Donald Trump will not be able to publicly discuss certain evidence in the criminal case against him over a hush money payment to a porn star, a New York state judge ruled on Thursday.
Justice Juan Merchan in Manhattan said the ruling would only apply to evidence obtained by the prosecution and turned over to Trump to prepare for trial.
"I am not going to do anything ... to infringe on his First Amendment rights," the judge said.
Merchan also asked Trump's lawyers and prosecutors to see if they can agree on a trial date in February or March 2024.
Todd Blanche, a lawyer for Trump, told the judge he would try to move the case to federal court. A removal notice was filed later Thursday in federal court in Manhattan.
The two sides went before Merchan to argue about a court order prosecutors are seeking that would stop Trump from publicly disclosing certain evidence they are obligated to turn over to him to prepare his defense. Given Trump's history of attacks via social media, they said it was needed to reduce the risk of harassment against witnesses and others in the case.
Defense attorneys argued that the proposed order is too restrictive and that Trump has a right to comment on evidence, both to defend himself and as a candidate in the 2024 presidential election. They said prosecutors and witnesses have attacked Trump as well.
Merchan said Trump was free to speak about the majority of the evidence, just not that garnered by the prosecution and turned over to him for his defense in the case. He said the restrictions do not apply to the vast majority of evidence, which comes from the defense.
"I am bending over backwards," the judge said, to see Trump is "given every opportunity possible ... to advance his candidacy."
But, Merchan added, "His words, especially when used in the form of rhetoric, can have consequences."
The hearing was the first in the criminal case since Trump was arraigned in Manhattan state court on April 4 on 34 counts of falsifying business records to conceal reimbursements to his then-lawyer Michael Cohen for the $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.
Trump's appearance was waived, so he was not in court.
Assistant District Attorney Catherine McCaw asked that Trump be advised about the order on the record, once it is issued. The judge said he would arrange for a camera to be set up in the courtroom for Trump to appear virtually.
Trump faces a plethora of legal cases, including the trial of a civil case centering on accusations of rape and defamation taking place in a federal courtroom on Thursday.