New York v. Donald Trump, day 1: From the Politics Desk

Welcome to the online version of From the Politics Desk, an evening newsletter that brings you the NBC News Politics team’s latest reporting and analysis from the campaign trail, the White House and Capitol Hill.

In today’s edition, senior national political reporter Jonathan Allen looks at the first day of Donald Trump’s hush-money trial, inside and outside of the courtroom. Plus, senior political editor Mark Murray breaks down how the public is viewing Trump’s legal woes.

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Trump’s trial: A ‘freak show’ on the outside and solemn on the inside

By Jonathan Allen

Inside a courthouse nestled between Tribeca and Chinatown on Monday morning, former President Donald Trump’s lawyers argued with the district attorney’s office over procedures for a hush-money case that could send an ex-commander in chief to prison for the first time in American history.

Judge Juan Merchan advised lawyers that he was getting a little annoyed by the “minutia.” With a pool of 500 prospective jurors waiting, he wanted to get started with the process of picking 12.

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The judge also delivered Trump his “Parker warnings,” including that he could be jailed for contempt if he is absent without leave at any point during the trial. Trump, betraying little emotion, said he understood.

Outside, in a sun-filled park across the street, peculiarity reigned over pedantry.

A smattering of pro-Trump demonstrators — some wearing costumes, others carrying signs, one temporarily lowering the top of her dinosaur-themed one-piece before writhing on the ground in performative ecstasy — lent their support to the presumptive Republican nominee.

The presence of high-profile gawkers accentuated the carnival-like nature of the gathering: The Daily Show’s Jordan Klepper, former Republican gubernatorial candidate Andrew Giuliani and filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi, a daughter of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

“I never miss a freak show,” the younger Pelosi, a longtime resident of nearby Greenwich Village, said.

The unlikely tandem of Klepper and Giuliani provided a clear window into a series of truths about this trial: The charges are at once the least consequential of the set pending against Trump and as fundamental to democracy as the question of whether special treatment — either targeting or protection — can be avoided in the case of such a powerful figure.

At times during the lengthy proceedings, the former president suggested disinterest or exhaustion by closing his eyes.

Most of the jurors sat quiet and expressionless. Merchan emphasized his desire to shield their identities from the public, going so far as to warn the rival legal teams not to reproduce lists of their names. More than half of them were dismissed when they raised their hands to say they could not be impartial in this trial.

One dismissed prospective juror was overheard in a hallway saying, “I just couldn’t do it.”

Finding 12 adults with no particular feelings about Donald J. Trump, and the will to sit through a multi-week trial, is no easy feat. That process will continue inside Merchan’s court. For the rest of the world, the “freak show” rolls along on the outside.

Read more →

Where public opinion stands on Trump’s trial — for now

Analysis by Mark Murray

It’s unclear how the criminal trial into the hush money charges against Trump will ultimately play out, but recent national polling gives us a good idea where voters stand on the matter.

At least for now.

Sizable majorities say the charges against Trump are serious: 64% of voters said the charges that Trump falsified business records concerning the payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election are very or somewhat serious, according to an April Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Yet that’s smaller than the share of voters who believed the charges in the other criminal cases are serious — such as trying to overturn the 2020 election results (74%), pressuring Georgia state officials to overturn the 2020 election (72%) and illegally removing classified documents (69%).

A recent New York Times/Siena College poll also found 58% of registered voters saying the hush-money charges are “very” or “somewhat” serious, including 30% of self-identified Republicans.

Views about Trump’s guilt are divided along party lines: But the same NYT/Siena poll showed a smaller share of voters (46%) believing that Trump should be found guilty in the hush-money case, while 36% said he should be found not guilty; another 18% say they didn’t know or refused to answer.

And look at the results by party:

  • Democrats: 84% guilty, 6% not guilty, 10% didn’t know

  • Republicans: 13% guilty, 71% not guilty, 16% didn’t know

  • Independents: 40% guilty, 35% not guilty, 25% didn’t know

  • Notice how those independents are right down the middle, with a sizable number not having an opinion.

The general election ballot slightly shifts if Trump is found guilty: Finally, the January 2024 national NBC News poll showed a slight shift in the horse race between Trump and President Joe Biden when voters are asked about their opinions *if* Trump is ultimately convicted of a crime.

In the original ballot test, Trump was ahead of Biden by 5 points among registered voters, 47% to 42%, which was within the poll’s margin of error.

But when voters were asked — on the survey’s final question — about their ballot choice if Trump is convicted of a crime, Biden jumped ahead of Trump by 2 points, 45% to 43%.

That’s a 7-point swing.

A caveat about that hypothetical, however: It assumes voters would see a conviction is fair and square. But as we all know, Trump has already spent months trying to cast the prosecution as unfair and politically motivated.

That’s all from The Politics Desk for now. If you have feedback — likes or dislikes — email us at

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