People of New York v. Trump begins

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup is a long-running series published every morning that collects essential political discussion and analysis around the internet.

We begin today with María Antonia Sánchez-Vallejo of El País in English describing the first day of the unprecedented criminal trial of a former President of the United States.

At 9:30 a.m. local time, Trump arrived promptly on the 15th floor of 100 Centre Street. In the access corridor, he did not accept questions from the journalists assembled there, limiting himself to presenting his own argument: it was an irresistible opportunity to turn the trial into a political campaign event. Of the four criminal proceedings he is facing, this is the case Trump dislikes the most, as it mixes personal dirty laundry; the recording of the $130,000 payment as “legal expenses” to hide its dubious nature and, even worse, an alleged violation of campaign finance rules, as the alleged bribe to buy Daniels’ silence had the sole objective of preventing the affair from coming to light in the final stretch of the campaign that ultimately brought him to the White House in 2016.

Presided over by Judge Juan Merchan, the trial has begun with jury selection. The questionnaire for the potential candidates—a hundred on Monday, out of a total of 500—has been made public, and it is expected that in the process those who do not respond adequately will be automatically excluded, according to the scale of prosecutors and defense. The fact that all the candidates are residents of Manhattan, an eminently Democratic district, may be a factor that leads to numerous disqualifications by Trump’s lawyers. […]

Before jury selection began, Judge Merchan spent over an hour on preliminary, or procedural, matters in discussions with the prosecution team and defense counsel. One of the main issues concerned permission to show the transcript of the Access Hollywood tape — an embarrassing audio recorded in 2005 in which Trump denigrated women — at trial. Manhattan prosecutor Alvin Bragg, who brought the case, had wanted the tape itself to be one of the main exhibits, but on Monday Judge Merchan ruled that only the transcript, not the recording, could be used. He has also refused to incorporate subsequent revealing — and damning — evidence of Trump’s customary treatment of women. In theory, Merchan’s decision is a victory for the defense.

David Nakamura of The Washington Post gives a description of the jury selection process that has taken place so far.

To protect their anonymity…the 96 prospective jurors brought into a 15th-floor courtroom at the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse on Monday were referred to only by their court identification numbers. They were not shown on the closed-circuit feed in the media overflow room.


And he listened impassively as the credentials of the first 10 prospective jurors came into view: Longtime New Yorkers, and some relative newcomers, who mostly read the New York Times, listen to NPR and watch CNN. A few said they tune into Fox News and read the conservative-leaning New York Post.

Most of those 10 prospective jurors who answered a questionnaire in court Monday were not voracious consumers of social media — with the exception of a marketing director for a sports betting app — and none had read Trump’s books or attended his political rallies, or participated actively in anti-Trump rallies.

For the most part, they identified themselves as having no strong views of the defendant that could prevent them from being impartial — a seeming rarity in a nation sharply polarized, particularly on the question of Trump’s presidency and, in some quarters, his guilt or innocence.

Ray Stern and Mary Jo Pitzl of Arizona Republic write about a plan hatched by Arizona Republicans to undercut the expected abortion ballot measure this November.

The potential plan would attempt to manipulate voters in several ways, such as trying to get better placement on the ballot and offering a 14-week ban that’s “disguised as a 15-week law.”

Its distribution follows last week’s explosive ruling by the state Supreme Court that upheld a strict abortion ban from Arizona’s territorial days. But the 24-slide presentation intended for Republican legislators doesn’t address a possible repeal of the ban that may come up for a vote during floor sessions planned for April 17.

It suggests referring three other measures to the ballot.

It’s “more likely that the AAA Initiative will fail if vote is split (dilutes vote),” says the presentation, which is titled “Legislative Strategies for Regulating Abortion (Amidst a Radical Ballot Initiative and Court Chaos.)”

Linley Wilson, the state House’s general counsel, emailed the presentation to lawmakers and others Monday, then recalled it. House spokesman Andrew Wilder said the email was sent accidentally.

Jon Seidel and Dave McKinney of the Chicago Sun-Times look at yesterday’s Supreme Court oral arguments for Snyder v. United States, a case about bribery that will affect the upcoming trial involving former Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and others involved with the ComEd scandal.

The case before the nation’s high court Monday was not Madigan’s, but the corruption case against James Snyder, a former mayor of Portage, Indiana. The justices acknowledged their decision in the case will have implications for prosecutions across the country, though.

The judge presiding over Madigan’s case in Chicago delayed the trial of the indicted former speaker until October to see how the Supreme Court rules in the Snyder matter. Seven of the 23 counts in Madigan’s indictment involve the law in question.

A second judge put sentencing hearings on hold in the related bribery conspiracy case against ex-ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore and three others. Five of the counts in that case involve the law before the high court.

The arguments Monday included repeated references to the Harry & David boutique gift store and The Cheesecake Factory — as well as to Al Capone and Illinois corruption — as the justices played with hypotheticals to determine what crosses the line between corruption and an innocuous reward.

Is this case the reason Justice Clarence Thomas wasn’t present for oral arguments yesterday? For Thomas to sit on the bench trying to delineate the fine line between “corruption and an innocuous reward” would be a bit much.

The question before the Court.

The Editorial Board of The Boston Globe weigh the pros and cons of attracting more international students to Massachusetts.

As colleges in Massachusetts face the so-called “demographic cliff,” many schools will need to expand into new markets to survive. This could mean looking to growing communities, like adult new immigrants, or expanding to new domestic markets or nontraditional students. It will almost certainly include attracting students from other countries, whether immigrants or international students.

Of course, some schools already do cater to foreign students. There were around 1 million international higher ed students studying in the United States last year, according to Open Doors, which tracks international student data. Education analysts at HolonIQ, which maps international student flows, predict that by 2030, there will be more than 1.2 million international students here, with close to 60 percent of them coming from China or India. […]

However, attracting large numbers of international students may not be right, or feasible, for all schools. Students learn about Northeastern or Boston University through word of mouth, while other schools lack that reputation. Boston schools have an advantage because international students have a local community of other expats. A nationally ranked school like the University of Massachusetts Amherst may have more power to draw international students than a lower-ranked regional school. Some wealthier schools — like Harvard and MIT — can offer international students financial aid.

The decision to rely on wealthy international students can draw criticism from those who believe American students should get priority for admittance since they will likely contribute to the US workforce.

Richard Stengel writes for The Atlantic proposing that print media suspend their online paywalls for the 2024 election.

According to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, more than 75 percent of America’s leading newspapers, magazines, and journals are behind online paywalls. And how do American news consumers react to that? Almost 80 percent of Americans steer around those paywalls and seek out a free option.

Paywalls create a two-tiered system: credible, fact-based information for people who are willing to pay for it, and murkier, less-reliable information for everyone else. Simply put, paywalls get in the way of informing the public, which is the mission of journalism. And they get in the way of the public being informed, which is the foundation  of democracy. It is a terrible time for the press to be failing at reaching people, during an election in which democracy is on the line. There’s a simple, temporary solution: Publications should suspend their paywalls for all 2024 election coverage and all information that is beneficial to voters. Democracy does not die in darkness—it dies behind paywalls.


In the pre-internet days, information wasn’t free—it just felt that way. Newsstands were everywhere, and you could buy a paper for a quarter. But that paper wasn’t just for you: After you read it at the coffee shop or on the train, you left it there for the next guy. The same was true for magazines. When I was the editor of Time, the publisher estimated that the “pass-along rate” of every issue was 10 to 15—that is, each magazine we sent out was read not only by the subscriber, but by 10 to 15 other people. In 1992, daily newspapers claimed a combined circulation of some 60 million; by 2022, while the nation had grown, that figure had fallen to 21 million. People want information to be free—and instantly available on their phone.

Catie Edmondson, Kayla Gun, and Carl Hulse of The New York Times provide analysis of House Speaker Mike Johnson’s gambit to get bills passed authorizing aid to Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan.

Mr. Johnson’s announcement, coming after he has agonized for weeks over whether and how to advance an infusion of critical aid to Ukraine amid stiff Republican resistance, was the first concrete indication that he had settled on a path forward. It came days after Iran launched a large aerial attack on Israel, amplifying calls for Congress to move quickly to approve the pending aid bill.

Emerging from a meeting in which he briefed G.O.P. lawmakers on his plan, Mr. Johnson said he would cobble together a legislative package that roughly mirrors the $95 billion aid bill the Senate passed two months ago but that is broken down into three pieces. Lawmakers would vote separately on a bill providing money for Israel, one allocating funding for Ukraine and a third with aid for Taiwan and other allies. They would cast a fourth vote on a separate measure containing other policies popular among Republicans. […]

It is not clear whether the complex strategy will be successful in the House, where Mr. Johnson has a tenuous hold on his divided conference and a bare majority. Republicans could try to block it from coming to the floor. Even if they did not, the success of the aid package would hinge on a complicated mix of bipartisan coalitions that support different pieces, given resistance among hard-right Republicans to Ukraine funding and among left-wing Democrats to unfettered aid to Israel.

And the plan could imperil Mr. Johnson’s speakership, which is teetering under a threat to oust him.

As the world awaits Israel’s retaliatory response to Iran, Patrick Wintour of the Guardian looks at rising tensions within Jordan and between Iran and Jordan due to Jordan’s role in defending Iran’s missile and drone attack on Israel.

Iran’s foreign ministry tried to dampen the row on Monday, with its spokesperson, Nasser Kanaani playing down Amman’s involvement at a briefing in Tehran. “I am not in a position to confirm or deny Jordan’s role in intercepting these launches, and this is a military issue that the relevant authorities should comment on,” he said.

Expressing the hope that Arab countries would support what he insisted was Iran’s legitimate response to the attack on its consulate in Syria on 1 April, Kanaani added: “Our relations with Jordan are friendly and during the past months there have been continuous contacts between the officials of the two countries.”

In Amman, officials insist Jordan’s involvement was a matter of self-defence and protecting its sovereignty in its airspace. Jordan’s foreign minister, Ayman al-Safadi, a passionate diplomatic voice for Palestinians over the past six months, told local TV on Sunday that an assessment was made that there was a real danger from Iranian drones and missiles falling on Jordan, and the armed forces dealt with this danger. If the threat had come from Israel, he noted, Jordan would take the same action.

Nicholas Vinocur, Stuart Lau, Jacopo Barigazzi, and Veronica Melkozerova of POLITiCO Europe look at Ukraine’s complaint about providing air defenses to Israel but not Ukraine.

If the United States and its allies can rush to Israel’s defense in the skies, shooting down dozens of drones and missiles fired by Iran, why can’t they do the same for Ukraine — which has suffered under Russia’s missile attacks for more than two years?

That’s the question Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his country’s staunchest backers in the West were asking on Monday, hours after the U.S., the United Kingdom, France and Jordan helped Israel shoot down some 300 drones and missiles fired by Iran in retaliation after Israel killed its senior military commanders in Syria.

“European skies could have received the same level of protection long ago if Ukraine had received similar full support from its partners in intercepting drones and missiles,” Zelenskyy wrote Monday evening in a post on X.

The show of airborne prowess by Western allies and their partners in the Middle East — which included rushing fighter jets to knock down cruise missiles and Shahed drones headed for Israel — proved the effectiveness of Israel’s missile defense system when combined with some of the world’s most advanced aircraft.

But it also pointed to a yawning difference in the way Western powers treat Israel compared to Ukraine.

Finally today,Roman Goncharenko of Deutsche Welle looks at the financial and even possible military assistance that Japan will provide to Ukraine.

At a conference in Japan in February, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said the aid provided and pledged would total $12 billion (€11.2 billion). According to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, Japan was in sixth place for international aid to Ukraine in January, providing more than €7 billion.

This aid from Japan is helping to keep the Ukrainian economy afloat. The National Bank estimates the country’s gross domestic product has shrunk by a third since the Russian invasion began in February 2022. While Tokyo cannot supply Kyiv with lethal weapons for historical reasons and national legal restrictions, it can send food, medicine, generators, cars, bulletproof vests and demining equipment.

But Ukraine needs weapons, and Japan might be able to help despite its constitutionally enshrined pacifism. The Japanese press has reported there could be a delivery to the US of missiles manufactured in Japan for American Patriot anti-aircraft systems so that Washington could pass them on to Ukraine.

In response, Russian Foreign Ministry representatives said the appearance of Japanese missiles in Ukraine would have “consequences” for Moscow’s relations with Tokyo.

Have the best possible day everyone!