NEW YORK—Former President Donald Trump appeared remotely in the Manhattan Criminal Court on Tuesday to hear a judge's instructions on his handling of discovery evidence in the criminal case brought against him by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
These discovery materials include grand jury minutes and exhibits, witness statements, materials related to subpoenas, and the DA office's internal emails, prosecutors of the Manhattan DA's office indicated during April's arraignment hearing.
This protective order is needed, the prosecutors claim, to protect "witnesses, investigators, prosecutors, trial jurors, grand jurors, judges, and others involved in legal proceedings against" Trump from being put in harm in case the former President publishes those materials.
Trump's lawyer Todd Blanche said during the hearing that because Trump is "running for the President of the United States, he very much is concerned that his first amendment rights are being violated."
In response, the judge said that the protective order is "certainly not a gag order" and that it is not his intention to hinder Trump's ability to campaign for the president.
After brief deliberations between the two sides, the judge has set a new pre-trial schedule. He said that Trump's lawyers have until Aug. 29 to file pre-trial motions, and the plaintiff has until Oct. 10 to respond. The judge said he would issue a decision on the pretrial motions on Jan. 4 at 9:30 a.m., and the trial is to begin on March 25, 2024.
Trump’s lawyers are expected to file motions to dismiss charges on the basis that the prosecutors on the case have engaged in selective prosecution and prosecutorial misconduct, as Trump's lawyer Joseph Tacopina indicated during Trump's arraignment hearing last month.
A Historic IndictmentTrump’s indictment in April marked him as the first former president in American history to become criminally charged, though experts have noted that Bragg’s case rests on shaky legal grounds.
Prosecutors allege that Trump directed one of his lawyers, Michael Cohen, during the 2016 presidential election to pay adult film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 to prevent her from going public about an alleged affair between her and Trump in 2006, which the former president denies.
Court filings allege that Trump then reimbursed Cohen through monthly checks and documented that payment as legal expenses in the Trump Organization, leading to 34 false entries in New York business records.
A felony falsifying records charge requires a prosecutor to prove that it was done with the intent to hide the commission of a second crime.
Alan Dershowitz, a professor who taught at Harvard Law School for nearly fifty years, expressed skepticism of the legal grounds supporting Bragg’s case, saying he is using “made-up laws” to muster a politically motivated attack.
“It’s not a righteous prosecution. It’s not a just prosecution. And I think every libertarian, whether you’re conservative, or liberal, should be opposed to it,” he said.