Juror too frightened to serve excused from Trump hush money trial

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NEW YORK — A juror in the Donald Trump hush money trial was excused Thursday after telling the court she was too scared and intimidated to serve as prosecutors renewed their request to hold Trump in criminal contempt over alleged gag order violations.

The juror, one of seven chosen so far to serve on the case, told Merchan that she was too scared to proceed after her friends, family, and colleagues guessed that she had been chosen. Merchan has ruled that the panel will be anonymous to protect their safety and privacy.

Jury selection will continue today.

Prosecutor: Gag order violations have “to stop”

Shortly after Trump arrived at the courthouse with his Secret Service entourage for the third day of his trial Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass told the court tha t Trump had violated a gag order preventing comments about jurors, witnesses, and other trial participants seven times since he last got in trouble for doing so.

“It’s ridiculous, it has to stop,” Steinglass said.

“Most disturbing,” the prosecutor said, was a post that went up on Trump’s Truth Social account Wednesday night quoting Fox News host Jesse Watters commenting on the jury.

Merchan, on Monday, scheduled a hearing for next week to address Trump’s other potential violations of the gag order. Steinglass said the prosecution was seeking monetary sanctions and “still considering our options.”

The case so far

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsification of New York business records alleging that throughout 2017, after winning the presidency, he disguised reimbursement to his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, for facilitating a hush-money scheme to defraud the 2016 electorate that violated election laws.

Among the alleged recipients of the scheme expected to testify are porn star Stormy Daniels — who Cohen went to prison for paying off — and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who each allege Trump cheated on Melania with them in 2006, soon after they wed. Trump denies the allegations.

Prospective jurors have faced questions such as: “Do you have any strong opinions or firmly held beliefs about whether a former president may be criminally charged in state court?” and “Do you have any opinions about the legal limits governing political contributions?”

More than half the first group of 96 got up and walked out of Justice Juan Merchan’s courtroom on Monday when he asked whether anyone instantly felt they couldn’t be impartial.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee is set to spend the next two months in his native New York to attend the case as his campaign schedule and court calendar collide.

The Manhattan charges are among 88 he’s battling inside state and federal courtrooms across four states. They contain allegations dating from the year before he took office — when Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg alleges the hush money scheme started with a meeting at Trump Tower — to the year he left.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges and says he is a victim of political persecution akin to the late South African President Nelson Mandela.