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Trump criminal trial to start next march, with campaign in full swing

A judge announced on Tuesday that Donald Trump would face a criminal trial in New York on March 25, 2024, implying that the former US President will be on trial while his campaign for the Republican nomination in 2024 is in full gear.

Trump, who is accused of manipulating corporate documents to conceal a hush money payment to a porn star, is slated to travel across the country with his opponents next spring when states have presidential nominating elections.

The date was announced by Justice Juan Merchan in Manhattan state court at a hearing in which Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nominee in 2024 and the first former US president to face criminal charges, appeared virtually from Florida.

Merchan also informed Trump that he would be restricted from publicly discussing specific material handed over by prosecutors.

At least four televisions in Merchan’s courtroom displayed Trump and his attorney, Todd Blanche, seated in front of US flags.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 criminal charges. Trump claimed that his free expression rights had been abused in a statement on his Truth Social platform following the hearing.

“They forced upon us a trial date of March 25th, right in the middle of Primary season,” Trump stated in the article. “It’s a thing called ELECTION INTERFERENCE.”

Prosecutors in New York allege that Trump attempted to conceal reimbursements to his then-lawyer Michael Cohen for a $130,000 payment to Daniels, whose actual name is Stephanie Clifford. Cohen claims he paid her to keep quiet about a sexual encounter she claims she had with Trump before the 2016 election, which Trump disputes.

According to prosecutors, the reimbursements concealed violations of New York election law as well as violations of federal campaign contribution restrictions.

Judge says restrictions have no effect on Trump’s campaign

During the hearing, Trump only spoke to inform the court that he had a copy of the May 8 order prohibiting him from releasing certain evidence to other parties, including news outlets and social media, and that he had a copy of the order.

Blanche stated that Donald Trump was concerned that the injunction would violate his First Amendment right to free expression. He claimed, however, that he informed his client that Merchan did not seek to obstruct his speech and that the restriction was not a gag order that would prevent him from speaking publicly about the issue at all.

Merchan stated that he had no intention of limiting Trump’s freedom to campaign and that Trump “is certainly free to deny the charges, he is free to defend himself against the charges.”

On Tuesday, the judge stated that if Trump violates the restrictions, he may be put in contempt of court.

The restrictions imposed on Trump pertain to grand jury minutes, witness statements, and other materials that prosecutors are obligated to turn over to the defense in order for the defense to prepare for trial.

Prosecutors said the injunction was necessary due to Donald Trump’s history of social media assaults and the potential of witnesses being intimidated.

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