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Trump silent trial: Opening statements set for Monday

Trump silent trial: Opening statements set for Monday

 


NEW YORK (AP) Final jurors were seated Friday in Donald Trump's secret trial, and an appeals judge rejected the former president's latest attempt to stop the case amid a turbulent day of hearings was setting the stage for opening statements expected to begin Monday.

The panel of New Yorkers that will decide the first criminal trial of a former US president took its final shape after lawyers spent days questioning dozens of potential jurors about whether they could judge Trump impartially in the city where he built his real estate empire before being elected in 2017. 2016.

What you need to know about Trump's silent trial:

The lawsuit places Trump's legal troubles at the heart of his hotly contested race against President Joe Biden, with Trump's opponent likely to rely on unflattering and salacious testimony to argue that the presumptive Republican nominee is not not fit to return as Commander-in-Chief.

Trump, meanwhile, is using the prosecutions as a political rallying cry, portraying himself as a victim while juggling his dual roles as criminal defendant and presidential candidate.

Judge Juan Merchan said the lawyers would present opening statements Monday morning before prosecutors began presenting their case, alleging a scheme to cover up negative stories that Trump feared would harm his 2016 campaign He has pleaded not guilty and says the stories were false.

Former President Donald Trump returns from a break at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (Jeenah Moon/Pool Photo via AP)

Despite repeated previous attempts to delay the trial failing, a Trump lawyer appeared before an appeals court hours after the jury was seated, arguing that Merchan had conducted jury selection in haste and that Trump couldn't get a fair trial in Manhattan.

To think that an impartial jury could be found in this period of time, I respectfully submit, is untenable, said attorney Clifford Robert.

Judge Marsha Michael denied the request just minutes after a brief hearing.

Back in the trial court, Merchan expressed frustration with Trump's lawyers being pressed to review a litany of pretrial rulings.

At some point you have to accept the courts' decisions, Merchan said. There is nothing further to clarify. There is nothing else to object to. We will be making opening statements Monday morning. This trial begins.

Former President Donald Trump waits for proceedings to begin during jury selection in Manhattan Criminal Court, Thursday, April 18, 2024 in New York. Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg

Just after the jury was seated, emergency crews went to a park outside the courthouse, where a man had set himself on fire. The man took out pamphlets espousing conspiracy theories and spread them around the park before dousing himself with a flammable substance and setting himself ablaze, officials said. He was in critical condition Friday afternoon.

Trump spent the week sitting quietly in the courtroom as lawyers pressed potential jurors about their opinions about him, looking for any bias that would prevent them from hearing the case. During interruptions in the proceedings, he denounced the affair on social media or in front of television cameras in the corridors, calling it a politically motivated witch hunt.

This trial is a long and rigged contest of endurance, against evil and twisted people, who want to DESTROY OUR COUNTRY, he wrote Friday on social networks.

During the five days of jury selection, dozens of people were removed from the jury after saying they didn't think they could be fair. Others expressed concern about having to decide such an important case with inordinate media attention, even though the judge ruled that jurors' names would be known only to prosecutors, Trump and their legal teams.

A woman who had been chosen to serve on the jury was fired Thursday after raising concerns about messages she said she received from friends and family when aspects of her identity became public. On Friday, another woman broke down in tears as she was questioned by a prosecutor about her ability to decide the case based solely on the evidence presented in court.

I feel so nervous and anxious right now, the woman said. I am really sorry. I also wouldn't want someone who felt that way to judge my case. I don't want to waste time in court.

As other potential jurors were questioned Friday, Trump appeared to lean at the defense table, scribbling on some papers and exchanging notes with one of his lawyers. He would sometimes sit up and look at the jury box, notably when a prospective juror declared that he had volunteered to participate in the vote effort for Hillary Clinton's campaign. This man was later excused.

Trump spoke to reporters before the start of Friday's proceedings, blasting the gag order that prosecutors accused him of violating. Merchan scheduled arguments for next week on prosecutors' request to hold Trump in contempt of court and fine him for social media posts that they say defy the limits of what he can say on potential witnesses.

The gag must be lifted. People are allowed to talk about me and I am required to remain silent, Trump said.

Mercan also heard arguments Friday on prosecutors' request to bring up Trump's past legal troubles if he takes the witness stand in the hush money case. Trump has said he wants to testify, but he doesn't have to and can always change his mind.

Manhattan prosecutors have said they want to question Trump over, among other matters, his recent civil fraud trial that resulted in a $454 million judgment after a judge found Trump lied about his wealth for years. He is appealing this verdict. Merchan said he would rule on the matter in the coming days.

The lawsuit centers on a $130,000 payment that Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer and personal arranger, made to porn actor Stormy Daniels to prevent her allegations of a sexual relationship with Trump from being made public in the final days of the 2016 race.

Prosecutors say Trump obscured the true nature of the payments in internal records when his company reimbursed Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2018 and is expected to be a star witness for the prosecution.

Trump has denied having a sexual relationship with Daniels and his lawyers argue that the payments to Cohen were legitimate legal fees.

Trump faces 34 counts of falsifying business records. If convicted, he could be sentenced to four years in prison, although it is unclear whether the judge would choose to put him behind bars. Trump would almost certainly appeal any conviction.

Trump is involved in four criminal cases, but it is unclear whether more will go to trial before the November election. The appeals and legal wrangling have led to delays in the three other cases accusing Trump of conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election and illegally accumulating classified documents.

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Follow the AP's coverage of former President Donald Trump at https://apnews.com/hub/donald-trump.

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