In accordance with a request from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office, New York State Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan has imposed limitations on former President Donald Trump’s public statements regarding his criminal case in which he is accused of falsifying business records in 2016.
According to ABC News, the order restricts Trump from copying, disclosing or circulating any evidence shared by the prosecution with the defense, including on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, YouTube and the former president’s Truth Social.
The order further emphasizes that prior approval from the court is necessary for any form of third-party disclosure.
JUST IN: Judge restricts Trump’s social media posting in hush-money case: report https://t.co/MasuHzHFJE pic.twitter.com/seBHl0Vffy
— The Hill (@thehill) May 9, 2023
While the restrictions aim to prevent potential interference with the trial proceedings, Judge Merchan clarified that he is not imposing a complete gag order on Trump’s comments related to the case, considering his candidacy for the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential election.
“I’m straining to give him every opportunity to make his candidacy. This is not a gag order,” Merchan affirmed.
Per the order, materials and information provided by the prosecution to the defense for discovery purposes should be solely used for the preparation of Trump’s defense in the ongoing case. Trump will be allowed access to “Limited Dissemination Materials” only in the presence of his attorneys, with strict restrictions in place to prevent independent possession or reproduction of such materials.
When it comes to forensic images of witness cell phones, Trump can only access specific portions upon approval by the judge. To ensure his understanding of the order and his compliance, a virtual hearing has been scheduled, during which the order will be read to him.
Last month, the District Attorney’s office argued that Trump’s history of attacking individuals involved in legal proceedings against him, such as witnesses, investigators, and judges, poses a significant safety risk to those individuals and their families. NBC reported that the office expressed concern over Trump’s potential influence on the case and requested appropriate measures to mitigate these risks.
Trump’s legal team, in response, claimed that the order infringes upon his First Amendment rights, limiting his ability to “freely discuss his own character and qualifications for federal office.”
The attorneys also argued that the order obstructs the public’s right to hear Trump’s side of the story, asserting that it curtails the First Amendment rights of the American people.
The order comes amid the legal challenges the former president is facing after he was charged last month with 34 felony counts for allegedly falsifying business records linked to hush money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels and another woman during his 2016 presidential campaign.
These payments were allegedly intended to silence them from speaking about their alleged affairs with Trump. He, however, has maintained his innocence and has been vocal about his belief that both Bragg and Merchan harbor biases against him.
In an effort to address this concern, Trump’s legal team filed documents last week with the aim of having the case transferred to federal court. By seeking the transfer, he hopes to ensure a fair and impartial trial that is free from prejudice.