Donald Trump sitting, flanked by his lawyers
Donald Trump, flanked by his lawyers, ahead of the start of jury selection in a New York courtroom yesterday © Jabin Botsford/Pool/AP

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Happy Tuesday and welcome to your recap of yesterday’s hotly anticipated episode of Law & Order: Presidential, brought to you by US Election Countdown.

The first-ever criminal trial of a former US president is officially under way with the start of jury selection in Donald Trump’s Manhattan “hush money” case [free to read]. As a refresher, here’s a cast list for the historic proceedings.

More than 50 prospective jurors were dismissed yesterday after they said they could not be impartial and fairly decide the polarising former president’s fate. The selection process will be arduous — even Trump appeared to nod off in the uncomfortably warm courtroom yesterday — as the judge, prosecutors and defence attorneys question roughly 500 potential jurors about their political views and news habits. The trial is expected to last six weeks, taking Trump off the campaign trail.

All the potential jurors are from Manhattan, where voters overwhelmingly went for Joe Biden in the 2020 election, making it an ideal pool for the prosecutors. On Friday, Trump said it was “very unfair” for his trial to take place in such a Democratic district, adding that he would “absolutely” testify in his own defence.

A courtroom sketch showing Donald Trump talking with his attorney Todd Blanche before justice Juan Merchan
A courtroom sketch shows Donald Trump, left, with his attorney Todd Blanche before justice Juan Merchan yesterday © Jane Rosenberg/Pool/AP

Trump was indicted last year for falsifying business records of payments allegedly made to buy the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election — she had alleged she had an affair with Trump in the past, which he denied. It’s likely that this will be the only one of Trump’s criminal cases to go to trial before election day, and it could bring his legal problems back to the forefront of voters’ minds.

Prosecutors also accused Trump of violating a gag order put in place by justice Juan Merchan, who is presiding over the case. They asked that the former president be fined over his attacks against potential witnesses posted on his Truth Social platform. Merchan scheduled arguments over this for next week.

Meanwhile, the White House said Biden wasn’t paying much attention to Trump’s trial, instead focusing on the US’s national security priorities, though he would probably get an update. While Trump is stuck in court, Biden will be campaigning in the swing state of Pennsylvania this week.

Campaign clips: the latest election headlines

  • US Speaker of the House Mike Johnson — a fierce defender of Trump whose leadership has been on shaky ground — said the chamber would vote on separate bills to provide aid to Israel and Ukraine.

  • After Iran’s attack on Israel, Biden’s Middle East dilemma has become more perilous as he faces pressure from both his right and left flanks, endangering his re-election bid. (WSJ)

  • Trump’s media group was sent rushing to find a new auditor when its first pick resigned after just a few months on the job. [Free to read]

  • Biden shrank Trump’s lead in a recent national poll. (NYT)

  • The Biden administration has hit US oil drillers with the first royalty rate increase in more than 100 years as the president tries to mobilise progressive voters ahead of election day.

Behind the scenes

The US was rocked by an Arizona court’s radical decision last week to uphold a 160-year-old law banning almost all abortions. The ruling has given Biden an opening in the crucial swing state as the issue returns to the centre of the political stage.

Though several opinion polls in the state have Donald Trump in the lead, even some Republicans are now sceptical the former president can win Arizona.

The ruling was “like a meteor hitting a body of water”, veteran Republican strategist Chuck Coughlin told the FT’s Lauren Fedor. He added:

I have not seen a Maga candidate succeed in Arizona since 2016. That is because every successive cycle, they have failed to persuade . . . a majority of unaffiliated voters . . . I just don’t see it. I just don’t see how [Trump] can win out here.

And in the Democratic camp, Ruben Gallego, the congressman now running for one of Arizona’s US Senate seats, told Lauren that since Trump killed the bipartisan border deal and abortion protections, “those are the two things that are going to cost him the election in Arizona”.

Arizonans understand: we don’t want this to be our brand.


US voters are feeling better about Biden’s handling of the economy, a good sign for the president, who has struggled to get his economic message across.

In the latest edition of the FT-Michigan Ross poll, conducted earlier this month, 41 per cent of registered voters said they approved of Biden’s handling of the economy, up from 36 per cent in March. He’s making gains among Black, young, female and independent voters. The new reading marks his highest economic approval rating since the poll began in November.

But it’s not all good news.

Voters are still worried about inflation — particularly rising food and petrol prices — which could ultimately derail his re-election run.

Almost 80 per cent of voters said rising prices were one of their biggest sources of financial stress, with three in four saying food costs were most impactful. The poll also showed a five-point jump in the number of voters saying prices at the pump were hitting their wallets.

“Voters worry as much about inflation as they ever did, but they blame Biden less,” said Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Biden’s “recent, more strident accusations that greedy corporations are responsible for price increases seem to have won him points”.


  • The tension between the US’s dual objectives on Israel is at a snapping point, writes Gideon Rachman, as the Biden administration wants to provide “ironclad” support for the Jewish state while preventing a wider regional war.

  • Rana Foroohar wonders if abortion will be Trump’s downfall as suburban women in swing states seem to think Republican policies on the issue are too restrictive. [Premium subscribers]

  • Inflation could end up sinking Biden’s campaign since voters won’t care much about US growth if borrowing costs stay high, says Edward Luce. [Premium subscribers]

  • Simon Kuper ponders how to beat nativist populists at their own game since they can’t be defeated with facts and policies.

  • There is something the upper-middle-class left in the US isn’t getting about how inflation is affecting the lives of working-class and lower-middle-class Americans, points out Michael Powell. (The Atlantic)

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