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Trump hush-money trial: Jury begins deliberation

Former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York on Wednesday, May 29, 2024. Jurors are expected to begin their deliberations today in the felony trial of the former president, who is charged with making hush-money payments to silence an adult film actress in 2016. Pool Photo by Doug Mills/UPI
1 of 5 | Former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York on Wednesday, May 29, 2024. Jurors are expected to begin their deliberations today in the felony trial of the former president, who is charged with making hush-money payments to silence an adult film actress in 2016. Pool Photo by Doug Mills/UPI | License Photo

May 29 (UPI) -- The jury began deliberations in the hush-money trial of former President Donald Trump in Manhattan on Wednesday.

Deliberations will continue into Thursday after Judge Juan Merchan dismissed the jury at about 4 p.m. ET, after more than three hours. The jury re-emerged with requests for about 30 pages of transcripts from witness testimony, including the testimony of former attorney Michael Cohen and former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker.

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The jury will hear the testimony again on Thursday. They also have requested to hear instructions from the judge again. Instructions took about an hour on Wednesday.

Merchan instructed the jury that to reach a guilty verdict, it must agree that Trump falsified business records with the intent to defraud, commit another crime or conceal the commission of a crime. They do not need to determine that he did this personally.

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The jury must reach a unanimous decision on the charges but it does not need to agree unanimously on the means Trump took to commit these crimes to find him guilty.

"If you find the people have proven beyond a reasonable doubt each of those two elements, you must find the defendant guilty of this crime," Merchan said. "If you find the people have not proven beyond a reasonable doubt either one or both of those elements, you must find the defendant not guilty of this crime."

The jury is ordered to set aside any potential biases and to not hold it against Trump that he did not take the witness stand during trial. Instructions took about an hour to complete. Jurors will be kept together while they deliberate without access to their personal devices. They will have access to laptops that contain all of the evidence.

The 12-person jury is tasked with ruling on 34 counts against the former president related to falsifying business documents in an attempt to cover up an alleged affair with adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges and denied that the affair took place.

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Trump did not speak to the press on his way into the courtroom on Wednesday morning, something he has typically done throughout the trial.

Closing arguments wrapped up Tuesday afternoon after more than 20 witnesses gave testimony throughout the trial. Daniels and Cohen were the star witnesses for the prosecution.

Defense attorney Todd Blanche attempted to discredit Cohen, alleging that his testimony did not contain any facts. He repeatedly called Trump's former attorney a liar while downplaying Trump's role and knowledge of any hush-money payments.

Blanche also urged that the trial is not about whether Trump had an affair but about business documents that he says are all legitimate.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass argued that Cohen and Daniels gave context to a "catch and kill" scheme that ultimately may have helped Trump get elected in 2016. He showed the jury a series of phone calls involving the key players in the scheme, including Cohen, former Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg and Pecker. He said these calls were to orchestrate the execution of buying and burying stories of Trump's affairs at the direction of Trump.

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