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First seven jurors selected for Trump’s hush money trial



First seven jurors selected for Trump's hush money trial

NEW YORK – The first seven jurors were selected Tuesday to serve in Donald Trump’s hush-money criminal trial, as the selection process continues to choose a 12-member panel and six alternates who can be fair to the former U.S. president.

The judge also warned lawyers that he would not tolerate any attempt to intimidate potential jurors after saying that Mr. Trump, the Republican nominee for president in the Nov. 5 election, audibly muttered while one of the possible members of the panel was questioned.

Mr. Trump faces 34 felony charges for falsifying company records to cover up a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election. Ms. Daniels says she had a sexual encounter with Mr. Trump about a decade earlier.

Mr Trump has pleaded not guilty and denies any meeting took place. He has called the case, brought by Democratic Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a partisan “witch hunt” aimed at disrupting his campaign to unseat Democratic President Joseph R. Biden.

The hush money case is one of four criminal charges Trump is facing, which also stem from efforts to overturn his 2020 loss and alleged mishandling of classified information. He has also pleaded not guilty to these charges, although the other three cases may not go to trial before the election.

The seven jurors selected Tuesday included a man from Ireland who enjoys doing “anything outdoors” and watching both MSNBC and Fox News, a woman who works as an oncology nurse and enjoys taking her dog to the park, and a corporate lawyer who said: he doesn’t follow the news very closely.

Under questioning by Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche earlier on Tuesday, the nurse said she had no strong opinion about Mr. Trump.

But she said, “No one is above the law.”

Jury selection began Monday and will resume Thursday after a day off on Wednesday. Judge Juan Merchan said opening statements could take place next Monday, but warned that could be postponed.

The trial so far has highlighted the challenges of choosing a group of impartial jurors from heavily Democratic Manhattan.

More than half of the 96 jurors initially called were dismissed Monday, saying they did not believe they could be fair. In questioning some who remained on Tuesday, Mr. Blanche said he was not concerned with the jurors’ politics but wanted to get a sense of whether they could be fair to Mr. Trump as an individual.

“It is extremely important to President Trump that we know we are getting a fair chance,” the attorney said. The jurors are anonymous, except for Mr. Trump and lawyers for both sides.

Several potential jurors said they did not have strong opinions about Mr. Trump, or said their opinions were not relevant to the case.

“If we were in a bar, I’d love to tell you,” said one jury candidate, a man who works in a bookstore and enjoys going to Broadway shows. “But in this room, what I feel about President Trump is not important.”

Judge Juan Merchan ultimately dismissed the juror.

When questioning jurors earlier on Tuesday, Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass said the case was not a referendum on Trump’s presidency. “This case is really not about whether you like Donald Trump,” Mr. Steinglass said. “This case is about the rule of law and whether Donald Trump has violated it.”

‘I won’t tolerate that’
As jurors stood outside the courtroom, Mr. Merchan told lawyers for both sides that Mr. Trump had audibly mumbled and gestured while a prospective juror was being questioned. The judge told Trump lawyer Blanche to talk to his client about his behavior.

“I will not tolerate that,” the judge said. “I don’t want jurors to be intimidated in the courtroom.”

Mr. Trump has routinely tested the tolerance of judges during his recent legal troubles and has been subject to a silence order imposed by Mr. Merchan. It prohibits Mr Trump from making statements about witnesses, judicial personnel and family members who have to intervene in the case.

On Monday, prosecutors asked Mr. Merchan to fine Mr. Trump $1,000 for each of three social media posts this month criticizing Ms. Daniels and Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former fixer, who is expected to will be a prominent witness in the trial.

Mr Blanche said the former president was only responding to their criticism of him.

Mr Merchan said he would consider the fines on April 23. Reuters