If Trump trial is not broadcast live, a plea to record it for posterity | ET REALITY


In a pair of filings this month, news organizations asked a federal judge in Washington to allow live television coverage of President Donald J. Trump’s trial on charges of conspiracy to undermine the 2020 election. They face a fight clearly uphill.

A federal rule of criminal procedure stands in their way, and the Supreme Court has long been wary of cameras in courtrooms, particularly its own.

But one of the applicationsfrom the parent company of NBC News, presented an intriguing supporting argument, based on the text of a key obstacle to live television coverage: Rule 53 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

At least, the petition said, Rule 53 allows the court to record the proceedings for posterity.

The rule prohibits “the broadcast of judicial proceedings from the courtroom.” NBC’s request focuses on the last three words, arguing that audio and video of the trial can be distributed in ways other than streaming “from the courtroom.”

That argument, based on the plain words of the provision, is consistent with a mode of legal interpretation known as textualism that is often adopted by conservatives. NBC argued that streaming a video from the courtroom to its studios, for example, and then broadcasting it to the public, perhaps after a brief delay, would not violate the rule.

That argument might seem too clever to some. But it does point to something more fundamental: the judge overseeing the case, Tanya S. Chutkan, could authorize the creation of audiovisual recordings and their subsequent dissemination at the time, responding to the claims not of the news cycle but of the historical record. That doesn’t seem to carry over from the courtroom.

Rebecca Blumenstein, editorial chair of NBC News and former deputy managing editor of The New York Times, asked Judge Chutkan to do at least that.

“At a minimum, I urge this court to allow video recording of the proceedings for historical posterity,” Ms. Blumenstein said in an affidavit submitted with NBC’s application. “It would be a great loss if future generations of Americans were forever deprived of being able to access and view the events of this trial even years after the verdict, which would greatly enhance the ability of future journalists and historians to accurately retell and analyze meaningfully. this unique chapter in American history.”

The second applicationof a coalition of news organizations, including The Times, noted that Judge Chutkan’s courtroom “is already equipped to record and broadcast the criminal proceedings.”

“District courtrooms have cameras, which are used to broadcast proceedings to media and overflow rooms,” the application said. “In fact, for President Trump’s August 11 arraignment, the court livestreamed the proceedings to two separate press rooms for members of the media, as well as an additional public room.”

That shows two things: Not all camera coverage is a broadcast from the courtroom, and creating a record of historical value would require minimal effort. The video could be posted after a short period, perhaps at the end of the day, week, or trial.

There are some vaguely analogous precedents.

In 1990, after leaving office, President Ronald Reagan was questioned in a videotaped deposition at the trial of a former aide. A little more than a month later, after the jury saw the tape, the judge decided publicly available.

In 1998, President Bill Clinton testified before a grand jury via closed-circuit television about his relationship with a White House intern. A month later, Congress released a recording of the testimony.

“This time,” the NBC request said, “the former president himself is on trial for alleged conduct while serving as president, so the need for as direct and immediate public access as possible to the proceedings is at its core. apogee. “Americans (and history) should not miss the opportunity to see the video of this watershed trial, involving alleged conduct that goes to the heart of our democracy.”

In 2010, the Supreme Court blocked a plan transmit the trial of a challenge to Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage, to courts across the country. The details are not important; the court did not address the First Amendment; and a majority said they reserved judgment on whether to use cameras in the courtroom.

“The question of whether judicial proceedings should be broadcast has sparked considerable national debate,” the unsigned opinion said. “Reasonable minds differ about the appropriate resolution of that debate and about the restrictions, circumstances and procedures under which such transmissions should occur. We express no opinion here on the advisability of broadcasting judicial proceedings in general.”

The important thing is that, nevertheless, the trial was recorded for posterity and, after the Supreme Court review denied last year In a final appeal, the federal court YouTube channel for citizens and historians to study.

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