Former US President Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to the 34 felony counts against him
New York (AFP) - A frustrated-looking Donald Trump appeared in a New York court via video-link Tuesday to be informed by a judge that he cannot post certain evidence in his criminal case on social media.
Trump denies 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up alleged hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016.
He became the first former or sitting president to ever be charged with a crime during a historic arraignment in Manhattan in April.
Judge Juan Merchan told Trump that he is barred from disclosing sensitive materials that the prosecution will hand over to his lawyers so they can prepare their defense.
Trump, appearing from Florida with two American flags draped behind him, said, “Yes I do” when asked by Merchan whether he had been given a copy of the order.
Wearing a dark blue suit and red tie, Trump shook his head when the judge said that he could be held in contempt of court if he violated the order.
The 76-year-old is allowed to post information already in the public domain and most evidence compiled by his own team, however.
But he is prohibited from publicizing the names of some employees of the Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg, the prosecutor in the case, until the trial begins.
Merchan signed the order earlier this month after the prosecution requested that restrictions be placed on Trump’s handling of evidence.
The district attorney’s office cited Trump’s track record of attacking witnesses and Bragg in social media posts.
- March trial -
Trump’s attorneys argued against the protective order, claiming it would be an unprecedented “muzzle” on a presidential candidate.
Lawyer Todd Blanche, sitting to Trump’s left, told the judge that the ex-president was “very much concerned” that his first amendment rights to free speech were being violated.
Merchan stressed that his ruling does not amount to a gag order and that Trump is still free to talk about the case and campaign to regain the presidency next year.
The judge said the trial would begin on March 25 next year, meaning the historic proceedings will likely start in the thick of the Republican primaries for the 2024 presidential race.
Trump looked increasingly exasperated and shook his head again when Merchan informed all parties in the case that they should not commit to any other engagements that would interfere with the trial.
The charges relate to reimbursements made to Trump’s then-lawyer Michael Cohen for the $130,000 payment to Daniels made just weeks before Trump’s election victory.
Prosecutors say the money was intended to silence Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, over sex she says she had with Trump in 2006.
They claim that Trump covered up the true nature of the payments.
The criminal case is one of several legal challenges that threaten to derail Trump’s 2024 election bid.
He is being investigated over his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the southern state of Georgia, his alleged mishandling of classified documents taken from the White House and his involvement in the storming of the US Capitol by his supporters on January 6, 2021.