The Justice Department urged a federal judge last week not to allow live television coverage of former president Donald Trump’s federal trial in March on charges of illegally conspiring to subvert the results of the 2020 election. In October, lawyers for several news organizations filed two petitions to make an exception to the long-standing rule barring cameras from federal courtrooms for Trump’s case and to permit the televising, recording, or same-day release of video and audio recordings of his trial, the Washington Post reports. “Since the founding of our Nation, we have never had a criminal case where securing the public’s confidence will be more important than with United States v. Donald J. Trump,” attorneys for the 20-member news coalition wrote in an Oct. 5 application. They argued that the trial of a former president and presumptive 2024 presidential nominee on charges of obstructing the most recent election “presents the strongest possible circumstances for continuous public oversight of the justice system.” Trump’s defense team took no position on the legal filing, but one of his lawyers has publicly called for the trial to be televised.
Prosecutors with Special Counsel Jack Smith, however, argued that televising the trial is clearly barred by Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the constitutionality of which has been regularly by the courts. Federal courts have long barred any cameras in the courtroom in an attempt to prevent a “carnival atmosphere” that could intimidate witnesses, sway jurors, prompt grandstanding by attorneys or judges or deprive criminal defendants of their due process rights. But some experts say that advances in technology and the unique circumstances of Trump’s trial should facilitate a reconsideration of the rule. “I have my skepticisms about whether these courtroom-camera efforts can prevail, but it is also unquestionably the case that the argument for cameras here is at its all-time strongest,” University of Utah law professor RonNell Andersen Jones said, adding, “It is hard to imagine any case or any defendant in the whole history of our federal courts that is as central to the public interest as this one.”