NEW YORK — Judges in Donald Trump’s criminal case are holding a mixed hearing Tuesday to make sure the former president is aware of new rules preventing evidence from being used to attack witnesses.
Trump will not have to appear in court for the afternoon hearing at the Manhattan Courthouse, avoiding the huge security and logistical challenges that accompanied his impeachment last month.
Instead, the Republican will be connected by video conference, with his face on the courtroom TV monitor. His lawyers and prosecutors still have to appear in person.
Judge Juan Manuel Merchan agreed to the additional step of personally instructing Trump on the sanctions, known as a protective order, on May 8.
Trump is allowed to speak publicly about the case, but can be held in contempt if he uses evidence provided by prosecutors in the pre-trial discovery process to target witnesses or others involved in the case. There is a risk of being held in
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Trump pleaded not guilty on 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 arranging secret money payments to suppress allegations of extramarital sexual encounters during the 2016 campaign. Trump denied having an extramarital affair and said the prosecution was politically motivated.
Merchen’s protective order bars Trump and his lawyers from disseminating evidence to third parties or posting it on social media, and requires that some sensitive material shared by prosecutors be kept only by Trump’s lawyers, Not by Trump himself.
Prosecutors sought the order immediately after Trump’s arrest, which they say he has a history of making “disturbing, embarrassing and threatening statements” about people embroiled in legal disputes.
Noting Trump’s “special” status as a former president and current candidate, Merchan clarified that the protective order should not be construed as a gag order and that Trump has a right to defend himself publicly.
Trump’s lawyers are seeking to take his criminal case to federal court. It will continue on the state court while it plays.
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