The Weekly Reload Podcast

The View From the Courtroom as the NRA Corruption Trial Ends

February 19th, 2024

This week, Contributing Writer Jake Fogleman interviews me about what it was like in the courtroom as New York's civil trial against the NRA and its leaders reached closing arguments.

Thanks to the support of Reload Members, I've been able to cover much of the case from inside the Manhattan court where it's happening. This is vital because there is no live stream of the proceedings and the transcripts aren't made available until well after the events of the day, if at all. So, spending the resources to be up there is vital to understanding what is actually happening in a case that will affect the future of the nation's largest gun-rights group, which has received only modest coverage from major media outlets.

Jake asked me about how the closing arguments went. I did my best to summarize what the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, the group's top lawyer, and its former treasurer put up as their defense. And how the office of Attorney General Letitia James tried to rebut those arguments.

I did my best to explain, but the answer went on for a while, and I wasn't able to hit every point. I probably could have talked for another several hours on how the case unfolded over the course of six weeks or even just the closing arguments, which went on for eight hours.

Jake also asked me to predict the outcome of the case based on everything I saw in court. I don't think it's possible to predict exactly how the jury will rule on the many, many questions they have to resolve. But I did think significant parts of the jury instructions make an overall win for the NRA, LaPierre, and others very difficult to imagine.

After going over my time at the NRA trial, we discussed my on-the-ground experience during Donald Trump's speech at the Great American Outdoor Show. The rally took place in Pennsylvania, a key state in what's looking like an inevitable rematch between Trump and President Joe Biden. But it wasn't as newsworthy as I'd expected it to be since the NRA didn't actually announce its endorsement of Trump.

Instead, it was much more akin to a normal Trump rally. Trump made some specific promises about gun policy, but none of them were new. 

The lack of an endorsement felt especially odd since the political speech was a new component of the event, and no other politician was invited, including Trump's remaining Republican opponent, Nikki Haley. And the speech was run like a rally, with the NRA repeatedly heaping praise on Trump and calling for him to be president again.

The rally also featured moments where the crowd was encouraged to yell their shared disdain at the media in the room in what has been a staple of Trump rallies for years but which also fell more ominous after the events of January 6th. The crowd was energetic at points, cheering and laughing at Trump's now-familiar routine. But they also quieted down through long stretches of his stream-of-consciousness asides and the venue that started nearly full of Trump supporters was about half empty by the time he wrapped up an hour and 15 minutes after he'd arrived.

Plus, I interviewed Jake about what happened to the rebranded effort to ban AR-15s and other guns in New Mexico.