Three things to expect in final stretch of Trump hush money trial

Former President Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial could be over as soon as this week. 

Closing arguments from both the prosecution and defense are set to begin Tuesday, with both sides getting the opportunity to walk the jury through the alleged crime. The jury will then hear jury instructions, which will provide them with the framework to use to decide a verdict. 

A verdict in which Trump is acquitted or found guilty could also come as early as this week. Here are three things to look for as this historic trial wraps up. 

Closing arguments

The prosecution and the defense will have the chance to address the jury with their closing arguments. Both statements are expected to be long and will likely last the entire day as lawyers give hourslong summaries of the evidence and witness testimony.

The defense only needs to convince at least one juror that the prosecution has not proved Trump’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, not prove Trump’s innocence, to prevent a guilty verdict.

As such, in their closing arguments, the defense will likely try to find holes in the prosecution’s case by countering porn star Stormy Daniels’s testimony about her time with Trump. They will also likely try to distance the former president from knowing the exact details of the payments made to his former attorney Michael Cohen, who paid the $130,000 hush money payment to Daniels.

Over 19 days in court, the prosecution called 20 witnesses, resulting in testimony totaling over 50 hours. In closing, arguments will likely emphasize to the jury that they can trust the financial paperwork they have seen as evidence firsthand. 

They will also likely lean into Daniels’s testimony, as well as Cohen’s, in which he said Trump was directly involved in the hush money scheme.

Jury instructions

Following closing arguments, Judge Juan Merchan, who is presiding over the case, will address the jury for about an hour to instruct them on what it can consider when deciding a verdict on the case.

The core of the case is the $130,000 hush money payment made to Daniels in 2016 to keep her quiet about her alleged sexual encounter with Trump. The prosecution claims Trump falsified business records related to the payment, which they describe as election interference due to the payment happening mere weeks before the 2016 election.

The defense asked Merchan to consider the “extraordinarily important” nature of the case — it is the first criminal trial of a former president — when giving the jury instructions. The prosecution objected, and Merchan agreed it would not be in line with standard jury instructions. 

“When you say it’s a very important case, you’re asking me to change the law, and I’m not going to do that,” Merchan said.

Deliberations

A verdict could be reached as soon as Friday. Following closing arguments and jury instructions, the jurors will enter a period of deliberation in which they will evaluate all 34 counts against Trump.

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Deliberations could take hours or days, which means the trial could potentially end as soon as Friday, but there is no time limit, and deliberations could take weeks. 

All 12 jurors must agree on a guilty or not guilty verdict in order for Merchan to accept the verdict. A mistrial or hung jury could be the result if a verdict cannot be unanimously reached, as Merchan would declare the jury “hopelessly deadlocked.”

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