The New York judge presiding over Donald Trump’s criminal case asked the prosecution and defense Thursday to agree a specific trial date for February or March next year.
The instruction means the historic trial over hush-money paid to a porn star will occur in the thick of the Republican primaries for the 2024 presidential race in which Trump is seeking to regain office.
Judge Juan Merchan said that once the date is fixed then all parties, including Trump, who is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, should not schedule other events.
“He cannot agree to any speaking engagements, appearances,” during the trial, Merchan said at the Manhattan state court, where Trump was not present.
His comments came during the first hearing in the case since Trump was arraigned last month on 34 counts of falsifying business records.
Merchan heard arguments surrounding a request by prosecutors that Trump be prohibited from publicizing elements of the prosecution’s case.
The judge said that once he makes a ruling Trump will be required to appear in court virtually via camera to be advised of it.
Trump denied the charges related to reimbursements to his then-lawyer Michael Cohen for the $130,000 payment to pornographic actress Stormy Daniels.
Prosecutors say the 2016 payments were intended to silence Daniels over sex she says she had with the ex-president years earlier.
Trump is the first former or sitting president to ever be charged with a crime.
The criminal case is one of several legal challenges facing Trump as the 76-year-old Republican seeks a return to the White House in next year’s election.
He is being investigated over his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the southern state of Georgia, his alleged mishandling of classified documents taken from the White House and his involvement in the storming of the US Capitol by his supporters on January 6, 2021.