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Trump calls scheduled criminal trial ‘election interference’

Former US President, Donald Trump has thrown up his hands in apparent exasperation in response to a judge scheduling his criminal trial during the heat of next year’s presidential primary season.

At a pre-trial hearing on Tuesday for the hush money case, Judge Juan Manuel Merchan advised Mr Trump to cancel all other obligations for the trial, which will start on March 25 and could last at least seven weeks.

Appearing via video from Florida, Mr Trump had a brief inaudible discussion with his lawyer before sitting with his arms folded for the remainder of the hearing.

Mr Trump said little during the hearing, but lashed out afterwards on social media.

“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,” he wrote on Truth Social. 

“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!!!”

Last month, Mr Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to hush-money payments made during the 2016 campaign to bury allegations that he had extramarital sexual encounters.He has denied wrongdoing.

Judge Merchan said he arrived at the March 25 trial date after discussions with Mr Trump’s lawyers and prosecutors.

Mr Trump’s lawyer, Susan Necheles, said he knew about the date prior to Tuesday’s hearing and said she didn’t see his exasperated reaction.

Mr Trump’s case is proceeding in state court even as his lawyers seek to have it moved to federal court because some of the alleged conduct occurred while he was president.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office has until next week to file paperwork stating why it should remain in state court, where the historic indictment was brought.

ABC News says Mr Trump has made the New York case and the long list of other investigations into his personal, professional and presidential conduct central to his campaign to reclaim the White House in 2024.

It also reports that the former Republican President has portrayed himself as the victim of a coordinated, politically motivated effort to sully his chances.