The Latest | A second seated juror is dismissed from Trump's hush money trial by judge

NEW YORK (AP) — Jury selection in Donald Trump ’s hush money case encountered setbacks Thursday as two previously sworn−in jurors were excused — one after backtracking on whether she could be impartial and fair and the other over concerns that he may not have been truthful about whether he had ever been accused or convicted of a crime.

Seven jurors were sworn in on Tuesday, but with the excusal of two of them, lawyers now need to pick 13 others — including six alternates — to serve on the panel that will decide the first−ever criminal case against a former U.S. president.

Prosecutors on Thursday also asked Judge Juan M. Merchan to sanction Trump over seven more social media posts they say violate a gag order that bars Trump from attacking witnesses.

The prosecution on Monday sought a $3,000 fine against Trump over three Truth Social posts.

Questioning of a second wave of prospective jurors began mid−morning. Over half of the group of 96 people was excused after saying they couldn’t serve.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records as part of an alleged scheme to bury stories he feared could hurt his 2016 campaign.

The allegations focus on payoffs to two women, porn actor Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, who said they had extramarital sexual encounters with Trump years earlier, as well as to a Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about a child he alleged Trump had out of wedlock. Trump says none of the alleged sexual encounters occurred.

The case is the first of Trump’s four indictments to reach trial.

Currently:

— Jury selection process follows a familiar pattern with an unpredictable outcome

— Trump lawyers say Stormy Daniels refused subpoena outside a Brooklyn bar

— After 7 jurors were seated in Trump’s trial on Tuesday, he trekked to a New York bodega to campaign

— Only 1 in 3 US adults think Trump acted illegally in New York hush money case, AP−NORC poll shows

— Trump trial: Why can’t Americans see or hear what is happening inside the courtroom?

Here’s the latest:

CHILLY COURTROOM AS QUESTIONING RESUMES

A chill of sorts came over the proceedings in Donald Trump’s criminal case when Trump lawyer Todd Blanche asked the judge whether the temperature in the courtroom could be raised.

Manhattan’s main criminal courthouse is over 80 years old, and the building has many quirks.

Judge Juan M. Merchan said if they tried to raise the heat even slightly, the room would probably end up getting way too hot.

“There’s no question it’s cold, but I’d rather be a little cold than sweat,” the judge said.

Still, Merchan later addressed the frigid nature of the courtroom ahead instructing prospective jurors how voir dire — the process of lawyers from both sides asking them questions — works.

“I want to apologize that it’s chilly in here,” he said, eliciting laughs. “We’re trying to do the best we can to control the temperature, but it’s one extreme or the other.”

COURT BREAKS FOR LUNCH

Court proceedings in former President Donald Trump’s hush money case have halted for a lunch break. Proceedings will resume at 2:15 p.m. ET.

The most recent crop of 18 potentials in the jury box, including an initial juror who was excused and replaced by another man, have now gone through the standard screening questionnaire. After lunch, they will be questioned by lawyers.

QUESTIONING OF POTENTIAL JURORS RESUMES

Legal counsel in Donald Trump’s criminal trial has returned to questioning prospective jurors in the case after Judge Juan M. Merchan dismissed a second previously seated juror.

While multiple seated and prospective jurors are lawyers, another potential jury member has a good deal of experience specifically being a juror.

The longtime Manhattanite said that over the years, she’s been a juror in a criminal trial and a civil insurance fraud case that both reached verdicts. She also served as an alternate juror on a malpractice case that was resolved during deliberations, she said.

The woman, who works as a paralegal, said there was no reason she couldn’t serve as a juror in Trump’s case, too.

MERCHAN DISMISSES A SECOND SEATED JUROR

Judge Juan M. Merchan has removed a second seated juror from Donald Trump’s hush money trial after prosecutors raised concerns that the man may not have been truthful about whether he had ever been accused or convicted of a crime.

The decision came after the judge questioned the jurors alongside lawyers out of earshot of reporters. The judge later said the juror had “expressed annoyance about how much information about him had been out in the public.”

That echoes the concerns of another juror dismissed earlier Thursday. She said family members and friends questioned her about being a juror even though their names are being kept secret.

PROSPECTIVE JURORS GIVING VAGUER ANSWERS TO EMPLOYMENT QUESTIONS

Instead of disclosing where they work, as other potential jurors in Donald Trump’s hush money case had done earlier this week, the latest group gave more generic answers on Thursday.

The shift in demeanor came after Judge Juan M. Merchan scolded the press for reporting identifiable details about the potential jurors, ordering them not to report on questions about their current and former employers and noting the answers would be redacted from court transcripts.

“There’s a reason that this is an anonymous jury,” Merchan had said. “It kind of defeats the purpose of that when so much information is put out there that it is very easy for anyone to identify who the jurors are.”

It wasn’t clear if they were directly instructed to avoid giving specifics about their employers.

The first prospective juror was an attorney who mentioned having attended the Women’s March and reading a book by former Manhattan prosecutor Mark Pomerantz. Pomerantz previously oversaw the investigation into the allegations at the center of the hush money case, and his book detailed his work on it.

“I’ve discussed the legal merits of this case with many coworkers,” she added. When asked whether she could still be a fair and impartial juror despite that, she let out a deep sigh before responding, “Yes.”

OVER HALF OF LATEST JURY POOL EXCUSED

Fifty−seven out of the second round of 96 potential jurors in Donald Trump’s hush money trial have been excused after saying they can’t serve.

Some 48 people indicated Thursday morning that they could not serve fairly and impartially. An additional nine said they couldn’t serve for some other reason, which they were not asked to state.

SECOND PANEL OF 96 PROSPECTIVE JURORS NOW IN CO

URT FOR QUESTIONING

The second wave of potential jurors in Donald Trump’s criminal trial is now in court to begin the questioning phase of jury selection.

As with the first big group, the judge will explain the basics of jury service along with the case, then ask for a show of hands from any panelists who don’t believe they can serve fairly and impartially. After, he’ll ask for a similar indication from any who don’t believe they can serve for another reason.

More than half of the 96 potential jurors in the first group were dismissed after they said they couldn’t be fair and impartial.

STATUS OF ANOTHER SEATED JUROR IN LIMBO

The status of a second juror seated for Donald Trump’s hush money trial was in limbo Thursday after he failed to report to court to address concerns that some of his answers in court may not have been accurate.

Prosecutors found an article from the 1990s about a man with the same name as the juror being arrested for tearing down political advertisements in suburban Westchester County. The posters were on the political right, Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass said.

Steinglass also disclosed that a relative of the man may have been involved in a nonprosecution agreement in the 1990s with the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which is prosecuting Trump’s case.

Judge Juan M. Merchan had instructed the man to come to court at 9:15 a.m. Thursday to answer questions and verify whether the people involved were him or his relative.

Merchan noted the juror’s apparent “reluctance to come in” and asked both sides if they’d consent to having him removed without further inquiry. Trump lawyer Todd Blanche declined, saying he wanted to first hear what the man had to say.

Under questioning earlier this week, the man had said he hadn’t been convicted of a crime.

PROSECUTORS WANT TRUMP SANCTIONED FOR MORE SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS

Prosecutors in Donald Trump’s hush money trial told Judge Juan M. Merchan on Thursday that they wanted the former president held in contempt and sanctioned for seven more posts they said violated his gag order.

Trump’s new posts came after the prosecutors initially sought a $3,000 fine on Monday for three other Truth Social posts.

Prosecutor Christopher Conroy said several of the new posts involved an article that referred to former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen as a “serial perjurer” and another from Wednesday that repeated a claim by a Fox News host that liberal activists were lying to get on the jury.

Trump lawyer Emil Bove said Cohen “has been attacking President Trump in public statements,” and that Trump was just replying.

Merchan had already scheduled a hearing for next week on the prosecution’s request for contempt sanctions over Trump’s posts.

JUDGE ORDERS JOURNALISTS NOT TO REPORT ON POTENTIAL JURORS’ EMPLOYERS

After dismissing a seated juror in Donald Trump’s hush money trial, Judge Juan M. Merchan admonished the media for reporting details about the seated and potential jurors that could be used to identify them, ordering them not to report prospective jurors’ answers to questions about their current and former employers.

“As evidenced by what’s happened already, it’s become a problem,” he said Thursday morning.

He also directed reporters to “abide by common sense” and avoid writing about the physical characteristics of the people called to serve.

“We just lost what probably would have been a very good juror,” the judge continued. “She said she was afraid and intimidated by the press, all the press.”

PREVIOUSLY SEATED JUROR EXCUSED, CITING IMPARTIALITY CONCERNS

A juror who had been selected for Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial was dismissed Thursday after she told the court she’d become concerned about her ability to be impartial.

Although the jurors’ names are being kept confidential, the woman, a nurse, “conveyed that after sleeping on it overnight she had concerns about her ability to be fair and impartial in this case,” Judge Juan M. Merchan said before calling her into the room for questioning.

The woman said her family members and friends were questioning her about being a juror.

With the woman’s dismissal, the total number of seated jurors dropped to six. Attorneys now need to pick 12 more people to serve on the panel that will decide the former president’s criminal case.

Merchan admonished the media for reporting details about the jurors that could be used to identify them.

“There’s a reason that this is an anonymous jury,” Merchan said. “It kind of defeats the purpose of that when so much information is put out there that it is very easy for anyone to identify who the jurors are.”

“The press is certainly entitled to write about anything that’s said on the record because it’s on the record,” Merchan said, but he added that he’s directing reporters to “abide by common sense” and not do things like writing about physical characteristics of the people called to serve.

TRUMP ARRIVES IN COURT AS TRIAL RESUMES

Donald Trump sat at the defense table in a Manhattan courtroom Thursday morning, talking on a cell phone for about 30 seconds before his lawyers came over and put it away.

Trump looked sternly ahead while being photographed, a stark contrast from a moment earlier when he was casually chatting with lawyer Todd Blanche before the photographers arrived.

While the trial cannot be televised, Judge Juan M. Merchan is allowing a handful of still photographers to shoot photos of Trump before each day’s proceedings start.

Harvey Weinstein was famously admonished for playing with his phone by a different judge during his trial in the same courtroom four years ago.

Trump’s cell phone usage happened while court was not in session and before the judge had taken the bench.

Generally, cell phone usage — and certainly making or taking calls — is prohibited in New York courtrooms.

TRUMP HEADS TO COURT FOR ANOTHER DAY OF JURY SELECTION

Former president Donald Trump has left Trump Tower, on his way to court in Manhattan on Thursday for another day of jury selection in his criminal hush money trial.

The jury selection process has moved swifter than expected, prompting Trump when departing the courthouse on Tuesday to complain to reporters that the judge, Juan M. Merchan, was “rushing” the trial.

Merchan has suggested that opening statements could start on Monday.

JURY SELECTION MARKS A CRITICAL PHASE IN THE TRIAL

The seating of the Manhattan jury in Donald Trump’s hush money trial will be a seminal moment in the case, setting the stage for a trial that will place the former president’s legal jeopardy at the heart of the campaign against Democrat Joe Biden and feature potentially unflattering testimony about Trump’s private life in the years before he became president.

The process of picking a jury is a critical phase of any criminal trial but especially so when the defendant is a former U.S. commander−in−chief and the presumptive Republican nominee for this year’s presidential election.

Inside the court, there’s broad acknowledgment of the futility in trying to find jurors without knowledge of Trump, with a prosecutor this week saying that lawyers were not looking for people who had been “living under a rock for the past eight years.”

The Associated Press

Photo: AP