Jurors to begin second day of deliberations in Trump hush money trial

By Thomson Reuters May 30, 2024 | 5:04 AM

By Jack Queen, Luc Cohen and Andy Sullivan

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Jurors in Donald Trump’s hush money trial return for a second day of deliberations on Thursday, applying extra scrutiny to a pair of high-profile witnesses as they weigh the fate of the first U.S. president to be charged with a crime.

It was unclear when the 12 jurors and six alternates would reach a verdict that could potentially upend Trump’s hopes of recapturing the White House from Democratic President Joe Biden as the Republican candidate in the Nov. 5 election.

A conviction will not prevent Trump from campaigning for the presidency. Nor will it prevent him from taking office if he wins.

Jurors have asked Justice Juan Merchan to repeat the detailed instructions he had given them to guide their deliberations.

New York prosecutors have charged Trump, 77, with falsifying business documents to try to cover up a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential election. Trump has pleaded not guilty and denies wrongdoing.

Jurors appeared to be taking a close look at the testimony of star witness Michael Cohen, the estranged former Trump fixer who paid the $130,000 in hush money that ensured Daniels would not tell voters about her alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Trump. Trump denies ever having sex with Daniels.

Cohen also testified that he and Trump discussed a plan to reimburse him through monthly payments disguised as legal fees – the alleged conduct that spurred the criminal charges.

Jurors have asked Merchan for a transcript of portions of Cohen’s testimony.

They also asked Merchan for testimony from David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer tabloid, who had told jurors that he worked with Trump to suppress stories that might have hurt the businessman-turned-politician’s campaign.

Trump’s lawyers have said Cohen’s testimony is unreliable, pointing to his criminal record and a history of lying. Merchan also told jurors they needed to scrutinize his testimony carefully because he was an accomplice to the acts he described.

Prosecutors have said emails and other evidence support Cohen’s testimony.

Jurors must reach any verdict unanimously. If they cannot resolve their differences, Merchan can order a mistrial.

Prosecutors from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office face the burden of proving Trump’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the standard under U.S. law.

Opinion polls show Trump and Biden locked in a tight race. But Reuters/Ipsos polling has found that a guilty verdict could cost Trump support.

Trump faces up to four years in prison if found guilty, but those found guilty of the crime he is charged with are more often fined or given probation.

Trump faces three other criminal prosecutions, but they are not expected to go to trial before the November election. He has pleaded not guilty in all of them.

(Reporting by Jack Queen and Luc Cohen in New York and Andy Sullivan in Washington; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Howard Goller)