On Monday, April 15, 2024, the historic criminal trial of former President Donald Trump began with jury selection at the Manhattan Criminal Court. Join Just Security Journalism Fellow Adam Klasfeld for daily dispatches from inside the courtroom. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg leads the first-ever prosecution of a former president, where Trump faces 34 criminal charges. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan oversees the case.

To win at trial, prosecutors do not need to prove that Trump actually had an affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels, only that the former president broke the law in the methods used to cover up the payment. Under the terms of the trial judge’s order earlier this year, the jury will be able to hear from prosecutors that Trump falsified business records to commit violations of federal election law, state election law, and New York tax law. To understand the background of the case, read “Visualizing ‘Hush Money’: How Trump’s Complex Payoffs Sparked 34 Election-Related Criminal Charges” by Adam Klasfeld and watch an explainer video.

Adam Klasfeld’s reporting is part of Just Security’s Trump Trials Clearinghouse

Friday, Apr. 19

Thursday, Apr. 18

Tuesday, Apr. 16

Monday, Apr. 15

Friday, Apr. 19

Trump Feels First Consequence of Social Media Attacks: Access to Witness List Curtailed

On the heels of an upcoming hearing over whether to find him in contempt of court, former President Donald Trump is already paying his first real consequence for his alleged serial flouting of his gag order.

His attorneys cannot learn the identities of the prosecution’s first three witnesses three days before trial, a Manhattan judge confirmed as the first week of trial ended.

The issue had been gnawing at Trump’s defense for days, with his lead attorney Todd Blanche first raising it in court in a feisty exchange on Thursday afternoon, telling Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan that they needed the information to prepare.

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass emphatically rejected the request.

“That’s a courtesy that we normally extend,” Steinglass said. “Mr. Trump has been tweeting about the witnesses. We’re not telling who the witnesses are.”

Blanche proposed to “commit” to the court and prosecutors that Trump would not post about witnesses, but Merchan seemed doubtful.

“That he will not tweet about any witness?” Merchan asked, incredulously. “I don’t think you can make that representation.”

Blanche’s co-counsel Susan Necheles pressed the issue again on Friday, making only slightly more progress. Merchan agreed again that the prosecution had provided compelling reasons for withholding witness names, but the district attorney’s office ultimately agreed to an accommodation.

Prosecutors intend to provide one witness name to Trump’s counsel on Sunday evening, warning that they would not extend such a “courtesy” again if he posts that name on social media.

Other sanctions could follow: prosecutors have asked for $1,000 fines for each alleged violation of the judge’s gag order, counting 10 already, and they also have asked the judge to warn Trump that he could face 30 days in jail if he violates it again.

Trump’s contempt hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, Apr. 23, at 9:30 a.m. ET, the morning after opening statements in his criminal case.

Trump Trial Jury Selection Complete: Opening Statements to Kick Off on Monday

Setting the stage for history-making opening statements on Monday, former President Donald Trump now has a full 12-person jury and six-member panel of alternates sworn in and standing by to preside over his first criminal trial.

When jury selection adjourned on Thursday afternoon, the main panel already had been chosen, along with a single alternate juror. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan steered the process toward its speedy conclusion shortly before the lunch recess.

In the second alternate spot, a woman originally from Spain said that she does not follow news and emphatically denied listening to podcasts. “No, never,” she said.

“I will be objective and neutral for this case, or any case the justice system needs me to do,” the woman said.

During voir dire, Trump’s attorney Susan Necheles prodded the woman to reveal whether she could skeptically weigh the testimony of the former president’s ex-fixer Michael Cohen, alluding to his perjury convictions and what she described as his changing stories. The woman indicated that she did not know about it one way or another.

“I don’t know who committed perjury or not,” the woman said.

A New York-born and raised audio engineer similarly indicated his lack of strong views about the former president.

“My opinion is Donald Trump is a man, just like I am,” he said, expressing the view that the former president is being treated “fairly.”

A woman who has lived in New York for nearly two decades described herself as “not a big news person,” adding: “I have no really strong opinions about President Trump.”

Of the five alternates newly seated on Friday, four appear to be women and one appears to be a man. That brings the final gender breakdown to seven men and five women on the main panel, and five women and one man for the alternates.

Thursday, Apr. 18

Full Jury Selected for Trump’s Debut Criminal Trial; One Alternate Chosen

Former President Donald Trump’s criminal prosecution achieved a historic landmark on Thursday, as a full 12-person jury has been sworn in for service.

Representing a cross-section of New York City, the dozen Manhattan residents must determine whether to turn the 45th president of the United States into a 34-times convicted felon. 

Those are the number of criminal charges of falsifying business records that Trump faces at trial, each one related to his alleged effort to cover up an alleged affair with Stormy Daniels in an effort “to unlawfully influence the 2016 presidential election,” in the words of the Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan’s case summary.

Composed of seven men and five women, the main jury panel is highly educated, bringing together three lawyers, two MBAs, a doctoral degree holder, and college graduates. One of the MBAs, an investment banker, said: “I do follow Truth Social posts from Trump on Twitter,” adding that he did not call the latter social media website by its rebrand: X. Both prosecutors and the defense exhausted all of their peremptory challenges before the jury was empaneled by Thursday’s end, and one of the jurors, a longtime resident of upper Manhattan, strongly criticized Trump in open court before making it on the panel.

“He seems very selfish and self serving,” the woman, who became Juror No. 11, said of Trump. “I don’t really appreciate that from any public servant.” 

Just before that moment, however, she affirmed that she could be fair, despite her personal distaste for the former president.

“I don’t like some of my co-workers, but I am not going to sabotage them,” she quipped.

The court reporter did not initially hear the line, and Justice Merchan prompted the woman to repeat herself for the record.

“I don’t like some of my co-workers,” she repeated, sheepishly, to laughter in the court.

Jurors have been anonymized for their privacy and security, and as Thursday began, one of the sworn jurors was excused after her identity had been compromised. That juror was replaced at the end of the day.

One alternate juror has been seated. Five more must be selected on Friday.

Another Trump Juror Down After Prosecutors Appear to Learn About His Past

Jury selection in former President Donald Trump’s landmark criminal prosecution continues to proceed on Thursday — in the wrong direction.

As proceedings began on Thursday, the jury had seven sworn members, but two were quickly excused. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan first excused one woman who expressed concern about her ability to be impartial after her identity had been compromised. The judge then dismissed a man who shared a name with someone who was once arrested for tearing down political advertisements.

The juror did not disclose the incident during voir dire, prosecutors said.

Since the jury is anonymous, it is unclear whether the excused juror is, in fact, the same man who shares his name. Merchan did not state the reason for his order.

— 12:38 p.m. ET

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Trump Trial Juror Excused After Suggesting Her Identity Was Compromised

One of the jurors sworn in to serve in former President Donald Trump’s criminal trial in New York was excused on Thursday, after she reported that family members and friends identified her based on public reporting.

The woman – who was formerly Juror #2 –  announced that “no one is above the law,” in court earlier this week – and said that the exposure made her question her ability to be fair.

“Yesterday alone, I had friends, colleagues and family push things to my phone, questioning my identity as a juror,” she said.

Her dismissal from the case reduces the number of sworn jurors from the seven sworn in on Tuesday, to six.

The judge suggested that another juror may be excused later in the day, after prosecutors learned new information about him.

Before the trial began, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan ordered that the jury would be anonymous in order to protect their privacy and safety. It is one of multiple precautions that judges have taken in Trump’s criminal and civil cases, citing the former president’s pattern of publicly criticizing jurors and other trial participants. At least three judges — in Trump’s civil fraud case and prosecutions in New York and Washington, D.C. — have imposed gag orders against Trump.

While only the New York criminal case explicitly bars comments about jurors, the federal judge who presided over E. Jean Carroll’s sexual abuse and defamation cases invoked Trump’s history of assailing certain jurors in ordering jury anonymity in that case.

In the New York case, Merchan argued that the detailed reporting about the jurors “defeats the purpose” of anonymity.

“The press is certainly able and permitted to write about anything that’s on the record, because it’s on the record,” the judge said, before adding that he was “directing” journalists not to report how the jurors appear and sound. (One news report detailed a juror’s accent, which the judge considered gratuitous.)

The judge said it was “common sense” to refrain from doing so.

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Tuesday, Apr. 16

Trump N.Y. Criminal Trial Milestone: First Six Jurors Sworn In

Former President Donald Trump officially has a jury of his peers in his debut criminal trial in New York — or at least, half of them, minus the alternates.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan had Trump’s first six jurors sworn in on Tuesday afternoon, a panel that appeared to be equally divided by gender and representing the diversity of Trump’s hometown.

The foreperson, a West Harlem resident originally from Ireland, works in sales and previously was a waiter. He said he is married, but he and his spouse have no children. His wide-ranging media diet includes newspapers and networks across the political spectrum, from the New York Times and the Daily Mail in print to Fox News and MSNBC in broadcast.

The second juror, a nurse from the Upper East Side, originally hails from the suburbs of Chicago. Like multiple potential jurors, she repeated a principle of criminal law that is inherently neutral — but has become a rallying cry for Trump’s critics.

“Especially in this courtroom he will be treated as anyone else can be treated and no one is above the law,” she told the court.

According to a pool reporter, the third juror, a young Asian-American man, who works as a corporate lawyer, appeared nervous as he moved to the jury box and bit his lip.

Before they were seated, Trump’s lead attorney Todd Blanche pursued multiple for-cause challenges against certain jurors, after scouring their social media accounts for posts denigrating the former president. One possible juror, who posted “lock him up” on Facebook, was excused, as was another who posed an AI video showing Trump calling himself a “dumb f***.”

Justice Merchan found other challenges by Trump’s legal team were strained, like one against a juror whose husband posted an unflattering joke about their client eight years ago.

Under New York law, each side can strike up to 10 jurors without any cause, in what are known as peremptory challenges. Trump has exhausted six of those so far, and prosecutors have used only four.

Update: A seventh juror was empaneled, and sworn in separately, after the parties stayed an hour later than their traditional end time of 4:30 p.m. ET. Prosecutors also used two more of their peremptory challenges for a total of six.

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Trump’s Attorney Prods Potential Jurors’ Views on Polarizing Ex-President

There are relatively few voters in the United States without strong views about Donald Trump, and on Tuesday, his lead attorney doggedly sought to find out where potential jurors’ sympathies may lie.

Multiple potential jurors rejected the proposition that their opinions on Trump mattered.

“Feelings are not facts,” said a youngish, middle-aged man, who disclosed that he was a recently minted U.S. citizen from Mexico.

“I’m very grateful to be an American — and that happened on the first year that he was president,” he added, referring to Trump.

It was a topic that Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan studiously avoided since jury selection began. In a letter dated one week before the trial, Merchan pointedly declined to probe views on Trump in the questionnaire because, he said, “the purpose of jury selection is not to determine whether a prospective juror does or does not like one of the parties.”

“Such questions are irrelevant because they do not go to the issue of the prospective juror’s qualifications,” the judge wrote in that letter.

For the first time on Tuesday morning, Trump’s lead attorney Todd Blanche did not have to confine himself to the narrow boundaries of the list of 42 questions that has governed jury selection so far. He used nearly every question in his arsenal to elicit the candidates’ view of the polarizing 45th president — and some potential jurors strongly resisted that effort.

After repeatedly describing his opinions as irrelevant, one potential juror finally let on to Trump’s lawyer that he was a Democrat, but he said that he could “compartmentalize” his views.

Two potential jurors replied that they “agree with” Trump on some matters and “disagree with” him on others.

A young Black woman told Trump’s lawyers that her friends who are people of color have strong views about the former president, but she is not one of those people.

One woman described Trump as someone who “speaks his mind” and “stirs the pot.”

“I wanna say some things to people, but my momma said, ‘Be nice,’” she added.

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass took a more stern and measured approach to questioning. He reminded the jurors that prosecutors bear the burden of proof in order to convict Trump, but that they must convict the former president if they prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Each juror answered “yes” after the prosecutor asked whether they could do that. That may be an especially important line of inquiry, as the potential for jury nullification hangs over the trial.

[Editor’s note: Readers may also be interested in Adam Klasfeld, Trump’s Forbidden Legal Strategy: What New York Law Won’t Let the Jury Do, April 15, 2024]

According to a pool reporter from Politico, Trump tilted his head once or twice as the potential jurors answered.

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DA says judge should warn Trump gag order violations could carry 30 days in jail

Manhattan prosecutors urged the judge presiding over Donald Trump’s historic criminal trial to warn that he could spend up to 30 days in jail if he allegedly continues to violate his gag order.

“It is absolutely critical that defendant immediately halt any conduct that would violate the April 1 order’s narrow restrictions to protect the integrity of the ongoing trial,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s legal team wrote in a filing made public on Tuesday morning. “A finding of criminal contempt, imposition of sanctions, and stark warnings from this Court are the minimum remedies necessary to achieve this indispensable objective.”

When first making the application on Monday, Assistant District Attorney Christopher Conroy revealed that he wanted Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan to issue a $1,000 fine for each alleged violation and order Trump to take down the posts. Prosecutors flagged three posts that they say “unquestionably” show Trump violating his gag order.

Merchan has scheduled a hearing on Tuesday, April 23 at 9:30 a.m. ET, in order to determine whether Trump did.

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Monday, Apr. 15 Opening of Trial

Judge schedules hearing for possible Trump gag order violations

A Manhattan judge scheduled a hearing to determine whether former President Donald Trump violated a gag order forbidding him from commenting on witnesses and the court’s family members.

The proceedings will take place on Tuesday, April 23 at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Assistant District Attorney Christopher Conroy requested the sanction toward the end of the morning session on the opening day of the trial. He claimed that Trump flouted the judge’s order three times on the website Truth Social. Conroy also said Trump also issued a fourth problematic post on Truth Social on the opening morning of the trial. “It’s entirely possible it was done within this courthouse,” Conroy added.

Prosecutors want Justice Juan Merchan to issue a $1,000 fine for each alleged violation, order Trump to take down the posts, and warn him that “further violations could result in jail time.”

In a prior ruling on April 1, Merchan threatened to revoke Trump’s access to information about the jurors’ identities to protect the integrity of the proceedings, if the former president continued to flout the order. His attorneys continue to have access to those names.

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Trump’s election agreement with the National Enquirer fair game for NY criminal trial

Then-candidate Donald Trump’s “catch-and-kill” agreement with the National Enquirer to publish flattering stories about him — and unfavorable stories about his opponents — is fair game for prosecutors to mention at trial, a Manhattan judge ruled before the start of jury selection on Monday.

Though Trump’s 34 felony charges relate mostly to the hush-money payoff to Stormy Daniels, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s theory of the case has a much wider aperture: a protracted coverup that prosecutors describe as a scheme to influence the 2016 presidential election. 

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan’s pre-trial rulings gave prosecutors wide latitude to pursue the broader objective. Prosecutors can describe Trump’s agreement with David Pecker, the CEO of the Enquirer’s parent company American Media Inc. (AMI), to puff up his candidacy, as well as AMI’s “catch-and-kill” scheme to silence former Playboy model Karen McDougal about also going public about her alleged affair with Trump. 

The judge also let prosecutors describe how the “Access Hollywood” tape sent the Trump campaign into a tailspin, as the public heard Trump boast about grabbing women “by the pussy.”

There are some limitations: Prosecutors cannot introduce the tape itself, the judge ruled, reiterating his pre-trial ruling. (Caveat: In that prior ruling, Merchan also wrote: “The Court may reconsider this aspect of the ruling should the Defense open the door.”) They also cannot mention that the former president’s wife Melania Trump was pregnant during the affair with Stormy Daniels. Finally, prosecutors cannot present Trump’s deposition in the E. Jean Carroll case where he doubled down on his statements in the Access Hollywood tape.

Related document: AMI Non-Prosecution Federal Agreement

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Trump loses renewed bid to oust NY criminal trial judge

A Manhattan judge kicked off former President Donald Trump’s historic criminal trial by quickly shooting down his attorney’s renewed request for him to recuse himself.

Trump previously tried, and failed, to oust Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan last August, and the former president’s attorneys renewed that request on the eve of trial, claiming to have discovered new conflicts of interest between the judge and his daughter.

But Merchan found that Trump’s allegations amounted to a “series of inferences, innuendos, and unsupported speculation.”

Citing one example, Merchan noted that Trump’s lawyers complained about an interview in which he told The Associated Press: “There’s no agenda here.” But Merchan found that Trump’s motion “does not reasonably or logically” explain how the judge’s expression of impartiality would harm the defendant’s rights.

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