Furious Trump glares into the camera and shakes his fists as judge sets Stormy Daniels trial for March 25, 2024 – in the middle of the GOP primaries and months before the presidential election
- Trump appeared by video conference in a Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday
- The judge told him to cancel all commitments for trial that could take weeks
- Former president has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts in the probe
Donald Trump threw his hands in the air in fury during a virtual appearance in a Manhattan court on Tuesday as a judge scheduled the Stormy Daniels ‘hush money’ criminal trial for March 25, 2024.
It means the former president will be in a Manhattan courtroom for weeks in the middle of the Republican primaries and just months before the presidential election.
The court day lies just weeks after the ‘Super Tuesday’ primaries set for March 5, and days after Florida’s March 19 contest that will pit Trump against Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Trump, 76, scowled into the camera during a Zoom appearance as Judge Juan Merchan told him to cancel all commitments during the trial and put a protective order in place banning him from sharing evidence in public.
He made the appearance as it was revealed his main rival in the GOP race, DeSantis, would formally announce he is running for President in a Twitter Spaces on Wednesday night.
A visibly-irritated Trump, wearing a blue suit against a backdrop of American flags at his Mar-a-Lago estate, turned to his lawyer during the appearance
‘President Trump is running for President of the United States and is the leading contender,’ his attorney Todd Blanche told the judge. ‘He is very much concerned that his 1st Amendment rights are being violated.’
The charges are related to a $30,000 payoff to a doorman trying to sell information about a child that Trump allegedly fathered out of wedlock; $150,000 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, and a $130,000 payment to Daniels.
Trump had pleaded not guilty last month to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records at his family company, the Trump Organization.
Donald Trump threw up his hands in frustration Tuesday as a judge scheduled his criminal trial for March 25, putting the former president and current candidate in a Manhattan courtroom in the heat of next year’s presidential primary season
Trump glared into the camera during a Zoom appearance in the Stormy Daniels ‘hush money case’ as the judge told him to cancel all commitments during the trial
Trump called it ‘election interference’ – a term that burst to the forefront during his 2016 presidential campaign amid Russian hacking efforts, and said his own rights were being violated. It was weeks before Election Day in 2016 that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen arranged the Stormy Daniels ‘hush’ payments.
‘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,’ Trump posted on his Truth Social site.
‘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!!!’
The protective order specifically mentions Truth Social – but pertains to posts about discovery materials related to the case.
Trump has complained in the past that Merchan, a former prosecutor, ‘HATES ME.’
Trump denies having had extramarital flings and says the prosecution is politically motivated.
Trump has made the New York case and the long list of other investigations he faces central to his campaign to get back in the White House.
He claims it is all part of a wide-ranging ‘witch-hunt’ from political opponents to stop him from reclaiming the Oval Office.
Trump often discusses the cases at his rallies and in other speeches, and has repeatedly attacked prosecutors and judges by name.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Merchan reviewed an order barring Trump from publicly disseminating certain evidence turned over by prosecutors.
Merchan insisted that it was 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 campaign. He’s free to do just about anything that does not violate the terms of this protective order.’
The order stops Trump from publicly sharing evidence his defense team receives during the proceedings.
Trump called the scheduling ‘very unfair’ and said his own constitutional rights had been violated by the March 25 trial date, which comes in the midst of the presidential primary process
Trump, wearing a blue suit against a backdrop of American flags at his Florida estate, then turned to a lawyer by his side – their brief discussion inaudible on the video feed – before sitting with his arms folded for the remainder of the hearing
Trump sits alongside his lawyers as the first former President to appear in court. He was arraigned on April 4, 2023
Trump has denied having an affair with pronstar Stormy Daniels. He is charged with facilitating $130,000 in hush money payments to keep her quiet about their alleged relationship
Trump allegedly paid $150,000 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal to keep quiet about an affair – which he denies.
Trump is allowed to speak publicly about the criminal case, according to Merchan´s order, but he risks being held in contempt if he uses evidence turned over by prosecutors in the pretrial discovery process to target witnesses or others involved in the case.
Trump was spared a personal appearance at the courthouse, avoiding the mammoth security and logistical challenges that accompanied his arraignment last month. Instead, the Republican was connected by video conference, with his face beamed onto courtroom TV monitors.
Merchan´s protective order bars Trump and his lawyers from disseminating evidence to third parties or posting it to social media, and it requires that certain sensitive material shared by prosecutors be kept only by Trump´s lawyers, not Trump himself.
Prosecutors sought the order soon after Trump´s arrest, citing what they say is his history of making ‘harassing, embarrassing, and threatening statements’ about people he´s tangled with in legal disputes.
Merchan, noting Trump´s ‘special’ status as a former president and current candidate, has made clear that the protective order shouldn´t be construed as a gag order and that Trump has a right to publicly defend himself.
Trump´s lawyers are seeking to have his criminal case moved to federal court. It will continue in state court while that plays out.
Although Trump inveighed against the order, his lawyer indicated he would live with it.
‘He understands that he has to comply with the order, and if he doesn’t do so, he’s violating your order,’ Blanche said during the zoom appearance.
The order from the court comes as Trump continued to post Tuesday about an unrelated case – E. Jean Carroll’s defamation case against him. A Manhattan jury has already found him liable for sexual abuse and defamation in one case where the jury awarded her $5 million.
Trump has appealed. But he called Carroll a ‘whack job’ during an appearance at a CNN town hall, and attacked her again on his Truth Social site.
‘I don’t know E. Jean Carroll, I never met her or touched her (except on a celebrity line with her African American husband who she disgustingly called the “Ape,”), I wouldn’t want to know or touch her, I never abused her or raped her or took her to a dressing room 25 years ago in a crowded department store where the doors are LOCKED, she has no idea when, or did anything else to her, except deny her Fake, Made Up Story, that she wrote in a book,’ Trump posted.
‘IT NEVER HAPPENED, IS A TOTAL SCAM, UNFAIR TRIAL!’
Trump also faced a warning from the court in that case. The judge urged his lawyer to ‘inform your clients and witnesses to please refrain from making any statements that are likely to incite violence or civil unrest.’
The Stormy Daniels case will now grind forward while Trump faces legal exposure in multiple other venues.
His lawyers face an August 29 deadline for motions – just as Republican presidential debates that Trump may or may not take part in will be underway. Prosecutors get to respond by October 10, which will be in the thick of candidate competition.
A January 4, 2024 hearing date would be days before the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary are set to be held.
There are other moving parts on the calendar. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is expected to announce this August whether to bring charges over alleged election interference in Georgia.
Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is probing Jan. 6th and the removal of White House documents to Mar-a-Lago, has finished collecting evidence, and could result in another indictment.
Amid all the accumulating court dates, one key event on the calendar is fixed: Election Day is Nov. 5, 2024.
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