The New York judge presiding over former President Donald Trump’s criminal case on Tuesday scheduled a trial date on March 25, 2024, just weeks after the Republican presidential primary’s “Super Tuesday,”
Trump appeared virtually before Judge Juan Merchan, seated beside his attorney, Todd Blanche.
During the hearing, Merchan reviewed the terms of a protective order prohibiting Trump from sharing any evidence the prosecutor exchanges with his attorneys on social media.
The protective order said evidence may not be shared or posted to “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.”
Trump said the judge “violated” his First Amendment rights by implementing the protective order. He also accused Merchan of engaging in “ELECTION INTERFERENCE,” by setting the trial in the middle of the Republican presidential primary.
Trump posted on Truth Social:
Just 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. It’s called ELECTION INTERFERENCE, and nothing like this has ever happened in our Country before!!!
Blanche expressed Trump’s concerns about the protective order during Tuesday’s court hearing.
“President Trump is running for president of the United States and is the leading contender,” Blanche told the judge. “He is very much concerned that his First Amendment rights are being violated.”
However, Merchan maintained that the protective order is not a gag order.
“It’s certainly not a gag order and it’s not my intention to impede Mr. Trump to campaign for president,” Merchan said. “He is free to defend himself against these charges. He is free to campaign. He’s free to do just about anything that does not violate the terms of this protective order.”
“He understands that he has to comply with the order, and if he doesn’t do so, he’s violating your order,” Blanche told the judge.
“It is certainly not my intention in any way to impede Mr. Trump’s ability to campaign for president of the United States,” Merchan said.
Trump’s attorneys received more evidence from the prosecution on Tuesday. Merchan ordered Trump’s attorneys to submit any defense motions by August 29, with the prosecution to respond no later than October 10.
The next hearing is scheduled to occur on January 4, 2024.