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Trump Wants a Televised Trial; Jack Smith Does Not

Donald Trump wants his D.C. trial televised. That way he can play to the groundlings, rather than to the judge and jury. His game plan appears to be to win the election by getting public opinion on his side and then pardoning himself. Since the Constitution doesn't put any limits on the pardon power, he assumes (probably rightly) that the Supreme Court won't foil his plans. The media also would love to televise the trial ("This trial is brought to you by ..."). Maybe Bud Light would sponsor it.

One of the many arguments the media are making is that the trial is a historic moment and it should be preserved for future generations by recording it. This would help future journalists and historians better understand the Trump presidency and the events of the past few years.

Sounds simple, no? Judge rules: "One or two remotely controlled cameras are allowed" and we're done. Not so fast. First, special counsel Jack Smith is strongly against cameras in the courtroom. He doesn't want to create a media circus (Think: the televised trial of O.J. Simpson in California). Second, Rule 53 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure strictly prohibits broadcasting judicial proceedings (although some states, including Georgia, allow state trials to be televised). The courts have long upheld the constitutionality of Rule 53. Judge Tanya Chutkan presumably knew this before she was handed the case, but with Smith's reminder, she certainly knows it now.

The end result is an almost certain ban on all cameras, video and still, as well as all audio recording devices. Enforcing the latter will almost certainly require a ban on all cellphones in the courtroom, since anyone with a phone could just have it in a shirt pocket quietly recording all the audio. Courtroom artists are allowed, of course, and no doubt there will be one or more actively drawing. Hopefully they remember to draw Jesus when he sits next to Trump. (V)

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