Trump’s hush-money trial gets underway with a defiant defendant, strict schedule and supporters outside the courthouse

Donald Trump expressed defiant and frustrated sentiments upon exiting the first day of his trial in New York, marking a historic occasion as the first former President to face such proceedings in 246 years of American history. However, Trump disregarded the momentous nature of the event, instead resorting to repeated complaints and justifications.

Labeling the hush-money case as a “scam” and a “witch hunt,” Trump criticized Judge Juan Merchan and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the individuals responsible for the charges against him.

Trump is facing 34 counts of fraudulently engaging in business transactions to conceal hush money payments made to a porn star, with the intent of suppressing her silence in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election. Trump denies any affair with adult film actress Stormy Daniels and has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

“We’ve got a real problem with this judge,” Trump remarked after Monday’s court adjournment, adorned in his trademark wide red tie and an American flag pin on his jacket lapel. “We’ve got a real problem with a lot of things having to do with this trial, including the DA, because you go right outside and people are being mugged and killed all day long, and he’s sitting here all day long with about 10 or 12 prosecutors over nothing, over nothing.”

A week prior to trial commencement, Judge Merchan had extended a gag order against Trump, prohibiting him from criticizing the judge’s family, jurors, or court officials. Nonetheless, Trump continued to level critiques at both Merchan and Bragg during the initial day of proceedings.

As jury selection commenced, Trump objected to the stringent schedule imposed upon him as a criminal defendant, which would confine him to the Manhattan courthouse for an extended period, potentially exceeding a month. Trump lamented that Merchan refused to grant him permission to skip proceedings the following week during the Supreme Court’s oral arguments regarding whether presidential immunity shielded him from federal charges brought by special counsel Jack Smith. Trump also expressed concern that he would miss his son Barron’s high school graduation if Merchan did not permit his absence in the upcoming weeks.

Moreover, Trump asserted that his trial attendance would hinder his campaign activities and prevent him from visiting key states essential for his November presidential election aspirations. “I can’t go to my son’s graduation, I can’t go to the United States Supreme Court, and I’m not in Georgia, Florida, or North Carolina campaigning, like I should be. It’s perfect for the radical left Democrats. That’s what they want—it’s about election interference, that’s what it’s about,” Trump stated. He declined to engage with reporters’ questions, instead proceeding down the corridor with his entourage.

Throughout the trial’s first day, Trump occupied the stuffy courtroom, while his attorneys engaged in discussions with prosecutors regarding trial procedures and the composition of the jury panel that would determine his fate. Some early rulings on Monday did not favor Trump; Merchan not only denied Trump’s request to attend the Supreme Court hearing and motion for a recusal, but he also permitted Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claims to have had an affair with Trump, to testify in the case. Additionally, the prosecution was authorized to present as evidence articles from the National Enquirer published in 2016 that criticized Trump’s opponents, as a means of demonstrating the publication’s alleged assistance to Trump by purchasing rights to disparaging stories and suppressing their release.

One ruling in Trump’s favor was the judge’s decision to prohibit prosecutors from presenting footage of Trump describing inappropriate behavior towards women. However, prosecutors were permitted to inform jurors about Trump’s remarks.

Outside the courthouse, approximately 100 individuals gathered under the sparse tree canopy of Collect Pond Park. A lone individual had been playing the flute on a bench since early morning. Some attendees expressed support for Trump’s prosecution, while others were simply present to witness the historic event. However, a majority of those gathered demonstrated their support for Trump. One man wore a black T-shirt emblazoned with the message, “Never Surrender!” Overhead, a flag bearing the slogan “Keep America Trump 2028” fluttered in the wind.

Ariel Kohane, 53, felt compelled to attend the courthouse Monday to express “my unwavering love and support for President Trump.” Kohane, who wore a “Jews for Trump” T-shirt, predicted that Trump’s prosecution would generate increased support for him and “backfire on the Democrats.”

Standing nearby, Lou Valentino, 27, maintained that Trump was being unfairly targeted due to his presidential candidacy. “A lot of the people you see out here are frustrated people, or people that have been supporting Trump for a long time, or people like me that just started supporting him not too long ago,” Valentino observed.

A few individuals attended the trial to voice their support for Trump’s indictment. Nadine Seiler, 58, had traveled 250 miles from Waldorf, Maryland to protest against Trump. She arrived outside the courthouse at 6:30 a.m., anticipating a large crowd of anti-Trump demonstrators, only to find a modest group of just over a dozen individuals by the afternoon.

Sieler expressed disappointment with the perceived lack of public concern regarding Trump’s actions and the possibility of his return to office. She attributed this apathy to a decline in civic engagement in recent years. “When democracy goes away and we are not able to protest, we’re going to be like, ‘How did this happen?'” she reflected. “I feel that the reason why Trump is allowed to get away with what he does is because people are not participating in the process.”

Regardless of Trump’s personal objections, he will remain present at his trial for multiple weeks to come.