A New York judge on Monday restricted former President Donald Trump from publicly distributing some evidence tied to his Manhattan criminal indictment, including on social media platforms like Trump’s own Truth Social, after prosecutors claimed the former president could misuse documents or put court staff at “considerable safety risk.”
The protective order by Judge Juan Merchan said any evidence provided by prosecutors during the discovery process can only be used to help the former president prepare a defense, and Trump can only view certain sensitive evidence in his attorneys’ presence.
Merchan said discovery evidence cannot be shared on a litany of social media sites, including mainstream platforms as well as Truth Social, a site controlled by Trump Media & Technology Group that the former president has frequently used to criticize prosecutors.
The order does not apply to evidence provided to prosecutors by Trump’s team, and at a hearing last week, Marchan reportedly said Trump can still discuss the “vast majority of the evidence” in the case, as long as he doesn’t disclose materials obtained by prosecutors.
Merchan also said the Manhattan district attorney can redact the names of office staffers until jury selection—not including prosecutors and some other personnel.
Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Catherine McCraw asked Merchan to restrict Trump’s access to information two weeks ago, citing Trump’s “longstanding and perhaps singular history of attacking witnesses, investigators, prosecutors, trial jurors, grand jurors, judges and others involved in legal proceedings against him.”
Trump was arraigned in Manhattan last month on 34 counts of falsifying business records, marking the first criminal prosecution of a former president. The charges stem from a series of alleged hush money payments made by Trump’s allies to cover up accusations of extramarital affairs ahead of the 2016 election—including a payment to Stormy Daniels by ex-Trump attorney Michael Cohen, whom prosecutors say was reimbursed by Trump using checks falsely disguised as payments for legal services. Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels and insisted the charges are politically motivated, and he has frequently criticized Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg in vociferous terms. In the leadup to his indictment, he called Bragg an “animal” and a “danger to our Country” in Truth Social posts, and he posted an image of Bragg next to a photo of himself wielding a baseball bat—a post Trump attorney Joe Tacopina called “ill-advised” but said was taken out of context. Merchan faced an influx of threats in the days following Trump’s indictment, though none were substantiated.
During Trump’s arraignment, Merchan reportedly urged both prosecutors and the former president to keep their rhetoric in line, asking Trump to avoid “comments that have potential to incite violence, create civil unrest (or) jeopardize the state or well-being of any individuals.” The judge also did not rule out issuing a gag order prohibiting Trump and Bragg’s office from speaking about the case, though many legal experts say such an order is unlikely due to First Amendment constraints.
N.Y. Prosecutor Wants Trump Kept From Criminal Case Evidence—Says He Could Endanger Staff (Forbes)
Will Trump Get Gag Order In Manhattan DA Case? Here’s What That Would Mean—And Why It Could Land Him In Prison (Forbes)