Home Politics Inside Trump’s first day on trial in Manhattan criminal court

Inside Trump’s first day on trial in Manhattan criminal court

Inside Trump’s first day on trial in Manhattan criminal court


Donald Trump has been inside a half-dozen courthouses over the past year, but he had a new experience walking into a downtown Manhattan courtroom Monday morning: a half-empty room.

The former president slowly walked through the cavernous and dingy courtroom, past six empty rows of benches – set aside for prospective jurors – giving a quick glance to the six reporters sitting in the back row before sauntering to the front of the room and taking his seat at the defense table.

The vacant rows served as a reminder to Trump that he’s in a different setting now that he’s a criminal defendant for the first time. By the afternoon, the courtroom was packed full with 96 jurors – some of whom may be on the jury who will hear the hush money trial against the Republican presumptive presidential nominee.

Trump only spoke three times during Monday’s session, acknowledging to the judge he understood his rights as a criminal defendant. Throughout the day Trump often engaged with his attorneys, whispering to them and sharing notes as they debated motions with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

Trump also sat back at times and closed his eyes as Judge Juan Merchan slogged through the jury pool and asked up to 42 questions of each prospective juror.

While Trump didn’t have a platform inside the courtroom, he didn’t take long to make his feelings known when he left for the day, speaking to the camera right outside the courtroom after pulling out his iPhone from his suit pocket and handing it to an aide.

“It looks like the judge does not allow me to escape this scam. It’s a scam,” Trump said, complaining that the judge said he could not attend next week’s Supreme Court arguments on presidential immunity and his son’s graduation, though Merchan did not rule one way or the other on whether Trump would be excused for the graduation.

Both during the morning session and when jurors were brought in during the afternoon, just six reporters and one sketch artist sat inside the courtroom, forming a protective pool that gave reports on what they saw and heard to the roughly 100 reporters watching on closed-circuit television screens in an overflow courtroom.

Trump sat at the defendant’s table between his attorneys, Todd Blanche and Emil Bove. During breaks, he conferred with Blanche frequently.

Get up to speed on Trump’s criminal trial

Trump watched the computer screen at the defense table as the district attorney’s office played evidence that his lawyers argued should be kept out of the trial, including a snippet of his deposition from the E. Jean Carroll defamation case where he was asked about the “Access Hollywood” tape and footage from a 2016 rally where he denied sexual assault allegations that followed the tape emerging.

Trump also looked forward as his tweets about his former fixer Michael Cohen from 2018 and his posts on Truth Social from this year were shown in the courtroom.

When the jury pool was brought in, most jurors did not visibly react upon sitting down and seeing Trump was the defendant in the case. One male juror turned to his left as he walked into the courtroom, appeared to see Trump and smiled.

Trump looked toward Merchan as the judge addressed the prospective jurors to explain the case and their instructions as potential jurors. Trump craned his neck and then turned around in his seat as more than 50 prospective jurors of the 96 brought into the courtroom initially raised their hand to indicate they couldn’t be impartial in the trial.

Entering and exiting the courtroom, Trump had to walk right past Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who brought this case against Trump and was seated in the fourth row behind his prosecutors.

In the morning, Trump did not look in Bragg’s direction, but in the afternoon he stared over to Bragg and the press pool as the jurors left the courtroom.

Trump will be back at the defendant’s table on Tuesday, when Merchan will continue questioning the prospective jurors who could ultimately decide whether to convict Trump in the first criminal trial of a former president. There were 32 jurors left in the pool from the 96 that started at the end of the day Monday – and Merchan suggested another new batch of prospective jurors may be brought in Tuesday, too.

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