He 30 page transcript (and the six-page index) of the initial hearing in Florida for the federal classified documents case against former President Donald Trump did not include any particular fireworks or revelations. Trump didn’t even say a word, and most of the 49 minutes were procedural discussions.
It certainly wasn’t as explosive as the indictment itself, with its seemingly irrefutable evidence and absurd touches like a picture of boxes of supposed official documents, including classified material, stacked in a tacky Mar-a-Lago bathroom.
Even so, since it was published a day after the hearing, the transcript has been published and republished, allowing everyone to examine what happened in the courtroom. This is not only good reference material, but it helps to temper the idea that there is anything adversarial or politically motivated in this trial. The proceedings will be naked for all the world to see, with all their twists and turns.
Not so at Trump’s trial in New York, where he faces felony charges of falsifying business records in connection with the 2016 campaign bribery of Stormy Daniels. At that trial, the transcript is a privileged document, only available for someone willing to buy it from the lucky court reporter, who keeps the proceeds from each and every sale.
When ABC News put the Manhattan transcript online, was shot down quickly. That’s because, under our weird rules, the court reporter, a court clerk who does his or her work on behalf of the court inside a court building, retains the rights to the transcript and can then sell it for a couple of dollars. per page.
Those who buy these transcripts cannot then disseminate them. Along with bans on recording or broadcasting from inside courtrooms, the rules mean the public will have no way of following the proceedings directly. We hate to cut a lucrative deal for a government-paid court reporter, but that’s no way to run the trial of a former president in a democracy. The rules must change.