Home » Trump rebuked as hush-money trial judge warns against juror intimidation | Donald Trump

Trump rebuked as hush-money trial judge warns against juror intimidation | Donald Trump

by John Jefferson
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Donald Trump met a stern rebuke on Tuesday from the jurist presiding over his criminal hush-money trial, with the judge warning: “I won’t have any jurors intimidated in this courtroom.”

Trump’s apparent misbehavior did not derail the trial’s progress; seven jurors were picked by day’s end.

Judge Juan Merchan’s comment came shortly after jury selection resumed after lunch. Trump’s team had found video on one possible juror’s social media that appeared to show a street celebration over his loss in the 2020 election.

She was called in to answer questions about it, and when she left, Merchan directly addressed Trump’s lawyers. “Your client was audible,” Merchan said, noting that she was just 12ft from him.

“It was audible. He was gesturing and he was speaking in the direction of the juror,” Merchan said, insisting he would not accept such behavior.

“I will not have any jurors intimidated in this courtroom,” Merchan admonished. “Take a minute to speak to your client.”

Merchan’s warning to Trump marked a sharp diversion from what was otherwise a relatively routine jury selection process.

Trump had arrived at the Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday morning for the second day of jury selection in his historical criminal trial involving hush-money payments to a porn star.

When Trump walked into court around 9.30am, the ex-president winked at a court security officer and took his seat at the defense table. His longtime aide Jason Miller was seated at the back of the courtroom, according to a pool report.

On Monday afternoon, of the 96 potential jurors who were asked if they would have trouble being impartial, 50 raised their hands and were excused – further evidence of the challenge facing the judge, Juan Merchan, of finding 12 jurors and six alternates who do not have strong biases either for or against Trump.

The Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, brought the case against the former president over payments purportedly aimed at keeping secret his alleged affairs with the adult film star Stormy Daniels and the Playboy model Karen McDougall. Prosecutors said Trump schemed to keep these alleged liaisons hidden from American voters so he would not suffer in the 2016 presidential election.

The trial is unfolding amid a presidential contest in which Trump is all but guaranteed to be the Republican nominee facing Joe Biden in November.

Bragg’s office contends that Trump, whom a grand jury indicted in spring 2023 on 34 counts of falsifying business records, was part of an alleged “catch-and-kill scheme” from August 2015 until December 2017, with his then attorney, Michael Cohen.

Trump’s criminal hush-money trial: what to know

Trump’s former consigliere, who in 2018 admitted to federal charges for his involvement in that particular hush-money scheme, wired $130,000 to Daniels’s then attorney less than two weeks before the election. Cohen funneled these funds via a shell company.

After Trump won the presidential election, he repaid Cohen with a smattering of monthly checks, initially from the Donald J Trump Revocable Trust, which was set up in New York to hold the president’s company’s assets during the 2016 presidency.

The company, however, framed the payments as legal expenses, which prosecutors say indicate that Trump was liable for making false business records “with intent to defraud and intent to commit another crime” – specifically, violating campaign finance laws in an effort to influence the outcome of the US election.

The papers in prosecutors’ contempt motion against Trump were publicly available on Tuesday. They argued on Monday in court that he violated Merchan’s gag order against attacking witnesses. Judge Merchan has convened a hearing on the motion for 23 April.

When selection resumed on Tuesday another prospective juror was excused after citing his Texas upbringing. While he said he did not lean in any particular political direction, “growing up, a bunch of family [and] friends [were] Republicans” meaning it was “probably going to be hard for me to be impartial”.

“I appreciate your candor,” Merchan replied. “I’m going to have to excuse you at this time.”

Another prospective juror said he had read three of Trump’s books, prompting a rare smile from Trump.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass later asked prospects who had yet to be dismissed about their impartiality.

“This case has nothing to do with your personal politics,” he said. “It’s not a referendum on the Trump presidency or a popularity contest or indication of who you’re going to vote for in November. We don’t care.

“This case is about whether this man broke the law.”

Trump in the bodega in Harlem. Photograph: Yuki Iwamura/AP

Directly after court, Trump visited a New York bodega in his first campaign appearance since his hush-money trial began, making the presumptive GOP nominee the first former president in US history to stand criminal trial.

Trump will be confined to the courtroom on most days, dramatically limiting his movements and his ability to campaign, fundraise and make calls. Aides have been planning rallies and other political events on weekends and Wednesdays, the one weekday when court is not supposed to be in session. Plans also include local appearances Trump can make after court recesses each day.

Trump stopped by the Sanaa Convenient Store, a tiny bodega that sells chips, soda and other snacks. Trump aides said the former president and presumptive GOP nominee chose the store because it has been the site of a violent attack on an employee although the case was resolved nearly two years ago when the charges were dismissed.

His local campaign stop in Harlem allows him to make a serious play at winning his native state despite its heavily Democratic lean.

“They want law and order … every week they’re being robbed,” Trump said of businesses in New York, as he tried to compare his prosecution with the state of New York streets. “You know where the crime is? It’s in the bodegas.”

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