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Trump attorneys will seek to move criminal hush money case to federal court

Trump's attorneys have called the proposed protection order an "extremely restrictive" effort that would infringe on his First Amendment rights.
Former President Donald Trump at Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in Doonbeg, Ireland, on May 4, 2023.
Former President Donald Trump golfs Thursday at Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in Doonbeg, Ireland.Brian Lawless / PA Images via Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump is seeking to move his criminal case from New York state court to federal court, his attorneys said at a hearing Thursday.

Trump's lawyers will seek the venue change sometime later Thursday, attorney Todd Blanche said toward the end of the hearing.

In case Trump is unsuccessful, the judge asked the parties to come up with a trial date in either February or March, which would be in the middle of primary voting in the presidential campaign.

The Manhattan district attorney's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

New York Judge Juan Merchan heard arguments Thursday about whether he should issue a protective order proposed by the DA’s office that would prevent Trump from making evidence in the hush money case public.

Trump's lawyers are entitled to see the evidence compiled in the investigation, but prosecutors have sought to limit his ability to then release it to the public.

During the hearing, attorneys for Trump and the DA’s office reiterated arguments about the proposed protective order.

Assistant District Attorney Catherine McCaw filed a motion last week asking the judge, New York County Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, to ensure that the defense can use discovery materials in the case only for trial. She asked that Trump be permitted to view evidence only in the presence of his lawyers and barred from having his own copies.

McCaw argued that “safeguards that will protect the integrity of the materials” are needed because the “risk” that Trump will use them “inappropriately is substantial.”

“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,” McCaw wrote, citing Trump’s attacks against his former personal attorney Michael Cohen and a former national security official, Alexander Vindman, both of whom testified against him in the past.

Trump, McCaw said, has already begun mounting similar attacks in the criminal case, noting his public attacks against witnesses, as well as Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, DA’s office personnel and the court. She also pointed to a separate federal investigation Trump is under for allegedly mishandling classified documents, which she said shows a “pattern” that “gives rise to significant concern that Defendant will similarly misuse grand jury and other sensitive materials here.”

McCaw said prosecutors initially sought to negotiate terms of a protective order with the defense, which indicated it would not consent. She made it clear that prosecutors are not seeking a gag order. “Defendant has a constitutional right to speak publicly about this case, and the People do not seek to infringe upon that right,” she wrote.

Trump's attorneys slammed the proposed protective order as “extremely restrictive” and argued that it would infringe on his right to free speech.

It “infringes upon President Trump’s First Amendment right to freely discuss his own character and qualifications for federal office and the First Amendment rights of the American people to hear President Trump’s side of the story,” attorneys Susan Necheles, Joe Tacopina and Todd Blanche wrote in a court filing.

They wrote that Trump is the “leading Republican candidate” in the 2024 presidential election and that there will be “significant public commentary” about the case and his candidacy, “to which he has the right to respond for his own sake and for the benefit of the voting public.”

NBC News and other outlets oppose the prosecutor’s proposed protective order, which includes potentially requiring the sealing or redaction of certain items. Trump joined the media coalition this week in opposing it.

Trump pleaded not guilty last month to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to his alleged role in hush money payments toward the end of his 2016 presidential campaign. The indictment was the first time a former president has been charged with a crime.