Politics

Jurors likely to begin deliberations in Trump hush money trial

By Luc Cohen, Jack Queen and Andy Sullivan

NEW YORK (Reuters) — Jurors are likely to begin deliberations on Wednesday in Donald Trump’s hush money trial, sorting through weeks of evidence and testimony behind closed doors as they determine whether he will become the first U.S. president convicted of a crime.

It was far from certain how long they might take to reach a verdict in the case with Trump, 77, who is accused of falsifying business records to cover up a hush money payment to a porn star in the final weeks of the 2016 election.

The 12 jurors have sat silently in a New York courtroom for more than six weeks as prosecutors laid out their case and Trump’s lawyers tried to knock it down.

Their verdict could upend the 2024 presidential race, in which Trump is seeking again to win the White House. The Republican is locked in a tight contest with Democratic President Joe Biden, and Reuters/Ipsos polling has found that a guilty verdict could cost Trump support among independent and some Republican voters.

A verdict of not guilty would remove a major legal barrier, freeing Trump from the obligation to juggle court appearances and campaign stops. If convicted, he would be expected to appeal. Trump faces three other criminal prosecutions, but they are not expected to go to trial before the Nov. 5 election.

The trial was due to resume at 10 a.m. (1400 GMT) with Justice Juan Merchan, who has overseen the case, issuing detailed instructions to the jury. After that process, which could take several hours, the jury will begin deliberations.

During the trial, jurors heard testimony from porn star Stormy Daniels, who described in lurid detail a 2006 sexual encounter with Trump, and from Michael Cohen, the former Trump fixer who paid $130,000 to buy her silence during Trump’s 2016 White House run.

Prosecutors from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office say that payment could have contributed to Trump’s victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton by keeping an unflattering story out of the public eye.

«We’ll never know if this effort to hoodwink the American voter impacted the election,» prosecutor Joshua Steinglass told jurors during his closing argument on Tuesday.

They say Trump paid Cohen back in monthly installments disguised as legal fees. They have charged him with 34 felony counts of falsifying business documents, and face the burden of proving Trump’s guilt «beyond a reasonable doubt,» the standard under U.S. law.

Trump has pleaded not guilty and denies ever having sex with Daniels. His lawyers say Cohen, a convicted felon, lied under oath when he said Trump knew about the Daniels payment before the election and helped craft the reimbursement scheme after his victory.

«He is literally the greatest liar of all time,» Trump lawyer Todd Blanche told jurors on Tuesday.

Throughout, Trump has characterized the trial as an attempt by Biden’s Democratic allies to hobble his presidential campaign. Merchan imposed a gag order to prevent him from intimidating witnesses and jurors, and fined him $10,000 for violating it.

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