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Judge in D.C. Sets Trump Trial for March 4 & Rejects Trump Lawyer’s Citation of Scottsboro Boys Case

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Image Credit: White House photo // Morgan County Archives

We continue to look at Donald Trump’s mounting legal battles with constitutional law professor Anthony Michael Kreis. Trump’s federal trial for election interference is set to begin in Washington, D.C., in March, but his legal team argued this week for a two-year delay, citing the case of the Scottsboro Boys, nine young Black men who were falsely accused of raping a white woman and convicted in a rushed trial before the Supreme Court ultimately intervened. “It’s offensive,” Kreis says of the comparison. “To claim that Donald Trump is a victim of some unlawful, unruly criminal justice process akin to 1930s Alabama is simply false.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to bring Anthony Michael Kreis into the conversation on the other trial — right? — the federal trial, and the significance of the judge there, Judge Chutkan, setting March 4th of next year. We’re talking about two trials, right? You have Mark Meadows wanting to make this a federal trial in Georgia. Now, still he could not — Trump could not be pardoned, could not pardon himself, even if it’s a federal trial, though it will draw from a larger, more white jury pool if it becomes a federal trial, not just Fulton County. But on this other case, March 4th, the significance of this? And then, the significance of Trump’s lawyer raising the case of the Scottsboro Boys as an example of why Trump should be tried in two years rather than next year? Professor Anthony Michael Kreis?

ANTHONY MICHAEL KREIS: Yeah, it’s offensive. So, I think that the important lesson from the Scottsboro Boys case is that in Alabama in the early 1930s, you had powers that be who used the criminal justice system in order to reinforce white supremacy — all-white juries, rushed sham trials, lack of criminal process and procedure. That’s just not what’s happening here in Washington, D.C., in the special counsel’s case at all. Donald Trump has been afforded every opportunity to have a robust defense. The evidence that’s being laid before the federal court has been the byproduct of a very long, intense investigation. It is real evidence. He has every opportunity to actually lodge a defense in court in a trial and poke holes in that evidence in front of a jury of his peers. It’s just simply not an apt or relevant observation that the lawyer made there.

So, I think the other thing that’s really kind of important to note is that the defense strategy has been one to also attack the worthiness, the citizenship, the ability of Washington, D.C., residents to self-govern and to be good, impartial jurors. In large part, these attacks are racially motivated and calling into question, as Donald Trump has often done, the ability of Black Americans to be good citizens. And so, I think, given that context, it’s especially offensive to raise the Scottsboro Boys as some kind of sign or to point to them and to claim that Donald Trump is a victim of some unlawful, unruly criminal justice process akin to 1930s Alabama. It’s simply, simply false.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Professor Kreis, I wanted to ask you about, again, the date of this federal trial, March 4th, just as the Super Tuesday primaries are about to start. The likelihood that if the polls hold up as they are holding up now, that Trump will, in effect, be already, after Super Tuesday, the presumptive candidate of the Republican Party for president, and yet he will still be in the midst of a trial, and the impact that that will have on our politics?

ANTHONY MICHAEL KREIS: Well, I think it’s a real test for our constitutional order and our political system. Ultimately, Donald Trump, I think, will be, on the one hand, afforded every right that he is entitled to under the Constitution and under federal rules of criminal procedure, and that’s right. That’s a real testament to our system. On the other hand, while Donald Trump will be the nominee, by all accounts, or at least likely accounts from our vantage point right now, the American public also should be entirely aware of all the evidence that has been unearthed by the Special Counsel’s Office, and perhaps even by Fani Willis, before they make a decision to vote for or not to vote for Donald Trump, should he be the nominee come November 2024.

So, that’s a really important thing in terms of giving the public and the voting public the information necessary to make good choices, because I think it’s also important to note that even if Donald Trump were convicted of a crime in D.C., or even in Georgia, for that matter, and was elected president in 2024, you know, he could not only pardon himself from the federal crimes and make those cases go away, but he also could basically force the state of Georgia to suspend further criminal proceedings or even spring him from imprisonment, should that be a consequence from a potential conviction, so that he can run the country. That’s a really interesting dynamic.

And, of course, there’s another question about whether he’s even eligible under the 14th Amendment, given the fact that the charges here alleged in Washington, D.C., essentially say that he engaged in an activity that deprived people of their civil rights, or a conspiracy to attempt to deprive people of their civil rights. And part and parcel of that was January 6. People engaged in violent insurrection, insurrectionist activities against the United States government, and blocked a proceeding of the United States government in order to thwart the peaceful transition of power. And they did so as part of this conspiracy to deprive people of their constitutional rights under the United States Constitution to have their votes counted freely and fairly. So, I think people really deserve to have the full body of evidence before them before they make this very important decision.

AMY GOODMAN: Anthony Michael Kreis, assistant professor of law at Georgia State University, and Cliff Albright, co-founder and executive director of Black Voters Matter, both speaking to us from Atlanta.

Coming up, vigils continuing in Jacksonville, Florida, after a white supremacist gunman fatally shot three Black people at a dollar store Saturday. Back in 30 seconds.

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