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Sat. May 25th, 2024

The judge in Donald Trump’s criminal trial will look to wrap up jury selection Friday before opening arguments start next week in a historic case being heard as the former president campaigns to win back the White House.

After the 12 jurors were sworn in Thursday, a pool of six alternates will be completed — ready to step in if any of the original jury become unavailable during the case in which Trump is accused of covering up hush money paid to a porn star.

The trial at the Manhattan Criminal Court in New York is expected to last six to eight weeks, providing a wealth of legal and political drama just months before election day in November.

“I’m supposed to be in a lot of different places campaigning. But I’ve been here all day on a trial that really is a very unfair trial,” Trump said outside the courtroom on Thursday.

“The whole world is watching this hoax,” he said, again using the case to launch his election campaign attacks on President Joe Biden, US border policy and the justice system.

The Republican tycoon faces three other criminal cases, including on far more serious charges of attempting to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden, but these have been repeatedly delayed.

Tight race against Biden

Trump has framed his multiple legal woes as an attempt by his political opponents to thwart his bid to return to power — he is polling strongly in a tight rematch against Biden.

In the trial in New York, Trump, 77, has pleaded not guilty to charges of falsifying business records on the eve of his 2016 election victory to hide an alleged sexual encounter with porn star Stormy Daniels.

Potential jurors were this week grilled by prosecutors and defense attorneys about their media habits, political donations, education and whether they have attended a pro- or anti-Trump rally.

Many potential panelists were excused after saying they could not be impartial in the case.

One juror who had already been sworn in was excused because she had concerns her identity had been revealed, and another was let go following doubts about the accuracy of his answers during questioning.

But by the afternoon, Judge Juan Merchan declared, “we have our jury.”

Trump, dressed in a dark suit and blue tie, watched silently from the defense table as the jurors took the oath to hear the case in a “fair and impartial manner.”

Five more alternate jurors will need to be chosen to complete the panel.

To protect the anonymity of the New Yorkers randomly selected for jury service, Merchan asked reporters to stop providing physical descriptions of jurors and not to identify where they work.

A unanimous verdict will be required to convict Trump, who has been ordered by the judge to attend each day of the trial.

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