Donald Trump should be able to talk about the evidence in the criminal case against him over a hush payment to a porn star, especially with others free to do so, his lawyers said in a court filing on Monday.
Trump is the leading Republican candidate for president of the United States, they said, and has a First Amendment right to tell his side of the story “both for his own sake and for the benefit of the voting public.”
The filing came in advance of a Thursday hearing in state court in Manhattan over whether Trump should be restricted to using materials turned over to him by prosecutors solely for his defense. The Manhattan district attorney wants to bar Trump from disclosing the material on news or social media platforms without court approval. Trump is not expected to attend the hearing.
Prosecutors last week asked for a court order restricting Trump’s use of the evidence because of his attacks on people involved in proceedings against him. They said they wanted to reduce the risk of harassment to witnesses and other participants in the case.
In their Monday filing, Trump’s defense counsel noted that key witnesses, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and porn star Stormy Daniels, also have attacked Trump and “made a living” out of publicly discussing the case.
They added that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg held a press conference after Trump was arraigned last month, and former prosecutor Mark Pomerantz published a book about the Trump investigation. Both also have made derogatory comments about Trump, they said, with Pomerantz likening him to a mafia boss.
“Trump cannot be the only interested party in this case whose speech about the evidence in the case is restricted by the court,” the lawyers, Susan Necheles and Todd Blanche, wrote.
The lawyers proposed a protective order that would prohibit anyone who receives or reviews the materials — including the prosecution team — from copying or disseminating the materials to a third party. They did not object to a prohibition on posting the evidence and other material provided by the prosecution on news and social media platforms.
Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records to conceal an illegal scheme to influence the 2016 presidential election.
As part of the scheme, prosecutors said, he asked Cohen to pay Daniels $130,000 for her silence about an alleged sexual encounter. Cohen was reimbursed through checks that prosecutors said disguised New York election law violations and campaign contribution limits under federal election law.