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Broadcasts of Trump federal criminal cases? Courts say there’s a rule against that

Judicial group did not discuss a request from Democratic lawmakers to "explicitly authorize" a way for the public to watch

Former President Donald Trump greets and poses for photos with supporters in a private box during an NCAA college football game Saturday between Iowa State University and the University of Iowa at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa.
Former President Donald Trump greets and poses for photos with supporters in a private box during an NCAA college football game Saturday between Iowa State University and the University of Iowa at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The policymaking body of the federal courts indicated Tuesday that it hasn’t considered a change in rules to allow livestreaming of criminal trials such as those of former President Donald Trump.

Judge Lavenski Smith, chair of the Executive Committee of the Judicial Conference, told reporters that while the conference met and changed rules for broadcasts of some civil and bankruptcy court proceedings, a rule still prevents outside broadcasts in criminal cases.

“The answer to that question, at present, is controlled by rules that prohibit cameras in criminal proceedings under Rule 53,” Smith said. “And unless actions are taken to modify the rule, that will be the status of things that happen in federal court, but the conference itself did not address the question today.”

Last month, several dozen Democratic lawmakers pushed for the courts to change their policy to allow the broadcast of proceedings against Trump, who faces federal criminal charges in Florida and Washington.

“Given the historic nature of the charges brought forth in these cases, it is hard to imagine a more powerful circumstance for televised proceedings,” the letter stated.

“If the public is to fully accept the outcome, it will be vitally important for it to witness, as directly as possible, how the trials are conducted, the strength of the evidence adduced and the credibility of witnesses,” the letter stated.

After the Judicial Conference semiannual meeting Tuesday, Smith told reporters that the body did not take action on that request or others, such as one to change federal rules to prevent “judge shopping.”

The group’s next meeting would come the same month as Trump’s first federal criminal trial in March, when Trump is scheduled to face a jury in Washington, D.C., on charges connected to his effort to overturn the 2020 election result.

Trump is currently scheduled to face a federal jury in Florida in May on separate charges connected to allegations he kept sensitive documents at his private club after the end of his presidential term.

Those trials are separate from the two state cases against Trump in New York and Georgia. The trial in the New York case, where Trump allegedly falsified business records connected to his 2016 presidential run, was initially scheduled for March.

The judge in the Georgia case, where Trump faces state charges connected to his effort to overturn the 2020 election, has not set a trial date yet. The judge in the Georgia case has ruled that proceedings there may be televised.

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