Trump hush money trial jurors briefed on the law before deliberations begin

NEW YORK — The Manhattan jury that will decide whether Donald Trump is a felon returned to court Wednesday for a briefing on the law before they begin deliberating the historic verdict that could have a profound effect on the November presidential election.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan began instructing jurors on the law shortly after 10 a.m.

“You are the judges of the facts and you are responsible for deciding whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty,” Merchan said, later saying potential punishment should not factor in their deliberations. “If there is a verdict of guilty, it will be my responsibility to impose an appropriate sentence.”

As Merchan told the jury that they alone are responsible for deciding whether Trump will be found guilty or not guilty, the former president turned his head to look over the panel of seven men and five women. He did not address reporters outside the courtroom as he headed inside, having addressed the media most other mornings during the trial that began on April 15.

Trump, accompanied to court by his son, Donald Trump, Jr., and several allies and attorneys, was locked in the courtroom along with spectators for the jury charge, which was expected to take about an hour.

Catch up

The presumptive Republican nominee in this year’s election has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsification of New York business records tied to his alleged reimbursement to Michael Cohen in 2017 for paying Daniels into silence about her claims of an extramarital tryst in 2006, less than two weeks out from the 2016 election.

In lengthy summations that ran into Monday night, Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass said the timing of the payment was “no coincidence,” and asked jurors to hold the former president to the same legal standard as every citizen for working to “hoodwink” the 2016 electorate by disguising information about his past.

“There is no special standard for this defendant. Donald Trump can’t shoot someone during rush hour on Fifth Avenue and get away with it,” the prosecutor said.

“You, the jury, have the ability to hold the defendant accountable. And, like in any other case, he can be judged by a jury of his peers, based on the evidence and nothing else.”

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche, in his closing, decried the prosecution’s case as “absurd” and asked jurors not to convict his client on the word of Cohen, Trump’s former fixer and “the greatest liar of all time,” according to Blanche.