Donald Trump threw his hands in the air in fury during a virtual appearance in a Manhattan court on Tuesday as a judge scheduled the Stormy Daniels 'hush money' criminal trial for March 25, 2024.
It means the former president will be in a Manhattan courtroom for weeks in the middle of the Republican primaries and just months before the presidential election.
Trump, 76, scowled into the camera during a Zoom appearance as Judge Juan Merchan told him to cancel all commitments during the trial and put a protective order in place banning him from sharing evidence in public.
He made the appearance as it was revealed his main rival in the GOP race, Ron DeSantis, would formally announce he is running for President in a Twitter Spaces on Wednesday night.
A visibly-irritated Trump, wearing a blue suit against a backdrop of American flags at his Mar-a-Lago estate, turned to his lawyer during the appearance
'President Trump is running for President of the United States and is the leading contender,' his attorney Todd Blanche told the judge. 'He is very much concerned that his 1st Amendment rights are being violated.'
The charges are related to a $30,000 payoff to a doorman trying to sell information about a child that Trump allegedly fathered out of wedlock; $150,000 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, and a $130,000 payment to Daniels.
Trump had pleaded not guilty last month to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records at his family company, the Trump Organization.
Trump denies having had extramarital flings and says the prosecution is politically motivated.
Trump has made the New York case and the long list of other investigations he faces central to his campaign to get back in the White House.
He claims it is all part of a wide-ranging 'witch-hunt' from political opponents to stop him from reclaiming the Oval Office.
Trump often discusses the cases at his rallies and in other speeches, and has repeatedly attacked prosecutors and judges by name.
At Tuesday's hearing, Merchan reviewed an order barring Trump from publicly disseminating certain evidence turned over by prosecutors.
Merchan insisted that it was not a 'gag order'.
'It's certainly not a gag order and it's not my intention to impede Mr. Trump to campaign for president,' Merchan said. 'He's free to do just about anything that does not violate the terms of this protective order.'
The order stops Trump from publicly sharing evidence his defense team receives during the proceedings.
Trump is allowed to speak publicly about the criminal case, according to Merchan´s order, but he risks being held in contempt if he uses evidence turned over by prosecutors in the pretrial discovery process to target witnesses or others involved in the case.
Trump was spared a personal appearance at the courthouse, 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 courtroom TV monitors.
Merchan´s protective order bars Trump and his lawyers from disseminating evidence to third parties or posting it to social media, and it requires that certain sensitive material shared by prosecutors 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.
Merchan, noting Trump´s 'special' status as a former president and current candidate, has made clear that the protective order shouldn´t be construed as a gag order and that Trump has a right to publicly defend himself.
Trump´s lawyers are seeking to have his criminal case moved to federal court. It will continue in state court while that plays out.