Jurors likely to deliberate in Trump hush-money trial

Luc Cohen, Jack Queen and Andy Sullivan |

The jury’s verdict on Donald Trump could upend the US presidential race.
The jury’s verdict on Donald Trump could upend the US presidential race.

Jurors are likely to begin deliberations in Donald Trump’s hush-money trial, sorting through weeks of evidence and testimony behind closed doors as they determine whether he will become the first US president convicted of a crime.

It was far from certain how long they might take to reach a verdict in the case with Trump, 77, who is accused of falsifying business records to cover up a hush money payment to a porn star in the final weeks of the 2016 election.

The 12 jurors have sat silently in a New York courtroom for more than six weeks as prosecutors laid out their case and Trump’s lawyers tried to knock it down.

Their verdict could upend the 2024 presidential race, in which Trump is seeking again to win the White House. 

The Republican is locked in a tight contest with Democratic President Joe Biden, and Reuters/Ipsos polling has found that a guilty verdict could cost Trump support among independent and some Republican voters.

A verdict of not guilty would remove a major legal barrier, freeing Trump from the obligation to juggle court appearances and campaign stops. If convicted, he would be expected to appeal. Trump faces three other criminal prosecutions, but they are not expected to go to trial before the November 5 election.

The trial was due to resume on Wednesday morning with Justice Juan Merchan, who has overseen the case, issuing detailed instructions to the jury. 

A courtroom sketch of Donald Trump in court
Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business documents. (AP PHOTO)

After that process, which could take several hours, the jury will begin deliberations.

During the trial, jurors heard testimony from porn star Stormy Daniels, who described in lurid detail a 2006 sexual encounter with Trump, and from Michael Cohen, the former Trump fixer who paid $US130,000 ($A195,000) to buy her silence during Trump’s 2016 White House run.

Prosecutors from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office say that payment could have contributed to Trump’s victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton by keeping an unflattering story out of the public eye.

“We’ll never know if this effort to hoodwink the American voter impacted the election,” prosecutor Joshua Steinglass told jurors during his closing argument on Tuesday.

They say Trump paid Cohen back in monthly instalments disguised as legal fees. 

They have charged him with 34 felony counts of falsifying business documents, and face the burden of proving Trump’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Trump has pleaded not guilty and denies ever having sex with Daniels. 

His lawyers say Cohen, a convicted felon, lied under oath when he said Trump knew about the Daniels payment before the election and helped craft the reimbursement scheme after his victory.

“He is literally the greatest liar of all time,” Trump lawyer Todd Blanche told jurors on Tuesday.

Throughout, Trump has characterised the trial as an attempt by Biden’s Democratic allies to hobble his presidential campaign.

Merchan imposed a gag order to prevent him from intimidating witnesses and jurors, and fined him $US10,000 for violating it.

Reuters