MANHATTAN (CN) — Donald Trump intends to have his criminal case removed to federal court, a lawyer for the former president announced Thursday, shortly after the presiding judge in New York state court floated February or March 2024 as likely contenders for the start of trial.
Trump’s attorney Todd Blanche previewed the motion at the end of the hearing that otherwise dealt with a call from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to put strict guardrails around Trump’s access to and use of evidence turned over by prosecutors ahead of trial.
Blanche insisted Thursday that the proposed protective order was “extraordinarily burdensome and unfair." To join the former president’s defense team in time for Trump’s arraignment last month in Manhattan criminal court, Blanche resigned from his position as a partner at the elite New York law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft.
Assistant District Attorney Catherine McCaw disputed Blanche's characterization of the proposal as a gag order.
“He can discuss his own personal experiences,” she said of Trump. “He can discuss facts that are in the public record, which are many. … Basically anything he could have said before receiving the People’s discovery materials, he can say after receiving the People’s discovery materials.”
The proposed protective order notes that Trump has “a longstanding and perhaps singular history of attacking witnesses, investigators, prosecutors, trial jurors, grand jurors, judges, and others involved in legal proceedings against him, putting those individuals and their families at considerable safety risk.”
Presiding Judge Juan Merchan, who also oversaw the Manhattan DA’s tax fraud case against the Trump Organization, has not yet signed off on the protective order and asked Trump to appear remotely by video conference to have the terms of the order explicitly read to him.
“The fact is he’s not like everybody else,” Judge Merchan said Thursday, acknowledging the logistical and civic pandemonium that surrounded Trump’s arraignment one month ago.
Merchan said he is “bending over backwards and straining” to preserve Trump’s First Amendment rights as he pursues candidacy for reelection, but stressed that New York state criminal procedure law standards still apply to Trump.
Representatives for the Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg did not immediately respond to request for comment regarding the potential transfer of jurisdiction.
Setting the historic trial of the first U.S. president to be criminally charged early next year would have the trial overlap with the early Republican presidential primaries and caucuses, while Trump for now leads the pack in the 2024 GOP presidential field.
Trump pleaded not guilty in April to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to hush-money payments made during the 2016 campaign to bury allegations of extramarital sexual encounters.
Judge Merchan did not impose any order muzzling Trump’s speech at his arraignment, but cautioned the former reality TV star to “refrain from making statements that are likely to incite violence and civil unrest."
The former president has denied any wrongdoing and denounced his indictment as “political persecution” aimed at deterring him from running for president a third time in 2024. Trump frames his prosecution as “election interference” that he says will backfire on Democrats to his benefit at the ballots.
Trump waived his in-person appearance at Thursday’s hearing and was represented by his attorneys, Blanche and Susan Necheles.
Trump’s attorney Joe Tacopina, also representing him in the criminal case, was two blocks away in Manhattan federal court on Thursday morning, handling Trump’s defense in the civil rape and defamation case brought by former Elle magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll.Follow @jruss_jruss
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