Jury selection in Tom Barrack’s foreign lobbying trial begins with a Trump quote

Judge Brian Cogan mentioned Trump’s name when he questioned a pool of potential jurors to find people qualified to hear evidence, suggesting the former president as a possible witness. But it’s unclear whether Trump will actually be called to the stand or whether the question is meant to gauge juror bias.

During jury selection, a judge generally reads a list of names of people who may be called as witnesses in a trial to try to remove any bias in favor of the potential juror.

Barrack and his former aide Matthew Grimes have been accused of acting as a secret conduit to the United Arab Emirates to influence the Trump administration’s foreign policy to favor the Gulf nation. Both have pleaded not guilty to charges of acting as foreign agents of the UAE and have denied having any agreement to help the Emirates.

Questionnaires were sent to jurors over the summer, and some of them expressed their distaste for Trump.

The potential conflict was raised in court filings in August, as Barrack’s attorneys and prosecutors went back and forth over whether to strike potential jurors for bias after several responded to a questionnaire saying Trump was their “least admired” person.

Prosecutors wrote in a court filing: “Defendants argue that jurors who have expressed some level of distaste for former President Trump or his administration are appropriate because the former president and other members of the Trump Administration ‘cannot be ruled out’ as potential witnesses. Although the defendants’ witness lists have already been disclosed, neither the defendants identified the former president nor any former member of the Trump Administration as potential witnesses.”

Prosecutors also noted that the government “could call one or more former Trump Administration officials, so jurors who theoretically expressed negative views of the Trump Administration would be at risk of prejudice to their witnesses.” The file did not identify any former White House officials by name.

Barrack’s attorneys responded in a court filing that they cannot make a final call on who they will call as witnesses until the government presents its case.

“Thus, regardless of which party notices these witnesses, it is disingenuous for the government to suggest that it is skeptical of the ‘defendant’s claim’ that key figures in the Trump Administration, or even former President Trump himself, are potential witnesses in this case,” they wrote.

Jury selection will continue on Tuesday.