Trump Hush-Money Jury Now Set for Opening Arguments in NY Monday

(Bloomberg) -- Jury selection was completed Friday for Donald Trump’s first criminal trial, setting the stage for opening arguments Monday in a New York case accusing the former president of falsifying business records to conceal a sex scandal before the 2016 election.

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It took four days for the judge and lawyers for both sides to vet almost 300 prospective jurors in Manhattan this week to get a 12-person panel plus six alternates. Monday’s proceedings will start at 9:30 a.m., after a New York appeals court judge denied Trump’s last-minute request Friday to halt the trial and move it to a different venue because he claimed he wouldn’t be treated fairly.

The first criminal trial ever against a former president is playing out as Trump is also campaigning to return to the White House in the November election. Trump, who faces three other criminal prosecutions, denies wrongdoing and claims the cases are part of a political “witch hunt” against him.

Here are the key takeaways from courtroom proceedings Friday:

  • The jury-selection process was completed a week earlier than expected. By comparison, it took twice as long to get a jury in the criminal case against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

  • Just as jury selection was finishing, a man set himself on fire across from the courthouse in an area of Collect Pond Park cordoned off for supporters of Trump. Police said he was taken to an area hospital, where he was in “very critical” condition Friday afternoon. His actions didn’t appear to have anything to do with Trump, according to police, who said he’d tossed pamphlets into the air that discussed various conspiracy theories before lighting himself on fire.

  • Because of the Passover holiday, court proceedings Monday and Tuesday will end early, at 2 p.m. There will be no court on Wednesday, with the trial resuming on Thursday.

  • On Tuesday, Judge Juan Merchan will hear arguments on whether Trump should be held in contempt of court for social media posts that prosecutors say violated a gag order because they targeted two key witnesses: ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and porn star Stormy Daniels. Before the trial, Merchan barred the former president from making statements about jurors, witnesses, prosecutors and their families, citing public safety concerns.

  • On Friday, Merchan again rejected Trump’s claim that a president is immune from criminal prosecution and said prosecutors can use evidence of statements he made while president. The judge also said he’d rule later on whether prosecutors can bring up alleged “bad acts” by Trump should he decide to testify in his own defense. Those acts might include New York state’s civil fraud judgment against him, E. Jean Carroll’s successful defamation claim against him or how a state judge concluded the former president repeatedly violated his gag order during the civil fraud trial.

  • Trump was mostly on his best behavior this week with few of the courtroom fireworks seen during recent civil trials where he was a defendant. However, outside the court, Trump expressed his frustration every day on social media and to reporters. He criticized Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for bringing the case and accused Merchan of “railroading me.”

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