Former U.S. President Donald Trump is allowed to speak publicly about the criminal case against him, 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 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.
Judge Juan Manuel 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.