Jury deliberations begin in Donald Trump’s criminal trial

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Jury deliberations began Wednesday morning in New York prosecutors’ case against Donald Trump, the first criminal trial involving a former president.

Deliberations started after state Judge Juan Merchan finished delivering his instructions to the 12person jury on the laws it will need to consider as it decides the historic case. His instruction took a little over an hour. The jury could render a verdict as soon as Wednesday afternoon, though it could take days and even stretch into next week.

At the end of his marathon 4½-hour closing argument that stretched into Tuesday evening, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass told the panel: “You, the jury, have the ability to hold the defendant accountable.”

Americans across the country are awaiting the verdict with baited breath, but the public has virtually zero visibility into the jury’s deliberations, which happen behind closed doors.

Merchan instructed the jury to set aside their personal feelings or opinions when deliberating about the case and reminded them that, as with all criminal trials, it’s the prosecution’s duty to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

“The defendant is not required to prove that he is not guilty,” Merchan said.

He also instructed the jurors not to draw any inferences either way from the fact that Trump himself did not testify, and he reminded the jury that a decision of guilt must be unanimous.

Merchan also added a number of specific instructions relating to the evidence, testimony and law at question in this case, complicating the task for the jurors, several of whom could be seen taking notes.

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Trump, wearing a navy suit and yellow tie, has mostly retained his usual pose, with his eyes closed and head tilted softly back, though he appeared to grow restless as the jury instructions continued.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office has charged Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records relating to a hush money payment his attorney Michael Cohen made to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the closing days of the 2016 election. Prosecutors allege Trump reimbursed Cohen through a series of payments that were falsely listed as legal expenditures.

The DA’s office was able to elevate the charge, typically a misdemeanor, to a felony by alleging the records were falsified with the intent to conceal another crime. Steinglass suggested Trump was trying to cover up a number of crimes, including violations of state and federal election laws.

Trump attorney Todd Blanche told the jury: “President Trump is innocent. He did not commit any crimes, and the district attorney has not met their burden of proof. Period.” 

He argued that the records weren’t falsified because Trump wasn’t reimbursing Cohen for the Daniels payment; instead, he was paying for general legal services because Cohen was Trump’s personal lawyer at the time.

Steinglass called that account jaw-dropping, noting that Trump had previously publicly acknowledged having reimbursed Cohen.

Cohen was prosecutors’ key witness, and Blanche told jurors he couldn’t be trusted because of his history of lying. “He’s literally like the MVP of liars,” Blanche said.

Steinglass acknowledged that Cohen had a history of lying but said he’d often done so to protect Trump. That Trump’s attorneys were trying to use those lies to undermine his credibility “is what some people might call chutzpah,” Steinglass said.

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The trial began with jury selection on April 15. Trump, who said before the proceedings began that he’d “absolutely” testify, never took the stand in his own defense.

If he’s convicted, Trump faces up to four years in prison.

A Secret Service official says the agency has made “no plans yet” if Trump is convicted and may potentially face detention. “We are purposely holding on having those discussions given the deliberation,” the official said.

As he left the court while the jury began deliberations, Trump once again railed against the trial and the judge.

On his Truth Social media platform, he unleashed a storm of criticism attempting to undermine the trial’s legitimacy — posting 21 times on Truth Social in five minutes.

Outside the courthouse, Trump supporters have been rallying daily and their numbers are expected to grow as a verdict nears.

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