Historic Trump trial moves forward: More than half of the jury selected

In the historic criminal trial against former US President Donald Trump for covering up a hush money payment, jury selection progressed more quickly than generally expected. On the second day of the trial on Tuesday (local time), seven of the twelve jurors in the New York trial had already been selected. Judge Juan Merchan expressed the hope that the actual hearing in the first criminal trial in history against a former US president could begin on Monday.

Merchan also warned Trump against intimidating jurors. “I will not allow any jurors to be intimidated in this courtroom,” the judge said after the defendant's murmurs could be heard directed at a potential juror.

The trial of the Republicans' likely renewed presidential candidate is taking place in the midst of an extremely heated election campaign. Merchan ordered the jurors to remain anonymous. This is intended to protect you from possible bribery attempts and physical violence.

The selection of the twelve jurors and six alternate jurors is a complicated process in the USA, as bias in favor of or against the defendant must be ruled out. Trial observers had therefore expected that jury selection could take several weeks. Now things seem to be going much faster.

On Monday, more than half of 96 potential jurors were excluded because there were doubts about their impartiality. The intensive questioning of the possible jurors continued on Tuesday. This included, among other things, their media use, their possible political donations and their attitude towards the defendant.

The jury must reach a unanimous decision on whether Trump is guilty or innocent. With just one dissenting vote, the trial would be declared a failure and end without a verdict – which would be a triumph for Trump.

In the case, Trump is accused of forging business documents in order to cover up a hush money payment of $130,000 (122,000 euros at today's rate) to former porn actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election. Stormy Daniels was thus silenced about an alleged sex affair that she said she had had with Trump ten years earlier. Trump has pleaded innocent. He has also denied any sexual contact with Stormy Daniels.

The right-wing populist presents himself as an innocent victim of a politically controlled justice system. He is still criminally charged in three other cases. The allegations in these cases are considered more serious than those in the hush money affair. It's about his attempts to retroactively overturn his 2020 election defeat against current President Joe Biden, as well as Trump's taking secret government documents to his private estate in the state of Florida. However, it is unclear whether trials on these three other charges could begin before the election.

However, Trump also faces prison time for the allegations in the hush money trial. However, legal experts expect that if Trump is found guilty, he would only be given a fine or a suspended prison sentence. The trial is expected to last around six to eight weeks, so the verdict will be handed down well before the election on November 5th, in which the Republican wants to run again against the Democrat Biden.

According to the US Constitution, Trump can run for president even if he has a criminal conviction and even a prison sentence. However, his election campaign is already being severely hampered by the hush money trial; Merchan has ordered the defendant to be present on all days of the trial.

On Tuesday, Trump angrily complained on the sidelines that the trial was taking up time for his campaign. He should be “in Pennsylvania and Florida right now” and in many other states too. The 77-year-old Trump had previously complained that because of the trial next week he would not be able to attend his son Barron's graduation ceremony and a Supreme Court hearing in Washington on the question of whether he would have immunity as ex-president against criminal prosecution.