(CNN) — Tuesday’s arraignment of former President Donald Trump was a whirlwind of historic firsts as Trump was arrested and faced the first ever criminal charges against a former US president.
Now the wait begins for the long slog of the judicial system to play out, with the next scheduled actions in court months away. Away from the courthouse, however, Trump quickly went back to attacking Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and New York Judge Juan Merchan, along with their families — raising questions about whether his rhetoric could land him in hot water legally.
Here’s what’s next in Trump’s New York criminal case:
Could Trump receive a gag order?
It took Trump only hours after leaving the Manhattan courtroom to go back on the attack and rail against both Bragg, the district attorney who charged him, and Merchan, the judge hearing his case.
“I have a Trump-hating judge with the Trump-hating wife and family, whose daughter worked for Kamala Harris,” Trump said during a speech at Mar-a-Lago Tuesday evening.
During Tuesday’s arraignment, prosecutors provided the judge with a packet of Trump’s social media posts, raising concerns about veiled threats he made, including posting a story that showed a photo of Trump with a baseball bat next to Bragg.
Prosecutors did not attempt to place a gag order on Trump, and the judge said he was not close to considering issuing one in any event — noting that Trump had First Amendment rights both as a defendant but also as a candidate for president.
“Certainly, the Court would not impose a gag order at this time even if it were requested,” Merchan said, according to a transcript. “Such restraints are the most serious and least intolerable on First Amendment rights. That does apply doubly to Mr. Trump, because he is a candidate for the presidency of the United States.”
At the same time, Merchan warned both sides for witnesses and the defendant not to make comments that could incite violence or civil unrest or “jeopardize the safety or well-being of any individuals,” but did not say what would drive any action.
Elie Honig, a former prosecutor and CNN senior legal analyst, said Trump’s comments Tuesday evening indicated he was openly defying the judge with his rhetoric.
“He’s almost daring the judge,” Honig said. “Ultimately though, as much as the threats and other rhetoric in my view are far over the line, I think that the judge is unlikely to impose a gag order, given the normal First Amendment concerns multiplied by Donald Trump’s ongoing candidacy.”
Could judge’s family connections to Biden impact case?
While Trump’s attacks on Bragg mimic those he has made against the other prosecutors investigating him, his broadsides against Merchan are in a different category as the judge presiding over his case.
Trump and his allies have criticized not just Merchan but also his daughter for her work for the campaigns of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
The judge’s daughter, Loren Merchan, has served as president of Authentic Campaigns, a firm that does digital work for Democratic candidates.
The Authentic Campaigns website lists the Biden-Harris 2020 campaign and Harris’s own unsuccessful presidential primary campaign, which began and ended in 2019, among its clients. Federal campaign finance records show payments to the firm in 2020 from the Biden campaign and 2019 from the Harris primary campaign.
A screenshot purporting to be from Loren Merchan’s LinkedIn page, which was captured by right-wing media outlets before her LinkedIn page was made unavailable, lists her as having worked for Harris’ primary campaign in 2019 as Director of Digital Persuasion.
While Trump has complained about the judge, his attorneys have not done so publicly. Joe Tacopina, one of Trump’s defense lawyers, said on NBC’s “Today” Wednesday that Trump’s comments about Merchan’s daughter did not constitute a threat against the judge.
“That’s a relevant fact here,” Tacopina said. “It is not an attack on the judge or certainly his family. No one is suggesting that anything should happen to the judge or his family, and President Trump’s comments did not in any way, shape or form.”
The political connections of Merchan’s daughter do nothing to disqualify him as a judge in the case, said CNN legal analyst Karen Friedman Agnifilo, a former chief assistant district attorney in the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
“What does Biden have to do with any of this? And it’s his daughter. You can’t control your family members,” Agnifilo said. “I don’t think it even comes close to a conflict.”
Loren Merchan and Authentic Campaigns did not respond Wednesday to requests for comment sent to the firm.
What’s the next step in the case against Trump?
During Tuesday’s arraignment, prosecutors said they were negotiating the logistics of a “protective order” with Trump’s defense team, which would limit how Trump and his attorneys can use the documents they will be given from the grand jury proceedings during the discovery process.
Prosecutors specifically said they want to prohibit Trump from posting any discovery materials to social media or sharing them with third parties, such as journalists. They also said they plan to allow Trump review certain sensitive materials only with his lawyers.
Trump’s attorneys will have to agree to the specifics of the agreement, but the exchanges Tuesday showed the concern in the district attorney’s office about what Trump might say or post about the evidence they hand over.
“The entirety of the prosecution’s case file will soon have to be turned over to the defense,” Agnifilo said. “Prosecutors don’t want it made public because they’re focused on the proceedings and know Trump will try this in the court of public opinion way before any trial in a court. That’s where the integrity of the proceedings can get really dicey — and that’s what they’re trying to accomplish with a protective order.”
When could a trial actually start?
If the case goes to trial, it’s not going to be until next year — when Trump could be in the thick of the 2024 Republican presidential primary.
Merchan set the next hearing date in the case for December 4, nearly eight months away. Before that date, he set an August 8 deadline for Trump’s lawyers to file motions in the case, such as an attempt to get the charges dismissed or reduced to misdemeanors.
Prosecutors will have until September 19 to respond, and then Merchan expects to rule on the motions at the December hearing.
Prosecutors asked Merchan to plan on a trial beginning in January 2024, but Trump’s attorneys suggested that the spring might be more realistic, given they had not yet received any documents in the case.
Merchan seemed to side with Trump’s lawyers.
“I understand what you are saying,” Merchan said. “I think that is reasonable. You have not received discovery. It is difficult to anticipate if you will be ready for trial in January of 2024. The message I would like to deliver is we would like to move ahead as expeditiously as possible, without undue delay.”