Frustrated Judge Runs Overtime at Trump Hush-Money Trial

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The process of selecting the New Yorkers who will determine whether Donald Trump committed a criminal cover-up picked up the pace on Tuesday, as seven jurors were selected by the end of the trial’s second day.

New York State Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan said he now aims to have attorneys deliver opening statements this coming Monday and finally get this show on the road.

But all that depends on whether lawyers can get through the slog of screening dozens of other prospective jurors to come up with the rest of the panel.

The jury selection process is now slightly more than one-third done. The judge wants the traditional 12 jurors to review the case, plus an additional six alternate jurors—more than usual—who will be present during the trial, just in case.

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Frustrated at the slow pace so far, the judge pushed through an extra hour Tuesday afternoon to screen half a dozen additional people–ultimately narrowing it down to a single person, the anonymous Juror Number Seven.

That exercise encapsulated the difficulties facing this trial of historical proportions. Several candidates bowed out citing scheduling conflicts in the coming weeks, and several more were knocked off when they proved unable to dispassionately consider judging a man who has ripped the country in half.

In the final hour of the day, attorneys took turns probing several candidates. There was a real estate development associate who’d read Trump’s The Art of the Deal for entertainment and his potential ties to the real estate baron himself. Another was a civil litigator at a top-notch law firm who hailed from North Carolina and promised his extensive legal experience wouldn’t lead him to counter the judge’s wisdom. And last but certainly not least was an eccentric, 72-year-old former NYPD photographer who shared that many of his neighborhood friends had served time in prison, but asserted that would only strengthen his ability to be fair and not pre-judge an accused man like Trump.

“This isn’t showmanship. This is real life. A man’s life is on the line, the country’s on the line. This is serious,” he said, making himself the lone potential juror to passionately reflect on the weight of the moment.

He was, to no one’s surprise, quickly nixed by the DA’s office, along with the real estate businessman, leaving the experienced attorney the last addition of the day.

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The current trial schedule leaves Wednesdays off, so the judge plans to continue having lawyers query potential jurors on Thursday and Friday.

Dozens of jurors have been dismissed for various reasons, ranging from their political stances to their self-declared inability to impartially consider Trump’s case.

As it stands, there’s additional pressure on the former president’s team at the moment. Under New York law for this class of felony, each legal team is allowed 10 peremptory challenges, which allow them to object to a prospective juror without giving a reason. So far, Trump’s team has used six of his 10, while the DA’s office seems to have exhausted six as well.

The first half-dozen jurors were picked following a stern warning from Merchan to Trump about what he saw as intimidating behavior toward a prospective juror.

“I will not tolerate that,” Merchan said to Trump after catching him “audibly saying something” and “muttering” in the direction of a juror while “gesturing” at her. “I will not have any jurors intimidated in this courtroom,” Merchan cautioned. “I want to make this crystal clear.”

Trump’s attorney had been asking the juror about a social media post that he claimed showed her celebrating Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral win. However, the woman said she was in fact celebrating health-care workers during COVID.

The six jurors chosen were sworn in a few minutes before 4 p.m.

The day began with the former president launching an angry tirade about his perpetual victimhood.

After firing off a caps-lock-ridden missive against the judge presiding over his case, Trump arrived at the Manhattan courthouse and complained to reporters outside that he should be campaigning instead of being in court. According to pool reports, he then walked into the courtroom and winked at a court officer before taking a seat between his lawyers, Emil Bove and Todd Blanche.

While preparing to stand trial on felony charges over a 2016 hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels, the former president also found time to, once again, rant against the judge on social media.

“This conflicted, Trump Hating Judge won’t let me respond to people that are on TV lying and spewing hate all day long. He is running rough shod over my lawyers and legal team,” he wrote on Truth Social. “I want to speak, or at least be able to respond. Election Interference! RIGGED, UNCONSTITUTIONAL TRIAL! Take off the Gag Order!!!”

Judge Juan Merchan’s limited gag order prohibits Trump from commenting on witnesses and others involved in the case, but he will still be allowed to speak at the trial.

Courtroom Drama: Judge Accuses Trump of Trying to Intimidate Jurors on Day 2

The jury selection process will see 12 jurors and six alternates tapped from among New York residents, with Trump and his attorneys likely looking for jurors who might be sympathetic to the first former president to be criminally charged.

Among the potential jurors undergoing the first round of the selection process included juror B146, a twice-married salesman who said he identifies as a Republican. He said he felt he could be an impartial juror, but also that no one is above the law. The Boston native also admitted that, while he could refrain from watching, reading about, or discussing the case in general, that he “would be lying” if he said he wouldn’t talk about it to some degree with his wife. (Merchan was not thrilled about this idea, saying the situation could improperly influence the juror’s decision.)

But B146 elicited a smile and a delighted nod from Trump when he said he said he had read the former president’s book, The Art of the Deal, which he described as a roadmap for “how to be rich and think like a champion, something like that.”

Juror B377, an unmarried East Village resident who said she gets her news from Google and Wired magazine, was asked about any experience she might have had in the legal field, and if any relatives or friends were attorneys. She said she “dated a lawyer for a while,” which “ended fine.” Trump did not appear to be amused.

The jurors were asked about everything from their media consumption habits to their health status to their past attendance at any MAGA rallies to what they did for leisure. When juror B89, an Upper West Side resident, was asked what he did in his spare time, he answered, “I have no spare time.”

Trump largely sat idly by, occasionally mumbling to his lawyers and not engaging with the jurors. As the process segued into voir dire around midday, during which the existing jury pool will further be winnowed down to the final picks, Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass ran through the list of witnesses the government plans to call. They will include, as Steinglass described them, “a tabloid publisher,” an “adult film star,” and “a former lawyer for Mr. Trump, Michael Cohen, who has pled guilty to several federal crimes.”

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Trump glowered and set his gaze on the jury box while those in the pool gave their answers in a real-time referendum of sorts on the ex-president’s public perception.

One prospective juror said she “didn’t sleep last night,” saying she generally did not agree with Trump’s policies and wondered if she could “really do this.” Still, she said she thought she could separate her personal feelings from the task at hand and start “at zero.”

“I don’t know how to convince you of that and I know you have a dilemma,” the prospective said. “I will do my level best—I don’t know how to give you any more assurance.”

Another potential juror said he found Trump “fascinating,” but wouldn't say whether or not this was a positive or a negative.

“Certainly, he makes things interesting,” he said before Trump’s defense lawyer Todd Blanche moved on.

Blanche asked yet another prospective pick about their general opinion of Trump, aside and apart from the case before them.

“I’m here for my civic duty,” the juror responded. “I’m here just to listen to the facts and not let anything persuade me either way.”

Amid the goings-on inside the courthouse, New York City Mayor Eric Adams showed up out front, telling reporters, “This city of a fair city.”

“Justice is going to take its course here in the city,” he said, before his security detail led him away.

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