Donald Trump hush money case: More than 50 of the first 96 jurors are excused after admitting they CAN’T be impartial in the former president’s criminal case

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Written By Maya Cantina

More than 50 of the first 96 potential jurors in the Donald Trump trial were excused on Monday afternoon after admitting they couldn’t be impartial in the first criminal trial of a former president in history. 

The first batch of Manhattan residents were brought into the court and sworn in to see if they qualified for the panel that will decide the fate of the presumptive Republican nominee for president.

As they walked in they strained to catch a glimpse of the high-profile defendant and one woman appeared to giggle. 

Those chosen will ultimately vote on if the 77-year-old is guilty or not guilty of 34 charges of falsifying business records to hide a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels to stop her discussing their alleged affair before the 2016 election.

Each count he has strenuously denied carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison, but if found guilty he could face a fine or probation as a first-time offender. 

More than 500 potential jurors are in the court waiting to see if they are needed for the trial that could last up to six weeks.

They will have to answer 42 questions – including what news networks they watch and whether they have supported QAnon – if they want to qualify. 

Several of the potential jurors appeared to frequently stare at Trump while the judge introduced the case and read out a list of witnesses who could testify, including his wife Melania Trump.

Donald Trump stood and gave a group of 96 potential jurors a smirk as the selection process finally began in the hush money trial

However Merchan made it clear that not all those on the list would take the stand. 

Many prospective panelists sat in the back rows stretched their necks to get a look at Trump once in their seats.

One woman in the second row from the back on the right giggled and put her hand over her mouth, looking at the person seated next to her with raised eyebrows.

There was no discernable reaction from potential jurors when Merchan said the name of the case.

They were sworn in at 2:34 p.m.

Judge Merchan told them that the case was ‘the People of the State of New York versus Donald J Trump’.

‘The defendant is Mr Donald Trump, who is seated to my right,’ Judge Merchan said before introducing the lawyers for each side.

Addressing the jury, Judge Juan Merchan gave them a summary of the case.

He said: ‘The allegations are, in substance, that Donald Trump falsified business records to conceal an agreement with others to unlawfully influence the 2016 presidential election.

‘Specifically, it is alleged that Donald Trump made or caused false business records to hide the true nature of payments made to (his former personal lawyer) Michael Cohen, by characterizing them as payment for legal services rendered pursuant to a retainer agreement.

‘The People allege that in fact, the payments were intended to reimburse Michael Cohen for money he paid to Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, in the weeks before the presidential election to prevent her from publicly revealing details about a past sexual encounter with Donald Trump’.

After lunch Trump appeared noticeably more alert and engaged than before the break

After lunch Trump appeared noticeably more alert and engaged than before the break

Judge Merchan added that Trump had pleaded not guilty.

After lunch Trump appeared noticeably more alert and engaged than before the break.

He was speaking animatedly with his lawyer Todd Blanche and pointing with his fingers while he spoke.

It is not clear if the former President had read reports about him dozing off before lunch.

A visibly irate Judge Merchan gave Trump’s lawyers 24 hours to identify all their exhibits or they will be unable to use them in the trial

The judge had asked Trump’s team to do this in February but they have failed to do so, the court heard.

More than 500 potential jurors are in the court waiting to see if they are needed for the trial that could last up to six weeks

More than 500 potential jurors are in the court waiting to see if they are needed for the trial that could last up to six weeks

Those chosen for the jury will ultimately decide if the 77-year-old is guilty or not guilty of falsifying business records to hide a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels over their alleged affair

Those chosen for the jury will ultimately decide if the 77-year-old is guilty or not guilty of falsifying business records to hide a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels over their alleged affair 

Blanche tried to argue it was not possible to do so given the Trump legal team would be in court all day.

But Judge Merchan shot back that they had filed three motions last Sunday within 30 minutes of each other.

His voice rising, the judge said: ‘Right now you’re in violation of the order’ and set a deadline of 24 hours for them to comply.

Trump’s lawyers and the prosecution will only get one paper list of the first set of 96 potential juror’s names, the judge said.

‘That copy is not to be photographed, duplicated in any way or any form,’ Judge Merchan said.

Once the 96 had been dealt with, that list was to be returned to the judge.

Trump judge bars mention of Melania being pregnant during his ‘affair’ with Playboy model Karen McDougal   

The judge in Donald Trump’s hush money trial has sensationally allowed prosecutors to introduce evidence of an alleged affair with Playboy model Karen McDougal but not claims that it happened while his wife Melania was pregnant with their son Barron.

Judge Merchan said prosecutors could bring evidence that Trump’s campaign coordinated with the National Enquirer to suppress the McDougal allegations before the 2016 election.

Trump's blushes were spared at the start of his hush money trial on Monday as the judge refused to allow evidence he was allegedly having sex with Playboy model Karen McDougal while his wife Melania was pregnant with their son Barron

Trump’s blushes were spared at the start of his hush money trial on Monday as the judge refused to allow evidence he was allegedly having sex with Playboy model Karen McDougal while his wife Melania was pregnant with their son Barron

McDougal claims she had a ten-month affair and was in love with Trump between 2006 and 2007. She was then paid $150,000 to keep quiet about it by the National Enquirer

McDougal claims she had a ten-month affair and was in love with Trump between 2006 and 2007. She was then paid $150,000 to keep quiet about it by the National Enquirer

But he stopped short of letting them bring up salacious details of the alleged relationship in front of a jury.

The ruling kicked off a dramatic start to jury selection in the historic trial as Judge Merchan wouldn’t say if Trump could miss court next month to attend 18-year-old Barron’s high school graduation.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass told the court: ‘We intend to elicit evidence Karen McDougal was a former Playboy model who claims to have had a romantic and sexual relations with Mr Trump including while Mr Trump’s wife Melania was pregnant with their child’.

He said that they have ‘no intention of describing sexual acts or locales’ where it happened.

But the ‘fact this occurred while Melania was pregnant and after the birth of his son speaks directly to the extent to which the defendant believes the story could be damaging to his campaign’, Steinglass said.

Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche argued that the ‘only value is to embarrass President Trump’. He said the claims were ‘salacious with no value’

Judge Merchan said that the evidence should be allowed in except for ‘bringing up that the defendant’s wife was pregnant and this went on and even after she gave birth’

Trump walked into court wearing a dark blue suit and a red tie after telling reporters the case was 'outrageous' and an 'assault on America'

Trump walked into court wearing a dark blue suit and a red tie after telling reporters the case was ‘outrageous’ and an ‘assault on America’

‘At this moment the prejudicial value excuses the probative value’, he said.

McDougal claims she had a ten-month affair and was in love with Trump between 2006 and 2007. She was then paid $150,000 to tell her story to the National Enquirer, but the interview was never published.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass asked the judge to allow evidence describing the  liaisons between Trump and McDougal, and the fact the former first lady was due to give birth at the time.

Steinglass said: ‘We intend to elicit evidence Karen McDougal was a former Playboy model who claims to have had a romantic and sexual relations with Mr Trump including while Mr Trump’s wife Melania was pregnant with their child’.

Steinglass said that the National Enquirer thought the story was ‘true’ after looking into it. But he said that they have ‘no intention of describing sexual acts or locales’ where it happened.

But the ‘fact this occurred while Melania was pregnant and after the birth of his son speaks directly to the extent to which the defendant believes the story could be damaging to his campaign’, Steinglass said.

Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche aid that the ‘only value is to embarrass’ his client.

He said that there is ‘no scenario a jury won’t take a negative view’ of Trump’s behaviour and that it was ‘salacious with no value’

Merchan said that the evidence should come in except for ‘bringing up that the defendant’s wife was pregnant and this went on and even after she gave birth’

‘At this moment the prejudicial value excuses the probative value’, he said.

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