US District Judge Tanya Chutkan cautioned the former US president to avoid making "inflammatory" statements and stressed her commitment to maintaining a respectful environment during the upcoming trial.
Shed issued the warning while ruling on Trump's lawyers request for fewer restrictions over how much evidence in the case he can share with the public.
Prosecutors working for the special counsel, Jack Smith, expressed concern Trump might try to use details of the confidential evidence to intimidate witnesses.
"Your client's defense is supposed to happen in this courtroom, not on the internet," Chutkan told Trump's lawyers.
Protective order and free speech
She drew attention to a post on Trump's Truth Social platform, in which he proclaimed, "If you go after me, I'm coming after you!"
The judge said that the more anyone makes "inflammatory" statements about the case, the greater her urgency will be to move the case more quickly to trial to prevent the contamination of the jury pool.
Chutkan however ruled that the prosecution had not met its burden to show why all of the evidence should be subject to a "protective order."
She said Trump would be allowed to review sensitive materials such as witness interviews and transcripts of grand jury proceedings without his legal team present but he cannot photograph or reproduce them.
Chutkan also noted that "arguably ambiguous statements" could be construed as intimidation or harassment of potential witnesses or jurors.
“I caution you and your client to take special care in your public statements about this case. I will take whatever measures are necessary to safeguard the integrity of these proceedings.”
Trial date contentious
Special counsel Smith, who has pressed for the trial to commence on January 2, 2024, has charged Trump with conspiring to overturn the result of the 2020 election.
Chutkan, appointed by former President Barack Obama, will establish the trial's start date during a hearing scheduled for August 28.
The 77-year-old Trump, who denies the charges of plotting with his aides to overturn the 2020 election, was not present at the hearing.
The judge highlighted her commitment to upholding the former president's rights as a criminal defendant while acknowledging that his First Amendment right to free speech is not absolute.
The charges at issue in Friday's hearing are one of three prosecutions currently targeting Trump, the front-runner in the 2024 Republican presidential nomination race.
tg/ (AFP, AP, Reuters)