Trump hush-money trial jurors wrap short first day of deliberations with questions

Key things to know:

  • The jury discussions will resume Thursday in secret, in a room reserved specifically for jurors and in a process that’s intentionally opaque.
  • The jury must evaluate 34 counts of falsifying business records. A verdict might not come by the end of the week.
  • Prosecutors say Trump falsified internal business records to cover up hush money payments tied to an alleged scheme to bury stories that might torpedo his 2016 White House bid. 
Former U.S. President Donald Trump returns from a break as closing arguments continue in his hush money trial at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 28, 2024, in New York City. (Photo by Andrew Kelly-Pool/Getty Images)

Former U.S. President Donald Trump returns from a break as closing arguments continue in his hush money trial at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 28, 2024, in New York City. (Photo by Andrew Kelly-Pool/Getty Images)

Jury deliberations in Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial began Wednesday after the panel received instructions from the judge on the law governing the case and what they can take into account in evaluating the former president's guilt or innocence, the Associated Press reported. 

The historic deliberations followed Tuesday's whirlwind of closing arguments, which stretched into the evening hours as prosecutor Joshua Steinglass accused Trump of intentionally deceiving voters by allegedly participating in a "catch-and-kill" scheme to bury stories that might obliterate his 2016 presidential bid. Steinglass further suggested that Trump operated with a "cavalier willingness" to hide payoffs and did so in a way that left "no paper trail."

Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, charges which are punishable by up to four years in prison. He has denied all wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.

The defense approached its summation much in the same way it approached cross-examination: by targeting the credibility of star witness Michael Cohen. 

Defense lawyer Todd Blanche branded Trump's former lawyer as "the greatest liar of all time" while urging jurors to quickly acquit his client.

Follow along for live updates: 

4:10 p.m ET: Jury released for the day

Judge Merchan sent the jury home for the day just after 4 p.m. to give the court time to track down the pages of testimony they asked for. 

Prosecutors and the defense will have to agree on what to provide them; that work will continue in court this afternoon so that deliberations can resume in the morning.

Donald Trump walked out of court pumping his fist, pool notes indicate.

3:35 p.m. ET: Judge Merchan said it would take some time to gather the requested testimony

He’ll bring jurors into the courtroom and have it read to them once the testimony is collected.

3:25 p.m. ET: The jury does not have a transcript of witness testimony

The jury has a verdict sheet and a laptop loaded with documents and other exhibits presented in the case, but not much else. They can’t have any of the transcripts of testimony in the case while deliberating, nor can they be given a written copy of the instructions that were read to them Wednesday morning. Instead, the panel must send a note to the judge each time it wants to have a snippet of testimony read out or get a refresher on the instructions it must follow, the Associated Press reported. 

3:15 p.m. ET: Jury in Trump hush money trial sends note to judge asking for testimony from National Enquirer publisher, Michael Cohen

The jury has four requests. It wants to hear David Pecker’s testimony regarding the August 2015 Trump Tower meeting where he agreed to identify negative stories for Trump, a phone call he says he had with Trump about the McDougal deal and his decision not to sell the rights to McDougal’s story to Trump. The jury also wants to hear Michael Cohen’s testimony about the same Trump Tower meeting.

3 p.m. ET: The jury has sent its first note to the judge

The note’s contents have not yet been made public, but it should be read in court soon.

The jury, which is deliberating in secret in a side room, indicated it had a note by ringing a courtroom bell at 2:56 p.m., about 3½ hours into deliberations. While deliberating, juries can only communicate with the judge by note. They may involve questions such as a request to hear portions of testimony or rehear certain instructions.

2:45 p.m. ET: Yes, the jurors get to go home

The jury isn’t sequestered, the legal term for isolating the panel from the outside world, and leave court at the end of each day. That was once mandatory for many felony cases in New York state, but the requirement was lifted in 2001, and sequestration is now rare, the Associated Press reported. 

2:30 p.m. ET: Stuck waiting at the courthouse, Trump sounds off on social media

Donald Trump is continuing to complain on social media as the jury deliberates. "IT IS RIDICULOUS, UNCONSTITUTIONAL, AND UNAMERICAN that the highly Conflicted, Radical Left Judge is not requiring a unanimous decision on the fake charges against me brought by Soros backed D.A. Alvin Bragg," he wrote. "A THIRD WORLD ELECTION INTERFERENCE HOAX!"

In fact, any verdict has to be unanimous: guilty or not guilty. If the jurors disagree, they keep deliberating. If they get to a point where they are hopelessly deadlocked, then the judge can declare a mistrial.

If they convict, they must agree that Trump created a false entry in his company’s records or caused someone else to do so, and that he did so with the intent of committing or concealing another crime — in this case, violating a state election law.

What the jurors do not have to agree on, however, is which way that election law was violated.

2 p.m. ET: How long the jury will deliberate

They will deliberate as long as they need to. The standard court day runs from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with a break for lunch (jurors’ meals will be delivered). But judges sometimes extend the hours if jurors wish. In this case, Judge Merchan already has decided that deliberations will proceed on Wednesday, which is normally a day off from the trial.

There’s no limit on how many days deliberations can continue.

1 p.m. ET: Jurors will deliberate through lunch, but no court action will occur

The courtroom is shutting down for its usual lunch hour. No action will occur and no notes will be passed during the 1 to 2:15 p.m. break.

12:30 p.m. ET: Fact check: Yes, the jury must come to a unanimous verdict

As the jury begins its deliberations, claims are spreading across social media that Judge Juan M. Merchan told the panel they don’t need a unanimous verdict to convict Trump.

That’s false.

To convict Trump, Merchan told the jury they will have to find unanimously — that is, all 12 jurors must agree — that the former president created a fraudulent entry in his company’s records or caused someone else to do so, and that he did so with the intent of committing or concealing another crime, according to the Associated Press. 

What’s being distorted by some online is the judge’s instruction about how to reach a verdict about that second element.

Prosecutors say the crime Trump committed or hid is a violation of a New York election law making it illegal for two or more conspirators "to promote or prevent the election of any person to a public office by unlawful means."

Merchan gave the jurors three possible "unlawful means": falsifying other business records, breaking the Federal Election Campaign Act or submitting false information on a tax return.

For a conviction, each juror would have to find that at least one of those three things happened, but they don’t have to agree unanimously which it was.

12 p.m. ET: The jury has been sent to deliberate. What exactly does that mean?

The deliberations will proceed in secret, in a room reserved specifically for jurors and in a process that’s intentionally opaque. 

Jurors can communicate with the court through notes that ask the judge, for instance, for legal guidance or to have particular excerpts of testimony read back to them. But without knowing what jurors are saying to each other, it’s hard to read too much into the meaning of any note, the Associated Press reported. 

It’s anyone’s guess how long the jury will deliberate for and there’s no time limit either. The jury must evaluate 34 counts of falsifying business records, so that could take some time, and a verdict might not come by the end of the week.

To reach a verdict on any given count, either guilty or not guilty, all 12 jurors must agree with the decision for the judge to accept it.

Things will get trickier if the jury can’t reach a consensus after several days of deliberations. Though defense lawyers might seek an immediate mistrial, Merchan is likely to call the jurors in and instruct them to keep trying for a verdict and to be willing to reconsider their positions without abandoning their conscience or judgment just to go along with others.

If, after that instruction, the jury still can’t reach a verdict, the judge would have the option to deem the panel hopelessly deadlocked and declare a mistrial.

11:45 a.m. ET: Judge Merchan addresses the alternate jurors

After the main jury left, Judge Juan M. Merchan spoke to the six alternates who remained in the courtroom, telling them they would be on standby in the courthouse as deliberations got underway, the Associated Press reported. 

He thanked them for their service and diligence, noting he saw one of the alternates go through three notebooks. "There might be a need for you at some point in deliberations," he said.

The alternates will be kept separate from the main jury and must also surrender their phones to court officers while deliberations are in progress. If a member of the main panel is unable to continue, an alternate can take that person’s place and deliberations will begin anew.

11:40 a.m. ET: Juror No. 1

After conferring with lawyers from both sides, Juan M. Merchan clarifies that any jury notes should be signed by the foreperson using only his juror number — 1 — not his actual name. Jurors names are being kept from the public and any notes will be put on the public docket.

11:35 a.m. ET: Judge Merchan winds down his instructions

Judge Juan M. Merchan, winding down with more standard instructions, told jurors that all deliberations must happen in secret in the jury room and that they should only communicate with him by note, in part so there are no misunderstandings. He said jurors must give their cell phones to court officers to hold for them while deliberating.

Lunch, he said, "will of course be provided."

11:30 a.m. ET: The two elements prosecutors must prove for a guilty verdict

Prosecutors are required to prove two elements for each of the counts in order to find Trump guilty, Judge Juan M. Merchan told the jurors.

They must find that he "personally or by acting in concert with another person or persons made or caused a false entry in the records" or a business. Prosecutors must also prove that Trump did so with the intent to commit or conceal another crime, the Associated Press noted. 

Prosecutors allege the other crime that Trump intended to commit or conceal was a violation of a state election law regarding a conspiracy to promote or prevent an election by unlawful means.

The alleged unlawful means that jurors must consider are:

  • Violations of federal campaign finance law
  • Falsifying other business records, such as paperwork used to establish the bank account used to pay Stormy Daniels, bank records and tax forms
  • Violation of city, state and federal tax laws, including by providing false or fraudulent information on tax returns, "even if it does not result in underpayment of taxes"

11:15 a.m. ET: Explaining ‘conspiracy to promote or prevent election’

Judge Juan M. Merchan went over New York’s law against "conspiracy to promote or prevent election," a statute that’s important to the case. That’s because prosecutors claim that Trump falsified business records in order to cover up alleged violations of the election conspiracy law. The alleged violations, prosecutors say, were hush money payments that really amounted to illegal campaign contributions, according to the Associated Press. 

Under New York law, it’s a misdemeanor for two or more people to conspire to promote or prevent a candidate’s election "by unlawful means" if at least one of the conspirators takes action to carry out the plot.

The law also requires that a defendant have the intent unlawfully to prevent or promote the candidate’s election — not just that a defendant knows about the conspiracy or be present when it’s discussed.

In the defense’s closing argument Tuesday, Trump attorney Todd Blanche urged jurors to reject prosecutors’ election conspiracy assertions, insisting that "every campaign in this country is a conspiracy to promote a candidate."

11 a.m. ET: Explaining accessorial liability

Juan M. Merchan instructed jurors on the concept of accessorial liability, under which a defendant can be held criminally responsible for someone else’s actions.

That’s a key component of the prosecution’s theory of the case because, while Trump signed some of the checks at issue, people working for his company processed Cohen’s invoices and entered the transactions into its accounting system.

In order to hold Trump liable for those actions, Merchan said jurors must find beyond a reasonable doubt that he solicited, requested or commanded those people to engage in that conduct and that he acted intentionally.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass touched on accessorial liability in his closing argument Tuesday, telling jurors: "No one is saying the defendant actually got behind a computer and typed in the false vouchers or stamped the false invoices or printed the false checks."

"But he set in motion a chain of events that led to the creation of the false business records," Steinglass said.

Trump has pleaded not guilty and denies wrongdoing.

10:45 a.m. ET: Corroborating evidence

Because Michael Cohen is considered an accomplice to the alleged crimes, the judge is instructing the jury that under the law, Trump cannot be convicted solely by Cohen’s testimony unless it is supported by corroborating evidence.

10:40 a.m. ET: How to judge the truth

Judge Juan M. Merchan gave the jury some guidance on factors it can use to assess witness testimony, including its plausibility, its consistency with other testimony, the witness’ manner on the stand and whether the person has a motive to lie, the Associated Press reported. 

But, the judge said, "There is no particular formula for evaluating the truthfulness and accuracy of another person’s statement."

The principles he outlined are standard but perhaps all the more relevant after Trump’s defense leaned heavily on questioning the credibility of key prosecution witnesses, including the ex-president’s former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen.

Jurors appear alert and engaged as Merchan instructs them. Several are taking notes as he recites instructions.

10:30 a.m. ET: Jurors can’t hold Trump’s decision not to testify against him

Echoing standard jury instructions, Judge Juan M. Merchan notes that even though the defense presented evidence, the burden of proof remains on the prosecutor and that Trump is "not required to prove that he is not guilty."

"In fact," noted Merchan, "the defendant is not required to prove or disprove anything."

10:26 a.m. ET: In the eyes of the law, Trump and the jurors are peers

Judge Juan M. Merchan is reminding jurors of their solemn responsibility to decide Trump’s guilt or innocence, gently and methodically reading through standard jury instructions that have a special resonance in the former president’s high-profile case, the Associated Press reported. 

"As a juror, you are asked to make a very important decision about another member of the community," Merchan said, underscoring that — in the eyes of the law — juror and Trump are peers.

Merchan also reminded jurors of their vow, during jury selection, "to set aside any personal bias you may have in favor of or against" Trump and decide the case "fairly based on the evidence of the law."

10:16 a.m. ET: Judge Merchan has begun to instruct the jury

Per the law, jurors will not receive copies of the instructions, Judge Juan M. Merchan says, but they can request to hear them again as many times as they wish.

Trump leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes as Merchan told jurors that he would take about an hour to read them the instructions.

The judge told jurors, "It is not my responsibility to judge the evidence here. It is yours."

9:55 a.m. ET: Trump's motorcade arrives at courthouse

Donald Trump's motorcade has arrived at the courthouse in lower Manhattan as proceedings in his hush money trial are set to resume.

8:25 a.m. ET: A recap of testimony jurors heard in the case 

Over more than four weeks of testimony, prosecutors called 20 witnesses. The defense called just two.

Among the prosecution’s key witnesses: Trump’s former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, porn actor Stormy Daniels, tabloid publisher David Pecker and lawyer Keith Davidson, who negotiated hush money deals for Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Cohen testified that he paid $130,000 in hush money to Daniels at Trump’s behest weeks before the 2016 election to keep her quiet about her claims of a sexual encounter with him a decade earlier. Trump denies the encounter took place. Cohen also said Trump was involved in an arrangement to repay him and log the payments as legal expenses.

Daniels gave an at-times graphic account of the alleged encounter.

Pecker testified about agreeing to be the "eyes and ears" of Trump’s campaign by tipping Cohen off to negative stories, including Daniels’ claim.

Davidson talked about negotiating the deals and what he said was Cohen’s frustration after the Daniels deal that Trump still hadn’t repaid him.

The defense’s big witness was attorney Robert Costello, who testified last Monday and Tuesday about negotiating to represent Cohen after the FBI raided Cohen’s properties in 2018.

8 a.m. ET: How will the jury deliberations work?

Jury deliberations in Trump's hush money trial will proceed in secret, in a room reserved specifically for jurors and in a process that’s intentionally opaque.

Jurors can communicate with the court through notes that ask the judge, for instance, for legal guidance or to have particular excerpts of testimony read back to them.

But without knowing what jurors are saying to each other, it’s hard to read too much into the meaning of any note.

Trump's hush money case

The indictment against Trump centers on payoffs allegedly made to two women, porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Trump’s former lawyer and "fixer," Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 and arranged for the publisher of the National Enquirer supermarket tabloid to pay McDougal $150,000.

Trump's company, the Trump Organization, then reimbursed Cohen and paid him bonuses and extra payments – all of which, prosecutors say, were falsely logged as legal expenses in company records. Over several months, Cohen said the company paid him $420,000.

Payments were also allegedly made to a Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about a child he alleged Trump had out of wedlock.

The indictment, brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, made Trump the first ex-president ever to face criminal charges.

Trump has denied the accusations.

Who are the jurors?

After being forced to release a seated juror, the judge ordered the media not to report on where potential jurors have worked – even when stated in open court – and to be careful about revealing information about those who would sit in judgment of the former president. Here's what we can report.

Juror 1 and foreperson: A man who lives in New York City and has no children. Loves the outdoors and gets his news from The New York Times, Daily Mail, Fox News and MSNBC. 

When asked by Trump defense attorney Todd Blanche if he was aware Trump is charged in other cases and jurisdictions, and how that affects him, the man said, "I don’t have an opinion." 

Juror 2: A man who said he follows Trump’s former lawyer, Cohen, on "X," formerly known as Twitter. He also revealed he follows other right-wing accounts including Trump’s former adviser, Kellyanne Conway. 

He has said he would unfollow Cohen as he may be a witness in the trial. 

Juror 3: A middle-aged man who lives in Manhattan. He grew up in Oregon. He gets his news from The New York Times and Google. 

Juror 4: A man who lived in New York City for 15 years. He is originally from California. He is married with three children and a wife who is a teacher. He has served on a jury before – both on a grand jury and a jury in a criminal trial. 

The juror said he gets his news from "a smattering" of sources and does not use social media. 

Juror 5: A young woman who is a New York native. 

She gets most of her news from Google and Tiktok. 

Juror 6: A young woman who lives in Manhattan and likes to dance. 

Juror 7: A man who is married with two children. 

He gets most of his news from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and The Washington Post. The man has said he is aware there are other lawsuits but said, "I’m not sure that I know anyone’s character." 

Juror 8: No information has been released about this juror. 

Juror 9: A woman who lives in Manhattan. She is not married and has no children. 

She has never served on a jury before and does not watch the news. However, she said she does have email subscriptions to CNN and The New York Times. She follows social media accounts and listens to podcasts. She also enjoys watching reality TV. 

Juror 10: A man who lives in Manhattan. He is not married and has no children. He does have a roommate who works in accounting. He rarely follows the news but he does listen to podcasts on behavioral psychology. 

Juror 11: No information has been released about this juror. 

Juror 12: No information has been released about this juror. 

How can I watch the Trump trial?

The trial is not being televised. Instead, news reporters and producers will have the ability to sit inside the courtroom and deliver information to the public.

How many court cases is Trump involved in?

As of this report, Trump is currently involved in four criminal cases, which includes the hush money case. 

A second case out of Fulton County, Georgia, has charged Trump, as well as 18 others, with participating in a scheme to illegally attempt to overturn the former president’s loss to President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. 

Trump is also involved in a third criminal case in Washington, D.C., which charged him with allegedly conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the run-up to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. 

And his fourth case involves classified documents that Trump illegally retained at his Mar-a-Lago estate after he left the White House. 

RELATED: A guide to Trump’s court cases

The Associated Press, FOX News, FOX 5 NY and Catherine Stoddard contributed to this report.