Former President Donald Trump is seeking to move his criminal case from New York state court to federal court, his attorneys said during a hearing on Thursday.

Trump’s lawyers will seek the venue change sometime later Thursday, attorney Todd Blanche said towards the end of the hearing.

If Trump is unsuccessful in moving the case to federal court, the judge asked the parties to come up with a trial date in either February or March 2024, which would be in the middle of primary voting in the presidential campaign.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment.

The request from Trump’s attorneys came as New York Judge Juan Merchan heard arguments Thursday on whether he should issue a protective order proposed by the Manhattan district attorney’s office that would prevent Trump from making public evidence in the hush money case against him.

Trump’s lawyers are entitled to see the evidence compiled in the investigation, but prosecutors have sought to limit his ability to then release that evidence to the public.

During the hearing, attorneys for the Manhattan district attorney’s office and Trump reiterated previous arguments regarding the proposed protective order.

Assistant District Attorney Catherine McCaw filed a motion last week asking the judge, New York County Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, to ensure that discovery materials in the case can be used by the defense only for trial. She asked that Trump be permitted to view evidence only in the presence of his lawyers and be barred from having his own copies of those documents.

McCaw argued that “safeguards that will protect the integrity of the materials” are needed because the “risk” that Trump will use them “inappropriately is substantial.”

“Donald J. Trump has a longstanding and perhaps singular history of attacking witnesses, investigators, prosecutors, trial jurors, grand jurors, judges, and others involved in legal proceedings against him, putting those individuals and their families at considerable safety risk,” McCaw wrote, citing Trump’s attacks against his former personal attorney Michael Cohen and a former national security official, Alexander Vindman, both of whom testified against Trump in the past.

Trump, McCaw said, has already begun mounting similar attacks in the criminal case, noting his public attacks against witnesses as well as Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the DA’s office personnel and the court. She also pointed to a separate federal investigation that Trump is under for allegedly mishandling classified documents, which she said shows a “pattern” that “gives rise to significant concern that Defendant will similarly misuse grand jury and other sensitive materials here.”

McCaw said prosecutors initially sought to negotiate terms of a protective order with the defense, who indicated they would not consent to it. She made clear that prosecutors are not seeking a gag order at this time. “Defendant has a constitutional right to speak publicly about this case, and the People do not seek to infringe upon that right,” she wrote.

Trump’s attorneys slammed the proposed protective order as “extremely restrictive” and argued that it infringes on their client’s right to free speech.

It “infringes upon President Trump’s First Amendment right to freely discuss his own character and qualifications for federal office and the First Amendment rights of the American people to hear President Trump’s side of the story,” attorneys Susan Necheles, Joe Tacopina and Todd Blanche wrote in a court filing.

They wrote that Trump is the “leading Republican candidate” in the 2024 presidential election and there will be “significant public commentary” about this case and his candidacy “to which he has the right to respond for his own sake and for the benefit of the voting public.”

NBC News and other outlets oppose the prosecutor’s proposed protective order to limit the public use of evidence ahead of trial, which includes potentially requiring the sealing or redaction of certain items. Trump also joined the media coalition this week in opposing the proposed order.

Trump pleaded not guilty last month to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to his alleged role in hush money payments toward the end of his 2016 presidential campaign. Trump’s indictment was the first time a former president has been charged with a crime.

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