A silent Trump glowers and stares during third day of criminal trial

<span>Donald Trump sits beside lawyer Todd Blanche during jury selection, in New York City on 18 April 2024.</span><span>Photograph: Jane Rosenberg/Reuters</span>
Donald Trump sits beside lawyer Todd Blanche during jury selection, in New York City on 18 April 2024.Photograph: Jane Rosenberg/Reuters

With Donald Trump just a few feet away, a potential juror in the criminal case against him summed up the experience in just three words. “This is bizarre,” she said, with just a slight hint of a seasoned New York accent.

Related: All 12 jurors seated in Trump hush-money trial after two dismissals

Bizarre it was. There was a potential juror who once spent the night at one of Trump’s lawyers’ homes more than a decade ago (Trump’s team used one of its peremptory strikes to remove the juror). The microphones didn’t work. The proceedings had to start over when Judge Juan Merchan realized that a court reporter hadn’t been present first thing. And the temperature in the courthouse was so frigid that Todd Blanche, one of Trump’s lawyers, asked Merchan if it would be possible to turn up the temperature “just one degree”.

Merchan said no. “It would probably go up 30 degrees,” Merchan said. “It is cold, there’s no question it is cold, but I’d rather be a little cold than sweaty, and really those are the choices.”

Trump also would emerge from court at the end of the day and complain about the courtroom temperature. “I’m sitting here for days now, from morning till night in that freezing room. Freezing. Everybody was freezing in there and all of this,” he said.

Today was just day three of a blockbuster trial that’s expected to last six weeks once a jury is selected. At the center of it was Donald Trump. Silent. Disarmed of televisions and social media, forced to sit expressionless over a grueling long day in a drab Manhattan courtroom.

This was not Donald Trump the business mogul or Donald Trump the 45th president. It was Donald Trump the defendant.

Trump was far from the comforts of the White House and Mar-a-Lago as he sat in the courtroom at 100 Centre Street. There was nowhere for him to go and nothing he could say; he was trapped. It was a stark reminder of the long slog Trump faces over the next two months or so as he faces 34 felony charges for falsifying business records.

When potential jurors, sitting just feet away, offered critical assessments of him and his presidency, the former president, who is known for his inability to let even the slightest insult go unanswered, sat in silence. As his lawyer Susan Necheles read old social media posts from a potential juror that were highly critical of Trump, he sat silently.

Yet it would be a mistake to think that Trump has been tamed or humbled. His Truth Social account has been alive with criticism of the court proceedings, both from his team and himself. Shortly after court convened on Thursday, prosecutors said Trump had violated a gag order in the case an additional seven times; the order prohibits him from making any threats against jurors or potential witnesses.

“It’s ridiculous and it has to stop,” Christopher Conroy, a prosecutor, said.

The effort was a reminder that even if Trump is silent while he’s in the courtroom, he’ll continue to use every tool at his disposal outside it.