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Trump's legal team tries to delay his election interference trial — and get it on TV


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting) We love Trump. We love Trump.

DONALD TRUMP: This is a persecution.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Felony violations of our national security laws.

TRUMP: We need one more indictment...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Criminal conspiracy.

TRUMP: ...To close out this election.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: He actually just stormed out of the courtroom.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.


It's time for TRUMP'S TRIAL'S, our weekly take on the multiple cases former President Donald Trump is facing, all while running for president again. This week, we're focusing on the federal election interference case that will be held in D.C. It's led by special counsel Jack Smith. And as of right now, it is set to be the first case to go to trial, scheduled to begin in March. And even as Trump's legal team tries to delay it, it's also pushing for the trial to be televised, which would be an enormous departure from how federal cases typically go. We're joined now by NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Hey, Domenico.


DETROW: And NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Carrie, thanks for being here.


DETROW: So the Trump team, along with some media outlets, are asking for this D.C. January 6 trial, which, again, as of right now, would be the first trial up. They want it to be televised. What are the legal arguments for and against putting cameras in a courtroom? Because it seems to me this is something that just doesn't happen on the federal level.

JOHNSON: It doesn't happen on the federal level. There's actually a federal rule that prevents this kind of broadcasting of court proceedings. And the Judicial Conference, which is the big body of judges, federal judges who run the system, as late as September of this year, once again thought about these issues and just said no. That said, there's a major media coalition out there who's talking about what a grave disservice it would be to American democracy and to voters not to televise this trial. They call this trial maybe the most important criminal trial in the history of the republic. And they say that the best antidote to misinformation and manipulation of the public and the voters is to let people listen and see for themselves. And the Justice Department is super, super opposed to it. They think that Donald Trump could turn this into a carnival-like atmosphere. They talk about the possible threats to witnesses and people who might be called to testify in this case and other cases down the line. And they say there's just no evidence that this needs to happen or should happen.

DETROW: This seems very unlikely. Is that the right way to think about this?

JOHNSON: I think it's really unlikely. Think about some of the major trials we've had in the last, you know, 20 years or so - the trial of the Boston Marathon bomber, the trial of Timothy McVeigh, who bombed the Oklahoma City Federal Building, and the two recent trials of leaders of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers in connection with January 6. None of them were televised or broadcast live.

DETROW: Domenico, what's the political calculus here for Trump?

MONTANARO: I mean, Trump's the reality TV guy. I mean, he wants to take it back to the '90s. The '90s are cool again. So, you know, he wants all the big show trials, but he wants to do it in a way that he feels is going to help him politically, right? I mean, the government's accusing Trump of, as Carrie says, wanting to have a carnival-like atmosphere, of wanting to play politics, wanting to turn these into show trials. And they're right. I mean, Trump wants to make the case before voters basically, make his arguments for why these cases are phony, made up, witch hunts, hoaxes, whatever. But I have to say, politically, this works much better in March than it does in August for Trump. Because when you look at the political calendar, March is when the primaries are going to be happening. It certainly helps him with his base. But whether or not that helps him with a general election audience - remember, his brand has been pretty toxic with general election voters. And, you know, elevating himself and showing this trial, I'm not sure it's going to be something that's going to help him, whether he thinks it will or not.

DETROW: And there is one irony here to point out, that on one hand, Trump's legal team is asking for this to be televised, seems to want to have this public fight, but on the other hand, this week, appealed a ruling about the scope of his immunity as a former president in an attempt to delay this trial.

JOHNSON: Delay remains the most important strategy at Trump's disposal, and it remains to be seen whether the federal appeals court in D.C. is going to act on that appeal in a super-speedy fashion, or whether it might endanger the March 4 trial date next year in this January 6 case in D.C.

MONTANARO: I think Trump has a 3D strategy, which is dismiss, delay, distract. He tries to dismiss first, if he can't get that, he's trying to delay, and if he can't do that, then he's going to distract.

DETROW: All right. We're going to shift gears here and talk about a few cases that are outside of those core four criminal cases that we mostly focus on here. These are cases where Trump is not the defendant, but they revolve around the fake electors in the 2020 election. Domenico, start off by reminding us who these fake electors were and how this fits into the Trump team's broader scheme to try and overturn the election.

MONTANARO: Yeah. I mean, I think this is a phrase that can be kind of esoteric and, like, be confusing for people. So just let me lay it out. Because electors are really the ones who actually cast votes for the president. We have an electoral college, but these aren't supposed to be rogue agents. You know, these are supposed to be people who represent how the vote went in each state. They're proxies for the people's vote. Based on the vote share in each state, people are selected by parties and candidates. They're known as slates. But what Trump tried to do in multiple states is file fake elector slates and say that they actually represent the votes of people and that he won in multiple places that he didn't win. I mean, that just didn't go well. And now there are multiple investigations, civil and criminal, across swing states. Some people have already been charged, like in Georgia. And other states are holding out the possibility of launching criminal probes across a lot of different swing states.

DETROW: And, Carrie, we had updates in two of those key states that decided the election last time around, Wisconsin and Nevada.

JOHNSON: Yeah. Let's start with Nevada. Six people have been charged by Nevada's authorities with crimes, basically for signing up for this plot and then sending phony information to Washington, to federal authorities. Remember, this was a key part of the alleged scheme to try to lean on Vice President Mike Pence to delay that certification on January 6. And it really matters. It matters not just in the federal case, but also in numerous swing states, like Domenico said. And we also had an important settlement this week in Wisconsin with fake electors there. This was a civil case, not a criminal case. But the import of this settlement is that all of these people who settled have agreed not to serve as electors again in 2024, and they signed on to the idea that Joe Biden is the legitimate winner of the 2020 election. It doesn't sound like a big deal three years later, but it actually is - the idea that they put the lie to this bogus theory that they were part of.

DETROW: That was NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Thank you, Carrie.

JOHNSON: My pleasure.

DETROW: Also joined by NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Thanks, Domenico.

MONTANARO: Pleasure, as always.

DETROW: And just to flag, next week, Trump is back on the witness stand testifying in that New York civil fraud trial, this time in his defense. We will talk all about it next week. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.
Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.