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Criminal trial for Donald Trump set for March 2024
Donald Trump will face a criminal trial on March 25, 2024, over charges he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels, a judge said on Tuesday.
Justice Juan Merchan in Manhattan state court set the date during a hearing in which the former U.S. president appeared remotely from Florida.
The date means Trump, who is currently the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president in the 2024 election, will be going on trial during the heart of the nominating primaries, when he and his rivals for the Republican presidential candidacy will be crisscrossing the country to drum up support among the party faithful.
Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 criminal counts of falsifying business records. In a post on his Truth Social platform after the hearing, Trump said his rights to free speech had been violated.
“They forced upon us a trial date of March 25th, right in the middle of the Primary season,” Trump wrote in the post. “It’s called ELECTION INTERFERENCE.”
New York prosecutors say Trump sought to conceal reimbursements to his then-lawyer Michael Cohen for a $130,000 US payment to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. Cohen has said he paid her in exchange for her silence before the 2016 election about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump, which Trump denies.
The reimbursements concealed violations of New York election law and violations of campaign contribution limits under federal election law, according to prosecutors.
‘Free to defend himself’
During the hearing, Trump spoke only to tell the court he had a copy of the May 8 order restricting him from disclosing certain evidence to third parties, including news outlets and on social media.
Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche said his client was concerned the order violated his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech. But Blanche said he had told Trump that Merchan did not intend to impede his speech and that the restriction was not a gag order, which would bar him from speaking publicly about the case at all.
Merchan said he did not mean to restrict Trump’s ability to campaign, and that Trump “is certainly free to deny the charges, he is free to defend himself against the charges.”
The judge said on Tuesday that if Trump violates the restrictions, he could be held in contempt of court.
The restrictions on Trump concern grand jury minutes, witness statements and other materials that prosecutors are required to turn over to the defence to prepare for trial.
Prosecutors have said the order was needed because of Trump’s history of attacks on social media, and the risk that witnesses might be harassed.