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First 7 jurors are chosen for Trump’s hush money criminal trial, with 11 more still needed

Donald Trump sits in a courtroom
Former President Trump awaits the start of proceedings Tuesday in a New York courtroom.
(Michael M. Santiago / Associated Press)
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The first seven jurors for Donald Trump’s hush money trial were chosen Tuesday after lawyers grilled members of the jury pool about their social media posts, political views and personal lives to decide whether they can sit in fair judgment of the former president.

The panelists who were selected are an information technology worker, an English teacher, an oncology nurse, a sales professional, a software engineer and two lawyers.

Eleven more people still must be sworn in before opening statements begin as early as next week in the first criminal trial of a former commander in chief. It’s a moment of reckoning for Trump, who has tried to put off his prosecutions until after the November election.

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In the Manhattan case, Trump is accused of falsifying business records to cover up a sex scandal during his 2016 campaign.

The trial, which began Monday, puts Trump’s legal problems at the center of his closely contested race against President Biden. It’s the first of Trump’s four criminal cases to go to trial, and it may be the only one to reach a verdict before voters decide whether to elect the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

It’s the first criminal trial of any former U.S. commander-in-chief and the first of Trump’s four indictments to reach trial.

April 15, 2024

The methodical process unfolding in the Manhattan courtroom highlights the challenge of finding people who can fairly judge the polarizing defendant in the city where he built a real estate empire. Even so, jury selection moved more quickly than expected Tuesday afternoon. It was set to resume Thursday.

On his way out of the courthouse, Trump stopped in the hallway to again rail against the case to reporters, accusing the judge of “rushing” the trial.

Trump has pushed unsuccessfully to have the judge removed from the case and repeatedly tried to get the proceedings delayed.

Over two days, dozens of potential jurors have been excused after saying they could not be impartial or because they had other commitments. Trump’s lawyers challenged a handful of people over social media posts, and one person was dismissed over a 2017 post about Trump that said, “Lock him up!”

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Several would-be jurors told the judge they believed they could decide the case fairly, no matter their feelings about Trump or his policies as president.

Trump looked on in the courtroom as his lawyers urged the judge to remove one potential juror for a social media post she made after his 2020 election loss. The judge admonished Trump at one point after he spoke loudly and gestured while the judge questioned the woman about her post.

“I don’t know what he was uttering, but it was audible and he was gesturing. And he was speaking in the direction of the juror,” Judge Juan Merchan said. “I won’t tolerate that. I will not tolerate any jurors being intimidated in this courtroom.”

Donald Trump’s hush money trial is about more than Stormy Daniels and sex. It “will shape not just what future presidents will do but whether or not they’ll get away with it.”

April 15, 2024

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass took Trump’s notoriety head-on, telling would-be jurors that attorneys were not looking for people who had been “living under a rock for the past eight years.” They just needed to keep an open mind, he said.

“This case has nothing to do with your personal politics. … It’s not a referendum on the Trump presidency or a popularity contest or who you’re going to vote for in November. We don’t care,” he said. “This case is about whether this man broke the law.”

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records as part of an alleged effort to keep salacious — and, he says, false — stories about his sex life from emerging during his 2016 campaign.

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The judge in Donald Trump’s hush money criminal case has turned down the former president’s request to postpone his trial over publicity about the case.

April 12, 2024

The charges center on $130,000 in payments that Trump’s company made to his then-lawyer, Michael Cohen. The lawyer paid that sum on Trump’s behalf to keep adult film actor Stormy Daniels from going public with her allegations of a sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier. Trump has denied the encounter happened.

Prosecutors say the payments to Cohen were falsely logged as legal fees. The prosecution has described the money as being part of a scheme to bury damaging stories Trump feared could help his opponent in the 2016 race, particularly as Trump’s reputation was suffering at the time from comments he made about women.

Trump has acknowledged reimbursing Cohen for the payment and that it was designed to stop Daniels from going public about the alleged encounter. But Trump has said it had nothing to do with the campaign.

In their latest salvo, Trump’s lawyers asked the state’s mid-level appeals court to halt the case indefinitely while they fight to remove the judge.

April 10, 2024

With the trial expected to last for six weeks or more, multiple jury pool members brought up plans they have for Memorial Day and beyond. One parent was excused Monday because of a child’s wedding in late June. Another person was dismissed Tuesday because of a planned trip.

One man was excused after saying he feared his ability to be impartial could be compromised by “unconscious bias” from growing up in Texas and working in finance with people who “intellectually tend to slant Republican.”

“I’m not sure that I can say beyond a reasonable doubt that I can be fair,” another potential juror told the judge. “I can try. But I’m not 100% sure I can be fair.” She also was dismissed.

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One woman said she disagrees with Trump’s policies and sometimes finds herself frustrated by him. But she pledged to be fair and impartial, telling defense lawyer Todd Blanche that she would give her “level-headed best” if she were picked for the jury.

“I didn’t sleep last night thinking about could I do that,” she said.

Trump broke into a grin, nodding his head in an exaggerated manner, when another person said he had read two of the former president’s books, “The Art of the Deal” and “How to Get Rich.” The man, who said some of his wife’s family members are lobbyists for the Republican Party, said he didn’t think there was anything that would prevent him from looking at the case fairly.

“I feel that no one’s above the law,” he said.

In their latest salvo, Trump’s lawyers asked the state’s mid-level appeals court to halt the case indefinitely while they fight to remove the judge.

April 10, 2024

In court papers filed Tuesday, prosecutors urged the judge to fine Trump $3,000 over social media posts they say violated a gag order limiting what he can say publicly about witnesses. In the posts, Trump called Cohen and Daniels “two sleaze bags” and accused them of lying.

Prosecutors wrote that the judge should admonish Trump to comply with the gag order and warn him that further violations could be punished not only with additional fines but also jail time.

If convicted of falsifying business records, Trump faces up to four years in prison, though there’s no guarantee he will get time behind bars.

Sisak, Peltz, Offenhartz and Richer write for the Associated Press. Richer reported from Washington.

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