Federal Prosecutors Object to Trump Request for Broadcast of Election Trial
Federal prosecutors on Monday accused former President Donald J. Trump of trying to turn his trial on charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election into “a media event” with a “carnival atmosphere” by backing calls to have it broadcast live on television.
Even though federal rules of criminal procedure forbid televising trials, Mr. Trump’s lawyers last week asked Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, who is overseeing the election subversion case, to agree to requests from news organizations to broadcast the proceedings.
Mr. Trump’s filing was short on legal arguments and relied instead on several dubious claims that he was being treated unfairly in the case and that only the transparency of a televised trial could cure the purported wrongs he had suffered.
But firing back on Monday, prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, reminded Judge Chutkan that she had already vowed to treat Mr. Trump like any other criminal defendant. The prosecutors added that despite the former president’s references to “fairness,” he was actually trying to create a circuslike environment “from which he hopes to profit by distracting, like many fraud defendants try to do, from the charges against him.”
“The defendant’s response is a transparent effort to demand special treatment, try his case in the courtroom of public opinion and turn his trial into a media event,” the prosecutors wrote.
Several media organizations had first raised the issue of televising the trial, which is scheduled to start in March in Federal District Court in Washington.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers initially told the government that they did not intend to take a position, one way or the other, on whether the federal proceeding should be broadcast, but they changed their minds, submitting one of their most aggressive filings yet on Friday.
The government’s response to Mr. Trump, written by James I. Pearce, an assistant special counsel, was just as forceful. It accused the former president and his lawyers of crafting court filings “with the goal of gathering media coverage rather than lawful relief” and of using their statements in court “to wage a public relations campaign.”
Mr. Pearce pointed in particular to Mr. Trump’s civil fraud trial in New York, where he used his recent time on the witness stand to condemn the case as a “political witch hunt,” prompting the judge, as Mr. Pearce noted, to snap back, “This is not a political rally.”
In all four of the criminal trials Mr. Trump is facing, he has opted to pursue a strategy of creating noisy conflict to obscure the legal issues at play, and has persistently used the proceedings to amplify the message of victimhood and grievance that sits at the heart of his re-election campaign.
His relentless attacks on the judges, court staff members and prosecutors involved in the cases — in Washington, D.C.; New York; Georgia; and Florida — have resulted in two separate gag orders being imposed on him. And Mr. Trump has been promising that if he is re-elected he will use the criminal justice system as a weapon of retribution against his enemies.
Mr. Pearce warned Judge Chutkan that granting Mr. Trump the “spectacle” of a televised trial would place him “beyond the rules and above the law” and allow him to further intimidate people involved in the case.
“If the defendant sought sunlight as he claims, he should welcome the opportunity to put the government to its proof at trial,” Mr. Pearce wrote. “Instead, his response to the applications shows that he will continue to attempt to avoid answering for his criminal conduct in the courtroom while at the same time publicly grandstanding.”