump the gun when you’re talking about charging a former president with a crime.”

It would also be reasonable to assume that news organizations would also be careful to not jump the gun about suggesting a former president committed a crime. 

But you don’t write four-volume histories for times when the press is acting reasonably.