Former President Donald Trump is advocating for the televised coverage of his upcoming federal trial, aligning himself with media outlets in this request. Unsurprisingly, the DOJ ( U.S. Department of Justice ) opposes this effort.
Legal representatives for President Trump assert that the extraordinary nature of the proceedings justifies their televised coverage. In a filing made on November 11th to U.S. District Judge Tonya Chutkan, who is presiding over the case, the lawyers argued, “For the first time in American history, an incumbent administration has charged its main, leading electoral opponent with a criminal offense.”
Trump’s lawyers further stated, “President Trump calls for sunlight. 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.”
President Trump is scheduled to face trial in March 2024 on allegations of illegal interference with the 2020 presidential election and the subsequent transfer of power.
Media outlets have recently petitioned Judge Chutkan, who was appointed during President Barack Obama’s tenure, to allow cameras inside the courtroom. They argue that the public’s right to access criminal trial proceedings is implicit in the First Amendment, citing the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Richmond Newspapers Inc. v. Virginia.
Additionally, they referenced a 2010 ruling where four justices contended that no evidence had been presented proving that cameras in the courtroom inherently compromised the judicial process. Several high-ranking officials, including Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, have expressed support for broadcasting trials, emphasizing that real-time broadcasting could help combat false conspiracy theories related to the case.
Notably, President Trump’s trial in Georgia is already slated for broadcast.
However, Special Counsel Jack Smith, responsible for prosecuting the former president at the behest of Attorney General Merrick Garland, opposes televising the trial. Smith cited federal rules prohibiting cameras in federal courthouses, asserting that these rules are constitutional. He argued that the ban on broadcasting the trial does not infringe on the First Amendment because reporters and the public can still attend and report on the proceedings, thereby satisfying the constitutional right of access.
Smith provided additional references from the U.S. Supreme Court, including a 1965 ruling stating that it was a misconception to believe that the First Amendment extends a right to the news media to televise courtroom proceedings.
In 1994, a committee was formed to study the matter and recommended allowing broadcasts of civil proceedings. However, the Judicial Conference of the United States ultimately rejected this recommendation, expressing concerns that cameras in courtrooms could intimidate witnesses and jurors.
President Trump’s legal team contends that conducting the trial behind closed doors could undermine confidence in the justice system and negatively impact him. They claim that the trial must be broadcast to allow the American public to see that the case is baseless and unconstitutional. They argue that President Trump has a responsibility to present his positions, including his commitment as president to investigate and address fraud and other irregularities in the 2020 presidential election. Consequently, they urge the court to grant the motions and permit the broadcasting of the trial proceedings.