Trump's Federal Trials Won't Be Televised Under New Rules
Trump's Federal Trials Won't Be Televised Under New Rules

By Jack Phillips

Former President Donald Trump’s two federal criminal trials will not be broadcasted under new federal rules that were released on Tuesday.

A rules-making body behind the U.S. federal court system, the Judicial Conference, issued a new rules on Tuesday saying that it will allow “judges presiding over civil and bankruptcy cases to provide the public live audio access to non-trial proceedings that do not involve witness testimony,” according to a news release from the conference. However, it said that “the change approved Tuesday does not extend to criminal proceedings.”

The current rules for federal court proceedings prohibit video or photography inside courtrooms. That rule applied when the former president was arraigned earlier this year in two federal cases in which prosecutors allege that he tried to overturn the 2020 election and for allegedly mishandling classified documents after he left the White House.

“Temporary permission to conduct some criminal proceedings by videoconference or teleconference, which had been granted under the 2020 CARES Act, ended on May 10, 2023,” the release also said. “Courts have already discontinued use of virtual criminal proceedings, except as otherwise authorized. The revision also does not affect a judge’s ability to allow parties and counsel to appear remotely by teleconference and videoconference.”

The Judicial Conference’s Tuesday announcement means that those same rules will remain intact for President Trump’s federal trials, slated for next year.

Meanwhile, Chief U.S. Circuit Judge Lavenski Smith, who serves as the chair of the Executive Committee of the Judicial Conference, confirmed those trials won’t be televised, saying there is “no debate,” according to The Messenger.

Dozens of Democrats and some Republicans have called on the decision-making body to make exceptions for President Trump’s criminal cases. About 40 House Democrats sent a letter to the Judicial Conference in August, asking it to allow the proceedings to be broadcast to the public, arguing that it would be crucial to transparency and “our democratic institutions.”

“Given the historic nature of the charges brought forth in these cases, it is hard to imagine a more powerful circumstance for televised proceedings,” the letter said. “If the public is to fully accept the outcome, it will be vitally important for it to witness, as directly as possible, how the trials are conducted, the strength of the evidence adduced and the credibility of witnesses.”

A Trump lawyer, John Lauro, told Fox News last month that he would favor having a televised trial, although he noted that’s his own opinion.  “I personally would love to see that,” he told the outlet, saying he believes the Biden administration actually “does not want the American people to see the truth.”

The motorcade of former President Donald Trump arrives at the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. United States Courthouse in Miami, Fla., on June 13, 2023. (REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid)

A constitutional law expert, Alan Dershowitz, has argued that the trials should be televised to a wide audience because it would clarify the former president’s actions and role in the cases.

“If the Trump trial is not televised, the public will learn about the events through the extremely biased reporting of today’s media,” he wrote in The Hill months ago. “It will be as if there were two trials: one observed by reporters for MSNBC, CNN, The New York Times, and other liberal media, the other through the prism of reporters for Fox, Newsmax, and other conservative outlets.”

He added that “there will be nowhere to go to learn the objective reality of what occurred at trial” if it’s not broadcast to the public.

Even though the former president’s federal trials won’t be broadcast, he could be subject to televised court proceedings during his racketeering trial in Fulton County, Georgia. Several hearings for co-defendants in the case were televised, while the former president’s mugshot was also taken at the Fulton County Jail last month.

In contrast, President Trump’s arraignment at a Manhattan courthouse earlier this year on state charges brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg wasn’t televised. Officials granted media outlets the ability to take multiple photos former president sitting in front of the judge.

Christina Bellantoni, who works for the University of Southern California’s media department, effectively claimed that the trials should not be broadcast because of President Trump’s charisma.

“My prediction … would be that his public opinion ratings would go up, no matter what evidence is presented,” she told the AFP news agency. “People will hate-watch it; people will rally and root for him. And there’s not going to be anybody that’s like, ‘Gee, I think I’ll watch this and see how justice plays out,'” she added.

President Trump is currently looking at whether to seek removal of the Fulton County case to a federal court, which would then block the case from being televised. However, a judge would have to approve that request.

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