Former US President Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to the 34 felony counts against him


  • Trump appeared in a hearing Tuesday via video feed from Mar-a-Lago
  • The judge warned of sanctions and contempt charges if the protective order is violated
  • Trump lashed out at the judge again via his social media site Truth Social

A New York state judge asked Donald Trump Tuesday to follow a protective order on how he can discuss publicly the evidence that state prosecutors will hand over to the former president ahead of his trial stemming from hush-money payments paid to a former adult film star Stormy Daniels.

Judge Juan Merchan said during a hearing that Trump is free to deny the charges against him and talk about the case and campaign to regain the presidency next year but that he must obey the terms of the protective order and must not undermine law enforcement and the courts in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's hush-money case against Trump.

"It's certainly not a gag order. It's certainly not my intention in any way to impede Mr. Trump's ability to campaign... he's certainly free to deny the charges... he's free to do just about anything that doesn't violate the specific terms of this protective order," Judge Merchan said, The Daily Beast reported.

The judge's comments came after the former president's attorney, Todd Blanche, said during the Tuesday hearing that his client is "running for president and is a leading contender" and is "very concerned his First Amendment rights" could be severely limited by the order.

The order, which the judge signed on May 8, requires that all emails, photographs, testimony and other sensitive documents prosecutors will have over to the former president and his lawyers be "used solely for the purposes of preparing a defense" and limits what Trump can share publicly about them before his trial, which is set for March 25, 2024.

In the order, Merchan singled out Trump's own social media site Truth Social as one of the online platforms where any evidence turned over by the district attorney cannot be posted or shared, according to NPR.

The order also stated that Trump can only access certain materials in the presence of his lawyers or with the explicit permission of the judge.

Trump's team needs the materials to fight back against the 34 felony counts the ex-president faces for allegedly falsifying business records in order to hide the hush money he paid Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential elections to keep their alleged 2006 sexual encounter under wraps.

Trump, who appeared in the Tuesday hearing via a video connection from Mar-a-Lago, was told that there could be a "wide range" of possible sanctions, including "a finding of contempt," if he violates the terms of the order. These offenses are punishable by fines or jail time.

"Violation of a court order or a court mandate could result in sanctions. There are a wide range of sanctions, but it could include up to a finding of contempt, and that is punishable," Merchan said.

The Republican presidential nomination frontrunner spoke only once during the hearing, when he confirmed that he had a copy of the protective order.

The hearing was just conducted to explain the protective order, a routine measure before a trial. But right after the proceedings, Trump once again launched attacks against the judge.

"Just had New York County Supreme Court hearing where I believe my First Amendment Rights, 'Freedom of Speech,' have been violated, and they forced upon us a trial date of March 25th, right in the middle of Primary season. Very unfair, but this is exactly what the radical left Democrats wanted. It's called election interference, and nothing like this has ever happened in our country before," he wrote on Truth Social.

Former US president Donald Trump is behind the Truth Social micro-blogging platform