Donald Trump Joins Media In Requesting Live Coverage of Election Interference Trial
Former president Donald Trump’s lawyers are asking the judge overseeing his federal trial on charges that he spread false allegations of election fraud and conspired to overturn the 2020 election to allow the historic court proceedings to be televised.
“The prosecution wishes to continue this travesty in darkness. President Trump calls for sunlight,” defense attorneys John Lauro and Todd Blanche wrote in a legal filing submitted late Friday to U.S. Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing Trump’s federal trial in Washington, D.C.
“Every person in America, and beyond, should have the opportunity to study this case firsthand and watch as, if there is a trial, President Trump exonerates himself of these baseless and politically motivated charges,” Lauro and Blanche wrote.
Trump’s lawyers, echoing their client’s long-standing claims that his various criminal investigations and trials are part of a plot to keep him from returning to the presidency, argued that a televised trial would allow the public to see “firsthand that this case, just like others, is nothing more than a dreamt-up unconstitutional charade that should never be allowed to happen again.”
The filing creates strange bedfellows, with Trump aligning himself with a coalition of mainstream media outlets that have been calling for a televised trial and against prosecutors in special counsel Jack Smith’s office, who have vociferously opposed it. Putting cameras in a federal courtroom would violate long-standing policy prohibiting the broadcasting of federal court proceedings, but the news organizations argue that the circumstances of Trump’s trial warrant an exception.
In early October, citing “the unique circumstances of this case,” a coalition of media outlets that included C-SPAN, CBS News, ABC News, and CNN filed a request with Chutkan to broadcast the trial directly or as contemporaneous YouTube videos.
“Since the founding of our Nation, we have never had a criminal case where securing the public’s confidence will be more important than with United States v. Donald J. Trump,” the coalition’s attorneys wrote. Two weeks later, NBCUniversal News Group filed its own request. “If ever a trial were to be televised, this one should be, for the benefit of American democracy,” argued NBC’s lawyers.
The federal prosecutors are adamantly opposed to broadcasting Trump’s trial, arguing that putting cameras in the courtroom could prejudice witnesses, especially in a case that exemplifies the “ever-increasing acrimony in public discourse.”
“When a witness’s image is captured on video, it is not just a fleeting image, but it exists indefinitely,” assistant special counsels James Pearce and John Pellettieri wrote in the November 3 filing. “Were there an appeal and retrial, witnesses who were subjected to scrutiny and harassment on social media may be unwilling to testify again.” Pearce and Pellettieri also warned that knowing the trial would be broadcast might make jurors unwilling to serve.
As they attempt to persuade Chutkan to make an exception, both Trump’s attorneys and the coalition of news outlets are arguing—for vastly different reasons—that TV coverage of the trial is desirable because it will impact voters’ attitudes about the 2020 election. In their Friday filing, Trump’s lawyers said he wants to use the TV coverage to allow the American public to “hear all the evidence regarding an election that President Trump believes was rigged and stolen.”
Meanwhile, the news outlets argued that not televising the trial could potentially sow distrust in the American legal system and further divide “a polarized electorate,” which “includes tens of millions of people who, according to opinion polls, still believe that the 2020 election was decided by fraud.”
The trial is set to begin in March 2024, one day before the all-important Super Tuesday primary elections.