A coalition of media outlets wrote Friday that the 2020 election trial for former President Trump should be broadcast.
A coalition of mainstream media outlets argued that the 2020 election trial against Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump should be televised live to bolster “public trust” and that the U.S. Constitution mandates it.
The coalition’s lawyers wrote the media outlets are acting on “behalf of millions of Americans who have an unprecedented interest in observing—for themselves—the prosecution of former President Donald Trump” during the trial, which is scheduled to start in March 2024.
Federal rules have long stipulated that courts bar cameras from being inside courtrooms. During President Trump’s arraignment in the Washington case, no cameras were allowed inside the building.
The media outlets’ lawyers also appeared to criticize President Trump after he “characterized this action as bearing ‘all the unfortunate badges of a trial in an authoritarian regime, lacking legitimacy or due process.'” The lawyers then claimed that this comment goes against “the very legitimacy of this proceeding” and “only underscores” the need for the American public to watch the trial.
During a campaign event in New Hampshire last week, President Trump told a crowd that he wants the trial to be watched by “everybody in the world.”
“I want everybody to see all of the horrible things that took place, all of the horrible charges … and let’s let the public decide because I want cameras in every inch of that courthouse,” he said.
But federal prosecutors recently objected to requests to have the trial televised, claiming it would turn it into a political circus.
Local and federal rules bar “the relief the Applicants seek” to allow cameras in the courtroom, prosecutors wrote, adding that attempts to overturn such rules have been rejected many times by courts in the past. The court should deny the applications, they wrote.
“Paired with the ever-increasing acrimony in public discourse, witnesses and others who appear on video may be subjected to threats and harassment,” Mr. Smith’s team argued. “Even the knowledge that their images will circulate on social media may temper a witness’s initial testimony.”
Media organizations, prosecutors argued, are certainly free to lobby the Judicial Conference to change its anti-broadcast rule, as, indeed, the media coalition in the Trump case has done. But Mr. Smith said there’s no basis for Judge Chutkan to disregard a recently reaffirmed policy that has never been deemed constitutionally invalid.
Media coalition lawyers wrote the government’s brief fails to acknowledge that state courts across the country have now concluded that criminal trials can be televised without compromising the fairness of the proceedings.
“Camera technology is so unobtrusive now that, in the many states and federal civil courts that actually allow them, people hardly notice,” the lawyers said. “As far as grandstanding—whatever that means—for generations judges have successfully used the host of tools at their disposal to control any inappropriate behavior.”
Judge Chutkan, an Obama appointee, is expected to make a ruling on the motions. However, she has not set a date for her decision.
President Trump is facing a four-count indictment that alleges he participated in a conspiracy “to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election by using knowingly false claims of election fraud to obstruct the government function by which those results are collected, counted and certified.” He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, saying the case is part of a longstanding attempt to harm his campaign.
“The prosecution contends that President Trump should be the only official in America who is not entitled to such consideration,” his wrote, adding that he should have the same rights as other officials regarding immunity claims.
Reuters contributed to this report.