No Jurors Picked on First Day of Trump’s Manhattan Criminal Trial (2024)

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Jesse McKinley and Kate Christobek

Five takeaways from the first day of Trump’s criminal trial.

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Follow our live coverage of Trump’s hush money trial.

The criminal trial of Donald J. Trump, the nation’s 45th president and the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee, started Monday with potential jurors assembling in a drab courtroom in New York City while Mr. Trump looked on.

Mr. Trump was charged in Manhattan, a deeply Democratic county and his former home, with falsifying nearly three dozen business records in an attempt to cover up a payment to a p*rn star, Stormy Daniels, who has said she had a brief sexual encounter with him in 2006.

Mr. Trump denies that encounter happened, and has declared his innocence, calling the charges politically motivated. He has attacked the judge, Juan M. Merchan, and the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, a Democrat, who also attended the first day of trial on Monday.

Mr. Trump faces 34 felony counts and could face probation or up to four years of prison time.

The trial, which is expected to last weeks, has a fascinating list of potential witnesses: Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former fixer turned apostate, who made the payment; Karen McDougal, a Playboy model who says she, too, had an affair with Mr. Trump; and Hope Hicks, a former aide to Mr. Trump. Ms. Daniels herself may testify.

Before any of that happens, a jury must be selected, a winnowing that began Monday.

Here are five takeaways from Mr. Trump’s first day on trial:

Justice Merchan is no-nonsense. That hasn’t favored the defense.

Justice Merchan, a veteran New York jurist, has been consistent about batting back defense motions on issues including the tardy disclosure of documents by prosecutors and efforts to delay or even dismiss the case.

That pattern continued on Monday, as Justice Merchan rejected a defense effort to force his recusal. The defense had cited several issues, including the fact that his daughter is a Democratic political consultant.

He also ruled that prosecutors could introduce evidence regarding Mr. Trump’s involvement with coordinating publicity with The National Enquirer to aid his 2016 presidential campaign. Mr. Trump’s lawyers had described the evidence as a “sideshow,” but lost.

But Mr. Trump’s lawyers convinced Justice Merchan that sexual assault allegations that arose against Mr. Trump after the release of the so-called Access Hollywood tape, in which Mr. Trump was caught bragging about grabbing women’s genitals, would be prejudicial to the former president. Justice Merchan said the allegations would be off-limits during the trial, calling them “complete rumors, complete gossip, completely hearsay.”

Who Are Key Players in the Trump Manhattan Criminal Trial?The first criminal trial of former President Donald J. Trump is underway. Take a closer look at central figures related to the case.

The trial is about much more than business records.

Justice Merchan’s decisions on Monday made it clear that the trial will resurface unsavory events in the former president’s life.

Those include the Access Hollywood tape and other stories that Mr. Trump sought to suppress including an alleged affair with Ms. McDougal. Justice Merchan said on Monday that both could be discussed.

In a minor victory for the defense, the judge reaffirmed that the “Access Hollywood” tape itself could not be played, but that Trump’s exact words could be entered into the record.

Still, most of Mr. Merchan’s rulings indicated that salacious details of Mr. Trump’s biography will be heard in court.

Trump says he’s happy. His demeanor suggests otherwise.

Entering the courtroom, Mr. Trump said he was “very proud to be here.”

Once he was in front of Mr. Merchan, Mr. Trump looked a lot less enthusiastic. He slouched. He scowled. He scoffed. And he was quiet, not the norm for a man who built a political career with his gift for slashing attacks and vicious put-downs.

In court, the former president spoke only briefly, when asked a few questions by Justice Merchan about procedural matters, and whether he understood the consequences — ejection or jail — if he interrupted proceedings. He did whisper with his lawyers. And when the prosecution played a recording of him claiming to have great respect for women, he mouthed the word “true.”

But all in all, it seems it could be an exhausting experience for Mr. Trump; at one point before lunch, he appeared to fall asleep.

This trial may take a while.

It’s easy to forget how long it takes to do a little in legal settings. On Monday, the morning session was dominated by maneuvering by prosecutors and the defense, even as prospective jurors waited. By lunch, they were still waiting.

Jury selection could take days or weeks, and the trial itself may take two months. The Passover holiday could cause delays, Justice Merchan said, though he might make some of that up by holding hearings on court matters on Wednesdays, which was previously going to be an off day.

We are on our way to picking a jury. Slowly.

By afternoon, prospective jurors finally made their way into Justice Merchan’s courtroom. He warmly welcomed them, introduced the lawyers and Mr. Trump and read them a summary of the case.

Justice Merchan asked if any believed they could not be fair and impartial to the former president. Of the 96 prospective jurors in the room at that time, more than 50 raised their hands. They were immediately excused.

The remaining jurors were each asked 42 questions. By the end of Monday, 11 jurors had been questioned and two more were excused: a woman who said she could not be fair and a man who said his child’s wedding date could conflict with the trial.

April 15, 2024, 5:15 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 5:15 p.m. ET

Randy Pennell

Trump spoke briefly to TV cameras after court adjourned for the day, repeating his longstanding claims that the trial is a “political witch hunt” before heading to his motorcade and departing the courthouse.

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Reporter: [inaudible] the trial— [inaudible] So thank you very much. We had some amazing things happen today. As you know, my son is graduating from high school and it looks like the judge will not let me go to the graduation of my son, who’s worked very, very hard. He’s a great student and he’s very proud of the fact that he did so well. And was looking forward for years to have his graduation with his mother and father there. And it looks like the judges isn’t going to allow me to escape this scam. It’s a scam trial. If you read all of the legal pundits, all of the legal scholars today, there’s not one that I see that said, this is a case that should be brought or tried. It’s a scam. It’s a political witch hunt.

No Jurors Picked on First Day of Trump’s Manhattan Criminal Trial (5)

April 15, 2024, 4:46 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 4:46 p.m. ET

Maggie Haberman

Shortly before court adjourned for the day, Trump’s campaign sent out a fundraising email falsely claiming he had just stormed out of court.

Meet the Key Players ›

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No Jurors Picked on First Day of Trump’s Manhattan Criminal Trial (7)

April 15, 2024, 4:44 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 4:44 p.m. ET

Jonah Bromwich

The first day of Donald J. Trump’s criminal trial is officially over.

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April 15, 2024, 4:45 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 4:45 p.m. ET

Kate Christobek

The action will pick back up with more jury selection tomorrow starting at 9:30 a.m.

No Jurors Picked on First Day of Trump’s Manhattan Criminal Trial (9)

April 15, 2024, 4:42 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 4:42 p.m. ET

Jonah Bromwich

Merchan’s tone becames sharp as he questions Blanche. “You don’t think you should be here at all right now?” he asks. Blanche says that yes, they don’t believe this trial should happen during campaign season. Merchan reminds him that his client is a criminal defendant and required to be in court — his request is denied.

April 15, 2024, 4:39 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 4:39 p.m. ET

Maggie Haberman

There is still some business to attend to. Todd Blanche, Trump's lead lawyer, is asking Merchan to let Trump attend a hearing in one of his other cases next week. Steinglass, the prosecutor, pauses for a long time before answering that he isn’t interested in saying yes to this.

April 15, 2024, 4:42 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 4:42 p.m. ET

Alan Feuer

The request by Blanche is quite interesting. Over the weekend he made the opposite request, asking the judge in the Florida classified documents case to delay a deadline he was facing because he’s so busy in the New York case.

No Jurors Picked on First Day of Trump’s Manhattan Criminal Trial (12)

April 15, 2024, 4:30 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 4:30 p.m. ET

Jonah Bromwich

Jury selection is over for the day, the judge says. Merchan asks the prospective jurors to return early tomorrow so that he can start at 9:30 sharp.

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April 15, 2024, 4:28 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 4:28 p.m. ET

Kate Christobek

Many of the prospective jurors have been answering the yes or no questions simply and without elaboration. But a few have offered some further detail, such as a man who identified himself as a bookseller and said that “no one is above the law,” including former presidents. Another prospective juror, a nurse, said that she received Trump’s emails several years ago but that she “unsubscribed.”

Activists and antics punctuate the scene outside the courthouse.

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As former President Donald J. Trump’s first criminal trial began inside a Manhattan courthouse on Monday, the scene outside had elements of a feisty political skirmish and a surreal circus rolled into one.

The streets below the courtroom drew a mix of gawkers, activists and publicity hounds, along with a large contingent of journalists.

Laura Loomer, a right-wing activist known for her aggressive tactics and closeness with Mr. Trump, led a chant of “Donald Trump Did Nothing Wrong!” alongside Andrew Giuliani, the son of Rudy Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and Trump lawyer.

“We’re going to be here every single day talking to all you fake-news media freaks,” Ms. Loomer said through a Harvey Milk-style bullhorn in a video she posted on social media. “And letting you know that Donald Trump did nothing wrong until you start reporting the truth.”

Ms. Loomer described the case as a “witch hunt” — a frequent assertion of Mr. Trump’s — and criticized a key witness for the prosecution, Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former fixer, and the wife of the judge in the case, Juan M. Merchan.

Mr. Trump promptly reposted the video on Truth Social — despite a gag order that bars him from attacking witnesses in the case or Justice Merchan’s family. His post, made during the lunch break, came shortly before Justice Merchan said he would hold a hearing later this month on prosecutors’ request that Mr. Trump be held in contempt of court over statements they say violate the order.

Performance artists also vied for attention. One, known as Crackhead Barney, stood screaming outside the gates surrounding Collect Pond Park that she had been kicked out, and demanded police officers’ badge numbers. Another played the flute atop a park bench, notes drifting through the wind and his instrument glinting in the sunlight.

Some anti-Trump demonstrators held handmade signs emblazoned with “Loser” and “Convict Trump Already,” while others tried to confront Ms. Loomer. One, Sue Scarlett Montgomery, asked reporters why they were paying attention to Ms. Loomer, a former Republican candidate for Congress who previously visited a treacherous migrant crossing in Panama as part of her anti-Muslim activism.

“They’re covering me because I broke the story about this corrupt judge here,” Ms. Loomer shot back, attacking Judge Merchan’s daughter, a Democratic political consultant who has also been a target of Mr. Trump.

April 15, 2024, 4:15 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 4:15 p.m. ET

Maggie Haberman

The latest potential juror to be questioned reads The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, but is also the first person to say they are a New York Post reader. The Post was for decades Trump’s favorite paper.

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No Jurors Picked on First Day of Trump’s Manhattan Criminal Trial (16)

April 15, 2024, 4:13 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 4:13 p.m. ET

Jonah Bromwich

Trump is holding up the jury questionnaire and squinting at it, appearing to follow along as the latest prospective juror answers the questions.

No Jurors Picked on First Day of Trump’s Manhattan Criminal Trial (17)

April 15, 2024, 4:04 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 4:04 p.m. ET

Jonah Bromwich

Merchan just excused a juror and then congratulated him on his child's upcoming wedding, in a brief moment of levity. “Congratulations,” the judge said. “Good luck.”

April 15, 2024, 4:02 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 4:02 p.m. ET

Maggie Haberman

Among the Trump aides in the courtroom is Natalie Harp, his ever-present favorite who uses a wireless printer to provide him with an ongoing stream of good news from the internet. She was initially sitting two rows behind the defense table, as she usually does. A security official in court just made her head to the back to sit in the same row as Trump’s other aides.

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April 15, 2024, 3:58 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 3:58 p.m. ET

Maggie Haberman

Trump has walked back into court after the break. Merchan is already on the bench

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April 15, 2024, 3:50 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 3:50 p.m. ET

Maggie Haberman

The prospective jurors who were answering the questions were in the jury box. As Merchan gives a recess, those people are led out of the courtroom. Trump watches them as they leave.

April 15, 2024, 3:49 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 3:49 p.m. ET

Alan Feuer

Just a reminder: the potential jurors answering questions right now are merely those who have made it through an initial culling. They will ultimately be subjected to a more intense, more personal (and likely more political) round of questions by the defense and prosecution.

April 15, 2024, 3:56 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 3:56 p.m. ET

Kate Christobek

To prepare for that inevitability, Justice Merchan has already decided that certain topics are off-limits during jury selection: lawyers for both sides cannot ask who the prospective voters plan to vote for or have voted for in the past, their political party registration or past political contributions.

April 15, 2024, 3:48 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 3:48 p.m. ET

Alan Feuer

Prospective jurors head for the exits, saying they can’t be fair to Trump.

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Everyone expected that picking a jury to try a polarizing figure like former President Donald J. Trump was going to be a challenge.

But the experience of the first round of about 100 potential panelists gave a flavor of just how difficult the process could be: More than half told the judge that they could not hear the case against Mr. Trump fairly and were immediately excused.

Justice Juan M. Merchan, who is presiding over the case, read aloud to the prospective jurors a list of people who might serve as witnesses or be mentioned during the trial, asking them whether they recognized the names. Many of those names were indeed very recognizable.

Among those who could come up during the trial were Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former adviser, and Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York and one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers.

Several of Mr. Trump’s relatives were also on the list, including his wife, Melania, his older daughter, Ivanka, and his son-in-law Jared Kushner.

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No Jurors Picked on First Day of Trump’s Manhattan Criminal Trial (24)

April 15, 2024, 3:28 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 3:28 p.m. ET

Jonah Bromwich

The first prospective juror is a young woman of color with a business degree who reads The New York Times and watches CNN. She seemed unbothered by the need to be fair and impartial and answered questions rapidly and almost nonchalantly.

No Jurors Picked on First Day of Trump’s Manhattan Criminal Trial (25)

April 15, 2024, 3:45 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 3:45 p.m. ET

Jonah Bromwich

The second prospective juror is a white creative director with glasses who lives in Midtown. Also a Times reader (thank you prospective juror). He did not answer with any surprises. When we start to get different answers to the final series of questions — which are more political and some of which concern Trump — is when we’ll get something a little more interesting.

No Jurors Picked on First Day of Trump’s Manhattan Criminal Trial (26)

April 15, 2024, 3:46 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 3:46 p.m. ET

Jonah Bromwich

The third prospective juror, asked about her hobbies, said she likes to “go to the club.” She said it in a playful voice, prompting a big laugh from reporters in the overflow room.

April 15, 2024, 3:27 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 3:27 p.m. ET

Maggie Haberman

One thing that is striking: Trump has used the previous court appearances in other cases to project an image of grandeur. That is hard to do in this dingy courtroom, which smells slightly off and where he is an island amid a sea of people.

No Jurors Picked on First Day of Trump’s Manhattan Criminal Trial (28)

April 15, 2024, 3:25 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 3:25 p.m. ET

Jonah Bromwich

Prospective jurors who have not indicated that they wish to be dismissed are now being seated to answer the 42 questions that lawyers have agreed upon. They are being seated by jury identification number.

April 15, 2024, 3:26 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 3:26 p.m. ET

Maggie Haberman

Trump is reading along with the juror questionnaire as the first possible juror, a young woman, ticks through her answers.

April 15, 2024, 3:11 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 3:11 p.m. ET

Maggie Haberman

Of the 96 possible jurors brought into the room, more than 50 raised their hands to say they couldn’t be fair. They were immediately excused.

April 15, 2024, 3:11 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 3:11 p.m. ET

Maggie Haberman

Trump turned and stared at possible jurors as they raised their hands indicating they couldn’t be fair in the case.

April 15, 2024, 3:12 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 3:12 p.m. ET

Alan Feuer

It’s remarkable that more than half of the potential jurors brought in for a first round of questioning immediately said they could not hear Trump’s case fairly. We knew that it would be hard to pick a jury, but a fail rate of 50 percent or higher right out of the gate is surpassingly rare.

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No Jurors Picked on First Day of Trump’s Manhattan Criminal Trial (33)

April 15, 2024, 3:05 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 3:05 p.m. ET

Jonah Bromwich

Among the notable names that the judge just read out as potential witnesses or people who could come up were Stephen K. Bannon, Rudy Giuliani, Melania Trump and Jared Kushner. Not all will appear as witnesses or even potentially be mentioned. But it certainly gives jurors a sense of the cast of characters.

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No Jurors Picked on First Day of Trump’s Manhattan Criminal Trial (34)

April 15, 2024, 2:43 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 2:43 p.m. ET

Jesse McKinley,Kate Christobek and Maggie Haberman

Here’s what each side is looking for in a juror.

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Lawyers representing the State of New York and Donald J. Trump will try to divine unspoken political biases, opinions about law enforcement and other hidden agendas in picking the 12 people who will decide the former president’s fate.

The potential jurors, who could face public anger and threats if they are chosen, will be asked about their education, occupations, families and news sources. They will be asked to reveal whether they volunteered for or against Mr. Trump. Perhaps most critically, they will be asked whether their feelings would interfere with their ability to be fair.

The process could take two weeks or more — and may be as pivotal as any evidence presented in court.

“It’s the most important part,” said Arthur Aidala, a defense attorney whose firm has had many high-profile clients, including Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s former lawyer. “And the hardest part too.”

The stakes of jury selection are particularly high for Mr. Trump’s team, which is aware of the former president’s poor standing among many in New York County — Manhattan, as most people know it — which overwhelmingly voted for President Biden in 2020.

Mr. Trump’s legal team sees the case as winnable, although some believe a full acquittal is less likely than the prospect of finding jurors willing to cause a mistrial by holding out against a unanimous guilty verdict, according to two people with direct knowledge of the discussions.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers want a jury that includes younger Black men and white working-class men, particularly public employees like police officers, firefighters and sanitation workers. Those who have had bad experiences with the legal system will also be prized by the defense, which has cast the case as politically motivated.

Prosecutors, conversely, will probably be looking for more educated voters from Democratic neighborhoods, fishing for those who consume news from sources like MSNBC, known for its outspoken liberal hosts, and who are fond of late-night comedians like Stephen Colbert, who hosted a presidential panel with Mr. Biden on March 28.

Unlike most trials, where many potential jurors are loath to serve, some may be actively trying to get seated in this case. Michael Farkas, a defense attorney, said that those who seem to be angling for the jury “are the people who are most likely to have a partisan agenda.”

Some may not be completely forthcoming.

“In a case like this, both parties can pretty much rest assured that they are going to have people on the jury that aren’t being completely honest about how they feel,” Mr. Farkas said.

Mr. Aidala was blunter about potential jurors.

“They lie,” he said, adding, “People want to be on that jury because they think they’re going to write a book or they’re going to be on ’20/20’ or ’48 Hours’ or one of those things.”

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April 15, 2024, 1:21 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 1:21 p.m. ET

Maggie Haberman

Trump appears to doze off in court, but also shows signs of irritation.

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Follow our live coverage of Trump’s hush money trial in Manhattan.

Former President Donald J. Trump seemed alternately irritated and exhausted Monday morning, as his lawyers and prosecutors hashed out pretrial motions before jury selection in his criminal case.

Even as a judge was hearing arguments on last-minute issues in a criminal case that centers on salacious allegations and threatens to upend his bid for the presidency, Mr. Trump appeared to nod off a few times, his mouth going slack and his head drooping onto his chest.

The former president’s lead lawyer, Todd Blanche, passed him notes for several minutes before Mr. Trump appeared to jolt awake and notice them.

At other times, Mr. Trump whispered and exchanged notes with Mr. Blanche. He sat motionless while his own words from the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape — on which he bragged about grabbing women’s genitals — were read from a transcript by a prosecutor.

At times, Mr. Trump’s emotions were characteristically on display. He smirked and scoffed, and appeared frustrated when the judge in the case, Juan M. Merchan, did not immediately agree that he could miss court to attend the graduation of his youngest son, Barron.

But when Justice Merchan warned that Mr. Trump could be ejected or thrown in jail if he disrupts the proceedings, the former president indicated that he understood.

The only time Mr. Trump showed a flash of humor was when he laughed at one of his own social media posts, which attacked his former fixer, Michael D. Cohen, who is expected to be the prosecution’s central witness.

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April 15, 2024, 12:29 p.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 12:29 p.m. ET

Jesse McKinley

Jurors won’t hear the infamous ‘Access Hollywood’ tape, but can be told what Trump said on it.

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The judge in Donald J. Trump’s criminal trial on Monday again refused to allow the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape to be played for jurors, but said that the comments Mr. Trump made on the tape could be introduced as evidence.

On the tape, revealed in The Washington Post about a month before Mr. Trump was elected president in 2016, he is heard bragging about grabbing women’s genitals, saying he could do so with abandon because “when you’re a star, they let you do it.”

“You can do anything,” Mr. Trump said on the recording.

The tape rocked Mr. Trump’s campaign. And prosecutors in Manhattan say it led him to agree to pay off Stormy Daniels, a p*rn star, who was shopping a story of a 2006 sexual encounter with the candidate.

Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former fixer, paid Ms. Daniels $130,000. The payment is at the heart of the 34 felony charges against Mr. Trump, who is accused of falsifying business records to cover it up.

The judge in the case, Juan M. Merchan, had previously ruled that prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office could question witnesses about the tape, but found that it would be prejudicial to allow the actual video to the played. He reaffirmed that ruling on Monday.

“You can bring out what was said in the tape,” Justice Merchan said, adding that he didn’t want jurors “to hear Mr. Trump’s voice and his gestures” in the tape.

In a victory for the defense, the judge also ruled that the prosecution could not introduce evidence about sexual assault allegations against Mr. Trump that surfaced in the aftermath of the tape becoming public, calling them “complete hearsay.”

However, Justice Merchan said that prosecutors could introduce emails that followed the tape’s disclosure, showing frantic efforts by Trump advisers to contain the fallout. The correspondence, he said, “bolsters the people’s claim that this was a crucial event.”

Todd Blanche, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, had called on Justice Merchan to reconsider admitting “this extremely salacious evidence,” which he described as “very prejudicial.”

Mr. Trump, who is again the presumptive Republican nominee for president, has denied any wrongdoing and has cast the case against him as politically motivated.

Who Are Key Players in the Trump Manhattan Criminal Trial?The first criminal trial of former President Donald J. Trump is underway. Take a closer look at central figures related to the case.

No Jurors Picked on First Day of Trump’s Manhattan Criminal Trial (38)

April 15, 2024, 10:35 a.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 10:35 a.m. ET

Ben Protess,Jesse McKinley,Kate Christobek and William K. Rashbaum

The judge faces the glare of a trial that has made his daughter a target.

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Inside a dreary Lower Manhattan courtroom on a recent Wednesday, Justice Juan M. Merchan convened a special session for people with mental health troubles who had landed in legal jeopardy. He calmly counseled them, praised any signs of progress and shook the hand of one man who, thanks to medication, had turned his life around.

But a different type of criminal defendant is now testing the judge’s equanimity: Donald J. Trump.

Mr. Trump’s trial on charges that he covered up a sex scandal before and after the 2016 presidential election will bring a maelstrom that no other judge in New York’s vast judiciary has ever experienced.

Known as a no-nonsense, drama-averse jurist, Justice Merchan, 61, has already reprimanded Mr. Trump’s lawyers for arguments that he considered frivolous and issued a gag order intended to protect prosecutors, witnesses and his own family from Mr. Trump’s vitriol — and yet the former president has continued to post articles with pictures of the judge’s daughter, a political consultant who has worked with Democratic candidates.

Although Justice Merchan is a registered Democrat, records show he was previously a Republican, and people who know him described the judge as a moderate, law-and-order former prosecutor.

Two people close to Justice Merchan, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the judge had privately expressed pain over the attacks on his daughter, but the people said that those attacks won’t compromise his ability to oversee the case. Other people who know the judge said that he will cast aside Mr. Trump’s drama — and exert control over the trial.

“It is Judge Merchan’s show,” said Jill Konviser, a retired judge who has known Justice Merchan for more than 15 years. She added: “He will do everything he can to, one, control his courtroom and two, ensure a fair trial for the defendant.”

In Justice Merchan’s 17 years on the bench, 13 as presiding judge in the Mental Health Court he created, he has had his share of unusual cases. There was a murder trial involving a supposed curse on the defendant; the daredevils who jumped off the World Trade Center with parachutes; and a so-called soccer-mom madam accused of running a high-end brothel on the Upper East Side. In that case, an appeals court reduced the steep bail Justice Merchan had set, calling it “unreasonable.”

None of those defendants challenged the judge quite like Mr. Trump, who claims that the case is a witch hunt and declared that Justice Merchan’s gag order had infringed on his First Amendment rights.

The former president has tested the order’s limits by posting articles that named and attacked Justice Merchan’s daughter, Loren, and his wife, Lara. The articles, by the conservative activist Laura Loomer, included photos of Loren Merchan and copies of a 2007 mortgage statement for a house owned by Justice Merchan and his wife. Previously, Mr. Trump falsely accused Loren Merchan of posting an image of him behind bars on social media.

The trial, which could last two months as a parade of former aides and allies takes the stand against him, will dominate Justice Merchan’s calendar this spring.

On off-days, he will continue to preside over Mental Health Court. The program is for defendants charged with felonies and diagnosed with a serious mental illness. People who are accepted enter a guilty plea and then begin a period of treatment and judicial supervision. Those who complete the program successfully can have their charges reduced or dismissed.

During one recent session, Justice Merchan showed particular interest in the relationship between a defendant and his child, and praised him for his dedication.

“You want to do better by your daughter,” Justice Merchan said. “I’m sure she’s going to appreciate that.”

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No Jurors Picked on First Day of Trump’s Manhattan Criminal Trial (39)

April 15, 2024, 10:09 a.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 10:09 a.m. ET

Ben Protess,Jonah E. Bromwich and William K. Rashbaum

Justice Merchan says he will not step aside.

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Juan M. Merchan, the judge overseeing Donald J. Trump’s criminal trial in Manhattan, has declined to step aside from the case, rejecting the former president’s effort to delay the trial and attack his integrity.

The judge announced the decision in the opening minutes of Mr. Trump’s trial on Monday morning. After Justice Merchan rules on a variety of legal issues, the trial will begin in earnest with jury selection.

“There is no agenda here,” Justice Merchan said Monday before rejecting the request. “We want to follow the law,” he added. “We want justice to be done.”

Mr. Trump’s lawyers had called on Justice Merchan to recuse himself in a recent court filing, citing his daughter’s work as a Democratic political consultant.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office, which brought the case that accuses Mr. Trump of falsifying records to conceal a sex scandal from voters, had argued that no conflict of interest existed. And judicial ethics experts cast doubt on Mr. Trump’s request, noting that the judge was not responsible for his daughter’s career.

It was just the latest attempt by Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, to both delay the trial and oust Justice Merchan. Nor will it be the last: In a separate civil action filed last week, Mr. Trump asked an appeals court to pause the case while it considers whether to remove Justice Merchan. It is a long-shot bid that a single appeals court judge rejected and will be likely to fail before a full five-judge panel.

When Mr. Trump tried last year to have Justice Merchan kicked off the case, Justice Merchan rejected it then as well, citing a state advisory committee on judicial ethics that determined that his impartiality could not reasonably be questioned based on his daughter’s interests.

The repeated attempts reflect the former president’s long-running effort to delay all four of his criminal cases past Election Day. Stalling is one of Mr. Trump’s favored legal tactics, and he uses it liberally in Manhattan, as well as in the three other cities where he faces criminal charges. If Mr. Trump reclaims the White House, the criminal cases against him would most likely grind to a halt.

In the attempt in appeals court to compel the judge’s recusal, Emil Bove, a lawyer for the former president, argued that certain facts had changed since Justice Merchan first declined to step aside last year, including that Mr. Trump was now the presumptive Republican nominee for president.

But a lawyer for the court system, Lisa Evans, said that there was no reason that the judge should step aside.

“There is absolutely no evidence to show that Judge Merchan will stand to benefit from the outcome of this trial,” Ms. Evans said.

Who Are Key Players in the Trump Manhattan Criminal Trial?The first criminal trial of former President Donald J. Trump is underway. Take a closer look at central figures related to the case.

No Jurors Picked on First Day of Trump’s Manhattan Criminal Trial (41)

April 15, 2024, 9:28 a.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 9:28 a.m. ET

Jesse McKinley,Olivia Bensimon,Anusha Bayya and Kaja Andric

Supporters, protesters and journalists assembled outside the Manhattan courthouse.

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Trump Supporters Rally Outside New York Courthouse

Pro-Trump protesters gathered near the Manhattan courthouse where the former president’s criminal trial is taking place.

Crowd: Donald Trump did nothing wrong. Donald Trump did nothing wrong. Donald Trump did nothing wrong.

No Jurors Picked on First Day of Trump’s Manhattan Criminal Trial (42)

The streets outside the Manhattan courtroom where former President Donald J. Trump was set to go on trial were buzzing with anticipation on Monday morning as a crush of reporters — and a trickle of protesters — gathered to bear witness.

Right-wing activists were planning rallies in the park directly opposite the court, which was subject to a heavy police presence. Some journalists and line-sitters had arrived late Sunday night, staking out places in the line to secure limited spaces inside the court’s overflow room, where most reporters were gathered.

Cameras lined the sidewalks outside the courthouse, a glowering edifice at 100 Centre Street, just blocks from New York’s City Hall. TV crews were going live in intervals since before dawn, even as the police manned metal barricades. As the sun rose, some anti-Trump demonstrators had arrived, including one toting a sign reading “Loser,” a favorite insult of the former president.

Nadine Seiler, 58, took a midnight bus from Waldorf, Md., to get to the courthouse by dawn. “This is the first and possibly only trial he’s going to be on,” she said, holding up a spray-painted sheet reading “Convict Trump Already.”

Mr. Trump also had fans outside the courthouse, including Laura Loomer, a far-right political activist who argued with an anti-Trump protester as a gaggle of journalists surrounded them.

Andrew Giuliani, the son of Rudy Giuliani, a former mayor of New York City and lawyer for Mr. Trump, also came by to show support, arguing that the trial was a political persecution.

“He’s somebody who I consider to be a mentor, almost like an uncle to me,” said Mr. Giuliani.

Noting Mr. Trump’s status as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mr. Giuliani claimed: “They want to tie him up for months at a time.”

Others were simply there to witness the moment. “I think it’s a really difficult moment in American history,” said Sue Scarlett Montgomery, a filmmaker. “It’s a sad day, but here we are.”

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April 15, 2024, 3:00 a.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 3:00 a.m. ET

Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess

Here’s what to know about the trial.

The first criminal trial of an American president officially began on Monday as prosecutors and defense lawyers convened in a Manhattan courtroom to start selecting the jury that will decide Donald J. Trump’s fate.

The initial pool of prospective jurors dwindled rapidly. More than half of the first group of 96 were dismissed in short order after indicating that they did not believe they could be impartial. Court adjourned for the day roughly two hours after jury selection began, with zero jurors chosen.

Before beginning the arduous process of choosing a jury for the landmark trial — on allegations that Mr. Trump falsified documents to cover up a sex scandal involving a p*rn star — the judge overseeing the case once again declined to step aside, rejecting Mr. Trump’s latest effort to oust him.

But there was also a ruling that favored the former president: The judge, Juan M. Merchan, rejected a request by prosecutors to introduce accusations of sexual assault that women lodged against Mr. Trump years ago, calling them “rumors” and “complete gossip.”

The Manhattan district attorney’s office, which brought the case against Mr. Trump, also asked the judge to hold Mr. Trump in contempt and penalize him $3,000 for violating a gag order barring him from attacking witnesses in the case.

On social media over the weekend, Mr. Trump assailed one of the prosecution’s key witnesses: Michael D. Cohen, his former fixer. Mr. Cohen paid $130,000 to the p*rn star, Stormy Daniels, during the 2016 presidential campaign to keep quiet about a sexual encounter she said she had with Mr. Trump.

After the lunch break — during which Mr. Trump posted a video of an ally yelling about the judge’s wife — Justice Merchan said he would hold a hearing later this month to discuss potential violations of the gag order, which also bars Mr. Trump from attacking the judge’s family.

The jury selection process could take two weeks or more, and the trial may spill into June. Mr. Trump is expected to be in the courtroom for much of it.

Mr. Trump seemed alternately irritated and exhausted during pretrial arguments on Monday, sometimes smirking and scoffing, but also appearing to nod off, his mouth slack and his head drooping to his chest. After the trial got underway in the afternoon, he chuckled when Justice Merchan told the first group of 96 prospective jurors that he would ensure a fair trial.

Mr. Trump, who might take the witness stand in his own defense, has denied the sexual encounter with Ms. Daniels. But prosecutors say that, while serving as president, he allowed his company to falsify records to hide the reimbursem*nts to Mr. Cohen. They argue the payment to Ms. Daniels was part of a pattern: Mr. Trump, faced with damaging stories that could have doomed his campaign, concealed them to influence the election.

Here’s what else to know about Mr. Trump’s trial:

  • This is the Manhattan criminal case against Mr. Trump, and it was brought by the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, a year ago. Mr. Trump is facing 34 felony counts of falsifying business records and, if convicted, could face up to four years in prison. The case, one of four indictments facing the former president and presumptive Republican nominee, may be the only one to make it to trial before Election Day.

  • Jury selection will be crucial for both sides. Prosecutors have some advantage, as the jury pool is drawn from Manhattan, one of the most Democratic counties in America. Mr. Trump’s team will be looking for red needles in a blue haystack.

  • Mr. Trump has twice sought Justice Merchan’s recusal, citing his daughter’s work as a Democratic political consultant. Justice Merchan has declined to step aside, noting a ruling by a judicial ethics commission that found his daughter’s work posed no conflict for him. “There is no agenda here,” Justice Merchan said in court on Monday, adding, “we want to follow the law, we want justice to be done.” Mr. Trump has also attacked the judge’s daughter on social media.

  • Hundreds of potential jurors have been summoned. Those who say they cannot be fair or otherwise serve are being excused, and the remaining prospective jurors will answer 42 questions compiled before the trial. Lawyers on both sides will be able to remove a limited number of them without explanation. The lawyers can also ask to remove a potential juror “for cause” by providing specific reasons they believe that person cannot be fair.

  • In addition to the payment to Ms. Daniels, Mr. Bragg’s office is expected to highlight two other deals involving The National Enquirer, a tabloid that has longstanding ties to Mr. Trump. In one deal, the tabloid bought the silence of a man who had heard that Mr. Trump had fathered a child out of wedlock, a rumor that turned out to be false, and in the other, it paid Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, who wanted to sell her story of an affair with Mr. Trump.

  • The prosecution’s witness list is expected to include David Pecker, the former publisher of The National Enquirer, as well as Hope Hicks, a former aide to Mr. Trump. Ms. Daniels and Ms. McDougal could also testify.

April 15, 2024, 3:00 a.m. ET

April 15, 2024, 3:00 a.m. ET

Kate Christobek

Here’s what to know about the start of jury selection.

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Follow our live coverage of Trump’s hush money trial.

The hundreds of New Yorkers who report for jury duty Monday morning in Manhattan will embark on an experience not found in history books: They will be vetted as jurors for the trial of a former U.S. president.

The task won’t be easy. Lawyers for Donald J. Trump and prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney’s office will narrow the pool to 12 jurors and several alternates. Both sides will try to discern biases that could alter the outcome of the trial, posing dozens of questions that have been discussed and debated for weeks.

The jurors, for their part, will be expected to answer each question honestly in an intimidating environment, just steps away from the former president, who is expected to attend much of the trial.

Here’s what we know about the process:

Who are the prospective jurors?

The jury pool is composed of Manhattanites. Beyond that, little about the group is known, even by prosecutors and defense lawyers. Both sides will use the next several days, or weeks, to find out all they can.

Because New York State does not allow juries to operate in full anonymity, the parties, including the former president, will know the jurors’ names. The lawyers will also have access to their addresses. (Mr. Trump will not.)

The public may never know the jurors’ names. The judge in the case, Juan M. Merchan, granted the prosecutors’ request to withhold them.

What will they be asked?

After reading a summary of the allegations, Justice Merchan will ask the prospective jurors whether they believe they can be fair and impartial. They will also be asked if they have any scheduling conflicts that would prevent them from attending every day of the trial, which could last more than six weeks. Those who raise concerns will most likely be removed from the pool.

The jurors who remain will all be asked the same set of questions. One by one, they will talk — briefly and vaguely — about what they do for a living, their education and their families. They will be asked where they get their news, what radio and podcasts they listen to and whether they’ve read books written by Mr. Trump or his former fixer Michael D. Cohen, who is expected to be a central witness.

Other questions will be more pointed. Jurors will be asked if they’ve ever volunteered or attended a campaign event for Mr. Trump or one of his opponents. They will also be asked to divulge feelings or opinions they have about how Mr. Trump is being treated in this case.

But the jurors will not be asked how they voted in past elections, whom they plan to vote for, whether they have made political contributions or their party registration.

How do potential jurors get removed?

Mr. Trump’s legal team and prosecutors for the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, can challenge the inclusion of prospective jurors by providing specific reasons they believe a juror cannot be fair and impartial. The judge has the final say.

Both sides will also receive a certain number of chances to remove jurors without explanation. After all of the challenged jurors are removed from the jury pool, Justice Merchan will seat the jury with those who remain.

How will Mr. Trump be involved?

If Mr. Trump’s behavior at previous trials is any guide, he is likely to be very involved in jury selection. In a previous defamation case, Mr. Trump was fixated on the jurors from the moment they walked into the courtroom. He pivoted in his chair to study them as they answered biographical questions. He frequently talked to his attorneys.

But Mr. Trump’s comments about the jurors in this case should start and stop in the courtroom. In addition to being ordered not to reveal their names, Mr. Trump is also subject to a gag order issued by Justice Merchan preventing him from making public statements about them.

Who Are Key Players in the Trump Manhattan Criminal Trial?The first criminal trial of former President Donald J. Trump is underway. Take a closer look at central figures related to the case.
No Jurors Picked on First Day of Trump’s Manhattan Criminal Trial (2024)

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