Trump trial gets six jurors seated in New York

US News

Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends the second day of his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on April 16, 2024.

Mary Altaffer | AFP | Getty Images

The first group of jurors for the New York hush money trial of former President Donald Trump was seated Tuesday.

Shortly before the six jurors were picked, Trump was warned by the judge in the case against jury intimidation after he was heard talking toward a prospective juror.

“I will not tolerate that,” Judge Juan Merchan said after the female juror left the courtroom. “I will not have any jurors intimidated in this courtroom. I want to make this crystal clear.”

Merchan told Trump’s lawyers, “While the juror was about 12 feet from your client, your client was audibly saying something in her direction.”

“He was gesturing,” the judge said.

“Take a moment to talk with your client,” Merchan told the defense team.

Trump’s attorney Todd Blanche then whispered something to Trump, and the former president made a gesture indicating he understood what was said.

Trump’s remarks in the juror’s direction were not intelligible to NBC News reporters in the room in Manhattan Supreme Court.

The judge said Trump was “muttering.”

Merchan’s warning came after the prospective juror was questioned about a social media post flagged by Trump’s lawyer, who claimed it showed her participating in a celebration of the 2020 election results.

Asked about the post, the woman juror said she was celebrating health care workers during the Covid pandemic.

And she insisted that she was capable of being impartial.

Merchan said he found her credible, apparently allowing her to remain in the jury selection process for now.

The would-be juror, who was identified in court only by a number, was one of 18 people who were being questioned by prosecutors and defense attorneys as part of their efforts to select a jury of 12 members and six alternates.

On Monday, more than 50 would-be jurors were promptly excused because of self-professed bias against Trump. That was more than half the first panel of 96 prospective jurors who were brought in to the courtroom that day.

More potential jurors were dismissed Tuesday morning after saying they could not be fair in judging the former president.

“I don’t think I can be as impartial or unbiased as I thought I could be,” one prospective juror said before being excused. Eight others were dismissed Tuesday morning, including multiple who said they could not be impartial to Trump.

The dismissals underscored the challenge of prosecuting the polarizing Republican presumptive presidential nominee in New York City.

Former US President Donald Trump sits while his lawyer Todd Blanche speaks during the second day of jury selection in his hush money criminal trial in Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City, New York, U.S. April 16, 2024, in this court sketch.

Christine Cornell | Reuters

Jury selection could take two weeks or more.

Trump is charged in the case with 34 counts of falsifying business records as part of a scheme to hide a $130,000 hush money payment by his then-lawyer Michael Cohen to porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 presidential election.

Trump later reimbursed Cohen in monthly installments that were falsely labeled, Bragg alleges.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg accuses Trump of trying to influence the 2016 election by buying the silence of Daniels, who says she had a one-time sexual tryst with Trump in July 2006. Trump has denied having sex with Daniels at that time, which was four months after his wife Melania Trump gave birth to his youngest son, Barron Trump.

Just before entering the courtroom Tuesday, Trump defended the payments to Cohen.

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“I was paying a lawyer and marked it down as a legal expense. Some accountant, I didn’t know, marked it down as a legal expense, that’s exactly what it was,” Trump said. “And you get indicted over that?”

Trump also railed against Merchan, calling him a “Trump-hating judge” who “shouldn’t be on this case.”

His attorneys on Monday got chilly responses from Merchan when they asked to adjust the trial schedule so that Trump can attend other personal and legal matters.

Those events include a Supreme Court hearing on his request for presidential immunity in another criminal case, and Barron’s high school graduation.

Merchan did not reject those requests outright, but also did not immediately grant them.

The trial is set to last around six weeks, with proceedings taking place four days a week.

Trump is required to be in court throughout the trial, potentially interfering with his presidential campaign plans.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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