Former President Donald Trump will have to attend a hearing specifically to be told to stop trying to intimidate witnesses.
The judge presiding over Trump’s Manhattan criminal case, on the alleged payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels, issued a protective order Monday stating that the people involved in the lawsuit are not allowed to share evidence from the case on social media. Prosecutors initially sought the order shortly after Trump was arrested, arguing he has a “long-standing history” of attacking people involved in his legal disputes.
For good measure, on Thursday, Judge Juan Manuel Merchan also scheduled a hearing for May 23, to make sure Trump understands the rules. During the virtual hearing, Merchan will go over the restrictions of the order with Trump and make clear that if the former president breaks the restrictions, he risks being held in contempt of the court.
The hearing date was set just days after Trump was found liable for sexual abuse and battery against writer E. Jean Carroll in the mid-1990s, and for defaming her when she accused him of assault decades later. He owes her $5 million in damages.
During the trial, Trump repeatedly attacked Carroll on social media, earning him multiple rebukes from the judge presiding over that case, including on the day of the verdict. The next day, Trump participated in an absurd town hall event with CNN, during which he repeatedly insulted Carroll and decried the legal process. Carroll is reportedly weighing whether to sue him for defamation again in light of his comments during the town hall.
Merchan said he was not issuing a gag order because “the last thing I want to do is infringe on [Trump’s] or anybody else’s First Amendment rights.”
Trump is facing 34 counts of business fraud in Manhattan for his alleged role in hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels. Separately, he is under investigation in Georgia for his actions following the 2020 presidential election, as well as for his role in the January 6 insurrection and for his alleged mishandling of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate.