Trump’s Big Complaint About His Criminal Trial: He’s Cold

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty

Donald Trump is on trial for his freedom, staring down the potential of years in jail, and he’s got one big complaint about how it’s going thus far: He’s cold.

“I’m sitting here from morning ’til night in that freezing room. Freezing. Everybody was freezing in there,” the former president said after exiting the courtroom Thursday.

Trump’s attorney has pleaded with New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan to turn up the heat to no avail, with the judge explaining that the old courthouse can’t control the temperature with exactitude, forcing them to either brave a mildly chilly courtroom or a sweltering one.

Two More Prospective Trump Jurors Share Their Impressions of the Trial

But the cool air conditioning is far from the only thing bringing Trump discomfort during his ongoing trial—a trial over falsifying business records to cover up a hush money payment to a porn star.

For years, Trump has been insulated from many of the harshest opinions about him and his presidency. For much of his time at the White House, staff were known to compile print-outs of the most adoring tweets for Trump. And many of his interactions with the outside world were under the warm glow of the MAGA rally spotlights.

In the first week of his criminal trial, however—which was solely dedicated to jury selection—Trump was forced to hear the unvarnished opinions of everyday New Yorkers about him and his presidency.

“The way he carries himself in public leaves something to be desired,” said one corporate lawyer, who was under consideration to be a juror.

As she spoke, Trump slumped back in his court-appointed chair, his arms folded and his face stuck in an unmoving frown.

He was no longer surrounded by sycophants.

Despite the woman’s assurances that she could remain impartial, Trump’s lawyers burned through one of their no-questions-asked “peremptory” challenges to kick her out of the jury pool.

But it was far from the only—or harshest—opinions about Trump that the former president heard last week.

An accountant who said he watches Fox News “sometimes” called Trump’s politics “outrageous.” Another prospective juror, a man in the streaming music industry, had an old social media post read out loud that decried Trump’s “egomaniacal, sociopathic incompetence.”

All of that was mild, however, compared to the description a young woman from Harlem gave earlier in the week.

“I’m not going to sit here and pretend... there isn’t a divide in the country,” she said. “And there’s one man to blame for that. I can’t ignore that. I don’t think that would allow me to be impartial, if that makes sense.”

Former president Donald Trump speaks to the media as he exits the courtroom for the day at Manhattan Criminal Court.

Former president Donald Trump speaks to the media as he exits the courtroom for the day at Manhattan Criminal Court.

Photo by Curtis Means-Pool/Getty Images

She bowed out voluntarily, a detail that counters the narrative Trump is desperate to form now—that fervent liberals are trying to disguise their biases and secure a spot on the jury to convict him of 34 felonies.

The reality appears to be quite the opposite. Dozens of potential jurors excused themselves, the vast majority citing an admitted inability to be fair. Among the most memorable was an Italian man who said that, after reading so many comparisons between Trump and former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi—a media tycoon turned political strongman who was inundated with accusations of corruption for years—he just couldn’t bring himself to look past the similarities.

“It’s a little bit hard for me to maintain impartiality or unfairness,” he said, voluntarily recusing himself from the jury.

One of the most charitable takes came from a Scandinavian man at a finance and tech startup. He said he was “neutral, leaning positive” on Trump, but struggling with the disparate facets of the former president’s character.

“It’s one that has five different answers… the person, the politician, the businessman… I think that’s why people struggle with this question,” he said. “The results, you see them everywhere. He’s brought value to the economy.”

But then the Scandinavian turned his attention to the GOP’s rightward lurch since Trump took hold of the political party.

“The lower taxes and all that, I subscribe to. When you think about the Republican Party, and why we need to bring religion into people’s lives and women’s rights to their own bodies, that’s where me and the party don’t share” the same views, he said.

His take was a far cry from that of a city employee who is also a female amateur boxer. She talked at length about the way Trump’s rage-filled political speech had stoked hate across the country, wormed its way into the sparring community, and even eclipsed whatever political legacy he hoped to have.

“His rhetoric at times enables people, as if they have permission to act on their negative impulses. This is a little embarrassing, but I’m not even sure what Trump’s policies are,” she said. “I just know that in interactions with people I’ve had in the [boxing] community, there were homophobic comments made, different racist comments made, and they’d cite to President Trump as a reason to do so.”

As she spoke, Trump stared her down without moving—that is, until Susan Necheles, one of Trump’s lawyers, asked whether the woman’s experiences being sexually assaulted on the subway would affect her ability to be fair to a man with his own history of sexual assault accusations.

“Would you be able to put that out of your mind?” Necheles asked.

When she said yes, Trump immediately leaned over and whispered in the ear of attorney Todd Blanche.

Trump Trial Finally Has a Jury—After a Week of Hiccups

These New Yorkers have personal views, they know they’re entitled to share them, but they profess a desire to put them aside and judge the case solely on its merits, limited to the facts presented by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

When prosecutor Joshua Steinglass asked dozens of jury candidates whether they could hold the office responsible for proving a case “beyond a reasonable doubt,” with zero room for uncertainty, every one responded with a reassuring “yes.”

But that didn’t stop Trump and his lawyers from targeting particular people for removal. For example, a stay-at-home mom and former teacher readily admitted she's a registered Democrat. Her son even works for the leading Democrat in Congress, no less. But she maintained she could judge the case fairly. Trump’s lawyers cut her out at the first opportunity.

Then there’s the product development manager at an international apparel company who delivered a scathing critique of Trump as a human being.

“I don’t have strong opinions of him, but I don’t like his persona,” she said.

As she went on, Trump appeared to be trying to warm his hands on his knees. While others in the courtroom donned their coats, the former president remained in his dark blue suit, blue tie, and white shirt, with the courtroom’s sterile fluorescent lights reflecting off his iconic blonde coif. The woman continued:

“He just seems very selfish and self-serving, so I don’t really appreciate that in any public servant,” she said.

Necheles pressed her for more answers.

“I appreciate you sharing and your honesty,” Necheles said. “It sounds to me like you don’t like him, based on the way he presents himself.”

“Yes,” the woman said eagerly.

Unlike typical presidential candidates who make the rounds—attending small community gatherings where they can hear from a diverse array of voters—Trump has largely kept himself holed up in his mansions or headlining heavily guarded rallies, where only the most devout followers are welcome.

Even Jury Selection Can’t Escape Trump’s Racism

Trump famously doesn’t subject himself to casual feedback from the public. When he does a town hall, he usually prefers fielding softball questions from Fox News host and confidant Sean Hannity. There were no boos from the Fox crowd in December when Trump affirmed he would be a “dictator” if elected back to the White House, but “only on day one.”

Even when he went toe-to-toe with CNN’s Kaitlin Collins late last year for a town hall, the New Hampshire arena was filled with GOP voters who enthusiastically applauded Trump when he lied about a stolen election and mocked E. Jean Carroll, a woman he was found liable for sexually assaulting.

For years, Trump has downplayed any criticism of his xenophobic or misogynist policies simply as resistance from leftists extremists. During a speech last year at a conservative religious conference in Washington, Trump told the crowd, “We’re going to keep foreign, Christian-hating communists, Marxists and socialists out of America.”

Part of his rhetorical strategy entails propping up convenient effigies, demonizing leading Democratic politicians like former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

But last week, Trump was forced to confront another reality: that the Americans deeply disappointed with his performance—at the White House, on stage, and on television—aren’t a fringe element of the American public. They’re everyday people who are entrusted with the freedom to vote, to speak their mind, and in this case, make a conscious decision to put aside their personal feelings and consider whether a former president is guilty of a crime.

The judge seems to recognize that, which is why he wouldn’t allow Trump’s lawyers to shove the product manager off the jury “for cause,” despite Trump’s lawyers arguments that they shouldn’t have to waste a strike.

“This woman said about President Trump that he was selfish, self-serving, doesn’t like his persona, and ‘I don’t like him,’” Necheles said.

“Among the many other things she said,” Merchan responded.

“It took a lot of prompting to get those answers,” he continued. “It doesn't matter if she doesn’t like your client or not. I preside over trials all the time of defendants who aren’t very likable. Gang members… people who committed terrible sex abuse, drug smugglers.”

“The issue isn’t whether they like your client,” he said. “It’s whether they can be fair and impartial.”

“Nobody likes sex offenders, because you don’t like the crime,” Necheles pushed back, stressing her concern about “people who come into the case with preconceived notions about how they feel about someone.”

“It’s understood that everybody comes into a case with opinions,” he replied. “If we eliminated everybody with opinions who comes into this case, we wouldn’t have a jury.”

Opening statements start Monday, and the courtroom isn’t likely to get any warmer.

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