Friday, July 19, 2024

The federal judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s trial on charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election rejected on Friday a request by Mr. Trump’s lawyers to remove language from his indictment describing the role he played in the violence that erupted at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The ruling by the judge, Tanya S. Chutkan, was an initial step toward allowing prosecutors in the case to introduce evidence at trial that members of the mob that stormed the Capitol that day believed they were acting at Mr. Trump’s instruction.

Last month, Mr. Trump’s lawyers asked Judge Chutkan to strike any mention of the riot at the Capitol from the 45-page indictment filed against him this summer in Federal District Court in Washington. The lawyers argued that since none of the four charges in the case explicitly accused Mr. Trump of inciting the violence that day, any reference to the mob attack would be prejudicial and irrelevant.

Prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, shot back that even if they had not filed formal incitement charges, the riot would be instrumental in their efforts to prove one of their central allegations: that Mr. Trump had plotted to obstruct the certification of the election that was taking place at a proceeding at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

In court papers to Judge Chutkan, prosecutors called the Jan. 6 attack “the culmination” of Mr. Trump’s “criminal conspiracies” to overturn the election. They also suggested that they were poised to introduce video evidence of the riot and call witnesses at trial who could testify that they attacked police and stormed the Capitol after hearing Mr. Trump exhort them to “fight” in a speech he gave before the violence broke out.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers have suggested that they will try in a future motion to keep Mr. Smith’s team from introducing evidence like that at the trial. If the lawyers end up taking that route, Judge Chutkan will have to make another ruling about whether the evidence is relevant and not prejudicial.

Her decision to keep the references to the riot in the indictment came on the same day that a group of news organizations reiterated a request to televise the trial.

Lawyers for the news organizations said Mr. Trump had sought to challenge the “very legitimacy” of the case, and they argued that a live broadcast was needed so people could view the trial firsthand.

“Of all trials conducted throughout American history, this one needs the public trust that only a televised proceeding can foster,” lawyers for the organizations wrote.

9-page brief by the media outlets—The New York Times, among them—was the last round of court papers expected to be filed to Judge Chutkan before she rules on whether to allow cameras at the trial, which is scheduled to begin in March.

Lawyers for Mr. Trump, in a combative and misleading filing last week, compared the election interference case to “a trial in an authoritarian regime.” They told Judge Chutkan that it should be televised so that the public did not have to “rely on biased, secondhand accounts coming from the Biden administration and its media allies.”

Within days, prosecutors in the office of the special counsel fired back that broadcasting the proceeding would not only violate longstanding federal rules of criminal procedure, but would also allow Mr. Trump, a former reality television star, to turn the trial into “a media event” with a “carnival atmosphere.”

Lawyers for the media coalition said in their filing on Friday that it was “naïve to think that Trump’s trial will be anything other than a ‘media event.’”

But the lawyers said that if the proceeding were broadcast live—in a “dignified, carefully managed” manner—it would permit the public to “see this trial firsthand” after Mr. Trump has relentlessly attacked the government’s case as an act of pure political persecution.

“The media coalition believes that the more people who see the trial in real time, the stronger the case for public acceptance of the result,” the lawyers wrote.

The judge who is overseeing Mr. Trump’s trial in Fulton County, Ga., on local charges of tampering with that state’s election has already televised several key hearings and has vowed to broadcast the trial itself, which could take place as early as next summer. (Prosecutors in Georgia filed a motion seeking an Aug. 5 start date on Friday, though the presiding judge will ultimately set the trial date.)

But the federal courts have stricter rules about cameras in the courtroom, and Judge Chutkan would have to set them aside to allow her trial to be broadcast live.

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