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The Latest | Jury begins deliberating in Trump's criminal hush money trial

Former President Donald Trump sits in Manhattan Criminal Court in New York, Wednesday, May 29, 2024. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)

NEW YORK (AP) — Jury deliberations in Donald Trump 's criminal hush money trial began Wednesday after the panel received instructions from the judge on the law governing the case and what they can take into account in evaluating the former president's guilt or innocence.

The historic deliberations followed Tuesday's whirlwind of closing arguments, which stretched into the evening hours as prosecutor Joshua Steinglass accused Trump of intentionally deceiving voters by allegedly participating in a “catch-and-kill” scheme to bury stories that might obliterate his 2016 presidential bid. Steinglass further suggested that Trump operated with a “cavalier willingness” to hide payoffs and did so in a way that left “no paper trail.”

The defense approached its summation much in the same way it approached cross-examination: by targeting the credibility of star witness Michael Cohen. Defense lawyer Todd Blanche branded Trump's former lawyer as “the greatest liar of all time” while urging jurors to quickly acquit his client.

Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, charges which are punishable by up to four years in prison. He has denied all wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.

At the heart of the charges are reimbursements paid to Cohen for a $130,000 hush money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels in exchange for not going public with her claim about a 2006 sexual encounter with Trump.

Prosecutors say the reimbursements were falsely logged as “legal expenses” to hide the true nature of the transactions.

The case is the first of Trump's four indictments to reach trial and is the first-ever criminal case against a former U.S. president.

Currently:

— Cohen’s credibility, campaigning at court and other highlights from closing arguments

— Rallies and debates used to define campaigns. Now they’re about juries and trials

— Biden's campaign shows up outside Trump's trial with Robert De Niro and others

— Another big name will be at the courthouse in Manhattan on Wednesday: Harvey Weinstein

— Trump hush money case: A timeline of key events

Here's the latest:

COURTROOM SHUTTING DOWN FOR LUNCH

The jury in Donald Trump's hush money case will deliberate through the lunch hour, but no action will occur and no notes will be passed during the break. Court will resume at 2:15 p.m.

THE JURY HAS BEEN SENT TO DELIBERATE. WHAT EXACTLY DOES THAT MEAN?

Jury deliberations proceed in secret, in a room reserved specifically for jurors and through an intentionally opaque process.

Jurors can communicate with the court through notes that ask the judge, for instance, for legal guidance or to have particular excerpts of testimony read back to them. But without knowing what jurors are saying to each other, it’s hard to read too much into the meaning of any note.

It’s anyone’s guess how long the jury in Donald Trump's hush money case will deliberate for and there’s no time limit either. The jury must evaluate 34 counts of falsifying business records and that could take some time. A verdict might not come by the end of the week.

To reach a verdict on any given count, either guilty or not guilty, all 12 jurors must agree with the decision for the judge to accept it.

Things will get trickier if the jury can’t reach a consensus after several days of deliberations. Though defense lawyers might seek an immediate mistrial, Judge Juan M. Merchan is likely to call the jurors in and instruct them to keep trying for a verdict and to be willing to reconsider their positions without abandoning their conscience or judgment just to go along with others.

If, after that instruction, the jury still can’t reach a verdict, the judge would have the option to deem the panel hopelessly deadlocked and declare a mistrial.

TRUMP: ‘MOTHER TERESA COULD NOT BEAT THESE CHARGES’

Former President Donald Trump told reporters after jurors began deliberating in his criminal hush money trial that the charges were rigged and again accused the judge of being conflicted. He further said that “Mother Teresa could not beat these charges.”

“What is happening here is weaponization at a level that nobody’s seen before ever and it shouldn’t be allowed to happen,” Trump said.

Trump repeated accusations that the criminal charges were brought by President Joe Biden's administration to hit him, as the president's main election opponent.

TRUMP MUST STAY IN THE COURTHOUSE

After jurors left the courtroom to begin deliberations, Judge Juan M. Merchan told Donald Trump and his lawyers that they were required to remain in the courthouse.

“You cannot leave the building. We need you to be able to get here quickly if we do receive a note,” Merchan said.

After Merchan left the bench, Trump turned and walked to chat with his son, Donald Trump Jr. and lawyer Alina Habba.

MERCHAN ADDRESSES ALTERNATE JURORS

After the main jury in Donald Trump's hush money case left the courtroom Wednesday, Judge Juan M. Merchan told the six alternates who remain in the courtroom that they will remain on standby in the courthouse as deliberations get underway.

He thanked them for their service and diligence, noting he saw one of the alternates go through three notebooks.

He said, “There might be a need for you at some point in deliberations.”

The alternates will be kept separate from the main jury and must also surrender their phones to court officers while deliberations are in progress. If a member of the main panel is unable to continue, an alternate can take that person’s place and deliberations will begin anew.

JURY DELIBER

ATIONS UNDERWAY

Jurors in Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial have begun deliberating after Judge Juan M. Merchan finished instructing them Wednesday morning on the law governing the case and what they can consider as they work toward a verdict.

The trial is the first-ever criminal case against a former U.S. president.

TWO ELEMENTS PROSECUTORS MUST PROVE FOR A GUILTY VERDICT

Prosecutors are required to prove two elements for each of the counts in order to find Donald Trump guilty, Judge Juan M. Merchan told the jurors.

They must find that he “personally or by acting in concert with another person or persons made or caused a false entry in the records” or a business. Prosecutors must also prove that Trump did so with the intent to commit or conceal another crime.

Prosecutors allege the other crime that Trump intended to commit or conceal was a violation of a state election law regarding a conspiracy to promote or prevent an election by unlawful means.

The alleged unlawful means that jurors must consider are:

1. Violations of federal campaign finance law2. Falsifying other business records, such as paperwork used to establish the bank account used to pay Stormy Daniels, bank records and tax forms3. Violation of city, state and federal tax laws, including by providing false or fraudulent information on tax returns, “even if it does not result in underpayment of taxes”

EXPLAINING ‘CONSPIRACY TO PROMOTE OR PREVENT ELECTION’

In reading instructions to the jury in Donald Trump's criminal trial, Judge Juan M. Merchan also went over New York's law against “conspiracy to promote or prevent election,” a statute that’s important to the case.

Prosecutors claim that Trump falsified business records to cover up alleged violations of the election conspiracy law. The alleged violations, prosecutors say, were hush money payments that really amounted to illegal campaign contributions.

Under New York law, it’s a misdemeanor for two or more people to conspire to promote or prevent a candidate’s election “by unlawful means” if at least one of the conspirators takes action to carry out the plot.

The judge noted that the law also requires that a defendant have the intent unlawfully to prevent or promote the candidate’s election — not just that a defendant knows about the conspiracy or be present when it’s discussed.

In the defense’s closing argument Tuesday, Trump attorney Todd Blanche urged jurors to reject prosecutors’ election conspiracy assertions, insisting that “every campaign in this country is a conspiracy to promote a candidate.”

EXPLAINING ACC

ESSORIAL LIABILITY

Judge Juan M. Merchan instructed jurors on the concept of accessorial liability, under which a defendant can be held criminally responsible for someone else’s actions.

That’s a key component of the prosecution’s theory of Donald Trump's hush money case because while Trump signed some of the checks at issue, people working for his company processed Michael Cohen’s invoices and entered the transactions into its accounting system.

To hold Trump liable for those actions, Merchan said jurors must find beyond a reasonable doubt that he solicited, requested or commanded those people to engage in that conduct and that he acted intentionally.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass touched on accessorial liability in his closing argument Tuesday, telling jurors: “No one is saying the defendant actually got behind a computer and typed in the false vouchers or stamped the false invoices or printed the false checks.”

“But he set in motion a chain of events that led to the creation of the false business records,” Steinglass said.

Trump has pleaded not guilty and denies wrongdoing.

HOW TO JUDGE THE TRUTH

The judge in Donald Trump's criminal trial gave the jury some guidance on factors it can use to assess witness testimony, including its plausibility, its consistency with other testimony, the witness’s manner on the stand and whether the person has a motive to lie.

But, the judge said, “There is no particular formula for evaluating the truthfulness and accuracy of another person’s statement.”

The principles he outlined are standard but perhaps all the more relevant after Trump’s defense team leaned heavily on questioning the credibility of key prosecution witnesses, including the ex-president’s former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen.

Jurors appeared alert and engaged as Judge Juan M. Merchan instructed them Wednesday morning. Several took notes as he recited instructions.

JUDGE TO JURORS: PERSONAL BIAS MUST BE PUT ASIDE

The judge in Donald Trump's criminal trial reminded jurors Wednesday morning of their solemn responsibility to decide Trump’s guilt or innocence, gently and methodically reading through standard jury instructions that have a special resonance in the former president’s high-profile case.

“As a juror, you are asked to make a very important decision about another member of the community,” Judge Juan M. Merchan said, underscoring that — in the eyes of the law — the jurors and Trump are peers.

Merchan also reminded jurors of their vow, during jury selection, “to set aside any personal bias you may have in favor of or against” Trump and decide the case “fairly based on the evidence of the law.”

Echoing standard jury instructions, Merchan noted that even though the defense presented evidence, the burden of proof remains on the prosecutor and that Trump is “not required to prove that he is not guilty.”

“In fact,” noted Merchan, “the defendant is not required to prove or disprove anything.”

READING OF JURY INSTRUCTIONS UNDERWAY

The jury in Donald Trump's hush money trial has entered the courtroom and taken their seats. Ahead of deliberations, Judge Juan M. Merchan has begun instructing the panel on the law that governs the case and what they can consider as they work toward a verdict.

Jurors will not receive copies of the instructions, but they can request to hear them again as many times as they wish, Merchan said.

“It is not my responsibility to judge the evidence here. It is yours,” he told them.

Trump leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes as Merchan told jurors that reading the instructions would take about an hour.

TRUMP ARRIVES AT

COURT

Donald Trump's motorcade has arrived at the courthouse in lower Manhattan as proceedings in his hush money trial are set to resume.

He did not stop to speak to reporters as he typically does before entering court each day.

Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., joined him in the courtroom Wednesday morning and was in the first row of the gallery behind the defense table, sitting alongside Trump lawyer and spokesperson Alina Habba.

TRUMP POSTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA BEFORE HEADING TO COURT

Donald Trump posted again on his social media network before he left Trump Tower to head to the courthouse Wednesday morning, making another all-caps rant about the hush money trial, the judge and Michael Cohen.

He called it a “KANGAROO COURT!” and falsely claimed that Judge Juan M. Merchan barred him from defending himself by claiming that his alleged actions were taken on the advice of his then-lawyer, Cohen. Trump’s lawyers in March notified the court that they would not rely on that defense.

“THERE WAS NO CRIME, EXCEPT FOR THE BUM THAT GOT CAUGHT STEALING FROM ME!” Trump said, apparently referring to Cohen. He added: “IN GOD WE TRUST!”

Trump is prohibited under a gag order from making out-of-court statements about witnesses in the case, and he was previously penalized for comments about Cohen.

It’s unclear if Trump’s latest rant would rise to the level of a violation — or if prosecutors would seek to have the former president sanctioned for it. The judge has also indicated that he’d give Trump leeway in certain instances to respond to attacks from Cohen.

TRUMP'S MOTORCADE HEADS TO COURT

Donald Trump's motorcade has left Trump Tower and is on its way to the courthouse in lower Manhattan where his hush money trial will resume.

The jury in the case is expected to begin deliberations after receiving instructions from the judge later in the day.

WHO IS ON THE JURY?

The jury in Donald Trump’s hush money trial is comprised of 18 Manhattan residents.

The main jury includes seven men and five women. There are also six alternate jurors who’ve listened to the testimony but won’t join in the deliberations unless one of the main jurors needs to drop out or is removed.

The jury members represents a diverse cross-section of the borough and come from various professional backgrounds, including a sales professional, a software engineer, a security engineer, a teacher, a speech therapist, multiple lawyers, an investment banker and a retired wealth manager.

Jurors’ names are being kept from the public.

A RECAP OF TESTIMONY JURORS HEARD IN THE CASE

Across more than four weeks of testimony, prosecutors called 20 witnesses. The defense called just two.

Among the prosecution’s key witnesses: Trump’s former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, porn actor Stormy Daniels, tabloid publisher David Pecker and lawyer Keith Davidson, who negotiated hush money deals for Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Cohen testified that he paid $130,000 in hush money to Daniels at Trump’s behest weeks before the 2016 election to keep her quiet about her claims of a sexual encounter with him a decade earlier. Trump denies the encounter took place. Cohen also said Trump was involved in an arrangement to repay him and log the payments as legal expenses.

Daniels gave an at-times graphic account of the alleged encounter.

Pecker testified about agreeing to be the “eyes and ears” of Trump’s campaign by tipping Cohen off to negative stories, including Daniels’ claim.

Davidson talked about negotiating the deals and what he said was Cohen’s frustration after the Daniels deal that Trump still hadn’t repaid him.

The defense’s big witness was attorney Robert Costello, who testified last Monday and Tuesday about negotiating to represent Cohen after the FBI raided Cohen’s properties in 2018.

HOW WILL THE JURY DELIBERATIONS WORK?

Jury deliberations in Donald Trump's hush money trial will proceed in secret, in a room reserved specifically for jurors and in a process that’s intentionally opaque.

Jurors can communicate with the court through notes that ask the judge, for instance, for legal guidance or to have particular excerpts of testimony read back to them.

But without knowing what jurors are saying to each other, it’s hard to read too much into the meaning of any note.

ANOTHER FAMOUS FACE AT THE COURTHOUSE

Donald Trump will not be the only big name appearing before a judge in lower Manhattan on Wednesday — fallen movie mogul Harvey Weinstein is expected to appear for a hearing related to the retrial of his landmark #MeToo-era rape case.

The hearing will take place in the same courthouse where Trump is currently on trial and where Weinstein was originally convicted in 2020.

Weinstein's conviction was overturned in April after the court found that the trial judge unfairly allowed testimony against Weinstein based on allegations that weren’t part of the case. His retrial is slated for sometime after Labor Day.

A MOTION THAT STILL HASN'T BEEN DECIDED

The judge in Donald Trump's hush money trial might have one last piece of business to address on Wednesday before jurors receive instructions and can begin deliberations.

Last Monday, defense lawyers filed a motion asking the judge to dismiss the case, arguing that prosecutors had failed to prove their case and there was no evidence of falsified business records or an intent to defraud.

Prosecutors rebutted that assertion, saying “the trial evidence overwhelmingly supports each element” of the alleged offenses, and the case should proceed to the jury.

Judge Juan M. Merchan did not indicate at the time when he would issue a decision on the request. More than a week later, it remains unclear whether he will address it before the case goes to the jury.

WHAT MUST BE PROVED FOR A CONVICTION?

Jurors in Donald Trump's hush money trial are expected to begin deliberations on Wednesday after receiving instructions from the judge on the law that governs the case and what they can consider as they strive toward a verdict in the first criminal case against a former U.S. president.

The panel has a weighty task ahead of them — deciding whether to convict or acquit Trump of some, all or none of the 34 felony counts he's charged with.

But what had to be proved for a conviction?

To convict Trump of felony falsifying business records, prosecutors had to convince jurors beyond a reasonable doubt that he not only falsified or caused business records to be entered falsely but also did so with intent to commit or conceal another crime. Any verdict must be unanimous.

To prevent a conviction, the defense needed to convince at least one juror that prosecutors didn't prove Trump’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard for criminal cases.

If the jury deadlocks after several days of deliberations and are unable to reach a unanimous verdict, the judge may declare a mistrial.

Former President Donald Trump sits in Manhattan Criminal Court in New York, Wednesday, May 29, 2024. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)
Former President Donald Trump arrives at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York, Wednesday, May 29, 2024. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)
Karoline Leavitt follows former President Donald Trump as they arrive at Manhattan criminal court as jurors are expected to begin deliberations in Trump's criminal hush money trial in New York, Wednesday, May 29, 2024. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)
Natalie Harp follows former President Donald Trump as they arrive at Manhattan criminal court as jurors are expected to begin deliberations in Trump's criminal hush money trial in New York, Wednesday, May 29, 2024. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)