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Twelve jurors are seated in Trump’s hush money trial

NEW YORK (AP) — A 12-person jury sat Thursday in former President Donald Trump’s case. lawsuit for moneybringing the proceedings closer to opening statements and the start of weeks of dramatic testimony.

The court quickly turned its attention to selecting alternate jurors, with the process on track to be completed by the end of the week. Prosecutors could begin presenting their case early next week.

The jury of Manhattanites includes a sales professional, a software engineer, a security engineer, a teacher, a speech therapist, several lawyers, an investment banker and a retired wealth manager.

The first-ever trial of a former US president is taking place in New York during this year’s White House race, meaning the presumptive Republican nominee will spend his days in court facing salacious and unflattering testimony about his life personal while simultaneously campaigning to reclaim the position he held for four years.

He has made clear his determination to use his legal risks to his advantage, already a central issue in the race against Democratic incumbent Joe Biden. After a full day of jury selection, he complained to reporters that he should have been campaigning but was instead in court for what he called a “very unfair trial.”

“Everyone is outraged,” he said. “You know the whole world is watching this scam in New York.”

Jury selection moved at a slow pace earlier Thursday when two jurors were dismissed, one after expressing doubts about his ability to be fair following the disclosure of details about his identity and the other in due to concerns that some of his answers in court may have been inaccurate.

But lawyers who started the day with only five jurors successively chose the remaining seven jurors, as well as an alternate. Judge Juan Merchan said his goal was to have six alternates.

The jury selection process is a critical phase of any criminal trial, but particularly so when the defendant is a former president and the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party. Potential jurors have been questioned about their social media posts, personal lives and political views while lawyers and the judge look for any bias that would prevent them from being impartial.

Within the court, it is widely recognized that there is no point in trying to find jurors without knowing Trump. A prosecutor said this week that lawyers aren’t looking for people who have been “living under a rock for eight years.”

To that end, several jurors chosen for the panel acknowledged having personal opinions about Trump or his presidency.

One juror, a man who works in investment banking, previously described himself as “ambivalent” about Trump, adding: “I may not like some of his policies, but there has been some good” for the country.

One woman chosen to serve on the jury said she thought Trump seemed “very selfish and selfish,” adding, “I don’t really appreciate that from a public official.” Defense attorneys were on a peremptory strike, which would allow them to dismiss a juror without giving a reason.

The lawsuit involves a $130,000 payment that Michael CohenTrump’s former lawyer and personal fixer, turned to porn actor Stormy Daniels to prevent her claims about a sexual relationship with Trump from being made public in the final days of the 2016 race.

Prosecutors say Trump obscured the true nature of the payments in internal records when his company reimbursed Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2018 and is expected to be a star witness for the prosecution.

Trump has denied having a sexual relationship with Daniels and his lawyers argue that the payments to Cohen were legitimate legal fees.

Trump faces 34 counts of falsifying business records. He could face up to four years in prison if convicted, although it is unclear whether the judge would choose to put him behind bars. Trump would almost certainly appeal any conviction.

Trump faces four criminal cases, but it is not clear whether more will be tried before the November election. Appeals and legal wrangling led to delays in the three other cases accusing Trump of plot to overturn the results of the 2020 election and with illegally hoarding classified documents.

The jury selection process accelerated Tuesday with the selection of seven jurors. But Thursday, Merchant revealed in court that one of the seven people, an oncology nurse, had “expressed concern that after sleeping on it all night, she was concerned about its ability to be fair and impartial in this matter.”

And although jurors’ names remain confidential, the woman told the judge and lawyers she had second thoughts after saying aspects of her identity had been made public.

“Just yesterday I had friends, colleagues and family members sending messages to my phone about my identity as a juror being questioned,” she said. “I don’t believe at this point that I can be fair and impartial and let outside influences not affect my decision-making in the courtroom.”

A second juror was dismissed after prosecutors raised concerns that he may not have been honest in answering a jury selection question by saying he had never been charged or convicted of a crime.

In an interview with the AP, defense attorney Arthur Aidala said attorneys make sure to check potential jurors’ social media pages.

The computer scientist was summoned to court to answer questions after prosecutors said they found an article about a person with the same name who was arrested in the 1990s for tearing down posters relating to the political right in the suburbs of Westchester County.

What you need to know about Trump’s secret trial:

A prosecutor also revealed that someone close to the man may have been involved in a deferred prosecution agreement in the 1990s with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting Trump’s case.

Because the juror was questioned Thursday in the judge’s box, without a microphone and out of reach of reporters, it is unclear whether the man confirmed or denied that either instance was connected to him.

Former President Donald Trump, comments after visiting a bodega, Tuesday, April 16, 2024, whose owner was assaulted last year in New York.  (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Former President Donald Trump, comments after visiting a bodega, Tuesday, April 16, 2024, whose owner was assaulted last year in New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

After having removed from the jury the nurse already selected, Merchan ordered the journalists in court for not reporting potential jurors’ responses to questions about their current and former employers.

“We probably just lost what probably would have been a very good juror for this case, and the first thing she said was that she was scared and intimidated by the press, all the press and everything. happened,” Merchan said. .

Separately, prosecutors have requested that Trump be held in contempt following a series of social media posts this week.

The prosecutor’s office on Monday sought a $3,000 fine from Trump for three posts on Truth Social that they said violated the judge’s silence order limiting what he can say publicly about witnesses. Since then, prosecutors have said Trump has posted seven additional messages that they say violated the order.

Several of the posts involved an article calling former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen a “serial perjurer,” and a Wednesday article repeated a Fox News host’s claim that liberal activists were lying to get on the jury , said prosecutor Christopher Conroy.

Trump’s lawyer, Emil Bove, said Cohen “attacked President Trump in public statements,” and Trump was only responding.

Former President Donald Trump speaks to the media after the second day of jury selection, Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York.  Trump is accused of falsifying business records to cover up a sex scandal during his 2016 campaign. (Justin Lane/Pool photo via AP)

Former President Donald Trump speaks to the media after the second day of jury selection, Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York. Trump is accused of falsifying business records to cover up a sex scandal during his 2016 campaign. (Justin Lane/Pool photo via AP)

The judge has already scheduled a hearing next week on the request for sanctions for contempt of Trump’s publications.


Tucker reported from Washington.

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