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    US supreme court skeptical of using obstruction law in January 6 cases

    The US supreme court expressed concern on Tuesday with prosecutors using an obstruction statute to charge hundreds of January 6 Capitol riot defendants, with the justices leaning towards a position that could jeopardize those prosecutions and the criminal case against Donald Trump.The Trump case was not mentioned at the argument. But a decision curtailing the use of the obstruction statute in connection with the Capitol attack could eliminate two of the four charges against the former president.The case, which on its face involves a January 6 riot defendant named Joseph Fischer, became of sudden importance last year after Trump was also charged with obstruction of an official proceeding over his efforts to stop Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election.At issue is whether the obstruction statute passed under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002 in the wake of the Enron scandal could be used to prosecute general instances of obstruction, or whether it was intended to be used more narrowly for evidence tampering or document destruction.If the supreme court decides that section 1512(c) of title 18 of the US criminal code was being used too broadly, it could cripple part of the case against Trump as the special counsel Jack Smith looks to draw a line at trial from the former president’s January 6 speech to the violence.And if the court moved to strike down the use of the obstruction statute, it could undercut the remaining conspiracy statutes used in the indictment against Trump.The US solicitor general, Elizabeth Prelogar, arguing for the justice department, found herself repeatedly pressed on those points by the justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas – and John Roberts, the chief justice.When Congress passed the obstruction law, it was done in a two-part provision. The first part makes it a crime to corruptly alter, destroy or conceal evidence to frustrate official proceedings. The second part, at issue in Fischer’s case, makes it a crime to “otherwise” obstruct official proceedings.The argument from Prelogar contended that “otherwise” was designed as a catchall for any obstructive conduct that Congress might not have imagined when the law was being drafted. Prelogar’s point was that the theme of the law was outlawing all obstruction.Fischer’s lawyer, Jeffrey Green, argued that was too broad: “otherwise” should be defined as engaging in “similar” conduct as expressed in the first part of the statute – to do with obstructing an investigation or evidence tampering – done in a different way.Alito and Gorsuch appeared deeply skeptical of the justice department’s position. They suggested repeatedly that Prelogar’s reading of the law was overly expansive, peppering her with hypotheticals.Would delaying an official proceeding count as obstruction? How significant did the delay have to be to count as obstruction? Gorsuch asked. Alito added that the statute mentioned obstruction but also mentioned “impeding” proceedings, which, he said, was less serious than obstruction.Prelogar, on the defensive, was eventually pressed into replying that peaceful protests would be a technical violation of the law, even if the justice department was unlikely to prosecute minor disturbances, drawing a contrast to the events of January 6.But that invited Alito to ask how Prelogar would define minor disturbances. Would it be a minor disturbance if people heckled a court hearing, delaying the hearing and causing lawyers to lose their train of thought? Prelogar’s definition would encompass everything and anything in between, Alito suggested.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionThomas also appeared concerned with the enforcement history of the obstruction statute. Prelogar took the opportunity to point out that the justice department had previously prosecuted cases of interfering with a grand jury investigation and interfering with federal court proceedings.But in rebuttal, Fischer’s lawyer suggested that her examples supported his position, because both were related to the use of evidence in proceedings.The justice department’s position came under additional fire from Chief Justice Roberts, who noted that the supreme court in the past had eschewed the use of general statutes under the doctrine known as “ejusdem generis”.Roberts suggested he might credit a lower court ruling that found the first part of the statute limited the second part of the statute: if the first part was about tampering with evidence in an investigation, the second part follows with “otherwise” referring to other ways to tamper with evidence.The skepticism from the conservative-leaning justices on the supreme court was not shared by Sonia Sotomayor, the justice who appeared to firmly see the “otherwise” language being used as a reference to any obstructive conduct.Sotomayor separately raised her own hypothetical of rules that prohibited photographing or otherwise disturbing a theatrical performance. If a defendant heckled and disturbed the performance, no one would be surprised if they were ejected, Sotomayor suggested to Fischer’s lawyer. More

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    Mike Johnson says he won’t resign as Republican anger grows over foreign aid

    Defiant and determined, the House speaker, Mike Johnson, pushed back on Tuesday against mounting Republican anger over his proposed US aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other allies, and rejected a call to step aside or risk a vote to oust him from office.“I am not resigning,” Johnson said after a testy morning meeting of fellow House Republicans at the Capitol.Johnson referred to himself as a “wartime speaker” of the House and indicated in his strongest self-defense yet he would press forward with a US national security aid package, a situation that would force him to rely on Democrats to help pass it, over objections from his weakened majority.“We are simply here trying to do our jobs,” Johnson said, calling the motion to oust him “absurd … not helpful.”Tuesday brought a definitive shift in tone from both the House Republicans and the speaker himself at a pivotal moment as the embattled leader tries, against the wishes of his majority, to marshal the votes needed to pass the stalled national security aid for Israel, Ukraine and other overseas allies.Johnson appeared emboldened by his meeting late last week with Donald Trump when the Republican former president threw him a political lifeline with a nod of support after their private talk at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. At his own press conference on Tuesday, Johnson spoke of the importance of ensuring Trump, who is now at his criminal trial in New York, is re-elected to the White House.Johnson also spoke over the weekend with Joe Biden as well as other congressional leaders about the emerging US aid package, which the speaker plans to move in separate votes for each section – with bills for Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific region. He spoke about it with Biden again late on Monday.It is a complicated approach that breaks apart the Senate’s $95bn aid package for separate votes, and then stitches it back together for the president’s signature.The approach will require the speaker to cobble together bipartisan majorities with different factions of House Republicans and Democrats on each measure. Additionally, Johnson is preparing a fourth measure that would include various Republican-preferred national security priorities, such as a plan to seize some Russian assets in US banks to help fund Ukraine and another to turn the economic aid for Ukraine into loans.The plan is not an automatic deal-breaker for Democrats in the House and Senate, with leaders refraining from comment until they see the actual text of the measure, due out later on Tuesday.House Republicans, however, were livid that Johnson will be leaving their top priority – efforts to impose more security at the US-Mexico border – on the sidelines. Some predicted Johnson will not be able to push ahead with voting on the package this week, as planned.Representative Debbie Lesko, a Republican from Arizona, called the morning meeting an “argument fest”.She said Johnson was “most definitely” losing support for the plan, but he seemed undeterred in trying to move forward despite “what the majority of the conference” of Republicans wanted.When the speaker said the House GOP’s priority border security bill HR 2 would not be considered germane to the package, Chip Roy, a Texas Republican and a chief sponsor, said it was for the House to determine which provisions and amendments are relevant.“Things are very unresolved,” Roy said.Roy said Republicans want “to be united. They just have to be able to figure out how to do it.”The speaker faces a threat of ouster from Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia, the top Trump ally who has filed a motion to vacate the speaker’s office in a snap vote – much the way Republicans ousted their former speaker, Kevin McCarthy, last fall.While Greene has not said if or when she will force the issue, and has not found much support for her plan after last year’s turmoil over McCarthy’s exit, she drew at least one key supporter on Tuesday.Representative Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky, rose in the meeting and suggested Johnson should step aside, pointing to the example of John Boehner, an even earlier Republican House speaker who announced an early resignation in 2015 rather than risk a vote to oust him, according to Republicans in the room.Johnson did not respond, according to Republicans in the room, but told the lawmakers they had a “binary” choice” before them.The speaker explained they either try to pass the package as he is proposing or risk facing a discharge petition from Democrats that would force a vote on their preferred package – the Senate-approved measure. But that would leave behind the extra Republican priorities. More

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    How did Kamala Harris go from being a rising star to a damp squib?

    Remember Kamala Harris? Just a few years ago the first female vice-president of the US was surrounded by fanfare, splashed on the cover of Vogue and being feted as the future of the Democratic party. For a brief moment, it seemed plausible that Joe Biden, the oldest inaugurated president in history, might serve just a single term and then gracefully hand the reins over to his VP. “Ms Harris now finds herself the most clearly positioned heir to the White House,” the New York Times mused after the 2020 election.Four years on and Harris’s position is a lot less clear. Indeed, you could be forgiven for forgetting that the vice-president even exists. And, to be fair, that’s because part of her job is ensuring she doesn’t steal the spotlight from her boss. Very few vice-presidents shine in the role; there is a reason Teddy Roosevelt once opined that the position “is not a stepping stone to anything except oblivion”. Biden, of course, was an exception to that. Still, he jokingly complained that being number two was “a bitch” back in 2014, when he was VP.Even bearing in mind the inherent limitations of the position, however, Harris’s vice-presidency has been a damp squib. Not even Harris’s inner circle seem enthused by the 59-year-old: the early days of her vice-presidency were plagued with headlines about dysfunction and infighting in her office. Harris may have had a trailblazing career, but few people seem to take her seriously – not even allies dependent on US government aid. A recent report by the Washington Post, for example, suggests that the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was irritated when Harris recently asked him to stop attacking oil refineries in Russia, and proceeded to ignore her because he wasn’t sure she (the vice-president!) actually reflected the Biden administration’s views.The bad press has been accompanied by even worse polls. Indeed, an NBC News poll from last June found Harris had the lowest net-negative rating for any vice-president in the survey’s history – 49% had a negative view while 32% had a positive view. With the election drawing closer, the situation hasn’t much improved.And while Harris has insisted she is prepared to serve as president “if necessary”, she is not widely seen as a shoo-in in the unlikely case that the Democrats replace Biden as the 2024 nominee. Rather, the California governor, Gavin Newsom, and Michelle Obama have been floated as more electable replacements.So what went so terribly wrong? How did Harris go from being a rising star to something of an embarrassment?Racism and misogyny obviously play some part. Trump has referred to Harris as “this monster” and the right have always been desperate to paint Harris in the most dehumanising light. It hasn’t helped, of course, that Biden gave Harris the impossible task of dealing with migration and border security, which put her even more firmly in the right’s firing line.Still, it would be disingenuous to say that bigotry is at the heart of Harris’s image problem. Yes, the right automatically see the worst in her – but a hell of a lot of people on the left have been desperate to see the best in her. You did not have to be a Harris fangirl (and many progressives, alienated by her record as a prosecutor, were not) to want to see the first female vice-president, the first woman of colour vice-president, succeed.Now, however, as one of the faces of Biden’s heartless policy towards Gaza, she has alienated many of the people who thought she represented a more inclusive future. “Can we really celebrate Black women in power who can’t use said power to prevent death and starvation inflicted on a stateless people?” the Washington Post columnist Karen Attiah wrote last month. “I – like an increasing number of voters – don’t think so.”Ultimately, however, the problem with Harris isn’t so much her stance on Gaza so much as the fact that she doesn’t seem to have a genuine stance on anything. Throughout her career, Harris has been characterised by what the New York Times called a “lack of ideological rigidity”. Which is a polite way of saying she seems to believe in little except her own advancement. It’s been a successful strategy so far, but it may have finally come to an end. Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian columnist
    Do you have an opinion on the issues raised in this article? If you would like to submit a response of up to 300 words by email to be considered for publication in our letters section, please click here. More

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    Trump’s historic criminal trial enters second day as jury selection continues

    Donald Trump’s Manhattan hush-money trial enters its second day on Tuesday morning with continued jury selection. The commencement of Trump’s trial on Monday marked a momentous day in US history: when jury selection began, he became the first current or former American president to face a criminal trial.The Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, brought the case against Trump, which involves purported payments aimed at keeping secret his alleged affairs with the adult film star Stormy Daniels and the Playboy model Karen McDougal. Prosecutors said Trump schemed to keep these alleged liaisons under wraps, so he would not suffer in the 2016 presidential election.The trial is unfolding amid a presidential contest in which Trump – who is all but guaranteed to be the Republican nominee – will go head to head with Joe Biden in November.Bragg’s office contends that Trump, whom a grand jury indicted in spring 2023 on 34 counts of falsifying business records, was part of an alleged “catch-and-kill scheme” from August 2015 until December 2017, with his then attorney, Michael Cohen.Trump’s former consigliere, who in 2018 admitted to federal charges for his involvement in that particular hush-money scheme, wired $130,000 to Daniels’s then attorney less than two weeks before the election. Cohen funneled these funds via a shell company.When Trump won his White House bid, he repaid Cohen with a smattering of monthly checks. These checks initially came from the Donald J Trump Revocable Trust – which was set up in New York to hold the president’s company’s assets during the 2016 presidency.Trumps payments to Cohen were later written on the company’s financials “disguised as a payment for legal services rendered pursuant to a non-existent retainer agreement”.As Trump allegedly framed these payments as recompense for legal consulting, he “made and caused a false entry in the business records of an enterprise”, prosecutors contended. He did so “with intent to defraud and intent to commit another crime and aid and conceal the commission thereof”, they said. More

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    What does Liz Truss’s book tell us about her American ambitions?

    In her new book, the former British prime minister Liz Truss directs scathing attacks and mockery at Joe Biden, president of her country’s closest ally. Biden was guilty of “utter hypocrisy and ignorance”, Truss writes, when the US leader said he “disagree[d] with the policy” of “cutting taxes on the super wealthy” in the mini-budget Truss introduced in September 2022, shortly after taking power.“I was shocked and astounded that Biden would breach protocol by commenting on UK domestic policy,” Truss adds. “We had been the United States’ staunchest allies through thick and thin.”Such harsh words between British and American leaders, in or out of office, would normally seem unusual. But Truss has scores to settle. By the time Biden spoke, in an ice-cream parlor in Portland, Oregon, Truss’s mini-budget had already caused panic over British pension funds, threatened to crash the UK economy and been withdrawn – a humiliating reversal for any prime minister, let alone one little more than a month into the job. Six days later, Truss was forced to resign.A year and a half later, offering the public her version of what went so terribly wrong, Truss still manages to thunder: “What the Biden administration, and the [European Union], and their international allies didn’t want was a country demonstrating that things can be done differently, undercutting them in the process.”Perhaps. Either way, Biden is still president while Truss is now a mere backbench MP for a constituency in rural Norfolk. But the release of her book, Ten Years to Save the West, alongside her founding of Popular Conservatism, a new pressure group, says a lot about where she sees her future.Far from taking her allowance and pursuing traditional, relatively sedate pursuits – lobbying, say, or trying to achieve peace in the Middle East – Truss wants to remain relevant on the global populist right, particularly in the US.Truss’s book is published in the US and UK on Tuesday. The American jacket carries praise from two hard-right senators, Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, both vocal enemies of Biden. It also carries a different subtitle from the British edition. In the UK, Truss is said to offer “Lessons from the Only Conservative in the Room”. In the US, she is “Leading the Revolution Against Globalism, Socialism, and the Liberal Establishment”.It’s a lot to pack in between the school run – Truss has two daughters – and her duties as a Norfolk MP. But it all points to a clear ambition to carve out a presence in rightwing US media, long on plain display.In February, Truss attended the CPAC conference in Maryland, giving an address to an audience of what Politico called “bewildered conservatives” before appearing with Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former campaign chair and White House adviser, a leading far-right voice who pitched Truss into controversy with remarks about the jailed far-right figure Tommy Robinson.View image in fullscreenTruss will soon be back, visiting Washington to promote her book at the Heritage Foundation, the thinktank behind Project 2025, a vast and controversial plan for a second Trump administration.Truss’s relationship with Heritage is well established. She spoke there in 2015, as trade secretary and over the objections of the British ambassador, and accepted an award named after Margaret Thatcher there last year. Kevin Roberts, president of Heritage, also blurbs the US edition of Truss’s book.The foundation is a couple of miles from the White House, but Truss is hardly likely to seek contact with Biden or his administration. That may be just as well. Elsewhere in her book, she describes meeting the president at the White House in September 2021, when she was foreign secretary under Boris Johnson.“Our Oval Office meeting lasted around an hour and a half,” Truss writes, adding that this was not a sign of favor.“The truth was it owed more to Biden’s penchant for telling extended anecdotes in response to any issue that came up. ‘Ah, that reminds me …’ he would say, as his officials looked at each other with knowing smiles. Ten minutes later, the story would end and he would move on to something else.”Biden’s age, 81, and mental capacity to be president are the source of constant media speculation and political attack – and strong White House pushback. But Truss has more to say. At the Cop 26 climate conference in Glasgow, later in 2021, she “bumped into Joe Biden again. He remembered our meeting at the White House, telling me he’d never forget ‘those blue eyes’, even though we’d both been wearing Covid masks.”It is not clear if the reader should think Biden or Truss was under the impression mouth coverings also obscure the eyes.Truss is still not done. She includes the president with the former House speaker Nancy Pelosi among US politicians deemed “unhelpful” over Northern Ireland issues, their interventions “generally on one side of the argument, doubtless egged on by the Irish embassy in Washington”.She also describes how in September 2022, as prime minister, she attended the UN general assembly in New York. There, she says, “Biden regaled me with tales of the Democrat campaign trail, including an incident in which he had fallen over. He said, ‘I can see them thinking, ‘You can’t get up, grandpa’, but I got up.’“I formed the view that he was running again in 2024,” Truss writes, before risking a self-own by writing about a faux pas at the same event, when she called out “Hi, Dr Biden!” to “a blonde lady” who turned out to be Brigitte Macron, the wife of the president of France.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotion“I hope she didn’t hear!” Truss writes.The vignette about Biden at the UN is not the only one in Ten Years to Save the West in which Truss uses “Democrat” to refer to the Democratic party. It is a telling choice. Republicans have long used the incorrect term as a term of political abuse. Nor is it the only instance in which Truss – or her US editors – must adapt or explain her language.When writing about UK politics, as in most of the book, Truss must often offer translations or explanations for US readers. For one small but telling example, in referring to her distaste for National Insurance – a payroll tax that supports state pensions and unemployment and incapacity benefits – she calls it “a social security entitlement”. On the US right, “entitlement” is almost as dirty a word as “Democrat”.At least until the eve of publication day, Truss had shied from saying Donald Trump’s name but said she wanted a Republican in the White House in 2025. She says so in her book but abandons any pretense of subtlety when it comes to praising Trump, now the presumptive GOP nominee despite facing 88 criminal charges and multimillion-dollar penalties for tax fraud and defamation, the latter arising from a rape allegation a judge called “substantially true”.Calling herself “an early fan of the TV show The Apprentice” who “enjoyed the Donald’s catchphrases and sassy business advice”, Truss says that when Trump entered politics in 2015, colleagues in parliament and “elderly ladies” in Swaffham, a town in her constituency, were united in “seem[ing] genuinely animated by the disruptive Republican candidate”. She makes a common link between support for Trump and support for Brexit – which she campaigned against before becoming its hardline champion on her way to leading her country.View image in fullscreenWhen Trump was president, Truss writes, she “chased” Boris Johnson “down a fire escape” in New York, to demand inclusion in a meeting between the British and American leaders. According to Truss, who was then trade secretary, that meeting saw Trump urge her and his own trade representative, Bob Lighthizer, to get on with talks for a UK-US trade deal – only for Johnson to try to make Trump focus on restoring the Iran nuclear agreement, a tactic that did not work.Truss never got her trade deal. In part, she blames “many in Number 10” Downing Street who “seemed to want to hold Trump at arm’s length for political reasons”.“The UK media provided universally negative coverage of Trump, and leftists in the Conservative party were keen to insult him at every opportunity,” Truss writes. “My view was that he was the leader of the free world and an important ally.”That view stands in stark comparison to her abuse of Biden, who beat Trump conclusively in an election Trump still refuses to concede. Furthermore, when it comes to the deadly fruits of that refusal – the attack on Congress Trump incited – Truss keeps her observations to a single paragraph.On 6 January 2021, Truss writes, she was “on a phone call with Bob Lighthizer”, “working on” removing a US tariff on Scottish whisky. From the Executive Office building, next to the White House, Lighthizer “remarked … in passing that the street was full of people with huge American flags walking towards Congress. Little did I realise how seismic that event would turn out to be.”Truss eventually saw the whisky tariff removed – in summer 2021, after “talks with the new Democrat administration”.“But with Joe Biden as president,” Truss writes, “it was made quite clear that a trade deal with the United Kingdom was no longer a priority. We had missed the boat.” More

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    Mike Johnson unveils complex plan for Israel and Ukraine aid as pressure rises

    Mike Johnson, the US House speaker, has unveiled a complicated proposal for passing wartime aid for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan, rejecting pressure to approve a package sent over by the Senate and leaving its path to passage deeply uncertain.The Republican speaker huddled with fellow GOP lawmakers on Monday evening to lay out his strategy to gain House approval for the funding package. Facing an outright rebellion from conservatives who fiercely oppose aiding Ukraine, Johnson said he would push to get the package to the House floor under a single debate rule, then hold separate votes on aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan and several foreign policy proposals, according to Republican lawmakers.However, the package would deviate from the $95bn aid package passed by the Senate in February, clouding its prospects for final passage in Congress.Johnson has faced mounting pressure to act on Joe Biden’s long-delayed request for billions of dollars in security assistance. It’s been more than two months since the Senate passed the $95bn aid package, which includes $14bn for Israel and $60bn for Ukraine.The issue gained new urgency after Iran’s weekend missile and drone attack on Israel. Congress, however, remains deeply divided.Johnson has declined to allow the Republican-controlled House to vote on the measure. The senate passed it with 70% bipartisan support and backers insist it would receive similar support in the House, but Johnson has given a variety of reasons not to allow a vote, among them the need to focus taxpayer dollars on domestic issues and reluctance to take up a Senate measure without more information.As the House has struggled to act, conflicts around the globe have escalated. Israel’s military chief said on Monday that his country will respond to Iran’s missile strike. And Ukraine’s military head over the weekend warned that the battlefield situation in the country’s east has “significantly worsened in recent days”, as warming weather has allowed Russian forces to launch a fresh offensive.Meanwhile, Joe Biden, who is hosting Petr Fiala, the Czech prime minister, at the White House, called on the House to take up the Senate funding package immediately. “They have to do it now,” he said.Hakeem Jeffries, the top House Democrat, also put pressure on Johnson and pledged in a letter to lawmakers to do “everything in our legislative power to confront aggression” around the globe, and he cast the situation as similar to the lead-up to the second world war.“The gravely serious events of this past weekend in the Middle East and eastern Europe underscore the need for Congress to act immediately,” Jeffries said. “We must take up the bipartisan and comprehensive national security bill passed by the Senate forthwith. This is a Churchill or Chamberlain moment.”In the Capitol, Johnson’s approach could further incite the populist conservatives who are already angry at his direction as speaker.Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican Congresswoman from Georgia, is threatening to oust him as speaker. As she entered the closed-door Republican meeting on Monday, she said her message to the speaker was: “Don’t fund Ukraine.”The GOP meeting was filled with lawmakers at odds in their approach to Ukraine: Republican defense hawks, including the top lawmakers on national security committees, who want Johnson to finally take up the national security supplemental package as a bundle, are pitted against populist conservatives who are fiercely opposed to continued support for Kyiv’s fight.On the right, the House Freedom Caucus said Monday that it opposed “using the emergency situation in Israel as a bogus justification to ram through Ukraine aid with no offset and no security for our own wide-open borders”.The Associated Press contributed reporting More

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    Trump’s hush-money trial: key takeaways from the first day

    Donald Trump struggled through the opening day of his New York criminal trial on Monday as the jury selection process formally got under way in Manhattan in the first criminal trial of a current or former US president.Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records in trying to cover up hush-money payments to an adult film star that influenced the 2016 election.Trump himself did little during his time in the courtroom of the New York supreme court judge Juan Merchan. But the eventual proceeding showed the momentous nature of the case and highlighted Trump’s divisiveness.Here are the takeaways of day one of “People v Donald Trump”:Seating jury could take weeksLegal experts widely expected that seating a jury in the Trump case – 12 jurors and six alternates – was going to be a difficult and lengthy process as Trump’s lawyers and prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney’s office.But moving through the first 100 or so potential jurors showed just how tricky the “voir dire” process could be: more than half of the group told the judge they could not be impartial and were excused immediately.The voir dire process involves each potential juror reading their responses to a 42-point questionnaire and the judge reading out to the jurors the people who might serve as witnesses or otherwise come up at trial.The potential jurors’ reactions toward Trump were varied. One man smiled when he saw Trump. Another woman giggled and put her hand over her mouth, looking at the person seated next to her with raised eyebrows. And one of the potential jurors, who was excused, said leaving the courtroom: “I just couldn’t do it.”Trump’s lawyers are looking for a so-called “holdout juror” who could be partial to Trump and not convict on any of the counts – and thereby hang the jury for a mistrial.The process also appeared to tire out Trump. Before the jury selection began in the afternoon, Trump often appeared to nod off.Trump was stuck with judge despite delay tacticsTrump tried one more time before jury selection began to have the judge recuse himself from presiding in the case, claiming Merchan had conflicts of interest and had shown indications of bias that meant he could not be fair.The judge addressed two of Trump’s main complaints – and dismissed them summarily.In the first instance, the judge rejected Trump’s complaints about an interview he did with the Associated Press because he did not talk about Trump’s case, meaning the judge’s statements did not “reasonably or logically” reflect bias.And in the second instance, the judge said a podcast interview his daughter did in 2019, in which he said he disliked politicians using Twitter, similarly did not reflect bias against any party.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionProsecutors score two additional winsThe Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, had some partial wins on Monday morning, after Merchan allowed them to admit into evidence materials that would bolster their case that Trump’s falsification of records was to influence the 2016 election.The judge had previously ruled that prosecutors could not use as evidence the actual tape of Trump’s infamous Access Hollywood tape, as well as a video of Trump referencing the Access Hollywood tape in a deposition in an unrelated case.But Merchan allowed prosecutors to admit into evidence the full transcript of the Access Hollywood tape, which means the infamous Trump quote that he could assault women and “grab them by the pussy” can be read to the jury at trial.The judge also allowed prosecutors to use an email chain in which the former Trump aide Hope Hicks forwarded the transcript to another former Trump aide, Kellyanne Conway, asking if the tape was Trump’s voice. Conway then asked the ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen who was doing damage control.Trump could yet be held in contemptTrump left the courtroom after the first day of his criminal trial with another cloud hanging over his head: whether he will be found in contempt for violating a gag order that prohibited from assailing potential trial witnesses.The former president was recently hit with an expanded gag order after he went after the judge’s daughter, alleging that her work doing campaign work for Democratic political candidates meant the judge was conflicted.But prosecutors asked Merchan to impose a $3,000 fine on Trump for attacking two potential trial witnesses – Stormy Daniels, the adult film star at the centre of the criminal case, and his ex-lawyer Cohen – and warning him that future violations could result in jail.The matter was scheduled for arguments at a 23 April hearing. Merchan promised to address the alleged gag order violations but said he did not want to get into it on Monday because they had several hundred potential jurors waiting. More

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    Trump’s historic criminal trial officially begins as first potential jurors are sworn in – live

    The first batch of potential jurors has been sworn in by the judge, Juan Merchan.This makes Donald Trump the first US president, former or president, to stand trial.Since they’re sworn in, the trial has officially started.Speaking to a press pool outside the courtroom on Monday, Trump repeatedly called the trial a “scam” and stated it was preventing him from attending his son’s high school graduation, appearing at a supreme court hearing, and campaigning for the upcoming presidential election.“If you read all of the legal pundits or the legal scholars today, there’s not one that I’ve seen that said, this is a case it should be brought or tried,” he said. “It’s a scam. It’s a political witch-hunt. It continues, and it continues forever. And we’re not going to be given a fair trial. It’s a very, very sad thing.”Trump opened his remarks to the pool with complaints about his son’s graduation ceremony, which the former president’s legal team requested a day off to attend. Although the judge has yet to make an official ruling on the matter, Trump acted as though it had been denied.“As you know, my son is graduating from high school and it looks like the judge will not let me go to the graduation of my son,” he said. “I was looking forward to that graduation, with his mother and father there, and it looks like the judge does not allow me to escape this scam.”Trump claimed he may not be able to travel to Washington DC for a supreme court hearing to decide whether he should be awarded presidential immunity exempting him from criminal charges that he conspired to overturn the results of the 2020 election. He also said his inability to campaign in key states before the presidential election due to the trial would ultimately benefit Democrats.“These are very complex things, and he’s not going to allow me to leave here for a half a day to go to DC and go before the United States supreme court, because he thinks he’s superior to the supreme court,” Trump said.Trump did not answer reporters’ questions.Merchan told prospective jurors that the court would adjourn for the day, and that they should return early tomorrow so he can start at 9.30am ET.Earlier, the judge admonished the defense team for returning late from the afternoon break.The morning was taken up by proceedings. The atmosphere in the courtroom appeared calm, with Donald Trump at times appearing to doze off during proceedings. Much of the courtroom was left empty to allow room for jurors.Jury selection did not start until later in the afternoon, and if the activity outside the courthouse was any indication, it will take lawyers a few days to select an unbiased group of New Yorkers who will ultimately decide the outcome of the trial.Outside of the courthouse, multiple news channels were doing wall-to-wall coverage of the trial.A few people holding what appeared to be jury ID slips – which jurors are sent in the mail and told to bring with them the day they are summoned to court – were let into the line of people entering the building. Some, looking bewildered, stopped to take pictures of the scene before entering the courthouse.Jury duty in America can often be a banal affair, a day spent in a courthouse filling out forms and telling lawyers when you’ve scheduled your next vacation.But for those New Yorkers summoned to the state courthouse on Monday, it was a day when the ordinary became extraordinary. They arrived to a frenetic scene of loud protest and high security in downtown Manhattan – a sure sign that Donald Trump was yet again in court.Though the procedures that played out in the courtroom at 100 Centre St were banal, their significance was pure history: the first US president facing criminal charges at trial. Not only that, but it comes at a time when Trump is all but guaranteed to be his party’s nominee for the 2024 presidential election.Police closed off the block in front of the courthouse to pedestrians, requiring people to show press or court badges to get onto the street to the building. That didn’t stop passersby, including double-decker tour buses heading downtown, from stopping to ogle at the spectacle.Court is back in session, and the jury selection process will continue.Donald Trump did not respond to questions as he returned to the courtroom.The court is taking a short recess.Donald Trump watched as the prospective jurors filed out of the room. He then rose and left the courtroom.He did not answer questions nor give a wave or thumbs up as he walked past reporters.One excused prospective juror made clear their feelings as they left.“I just couldn’t do it,” they were overheard saying, according to a pool reporter.Judge Merchan has begun calling individual jurors to answer questions from the 42-point questionnaire they were given.It begins by asking basic biographical information about where prospective jurors live, their marital status, occupation and hobbies, as well as their sources of news.Many of these questions require yes-or-no answers. Lawyers will be able to ask follow-up questions later.Trump followed along intently with his own copy of the questionnaire as the first possible juror, a woman, gave her answers.While Donald Trump is in court in New York for the Stormy Daniels hush-money trial, his account on his social media platform is posting through it.His Truth Social page is putting up new posts minute by minute, full of boasts about Trump or complaints about the charges he faces in this case and others.The hush-money trial is the first of Trump’s cases to go to trial. This incessant posting could be an indication of how he intends to market himself amid the court battles, a way to distract from the case itself.It is also a sign that he thinks leaning into the court cases, rather than avoiding talking about them, helps him with his followers.The frenetic pace of the posts, though, with dozens just this morning, is a lot even for Trump. It’s unclear whether Trump himself is posting or people from his team are.So far this morning, he has posted claiming the cases are an example of election interference and a sign that Biden and the Democrats are scared he will win. He has shared articles and videos about the cases, the border, the “stolen” election, his golf game, the Israel war, Ukraine, polls. He has posted videos about the cases with platitudes about how “they” are trying to steal the election from him and his supporters.The judge asked prospective jurors to raise their hands if they believed they could not be fair and impartial. Judge Merchan said:
    If you have an honest, legitimate, good-faith reason to believe you cannot serve on this case or cannot be fair and impartial, please let me know now.
    More than half of prospective jurors in the first panel of 96 people have been excused.Judge Merchan listed the names of more than 40 people who could be involved in the trial, including Stormy Daniels, Michael Cohen, David Pecker, members of the Trump family, Rudy Giuliani, former Trump presidential staffer Hope Hicks and Trump’s former chief of staff Reince Priebus.The judge noted that not all of them will appear as witnesses but that their names could be raised at trial.Merchan is giving the first batch of jurors introductory instructions, extolling the importance of jury service while explaining the basics of the case. He told jurors:
    You are about to participate in a trial by jury. The system of trial by jury is one the cornerstones of our judicial system.
    Many of the prospective jurors stretched their necks to get a look at Donald Trump once in their seats. One giggled and put her hand over her mouth, looking at the person seated next to her with raised eyebrows. Several appeared to frequently stare at the former president as Merchan introduced the case.
    The jury’s responsibility is to evaluate the testimony and all of the evidence presented at the trial … The trial is the opportunity for you to decide if the defendant is guilty or not guilty.
    Trump stood and turned around as he was introduced as the defendant, giving the prospective jurors a little tight-lipped smirk.Trump looked straight ahead, expressionless in the direction of the judge as Merchan addressed the prospective jurors, occasionally looking towards the jury box.Merchan has rescheduled the hearing for whether Donald Trump will be held in contempt of court has been changed from 24 April to 23 April 9.30am ET. More