Trump Attorney John Lauro and Dana Bash Spar Over Press Freedom and Speech vs. Action on CNN's 'State of the Union'

Donald Trump attorney John Lauro joins Dana Bash on CNN's 'State of the Union' (8/6/23). (Credit: CNN)

Former President Donald Trump’s attorney, John Lauro, joined Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning to discuss the latest indictment brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith.


Not surprisingly, it was a somewhat contentious exchange, with Bash diving right into the topic by grilling Lauro regarding the Trump Team’s strategy in the face of Smith’s motion for a protective order.

Dana Bash: This weekend, the judge rejected your request for—

John Lauro: Good morning.

Dana Bash: —three more days to consider the Special Counsel’s proposed rules for how to handle evidence. The proposed protective order that would let Trump use some sensitive information but not take that information with him. Will you agree to that?

John Lauro: Well, first of all, this protective order that’s being suggested by the Biden administration is an effort to keep from the press important non-sensitive information that the Biden administration has that may speak to the—

Dana Bash: This isn’t by the Biden administration—

John Lauro: —innocence of President Trump.

Dana Bash: —this is by the Special Independent Counsel.

John Lauro: And, and, no, no, here, for this reason, no. The Independent Counsel—it’s not “Independent,” it’s “Special Counsel”—has to get the approval of Merrick Garland in order to go forward. Joe Biden said, in November 2022, that he wanted to see President Trump prosecuted and taken out of this race—

Dana Bash: Okay, there’s no—I’m just going to stop you—

John Lauro: —so it is the Biden administration, make no mistake about it. But the bottom line is—

Dana Bash: —because there’s no evidence that Joe Biden is involved in this, and you’re right, it’s a Special Counsel. Let’s just stick to the question. Do you believe that this is something you’ll agree to?

John Lauro: Yeah, so the point is…that we will not agree to keeping information that’s not—that’s non-sensitive from the press. The press and the American people, in a campaign season, have a right to know what the evidence is in this case, provided that this evidence is not protected otherwise. So we’re going to oppose it, as we have. But, for whatever reason, these lawyers on the prosecution team want to keep that from the press—

Dana Bash: Well, won’t the evidence come out in trial anyway?

John Lauro: —and I’m shocked, candidly, that the press—it, some of it will. Not all of it—I’m shocked that the press isn’t lined up objecting to this protective order, because not only is President Trump being attacked for his First Amendment rights, now these prosecutors are trying to infringe on the freedom of the press.


Throughout the interview, Bash attempted to redirect Lauro and box him in, but Lauro didn’t bite. He calmly addressed her points, despite her repeated interruptions, and ceded none of them. A bit more from their exchange:

Dana Bash: Let’s talk about the actual substance of what they were trying to do in the filing, which was try to make the point not only that they want to keep the discovery information—what the witnesses said—for the time being, quiet, but also, he made pretty clear, the Special Counsel, that the idea that the former president is calling him “deranged” and “mentally ill” is something that maybe shouldn’t be happening. So let me ask you, as his attorney in this criminal case, do you want your client to stop speaking publicly like this—using terms like that?

John Lauro: This case was brought by the Biden administration in the middle of a political campaign, and with the realization that people are out there campaigning for office. I’m not involved in the campaign, I’m involved in representing—

Dana Bash: Totally understand, you’re not his campaign manager, you are his lawyer—

John Lauro: —Mr. Trump in a criminal proceeding, but one—

Dana Bash: —as his lawyer, would you want a client to say things like this about the Special Counsel?

John Lauro: —one thing that we are going to do is fight this very, very unusual, outside-of-the-bounds criminal prosecution of First Amendment rights vigorously in court. My focus is on addressing the issues. One of the issues that the Biden administration will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that Donald Trump had corrupt intent—had criminal intent—when he protested the results of the 2020 election. That’s core freedom of speech, that’s core political speech, which is protected under our Constitution.


From there they continued to spar about the distinction between protected speech and action, with Bash seemingly becoming frustrated with Lauro’s unwillingness to accept her premise.

It’s an interesting exchange but one thing that really stood out to me was CNN’s promotion of the interview on Twitter, in which they chose to quote Bash, the host, rather than Lauro, the guest, highlighting her insistence that “There’s no evidence Joe Biden is involved in this.” Which, in my view, begs the question: Why even bother with the guest?


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