Why is the Donald Trump judge reading out tweets from New Yorkers in court?

Social media content considered in the jury selection included footage of people celebrating Biden's election win, and a post that described Trump as "dumb".

Former President Donald Trump awaits the start of proceedings on the second day of jury selection at Manhattan criminal court, Tuesday, April 16, 2024, in New York. Donald Trump returned to the courtroom Tuesday as a judge works to find a panel of jurors who will decide whether the former president is guilty of criminal charges alleging he falsified business records to cover up a sex scandal during the 2016 campaign. (Justin Lane/Pool Photo via AP)
Donald Trump, pictured on the second day of jury selection at Manhattan criminal court, has described the hush money case as a 'witch hunt'. (AP)

Donald Trump's hush money court case kicked off with questions over tweets posted on social media.

But, unusually, the former US president's prolific tweeting habit was not under scrutiny – instead, the judge asked former jurors to explain their own social media use.

One qualified juror was dismissed from the case after it emerged he had written a tweet about Trump that said "lock him up", and another celebrating his court loss over the travel ban.

Social media content that was also considered in the jury selection included footage of people in New York celebrating Joe Biden's election victory in 2020, and one post that described Trump as "dumb".

It is the latest in what was expected to be a lengthy jury selection process for the first criminal case against Trump, who is facing 34 counts of falsifying documents to allegedly cover up hush payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels. Trump denies all the charges.

However, despite at least 50 of the original potential jurors claiming they were too biased about Trump to sit on the jury, seven jurors were selected on Tuesday, with just five more due to be picked and selection continuing on Thursday.

Who are the jurors selected so far?

Seven jurors have been selected so far. Five of the jurors are New York Times readers, while just two have children.

One of the jurors said he found Trump "fascinating", but did not express a particular bias about the former president, while another said she avoided political conversations and did not know about the other charges facing the former president in other cases.

Two of the jurors have legal experience – with one being a civil litigator and the other a corporate lawyer – while one is a teacher, on an oncology nurse, one runs an IT business, one is in sales, and one is a software engineer.

What's happened during jury selection?

As well as social media posts from potential jurors being aired in court – prompting many of them to be disqualified from becoming a juror – people have also been asked to air their views about Trump in front of the former president.

In what must have been a highly unusual experience for the New Yorkers in question, they were asked what they thought of one of the most controversial politicians in the country as he listened.

"If I was sitting in a bar I'd be happy to tell you," one potential juror responded, while insisting he could be unbiased in the case.

Another said: "He says what he wants to say. I want to say some things but my mother said, ‘Be nice.’"

Trump was also told off by the judge for intimidating a potential juror as one of them was being questioned about whether she could be impartial.

"While the juror was at the podium, maybe 12 feet from your client, your client was audibly uttering something, I don’t know exactly what he was uttering, he was audibly gesturing, speaking in the direction of the juror. I won’t tolerate that,” Judge Juan Merchan told Trump’s lawyer. “I will not have any jurors intimidated in this courtroom. I want to make that crystal clear.”

What has Trump said about the case?

The former president has denied all the charges against him, describing the case as a "witch hunt". He has also complained that the court timetable will throw off his campaign schedule.

"It's a scam. It's a political witch hunt. It continues, and it continues forever," Trump said when he left the court on Monday.

"We are not going to be given a fair trial and it is a very sad thing."

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