Trump Criminal Trial Set for March 2024

From a New York Times story by Jonah E. Bromwich headlined “Trump Criminal Trial Scheduled for March 2024”:

The trial of Donald J. Trump has been scheduled for March 25, 2024, the judge presiding over his Manhattan criminal case said on Tuesday.

Mr. Trump attended the hearing remotely, making his first courtroom appearance since 34 felony charges were unveiled against him last month. He appeared to react angrily when the trial date was announced by Justice Juan Merchan, though his microphone was muted and it was unclear what he was saying to the lawyer seated next to him, Todd Blanche.

The trial is set for three weeks after Super Tuesday, one of the most important days on the Republican presidential primary calendar. And the disclosure of the date came just a day before Mr. Trump’s chief rival for the Republican nomination, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, was set to announce his own run, highlighting the way that Mr. Trump’s legal entanglements could complicate his third campaign for the White House.

Mr. Trump’s appearance on Tuesday was brief, lasting about 20 minutes. Justice Merchan mentioned the restrictions that he had placed on Mr. Trump’s use of material from the case, asking Mr. Blanche whether he had reviewed those restrictions with his client. Mr. Blanche said that he had.

Prosecutors working for the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, had asked that Mr. Trump’s access to some case material be limited and requested that Justice Merchan prohibit the former president from disseminating the prosecution’s evidence, including records of interviews with witnesses and grand jury testimony, on social media or to reporters.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers fought that request, but at a hearing earlier this month, Justice Merchan said he would grant it. He emphasized, though, that Mr. Trump would be free to speak about the “vast majority of the evidence.”

Prosecutors also requested at that hearing that Mr. Trump be read the terms of the restrictions — which are contained in a document called a protective order — in person. Justice Merchan agreed to a virtual appearance, setting up the hearing on Tuesday.

Before the appearance started, Mr. Trump waited on camera, visible in high-definition to the entire courtroom — a remarkable way to encounter the former president. Wearing a navy suit and a red, white and blue tie, he squinted and glowered at the camera, clasping and unclasping his hands, never keeping them in the same position for very long. He looked like a man unaccustomed to waiting.

Mr. Trump barely spoke with his microphone on once the hearing got underway. But when Justice Merchan mentioned the trial date, he immediately grew agitated, chattering at Mr. Blanche with his microphone muted, waving his hands and shaking his head. He then folded his arms in frustration as the judge reviewed the updated motion schedule that would precede the trial.

The defense will file any motions — including a motion to dismiss the case — by Aug. 29, with prosecutors responding by Oct. 10. The judge will rule on the motions on Jan. 4.

The charges against Mr. Trump stem from a hush money payment made to a porn star on his behalf during the 2016 campaign. The payment was made by Mr. Trump’s former fixer, Michael D. Cohen; after he won the presidency, Mr. Trump reimbursed Mr. Cohen, signing nine of the 11 checks that were used to repay him. Prosecutors say that Mr. Trump’s family business, the Trump Organization, then created false records to account for the payments, saying they were made to repay Mr. Cohen for legal services.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers are seeking to move the case to federal court from state court, likely a long shot effort. A federal judge will consider their request in a hearing in federal court on June 27.

Jonah E. Bromwich covers criminal justice in New York, with a focus on the Manhattan district attorney’s office, state criminal courts in Manhattan and New York City’s jails.

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