Manhattan DA Seeks to Prevent Trump From Publicizing Evidence in Criminal Case

Manhattan DA Seeks to Prevent Trump From Publicizing Evidence in Criminal Case
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks during a press conference following the arraignment of former U.S. President Donald Trump in New York City on April 4, 2023. (Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
Gary Bai
Zachary Stieber

NEW YORK—Former President Donald Trump should be forbidden from sharing evidence produced during his criminal case with the media or the public, prosecutors said in a filing this week.

Prosecutors with the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on April 24 asked New York Justice Juan Merchan to enter a protective order that would limit what materials Trump can view and where he can view them. The order would also make clear that the discovery materials can not be disseminated to reporters or posted on social media platforms.

“Defendant has a constitutional right to speak publicly about this case, and the people do not seek to infringe upon that right. That said, neither defendant nor defense counsel have a First Amendment right to speak publicly regarding materials they receive through discovery,” Assistant District Attorney Catherine McCaw said in the 30-page filing.
Trump was indicted by a grand jury, acting on charges presented by Bragg, on April 4.

Prosecutors have said they expect to start handing discovery materials to defense lawyers after the order is entered. The parties have been unable to agree on all aspects of an order.

Prosecutors said Merchan should enter an order that requires any materials and information provided to meet discovery obligations be used solely for preparing a defense in the case, noting that Trump has since sued former lawyer Michael Cohen and could try using some of the materials in that litigation.

The order would bar any person who receives the materials from copying, disseminating, or disclosing them to any third party, with an exception for workers employed by defense lawyers, including prohibiting people from posting the materials on social media sites like Trump’s Truth Social and Elon Musk’s Twitter.

It would also prevent Trump from viewing some materials outside the presence of his counsel, a necessity given how sensitive some of the materials are and given how Trump is under federal investigation for allegedly mishandling classified records, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors expect to produce substantial discovery, including minutes from the grand jury, materials obtained in response to grand jury subpoenas, and forensic images of two cellphones obtained from a witness.

The forensic images could not be viewed by Trump at all without permission from prosecutors if Merchan agrees to enter the order as proposed. That’s due to much of the content that was imaged, such as vacation photographs, having no relation to the case, prosecutors asserted. If permission is granted, Trump would be able to look at the relevant materials in a room with his lawyers.

Trump should also be advised on the record about the terms of an order once one is entered, McCaw said. Prosecutors have said they could charge Trump if he violates a future order.

“Should the defendant fail to abide by these terms, it could have the effect of being in contempt of court,” McCaw said during Trump’s arraignment.

The order would not prejudice the defense because they would still have access to all of the discovery, prosecutors said.

Trump’s lawyers said in that hearing that they were working to negotiate details of a protective order and that disagreements included where Trump would be able to view the sensitive materials.

“I know the D.A. said the review by the defendant would have to be in the attorney’s office. That will not happen,” Joseph Tacopina, one of the lawyers said. “I thought it was in the attorney’s presence. We would most likely meet at the office of President Trump.”

Merchan said at the time that he would not weigh in since negotiations were ongoing.

“If you reach an impasse and you need my help in resolving anything, let me know and I'll try to help out,” he said.

Trump’s lawyers told outlets this week that they plan on lodging a response to the new filing next week.

Related Topics