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15 Apr, 2024 13:47

Jury selection begins in Trump hush-money trial

The proceedings mark the first time a former US president has stood trial on criminal charges
Jury selection begins in Trump hush-money trial

Jury selection has begun for a trial in which former US President Donald Trump stands accused of falsifying records related to hush-money payments to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, during the 2016 election. Trump has become the first former president to stand trial on criminal charges.

Twelve jurors, along with six alternates, will be chosen from among hundreds of New Yorkers. The judge in the case has released the extensive questionnaire that potential jurors will have to fill out.

“Nothing like this has ever happened before,” Trump told reporters outside the courtroom, calling the trial “political persecution” and “an assault on America.”

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, charged Trump last year with 34 counts of “falsifying business records,” alleging that the Republican politician sought “to conceal damaging information and unlawful activity from American voters before and after the 2016 election.” 

The case is based on claims by Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, that he paid $130,000 to the adult film actress, so she would keep quiet about an alleged affair with him. Trump has denied any relationship with the porn star. In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to charges of campaign-finance violations, tax and bank fraud, and spent two and a half years in a federal prison. He also lost his New York bar license.

Judge Juan Merchan has granted Bragg’s request for a gag order, meaning that Trump can’t criticize the prosecutor or his staff. 

Merchan has threatened to arrest Trump if he does not appear in the courtroom each day the trial is in session. The judge also refused to recuse himself, even though his daughter works for a marketing company representing several Democrats – in apparent violation of state law that requires “six degrees of separation” from a family member.

The trial will keep Trump at the Manhattan courtroom every day of the proceedings for the next six weeks or more, effectively taking him off the campaign. Trump was the 45th president of the US (2017-2021) and is currently the presumptive Republican nominee to challenge President Joe Biden in November.