5 things to know as Trump’s trial jury takes shape

The second day of former President Trump’s criminal trial in New York was more productive than expected, with the jury beginning to take shape.

Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. He is the first former president to be tried in a criminal case.

The underlying story of the alleged crimes pertains to a payment of $130,000 made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in late 2016. The payment was made in the last stretch of that year’s presidential election campaign and was intended to silence Daniels from going public with allegations that she had a sexual encounter with Trump a decade previously.

Trump denies any such encounter took place and also denies any legal wrongdoing.

Here are the most important things to know from Tuesday’s proceedings.

Jury selection is moving faster than expected

At the outset of Trump’s trial, some experts forecast that it could take a week or even two weeks to finalize the jury.

On Tuesday, the pace picked up. By the day’s end, seven jurors had been selected.

In total, the proceedings require 12 jurors and six alternates.

The seven jurors so far are a sales professional, an oncology nurse, a corporate attorney, a Disney employee, an English teacher, a self-employed person and a civil litigator. Four are men and three are women.

The sales professional will be the jury foreperson. The Hill’s Zach Schonfeld, who is covering the trial in person, described him as “a man originally from Ireland who now lives in West Harlem,” adding, “he gets his news from The New York Times, the Daily Mail, Fox News and MSNBC.”

Potential jurors for the trial had to make it through a 42-part questionnaire. They also had to be broadly acceptable to both the prosecution and defense. Each team has 10 peremptory challenges they can use to dismiss a potential juror without giving a reason. 

Additionally, the attorneys can make their case to Judge Juan Merchan as to why other candidates should also be dismissed.

The relatively fast progress toward seating the jury is conspicuous, given that one big question before the trial was how much the Trump team would try to slow-walk the proceedings.

The whole trial process had been expected to take between six and eight weeks. If the jury is seated quickly, the estimate would shift toward the shorter end of the range.

The Hill’s Ella Lee noted that Merchan predicted toward the end of the day that opening statements could now begin as early as Monday.

A warning for Trump over possible intimidation

Trump’s conduct in the courtroom was always going to be a central issue in his trial.

Under New York law, the former president is expected to attend every day of the trial unless a special exemption is granted.

Trump’s penchant for social media attacks on judges, prosecutors and hostile witnesses has already produced an initial gag order. The order was expanded after Trump on social media attacked Merchan’s daughter, Loren Merchan, who is a consultant with a firm often employed by Democrats.

Judge Merchan on Tuesday grew irked about Trump apparently making gestures and “audible” comments while a prospective juror was questioned about posts on social media.

“I won’t tolerate that,” Merchan said by way of reprimand. “I will not tolerate any jurors being intimidated in this courtroom.”

Merchan then told Trump’s lead attorney, Todd Blanche, to speak to his client about the matter.

2020 election celebrations become a flashpoint

The issue of Trump’s mumbled comments was in response to a prospective female juror who had posted videos to Facebook showing celebrations of the 2020 election result.

The Trump team argued that the woman was taking part in the celebrations, but she said she was merely documenting a historic moment in New York.

The woman also insisted that she was able to be impartial in the case.

Merchan was persuaded by her arguments, which he called “reasonable,” adding, “I find her to be credible.”

Trump’s books and TV appearances come up in prospective jurors’ answers

The jury selection proceedings offered a reminder of Trump’s prepolitics years as a real estate developer and New York celebrity.

As the court worked its way through potential jurors, one man noted that he had read three of Trump’s books, including “The Art of the Deal,” which was first published in 1987.

Maggie Haberman of The New York Times reported that Trump responded to this detail “with a chuckle and an approving nod.”

At another point, Trump reportedly smiled when a different man noted that he had been “a big fan of ‘The Apprentice’ when I was in middle school.”

Less pleasingly for the former president, another prospective juror had apparently once posted a meme about Trump that referenced his orange-tinged complexion.

“Trump himself appears to be studying the meme on a printed-out sheet of paper,” The New York Times’s Jonah Bromwich reported. “He does not look amused at all.”

A juxtaposition with Biden

While the Trump drama played out in New York, Biden visited Scranton, Pa., the city where he grew up.

Biden prevailed in the state in 2020 after Trump had carried it against Democrat Hillary Clinton four years before.

Biden avoided any reference to Trump’s trial, as he tends to do. 

Instead, making the case for his tax and economic policies, he mocked the former president for the dismal performance of Trump Media & Technology Group on the stock market.

The share price of the company has plunged more than 65 percent in the past three weeks. 

“If Trump’s stock in the Truth Social, his company, drops any lower, he might do better under my tax plan than his,” Biden said.

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Back to top button