On Tuesday, former President Donald Trump appeared virtually in a New York criminal court for the first time after pleading not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records last month.
Trump appeared virtually before Judge Juan Merchan to hear the terms of a protective order which would block him from publicly disclosing evidence related to the case. The document is going to be given to his lawyers by the Manhattan district attorney’s office and relate to the hush money payment case that Trump was arraigned for.
Trump was arraigned in person at the same courthouse last month, which required great security precautions and essentially paralyzed proceedings and operations for that day. This time he appeared virtually from Florida along with his lawyer Todd Blanche.
The trial date was also set for the case to be March 25, 2024. By that point, 25 states will have already voted in the presidential primary races according to the schedule.
When the judge asked Trump whether he had in his hands a copy of the order, Trump acknowledged that he had and had looked through it with his lawyer. Blanche then told Merchan that Trump, who is the frontrunner in the GOP primary race, was concerned that the order was violating his First Amendment rights. However, Merchan responded that this “is not a gag order” and such a violation is not what he intends to in any way harm Trump’s ability to run for office. He added that he is free to deny the charges, defend himself, and run his campaign, so long as he “does not violate the specific terms of this protective order.”