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New Yorkers’ unvarnished views of Trump aired in ‘hush money’ trial

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A video of New Yorkers celebrating Joe Biden’s presidential win, a parody post describing Donald Trump as “dumb” and a call to “lock him up” were among the social media indiscretions unearthed by the former president’s defence team as they weeded through jurors for his “hush money” trial in Manhattan.

The spur-of-the-moment research by Trump’s lawyers was done on Tuesday as the court forged ahead in picking a jury to decide the first criminal case against a former US president. Seven jurors were seated after hours of questioning across two days, out of a likely total of 18, including alternates.

Trump, 77, once again seemed to struggle to stay awake at times during proceedings in a warm lower Manhattan courtroom. Over the course of the day he occasionally smirked at some prospective jurors as they answered queries from the judge and lawyers for both sides, before being chastised by the court for muttering at a female high-school teacher.

Hundreds of potential jurors are being sifted through as the court engages in the monumental challenge of selecting more than a dozen people from the heavily Democratic borough of Manhattan to decide the fate of one of the world’s most polarising political figures. Trump is facing 34 counts of falsifying business records for allegedly disguising payments made to buy the silence of a porn star who alleged an affair in the run-up to the 2016 election. The case was brought by the office of Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg.

A courtroom sketch of Donald Trump during the second day of jury selection © Christine Cornell/AP

A female software engineer from the Chelsea neighbourhood who works for Disney, a woman from Harlem who works as an English teacher in a public school, an IT consultant originally from Puerto Rico and two male lawyers were among those eventually sworn in on Tuesday afternoon. A salesman from West Harlem who is originally from Ireland was appointed foreperson. Their names and addresses will not be released publicly.

When questioned about his views on Trump, the IT consultant, a middle-aged man in a black shirt and gold tie said: “I find him fascinating and mysterious. He walks into the room and he sets people off, one way or another.” The former president, a New York native, appeared to smile in response.

Earlier, Justice Juan Merchan, who is overseeing the case, dismissed a prospective juror who had posted about the travel ban targeting Muslim-majority countries that Trump had proposed while in office, writing “Get him out, and lock him up.” When questioned, the man said he no longer stood by that statement. He was sent home regardless.

Merchan also dismissed a bookseller from Manhattan’s Upper West Side who had posted an AI-generated parody video featuring Trump, titled “I’m dumb as fuck”, just weeks before the trial began. The former president’s lawyers claimed the man had also posted about the “documents case” — an apparent reference to a separate federal criminal case against Trump over classified documents found at his Mar-a-Lago estate — writing “no one is above the law”.

However, Merchan declined to dismiss a prospective juror who posted a video around the time of the 2020 election, captioned “It’s a full-on dance party at 96th Street”, which appeared to feature Biden supporters rejoicing in New York. She said that she was merely parking her car when she witnessed the scene and that she believed “very, very strongly” that she could be impartial in deciding the case against Trump.

“The question is not whether someone agrees with your client politically or not,” Merchan told Trump’s team, who had earlier tried to elicit responses about prospective jurors’ views on the presumptive Republican nominee for president. “The question is whether or not they can be fair and impartial.”

The woman was later stricken by the defence, who get a number of chances to dismiss jurors without citing a specific conflict or alleged bias.

Five more jurors and roughly six alternates remain to be picked, and the court will not sit on Wednesday. Merchan said he expected opening arguments to commence as soon as Monday.

Trump has complained that the four-day-a-week trial schedule will restrict his movements on the campaign trail in his latest run for the presidency. He visited a convenience store in Harlem on Tuesday night after court ended for the day in an effort to tout his tough-on-crime message.

Donald Trump makes a campaign stop at a store in Harlem, New York City © Adam Gray/Reuters

It was the same store — known locally as a bodega — where a clerk, Jose Alba, in 2022 fatally stabbed a man and was charged by the Manhattan district attorney’s office with murder, even though Alba said he had acted in self-defence. The charges were later dropped, and he has sued the city. Alba’s cause attracted a number of prominent political supporters, including some of Trump’s Republican allies in the House of Representatives and New York City mayor Eric Adams.

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