Trump Jurors Already Have Several Questions as Deliberations Begin

Yuki Iwamura - Pool/Getty Images
Yuki Iwamura - Pool/Getty Images

The jurors who will decide Donald Trump’s fate in his criminal hush money case were dismissed for the day on Wednesday just after 4 p.m. New York time, following nearly five hours of weighing the 34 felony counts of falsifying business records that the former president faces.

The jury’s first-day deliberations were punctuated by the delivery of two notes to Judge Juan Merchan, asking him to allow the panel to hear some of the seven-week trial’s testimony again, as well as repeat his instructions to them.

The first note was delivered to Merchan just before 3 p.m. With a slight smirk on his face, the judge read aloud its four requests, three of which concerned testimony given by tabloid publisher David Pecker.

The requested excerpts in question include testimony about a June 2016 phone call Pecker received from Trump, in which they allegedly discussed a “catch and kill” plan to buy the rights to former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal’s story about having sex with Trump before it could be published.

Prosecutors argued during the trial that the phone call was proof positive that Michael Cohen, Trump’s then-fixer, did not act alone in the hush-money scheme.

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The jury also wants to hear what Pecker said on the stand about what to do with McDougal’s “life rights,” as well as testimony from both him and Cohen about an August 2015 meeting the pair had with Trump at Trump Tower.

The instructions Merchan had given to the jury earlier on Wednesday took over an hour to relay, with the judge painstakingly explaining the 34 counts against Trump and reminding the jurorsseven men and five womenthat they are required to lay aside their biases to come to a verdict.

“It is not my responsibility to judge the evidence here. It is yours,” the judge said.

After the second note was delivered, Merchan asked the jury to clarify on Thursday morning whether they wanted the entirety of the instructions repeated to them, or whether a truncated version would suffice.

He then excused them for the day, saying that court officers were locating the testimony they’d requested. Before letting them go, Merchan issued a standard warning to the jurors not to discuss the case with anyone else or look up any information on it overnight.

The judge then told lawyers for both the prosecution and the defense to hang back, saying they would have to agree on the testimony to be read back before they could leave court for the day.

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About an hour later, a prosecutor told Merchan that the readback testimony isolated for the jury ran about 35 pages, but that there was still some disagreement about whether to include a number of passages. Merchan told both sides to file their desired excerpts with his clerk and that he would get back on them on the matter.

Trump seemed displeased with the day’s outcome as he exited court on Wednesday, telling reporters that the trial was “rigged” and insisting that “Mother Teresa” could not beat the charges against him. “But we’ll see,” he added. “We’ll see.”

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“Looking forward to getting back to fighting for our country and ending the Stalinist show trials,” he wrote, adding three American flag emojis.

The jury will reconvene at 9:30 a.m. local time on Thursday. Any verdict rendered will require a unanimous vote—despite insistence by Trump to the contrary.

The former president had continued to post on social media from inside the courtroom throughout Wednesday, at one point calling it “RIDICULOUS, UNCONSTITUTIONAL, AND UNAMERICAN” that Merchan was supposedly not requiring a unanimous decision.


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