NEW YORK (AP) — The judge in Donald Trump’s criminal case is holding a hybrid hearing Tuesday to make doubly sure the former president is aware of new rules barring him from using evidence to attack witnesses.
Trump won’t have to show up to court for the afternoon hearing at a Manhattan courthouse, avoiding the mammoth security and logistical challenges that accompanied his arraignment last month.
Instead, the Republican will be connected by video conference, with his face beamed onto courtroom TV monitors. His lawyers and prosecutors must still appear in person.
Judge Juan Manuel Merchan agreed to the extra step of personally instructing Trump on the restrictions after listing them May 8 in what’s known as a protective order.
Trump is allowed to speak publicly about the case, but he risks being held in contempt if he uses evidence turned over by prosecutors in the pretrial discovery process to target witnesses or others involved in the case.
Trump pleaded not guilty on April 4 to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to payments his company made to his former lawyer, Michael Cohen.
Prosecutors say those payments were intended to reimburse and compensate Cohen for orchestrating hush money payments during the 2016 campaign to bury allegations of extramarital sexual encounters. Trump denies having had extramarital flings and says the prosecution is politically motivated.
Merchan’s protective order bars Trump and his lawyers from disseminating evidence to third parties or posting it to social media, and it requires that certain, sensitive material shared by prosecutors be kept only by Trump’s lawyers, not Trump himself.
Prosecutors sought the order soon after Trump’s arrest, citing what they say is his history of making “harassing, embarrassing, and threatening statements” about people he’s tangled with in legal disputes.
Merchan, noting Trump’s “special” status as a former president and current candidate, has made clear that the protective order shouldn’t be construed as a gag order and that Trump has a right to publicly defend himself.
Trump’s lawyers are seeking to have his criminal case moved to federal court. It will continue in state court while that plays out.