Apr 20, 2024 - Politics & Policy

The judge, the jury and sleepy Don: Trump's first week in criminal court

Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

Former President Trump began the fourth day of his historic criminal trial in New York like the other three: angry, railing against the case and people associated with it, and furious with the city where he built his empire.

Why it matters: With Trump's three other criminal trial timelines in limbo, the New York hush money trial is the only one on track to conclude before the election.

  • Just as Friday's jury selection was wrapping up, a man set himself on fire outside of the Manhattan courthouse where the proceedings were taking place, dramatically punctuating the day's events.
  • "I'm not allowed to speak," Trump said Friday outside the worn Manhattan Criminal Courthouse, railing again over the partial gag order that prosecutors say he should be fined for allegedly breaking.
  • "New York is going down as a very corrupt place to do business," Trump told reporters, per a pool report. "A lot of people are not going to [be] moving to New York."
  • The first week of trial, where Trump is required to appear daily besides Wednesdays, took off with jury selection Monday and moved at a surprisingly swift pace. With the full jury selected, Judge Juan Merchan has said opening arguments will start Monday.

Catch up quick: Throughout the week, Trump's Truth Social account was far from mum. He was mocked for appearing to doze off during proceedings, which were not televised per state law.

  • And a pool of journalists on a Google distribution list chronicled the day-to-day nuances of court, from its temperature ("chilly," Merchan, Trump and reporters agreed) to the defendant's outfit ("Red tie with small white stripes").
  • The former president faces 34 felony counts in the case brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
  • Here's what you may have missed:

Who's on the jury for Trump's criminal trial?

This week's proceedings concluded with seating of the 12-person jury and six alternates.

  • The 12-person jury is comprised of seven men and five women. They vary across ages and professions and include a corporate lawyer, a teacher, a speech therapist, and a retired wealth manager, per NBC News.

Between the lines: Dozens of potential jurors were dismissed this week after claiming they could not be impartial in the former president's trial.

  • Two initially selected jurors were dismissed by end of Thursday.
  • Other potential jurors voiced fears of being publicly identified, as Axios' Erin Doherty reported.

Court reporters have live-blogged broad descriptions of potential jurors' physical appearances and brief biographies, including recent employment, where in Manhattan they live and where they get their news.

  • As one pool report on a potential alternate juror read on Friday: "On his daily walk he typically listens to Fox News and NPR to get both sides. He said they are 'remarkably different.'"

Gag order status check

Trump hasn't merely raged to the press about the gag order Merchan imposed on him last month — according to prosecutors, he's continuously violated it.

  • Merchan has set a hearing for Tuesday over the prosecution's request to hold him in contempt for criticizing two potential witnesses, Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen.

Zoom out: The gag order prohibited Trump from commenting on witnesses, prosecutors, court staff and jurors in the case, with the exception of Bragg who is an elected official.

  • Merchan further expanded the order earlier this month, barring Trump from attacking family members of those involved in the case.

The intrigue: Prosecutors added to their case Thursday, accusing Trump of violating the gag order seven more times since the start of the week and asking that some of Trump's recent social media posts be included in the hearing.

  • Trump's lawyer countered that the posts didn't "establish any willful violations" of the gag order, which he added was riddled with ambiguities.

What about Trump's other legal issues?

Trump's long-awaited courtroom and campaign collision was on display this week.

  • Merchan rejected his request to attend Supreme Court oral arguments on Thursday over his claims of presidential immunity that could impact special counsel Jack Smith's federal Jan. 6 charges.
  • Meanwhile, Trump's lawyers cited the fast-moving New York trial in a request to delay deadlines in the federal classified documents case against him.

Go deeper: Trump hush money case: Meet the key players involved

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