Former President Donald Trump appeared virtually in a Manhattan criminal courthouse on Tuesday afternoon, where a judge assured him that the protective order he has entered will not prevent Trump from commenting on the case. until his trial scheduled for next year.
“This is definitely not a gag order,” said Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan. affirmed.
Later in the proceedings, Merchan set a trial date for March 25, 2024, suggesting it was firm. The judge called it a “certain date for the start of this trial”.
Although Trump did not appear in court personally, he participated in the proceedings virtually through a video, in which he was seated next to his lawyer Todd Blanche. The primary purpose of the hearing, the judge said, was to inform Trump of the protective order the court had issued.
“He is very concerned that his First Amendment rights are being violated by this protective order,” Blanche said.
Playing down those fears, Blanche said he explained to Trump that he was “free to talk about the case and defend himself.”
Merchan agreed with that interpretation, adding that it is “certainly not my intention to prevent” Trump from talking about the case.
Earlier this month, Judge Merchan issued a written order barring Trump from posting “covered material” from his criminal case on platforms “including, but not limited to, Truth Social, Facebook, Instagram , WhatsApp, Twitter, Snapchat or YouTube, without prerequisites. court approval”.
Trump remains free to comment generally on his criminal case, as long as he does not disclose certain categories of privileged information shared by prosecutors during the discovery process.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg claims Trump committed 34 felonies while coordinating a $130,000 payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels – and paying back $420,000 to his then-fixer Michael Cohen, rounded up for taxes plus so-called “technology” and “legal” fees. Cohen received his reimbursements in $35,000 increments, and prosecutors allege Trump falsified business records dozens of times through the arrangement.
Under New York State law, falsifying business records becomes a felony when undertaken as part of the commission of a separate crime. Bragg remained coy about what that other crime is, but said they could include violations of New York election law, New York tax law, New York criminal law, or violations federal election campaign law.
Prosecutors have resisted Trump’s demands for more specifics, through what is being called a bill.
“Defendant has already received and will receive much more factual information than the people are required to provide in a brief and has more than sufficient information to prepare his defense,” Assistant District Attorney Becky Mangold wrote on May 12.
This is a developing story.
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