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Highlights from Day 4 of Trump’s hush money trial

Alternates were selected today, a day after the 12-person jury was seated, and the court held a hearing on the scope of the prosecution's cross-examination should Trump testify.

What to know about Trump's hush money trial

  • Former President Donald Trump's hush money trial resumed today in New York City for the fourth day. Alternate jurors were selected before the court held what's known as a Sandoval hearing to discuss the scope of the prosecution's cross-examination if Trump decides to testify. Trump later told reporters he will take the stand.
  • A man set himself on fire outside the courthouse this afternoon, just before the trial took a break for lunch. The man, whom police identified as Maxwell Azzarello of St. Augustine, Fla., was in the designated protest area.
  • Yesterday, state Judge Juan Merchan swore in 12 jurors after dismissing two who were already selected after they raised concerns about personal information that was made public.
  • Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records related to a $130,000 payment made to adult film actor Stormy Daniels at the end of the 2016 election cycle to keep her quiet about her allegation that she and Trump had a sexual encounter. Trump has denied the affair.
  • Catch up with what you missed on Day 3.

How Trump tried to control his first week in court

Trump emerged from a Manhattan courtroom Monday ready for a fight.

After day one of a trial that has him facing 34 counts of falsifying business records related to hush money payments to a porn star, the former president stood in front of reporters ready to unleash a grievance-laced tirade that, at times, did not totally reflect reality but guaranteed he would continue to dominate the headlines even from court.

His immediate focus was Judge Juan Merchan’s decision to not yet rule on whether Trump can attend his son Barron’s May 17 high school graduation. Merchan did not say Trump could not go, but rather he was not yet ready to rule on the matter. Specifics aside, however, it gave Trump just enough to paint the picture for his supporters of a biased judge blocking a loving father from seeing his son’s graduation.

Read the full story here.

Trump’s lawyers used jury consultant to research and help select jurors

The New Yorkers who could decide Trump's fate were vetted in real time today by the former president’s defense team.

As the potential alternate jurors were being questioned by prosecutors seeking to convict Trump of illegally paying hush money to a porn star, and by defense attorneys trying to keep him out of jail, a jury consultant hired by Trump’s legal team was watching the candidates closely for telltale signs of possible bias while simultaneously feeding the defense attorneys her impressions.

Meanwhile, a team of researchers working with the jury consultant were doing social media and other online searches to fill out the picture of every potential juror and sending that information to Trump’s lawyers in the courtroom.

Read the full story here.

Police 'emptied' fire extinguisher on man who set himself on fire, witness says

An eyewitness said he saw police empty a fire extinguisher on the man who set himself on fire outside of the courthouse this afternoon.

"He was alive and moving when they put him on the ambulance, and they got him out of here pretty quickly," freelance photojournalist Ed Quinn told NBC News in an interview.

Quinn said he was standing alongside the fence at Collect Pond Park near the courthouse when the park filled with smoke, "and then the smoke from the fire extinguisher was billowing around. People were horrified."

New York AG asks judge to void Trump’s bond in his civil fraud verdict

Adam Reiss

Adam Reiss and Megan Lebowitz

In a separate case, New York Attorney General Letitia James today asked that a judge void Trump's bond in his civil fraud case, questioning whether the company that issued it has the funds to back it up.

In a 26-page filing ahead of a scheduled hearing on Monday, James expressed concern about whether Knight Specialty Insurance Company could secure the $175 million bond. She also argued that the collateral put up by the former president should be under the full control of the company.

One of James’ concerns about KSIC is that the insurer “is not authorized to write business in New York and thus not regulated by the state’s insurance department.” She added that the company “had never before written a surety bond in New York or in the prior two years in any other jurisdiction, and has a total policyholder surplus of just $138 million.”

Read the full story here.

Trump arrives back at Trump Tower

The former president's motorcade returned to Trump Tower, where he waved to the crowd, shortly after 5 p.m.

Trump says he will testify in hush money trial

On his way out of the courtroom today, Trump was asked whether he will testify in this case.

He answered simply, "Yes."

Trump previously indicated he would take the stand.

State appeals court denies Trump's request to delay trial

Another appeals court has denied Trump's request to delay the hush money trial.

Trump's lawyers filed another appeal of the decision to not move the trial out of Manhattan.

Trump speaks to reporters, reiterates unfounded claims

Trump spoke with reporters after the court was adjourned, reiterating accusations that the trial is a "concerted witch hunt" and repeating unfounded claims that he was being targeted to hurt his campaign.

After this morning complaining to reporters that the case was keeping him stuck in court for weeks, this afternoon Trump complained that the judge was moving too quickly.

Trump also railed against the civil fraud case, also in New York, criticizing New York Attorney General Letitia James and Judge Arthur Engoron.

The former president did not answer shouted questions from reporters.

Court adjourns for the weekend

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

The court adjourned for the day.

Trial proceedings will resume on Monday at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Opening statements will take place on Monday, judge says

Kyla Guilfoil

Kyla Guilfoil and Jillian Frankel

Judge Merchan said this afternoon that the trial will move to opening statements on Monday, a timeline he said he was aiming for earlier this week.

“We’re going to have opening statements on Monday morning. This trial is starting," Merchan said.

Judge says he won't consider Trump's immunity motion

Kyla Guilfoil

Jillian Frankel and Kyla Guilfoil

Judge Merchan said that he would not consider Trump's immunity motion that was filed just before the hush money trial began.

“That matter is decided and will not be addressed any further," Merchan said.

Merchan to decide Sandoval hearing questions on Monday


Adam Reiss

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Judge Merchan told attorneys that he'll have an answer on the Sandoval hearing questions on "Monday morning."

He added that he'll also need time that day "for a few matters I want to take up including pre-motion letters that have been filed."

His remarks came after the court heard arguments over what prosecutors plan to ask defendants on cross-examination in order to help them decide whether to take the stand in their own defense.

Prosecutors cited a variety of verdicts and prior judgments against Trump, among them, verdicts in a pair of lawsuits brought by writer E. Jean Carroll that found him liable for sexual abuse and defamation and a judgment in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ civil fraud lawsuit against the former president and the Trump Organization which found that he committed fraud.

Trump attorney Emil Bove argued that the civil fraud lawsuit should not be permitted for questioning, contending “these findings are very much subject to review,” and citing a partial stay of the relief in that case.

Matthew Colangelo of the DA’s office pushed back, saying it was “hard to think of something that is more squarely in the wheelhouse” for questioning, referring to the findings of “persistent and repeated fraud and illegality.”

Prosecution points out that Merchan presided over a Trump case being debated as relevant

Ginger GibsonSenior Washington Editor

In the Sandoval hearing, lawyers for both sides have ticked through the cases that prosecutors want to be able to ask Trump about if he testifies. Included in them is a case that Merchan himself presided over.

"As your honor knows as you presided over the trial, my colleagues argued extensively Mr. Trump knew about the scheme to defraud and conspiracy and falsifying business records," said prosecutor Matthew Colangelo.

"The owners of the corporation knew it and the owner was Mr Trump. The evidence at that trial showed the defendant knew and the court of appeals says the defendant can be questioned, and we don’t see any issue with the witness advocate where the attorney would be a fact witness," he added. "We only want to question the defendant about the fact and there is no plausible problem there.”

Judge lashes out at Trump attorney over redactions: 'Have a seat'

Adam Reiss

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss and Alexandra Marquez

In a tense exchange over redacting certain documents, Bove told Merchan that prosecutors "have been invested in this case since 2018, and to say this is too much work is outrageous,” referring to Trump's attorneys' claim that it would be too much work to redact certain documents.

"I am not going to ask people to do that. It is absurd,” the judge told Trump's lawyer, adding, "Have a seat, I am signing the order."

Police say man who set himself on fire threw 'conspiracy theory' pamphlets

Maxwell Azzarello, the man identified by police as the person who set himself on fire, had thrown numerous pamphlets around a park near the courthouse, authorities said.

“The pamphlets appear to be propaganda-based, almost a conspiracy theory type of pamphlet,” NYPD Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny told reporters. "So, a little bit of a conspiracy theory going on here."

Azzarello took out a canister from his bag containing what’s believed to be an alcohol-based accelerant, doused himself and set himself ablaze, police said.

Officers and civilians ran into the park and attempted to put out the flames using coats and fire extinguishers, NYPD Chief of Department Jeff Maddrey told reporters.

Four police officers suffered minor injuries from fire exposure, authorities said.

Trump has returned to the courtroom

Trump is back in the courtroom as the trial resumes. Lawyers are expected to discuss his possible testimony now.

Police identify man who set himself on fire

Police identified the man who set himself on fire as Maxwell Azzarello, of St. Augustine, Florida.

He is alive, currently intubated and in critical condition at the Weill Cornell Medicine — Burn Center.

Azzarello arrived in New York sometime earlier in the week, and his car was known to be in St. Augustine on the 13th. Police said they've spoken with his family, who were unaware he was in New York.

Trump campaign comments on man who set himself on fire

Kyla Guilfoil

The Trump campaign released a statement this afternoon offering its "condolences to the traumatized witnesses" after a man set himself on fire outside the courthouse where the former president is on trial.

“Not knowing the motivations behind this sickening situation, it’s difficult to make any definitive remarks, other than to say we are thankful that to the best of our present knowledge, nobody other than the individual in question was hurt," national press secretary Karoline Leavitt said.

She also thanked "the great first responders of the City of New York for their actions.""Today is more proof that our nation is in deep trouble," Leavitt added before using Trump's campaign slogan "Make America Great Again."

Witness: Someone shouted, 'He's going to light himself on fire'

Ed Quinn, a freelance photojournalist who lives in the East Village, said he was facing the court when “I heard someone scream, ‘He’s going to light himself on fire.’”

“I see him dumping gasoline on his face, very deliberately,” he said. “He had gray T-shirt on. It soaked his face. It soaked his shirt. Boom, he went up.”

Quinn said it took the police about a minute to arrive. “Women were begging, screaming, put it out, put him out,” he said.

Trump on Truth Social: 'Judge Merchan is railroading me'

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

In a new post on his social media network Truth Social, Trump accused Merchan of "railroading" him.

“Judge Merchan is 'railroading' me, at breakneck speed, in order to completely satisfy his 'friends.' Additionally, he has 'GAGGED' me so that I cannot talk about the most important of topics," Trump said in his post.

The former president also called President Joe Biden "crooked" and described this case as "election interference."

Video shows man after setting himself on fire

Ginger GibsonSenior Washington Editor

A video appears to show that moments after setting himself on fire, the man lay on the ground burning. At times, he appeared to seize. Police tried to use a small fire extinguisher to put the fire out, but were unsuccessful. While still on fire, the man tried to sit up. Police then used a large extinguisher to put out the fire.

Injured man is being taken to a hospital, police say

Adam Reiss

An injured man is being placed in an ambulance in critical condition and will be transported to a hospital, the New York City Police Department said Friday afternoon following reports that a person set themselves on fire outside the courthouse.

Police said they responded at 1:37 p.m. to the vicinity of 80 Centre St. for an aided male.

The fire is out, and the investigation is ongoing, authorities added.

Police responding to the man on fire outside the building

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

The New York Police Department already had a heavy presence outside of the courthouse, due to the high profile of this case. As smoke emerged from the dedicated protest area, they rushed to find what looked like a fire extinguisher.

Image: Jury Selection Begins In Former President Donald Trump's New York Hush Money Trial
Paramedics attend to a person who lit themselves on fire near Manhattan Criminal Court on Friday in New York.Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images
Image: Fire extinguishers are left at the park across from Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City after a man reportedly set himself on fire
Fire extinguishers are left at the park across from Manhattan Criminal Court in New York on Friday.Angela Weiss / AFP - Getty Images

A man set himself on fire outside the trial

Susan Kroll

A man set himself on fire inside the designated protest area outside of the Trump trial in New York, a witness says.

A person in the designated protest area is on fire

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

There is a person who was in the designated protest area outside the courthouse who is on fire.

Potential juror excused for past social media posts against Trump

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss

Alexandra Marquez and Adam Reiss

A potential juror was excused after Trump's attorneys and Merchan examined his past social media posts about Trump.

“I don’t recall posting that,” the juror said. “That’s not mine.”

Still, the juror added, “At that time, yeah I may have thought that,” before he was excused by the judge.

Jury is complete

Adam Reiss

The sixth alternate has been seated.

Potential juror said Jan. 6 was an 'insurrection'

Adam Reiss

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss and Rebecca Shabad

A male prospective juror said the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol was an "insurrection" during voir dire with Trump's lawyer.

When asked if he has strong opinions and about his posts about Trump, he said, “It’s more just the negative rhetoric and bias that he speaks about which is the most harmful.”

Asked if the juror has expressed a strong dislike for Trump, he said, “Based on his rhetoric, yes.” He added that he would stay focused on “what is the law, what constitutes breaking the law?”

One juror says he thinks of Trump as 'usually awesome'

Adam Reiss

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss and Alexandra Marquez

One juror, when questioned about how he views Trump, said that when he thinks of the former president, he thinks "usually awesome."

"I don’t know him personally. He’s a family man. He’s a businessman," the juror also said about Trump.

Trump gets inside look at potential voters

Kyla Guilfoil

Laura Jarrett and Kyla Guilfoil

Once again Trump is getting treated to a mini political focus group in this courtroom, getting an inside look at potential voters in the 2024 election.

There are some potential jurors who said they support Trump's policies and find him to be a "family man." There is also at least one juror who said he has trouble with the Republican Party's positions on religion and women’s rights to control their own bodies. 

The trial continues to be a fascinating look at everyday New Yorkers for a presumptive GOP nominee thinking of how to message to voters this fall.

Trump lawyer asks prospective juror, sexual assault survivor, if she would hold Trump's background against him

A prospective juror, asked about her views of Trump, said, “His rhetoric, at times, causes people to feel enabled.”

When asked what specifically about his rhetoric, she admitted she’s not even sure what his policies are, but noted that people have cited Trump in justifying their own racist, sexist or homophobic comments.

Trump lawyer Susan Necheles then asked whether this prospective juror, an admitted survivor of sexual assault, would hold it against Trump that women — outside this case — have accused Trump of sexual assault.

Another potential juror has been excused after expressing ‘anxiety’ about the trial

Kyla Guilfoil

Kyla Guilfoil and Laura Jarrett

Yet another potential juror has been excused from the trial after saying that she is feeling "anxiety" and self-doubt. The potential juror's voice cracked while answering questions.

The juror is now the third to be excused Friday, underscoring the difficulty the court faces for picking Trump's jury.

Juror breaks down crying during voir dire


Adam Reiss

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

One of the jurors being questioned, who earlier said her father is friends with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, broke down crying, saying, “I have to be honest, I feel so nervous and anxious right now. I’m sorry."

She added, "I thought I could do this ... I don’t want you to feel like I’ve wasted anyone’s time.”

Merchan called her over to the judge's bench to speak before excusing her.

Prospective juror who served prison time dismissed

A prospective juror who said she served two years in prison was dismissed by the judge who commended her bravery for sharing such personal details.

Technically, she is ineligible to serve on the jury.

“What you just did is something that most people in this courtroom would not be able to do," Merchan said to the juror.

Merchan said that the mere fact that she was convicted does not preclude her from service, but that she needs a certificate of release to be qualified for service going forward and, even then, it will depend on the nature of the case.

She was then excused and cheerfully called out, “Good luck!”

Court back in session

The jury selection process is resuming.

10-minute break

The court has taken a 10-minute break before questions for the alternate juror pool.

Potential juror says he has been 'trying to find a wife' in his spare time

Kyla Guilfoil

Adam Reiss

Kyla Guilfoil and Adam Reiss

One potential juror answered that his hobbies included "trying to find a wife" in his spare time.

The insurance broker, who lives in Midtown East, also added that he has a few close friends who are court officers.

Trump's interest piqued by juror who watches Fox News

When a prospective juror said she is a Fox News viewer, Trump cocked his head, then quickly conferred with Blanche. The woman added she also reads The New York Times, New York Post and The Wall Street Journal.

Trump resumed looking at her as she finished responding to the questionnaire. He appears most interested in jurors whose answers offer ambiguity around their personal political views.

Potential juror says he listens to podcast, which has featured some Trump-supporting guests

A potential juror who works in information technology and audio said that he listens to the "Order of Man" podcast, which happens to be very Joe Rogan-esque.

The podcast has had some Trump-supporting guests on, including one man who ordered his financial company to stop doing business in New York after the fraud judgment against Trump.

Potential juror details volunteering for Hillary Clinton campaign

One juror told Merchan that he "volunteered for get out the vote for the Democratic Party during the Clinton campaign." The volunteer work would have taken place during the same election cycle when Trump beat Clinton to win the presidency.

The potential juror added that he also "attended the Women’s March.”

A potential juror mentions Citizens United

One juror, when asked by Merchan about whether they can be fair and impartial, brought up the landmark Supreme Court campaign finance case Citizens United, saying, "Citizens United is the law of the land but I do favor people who make political contributions to have the source of the contributions made public."

“There is no reason why I can’t be a fair and impartial juror,” the person added.

Potential juror says he doesn't use Facebook and only 'signed up in middle school'

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

One potential juror, a younger man, said that he doesn't read or watch any news and while he has a Facebook account, he doesn't go on it.

He said he "signed up when I was in middle school or whatever."

Trump already sitting with his eyes shut

Adam Reiss

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss and Rebecca Shabad
Donald Trump at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City
Trump at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City today. Curtis Means / Pool via AFP - Getty Images

The former president is sitting with his eyes shut and appears to be chewing on something as he sits at the defense table.

First potential juror dismissed after saying she has anxiety

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss

Alexandra Marquez and Adam Reiss

The first potential juror questioned this morning was dismissed after saying she has anxiety and wouldn't be "able to be completely here and fair."

“I have really really bad anxiety and people have found out where I am," she said earlier.

Trump takes his seat in court

Trump just took his seat in the courtroom in between his attorneys Emil Bove and Todd Blanche. He immediately began studying some documents in front of him and conferring with Bove. 

Still photographers were in for the daily photographs, several of them pressing up against the table to get close-ups. Merchan then took his seat on the bench, saying they were working on fixing the temperature in the courtroom, which was cold yesterday, before continuing jury selection.

Trump's campaign spokesman, Steven Cheung, is in the back of the courtroom with lawyer Cliff Robert, who represents the Trump parties in the civil fraud case.

All 22 prospective jurors are present.

The 12-person jury and an alternate has been seated in the criminal trial of Trump, consisting of seven men and five women. Five more alternates will need to be selected in an effort to set up opening statements as soon as next week. 

Trump says the gag order imposed on him needs to be removed

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

As Trump entered the courthouse this morning, he said to the cameras that Merchan needs to remove the gag order against him because it's "very, very unfair."

"They've taken away my constitutional rights to speak," Trump said. "Why am I gagged about telling the truth?"

The former president repeated that he thinks the trial is "rigged" and is "coming from the White House" and said it's "very unfair" that he is required to sit in a courthouse all day instead of going to battleground states to campaign for president.

"The gag order has to come off," he said.

Trump heads to court

The former president's motorcade has departed Trump Tower and is headed to the courthouse.

Judge denies Trump co-defendants’ motions to dismiss charges in classified documents case

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon yesterday denied motions by two of Trump's co-defendants to dismiss charges in the classified documents case — one of the four criminal cases, along with the hush money trial, that the former president is facing.

Trump aide Walt Nauta’s lawyers asked this month for five charges against him to be dismissed, while lawyers for Carlos De Oliveira, who was the property manager at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida estate, requested that all charges against him be tossed out.

In her filing in Florida, Cannon said De Oliveira “does not meaningfully dispute that the charging document satisfies the minimum pleading standards.” She also noted that his lawyers can challenge prosecutors’ evidence during a trial, “where the Special Counsel will bear the entire burden of proof as to all essential elements of the obstruction offenses.”

Similarly, she dismissed the motion from Nauta’s lawyers, who had argued that obstruction charges against him were unconstitutionally vague.

Cannon said she was in “general agreement with the Special Counsel” that the indictment’s allegations “provide enough of a basis to deny Nauta’s request for dismissal on vagueness grounds.”

Both men had also requested bills of particulars, meaning more details about the charges against them and why they are being accused of crimes. Cannon denied those requests, as well.

“The Court cannot say that the Indictment as a whole lacks sufficient information to assist Nauta in preparing for trial, and the discovery provided in this case is exceedingly voluminous,” Cannon said about Nauta’s request.

Read the full story here

Legal experts have suggested that Trump’s hush money case is the weakest, but the Manhattan DA says it goes beyond that and has more to do with election interference in the 2016 election. 

Alternate jurors and key legal arguments on tap in Trump hush money trial

Jury selection will continue — and could conclude — today in Trump‘s historic New York criminal trial.

With a full 12-person jury and one alternate juror sworn in yesterday, Merchan has called a pool of 96 potential jurors to his Manhattan courtroom in hope of finding five more alternate jurors for the first trial of a former president, which is expected to last roughly six weeks.

In addition to those 96 potential jurors, there are 22 left over from yesterday who will be questioned, as well.

If the effort to fill the jury box is successful, opening statements could take place as soon as Monday.

The main panel of 12 is made up of seven men and five women, including two lawyers, a teacher, a retired wealth manager, a product development manager, a security engineer, a software engineer, a speech therapist and a physical therapist. The foreman — the juror who essentially acts as the leader and spokesperson for the panel — is a married man who works in sales and gets his news from The New York Times, MSNBC and Fox News.

The lone alternate selected yesterday is a woman who works as an asset manager.

Also today, Merchan is expected to hold what’s known as a Sandoval hearing, a type of hearing designed to let defendants know the scope of questions they could face from prosecutors on cross-examination so they can make informed decisions about whether to take the witness stand in their own defense.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office disclosed in a court filing that it would like to ask Trump about several items, among them the $464 million civil judgment against him and his company for fraud, the total $88 million verdicts and liability findings for sexual abuse and defamation in lawsuits brought by writer E. Jean Carroll, and a number of other adverse court rulings over the past few years.

Trump has denied wrongdoing in all the cases and is appealing the fraud judgment and the Carroll verdicts.

Read the full story here

Trump’s curiosity with jurors ebbs and flows during final stage of selection process. Here’s what you missed on trial Day 3.

Jury selection in Trump’s hush money trial yesterday revealed there are certain topics that are likely to capture his attention: Miami, real estate and media.

When one New Yorker talked about his decades in law enforcement, Trump raised his eyebrows. The juror, who said he holds Yankees season tickets, added that he reads the New York Post and Daily News. It was as if Trump, who moments earlier let out a yawn, was seized by an electrical current.

Later, Trump straightened his back and cocked his chin as a young lawyer, born and raised in Miami, began running through her answers to the jury questionnaire. Asked whether she had been the victim of a crime, the woman said her phone was stolen from her in Paris, and she noted that her family’s car was “incidentally burned in an arson in Italy.”

Any reprieve Trump may have hoped for from the woman soon fell away as she talked about reading The Washington Post, a newspaper he has railed against. She said that while she harbors “opinions” about Trump, she is “very comfortable that I can put those aside.” The woman described watching Fox News occasionally “just to try to see what’s going on all sides.”

Trump crossed his arms and glared at the space in front of him.

Both jurors were later dismissed.

Read the full story here