Donald Trump’s lawyers are pursuing a uniform strategy in all four criminal proceedings against the ex-president: delaying what can be delayed as long as possible. On the second day of the hush money trial, it became clear that things weren’t going to be that easy. That morning there wasn’t a single juror chosen for the trial, but by evening there were seven. Judge Juan Merchan led the day tightly.

A contestant asked the judge whether her sister’s wedding on a Sunday in September would pose a possible scheduling conflict. Merchan joked: “If we were still here in September, that would be a big problem.” She was then called to serve on the jury. Six to eight weeks are scheduled for the procedure and the judge wants it to stay that way.

So Trump has to fear conviction before Election Day. The previous proceedings were civil suits. If the jury were to conclude that Trump actually falsified business records before the 2016 presidential election to cover up a hush-money payment to a former porn actress, he would be a convicted felon. When it comes to punishment, many options are conceivable, from a fine to 20 years in prison, but a long prison sentence is not considered very likely.

Trump hopes to have well-disposed people on the jury. On the first day, almost 50 of 100 jury candidates came forward saying there was no way they could go into a trial against Trump in a fair and unbiased manner. They were all dismissed from jury duty.

On the second day, the ex-president met a few people who were able to lift his spirits, at least for a few moments. When questioned, a jury candidate said he had read three books by Donald Trump, named “The Art of the Deal” and “How to Get Rich.” The man can no longer remember the third title. For the former TV entertainer, this moment was still a small success. He laughed and nodded eagerly.

Another candidate noted how long he has been following Trump’s career. “I was a big fan of The Apprentice when I was in high school,” said the man, who now works as a lawyer. For many years, Trump hosted the television show. He was already known to the general public beforehand, but was able to increase his popularity even further through the show.

When Trump is confronted with statements that bother him during the trial, he doesn’t let it slide. His lawyer asked a candidate about a video she posted on social media on Election Day 2020. It apparently celebrates Trump’s election defeat on a street in New York. The candidate replied that she came across the people by chance and perceived the moment as historic. The ex-president commented on the candidates’ statements, which the judge criticized. “I won’t tolerate that,” Merchan said. “I will not allow any jury to be intimidated in this courtroom.” Trump was beside himself at that moment.

The relationship between Trump and Merchan was strained before the trial even began. The Republican has been attacking the judge for weeks, accusing him of being biased and even attacking his daughter. Merchan issued a so-called gag order. Because of this judicial mauling, Trump is no longer allowed to speak publicly about witnesses, jurors, court employees, prosecutors or anyone else involved in the trial. With his ever new attacks, Trump is testing how far he can go despite the ban before he is punished.

The judge always addresses the defendant as “Mr Trump”. The polite address as “Mr. President,” which is still common for retired heads of state in the USA, cannot be heard from Merchan’s lips.