CNN Shares the Great Lengths Network Went to Break News About Trump That Everyone Already Knew


Boy, CNN sure showed everybody.

Sure, there was a ban on electronic devices inside the Miami courtroom where former President Donald Trump was arraigned on Tuesday in Florida. But the folks at CNN would stop at nothing to get you the news as quickly as possible.

So they hired a bunch of high schoolers who then found apparently the last operating pay phones in America to relay the astonishing news:

Trump was pleading not guilty.

On Wednesday, CNN’s Oliver Darcy gave his network a massive pat on the back for a strange, elaborate operation to get around a courtroom ban on electronic devices at the former president’s arraignment on 37 counts related to claims he mishandled classified government documents in a Miami federal court.

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This, Darcy said, allowed the network to relay to America breaking news that America, to the extent it was paying attention, already guessed would happen weeks ago.

But you couldn’t tell that from the senior media reporter’s prose, which made the whole thing sound like something Steve McQueen might have starred in were it dramatized a half-century ago.

“The operation was devised on the eve of the arraignment,” read Darcy’s uproariously portentous lede.

“The chief judge presiding over the Miami federal court in which former President Donald Trump was arraigned on Tuesday had made the decision to prohibit electronics inside the courthouse, presenting a major hurdle for news organizations needing to quickly transmit information from the historic proceeding to the outside world,” he wrote. “Without access to electronic devices, the rudimentary task was a formidable one.

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“After surveying the courthouse on Monday, CNN’s team hatched a plan — one that ultimately led the news network to become the first to report that Trump was in custody and had entered a not guilty plea on 37 counts related to his alleged mishandling of classified intelligence documents.”

What Darcy described next he portrayed as a surfeit of ingenuity that other outlets lacked, thus allowing his network to get a critical scoop. I’d proffer it had more to do with those outlets having enough dignity and decorum not to play so hard for such small stakes — but we’re also talking about a cohort that includes MSNBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post and others, so I might be giving everyone else too much credit here.

Whatever the case, here’s what transpired: CNN hastily arranged for a few local high school students to become network production assistants for one day. One of CNN’s producers, Noah Gray, attended Palmetto Senior High School in the Miami area and got in contact with the head of the school’s television production program, procuring a few students for a day’s work.

The students then managed to get into the courtroom with two CNN reporters, Tierney Sneed and Hannah Rabinowitz.

“As the hearing unfolded and developments transpired, Sneed and Rabinowitz jotted down their reporting on notepads, tearing off sheets with urgent news, and handing it to one of the students,” Darcy wrote. “The students then ran the reporting to one of their classmates who was standing by at one of the courthouse’s only two pay phones.”

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However, like all Steve McQueen movies, there had to be a hitch. In this case, it was that the pay phones outside the courthouse could only make local calls, because this is apparently 1992 or something.

“To overcome the final obstacle, CNN’s staff devised a plan to have the production assistant dial his own personal cell phone, which was located in a nearby RV that the network was using as a mobile headquarters,” Darcy wrote.

“Brad Parks, a CNN regional newsgathering director stationed inside the RV, then picked up the phone, typed up the reporting and relayed the information to the outlet’s Washington, D.C. bureau,” he said. “Once the reporting was cleared for air by senior leaders in Washington, it was then transmitted to the control room and the network at large. And, from there, it was finally communicated to CNN’s anchors, who delivered the news to viewers across the world.”

A world that, for the most part, could not have been less transfixed on the news Trump was doing exactly what everyone knew he was going to do:

It’s ironic, then, that presented with the only real news of the day — namely, Trump’s post-arraignment remarks at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey — the network declined to air it.

“We’re not carrying his remarks live because, frankly, he says a lot of things that are not true and sometimes potentially dangerous,” CNN host Jake Tapper said as the president took the stage.

Now, to be fair, there’s kind of a point to be made here — although it’s not the point CNN was making.

Darcy noted that the CNN team had to jump through hoops “because of the archaic system in which U.S. federal courts operate. The public continues to have remarkably little access to proceedings in federal courts — no matter how consequential or extraordinary the case may be.”

Perhaps the Trump case will change that — when proceedings that actually make news start happening inside said courtroom.

However, that’s not really what Darcy or the network was trying to get across with this bit of meta-coverage.

CNN apparently will congratulate itself fulsomely on pulling off a labyrinthine end-run around a ban on electronic devices inside the courtroom where Trump was being arraigned that involved high schoolers, pay phones, notepad paper and a producer relaying information from an RV — all to tell us what we knew before Trump walked into the courtroom on Tuesday.

But afterward, given an effort-free opportunity to report on the only non-predictable news of the day — just aim camera at Bad Orange Man, let him talk, then throw it to the usual lineup of pundits who’ll denounce him like they were going to anyway — the network declined because allowing CNN viewers to hear Trump unfiltered would be “dangerous.”

“[D]espite the obstacles the federal court system has in place, newsrooms will find a way to climb over them and deliver the news — as was evidenced Tuesday,” Darcy wrote in conclusion.

He should have added some newsrooms will go to similar lengths to keep the news from their viewers, should they find it inconvenient.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture