Trump should not be subject to 'muzzle' regarding indictment, his attorneys say

The DA had asked a judge to safeguard against Trump discussing the case online.

May 4, 2023, 5:02 AM

Former President Donald Trump should have no "muzzle" on him while he defends himself against a criminal indictment in Manhattan, his attorneys plan to argue during a hearing Thursday.

Trump, who pleaded not guilty last month to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, is fighting the imposition of a protective order as sought by the Manhattan district attorney's office.

"The People have proposed what would be an unprecedented and extraordinarily broad muzzle on a leading contender for the presidency of the United States," defense attorneys Todd Blanche and Susan Necheles wrote in an opposition memo submitted ahead of Thursday's hearing.

The district attorney's office had asked the judge to impose a protective order that would give Trump and his legal team access to evidence "subject to safeguards," in order to prevent Trump from posting about the materials on social media.

"Defendant 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," assistant district attorney Catherine McCaw said in a court filing asking for the protective order.

PHOTO: Former President Donald Trump departs from Trump Tower on the day of his court appearance in New York City, April 4, 2023.
Former President Donald Trump departs from Trump Tower on the day of his court appearance in New York City, April 4, 2023.
Carlos Barria/Reuters

The defense accused prosecutors of trying to prevent Trump "from telling the American people about the many weaknesses" of the case.

"This is, in practice, an attempt to gag a leading candidate for the Presidency of the United States and it is a clear infringement upon the First Amendment rights of the President Trump and the American electorate," defense attorneys said, adding they would be amenable to a protective order that restrains both parties.

Judge Juan Merchan set a hearing for Thursday morning. Trump himself will not be present.

Trump has been charged in connection with what prosecutors call an "illegal scheme" to influence the 2016 presidential election by directing his then-personal attorney Michael Cohen to pay $130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to prevent her from publicizing a long-denied affair with Trump.

Trump reimbursed Cohen through a series of monthly checks, which prosecutors say resulted in falsified business records in order to disguise the true purpose of the payments.

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