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Inside the Trump Hush-Money Trial: Jury Selection Drama and Legal Maneuvers

BLOTTO: Welcome! you’re listening to Uptown Radio. We are your hosts, I’m Cecilia Blotto.

SAINT: And I’m Marine Saint. 

BLOTTO: Have you been keeping up with the Trump hearings, Marine? 

SAINT: Of course I have, Cecilia. It’s a historic event even for us Brits– it's the first time that a former US president is being prosecuted! Rishi Sunak could never. 

BLOTTO: Yes, we're on the third day of the Trump Hush-Money Trial. 

SAINT:  Right, and he’s facing no less than 34 felony counts of falsifying business records–as well as a sex scandal cover-up that involved the porn star actress Stormy Daniels. The trial is in Manhattan. Our reporter Tommaso Baronio was there this morning. 

SAINT Hi Tommaso

BARONIO Hello Marine

SAINT: Firstly, give us a recap of what is going on.

BARONIO: Sure. The charges take place from the $130 000 that Michael Cohen gave to Stormy Daniels to hide the affair Trump had with her. During his presidency, Trump rembused Cohen, and that is fraud, according to the prosecutor.

Furthermore, this lead to highlight two addiniotnaly hush money deals, that would have influenced the 2016 election, the prosecutor says. 

SAINT: When did the trial start?

BARONIO: It started on Monday, with the jury selection that is still going on. 

Before today seven jurors have already been seated.

SAINT STart closer to hereWhat happened today?

BARONIO Trump arrived talking on the phone. He and his lawyers were seated. And the proceedings started. That’s when things changed. After sleeping on it, another juror had become worried about being impartial. She said family and friends had recognized her based on descriptions in the press and were calling her and pushing their opinions on her. 

She was excused and the judge Juan M. Merchan asked the press to avoid sharing details about the jury. He used the term “common sense” when talking to us about how we should cover the case. 

SAINT: Everyone wants to get this case started. To get the jury in place. So how did the attorneys respond? 

BARONIO Well,  the prosecutor Christopher Conroy asked judge merchan that potential future jurors not be asked about their  employers, current or past. Initially the judge seemed to like this idea he said quote “that’s a great idea”. And then Trump’s lawyer, Todd Blanche that would be unfair. He argued that that would mean jurors could have worked with anti-Trump organizations. So Judge Merchan tried to strike a compromise. He agreed that potential members of the jury could be asked about their employers but that information would later be redacted from the transcript and journalists like me are not allowed to report those names. 

SAINT: But things didn’t stop there, the jury continued to shrink - is that right?

BARONIO: Yes, also juror number four was excused, after the prosecutor raised concerns that he’d lied about a prior arrest in a New York suburb.

SAINT: So, from seven to five. 

BARONIO: Yes. And this is after  48 of 96 possible candidates left because they said they could not be impartial. But a really dynamic moment was when the prosecutor asked Judge Merchanto hold Trump in contempt of court and to sanction him for violating his gag order to limit inflammatory speech.  This was after multiple posts Trump made on his social network - .Truth Social - insulting his former lawyer - Michael Cohen and re-posting questionable news reports that claimed liberal activists were trying to infiltrate the jury. 

SAINT So, what happened next?

BARONIO It was back to the business of the day - picking jurors. And this is when Donald Trump perked up. He was sitting between two of his lawyers. And as each juror was questioned - Trump was leaning forward - staring right at them. 

SAINT I can only imagine that it may be intimidating to have that much attention from a former president during such a high stakes and historic trial. 

BARONIO But at this point jurors didn’t share the names of their employers - just generic information.  Still, there was an attorney who mentioned having previously discussed the case with colleagues and having read the book by former Manhattan Prosecutor Mark Pomerantz who wrote about the issues argued about in this trial -  “People vs Donald Trump, an Inside Account”. 

Jurors seemed to come from all over - one potential juror said they work in investment, another who said they are a nyt subscriber - but just for the crosswords, And my personal favorite. A person when asked, disclosed that she’d read “Disloyal” - Michael Cohen’s memoir. But… she says she skimmed just the first 10 pages just for her job. She works in publishing.

The trial will be back in session tomorrow.

The judge suggested the opening statements could begin on Monday. It’s possible jury selection will be finished tomorrow. 

SAINT Thank you so much Tommaso.

BARONIO Thank you for having me.

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