“Given the historic nature of the charges brought forth in these cases, it is hard to imagine a more powerful circumstance for televised proceedings,” said the letter, dated Thursday. “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.”
While cameras are common in state and local courtrooms, they are generally not allowed in federal courtrooms. The Judicial Conference of the United States, the policymaking body for the courts, has allowed some pilot programs in recent decades focused on civil cases. Lawmakers in both parties have unsuccessfully pushed legislation to allow more transparency.
A lawyer for Trump has also suggested that they would like the expected trial on 2020 election-related charges to be televised.
Last month, after Trump revealed that he had received a target letter from special counsel Jack Smith, Trump attorney John Lauro said he would welcome additional transparency.
“I would hope that the Department of Justice would join in that effort so that we can take the curtain away and all Americans can see what’s happening,” Lauro told Fox News.
A spokesman for Smith declined to comment about the prospect of televised proceedings.
Opponents to cameras in the courtroom argue that they can be disruptive, intimidate witnesses and cause judges and jurors to lose their relative anonymity.
Trump’s arraignment Thursday in front of a federal magistrate judge in Washington was not televised. During the proceedings, Trump pleaded not guilty to charges that he conspired to overturn the results of the 2020 election, appearing in the federal courthouse that sits just blocks away from where his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol to keep him in power on Jan. 6, 2021.
Trump also faces a federal trial in Florida scheduled in May in the classified documents case that Smith brought against him.
The lawmakers’ letter to Mauskopf, who serves as director of the administrative office of the U.S. Courts, argued that “[i]t is imperative the Conference ensures timely access to accurate and reliable information surrounding these cases and all of their proceedings, given the extraordinary national importance to our democratic institutions and the need for transparency.”
House members who signed the letter included Democrats Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, who chaired the House select committee that investigated the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, as well as Reps. Jamie B. Raskin (Md.) and Zoe Lofgren (Calif.).
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), another of the signers, said in a tweet that the “American people have a right to know what is said in cases that concern us all,” adding that it’s “in everyone’s best interest to know the truth.”
Connolly has previously introduced legislation that would allow Supreme Court proceedings to be televised.
Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.