Donald Trump’s unprecedented criminal hush money trial has begun, with the former president reportedly starting to fall asleep at an opening court session.

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Former President Donald Trump began his day as a criminal defendant lashing out at the judge and prosecutors, casting himself as a victim and angrily posting on social media.

In other words: a familiar routine.

But inside the courtroom, which was closed to TV cameras, Trump was a different man – reserved and muted in a stark departure from his feisty approach to other legal troubles.

The contrast spoke to the gravity of his situation. Trump is now the first former president ever to stand trial on criminal charges, and if he is found guilty, he could become the first major American presidential candidate in history to run for office as a convicted felon.

Trump is charged with falsifying business records to hide alleged hush money payments made to a porn star to keep her from going public with allegations of an affair during his 2016 campaign.

The trial also saw 60 of 96 potential jurors quickly dismissed by the New York court, saying they could not be impartial. The dismissals were an indication of how tricky it is to find 12 jurors distanced enough from politics to make a reasonable decision on matters involving Trump.

The trial is expected to last at least six weeks and Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee

, is required to attend every day court is in session – a schedule that will dramatically alter his daily life and his ability to campaign in battleground states.

As he has before, Trump brought his campaign to the courthouse, delivering statements  in which he condemned the case as nothing more than a politically motivated effort by his rivals to hinder his campaign.

“This is political persecution,” he steamed after arriving with a phalanx of lawyers and several senior aides, but without his wife or other family members. “This is an assault on our country,” he went on.

However, his demeanour inside the courtroom was reportedly far more downcast, and even fatigued. The New York Times reported that Trump appeared to fall asleep, his head lolling and mouth falling slack.

While Trump has complained about being taken off the campaign trail, he has been keeping a relatively light schedule of public events since he locked up the GOP nomination last month, with most of his rallies scheduled on weekends anyway. Instead, he has been focused on fundraising as he tries to close the gap with his Democratic rival, President Joe Biden.

He is also expected to rely more heavily on surrogates. On Monday, allies including North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and Florida Representative Byron Donalds – all potential vice presidential or cabinet picks – fanned out across cable networks to blast the case.

Trump’s indictments proved beneficial during the primaries, helping him rake in tens of millions of dollars from angry supporters and denying his GOP rivals the media spotlight as they were trying to gain traction.

It’s unclear, however, how a criminal trial and possible conviction resonate with the broader general election audience, which includes more moderate and independent voters that could decide the race.



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