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Cameras in the Court: An Overnight Update
After representing to prosecutors that he would not file a response to media groups’ request that Judge Chutkan permit cameras in the courtroom during him March trial, Trump filed one late last night. What could be more on brand?
Trump says he now favors cameras. 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.”
I would caution you against being fooled by what’s going on here. 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.
And his lawyers know what the law currently says. As I wrote last night, it’s the position the government took: the rules firmly bar cameras in the court. It will be a heavy lift to convince the courts to reverse course, not undoable, but uphill. So now, with this filing, Trump is trying to give the public an additional reason to accept the idea that his trial shouldn’t be televised: because he wants it to be. Trump is hoping for the knee jerk reaction, we should automatically reject anything he wants. If Trump wants cameras, we should all be suspicious and concerned, right? People will say cameras would work to his advantage; he would make it a circus.
Don’t be taken in by this effort to prevent the public from knowing what’s happening in the courtroom when Trump faces accountability at long last. Federal judges are well equipped to prevent litigants in their courtrooms, including criminal defendants, from making a mockery of the proceedings. They will be ready. And regardless of the presence of cameras inside the courtroom, Trump will continue to do whatever he’s permitted to outside of it, where cameras will, in any event, be present. Cameras inside the courtroom are the only way the public will have access to the minute by minute of the proceedings to judge for themselves.
Trump wants to damage trust in the government and call this a kangaroo court—fine, let him have his way and let the sunlight into his trial. Because the facts are the facts and the evidence is the evidence. People are entitled to the truth here. Trump does not want them to see it, regardless of what’s in his filing. It’s meant as a strategic measure to paint himself as martyr and the government as a Soviet-style prosecution. He might even change course if it appeared the trial was going to be televised.
And Trump’s lawyers may have inadvertently provided Judge Chutkan with some cover by asking for cameras and claiming Trump’s due process rights would otherwise be violated. Federal courts have traditionally disallowed cameras out of concern for a defendant’s due process rights. 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.
I have finally found something to agree with Trump’s lawyers about. They write: “Sunlight is the only disinfectant now available to restore justice to this proceeding and to ensure that the public’s confidence in our judicial system is not irrevocably destroyed.” Precisely.
Trump’s “change of heart” only underscores the need for every American to be able to watch his trial. You can read his entire filing here.
We’re in this together,