NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s hush-money trial will go ahead as scheduled with jury selection starting on March 25, a New York judge ruled Thursday, turning aside demands for a delay from the former president’s defense lawyers.

The decision sets the stage for a case centered on years-old accusations that Trump sought to bury stories about extramarital affairs that arose during his 2016 presidential campaign. It will be the first of the four criminal prosecutions against Trump to proceed to trial.

In leaving the trial date intact, Judge Juan Manuel Merchan took advantage of a delay in the separate prosecution in Washington related to efforts to undo the election. That case, originally set for trial on March 4, has been effectively on hold pending the outcome of an appeal from Trump on the legally untested question of whether a former president enjoys immunity from prosecution.

Noting that he resisted defense lawyer urgings from months ago to postpone the trial, Merchan said: “I’m glad I took that position because here we are — the D.C. case did not go forward.”

The hush money trial is expected to last up to six weeks, the judge said.

Assuming the New York case remains on schedule, it will open just weeks after the Super Tuesday elections, colliding on the political calendar with a time period in which Trump will be looking to mathematically sew up the Republican race and emerge as the presumptive nominee in this year’s presidential contest. His attorneys cited that schedule in vigorously objecting to the March trial date.

“It is completely election interference to say ‘you are going to sit in this courtroom in Manhattan,’ when there is no reason, said defense lawyer Todd Blanche. “What about his rights.”

Speaking to reporters in a courthouse hallway, Trump made a similar case, asserting to reporters that the case was being brought to hurt him politically and would interfere with his campaigning.

“How can you run for election if you’re sitting in a courthouse in Manhattan all day long? I’m supposed to be in South Carolina now,” said Trump, already the GOP front-runner to face President Joe Biden in November.

In fact, Trump has repeatedly attended court proceedings where his presence was not required.

Merchan held firm, telling Blanche that he had already considered — and rejected — his position, at one point snapping at the lawyer to “Stop interrupting me, please!”

Thursday marked Trump’s first return visit to court in the New York case since that historic indictment made him the first ex-president charged with a crime. Since then, he has also been indicted in Florida, Georgia and Washington, D.C.

In recent weeks, he’s blended campaign events with voluntary court appearances, attending on Monday a closed hearing in a Florida case charging him with hoarding classified records.

separate hearing was unfolding in Atlanta on Thursday as a judge was hearing arguments on whether to toss Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis off of the state’s election interference case because of a personal relationship with a special prosecutor she hired.

The New York case has long been considered arguably the least legally perilous of the four indictments Trump faces, with the alleged misconduct — generally known for years — seen by many as less grave than accusations of mishandling classified documents or plotting to subvert a presidential election.

The Washington case charging him with election interference was officially delayed last month, with the Supreme Court now weighing the immunity question. There’s no new date. The classified documents case in Florida is set for trial on May 20, but that date could be moved. No trial is scheduled in the Atlanta case.

Over the past year, Trump has lashed out at Merchan as a “Trump-hating judge,” asked him to step down from the case and sought to move the case from state court to federal court, all to no avail. Merchan has acknowledged making several small donations to Democrats, including $15 to Trump’s rival Joe Biden, but said he’s certain of his “ability to be fair and impartial.”

Thursday’s proceeding is part of a busy, overlapping stretch of legal activity for the Republican presidential front-runner, who has increasingly made his court involvement part of his political campaign.

Trump is also awaiting a decision, possibly as early as Friday, in a New York civil fraud case that threatens to upend his real estate empire. If the judge rules against Trump, who is accused of inflating his wealth to defraud banks, insurers and others, he could be on the hook for millions of dollars in penalties among other sanctions.

Along with clarifying the trial schedule, Merchan also rejected a request by Trump’s lawyers to throw out the case.

Trump’s lawyers accuse Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, of bringing the case to interfere with Trump’s chances of retaking the White House. Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus Vance Jr., declined to pursue a case on the same allegations.

The charges are punishable by up to four years in prison, though there is no guarantee that a conviction would result in prison time.

The case centers on payoffs to two women, porn actor Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, as well as to a Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about Trump having a child out of wedlock. Trump says he didn’t have any of the alleged sexual encounters.

Trump’s lawyer at the time, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 and arranged for the publisher of the National Enquirer supermarket tabloid to pay McDougal $150,000 in a practice known as “catch-and-kill.”

Trump’s company then paid Cohen $420,000 and logged the payments as legal expenses, not reimbursements, prosecutors said. Bragg charged Trump last year with falsifying internal records kept by his company, the Trump Organization, to hide the true nature of payments.

Trump’s legal team has argued that no crime was committed.