The New York state judge presiding over the criminal hush money case against Donald Trump issued an order Monday restricting the former president from posting about some evidence in the case on social media.
Judge Juan Merchan largely sided with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg by limiting what Trump can publicly disclose about new evidence from the prosecution before the case goes to trial.
The order says that “any materials and information provided by the People to the Defense in accordance with their discovery obligations … shall be used solely for the purposes of preparing a defense in this matter.”
Merchan’s order said anyone with access to the evidence being turned over to Trump’s team by state prosecutors “shall not copy, disseminate or disclose” the material to third parties, including social media platforms, “without prior approval from the court.”
It also singles out Trump, saying he is allowed to review sensitive “Limited Dissemination Materials” from prosecutors only in the presence of his lawyers and “shall not be permitted to copy, photograph, transcribe, or otherwise independently possess the Limited Dissemination Materials.”
In addition, the order restricts Trump from reviewing “forensic images of witness cell phones,” although his lawyers can show him “approved portions” of the images after they get permission from the judge.
Trump’s lawyers and the DA’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday.
The ruling largely tracks with the DA’s office request for a protective order, which Trump’s attorneys had complained was “extremely restrictive.”
Prosecutors had argued they needed “safeguards that will protect the integrity of the materials,” saying the “risk” that Trump would use them “inappropriately is substantial.”
“Donald J. Trump has a longstanding and perhaps singular history of attacking witnesses, investigators, prosecutors, trial jurors, grand jurors, judges, and others involved in legal proceedings against him, putting those individuals and their families at considerable safety risk,” the DA’s office argued in a court filing last month.
Prosecutors had stressed they were not seeking a gag order against Trump, a 2024 presidential candidate — they just wanted to make sure he did not misuse their evidence.
“Defendant has a constitutional right to speak publicly about this case, and the People do not seek to infringe upon that right,” their filing said.
Trump’s lawyers argued in a filing last week that the DA’s proposed order would do exactly that.
“The People’s Proposed Protective Order infringes upon President Trump’s First Amendment right to freely discuss his own character and qualifications for federal office and the First Amendment rights of the American people to hear President Trump’s side of the story,” it said.
Merchan said in Monday’s order that prosecutors had shown “good cause” for their request.
Trump was charged last month with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and another woman toward the end of his 2016 presidential campaign to prevent them from speaking about their allegations of affairs with him. He has pleaded not guilty and has said he did not have an extramarital affair.
Trump has maintained Bragg and the judge are biased against him, and his lawyers filed paperwork last week seeking to have the case transferred to federal court. The request is pending.