Special counsel Jack Smith has called out Donald Trump's legal team for allegedly misleading his office regarding the former president's position on televising the proceedings of his Washington, D.C. election subversion trial.
Trump's defense attorneys on Friday submitted a filing to U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is presiding over the trial that is scheduled to begin in March, arguing that the use of television should be employed to illustrate the trial's unfairness.
“The prosecution wishes to continue this travesty in darkness. President Trump calls for sunlight,” wrote Trump lawyers John Lauro and Todd Blanche. “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.”
“There is a high risk that proceeding behind closed doors under these circumstances would serve to further undermine confidence in the United States justice system, while continuing to prejudice President Trump’s rights,” they added.
Lauro over the summer said in a Fox News interview that the "first thing we would ask for is: Let’s have cameras in the courtroom so all Americans can see what’s happening in our criminal justice system. I would hope the Department of Justice would join in that effort so that we take the curtain away and all Americans get to see what’s happening.”
As Politico noted, the Friday filing did not mention a decades-long federal court rule that bans the broadcasting of criminal court proceedings. Smith's team of prosecutors did cite the rule, however, in urging Chutkan to reject media outlets' efforts to televise the trial, which they asserted has already garnered significant interest.
Politico also reported that Trump may be hoping to use his Washington trial — the first of four criminal prosecutions to be scheduled — to reiterate claims of election fraud, as well as "confirming what many have long viewed as a symbiotic relationship between Trump and the mainstream news media, whose ratings and readership is indisputably boosted by coverage of the polarizing former president." The MAGA legal team claimed that Trump’s attorneys said he prefers TV coverage of the Washington trial in part because it will allow the public to “hear all the evidence regarding an election that President Trump believes was rigged and stolen.”
In a November 3 filing submission, Smith's team observed that "Counsel for former President Trump has requested that government counsel convey that he takes no position" in the choice to broadcast the proceedings; however, Trump's Friday filing seemed to be a clear endorsement of news organizations' bid.
On Sunday, however, Politico legal affairs reporter Josh Gerstein shared the latest filing from the special counsel, which claimed that Trump's legal team had deceived the prosecution about Trump's position on the television broadcast proposal.
"On November 3, 2023, the United States filed an opposition to applications of a coalition of media organizations seeking to record and broadcast the criminal trial of Donald J. Trump," Smith's team wrote. "In advance of that filing, the Government sought the defendant’s position on the applications, and his counsel requested that the Government represent to the Court that he took no position. The Government accurately reported that to the Court. On November 10, however, the defendant reversed course and filed a response in support of the applications. The defendant’s response did not engage with the relevant Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure or cite any applicable caselaw, and instead made false and incendiary claims about the administration of his criminal case, United States v. Trump. The Government requests an opportunity to respond to the defendant’s claims and is prepared to file its proposed reply, which is four pages, immediately upon receiving leave from the Court."
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"Sooo…Trump tried to hoodwink Special Counsel, but instead gets busted by the DOJ for the lies and gamesmanship," tweeted MSNBC legal analyst Katie Phang. "Good lawyers that have good cases don’t play stupid games like Trump’s counsel is doing here."
"Trump tried to get away [with] a fast one, and Smith is calling him on it," wrote former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman. "It's all a charade on Trump's part anyway," he continued in a separate tweet. "DOJ accurately advised Chutkan she doesn't have the power to order the trial to be televised — the Judicial Conference would have to change its policy. So it's just a phony stance by Trump to suggest he wants transparency & US doesn't."
Former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, in an interview with MSNBC's Jen Psaki, argued in favor of televising the trial.
"Whether there's cameras in the courtroom or not, it's going to be a circus every day of every week," Kaytal said. "The judge will of course exert some reign over that, but I don't think that's a reason not to let the American public see exactly what's happening."
In regard to speculation that Trump's filing, devoid of any legal citations, showing that he "doesn't really mean it," Kaytal argued, "that's part and parcel of Donald Trump's legal filings generally."
"They're very light on law, if any at all," he said. "And I think Trump genuinely wants this."
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Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance seemed highly skeptical of Trump's seeming desire for cameras in the courtroom, arguing in her "Civil Discourse" newsletter that the ex-president is likely using it "as a strategic measure to paint himself as martyr and the government as a Soviet-style prosecution."
"Trump says he now favors cameras," Vance wrote. "He condemns the Biden administration’s political prosecution of its 'leading electoral opponent,' labeling it a 'show trial.' His lawyers write: 'this case has all the unfortunate badges of a trial in an authoritarian regime, lacking legitimacy or due process.'"
Vance warned readers not to be "fooled" by Trump's filing.
"Trump does not really want cameras in the courtroom. They would expose the truth and expose him for what he truly is. He understands what happens when his testimony and the testimony of others about him is made public—he has undoubtedly read the recent New York Times/Siena poll that shows him losing in key swing states if he’s convicted in a criminal case. He saw how people had their eyes opened when the House January 6 committee proceedings were televised. Trump likes his solo appearances outside of the courtroom, but he fears the reality of the actual proceedings and the truth," she wrote.
“Federal courts have traditionally disallowed cameras out of concern for a defendant’s due process rights," she added. "Here, Trump has effectively mooted that argument. He has waived the argument on appeal. There is no reason, other than the existence of an outmoded rule, to prevent the public from observing this most important of trials.”
about Trump's D.C. case
- “Defendant stands alone in American history": Smith filing torches Trump claim, signals new evidence
- “Complete nonsense”: Legal scholars demolish Trump claim of “presidential immunity” from prosecution
- "Strongly undermines any claim": Experts say damning NY trial doc could blow up Trump's D.C. defense
- Experts: Trump already "in violation" of D.C. gag order — and may “spend a night or weekend in jail"
- Legal experts: Trump may have already “violated” gag order minutes after judge reimposed it