Trump hush money trial: Jury ends first day of deliberations

NEW YORK — After sitting through weeks of testimony, jurors began deliberations Wednesday in the historic criminal trial of former President Donald Trump.

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Jurors will return Thursday

Update 4:23 p.m. EDT May 29: Jurors ended 4 hours, 37 minutes of deliberations and were dismissed for the day by Judge Juan Merchan, The Associated Press reported. They will return to court at 9:30 a.m. EDT on Thursday.

Before leaving, jurors sent two notes to the judge. One requested testimony from David Pecker and Michael Cohen, while the second note was a request for Merchan to reread the instructions to the jury, according to CNN.

-- Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Original report: The jury got the case just before 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.

“You are the judges of the facts and you are responsible for deciding whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty,” Judge Juan Merchan said while delivering instructions ahead of deliberations, CNN reported.

Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records. Prosecutors said he schemed to hide reimbursements made to his then-attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, for a $130,000 hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 presidential election.

Trump has long denied any wrongdoing. He reiterated Wednesday in a post on his Truth Social platform that the case should “NEVER HAVE BEEN BROUGHT,” calling it part of a politically motivated witch hunt.

“THERE WAS NO CRIME, EXCEPT FOR THE BUM THAT GOT CAUGHT STEALING FROM ME!” he wrote in an apparent reference to revelations during the trial that Cohen stole $30,000 from the Trump Organization.

In closing arguments Tuesday, Trump attorney Todd Blanche said the prosecution failed to meet its burden of proof, questioning the credibility of Cohen’s testimony and denying that the classification of his reimbursement in business records — which were labeled as legal fees — was nefarious. In Trump Organization records, “There is no other way to categorize an invoice from a lawyer,” he said, according to The Washington Post.

He argued that his client could not be convicted on Cohen’s testimony, calling him the “literally the greatest liar of all time,” CNN reported.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass told jurors that Cohen lied to help Trump, and that Trump’s attorneys were now using those lies to undermine him, according to The New York Times.

“We didn’t choose Michael Cohen to be our witness. We didn’t pick him up at the witness store,” Steinglass said, according to the Post. “The defendant chose Michael Cohen to be his fixer because he was willing to cheat and lie on his behalf.”

He said Trump sought to keep his image from being further damaged following the release of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape one month before voters hit the polls in 2016. Former Trump adviser Hope Hicks testified that Trump said it “would have been bad to have that story come out before the election,” the Post reported.

Steinglass said Tuesday that the case centered on “a conspiracy and a cover-up,” according to the Times.

“The name of the game was concealment, and all roads lead inescapably to the man that benefited the most, the defendant, former President Donald J. Trump,” he said, CNN reported.

If Trump is convicted, he could face up to four years in prison for each of the 34 charges against him, which are felonies, according to the Times. He could also be sentenced to probation, the newspaper reported.

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