Michael Cohen has 'zero confidence' that Trump will comply with a new protective order in the hush-money case

Michael Cohen and Donald Trump
Michael Cohen and Donald Trump.Drew Angerer/Getty Images; Sean Gallup/Getty Images; Jenny Cheng/Business Insider
  • Michael Cohen has "less than zero confidence" Trump will obey a protective order in the hush-money case.

  • The order bans Trump from attacking witnesses by posting their confidential information online.

  • "It's like they're forcing him to be an adult," said Cohen, the DA's key witness. "It's not going to work."

Michael Cohen is not optimistic that Donald Trump will ever control those infamous thumbs when it comes to his ongoing Manhattan hush-money prosecution.

"I have less than zero confidence," Trump's lawyer-turned-nemesis told Insider of the former president's ability to obey a new protective order banning him from attacking prosecution witnesses by disclosing their identities and personal information.

"He gets blinded by his anger," Cohen said Monday, a day before Trump must appear — virtually —in a Manhattan courtroom and agree to the order.

The order bars Trump from revealing sensitive prosecution evidence — including witnesses' emails, texts and grand jury transcripts — through public statements or on social media. Trump isn't even allowed to personally possess copies of these materials.

The defense has derided the ban as a "gag order." Prosecutors and the judge, though, have stressed that Trump will still be able to speak about the case — just not about confidential prosecution evidence.

On Tuesday, Trump will be sworn in via video camera, and then will be asked by state Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan — the judge in the hush-money case —` to affirm that he has read the protective order, understands it, and agrees to comply.

Trump can be held in contempt of court if he spills forbidden beans while on the campaign trail or "on any news or social media platforms, including, but not limited to, Truth Social, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, Snapchat, or YouTube without prior approval from the Court," the protective order states.

This latest development in the hush-money prosecution comes six weeks after Trump was arraigned on 34-counts of falsifying business records.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg alleges that Trump lied on Trump Organization paperwork to conceal $130,000 in hush money paid to porn actress Stormy Daniels just two weeks before the 2016 election.

The payment influenced the election by silencing Daniels before she could reveal details of a sexual encounter she alleged she'd had with Trump back in 2006, shortly after the birth of his and Melania Trump's only child, prosecutors allege.

Trump is charged with falsifying business records in order to disguise the hush money paid as a "retainer" to Cohen; the charges carry anywhere from zero to four years in prison. Trump has called the prosecution a "hoax" and a "witch hunt," and has denied that he ever had an encounter with Daniels.

A composite image of former President Donald Trump, attorney Michael Cohen, and porn star Stormy Daniels.
Donald Trump, attorney Michael Cohen, and Stormy Daniels.AP

Michael Cohen says Trump's temper will override judge's protective order

"Rational thought flies out the window when Trump gets angry," Cohen, the key witness in the case, said of his former employer's self control when it comes to his perceived enemies. "He's no different than a petulant child."

Cohen said he has little confidence that Trump's lawyers will be able to control Trump, either, especially if they are reviewing sensitive materials with their client via video.

"The second that they put it up onto a screen, I guarantee you, it's captured," Cohen predicted. "Trust me, he'll figure out a way."

Lawyers for Trump declined to comment on the protective order or Cohen's comments.

Prosecutors are beginning now to turn over to the defense vast amounts of so-called "discovery" evidence, including cell phone contents and witness interview notes that they gathered in the course of their investigation.

It's not unusual for prosecutors to ask that protective orders be issued to defense lawyers and defendants once that happens, said Jeremy Saland, a former Manhattan prosecutor now in private practice.

"It's not untypical," said Saland. "Not when there is sensitive personal information being turned over by prosecutors that could be abused, whether that means through threats of violence, harassment, or the perpetrating of fraud."

It's also routine for judges to ask the defendant to acknowledge, in court, that a protective order has been issued, Saland said.

Trump's prosecutors, too, have acknowledged that it's routine for a defendant to be ordered to only use discovery materials in the context of their defense.

But the circumstances underlying Trump's protective order are far from routine, Assistant District Attorney Catherine McCaw told the judge on May 4, the last time the case was in court.

"The defendant has an extensive history of making inflammatory remarks," regarding witnesses, McCaw said.

"The defendant's words have had real world consequences," she said, citingthe case of Ruby Freeman, a poll worker in Georgia who had to vacate her home for two months, "after being scapegoated by the defendant," McCaw said.

Trump's words have already created a stir in the hush-money case, she added.

"The defendant posted on social media predicting death and destruction in lower Manhattan if charges were brought against him," she told the judge.

As a result, "The NYPD had to mount a significant law enforcement response around the courthouse for weeks" leading up to Trump's March 30 indictment, she said.

"The defendant's words have consequences," she said, noting that Trump has also made disparaging remarks about the judge and about Bragg.

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