NEW YORK (AP) – The judge asked potential jurors in the criminal trial of inaugural chairman Donald Trump about a trivia question: What do they think of the former president?
The question came up this week during jury selection in the New York City trial of wealthy businessman Tom Barrack, who is accused of working as an unregistered agent of the United Arab Emirates to influence the president’s foreign policy.
US District Judge Brian Cogan told prospective jurors that Trump’s name would come up often at the trial, and even entertained the idea that he might testify. Cogan pressed them to see if they could be fair in a situation mired in politics and shady international business dealings.
Some potential jurors said he was asking too much because of their dislike for the former president.
“To be honest, I don’t think so,” said one man when asked if he could remain impartial. “For the sake of the trial, I could, but it would be challenging.”
When asked the same question, another responded, “That would be tough. That would be difficult.”
Both men were expelled.
A woman survived the cut in the first round of questioning despite being called on her answer to a questionnaire asking her to name a public figure she admired the most and why: “Donald Trump. No explanation needed.”
When the judge told her, “I’m going to need a little more explanation than that,” she argued that she could put her emotions aside and be a fair juror.
The pool of potential jurors included several Trump supporters, including one man who said he liked the former president because he was “a strong supporter of Israel.” Others claimed they had no idea about Trump at all.
Jury selection continued on Tuesday. Opening statements could begin as early as Wednesday once the lawyers and judge decide on a final panel of jurors.
Barrack, a close personal friend of Trump’s for many years, raised $107 million for Trump’s inauguration celebration after the 2016 election. The event was scrutinized for his big spending and for attracting foreign officials and businessmen trying to lobby the new administration. .
Barrack was arrested last year and released on $250 million bail.
The Los Angeles-based private equity manager was a key figure in the UAE’s investments in a technology and real estate fund, which totaled $374 million. Prosecutors say that while he was fostering those business deals, Barracks helped UAE leaders influence Trump during his campaign for president and after he was elected.
Those efforts included drafting a speech for Trump that praised a member of the country’s royal family, relaying information to the Emiratis about how senior US officials felt about the Qatar boycott, and pledging the interests of the United Arab Emirates to promote if it was. appointed as ambassador or envoy to the Middle East.
Such an appointment would give “more power to ABU DHABI!” Barracks wrote in one message obtained by federal prosecutors.
Barrack has said he is innocent. His lawyers said his contacts with the Emirates were not secret and were a revelation to the Trump campaign and administration.
As he arrived at the courthouse Monday to begin jury selection, Barrack told reporters he had faith jurors would acquit him.
“I believe in the system,” he said.