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  /  News   /  Jury deliberations set to continue in Trump hush money trial

Jury deliberations set to continue in Trump hush money trial

NEW YORK (NewsNation) — Jury deliberations in the criminal hush money trial against former President Donald Trump are expected to continue Thursday.

Judge Juan Merchan on Wednesday explained to jurors the legal ins and outs that each of them needs to consider before reaching a verdict in a Manhattan courtroom, which took around an hour and a half before he sent them to deliberate.

He dismissed the jury just before 4:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, with deliberations set to begin again at 9:30 a.m. ET on Thursday, once all jurors have arrived.

Merchan indicated schedules for future days have yet to be determined, but he said jurors will have the option to work past 4:30 p.m. ET if they desire but that deliberations will not continue past 6 p.m. ET.


Donald Trump’s 34 criminal charges: A closer look

Closing arguments concluded Tuesday against the former president, with prosecutors and defense attorneys having had one final opportunity to convince the jury of their respective cases.

Trump, the presumptive Republican candidate for president, faces 34 criminal charges alleging that he falsified business records during the 2016 presidential election. Prosecutors allege the records were falsified to hide $130,000 in payments that were tied to porn star Stormy Daniels’ allegations that she had a sexual relationship with Trump.

Hush money payments themselves aren’t necessarily illegal but may become illegal if done in connection to another crime or as blackmail. In this case, the payments are being considered by prosecutors as illegal campaign contributions, making them a violation of campaign finance law.

Trump has maintained his innocence since being charged and has claimed he is the victim of a political witch hunt.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 29: Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends his criminal trial at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 29, 2024 in New York City. Judge Juan Merchan will give the jury their instructions before they begin their deliberations today. The former president faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first of his criminal cases to go to trial. (Photo by Curtis Means – Pool/Getty Images)NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 29: Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media during his hush money trial at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 29, 2024 in New York City. Judge Juan Merchan gave the jury their instructions, and deliberations began today. The former president faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first of his criminal cases to go to trial. (Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 29: Former U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to Trump Tower on May 29, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 29: Former U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to Trump Tower on May 29, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 29: Donald Trump Jr. returns to the courtroom for former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 29, 2024 in New York City. Judge Juan Merchan gave the jury their instructions, and deliberations began today. The former president faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first of his criminal cases to go to trial. (Photo by Curtis Means-Pool/Getty Images)NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 29: Trump supporters rally outside of the criminal court where Trump is on trial on May 29, 2024 in New York City. The prosecution and defense presented their closing arguments in the former president’s hush money trial with prosecutor Joshua Steinglass speaking for four hours and 40 minutes. Judge Juan Merchan will give the jury their instructions before they begin their deliberations today. Former U.S. President Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first of his criminal cases to go to trial. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 29: Trump supporters and their opponents spar outside of the criminal court where Trump is on trial on May 29, 2024 in New York City. The prosecution and defense presented their closing arguments in the former president’s hush money trial with prosecutor Joshua Steinglass speaking for four hours and 40 minutes. Judge Juan Merchan will give the jury their instructions before they begin their deliberations today. Former U.S. President Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first of his criminal cases to go to trial. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Jury deliberations

While 18 jurors were chosen, 12 will decide Trump’s fate (the other six are alternates).

The panel of jurors must consider each of the 34 charges against Trump and reach the same decision for the judge in the case to move forward. If the jury cannot reach the same decision, the judge could declare a mistrial.

After five hours of deliberations Wednesday, the jury requested four witness transcripts from the judge. Those include: David Pecker’s testimony about a phone call with Trump, Pecker’s testimony about Karen McDougal, Pecker’s testimony about a Trump Tower meeting and Cohen’s testimony about a Trump Tower meeting. 

Pecker is the former publisher of the National Enquirer. Prosecutors alleged he orchestrated a “catch-and-kill” to buy up negative stories about Trump in the lead-up to the election and not publish them.

The 34 charges Trump faces include 11 counts of falsified invoices, 12 counts of falsified general ledger entries and 11 counts of falsely recording hush money payments.

Closing arguments

During closing arguments Tuesday, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said the state has presented “powerful evidence” of Trump’s guilt. Steinglass went after the defense for “demonizing” Daniels while acknowledging her testimony was at times uncomfortable.

He also admitted it was true that former Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen “had baggage” but said the defense was trying to have it both ways by casting doubt on actions and also acknowledging payments were made in the first place.

The prosecution’s arguments emphasized the need for jurors to examine the documents at the heart of the case. Steinglass also appealed to jurors to set aside their own personal opinions on whether Trump’s alleged affair was a big deal, arguing that voters should get to decide that for themselves rather than having information kept from them.


Trump trial precedent: Will it be open season on candidates?

Steinglass claimed it was all about the election and not about protecting Trump’s wife Melania, which was the former president’s stated reason for payments to conceal the alleged affair.

Trump attorney Todd Blanche argued the trial was not a case about Trump’s alleged sexual encounter with Daniels, but rather about the business records. He also attacked the credibility of Cohen, telling jurors they could not convict Trump on Cohen’s testimony alone.

Blanche ended closing arguments by listing 10 reasons for reasonable doubt, which included the public nature of some stories and defense arguments that there is no evidence proving intent to defraud or Trump’s direct involvement in payments.

20-year maximum sentence

The maximum sentence Trump could face if convicted is 20 years in jail. While each felony count carries up to four years in jail, adding up to 136 years, New York law limits the sentence for this type of crime to a maximum of 20 years.

Not all first-time offenders go to jail, however, and Merchan could impose a lesser sentence, which could include fines and/or some combination of probation or community service. The fine for falsifying business records as a felony count is $5,000, though it’s not entirely clear if that would be per count, which would add up to a maximum of $170,000.

It’s also possible the jury could find Trump guilty of a lesser misdemeanor offense, which comes with the possibility of fines, probation or up to one year in jail per count.

The jury could also return a mixed verdict, finding Trump guilty on some counts but not others, which would also impact the possible sentence.

Remaining cases against Trump

Regardless of what happens in New York, Trump is still facing two federal criminal cases and a criminal case in Georgia. However, it’s appearing increasingly unlikely that those will go to trial before the November election.

Trump’s Georgia election interference case is on hold pending Trump’s appeal of a judge’s decision to allow Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to remain on the case despite her romantic involvement with former prosecutor Nathan Wade. Trump’s defense team in that case argued the relationship presented a conflict of interest, and a judge ruled that either Wade or Willis had to step down from the case, which Wade did.

The federal election interference case against Trump, brought by special counsel Jack Smith, is also delayed while the Supreme Court weighs Trump’s claims that presidents should have absolute immunity from prosecution.


What Trump jury’s media consumption habits reveal

The court hasn’t ruled yet, but one possible outcome is for the case to be sent back to the lower courts, which would mean more delays.

Trump is also facing charges for unlawfully retaining and improperly storing classified documents after he left office. That case, also brought by Smith, has been put on indefinite hold by Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee.

Cannon cited arguments about how classified evidence should be handled as the reason, but others have blamed incompetence or accused her of making the decision to help Trump stall his cases until after the election.

2024 presidential election

Even if Trump is found guilty in one or more of these cases, he is still able to run for president. He is also eligible to run and serve even if he is in prison, though it’s not entirely clear how that would work.

Running from behind bars isn’t entirely without precedent. In 1920, socialist Eugene Debs ran for the presidency from a federal prison while serving time for sedition after urging people to resist the military draft.

The multiple criminal cases against Trump haven’t dimmed support from Republican voters, but there is polling that indicates a conviction could sway moderate and swing voters when it comes to the ballot box.

NewsNation’s Jeff Arnold, Damita MenezesCaitlyn Becker and Laura Ingle contributed to this report.