Politics

Trump criminal trial over porn star payoff set for March, months before 2024 election

Key Points
  • Donald Trump will go on trial beginning March 25 for the New York criminal case in which he is accused of falsifying business records related to a hush money payoff to porn star Stormy Daniels.
  • That trial is set to begin less than eight months before the 2024 presidential election. Trump is currently seeking the Republican nomination for that race.
  • Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan announced the schedule for the trial as Trump appeared in court via a video hookup for a hearing in the case.
Former president Donald Trump, left on screen, and his attorney, Todd Blanche, right on screen, appear by video, as his other attorney Susan Necheles, right, looks on, before a hearing begins in Manhattan criminal court, in New York, Tuesday, May 23, 2023. Trump made a video appearance Tuesday in his New York criminal case, with the judge tentatively setting a trial date for late March of next year.
Curtis Mean | AP

Donald Trump will go on trial beginning March 25 for the New York criminal case in which he is accused of falsifying business records related to a hush money payoff to porn star Stormy Daniels, a judge said Tuesday.

That trial is set to begin in the middle of the presidential primary season and less than eight months before the 2024 election for the White House.

Trump, who has pleaded not guilty, is currently seeking the Republican nomination for that race.

He is the first American president, former or otherwise, to face criminal charges.

Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan announced the trial schedule as Trump appeared in court via a video hookup for a hearing in the case Tuesday.

Merchan warned Trump that he could be sanctioned if he violates an order that restricts his ability to make public evidence and other material related to the criminal case.

The judge earlier this month issued that protective order after the Manhattan District Attorney's Office raised what it called substantial concerns that Trump would "inappropriately" use the material or post it on social media.

After the hearing, Trump posted a message on his social media site that criticized the schedule for his trial and Merchan.

"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," Trump wrote.

"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.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump appears by video conferencing before Justice Juan Merchan during a hearing before his trial over charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, in Manhattan state court in New York City, May 23, 2023. in this courtroom sketch.
Jane Rosenberg | Reuters

Merchan told prosecutors to file their pretrial motions by Aug. 29 and gave Trump's lawyers until Oct. 10 to file their responses. Merchan said he would rule on the motions Jan. 4, at a hearing where Trump would have to appear in person. 

One of Trump's lawyers, Joseph Tacopina, declined to comment. A spokesman for Trump's campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trump was indicted in late March by a grand jury, which accused him of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

Those records mischaracterized the nature of payments connected to reimbursements Trump and his company, the Trump Organization, made to his former attorney Michael Cohen after Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 shortly before the 2016 presidential election.

Daniels, in exchange for that money, agreed to keep quiet about her allegation of having had sex with Trump on one occasion, a decade earlier, months after his wife, Melania, had given birth to Barron Trump. Donald Trump denies having sex with the adult film star.

The indictment says those payments to Daniels and one by the publisher of The National Enquirer to Playboy model Karen McDougal were part of an effort to keep their claims of sexual trysts with Trump from affecting his chances against Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

Trump faces three other pending criminal investigations, all of which carry the risk of charges being filed against him.

In Georgia, the Fulton County district attorney is considering whether to seek an indictment of Trump and others for their efforts to get state officials to effectively overturn President Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 election in Georgia.

The U.S. Department of Justice separately is investigating Trump for the attempt to reverse his loss to Biden in the national Electoral College results that year, and his conduct up to and the day of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot by his supporters at the U.S. Capitol. The DOJ also is probing Trump's refusal to surrender hundreds of government records, many of them classified, after he left the White House.

On May 9, a civil jury in a Manhattan federal court trial found Trump liable for sexually abusing writer E. Jean Carroll during an encounter at a New York department store in the mid-1990s, and for defaming her when she went public in 2019 with her claim that Trump had raped her.

— Additional reporting by CNBC's Kevin Breuninger