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The Latest | Judge excuses jurors, ending first day of deliberations in Trump’s criminal trial

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NEW YORK (AP) — The first day of jury deliberations in Donald Trump’s criminal trial concluded after the panel sent their first two notes to the judge Wednesday afternoon, just a few hours after beginning deliberations.

They requested to rehear jury instructions, as well as rehear testimony from former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker about the August 2015 Trump Tower meeting where he agreed to identify negative stories for Trump, a phone call he says he had with Trump about the Karen McDougal deal, and his decision not to sell the rights to McDougal’s story to Trump.

The jury also asked to hear Michael Cohen’s testimony about the same Trump Tower meeting.

Judge Juan M. Merchan said it would take some time to gather the requested testimony and about a half hour to re-read it to the jury. Deliberations will resume Thursday morning.

The historic deliberations followed Tuesday’s whirlwind of closing arguments, which stretched into the evening 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.

The defense approached its summation much in the same way it approached cross-examination: by targeting the credibility of star witness Michael Cohen.

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:

Donald Trump continued to complain about the hush money trial as he left court Wednesday after the first day of jury deliberations.

“The judge ought to end it and save his reputation,” Trump told reporters after conferring with his campaign and legal teams.

The former president also railed that “a lot of key witnesses were not called,” even though his side ultimately chose to call only two witnesses to testify.

He said again it’s “very unfair” that he has to be in court instead of out campaigning” and again labeled the case “a Biden witch hunt” and “weaponization.”

Court in Donald Trump’s hush money case has adjourned for the day. Proceedings will resume on Thursday at 9:30 a.m.

Judge Juan M. Merchan has returned to the bench in the Manhattan courtroom where Donald Trump’s hush money trial is being held.

Trump is also back in the courtroom.

“OK, where do we stand?” Merchan asked the lawyers, who have been sifting through trial transcripts to isolate portions requested by the jury.

After going through areas of agreement about how to respond to some of the jury’s requests, the two sides are now asking the judge to settle disagreements about exactly which lines of David Pecker’s testimony about the Trump Tower meeting will be read to the jurors.

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass said the testimony that jurors want read aloud to them involves “a lot of little snippets that are not very long,” but a total of about 35 pages.

One reason why the process of gathering requested testimony for the jury is somewhat painstaking is that witnesses aren’t always asked about events in one fell swoop.

Sometimes lawyers will return to a topic at different points in their questioning, and the same events can be covered again and again on direct examination and cross-examination. One of the goals of sifting through the transcripts is to ensure that no relevant testimony is left out.

The lawyers also want to make sure that testimony they feel isn’t relevant to the jury’s request is left out of whatever is read back to the panel. Opposing sides often debate what is and isn’t pertinent.

With Donald Trump gone from the courtroom, a pair of prosecutors and a pair of defense lawyers in his hush money case huddled Wednesday afternoon around the defense table poring over hard copies of the transcripts.

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass leaned over a thick, bound transcript, reading through lines as his colleague Susan Hoffinger jotted notes on a notepad. Trump lawyers Todd Blanche and Emil Bove stood at their spots at the defense table, reading through yet more transcripts and conferring with their opposite numbers. At one point, Steinglass looked up from his volume and flashed a broad smile at Blanche, who reacted in kind — a moment of collegiality among courtroom rivals.

Judge Juan M. Merchan granted a defense request Wednesday afternoon to allow Donald Trump to return to his waiting area in the courtroom across the hall while the lawyers continue to work on the transcript issue.

However, Trump can’t leave yet — Merchan said he wants him close by in case any issues arise that require his presence.

Judge Juan M. Merchan has excused jurors in Donald Trump’s hush money trial, ending the first day of deliberations.

Merchan said the jury can decide on its own if it wants to hear all of the instructions again, or just some, and then send him another note reflecting that decision.

He estimated that the rereading aloud of the requested testimony from former National Enquirer Publisher and Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen would take about a half hour, but he added that the relevant transcript pages were still being gathered.

Prosecutors estimated to Merchan that the sections of testimony that jurors have asked to rehear are about 30 pages and will take about 30 minutes to be reread.

The jurors deliberated for 4½ hours Wednesday.

Before excusing jurors for the day, Merchan told them that going forward they can work until 6 p.m. each day — but the decision is up to them on how long they want to go after the normal end of the court day at 4:30 p.m.

Jurors will resume deliberating on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. He said they will be summoned to the courtroom once the transcript pages are ready to be reread aloud for them.

Jurors in Donald Trump’s hush money trial have sent another note to Judge Juan M. Merchan — this time requesting to rehear jury instructions. Merchan said he will bring the jury back into the courtroom to see if it wants to hear a portion or all of the instructions.

The jury in Donald Trump’s criminal trial does not have a transcript of witness testimony from the case. All they have with them is a verdict sheet and a laptop loaded with documents and other exhibits presented in the case.

The panel can’t have any of the transcripts of testimony in the case while deliberating, nor can they be given a written copy of the instructions that were read to them Wednesday morning.

Instead, the panel must send a note to the judge each time it wants to have a snippet of testimony read out or get a refresher on the instructions it must follow.

The jury in Donald Trump’s hush money trial has made four requests in a note to the judge.

It wants to hear former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker’s testimony regarding the August 2015 Trump Tower meeting where he agreed to identify negative stories for Trump, a phone call he says he had with Trump about the Karen McDougal deal, and his decision not to sell the rights to McDougal’s story to Trump.

The jury also wants to hear Michael Cohen’s testimony about the same Trump Tower meeting.

Judge Juan M. Merchan said it would take some time to gather the requested testimony. Then he’ll bring jurors into the courtroom and have it read to them.

The jury in Donald Trump’s criminal trial has sent its first note to the judge. The note’s contents have not yet been made public but will be read in court soon. The jury, which is deliberating in secret in a side room, indicated it had a note by ringing a courtroom bell at 2:56 p.m., about 3½ hours into deliberations.

While deliberating, juries can only communicate with the judge by note. They may involve questions such as requests to hear portions of testimony or rehear certain instructions.

Donald Trump’s complaints on social media about the hush money case persisted Wednesday as the jury deliberated.

“IT IS RIDICULOUS, UNCONSTITUTIONAL, AND UNAMERICAN that the highly Conflicted, Radical Left Judge is not requiring a unanimous decision on the fake charges against me brought by Soros backed D.A. Alvin Bragg,” he wrote. “A THIRD WORLD ELECTION INTERFERENCE HOAX!”

Despite his declaration, any verdict in the case has to be unanimous: guilty or not guilty.

If the jurors disagree, they keep deliberating. If they get to a point where they are hopelessly deadlocked, then the judge can declare a mistrial.

If they convict, they must agree that Trump created a false 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 — in this case, violating a state election law.

What the jurors do not have to agree on, however, is which way that election law was violated.

Jurors in Donald Trump’s criminal trial will deliberate as long as they need to.

The standard court day runs from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with a break for lunch. But judges sometimes extend the hours if jurors wish. In this case, Judge Juan M. Merchan already has decided that deliberations will proceed on Wednesday, which is normally a day off from the trial.

There’s no limit on how many days deliberations can continue.

As jury deliberations get underway in Donald Trump’s hush money trial, the White House says President Joe Biden’s attention is focused elsewhere.

“The president’s focused on the American people, delivering for the American people,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters traveling with Biden to Philadelphia, where he has campaign events scheduled Wednesday. “That’s his focus.”

As the jury begins its deliberations in Donald Trump’s hush money case, claims are spreading across social media that Judge Juan M. Merchan told the panel they don’t need a unanimous verdict to convict Trump.

That’s false.

To convict Trump, Merchan told the jury they will have to find unanimously — that is, all 12 jurors must agree — that the former president 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.

What’s being distorted by some online is the judge’s instruction about how to reach a verdict about that second element.

Prosecutors say the crime 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.”

Merchan gave the jurors three possible “unlawful means”: falsifying other business records, breaking the Federal Election Campaign Act or submitting false information on a tax return.

For a conviction, each juror would have to find that at least one of those three things happened, but they don’t have to agree unanimously which it was.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 law

2. Falsifying other business records, such as paperwork used to establish the bank account used to pay Stormy Daniels, bank records and tax forms

3. 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”

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.”

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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