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Trump Fell Asleep In Court—Twice—Reporters Say

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Updated Apr 15, 2024, 04:39pm EDT

Topline

Former President Donald Trump appeared to doze off in court during the opening day of his Manhattan “hush money” trial, multiple reporters who were in attendance observed, generating references to “Sleepy Don” on social media—a play on one of Trump’s many nicknames for President Joe Biden.

Key Facts

The New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman was the first to report on Trump’s seemingly exhausted manner, writing in the Times’ live blog of the trial around 12 p.m. that Trump’s “head keeps dropping down and his mouth goes slack.”

A short time later, Haberman wrote that “Trump has apparently jolted back awake” after “noticing the notes his lawyer passed him several minutes ago.”

Multiple other reporters made similar observations, including Reuters’ Jack Queen, who wrote in an email chain between reporters watching the trial, that Trump “was leaning back in his chair with his arms folded and his eyes very much appeared to be closed for several minutes at a time” just before 3 p.m.

Queen said Trump appeared to be “dozing,” rather than “napping.”

Courthouse News reporter Erik Uebelacker also tweeted just after 12 p.m. “I swear Trump is nodding off . . . his chin just hit his chest, then his head shot back up,” while Law360 reporter Stewart Bishop wrote “it very much looks like Trump is dozing off right now.”

Trump’s adversaries quickly pounced on the observations, coining the nickname “Sleepy Don” on social media, borrowed from Trump’s “Sleepy Joe” nickname for Biden.

Crucial Quote

“There have been other moments in other trials . . . where he appeared very still and seemed as if he might be sleeping, but then he would move,” Haberman told CNN. “This time he didn’t pay attention to a note his lawyer Todd Blanche passed him, his jaw kept falling on his chest and his mouth kept going slack.”

Surprising Fact

Trump’s courtroom appearances in his various criminal and civil cases have been marked by animated displays of emotion. He stormed out of the courtroom in January during closing arguments in writer E. Jean Carroll’s defamation case against him and was admonished by the judge in the case for scoffing loudly and making comments in earshot of the jury. The judge overseeing his Manhattan civil fraud trial told Trump’s lawyer in January to “control your client” when Trump spoke up in court, calling the case a “fraud on me,” in defiance of the judge’s orders not to politicize his remarks.

Key Background

Trump appeared in court Monday for the opening day of his trial in the Manhattan criminal case. Prosecutors charged him with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, in connection with repayments to ex-attorney Michael Cohen for hush money paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the lead-up to the 2016 election in exchange for her silence about their alleged affair. The trial commenced with jury selection, which could take at least a week as Judge Juan Merchan sifts through the potential jury pool to select 12 jurors, and six alternates, to weigh the charges against Trump. Potential jurors were asked to fill out what Merchan described as an “exhaustive” questionnaire weighing any potential biases they may have in the case, along with their ability to follow court guidelines for the trial. Trump has pleaded not guilty to the charges and claims the allegations of an affair with Daniels are false.

What To Watch For

Merchan told Trump he could be arrested if he skips or disrupts the proceedings, a warning issued after Trump’s lawyers told Merchan the former president wants to be present for jury and witness examinations. Prosecutors also asked Merchan to hold Trump in contempt, claiming he violated a gag order prohibiting him from attacking prospective jurors and witnesses, court staff and their family and family members of Merchan and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. The request was a response to a series critical social media posts last week from Trump directed at star witness Michael Cohen and Daniels. Merchan scheduled a hearing for April 23 to review the contempt request.

Further Reading

Trump Arrives In Court For First Day Of Criminal ‘Hush Money’ Trial (Forbes)

A Hush Money Conviction May Cost Trump The Election—Even Though Many Voters Don’t Care: Here’s What Polls Show (Forbes)

Trump’s Trial Will Include ‘Access Hollywood’ Tape—But Not Sexual Assault Allegations, Judge Rules (Forbes)

Judge Merchan Denies Trump Request And Won’t Recuse Himself (Forbes)

Trump Rips Manhattan Hush Money Case Just Before Arriving In Court (Forbes)

Trump Judge Merchan Warns Of Arrest If Trump Disrupts Or Skips Hush Money Trial (Forbes)

Trump Judge Submits ‘Most Exhaustive Questionnaire’ For Jurors In Hush Money Case: Here Are All 42 Questions (Forbes)

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