Donald Trump is facing a threat of being held in contempt of court, which could come with significant penalties, if he uses certain evidence made available during the discovery period in his Manhattan criminal case in public remarks. Recently, New York Judge Juan Merchan, who is handling those proceedings, formally imposed restrictions that block the use of such evidence in such contexts involving distribution to any third-party.
And now, Trump will be appearing in court later this month — virtually, meaning by video call — for a hearing where Merchan will recap some of the restrictions under which those involved in this case, including Trump, must now operate. Besides blocking the distribution of key pieces of evidence gotten from prosecutors to third-parties, Trump is also entirely blocked from accessing images of cellphones from witnesses in the case absent special permission from the court. In pushing despite objections from the former president’s team for such limits, the team of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg cited Trump’s substantial history of essentially weaponizing the judicial process, or at least portions he can access, against political opponents inside and outside of civil and criminal investigations and cases.
Trump’s side raised complaints about supposedly looming violations of First Amendment rights if the restrictions were put in place, but Trump is not blocked from discussing the case at all. He’s just generally restricted from using evidence prosecutors make available during discovery, which is a pretrial period when both sides can collect relevant materials in the form of depositions and documents. “I’m bending over backwards and straining to make sure that he is given every opportunity possible to advance his candidacy and to be able to speak in furtherance of his candidacy,” the judge in this case has said, as highlighted by NBC News. “The last thing I want to do is infringe on his or anybody else’s First Amendment rights.”
The forthcoming hearing, which will take place as a push from Trump’s team to move the case to federal court keeps pending, is May 23. Observers can no doubt expect a volley of additional rants from the former president on the case and other investigations as that date approaches.