OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Former President Donald Trump was hit with a tough blow by the judge in his Manhattan case that centers around alleged hush money payments to adult movie star Stormy Daniels, and it could be a debilitating blow to his presidential campaign.
New York State Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan set the trial date for the middle of the Republican primary season, March 25, and he issued some directives that may make it impossible for the former president to campaign, MarketWatch reported.
“Trump, appearing by video conference at a pretrial hearing in the hush-money case, glowered at the camera as Judge Juan Manuel Merchan advised him to cancel all other obligations for the duration of the trial, which could last several weeks,” the report said.
This means that as the other candidates are traveling to states where votes will be cast in primary elections on March 5, March 12, and March 19, the former president will be preparing for his trial.
The former president, who appeared via video conference from his home in Florida, barely spoke during the hearing but he was furious when he posted to his TruthSocial account.
“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,” he said.
“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!!!” he said.
At the hearing Trump’s attorneys said they were concerned after the judge informed the former president of what he cannot say related to the trial.
“It is certainly not a gag order,” the judge 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.”
The judge said that the former president “is certainly free to deny the charges. He is free to defend himself against the charges.”
The order stipulates “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.”
It 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.”
Market Watch reported:
Among concerns raised by prosecutors were that Trump could weaponize “highly personal information” found on witnesses’ cellphones, such as personal photos and text messages with family and friends, as well as secret grand jury testimony and other material, to rile up anger amongst his supporters.
Nothing in the order prevents Trump from being able to speak “powerfully and persuasively” in his defense without the need to “start attacking individuals, disclosing names, addresses, cellphones’ numbers, identity, dates of birth, or anything along those lines,” Merchan said. Certain sensitive material shared by prosecutors must be kept only by Trump’s lawyers, not Trump himself.
Prosecutors sought the order soon after Trump’s arrest, citing what they say is his history of making “harassing, embarrassing, and threatening statements” about people he’s tangled with in legal disputes.
Trump was spared a personal appearance at the courthouse Tuesday, avoiding the mammoth security and logistical challenges that accompanied his arraignment last month. Instead, the Republican was connected by video conference, with his face beamed onto TV monitors positioned around the courtroom.