President Trump's hush money trial all set to commence Monday morning in New York

Former President Trump in a Manhattan court during jury selection will now face start of trial on Monday. Credit: AP

A panel of 12 jurors and six alternates will hear opening statements on Monday, April 22, in the first criminal trial ever of a former US President, Donald Trump.

Jury selection, completed Friday in New York State Supreme Court, came together faster than expected in less than four days of inquiry supervised by Judge Juan Merchan.

The jury is comprised of US citizens who live in Manhattan, just as Trump did, in his Fifth Avenue penthouse, until decamping from his eponymous tower for the White House and then Palm Beach, Florida.

Opening statements will be followed by the first prosecution witnesses, who have not been publicly disclosed or yet revealed to the defense team.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass told Judge Merchan he would provide Trump’s defense team with one witness's name on Sunday evening, but if it is posted on social media before the court reconvenes, that courtesy will never happen again.

The trial is projected to last six weeks. Asked upon his courthouse departure Friday if he intends to testify when the defense presents its case, Trump said, “Yes.”

Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records – that he lied on 12 ledger entries, 11 invoices, and 11 checks -- to disguise payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels totaling $130,000 to buy her silence during the 2016 presidential campaign about a sexual tryst she says happened in 2006. Trump denies the rendezvous.

The Daniels' payments were initially made by Trump’s former attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, who was reimbursed from Trump’s personal bank account in a deal solidified in the Oval Office in February 2021, according to the prosecution.

While Trump is on trial for his alleged election interference in the 2016 election, he claims the White House and New York Democrats are interfering with his 2024 campaign by prosecuting him, the presumptive Republican Party nominee, in a rematch of the 2020 race with President Joe Biden.

Trump told reporters inside the courthouse on Friday, "It’s a rigged case, and it’s a case that was put in very strongly because of politics. So, instead of going to Pennsylvania or Georgia or North Carolina or lots of other places, today I'm sitting in a courthouse all day long.”

Trump has a campaign visit to North Carolina scheduled on Saturday.

A high percentage of American voters have told pollsters they would not vote for Trump if he were convicted of a felony.

In questioning potential alternate jurors on Friday, prosecutor Susan Hoffinger told them the case isn't about Trump’s performance as president or his current candidacy.

"It’s not about who you are going to vote for in the Fall,” she said.

The process Friday resulted in five more alternates being chosen from 22 potential jurors who were left in the pool. The first alternate, a financial analyst, who grew up in England and Hong Kong but went to college in the U.S., was seated Thursday.

The jury foreman, as a result of being the first of the first 12 jurors seated, hails originally from Ireland. He sports gray hair, is married – as is half the jury -- and works in sales.

One of the five women alternate jurors is originally from Spain. "I don't believe in watching news," she told the court. Nor does she have a strong opinion of Trump, she said.

The alternates’ occupations range from audio technician and contract specialist to clothing company employee and construction project manager.

The main jury has seven men and five women. Almost all are college graduates, and several have master’s degrees. At least one is Black and another is Asian-American.