An earlier version of this article was published in the On the Trail 2024 newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox on Tuesday and Friday mornings here. To submit a question to next week’s Friday Mailbag, email onthetrail@deseretnews.com.

Good morning, friends. Happy Passover. Here is a beautiful Passover reminder to always welcome the stranger.

3 things to know

  1. The Libertarian Party held a presidential debate in Salt Lake City Friday. Absent was Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who’s abandoned any flirtations with pursuing the Libertarian nomination. It didn’t help that many high-profile Libertarians were staunchly against it: “If the Libertarian Party were to abandon libertarianism for a higher share of the vote, then we shouldn’t exist,” one said. Read more here.
  2. Joe Biden is forging along with a plan to forgive student loan debt for hundreds of thousands of Americans. Relief could begin as soon as this fall. It’s a complicated and expensive strategy, Jennifer Graham writes, and reeks of election-year politicking. Read more here.
  3. Donald Trump said immigrants “inundated” a tiny town in Wisconsin. I went to Whitewater, Wisconsin, and found something else: a community linking arms to help its new neighbors. Read more here.

The Big Idea

Mr. Trump goes to trial

Trump made history last week, becoming the first ex-president in U.S. history to face a criminal trial. Much of the first week was consumed by selecting a jury: whittling a field of nearly 200 potential jurors down to 12 (and six alternates). It was a painstaking process, one that required the judge to determine that the 18 selectees would be able to carry out their duties with objectivity and fairness.

It was a tall order. Many of the potential jurors were dismissed due to perceived prejudices. Others — roughly half of the 200 — excused themselves, saying they couldn’t be impartial.

It’s a tall order, asking everyday Americans to be fair and objective toward one of the most polarizing political figures of the 21st century, and perhaps in U.S. history. Even more so in Manhattan, where Trump’s celebrity is celebrated and scorned with near-equal passion. The Washington Post hinted at the feeling of the moment, an ironic role-reversal: “Ordinary New Yorkers who had for years listened to Trump talk about others were there to talk about him, and he was forced to listen.”

Do you think you could be a juror in the Trump trial? Each potential juror had to answer a series of 42 written questions, plus in-person questioning from the judge. Here’s a sample of the questions, plus a few things that got potential jurors axed. Have a go:

  1. Are you a U.S. citizen; at least 18 years old; able to read, write and speak English; mentally fit; and free of felony charges? If so, move on to the next question.
  2. Do you have a balanced news diet? Of the 12 selected jurors, the most common news source was the New York Times (eight are frequent readers). Others answered local and national news outlets, social media and behavioral psychology podcasts.
  3. Do you participate in any organizations or advocacy groups? Political involvement could garner suspicion.
  4. Have you, a relative, or a close friend ever been the victim of a crime? One potential juror, a retired police photographer, knew some of the Central Park 5, the Black teenagers exonerated after being arrested for an assault on a jogger. Shortly after the incident, Trump paid for full-page newspaper ads calling for their execution.
  5. Have you, a relative, or a close friend ever been employed in the accounting or finance field? Odd question, but they asked it!
  6. Could your political, moral, intellectual or religious beliefs slant your approach to this case? That includes any religious practice that could keep you from attending court on particular days, including weekends.
  7. Have you posted about Trump on social media? Both negative and positive posts could get you dismissed. Trump’s lawyers used this as a tactic when questioning jurors, searching their social media accounts and making them read their old posts. One woman, midway through reading her old post calling Trump a sexist and narcissist, paused, The New York Times reported. “Oops. That sounds bad,” she said. She was dismissed.
  8. Do you currently follow Donald Trump on any social media site or have you done so in the past? Alternatively, do you currently follow any anti-Trump group or organization on any social media site, or have you done so in the past?
  9. Do you have any feelings or opinions about how Mr. Trump is being treated in this case? We’re dealing with a minority here — 75% of Americans already think Trump is guilty or not guilty.
  10. Is there any reason, whether it be a bias or something else, that would prevent you from being fair and impartial if you are selected as a juror for this case?

How did you do? Could you be a juror? The American judicial system really is a wonder — it empowers objective, fair civilians to perform essential tasks. But in an election year, it’s a big ask!

What I’m reading

Trump is already floating names to fill his cabinet, should he win in November. A leading candidate for Secretary of State is Robert O’Brien, the Utah resident and former national security adviser. O’Brien and Trump are close, but Politico reports that the Achilles’ heel may be O’Brien’s support for Ukraine — a position Trump does not agree with. Inside the fight for top Trump national security roles (Alexander Ward and Daniel Lippman, Politico)

Barack Obama’s former chief adviser has a new take on the Trump trial: a conviction would be catastrophic for Trump. Not because he would be a convicted criminal, but because he would be a loser — a label Trump has always refused to accept. What Donald Trump Fears Most (David Axelrod, The Atlantic)

Does the LGBTQ+ community owe conservatives for its legislative victories? That’s what a new book, “Coming Out Republican,” argues. This excerpt details the behind-the-scenes negotiations over the 2022 Respect for Marriage Act, which won support from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other religious groups. The Marriage-Equality Fight Couldn’t Have Been Won Without Conservatives (Neil Young, The Wall Street Journal)

See you on the trail.

Editor’s Note: The Deseret News is committed to covering issues of substance in the 2024 presidential race from its unique perspective and editorial values. Our team of political reporters will bring you in-depth coverage of the most relevant news and information to help you make an informed decision. Find our complete coverage of the election here.