June 16, 2024 6:35 am

NYC jury in Trump’s first criminal trial to remain anonymous

A judge overseeing the first-ever criminal trial of a US president is allowing members of the jury to remain anonymous.

Donald Trump is due to begin trial in New York on 25 March over claims he led a hush-money cover-up in 2016.

The judge’s order on Thursday said that Mr Trump “has an extensive history of publicly and repeatedly attacking trial jurors and grand jurors.”

Mr Trump denies the charges, describing the case as a political witch hunt.

In his protective order, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan said the decision to keep the jury anonymous is appropriate because “there is a likelihood of bribery, jury tampering, or of physical injury or harassment of juror(s)”.

Mr Trump faces 34 counts of fraud alleging that he falsified business records to disguise payments he made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels as legal fees.

Ms Daniels said she was paid $130,000 (£103,000) in 2016 to stay quiet about having sex with the then-presidential candidate. Mr Trump denies they ever had an affair.

This is one of four criminal cases against the former president.

The judge’s order allows for the names to be known to both side’s legal teams, as well as to legal consultants hired by each side to assist in the jury selection process.

Prosecutors had asked for the jurors’ identities to be shielded, a rare request that is mostly made in high-profile cases or ones involving the mafia and other violent organizations.

The trial, which could last around six weeks, could affect Mr Trump’s ability to campaign for the White House ahead of the November election.

Jury selection is expected to be one of the most contentious and time-consuming portions of the trial.

Bench trials for felony charges in New York require 12 jurors with up to six alternates.

Prospective jurors could face a range of questions when the trial kicks off, from where they get their news to whether they have ever put a political bumper sticker on their car.

They may also be asked if they believe the 2020 election was stolen, if they have read any of Mr Trump’s books or if they have listened to anything from Michael Cohen, Mr Trump’s former fixer who is expected to be the prosecution’s star witness.

It remains unclear how much of the trial Mr Trump will attend in person.

He is required to be present on the first day, but after that the court has limited discretion to approve a defendant not attending.

The judge could allow Mr Trump to skip portions of it, but only if he agrees with the new and untested legal argument that a criminal defendant needs to be on a campaign trail speaking to voters who will choose the next president.

Ultimately, Mr Trump may choose to attend, using the case as an opportunity to continue campaigning.

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