Donald Trump’s criminal trial is scheduled for March 2024; judge briefs Trump on what he can’t say about silence case

Donald Trump’s criminal trial is scheduled for March 2024;  judge briefs Trump on what he can’t say about silence case

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Getty Images

President Donald Trump boards his plane on Thursday, April 27 in Manchester, New Hampshire.

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A New York judge has set a trial date for March 25, 2024 for the criminal case against former President Donald Trump, potentially setting up a media spectacle amid the height of Republican presidential primary season.

The trial date was set in a brief hearing on Tuesday in which Judge Juan Merchan read Trump an order about what he can and cannot say publicly about the case and the evidence his team legal will get prosecutors to prepare for trial.

Trump appeared remotely via video feed so the judge could communicate with him in open court.

Trump pleaded not guilty last month to 34 counts of falsifying business records in an attempt to cover up unlawful conduct related to his 2016 presidential campaign. The criminal charges stem from District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation into silent money payments, made during the 2016 campaign, to adult film star Stormy Daniels who alleged an affair with Trump, which he denies.

During the hearing, Trump could be seen speaking and gesturing to his lawyer Todd Blanche seated next to him on the screen, but his sound was not audible. Sometimes he sat with his arms crossed. The former president only spoke to confirm he had a copy of the protective order for the case. “Yes, I know that,” he said.

Trump’s attorney said the former president feared the order would infringe on his First Amendment rights.

“He understands he has to comply with the order, and if he doesn’t, he’s violating your order,” Blanche said during the hearing.

Merchan reiterated that there is no gag order in place and that Trump can publicly defend himself against the allegations related to this case.

“It is certainly not my intention to interfere in any way with Mr. Trump’s ability to campaign for President of the United States,” Judge said.

“He is free to defend himself against these charges. He is free to campaign,” Merchan added. “He’s free to do just about anything that doesn’t violate the specific terms of the protective order.”

The judge warned the attorneys that Trump’s violation of the order could result in penalties.

“Violation of a court order or court warrant could result in penalties that include a conviction for punishable contempt,” Merchan said.

Earlier this month, Merchan signed a protective order, which stated in part that evidence provided by prosecutors to Trump’s defense team could not be shared or published on “any news or social media, including but not limited to Truth Social, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, Snapchat or YouTube, without prior Court approval.

Trump can only view certain evidence designated by prosecutors as “restricted material” in the presence of his attorneys and cannot “independently copy, photograph, transcribe or otherwise possess” such evidence, according to the order.

Prosecutors provided discovery documents to Trump’s attorneys in court during Tuesday’s hearing. Case planning deadlines have been pushed back to give the defense more time to review the documents.

Prosecutors declined to produce material to the defense ahead of Tuesday’s hearing – asking that the former president be told by the judge about the protective order that governs his conduct regarding the evidence in the case.

Defense motions must now be submitted by August 29 and prosecutors must respond by October 10.

The next hearing is now set for January 4, 2024.

The former president has repeatedly made negative public comments and social media posts about the district attorney, potential trial witnesses and the judge in this case. Prosecutors cited some of Trump’s posts on Truth Social in their request for an order of protection.

Trump and his legal team can still speak publicly about the case because there is no gag order in effect. The protective order as it stands specifically limits their public discussion and dissemination of case materials turned over to the defense during the discovery process.

Trump’s attorneys have filed a motion to transfer the criminal case to federal court in Manhattan, arguing that the crimes Trump is accused of committing are related to his duties as president.

The defense’s request to transfer the case to federal court does not interrupt the current state court schedule. A Federal Court hearing on the motion is scheduled for next month.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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