POLITICS & ELECTIONS

Jurors in Trump hush money trial end 1st day of deliberations after asking to rehear testimony

May 29, 2024, 3:03 PM | Updated: 3:05 pm

Former U.S. President Donald Trump appears in court during his trial for allegedly covering up hush...

Former U.S. President Donald Trump appears in court during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 30, 2024 in New York City. Former U.S. President Donald Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first of his criminal cases to go to trial. (Seth Wenig, Pool/Getty Images)

(Seth Wenig, Pool/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (AP) — The jury in Donald Trump’s hush money trial ended its first day of deliberations without a verdict Wednesday but asked to rehear potentially crucial testimony about the alleged hush money scheme at the heart of the history-making case.

The 12-person jury was sent home around 4 p.m. after about 4 1/2 hours of deliberations. The process is to resume Thursday.

Jurors also asked to rehear at least part of the judge’s instructions meant to guide them on the law. The notes sent to the judge with the requests were the first burst of communication with the court after the panel of seven men and five women was sent to a private room just before 11:30 a.m. to begin weighing a verdict.

“It is not my responsibility to judge the evidence here. It is yours,” Judge Juan M. Merchan told jurors earlier in the day before dispatching them to begin deliberations, reminding them of their vow during the selection process to judge the case fairly and impartially.

It’s unclear how long the deliberations will last. A guilty verdict would deliver a stunning legal reckoning for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee as he seeks to reclaim the White House while an an acquittal would represent a major win for Trump and embolden him on the campaign trail. Since verdicts must be unanimous, it’s also possible that the case ends in a mistrial if the jury can’t reach a consensus after days of deliberations.

Trump struck a pessimistic tone after leaving the courtroom following the reading of jury instructions, repeating his assertions of a “very unfair trial” and saying: “Mother Teresa could not beat those charges, but we’ll see. We’ll see how we do.”

He remained inside the courthouse during deliberations, where he made a series of posts on his social media network complaining about the trial and quoting legal and political commentators who view the case in his favor. In one all-capital-letters post, he proclaimed that he didn’t even “know what the charges are in this rigged case,” even though he was present in the courtroom as the judge detailed them to jurors.

Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records at his company in connection with an alleged scheme to hide potentially embarrassing stories about him during his 2016 Republican presidential election campaign.

The charge, a felony, arises from reimbursements paid to then-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen after he made a $130,000 hush money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels to silence her claims that she and Trump had sex in 2006. Trump is accused of misrepresenting Cohen’s reimbursements as legal expenses to hide that they were tied to a hush money payment.

Trump has pleaded not guilty and contends the Cohen payments were for legitimate legal services. He has also denied the alleged extramarital sexual encounter with Daniels.

To convict Trump, the jury would have to find unanimously that he created a fraudulent entry in his company’s records, or caused someone else to do so, and that he did so with the intent of committing or concealing another crime.

The crime prosecutors say Trump committed or hid is a violation of a New York election law making it illegal for two or more conspirators “to promote or prevent the election of any person to a public office by unlawful means.”

While the jury must unanimously agree that something unlawful was done to promote Trump’s election campaign, they don’t have to be unanimous on what that unlawful thing was.

The jurors — a diverse cross-section of Manhattan residents and professional backgrounds — often appeared riveted by testimony in the trial, including from Cohen and Daniels. Many took notes and watched intently as witnesses answered questions from Manhattan prosecutors and Trump’s lawyers.

Jurors started deliberating after a marathon day of closing arguments in which a prosecutor spoke for more than five hours, underscoring the burden the district attorney’s office faces in needing to establish Trump’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Trump team need not establish his innocence to avoid a conviction but must instead bank on at least one juror finding that prosecutors have not sufficiently proved their case.

Earlier Wednesday, the jury received instructions in the law from Merchan, who offered some guidance on factors the panel can use to assess witness testimony, including its plausibility, its consistency with other testimony, the witness’ 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 leaned heavily on questioning the credibility of key prosecution witnesses, including Cohen.

Jurors asked to rehear testimony from Cohen and former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker about an August 2015 meeting with Trump at Trump Tower where the tabloid boss agreed to be the “eyes and ears” of his fledgling presidential campaign.

Pecker testified that the plan included identifying potentially damaging stories about Trump so they could be squashed before being published. That, prosecutors say, was the beginning of the catch-and-kill scheme at the heart of the case.

Jurors also want to hear Pecker’s account of a phone call he said he received from Trump in which they discussed a rumor that another outlet had offered to buy former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s alleging that she had a yearlong affair with Trump in the mid-2000s. Trump has denied the affair.

Pecker testified that Trump told him, “Karen is a nice girl” and asked, “What do you think I should do?” Pecker said he replied: “I think you should buy the story and take it off the market.” He added that Trump told him he doesn’t buy stories because it always gets out and that Cohen would be in touch.

The publisher said he came away from the conversation thinking Trump was aware of the specifics of McDougal’s claims. Pecker said he believed the story was true and would have been embarrassing to Trump and his campaign if it were made public.

The National Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc., eventually paid McDougal $150,000 for the rights to her story in an agreement that also included writing and other opportunities with its fitness magazine and other publications.

The fourth item jurors requested is Pecker’s testimony about his decision in October 2016 to back out of an agreement to sell the rights to McDougal’s story to Trump through a company Cohen had established for the transaction, known as an “assignment of rights.”

“I called Michael Cohen, and I said to him that the agreement, the assignment deal is off. I am not going forward. It is a bad idea, and I want you to rip up the agreement,” Pecker testified. “He was very, very, angry. Very upset. Screaming, basically, at me.”

Pecker testified that he reiterated to Cohen that he wasn’t going forward with the agreement.

He said that Cohen told him: “The boss is going to be very angry at you.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Politics & Elections

Protestors gather outside the House chambers during a legislative special session at the Utah State...

Bridger Beal-Cvetko, KSL.com

Utah lawmakers vote to block federal protections for LGBTQ+ students under Title IX

Utah lawmakers convened in a special session on Juneteenth to declare the state's intent not to follow a federal rule providing anti-discrimination protections to transgender youth.

12 hours ago

Tuesday February 9, 2006. Photo by Scott G. Winterton / Deseret Morning News.The Ten Commandments m...

Sara Cline, Associated Press

New Louisiana law requires that The Ten Commandments must be displayed classrooms

Louisiana has become the first state to require that the Ten Commandments be displayed in every public school classroom.

16 hours ago

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - JUNE 19: People watch a television broadcast reporting a meeting between North...

Kim Tong-Hyung

Russia and North Korea sign partnership deal that appears to be the strongest since the Cold War

Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have signed a new partnership that includes a vow of mutual aid if either country faces “aggression.”

21 hours ago

Utah leaders are reacting to a call from the U.S. surgeon general to include a warning label on soc...

Daniel Woodruff

Utah leaders react to call for warning label on social media platforms

Utah leaders are reacting to a call from the U.S. surgeon general to include a warning label on social media – just like there are on cigarettes.

2 days ago

Quavo and Vice President Kamala Harris appear on stage at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia on ...

Lisa Respers France and Ebony Davis, CNN

Quavo hosts an anti-gun violence summit with VP Kamala Harris on late nephew Takeoff’s birthday

On Tuesday, which would have been Takeoff’s 30th birthday, Quavo co-hosted the firstRocket Foundation Summit in collaboration with US Vice President Kamala Harris and the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention at The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

2 days ago

Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden. and Sen. Ann Millner, R-Ogden in the School Safety Security Task Force m...

Brianna Chavez

School Safety Security Task Force discuss new requirements for schools as part of new bill

The School Safety Security Task Force met on Monday for the first time this year to discuss new school safety requirements implemented in HB84.

3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Jurors in Trump hush money trial end 1st day of deliberations after asking to rehear testimony