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Full Jury Is Chosen in Trump Criminal Trial

The final jurors in Donald J. Trump’s criminal trial were selected Friday, with attorneys preparing to make opening statements Monday in a historic proceeding that was suddenly overshadowed at midday by the spectacle of a man setting himself on fire fire in front of the courthouse.

Five Manhattan residents were chosen Friday, completing a group of 12 seated jurors and six alternates who will hear accusations from the Manhattan district attorney’s office that Mr. Trump sought to cover up a sex scandal that could have jeopardized his running for president in 2016.

The day was marked from the start by an intensity of emotion. Several prospective jurors asked to be excused, and some became angry, with one saying she had become too nervous to continue the process.

Then news began to spread about the man who had set himself on fire in a park across from the courthouse. Proceedings continued in the courtroom, but the commotion was noticeable and reporters ran out of the room.

The motives of the man, whom city officials identified as Max Azzarello, 37, of St. Augustine, Fla., were not immediately clear, but he was carrying leaflets espousing anti-government conspiracy theories. He was hospitalized in critical condition Friday evening and is not expected to survive, officials said.

The afternoon hearing, in which the judge was to determine what questions prosecutors could ask the former president if he were to testify, went as planned.

Mr. Trump, 77, is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records in connection with his efforts to silence a porn star, Stormy Daniels, who in 2016 sought to sell her story that she had had sex with Mr. Trump a decade earlier. . The former president denies the allegations and has pleaded not guilty, harshly criticizing the case, the first time a US president has faced a criminal trial.

The selection of final alternates capped an eventful week that drew the attention of a throng of media and a handful of protesters who descended on the criminal courts building in Lower Manhattan.

The courthouse was under heavy security as Mr. Trump paced back and forth from the courtroom, stopping only to attack the case and the judge overseeing it, Juan M. Merchan, as well as Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney.

Emergency personnel near where a man set himself on fire outside the Manhattan criminal courthouse Friday.Credit…Maansi Srivastava/The New York Times

These attacks continued on Friday, as a defiant Mr. Trump, as has become his habit during the first week of the trial, used the hallway outside the courtroom to address to journalists and a pool camera.

“It’s a rigged trial,” Mr. Trump said, attacking Mr. Bragg and complaining that he can’t campaign because he’s in court. “It’s very unfair. And people know that it’s very unfair.

Still, Mr. Trump’s legal efforts have been an uphill climb. Even as jury selection drew to a close, Mr. Trump filed an appeal for another emergency stay of the trial, arguing that the case should be halted until a full panel rules on its proposal to move the trial out of Manhattan. An appeals court judge rejected the request.

Judge Merchan seemed tired of the defense’s efforts to continually file motions that could delay the trial.

“There comes a point where you accept my decisions,” he said at his own hearing Friday to decide what topics prosecutors can confront Mr. Trump about if he decides to testify.

Prosecutors asked Judge Merchan for permission to cross-examine the former president about recent court cases he lost, as well as attacks he committed against women. The judge said he would rule on the matter on Monday.

The criminal trial proceeded more quickly than expected. Some observers initially thought jury selection could take up to two weeks, but Judge Merchan, sometimes keeping the parties later than usual and apparently determined to treat the case like any other, managed to fill the jury box in half the time.

Yet the divisions that have accompanied Mr. Trump’s political career were evident in the jury selection process: Dozens of potential jurors said they simply could not be impartial. One, a nurse, served on the jury and later decided she couldn’t be fair, adding that she was alarmed by early media coverage and people guessing her identity . Another seated juror was disqualified after prosecutors raised questions about his credibility.

Prosecutors indicated they intended to downplay Mr. Trump’s celebrity, saying in court this week that he was “just like any other defendant in any other criminal case,” while acknowledging the feelings strong that he inspires.

“This is not a referendum on the Trump presidency, nor a popularity contest, nor any indication of who you are going to vote for in November,” prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said Tuesday. ‘addressing the jurors. “We don’t care.”

The defense is expected to aggressively attack the credibility of prosecution witnesses, particularly Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former arranger who made the payment to Ms. Daniels and pleaded guilty in 2018 to campaign finance violations and other federal laws.

During jury selection, defense attorneys focused intently on potential jurors’ views of Mr. Trump, echoing the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s lifelong obsession with “fairness.” .

“It’s extremely important to President Trump that we know we’re going to get fair treatment,” said Todd Blanche, his lead lawyer.

Mr. Trump has expressed his displeasure with the trial, with a constant barrage of online attacks on Mr. Cohen, several of which have been highlighted by prosecutors, who say the former president violated a silence order issued by Judge Merchan on 10 occasions. .

The order prohibits attacks on witnesses, prosecutors, jurors and court staff, as well as their relatives and the judge’s relatives. The judge plans a hearing Tuesday to determine whether Mr. Trump violated the gag order.

Judge Merchan also expressed concerns about juror safety, saying Thursday that he would prohibit journalists from revealing information about the current and past employment histories of jurors and potential jurors.

He implored journalists not to reveal physical characteristics that could identify them, asking them to “refrain from writing about anything you see with your eyes and hear with your ears regarding the jurors that is not included in the folder “.

Mr. Trump’s demeanor was generally calm and he appeared to doze off on several occasions. Outside of court, he repeatedly addressed reporters at the beginning and end of his days in court, calling the trial a “witch hunt.” (On Thursday, he also complained to reporters that the courtroom was cold, a problem that was acknowledged by the judge.)

The former president has also been active on his Truth Social platform, describing how he feels victimized in the Manhattan proceedings and insisting that he is entitled to immunity in a federal case accusing him of illegally attempted to overturn the 2020 election.

The Manhattan case is the first to go to trial among four criminal indictments Mr. Trump faces, and it could be the only one to go to trial before the November election. Two federal cases — one involving his hoarding of classified documents, the other stemming from his efforts to overturn the 2020 election — and a state case involving election interference in Georgia are mired in delays and pretrial litigation At the trial.

As the final jurors were selected Friday, the gravity of the impending testimony — and the impact the final verdict could have on the presidential race and the nation as a whole — appeared to shake some of those who had been called to the courthouse to do their job. civic duty.

A potential juror found herself overwhelmed by a defense attorney’s questions and asked to be excused.

“It’s so much more stressful than I thought it would be,” she said.

Maggie Haberman, Kate Christobek And Nathan Schweber reports contributed.

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