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Trump trial jury continues deliberations in "hush money" case

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Update: The jury found Trump guilty on all charges. Follow the latest updates here. Our earlier story is below.

The jury in former President Donald Trump's criminal trial in New York is continuing its deliberations over a verdict on Thursday after reviewing portions of testimony and the judge's instructions about various legal issues in the case.

The 12 Manhattan residents who sit on the jury asked to rehear testimony from two witnesses in the case, David Pecker and Michael Cohen, about key interactions both men said they had with Trump in 2015 and 2016. The jurors also asked the judge to repeat some of the directions guiding their deliberations. 

The testimony and instructions were read in court in the morning, a process that took roughly an hour and a half. Jurors then exited the courtroom to resume their discussions behind closed doors.

Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records stemming from reimbursements for a "hush money" payment Cohen made to adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election. Prosecutors say Trump tried to cover up the payment by disguising the purpose of the reimbursements.

The testimony that the jurors asked to review dealt with several interactions involving Cohen, Trump and Pecker, who was the CEO of American Media Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer. Prosecutors say the three engaged in a "catch and kill" scheme to bury negative stories about Trump to help his campaign.

The jury asked to hear portions of the testimony dealing with a phone call Pecker had with Trump in 2015; Pecker's decision to decline to transfer to Cohen the life rights of a former Playboy model who said she had sex with Trump; and a meeting at Trump Tower in 2015. They also requested Cohen's testimony about the Trump Tower meeting.

Jury hears judge's instructions, witness testimony

Former President Donald Trump appears in court for his "hush money" trial at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 30, 2024, in New York City.
Former President Donald Trump appears in court for his "hush money" trial at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 30, 2024, in New York City. Steven Hirsch / Getty Images

Several jurors took notes as the judge read a section from his instructions about making inferences from proven facts. He used an example of someone waking up and seeing that everything outside is wet, and concluding that it rained overnight.

"The fact of it having rained while you were asleep is an inference that might be drawn from the proven facts of the presence of the water on the street and sidewalk, and people in raincoats and carrying umbrellas," the relevant portion of the instructions said. "An inference must only be drawn from a proven fact or facts, and then, only if the inference flows naturally, reasonably and logically from the proven fact or facts, not if it is speculative. Therefore, in deciding whether to draw than inference, you must look at and consider all the facts in light of reason, common sense, and experience."

Another section of the instructions dealt with how jurors can assess testimony of an accomplice, which Cohen is in this case. More than half of the jurors took notes as Merchan reiterated that the jury cannot convict based on an accomplice's testimony alone — it must be backed up by corroborating evidence.

The judge also explained how a person can be responsible for a crime without being the one who actually physically committed it. The relevant line from the instructions said:

In order for the Defendant to be held criminally liable for the conduct of another which constitutes an offense, you must find beyond a reasonable doubt: First, that he solicited, requested, commanded, importuned, or intentionally aided that person to engage in that conduct.

After Merchan finished, a pair of court reporters began reciting Pecker's testimony, starting with his discussion of a phone call he said he received from Trump in June 2016. At the time, the Enquirer was weighing a deal with Karen McDougal, the former Playboy model. 

"[Trump] said, 'What should I do?'" Pecker said on the stand in April. "I said, 'I think you should buy the story and take it off the market.'"

The court reporters then moved on to Pecker's testimony about his decision not to transfer McDougal's life rights to Cohen in September 2016. Pecker said AMI's general counsel advised him not to move forward with the deal, and testified that Cohen was "very angry, very upset" when he told him.

The jury also heard Pecker and Cohen's testimony about the meeting at Trump Tower in 2015, when the "catch and kill" scheme was hatched. Pecker said he agreed to be Trump's "eyes and ears," on the lookout for stories that might harm Trump's electoral prospects.

Once the testimony was read, the jurors returned to the deliberation room to continue hashing out the case. The courtroom closed for about an hour around lunchtime, with no word from the jurors.

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