WASHINGTON (NEWSnet/AP) — Jury selection in the hush money trial of Donald Trump enters a potentially final stretch Thursday as lawyers seek to fill out the panel for the criminal case.

Seven jurors have been picked so far, including an oncology nurse, a software engineer, an information technology professional, a sales professional, an English teacher and two lawyers. That’s where the case stood as of Tuesday evening, the court was not in session Wednesday.

Eleven more people must still be sworn in, with the judge saying he anticipated opening statements in the landmark case to be given as early as next week.

The process of picking a jury is a critical phase of any criminal trial; but especially so when the defendant is a former president and the leading Republican candidate during an election year.

Prospective jurors have been grilled on their social media posts, personal lives and political views as the lawyers and judge search for biases that would prevent them from being impartial. Inside the court, there's acknowledgment of the futility in trying to find jurors without knowledge of Trump, with a prosecutor this week saying that lawyers were not looking for people who had been “living under a rock for the past eight years.”

But after the first juror was seated, the process moved quickly.

In this case, Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

The case centers on a $130,000 payment that Trump's lawyer and personal fixer, Michael Cohen, made shortly before the 2016 election to porn actor Stormy Daniels to prevent her claims of a sexual encounter with Trump from becoming public in the race's final days.

Prosecutors say Trump obscured the true nature of the payments in internal records when his company reimbursed Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2018 and is expected to be a star witness for the prosecution.

Trump has denied having a sexual encounter with Daniels, and his lawyers argue the payments to Cohen were legitimate legal expenses.

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