Trump Criminal Trial in NY to Start in Heart of Primary Season
NEW YORK — The criminal trial of former President Donald Trump on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records is set to get underway on March 25, 2024, according to an order handed down Tuesday by a New York Supreme Court judge.
The decision by Acting Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan means Trump, who is already running to be the Republican nominee in the 2024 election, will be expected to be in a Manhattan courtroom in the heart of the GOP primary season.
Trump, who appeared with attorney Todd Blanche at a pretrial hearing by video conference from Florida on Tuesday, threw up his hands in disgust and muttered angrily as the trial date was announced.
Because he was muted at the time it was impossible to hear what he was saying.
He then fixed the camera with an angry stare as Merchan went on to advise him that he should cancel all other obligations for the duration of the trial, which is expected to last several weeks.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing in regard to the charges, which are related to hush-money payments made during the 2016 campaign to bury allegations that he had extramarital sexual encounters.
If the trial starts on schedule, it would commence shortly after Super Tuesday, but ahead of primary contests in Wisconsin, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, New Jersey, Montana, Nebraska and a number of other states.
Trump said little at the hearing after his trial date was set, and sat with his arms folded at a plain table with American flags draped in the background.
Later, he took to his Truth Social platform to declare he’s “[j]ust had New York County Supreme Court hearing where I believe my First Amendment Rights, ‘Freedom of Speech,’ have been violated, and they forced upon us a trial date of March 25th, right in the middle of Primary season.”
“Very unfair, but this is exactly what the Radical Left Democrats wanted,” Trump continued. “It’s called ELECTION INTERFERENCE, and nothing like this has ever happened in our Country before!!!”
Though the setting of the trial date was the headline-getting development of the proceedings, the hearing was originally scheduled so that Trump could be instructed on the protective order governing evidence in the case, which Merchan signed on May 8.
The order bars Trump from using evidence garnered by prosecutors for anything other than his own defense and limits what he can post on social media.
Blanche told Merchan he had closely reviewed the document with Trump, and that his client was concerned that he’d effectively been hit with a gag order.
“Because President Trump is running for president of the United States, he is very much concerned that his First Amendment rights are being violated,” Blanche added.
“It is certainly not a gag order,” Merchan said in response, adding that it was not his intention “to impede Mr. Trump’s ability to campaign for the presidency of the United States … he’s free to do just about anything that does not violate this specific protective order.”
Trump is due back in court on Jan. 4, 2024, just before the primary season gets underway.
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