A Connecticut man seeking to allow cameras in the courtroom during a federal trial against former President Donald Trump has mailed a petition with nearly 17,000 signatures to members of a rule-making judicial panel.
The petition, started by Greenwich resident Jonathan Perloe, asks the U.S. Judicial Conference led by Chief Justice John Roberts to suspend a longstanding prohibition on cameras in federal courtrooms so an election obstruction case against the former president can be televised.
“This will be one of the most consequential trials in U.S. history and the victims of this alleged conspiracy are, at least in some measures, 80 or so million Americans who voted for Joe Biden,” Perloe said in a Tuesday interview. “Given how polarized our country is right now and that there’s so much misinformation out there, at least give people the chance to assess it on their own without the filters of intermediaries who may not be honest about how they communicate what’s happening.”
The prohibition on cameras in federal courts, known as Rule 53, dates back to 1946 and was expanded to include broadcasting or recording of courtrooms in 1972.
Federal courts have tested pilot programs allowing cameras over the years and during the pandemic the U.S. Supreme Court began streaming audio of its proceedings. However, the rule largely remains in place and, without intervention by the Judicial Conference, will prevent the broadcast of Trump’s federal trial.
That’s not to say that none of the looming court proceedings against the former president will be televised. Trump is facing felony charges in two federal cases, civil fraud allegations in a New York state court, and racketeering charges in a Fulton County, Georgia court. A judge has ruled the Georgia case will be televised.
Perloe said he felt it was important to leverage public pressure to televise the federal case for a number of reasons including the fact that a judge had already set a March 4, 2024 trial date in the federal case while it remained unclear when the Georgia case would go to trial.
“I think it’s important for the public to see what the charges are and whether they’re convinced by them before the election,” he said.
As of late morning, Perloe’s petition had amassed 17,070 signatures. The petition, posted on change.org, points to a March poll from MaristPoll, which found 80% of Republicans reporting they thought the investigation into Trump was a “witch hunt.”
“Honestly, I would hope that people who think that Donald Trump is the victim of a witch hunt might watch [the trial] and maybe they’ll come to a different conclusion. Who knows,” he said.
A coalition of 38 Democratic members of Congress led by U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-CA, made similar arguments in a letter to the Judicial Conference last month. The representatives urged the panel to ensure “timely access to accurate and reliable information” about the case.
“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 representatives wrote. “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.”
Arguments to televise the trial have not been exclusive to Trump’s opponents. In an August interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” John Lauro, an attorney for the former president, told host Dana Bash he would like to see cameras in the courtroom.
“I personally want the public to see what’s going on in this country right now,” Lauro told Bash. “I want the public to see what kind of prosecution is going on and I want the public to see the evidence. If you ask me what my personal opinion is, the answer is absolutely, I’d like to see that.”