The imperfect art of delay: Trump’s criminal trial
Manhattan Criminal Courthouse. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

The imperfect art of delay: Trump’s criminal trial

Three times not such a charm for former President Donald Trump in his approaching trial for 34 felony counts of falsifying bank records to cover a sex scandal. Trump’s lawyers have made their third unsuccessful attempt at delaying the trial. Maybe they had an upcoming trip to Mar-a-Lago planned? Jury selection in the trial began on April 15 and was concluded later that week. The trial began on April 22  and will not be televised.

As Jimmy Kimmel said on his Jimmy Kimmel Live! late-night show, “You know what they say: If at first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth or tenth you don’t succeed, cry, cry again.”

Trump’s first effort to delay the case was a request to move the trial outside Manhattan. It was denied on April 8. His second attempt was to throw out the gag order imposed by preceding Justice Juan M. Merchan. The order prohibits Trump from posting on social media or speaking negatively about witnesses, court officers, or the judge’s family. An appeals court denied the motion on April 9 and declined to delay the case. 

Over the weekend of April 13, Trump violated the gag order with a tweet verbally attacking witness Michael Cohen. Cohen was Trump’s former attorney who paid $130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence. Merchan says he will decide whether to hold the former president in contempt in the following weeks.

The latest delay attempt was made on April 3, when Trump’s lawyers filed a civil suit in a court of appeals against Merchan. Trump’s lawyers argued a conflict of interest, citing Merchan’s daughter working as a Democratic political consultant. They hoped that the appeals court would take time deliberating and going through Merchan’s past rulings. Appellate Justice Ellen Gesner rejected Trump’s request. The Trump legal team has also asked Merchan to step down. 

Trump is accused of falsifying records that involved sexual behavior with Daniels. He is also accused of the same crime with PlayBoy model Karen McDougal. When Trump repaid Michael Cohen for the hush money, Trump covered up the reason for the payment. Falsifying business records is only a felony when it is used to conceal another crime. Therefore, the  prosecution is claiming that in keeping the secret from the American people, Trump and his campaign tampered with the 2016 election. Merchan allowed the prosecution to introduce as evidence headlines from the National Inquirer, headlines that were all negative toward Trump’s opponents and only positive toward Trump. When Daniels wanted to sell her story of having an affair with Trump, the Inquirer tipped the Trump campaign off, which allegedly led to the payment. 

Trump knows how to rack up charges, not just with his credit card. This case is just one of four indictments that Trump faces in various cities. But this might be his only criminal trial to occur before Election Day, and Trump will most likely be the Republican nominee for president.  

On April 15, hundreds of Manhattan residents, including stay-at-home parents, teachers, doctors and lawyers, were summoned to the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse as potential jurors. 

Jesse Mckinley, a reporter for the New York Times specializing in New York politics and courts, stated in an interview with fellow Times reporter Tracy Mumford, “With a big case like this, the jury pool is going to be larger than usual. They will sit with the judge, the defense attorneys, along the prosecution. And in this case, because of sensitivity, there will be a lot of questions inside the judge’s chambers.” 

The potential jurors underwent a series of questions during which both the prosecution and the defense were able to excuse a certain number of jurors without any explanation.

“There’s going to be standard issue questions about where they live, what they do for a living, educational background, but keep in mind that all of these questions are trying to divine some sort of bias,” Mckinley predicted. “Each side is looking for the ideal jury pool. The prosecution will mostly be looking for liberal voters. People with a high educational background and people who may have voted Democratic in the past. In a county like Manhattan, that is not a hard thing to find.

“For the defense meanwhile, that makes their task much more difficult because they’re looking for more conservative voters and working-class people,” Mckinley continued. “As well as people that have had bad experiences with the criminal justice system, and might thus feel sympathetic to Donald Trump.”

The remaining twelve will be the first to preside over a former president’s criminal trial in United States history. There are five women and 7 men, and almost all have high educational backgrounds. 

On Monday, April 21 opening statements began. The prosecution claimed election fraud in the 2016 election through republican nominee Trump and his posse withholding information from the general public. The defense claims that nothing illegal occurred and that influencing an election is just democracy. The former publisher of the National Inquirer, David Pecker, testified as well.

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