(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump’s first criminal trial got off to a plodding start, with the proceedings stalling over disagreements about evidence and other last-minute arguments, leaving even the former president looking bored and resting his eyes at times. 

Jury selection, which was set to start Monday, didn’t kick off until the final hours of the day as defense lawyers and prosecutors argued over multiple motions introduced by Trump to exclude certain evidence. 

Seating a jury may prove difficult, potentially raising further questions about the speed of the trial, as more than half of the first panel of 96 potential jurors were excused after saying they could not be impartial. 

A delay could be a boost for Trump, who has repeatedly tried to hold up multiple legal proceedings as he campaigns to return to the White House. The trial is expected to last six to eight weeks, but dragging it out may make it less likely that any of the three other criminal prosecutions he faces go to trial before the November presidential election.

“We’re way behind schedule,” Justice Juan Merchan said as the first day came to an end.

The process starts again Tuesday. Disputes over individual jurors are common and can lead to drawn-out questioning by lawyers to root out potential bias. The case brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg accuses Trump of falsifying business records to conceal a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election. Trump denies wrongdoing.


The day started with the 77-year-old Trump walking slowly and deliberately toward the press outside the courtroom in his traditional blue suit and red tie to deliver statements. He paused before the cameras and said that the case was an outrage and a persecution. 

“It’s a case that should have never been brought,” said Trump.

In court, he sat hunched over and talked to one of his lawyers, Todd Blanche. Throughout jury selection, Trump appeared bored or disinterested in what was happening. After lunch, when the judge started describing the case to potential jurors, Trump closed his eyes and began to tilt sideways momentarily.

Gag Order 

The first day of the trial was also a test for how the judge is going to deal with an unconventional defendant like Trump, who sometimes has a hard time following court rules. Merchan said he would hold a hearing next week on whether to hold Trump in contempt for violating a gag order that aimed to deter him from publicly dissing witnesses in the case. 

At issue were recent social media posts in which Trump called his former lawyer Michael Cohen and Daniels “two sleaze bags.” Blanche said the former president was merely responding to comments made by the pair, saying “they’re just generally disparaging Trump constantly.” Bragg has asked for a $3,000 fine.

The jury selection process started hours late. A group of nearly 100 potential jurors answered a questionnaire that was designed to find out who among them has strong views against or in favor of Trump, and whether they can set aside those views to issue a verdict based only on the evidence.

Merchan rejected a last-minute request to change the jury questionnaire, saying “there will be no doubt whatsoever” about how prospective jurors feel about Trump and Bragg when they’re done with the list.


In another Trump setback, the judge ruled that jurors will be allowed to hear evidence about his alleged extra-marital affair with former Playboy model Karen McDougal, saying it is a central element of the case. But the judge agreed to prevent jurors from listening to the so-called Access Hollywood tape or from hearing that Trump’s wife Melania was pregnant during the alleged affair.

The timing of the release of the Access Hollywood tape — in which Trump boasts about men who are “stars” being allowed to grab women’s genitals without consent — is significant because the district attorney argues it created a firestorm around Trump’s 2016 campaign that motivated him to pay $130,000 to Daniels to keep quiet about their alleged affair. Trump’s alleged affair with McDougal is also central to the case because because American Media Inc., publisher of the National Enquirer, paid her $150,000 to keep quiet about it before the election.

Read More: Trump’s NY Criminal Trial to Mark Milestone in American Politics

Bragg’s star witness is Cohen, who personally paid Daniels to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump a decade earlier. Central to the indictment is the way in which Trump repaid Cohen, allegedly in monthly installments throughout 2017 that were falsely classified in financial statements as monthly legal services.

--With assistance from Stephanie Lai and Hadriana Lowenkron.

(Updates story throughout. A previous version was corrected to replace chart with clarification of reference to McDougal story in September 2018 section.)

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