As other presidential candidates will be preparing for the April round of primaries next year, former President Donald Trump will be in court for his New York City trial on charges of falsifying business records in 2016. The date of March 25 was set Tuesday during a hearing in which Trump appeared by video from his Florida home. When the date was set, Trump shook his head but made no comment to the court, according to The Washington Post. Although a dash for relevance has led many states to move their presidential primaries as early into 2024 as possible, April features heavyweight states, such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, according to the National Council of State Legislatures. The timing of the trial also means that as other Republican presidential candidates focus on flying back and forth across the country for elections held on three Tuesdays in March — March 5, March 12, and March 19 — Trump will be focused on his trial. Trump faces a 34-count indictment related to payments made in the 2016 election that the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, led by District Attorney Alvin Bragg, claims were recorded on the books of the Trump Organization in such a way as to conceal them during the campaign. The former president was not pleased. “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 platform. “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!!!” Trump wrote. On Tuesday, during Trump’s video appearance for the hearing, New York State Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan of Manhattan also briefed Trump on an order he issued that limits what materials related to the trial Trump can share publicly, according to Reuters. Lawyer Todd Blanche said Trump is “very much concerned that his First Amendment rights are being violated” by the order and asked for clarification, using the phrase “a gag order,” according to the New York Post. “It is certainly not a gag order,” Merchan said. “It is certainly not my intention in any way to impede his right to campaign for president of the United States. He’s free to do just about anything that doesn’t violate the terms of this protective order,” Merchan said.
Merchan said Trump “is certainly free to deny the charges. He is free to defend himself against the charges,” Reuters reported.
Merchan said if Trump breaks the terms of the order, which also restrict his ability to review evidence shared with his defense, he could be held in contempt of court.The order said that “any person who receives the Covered Materials shall not copy, disseminate, or disclose the Covered Materials, in any form or by any means, to any third party … including, but not limited to, by disseminating or posting the Covered Materials 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.” The order said “any materials and information provided by the People to the Defense in accordance with their discovery obligations … shall be used solely for the purposes of preparing a defense in this matter.” Trump can review “Limited Dissemination Materials” provided by the prosecution only when his attorneys are present and “shall not be permitted to copy, photograph, transcribe, or otherwise independently possess the Limited Dissemination Materials,” according to the order. Trump is banned from seeing some “forensic images of witness cell phones,” but can see “approved portions” of the images if the judge agrees, the order said. This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.