Trump’s Graduation Dilemma: Show Up and Get Cuffed?

Evan El-Amin /
Evan El-Amin /

During the first few days of Donald Trump’s ‘hush money’ trial, there was a mix of legal proceedings and personal drama, setting the stage for a contentious trial. The trial started with jury selection, a routine yet crucial step in any trial. However, the case was anything but ordinary. The presiding Judge, Juan Merchan, garnered attention for his controversial rulings and interactions with the former president.

Trump, visibly displeased, expressed frustration over the Judge’s decision to bar him from attending his son Barron’s high school graduation. Trump said that his son “was looking forward to that graduation with his mother and father there.” The Judge’s reasoning and a warning of possible arrest if Trump violates the order intensified an already tense situation.

“It looks like the judge isn’t going to allow me to escape this scam,” Trump told reporters. “It’s a scam trial.”

Trump’s sentiments reflected not only his disappointment but also his belief that the trial itself was a sham—a sentiment he shared with his characteristic bluntness, labeling it a “scam” and a “political witch hunt.”

“Judge Merchan is truly heartless in not letting a father attend his son’s graduation,” Eric Trump tweeted X on Monday.

The exclusion of Trump from significant personal events, such as his son’s graduation and a Supreme Court hearing, fueled his perception of injustice and bolstered his narrative of victimization at the hands of political opponents. Trump’s vocal criticism of Judge Merchan underscored his belief that the judiciary was biased against him—a sentiment echoed by his supporters and amplified across social media platforms.

Meanwhile, the trial itself revolves around the infamous $130,000 payment orchestrated by Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to adult film actress Stormy Daniels—a transaction alleged to have been part of a scheme to silence her regarding an alleged extramarital affair with Trump. The prosecution presented various evidence during the trial, including the Access Hollywood tape and allegations of sexual assault against Trump.

However, the courtroom drama didn’t stop there. Trump’s legal team sparred with prosecutors over the admissibility of specific evidence, while allegations of contempt swirled around Trump himself for allegedly violating a gag order imposed by Judge Merchan. The legal theatrics and the ever-looming threat of contempt charges kept reporters busy —because what’s a Trump-related courtroom saga without a hefty dose of drama?

The courtroom buzzed with anticipation as jury selection got underway—a process made all the more daunting by the sheer number of prospective jurors awaiting their turn. However, the first day of Trump’s Manhattan trial ended on Monday with no one picked to sit on the 12-person jury or as one of six alternates. There were dozens of potential jurors dismissed because they thought they couldn’t be fair. On Tuesday, another round of 100 prospective jurors were waiting to be questioned.

Trump had initially requested that he be present during one-on-one sidebar questioning of prospective jurors in his hush money trial. However, he later changed his mind and informed Judge Juan M. Merchan, through his lawyers, that he no longer wished to exercise his right to be present for all sidebars.

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass addressed potential jurors by stating, “Let’s address the obvious here.” Steinglass added that the accused, in this case, is the former president of the country and a candidate for the same office. Steinglass advised that it’s impractical to assume knowledge of Trump makes you biased, “We don’t expect you to have been living under a rock for the last eight years or the last 30 years.”

Steinglass explained the unique nature of the case. The trial will include testimony from a former publisher of a tabloid, an adult film actress, and Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney who was imprisoned for lying to Congress.

Adding to the drama is the request to hold Trump in contempt. Court documents reveal that the prosecution has requested Trump be fined $3,000 for violating a gag order that prohibited him from speaking ill of prosecution witnesses.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office has pointed out three social media posts from Donald Trump on Truth Social, where he has mentioned Michael Cohen and/or Stormy Daniels. In one post, Trump referred to them as “two sleaze bags who have, with their lies and misrepresentations, cost our Country dearly”.

The district attorney’s office has recommended that Trump be fined a thousand dollars for each post, be admonished, and ordered to take down these posts.

The Judge has set a hearing on that matter for April 23. Meanwhile Trump has stated “This conflicted, Trump Hating Judge won’t let me respond to people that are on TV lying and spewing hate all day long.” He also posted that Judge Merchan “is running roughshod over my lawyers and legal team.”