Donald Trump is trying to make federal criminal charges go away the same way he’s dealt with every other difficult thing in his life: through an aggressive media campaign coupled with delay and denial. And, being Trump, he has surrounded himself with lawyers who are happy to go along with it, even though blustery media appearances are not typically the best way to defend a client against federal criminal charges.
The judge and prosecutors are unlikely to be impressed by this approach, but when you consider the media response it’s getting, it’s not hard to see why Trump likes it so much. Take this truly shameful moment on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday. Trump and his lawyers are waging a campaign to, depending how you look at it, get Trump’s trial moved from Washington, D.C., to West Virginia, or simply convince a lot of people that Trump’s trial was unfair because it wasn’t moved out of Washington, the place where he committed his crimes. That led to this exchange:
MAJOR GARRETT: Are you still going to pursue a change of venue?
JOHN LAURO: Absolutely. We—we would like a diverse venue, a diverse jury. One that—that reflects the—
MAJOR GARRETT: Do you have any expectation that will be granted?
JOHN LAURO: That reflects the—the—the—the characteristics of the American people.
It's up to the judge. I think West Virginia would be an excellent venue to try this case.
MAJOR GARRETT: Speaking of the judge—
JOHN LAURO: They're close to D.C. and a much more diverse—
MAJOR GARRETT: Understood.
West Virginia is “much more diverse” than the District of Columbia, Lauro claimed, and Garrett’s response was simply “understood.” Well, Garrett may well understand, but his viewers don’t necessarily. This is a claim that requires some pushback and clarification. Partisanship is the one measure Trump and his lawyers care about here: West Virginia is heavily Republican, but it’s somewhat less heavily Republican than the District of Columbia is Democratic. That’s it. At the same time, West Virginia is extremely white, with much lower percentages of Black, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian people than the United States as a whole. Trump and his lawyers are using “reflects the characteristics of the American people” and “more diverse” to mean “more Republicans and, related, also more white people,” and Garrett has absolutely nothing to say about that.
When Trump himself argued on Truth Social last week for a move to West Virginia, he didn’t bother with this “more diverse” nonsense, admitting that the issue was all about the partisan breakdown of the location. West Virginia was “impartial” and “politically unbiased,” he claimed, while it was “IMPOSSIBLE to get a fair trial in Washington, D.C., which is over 95% anti-Trump, & for which I have called for a Federal TAKEOVER in order to bring our Capital back to Greatness.” When he returned to the subject during his weekend of Truth Social ranting, it seems someone had gotten through to him that he couldn’t admit he just wanted a location with fewer Democrats, because he leaned more heavily on his claim that he was just too unpopular in the District due to his call for a federal takeover—a call he’s actively promoting as a strategy to argue for a venue change.
For the record, the U.S. Constitution has this to say about where crimes should be tried:
The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.
Speaking of the Constitution, Lauro also continued trying to push the claim that Trump wasn’t committing crimes, he was merely exercising his free speech when he tried to overturn the 2020 election—another claim the media has treated far too credulously. On “Meet the Press,” Chuck Todd did a slightly better job pushing back against Lauro’s most ridiculous claims than Garrett on “Face the Nation,” with Todd repeatedly noting that the crimes Trump is being charged with are different than the many ways he legally exercised his right to free speech and took his election theft claims to court—where he lost again and again.
Todd and Lauro also had this exchange for the ages:
[Pence] said the president asked him to violate the Constitution. He said the president asked him to violate the Constitution, which is another way of saying he asked him to break the law.
He never said, he never said—no, that's wrong. That's wrong. A—a technical violation of the Constitution is not a violation of criminal law. That's just plain wrong. And to say that is contrary to decades of legal statutes.
A “technical violation of the Constitution,” the man said.
Trump and his lawyers want to try this case in the media for good reason. His rabid fans will buy every word of it and it will at least give less-committed Republicans something to work with in justifying their continuing support of him. And every reporter and interviewer who lets Lauro make these claims without robust and fully informed pushback is aiding Trump’s defense in the public eye if not in the courts.