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Trump’s danger is on display in multiple Manhattan courts

Prosecutors seek to restrict the former president’s evidence access and use in his criminal hush money case. Meanwhile, an anonymous jury hears his civil rape case.

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Among the striking features of Donald Trump’s civil rape and defamation trial that’s underway in Manhattan federal court this week is that the jury is anonymous. Taking that rare step of keeping the jury's identity secret, the judge explicitly cited Trump’s attacks against various actors in the legal system, including in the New York state criminal case in which he was arraigned this month.

Now, as that civil jury begins to hear evidence of Trump allegedly assaulting E. Jean Carroll, which he has denied, Manhattan state prosecutors down the street are drawing the court's attention to how Trump's rhetoric could potentially impact their own case.

The Manhattan district attorney's office is pressing the court for a protective order to restrict Trump’s access to and use of discovery in its criminal case regarding hush money in the lead-up to the 2016 election. (Trump has pleaded not guilty in the case.)

District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s prosecutors want to control when and how Trump can view the information and what he can do with it. For one thing, they don’t want him sharing it on social media, and they want to shield the identities of DA office support staff.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks during a press conference following the arraignment of Donald Trump on April 4 in New York.Kena Betancur / Getty Images

Justifying its request, Bragg’s office cited Trump’s “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.” In support of that point, prosecutors referenced rulings by Judge Lewis Kaplan in the Carroll case that led to him making the jury anonymous, quoting Kaplan’s observation that Trump “has attacked courts, judges, various law enforcement officials and other officials, and even individual jurors in other matters.” NBC News reported Wednesday that, according to one of Trump’s lawyers, his team will file a response next week.  

The protective order filing from Bragg’s office, dated Monday, amounts to a greatest hits of Trump’s attacks on people involved in cases and investigations against him.

It takes stock of the several probes Trump has faced over the years, going back to the Mueller special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The prosecution filing noted in particular one of the current Justice Department special counsel probes Trump faces, into his handling of classified materials at Mar-a-Lago. That probe and Trump's pattern of attacking people involved in his investigations gives rise to “significant concern” that the former president “will similarly misuse grand jury and other sensitive materials here,” the Manhattan DA’s office wrote. Bragg’s filing further detailed attacks on the DA himself — whom Trump called a “SOROS BACKED ANIMAL” — as well as the judge in the case, Juan Merchan.

And if Bragg’s office has its way, Trump's dangerous lack of discipline could potentially get him into further criminal trouble that has nothing to do with the allegations that he falsified business records to cover up hush money payment reimbursements. That’s because the prosecution wants the judge not only to grant the protective order but to advise Trump of it on the record. That would help the state prove he has knowledge of the order if he were to disobey it, which could prompt a contempt prosecution.

That is, Trump lashing out against various actors across his legal entanglements over the years could lead to a court order in this case whose violation could earn him additional criminal charges having nothing to do with what brought him into court in the first place.