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Trump will return to court after first day of hush money trial ends with no jurors selected

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump returns to a New York courtroom Tuesday as a judge tries to find a panel of jurors who will decide whether the former president is guilty of criminal charges of falsifying corporate records to cover up a sex scandal during the 2016 campaign.

The first day of Trump’s history-making hush-money trial in Manhattan ended with no one selected to serve on the panel of 12 jurors and six alternates. Dozens of people were dismissed for saying they did not believe they could be fair, although dozens of other potential jurors have yet to be questioned.

It is the first of Trump’s four criminal cases to go to trial and possibly the only one that could reach a verdict before voters decide in November whether the presumptive Republican presidential nominee should return to the White House. It puts Trump’s legal troubles at the center of the closely contested race against President Joe Biden, with Trump portraying himself as the victim of a politically motivated justice system seeking to deprive him of another term.

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Trump has denied guilty of 34 felony counts of falsifying company records as part of an alleged effort to expose salacious — and, he says, false — stories about his sex life during his 2016 campaign. On Monday, Trump called the case brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg a “scam” and “witch hunt.”

The indictment concerns $130,000 in payments Trump’s company made to his then-lawyer Michael Cohen. He paid that amount on behalf of Trump to prevent porn actor Stormy Daniels from making public her claims about a sexual encounter with Trump ten years earlier. Trump has denied that the sexual encounter ever took place.

Prosecutors say the payments to Cohen were incorrectly recorded as legal fees. Prosecutors have described it as part of a plan to bury damaging stories that Trump feared could help his opponent in the 2016 race, especially as Trump’s reputation at the time suffered from comments he made about women.

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Trump has acknowledged that he reimbursed Cohen for the payment and that it was intended to prevent Daniels from making the alleged meeting public. But Trump has previously said it had nothing to do with the campaign.

Jury selection could take several more days — or even weeks — in the heavily Democratic city where Trump grew up and catapulted to celebrity status for decades before winning the White House.

Only about a third of the 96 people on the first panel of potential jurors brought into the courtroom Monday remained after the judge excused some members. More than half of the group were excused after telling the judge they could not be fair and impartial, and several others were fired for other reasons that were not made public. Another group of more than a hundred potential jurors sent to the courthouse on Monday have not yet been brought into the courtroom for questioning.

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Richer reported from Washington.

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