US Department of Justice special counsel Jack Smith is urging a federal judge to reject Donald Trump’s request to televise his upcoming trial on charges connected to his attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
The former president’s attorneys took no position on an earlier long-shot request from a group of media outlets asking to broadcast the trial, but a filing on 10 November asked for “sunlight” and accused federal prosecutors of trying to “continue this travesty in darkness”.
“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,” John Lauro wrote in a filing last week.
In a filing on 13 November, Mr Smith’s office warned that Mr Trump’s bedelated response is a “transparent effort to demand special treatment” to “try his case in the courtroom of public opinion, and turn his trial into a media event.”
“And it should avoid the spectacle – and attendant risks of witness intimidation – that the longstanding rules against courtroom broadcasting are designed to avoid,” according to the filing.
A four-page filing to US District Judge Tanya Chutkan argues that Mr Trump “offers no legal argument or case law to support his demand that trial in this case be conducted unlike that for every other federal criminal defendant.”
“His purported interest in ‘sunlight’ does not cure that defect,” according to the filing. “Indeed, the defendant ignores the high profile federal criminal trials have long proceeded in accordance with the broadcast prohibition under the rules – and they have garnered significant and detailed media coverage of proceedings nonetheless.”
Mr Trump, who faces four upcoming criminal trials, including two federal cases, is accused of conspiring to reject Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election through a multi-state scheme built on a legacy of lies, conspiracy theories and spurious legal arguments debunked his own advisers.
He has pleaded not guilty, and his attorneys have filed motions to toss out the charges altogether on constitutional grounds and his “absolute presidential immunity.”
Mr Smith’s team has warned that he seeks to exploit a “carnival atmosphere” from which he can “profit by distracting, like many fraud defendants try to do, from the charges against him.”
The frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination for president has routinely relied on the criminal charges and lawsuits against him as part of his fundraising campaign, raising millions of dollars from supporters with claims that he is the victim of a politically motivated conspiracy against him.
At his civil trial on fraud allegations in New York City, he has used the large press pool outside the courtroom’s doors to rage against the trial, the judge presiding over it, the state attorney general suing him, and members of the court staff.
In his testimony from the witness stand in that case on 6 November, he invoked the same language that he uses in his campaign fundraising messages, on his Truth Social and at his campaign rallies.
Media organisations asking the court to reconsider a longstanding prohibition on televising federal trials have argued the rule is antiquated and pointed to First Amendment protections.
A policymaking body for the federal courts system said last month it would study whether federal trials could be broadcast, though any changes would likely take months or years to implement.