HomePoliticsInside the Manhattan courtroom at the Center of American Politics

Inside the Manhattan courtroom at the Center of American Politics

NEW YORK — It was around 2:30 Monday afternoon when the first 96 potential jurors filed into a drab Lower Manhattan courtroom to meet the world’s most famous defendant: Donald Trump.

Some craned their necks to catch a glimpse, an indication of the undeniable power of Trump’s celebrity.

But not long after, more than 50 of those same potential jurors — from one of the country’s most liberal counties — were dismissed, saying they could not be impartial about the 45th president.

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The start of the first criminal trial of a former US president brought intense security, loud demonstrations and stifling media coverage to a squalid New York courthouse that will be the unlikely center of US politics for the next six weeks.

And if the first day is any indication, the trial could be a surreal experience, pitting the case’s mundane-sounding criminal charges — falsifying corporate records — against the potentially seismic effect it could have on the presidential race to stand.

Both the dramatic and the mundane were on full display Monday, as supporters of the former president made their voices heard, shouting through a megaphone that Trump had “done nothing wrong” and calling the family of the case’s judge, Juan M. Merchan, attacked. .

Despite the highly charged atmosphere, Trump, sitting in the courtroom on the 15th floor, appeared to fall asleep at one point.

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Jury selection for the day didn’t actually start until mid-afternoon, but cable news was on the air before dawn. Anti-Trump protesters were also up early, carrying a series of hand-painted signs, some of which taunted the former president as a “loser,” recycling one of Trump’s favorite insults.

Others highlighted the frustration of liberals and Democrats who questioned whether Trump could escape trial yet despite facing four criminal charges.

“Condemn Trump already,” read one sign.

Spectators came from other cities and states, including Tim Smith of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, who exhibited his pentaptych “The Kraken,” about the Trump era after the 2020 election. Another played the flute on a park bench.

A truck decorated with Trump flags drove by as protesters and counter-protesters locked in a call-and-response at Collect Pond Park, across from the courthouse, with one side shouting “No one is above the law” and the other side shouting back ” Trump is innocent!”

TV crews, who had come from all over the world and all over the city, took it all in. Right-wing activist Laura Loomer, known for her provocative tactics, mocked “fake news media freaks.” Andrew Giuliani, the son of Rudy Giuliani, the former Trump lawyer and mayor of New York City, then took the horn and criticized the case as weak and politically motivated.

“Joe Biden wouldn’t even take this case,” Andrew Giuliani said.

Trump, for his part, seemed confident as he left Trump Tower Monday morning, waving to a group of fans and departing in a motorcade that would back up traffic throughout Lower Manhattan. (And of course snapped again when he left that day.)

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Before entering the courtroom, Trump condemned what he called a “political persecution,” calling it “an attack on America.” Once inside, Trump glared at prosecutors and appeared to chuckle as one of his own social media posts was read aloud. In a dark blue suit and red tie, he looked strangely out of place in a drab courtroom that, with its wood paneling and fluorescent lighting, is more “Fargo” than Mar-a-Lago.

Still, he was initially engaged, talking to lawyers, passing notes to his lead attorney, Todd Blanche, and looking intently at Merchan.

Then he closed his eyes and seemed to fall asleep for a moment, with his chin tilted toward his chest. He did not respond to notes from his lawyer before appearing to wake up.

Many of Merchan’s decisions on Monday did not please the former president, including the judge’s delay in deciding whether Trump could miss a day in court to attend his son Barron’s graduation in May.

Merchan also denied a request that Trump be allowed to miss court to attend next week’s Supreme Court arguments on his claims of near-total immunity — a ruling that angered the former president.

“I can’t go to my son’s graduation, or I can’t go to the Supreme Court of the United States,” Trump said, adding that he wouldn’t be able to campaign as regularly as he would like because he would be in jail. court. “This is about election interference.”

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Jury selection, which finally began after the judge and attorneys dealt with other issues for hours, could take a week or more: Only 11 potential jurors were heard Monday, and the trial was scheduled to begin again Tuesday morning.

West Village resident Robert Gerhorsan, 69, was fired by Merchan because Gerhorsan’s child’s wedding in Seattle in June could conflict with the lawsuit. But he said Trump standing before a jury, for better or worse, was proof that the system works.

“No one gets special treatment,” he said, adding that he liked “the fact that no one is above the law.”

For his part, Trump spent all seven hours of Monday — minus a lunch break and however many seconds he slept through — without the outbursts that have occurred during other trials in which he has been involved. And he stayed until Merchan spoke out for the hearing. day.

But at the end of the day, Trump launched a fundraising pitch by email.

“I JUST RUSHED OUT OF BIDEN’S KANGAROO COURT!” it said, even though Trump had not actually stormed out. “What I have been FORCED to endure would make any patriotic American SICK.”

c.2024 The New York Times Company

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