Former President Donald Trump awaits the start of proceedings during jury selection at Manhattan criminal court, Thursday, April 18, 2024 in New York. (Timothy A. Clary/Pool Photo via AP)

Jury selection could be nearing a close in Donald Trump’s hush money trial in New York

JENNIFER PELTZ, MICHAEL R. SISAK, JAKE OFFENHARTZ and ALANNA DURKIN RICHER |

NEW YORK (AP) — A third panel of potential jurors will be questioned Friday in Donald Trump’s hush money case, drawing jury selection a step closer to completion in the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president.

After a jury of 12 New Yorkers was seated Thursday, lawyers are now expected to turn their attention to picking remaining alternates who can vow to set aside their personal views and impartially judge the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Thursday’s court proceedings demonstrated unpredictability in the jury selection process of such a high-profile case, with two jurors who had been seated a day earlier being dismissed from the panel.

The judge has suggested that opening statements in the criminal trial could begin as early as Monday, before prosecutors begin laying out their case alleging a scheme to cover up negative stories Trump feared would hurt his 2016 presidential campaign.

The trial will place Trump in a Manhattan courtroom for weeks, forcing him to juggle his dual role as criminal defendant and political candidate against the backdrop of his hotly contested race against President Joe Biden. It will feature salacious and unflattering testimony his opponent will no doubt seize on to try to paint Trump as unfit to return as commander in chief.

Judge Juan M. Merchan is also expected to hold a hearing Friday to consider a request from prosecutors to bring up Trump’s prior legal entanglements if he takes the stand in the hush money case. Manhattan prosecutors have said they want to question Trump about his recent civil fraud trial that resulted in a $454 million judgment after a judge found Trump had lied about his wealth for years. He is appealing that verdict.

Trump says he did nothing wrong, and has cast himself as the victim of a politically motivated justice system bent on keeping him out of the White House. He has lashed out on social media about the judge, prosecutors and potential witnesses, prompting the district attorneys to seek sanctions for possible violations of a gag order in the criminal case.

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