After E. Jean Carroll moved to amend her original defamation case against Donald Trump on Monday, the former president posted to Truth Social the next morning, reiterating the same statements he’s been making about her since 2019.
But for as much as his statements have been the same, the ground has shifted underneath Trump, even if he doesn’t realize it or just doesn’t care.
First, Carroll doesn’t just have allegations; she has a jury’s verdict that found Trump liable for sexually assaulting her in the mid-1990s and then defaming her last year on Truth Social.
Second, while some questioned whether Carroll would want to move ahead with her initial lawsuit, which was on hold due to a lengthy appeals process, her filing last night provided an answer equivalent to “Heck, yeah!” In fact, not only is Carroll still seeking damages from a trio of statements Trump made about her in June 2019, when her account of the sexual assault was first published, but she is also seeking punitive damages for the statements he made during the CNN town hall just one day after the jury returned its verdict.
That Trump has again awoken early to taunt a litigation foe via social media ... only underscores the need for the protective order.
And third, there is the not-so-coincidental overlap with Trump’s criminal case in Manhattan and specifically the guardrails Judge Juan Merchan, who is presiding over that case, has established to ensure Trump neither taints the jury pool nor threatens the safety of witnesses, prosecutors and even the judge and his own family.
Specifically, in a hearing that lasted only minutes on Tuesday, Merchan seemed to have one overriding objective: Ensure, on the record, that Trump has no confusion or questions about his obligations under the protective order in that case.
The protective order makes clear what Trump can’t do with discovery obtained from the Manhattan district attorney’s office:
- He may not post, distribute or even disseminate any information derived from that discovery on social media, including, but not limited to, Truth Social.
- With a subset of the discovery, he can’t even have his own copy or access to those materials, but instead, can only view them in the presence of his lawyers.
- And where texts or other forensic images of cellphone data is concerned, he similarly can only see specific categories of direct relevance to the case.
Trump lawyer Todd Blanche expressed to Merchan at Tuesday’s hearing that Trump is concerned the protective order violates his First Amendment rights, but he nonetheless understands what is demanded of him, and perhaps more importantly, that the consequences for violating the court’s mandate include a wide range of sanctions, up to and including a criminal contempt prosecution.
What does this have to do with Carroll? No judge lives in a vacuum. That Trump has again awoken early to taunt a litigation foe via social media — and that his posts Tuesday made reference to evidence excluded from her recent trial — only underscores the need for the protective order. Left to his own devices, Trump might be a silent, scowling presence in the courtroom, but his habit of deploying social media to disarm his perceived enemies, misinform his followers, and worst of all, endanger those who can ill afford to protect themselves is well-documented and ongoing.
Neither Carroll nor her lawyers scare easily. The worst is likely behind them, and as her legal team has told the federal court overseeing her initial case, they expect that the only issue that will necessitate a trial is the size of her damages award.
But the ongoing threat Trump’s social media attacks pose to anyone who enters the legal arena against him — from Carroll and her team to the Manhattan DA’s lawyers, their investigators and witnesses — cannot be overstated.