By Zachary Stieber
Former President Donald Trump’s lawyers changed their position on whether to televise his upcoming trial, special counsel Jack Smith said in a new filing to a federal court.
Mr. Smith’s team said on Nov. 3 that it opposed motions from media outlets to broadcast the trial, which is set to start in 2024. The special counsel’s team said at the time that lawyers for President Trump “convey that he takes no position with respect to these applications.”
But President Trump’s team said on Nov. 10 that he was siding with the outlets, taking the position that the trial should be broadcast.
Mr. Smith’s team said on Nov. 12 in the new filing that it was misled.
“Before the Nov. 3 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 special counsel’s filing reads. “The Government accurately reported that to the court.”
Mr. Smith’s office indicated that the first time it heard otherwise was when President Trump’s lawyers filed the response on Nov. 10.
Lawyers for President Trump didn’t respond to a request for comment.
John Lauro, one of the lawyers, said earlier this year on Fox News that he would ask for cameras to be allowed in the courtroom “so that all Americans can see what’s happening in our criminal justice system.”
Mr. Smith’s team asked U.S. District Judge Tonya Chutkan, the Obama appointee who’s overseeing the case, to give them an opportunity to respond to President Trump’s filing, alleging that it was rife with “false and incendiary claims about the administration of his criminal case.”
President Trump objects to the request to respond, according to the special counsel. The media outlets that filed the applications don’t object but do want to be able to respond to any issues the government raises in its potential response.
If Judge Chutkan grants the government’s request, the government plans to file its response immediately, according to Mr. Smith’s team.
President Trump is currently scheduled to go on trial on March 4, 2024, despite the fact that he’s running for president.
President Trump’s request to push the trial beyond the 2024 election was denied by Judge Chutkan.
“The public has a right to a prompt and efficient resolution of this matter,” the judge said when setting the trial date.
The trial is on four charges that were approved by a grand jury and relate to the 2020 election. The charges include conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding.
Mr. Smith alleges that President Trump’s actions during and after the election were aimed at overturning the “legitimate results” of the election and that President Trump knew that his claims about the results were false.
President Trump was able to “formally challenge” the results, but he “pursued unlawful means of discounting legitimate votes and subverting the election results,” according to the indictment.
President Trump has pleaded not guilty.
A spokesperson for President Trump’s campaign said the former president “has always followed the law and the Constitution, with advice from many highly accomplished attorneys.”
President Trump’s team has also argued that he was protected by presidential immunity, although that defense has been rejected by the judge.
The outlets stated that Judge Chutkan should allow them to broadcast the trial because the case is high-profile.
A federal rule bars cameras in the federal courtrooms during criminal trials, but that rule actually violates the First Amendment, according to the outlets.
“Federal rules cannot contravene a First Amendment right,” they stated. “And to be meaningful in the unique circumstances of this case, that right must include a right of first-hand observation beyond those few dozen people who are able to squeeze into the courtroom.”
Mr. Smith’s prosecutors told the judge that the rule was imposed to “avoid the risks that policymakers have determined cameras pose to the fair administration of justice” and that it doesn’t infringe on constitutional rights.
“Prohibiting cameras in the courtroom passes constitutional muster because the restriction on the manner of access is reasonable and promotes significant governmental interests. A content-neutral time, place, and manner restriction satisfies the First Amendment so long as it serves significant government interests, is narrowly tailored to those interests, and leaves open ample alternative channels for speech,” they said.
President Trump’s lawyers said they’re siding with the outlets because of a need for transparency.
“President Trump calls for sunlight,” they said. “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.”