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Why Trump wants to move his trial from D.C. to West Virginia

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The latest criminal case against former President Trump for allegedly conspiring to overturn the 2020 election is set to be tried in Washington, D.C. But Trump and his legal team have said they want the trial - if there is a trial - to be moved to West Virginia. Here's what his attorney, John Lauro, told my colleague Sacha Pfeiffer on this program earlier this week when she asked him, why was that?

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

JOHN LAURO: We're looking for a jury that will be more balanced. And West Virginia was a state that was more evenly divided.

CHANG: Now, it's very unlikely that a request to move the trial to West Virginia would be granted. But to talk more about West Virginia's political leanings, we have Hoppy Kercheval on the line. He's a longtime radio broadcaster in the state who hosts the program "Talkline" on West Virginia Metro News. Welcome, Hoppy.

HOPPY KERCHEVAL: Thanks, Ailsa. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

CHANG: You know, first, we should know upfront that you are very much not a supporter of Trump. In fact, you think he's, quote, "disqualified himself" because of what happened after the 2020 presidential election. But I want to unpack his lawyer's claims a bit more. Lauro says that West Virginia was a state that was more evenly divided than, say, the population in Washington, D.C. How does that claim square with how your state voted in 2020?

KERCHEVAL: He's right in that it's more evenly divided than Washington, D.C., because 95% of the people in Washington voted for Joe Biden. But it's not very evenly divided the other way. I mean, this is a state that Donald Trump won with almost 70% of the vote in 2016 and 2020. If he ran again today, despite the indictments, he would easily carry West Virginia.

CHANG: And explain to listeners why you think Trump is so popular in West Virginia.

KERCHEVAL: One of the reasons is demographics. West Virginia is a largely white, 90% white working class state. Second of all, it's a pro-energy state with coal and natural gas. And Donald Trump has spoken very positively about those industries. And Donald Trump campaigned in West Virginia.

CHANG: What about the judiciary? What can you tell us about the makeup of the federal judiciary there?

KERCHEVAL: There are a number of federal judges here who have been around for a good while who have largely been appointed by Democrats, but each of them has a good reputation of being fair. I think that whoever was on trial could expect a fair hearing before any of these judges in West Virginia.

CHANG: Tell me about some of the conversations that you've been having with many of your listeners about Trump as they're processing this news that he's now facing three indictments.

KERCHEVAL: Well, some of it - I host a daily talk show, and some of those conversations have been pretty testy, I must tell you.

CHANG: I imagine so.

KERCHEVAL: Because, again, there's many, many people in West Virginia who are supportive of Donald Trump. They feel like, as you - I'm sure you have heard, that there's this two-tiered justice system. And there are a lot of folks who just feel like that West Virginia was doing better under Donald Trump than under Joe Biden. I saw a poll the other day, New York Times and Siena, that said that 35% of those who support Donald Trump are just unwavering. And I would say in West Virginia, that number is even higher. I would say that number is closer to 60%. So he could be indicted. You know, he's indicted three times. He could be indicted 33 times. And the more he gets indicted, the more entrenched his support gets in many parts of West Virginia.

CHANG: That was Hoppy Kercheval. He hosts the program "Talkline" on West Virginia Metro News. Thank you so much, Hoppy.

KERCHEVAL: It's my pleasure. Thanks for asking me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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