Trump, appearing by video, is warned to respect protective order in Stormy Daniels hush money case, then slams court on social media

Judge Juan Merchan warned former President Donald Trump Tuesday that he needed to stick to the terms of a protective order limiting what he can say on social media about the Stormy Daniels hush money case or risk sanctions — including the possibility of a contempt of court citation.

But that didn’t stop Trump from taking to Truth Social to blast the court shortly after the hearing wrapped up.

“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 posted less than an hour after the hearing ended.

Merchan had imposed the protective order on Trump and his team to block them from talking about evidence or witnesses in the case on social media — in response to concerns from the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg over Trump’s propensity for posting. Tuesday’s hearing was held to review that order.

“Violating the court order may result in sanctions, which include a finding of contempt, which is punishable,” Merchan warned Trump, who appeared in the NYC courtroom via video.

The judge’s mandate doesn’t prevent Trump from speaking about the prosecution where he’s charged with paying off porn star Stormy Daniels, a Playboy model and a Trump Tower doorman as part of a “catch and kill” scheme intended to cover up damaging information during his 2016 campaign.

Prosecutors allege he illegally disguised payments to his former lawyer Michael Cohen. with the money then paid to Daniels to buy her silence about an alleged affair in 2006. Last month, the former president pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in his unprecedented first day in court.

During Tuesday’s appearance, which lasted less than 20 minutes, Trump was visibly perturbed at times. Appearing on a massive screen wearing a red tie with blue and white stripes, Trump was seated next to his lawyer, Todd Blanche, who told Merchan that Trump was concerned his First Amendment rights were being violated as he launches his bid for reelection.

But Blanche told the judge, “I have made it clear that that is not your intention,” and that Trump planned to comply with the rules.

Merchan agreed.

“It is not my intent to impede in any way with Mr. Trump’s campaign for president of the United States,” he said.

Trump appeared most frustrated as Merchan told him to clear his schedule for future court dates, including the setting of a trial date of March 25, 2024. He shook his head and threw his heads up slightly when his legal team discussed his next court appearance and spoke to his lawyer sitting next to him, but his video was muted. There are several presidential primaries scheduled for March 19, including Florida, Arizona and Illinois.

“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 in the Truth Social post.

Trump could face contempt charges if he uses evidence shared by prosecutors in pretrial discovery to intimidate witnesses or anyone else involved in the case. The order would also bar Trump or his lawyers from sharing evidence with third parties or posting information on social media.

Prosecutors requested the protective order based on Trump’s “longstanding and perhaps singular history” of using social media to inflame those both with and against him.

Both Bragg and Merchan have received threats over the case.

Ahead of last month’s arraignment, Trump warned on social media of “death and destruction” if charges were to be filed and described Bragg as an “animal” in comments widely derided as racist.

This case is one of several currently facing Trump during his campaign for reelection next year. He was recently found liable for battery and defamation in connection with an alleged sexual assault of writer E. Jean Carroll.

And the Justice Department was examining whether he mishandled or obstructed classified documents at Mar-a-Lago and his potential role in efforts to overturn the 2020 election results and in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.