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Former President Donald Trump appears at Manhattan criminal court during jury deliberations in his criminal hush money trial in New York, Thursday, May 30, 2024. (Steven Hirsch/New York Post via AP, Pool)
Published: 30 May 2024

The jury in former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial resumed deliberations Thursday after revisiting portions of the judge's instructions and rehearing testimony from multiple key witnesses about the alleged scheme at the heart of the history-making case.

The judge responded to a jury request by rereading 30 pages of jury instructions. The 12-person jury, which deliberated for about 4 1/2 hours Wednesday without reaching a verdict, also reheard testimony Thursday morning from a tabloid publisher and Trump's former lawyer and personal fixer.

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 acquittal would represent a major win for him and embolden him on the campaign trail. Since verdicts must be unanimous, it's also possible the case ends in a mistrial if the jury can't reach a consensus.

In a memo Wednesday evening, Trump campaign senior advisers Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles blasted the proceedings as a “kangaroo court” and argued the case would not matter in November.

“The bottom line is this case doesn’t have an impact on voters,” they wrote.

Trump, who on Wednesday appeared to be priming supporters for the possibility of a guilty verdict by saying “Mother Teresa couldn't bear these charges,” struck a pessimistic tone again Thursday.

“It’s all rigged. The whole thing, the whole system is rigged," he said. It's the same language he used to try to inoculate himself against losses in the 2020 presidential election and Iowa’s 2016 GOP primary.

He continued to rail against the case on his social media network from a room in the courthouse, writing in capital letters, “I did nothing wrong! In fact, I did everything right!” Trump did not testify in his own defense, something the judge told jurors they could not take into account.

The charges

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 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 acted 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.”

The jurors

While the jurors 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, including from Cohen and Daniels. Many took notes and watched intently as witnesses answered questions.

In their first burst of communication with the court, jurors asked to rehear excerpts of the judge's legal instructions, including a portion related to how inferences may be drawn from evidence.

They also reheard testimony Thursday 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 reheard 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 story that she had a yearlong affair with Trump in the mid-2000s. Trump denies the affair.

The National Enquirer

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 that he doesn’t buy stories because they always get 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 bit of testimony jurors requested was Pecker’s account 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 Cohen told him: “The boss is going to be very angry at you.”


Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.

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