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Trump will juggle appearances in courtroom and on campaign trail as hush money trial begins

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Former President Donald Trump’s appearance in a New York courthouse Monday for jury selection in his criminal hush money trial will kick off a weekslong juggling act between the courtroom and the campaign trail during a crucial period for his general election bid.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee is required to be present in court the entire time – every weekday, except Wednesday – with the schedule set by the court. Trump’s team is working around the limitations to keep him interacting with voters and donors.

Since launching his third presidential bid in late 2022, the former president has rarely held campaign events for more than two days a week. However, with Trump’s days away from court limited to Wednesdays and weekends, his flexibility to travel for fundraising and campaigning at his own discretion will be severely curtailed, which he and his staff have lamented.

A preview of that balancing act begins this weekend. Trump is expected to travel to New York City following a campaign rally and donor event in Pennsylvania on Saturday in order to be prepared by members of his legal team on Sunday over court protocol and messaging, sources familiar with his plans told CNN.

Trump’s team believes news coverage of the trial will keep the former president in the spotlight, despite limited access to cameras in the federal courthouse and no video coverage of the trial itself. As he did during his earlier fraud trial, Trump will seek to ensure he remains front and center.

The former president is expected to speak to cameras on his way in and out of the courtroom and is also likely to deliver on-camera remarks at his Trump Tower residence after his court appearances. Trump advisers warn that these remarks will be determined by his whim on any given day, as are most things in the case of the former president. The location was chosen out of convenience, as Trump is expected to stay at Trump Tower during the trial.

“Every time the president is in court, all of the focus is on him and the message he’s driving,” a campaign official said.

Some of Trump’s advisers say that his presence in court throughout the trial will continue to benefit him — despite keeping him off the campaign trail.

“[The court appearances] certainly helped galvanize a big part of the debate. His appearance in court helps with messaging, it helps with fundraising and helps with getting people out to vote and volunteer for us,” one Trump adviser told CNN.

Others acknowledge privately that they are entering uncharted territory and that what worked during a Republican primary isn’t necessarily going to work with on-the-fence or critical independent voters.

“There’s always a concern about Trump fatigue,” a senior adviser said.

In addition to utilizing his courtroom appearances, Trump will be “driving his message with both in-person and virtual events on court days,” the campaign official said.

The Trump campaign also maintains it would still be able to maximize the time he isn’t tethered to the courtroom, highlighting the former president’s reach on social media and suggesting that Trump will hold events in the New York area.

“Yes, we’ll be campaigning on Wednesdays and over weekends, but it’s not limited to just that. We have the best candidate ever, a great airplane, the largest political social media reach in history, and there are lots of things we can do in or near New York City,” another Trump campaign official told CNN.

However, this coming week, Trump will sit through jury selection on Monday and Tuesday, with nothing on his schedule Wednesday, before he’s back in the courtroom Thursday. His next scheduled campaign appearance after jury selection starts is on April 20, when he is expected to go to North Carolina for a campaign event and fundraiser.

Trump has also previously teased a potential New York campaign rally, suggesting in an interview with Fox News in February that he could hold such an event in the South Bronx or Madison Square Garden. Trump has said a few times that his campaign was going to “give New York a heavy shot” despite the state being a Democratic stronghold he lost to Joe Biden by 23 points in 2020. Democratic presidential nominees have carried the Empire State since 1988, but Trump has argued that the recent influx of migrants into the state could push more New Yorkers to cast their ballots for him in November.

Despite that public optimism, the political history of the state, and particularly New York City, has caused Trump to rant both publicly and privately that he cannot get a fair jury in New York — a theory that will be put to the test over the next few weeks as his lawyers grill hundreds of prospective jurors to ultimately hear the first criminal trial of a former US president.

Manhattan overwhelmingly voted for Biden in 2020. And while Trump has been complaining about the potential jury makeup for months, it was just a week before the trial’s start date, in what was widely viewed as another last-ditch effort to postpone the case, that Trump’s lawyers petitioned the court for a change of venue based on this argument. A New York appeals court denied the petition.

However, given the high profile nature of the case and the political polarization around the former president, both the Manhattan district attorney’s office and Trump’s legal team have acknowledged the importance of the jury selection process and expressed concern that jurors may not be honest when answering a wide range of questions. Those queries include where they get their news from, whether they’ve ever attended a rally for the former president or had any affiliations with groups such as the Proud Boys or with the QAnon movement, according to a jury questionnaire released Monday.

One source close to Trump argued that there is worry that some prospective jurors may have ulterior motives for wanting to be involved in the former president’s trial.

“Some may want a book deal or the clout that comes with being associated with this,” the source said.

Karen Friedman Agnifilo, a CNN legal analyst and former prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office, said Trump’s attorneys will be looking for jurors who are sympathetic to the former president, of course – but also for people who’d appear to be “independent” thinkers, willing to stand alone and let a jury hang. A unanimous verdict is required for conviction

“If you’re Trump, you’d love an acquittal, but if you can’t get an acquittal, you’d want them to hang, because then there’s no conviction before the election,” Agnifilo said. “You’d want somebody who’s strong enough to be a holdout and somebody who is an independent thinker, who is not going to go along with the group.”

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