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Behind the scenes at Donald Trump's "hush money" trial: A reporter's notebook.

Behind the scenes at Donald Trump's "hush money" trial
Behind the scenes at Donald Trump's "hush money" trial jury selection 03:01

NEW YORK -- Jury selection in Donald Trump's criminal "hush money" trial in New York City has concluded and opening statements are up next. 

CBS New York's Alice Gainer covered the case all week. Here's what she observed around the courthouse during jury selection in Lower Manhattan. 


Security is tight 

Court doesn't begin until 9:30 a.m., but we have to go through two rounds of security screening before Trump arrives. I left for the courthouse around 6:30 a.m. on the first day of the trial. 

Whenever Trump is at the courthouse, or moving in and out of the courtroom, we are frozen in place, unable to leave our seats. 

I'll have a guaranteed seat in the main courtroom for most of the trial, but during jury selection all but six reporters are in the overflow room because prospective jurors take up all available seats in the main courtroom. 

In overflow, we have a video monitor with four different feeds. The six rotating pool reporters tell us what we can't see happening in the main courtroom. 

We can see the defense table, a sideview of the defense table, the prosecution table and the judge in overflow, but we cannot see prospective jurors. 

All of those angles are up at once on the screen, so I brought binoculars to get a better look at people's faces. 

Trump's eyes were closed for stretches of time

On the first day, some journalists and sketch artists said Trump appeared to have his eyes closed. Was he dozing off?

Since bringing binoculars, I've seen Trump sitting with his eyes closed for stretches of time. I've seen it while they were going over outstanding issues with the judge in the morning and when jurors have given answers to the 42-question questionnaire

Trump Hush Money
Former President Donald Trump sits as final jurors are sworn in during his criminal trial on charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, in Manhattan state court in New York, Friday, April 19, 2024, in this courtroom sketch. (Jane Rosenberg via AP, Pool) Jane Rosenberg / AP

Trump looks at some prospective jurors, those being questioned individually by attorneys, and pays attention. 

The former president was scolded by the judge for allegedly gesturing in the direction of a juror and saying something audibly, although we could not see this in overflow nor could we hear it. He has not done it since. 

Lunch breaks and reporting for the evening news

I don't leave the building during the lunch break, due to the security screenings and needing to be back in my seat before Trump returns to the courtroom. 

Instead, I try to find a hallway with an outlet to charge my devices. Then I get back on the security line. 

I usually stay in the courthouse until late afternoon. Then I go outside and meet up with my crew to finish my story for the evening news. 

I do live reports for CBS2 News at 5 p.m., and sometimes 6 p.m. I've also done a Q&A with WCBS Newsradio 880. 

Next week, I'll be back to cover opening statements. 

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