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The historic first criminal trial of a former US president begins with opening statements on Monday.

Judge Juan Merchan swiftly moved through consideration of roughly 200 potential jurors to find a jury pool of 18 by midday Friday, swearing in 12 jurors and six alternates who will decide Donald Trump’s fate in the New York hush money case.

There had been estimates at the start of the week that jury selection could spill into a second week, and it appeared likely after Merchan lost two empaneled jurors on Thursday. But the judge found enough prospective jurors who were willing to serve and said they could be impartial that he didn’t have to turn to a third panel of around 100 jurors in reserve Friday.

Trump – whose lawyers on Friday continued to try to delay the trial – complained about Merchan’s pace as he left the courtroom for the day.

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“The trial starts on Monday, which is long before a lot of people thought. The judge wants this to go as fast as possible. That’s for his reasons, not for my reasons,” Trump said in the hallway of the 15th floor courtroom.

Here are takeaways from the final day of jury selection in Trump’s hush money trial:

The jury is set
Four women and one man were added to the jury on Friday as five of the six alternates for the case. They will sit in the jury box and will hear the duration of the trial, but they will only be put on the jury should one or more of the 12 jurors be excused from the case.

The final additions to the jury included a woman from Spain, a native New Yorker who is a fan of martial arts, a contract specialist, a woman who works for a clothing company, and a project manager for a construction company.

All 18 of the jurors will meet as a group for the first time on Monday morning when the trial is set to begin. Five of the jurors came from an initial panel of 96 that was sworn in Monday, while the rest came from a second panel that did not begin answering questions until Thursday morning.

The fourth day of jury selection played out similarly to the first three. Prosecutors focused their questions in the case on preparing the jurors to accept testimony from less-than-favorable witnesses, like Michael Cohen. Trump’s attorneys, meanwhile, were almost singularly focused on a single question: What did jurors think about Donald Trump?

The former president appeared less interested in the proceedings during much of the questioning by the district attorney’s office, sitting back in his chair and fiddling with papers. But when his lawyers began asking jurors what they thought of him, the former president was turned toward the jury box, paying full attention.

Final round of juror questions highlights emotional decision for potential jurors
There were several emotional moments during Friday morning’s questioning of potential jurors, with two jurors telling the judge in the middle of voir dire they no longer felt they could serve.

One female prospective juror who works in sales for a trading company began crying when she was handed the microphone during the voir dire process.

“I’m sorry. I thought I could do this. I wouldn’t want someone who feels this way to judge my case either,” she said, adding: “This is so much more stressful than I thought.”

Merchan invited her to come up to the bench to talk privately. He then excused her.

At one point after that jury had left, another juror raised her hand and told the court she started feeling “high anxiety” as she sat and listened to a line of questioning about the credibility of witnesses.

The woman said she was feeling “anxiety and self-doubt” as she asked to approach the bench. She too was excused.

Everyone in the jury pool had the chance to be excused at the outset if they felt they could not be fair and impartial in this case, without further questioning by the judge.

The jurors who took part in voir dire on Friday had known that Trump was the defendant in the case since Tuesday, giving them several days to weigh what it would be like to be on the historic panel before having to step into the jury box.

But the excused jurors – along with an empaneled juror who was excused earlier in the week after she expressed concerns that part of her identity was made public – underscored how heavily trying a former president weighs on the justice system.

Trump is still trying to stop his trial
Despite seating a jury, Trump’s legal team again tried to stop the trial in its tracks with another strategic appeal.

The move shows how Trump lawyers are likely to continue to try to throw up procedural roadblocks in the criminal trial, even as it’s already gotten underway.

In a new motion filed Friday morning, Trump’s lawyers once again asked an appeals court to temporarily halt the trial until they ruled on Trump’s appeal to move the venue of the hush money trial out of Manhattan.

Attorney Cliff Robert argued on Trump’s behalf at a hastily scheduled hearing Friday afternoon.

Robert, speaking in a different courtroom from where the trial was ongoing, told the judge that seating a jury in three days with so many potential jurors being dismissed for cause over bias is “untenable.”

Trump unsuccessfully appealed with the same request for a stay over the change of venue motion last week.

The DA’s team argued at that point that the motion was premature because jury selection hadn’t happened yet. Robert said Friday that he had rightfully returned to renew Trump’s request since a jury had been empaneled.

Robert also pointed to the woman who asked to be dismissed on Thursday following media attention.

Trump’s lawyer argued that the juror’s fears proved it’s unfair for Trump to be tried in the city due to the publicity surrounding the former president.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office Chief of Appeals Steven Wu argued the record actually showed that “jury selection has worked.”

There’s been a “robust process,” he said, to ensure jurors can be fair and root out potentially biased jurors.

A hearing on Trump’s gag order violations set for Tuesday
Despite Trump’s attempts to delay, opening statements in his criminal trial will begin Monday morning.

Then the trial will fully shift into details about Trump’s alleged affair with an adult film star (which he denies) and the hush-money payment made to her in the run-up to the 2016 election. Prosecutors will lay out the theory of their case, followed by Trump’s attorneys summarizing their arguments against the charges.

After that, the first witness will be called. Prosecutors haven’t said who it will be – saying they don’t want to see Trump posting about any witnesses ahead of time.

On Tuesday, the morning will shift to Trump’s discussion of witnesses in the case, as Merchan plans to hold a hearing on social media posts by the former president that prosecutors say violated his gag order.

They’re asking the judge to fine Trump $1,000 per post and remind him that violations of the gag order could result in imprisonment.

—CNN

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