Donald Trump

Trump hush-money judge to guide jury as trial wraps and deliberations begin

Author: Editors Desk Source: The Guardian
May 29, 2024 at 09:12
Donald Trump attends a hearing with his defense lawyers before Justice Juan Merchan, in New York on 21 May 2024 in this courtroom sketch. Photograph: Jane Rosenberg/Reuters
Donald Trump attends a hearing with his defense lawyers before Justice Juan Merchan, in New York on 21 May 2024 in this courtroom sketch. Photograph: Jane Rosenberg/Reuters

If jurors reach verdict after judge Juan Merchan’s directives on the law, they’ll determine whether ex-president is guilty or not guilty

Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial in New York inches towards its concluding stages Wednesday with the expected start of jury deliberations.

The deliberations are poised to commence after judge Juan Merchan instructs jurors on the law. Merchan’s directives on the law are intended on guiding jurors about how they are supposed to weigh the case.

The former president is charged with falsifying business records in relation to paying off adult film actor Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election. Trump is the first US president, former or present, to face a criminal trial.

Manhattan prosecutors allege that Trump’s then attorney, Michael Cohen, shuttled $130,000 to Daniels days before the election, so that her claim of an extramarital sexual liaison wouldn’t go public and tank his chances at the polls.This next step of Trump’s trial marks a pivotal moment. If jurors reach a verdict, they will determine whether he is guilty or not guilty.

If Trump is found guilty, the presumptive GOP presidential candidate faces the prospect of jail – albeit unlikely – when he’s sentenced. Trump has denied the charge against him.

Trump also faces three other criminal cases: one for trying to influence the 2020 election in Georgia, another for his conduct around the January 6 Capitol attack, and a third one involving his treatment of sensitive documents after he left the White House. These other three cases have been pushed back and it’s unlikely that any would conclude before the November election.

Trump’s legal woes do not appear to have affected him in the polls. He still boasts a narrow edge over Joe Biden in some polls and is proving strong in some key states that are key to winning the race.

On Tuesday, the defense and prosecution presented their summations. Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass insisted that the case was about far more than paying off Daniels.

Rather, Steinglass said, Trump’s plot with Cohen and tabloid honcho David Pecker in summer 2015 – where the scandal sheet publisher said he’d keep an eye out for damaging information about the then-candidate – deprived Americans of true choice at the ballot box.

“Three rich and powerful men, high up in Trump Tower, tried to become even more powerful by controlling the information that reached voters,” Steinglass said.

“The value of this corrupt bargain. It turned out to be one of the most valuable contributions to the Trump campaign. This scheme cooked up by these men, at this time, could very well be what got Donald Trump elected.”“In simplest terms, Stormy Daniels is the motive,” Steinglass said at one point.

Trump’s defense lawyer, Todd Blanche, insisted that Cohen was a liar and that even if there were a conspiracy, it’s not a big deal.

“It doesn’t matter if there was a conspiracy to try and win an election,” Blanche said of the alleged scheme involving Trump, who is accused elsewhere of election meddling and fostering civil unrest to stop Biden from taking office. “Every campaign in this country is a conspiracy to promote a candidate.”

Blanche phrased this as a hypothetical – he didn’t admit there was a conspiracy and in fact, denied one. But, even if there were, Blanche insisted it was business as usual.

“Many politicians work with the media to try and promote their image,” Blanche said, telling jurors at one point that in order for it to be a legal problem, “you have to find that this effort was done by unlawful means”.

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