Trump trial verdict watch in New York hush money case

In this courtroom sketch, David Pecker is cross-examined by Emil Bove during former U.S. President Donald Trump’s criminal trial on charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, in Manhattan state court in New York City on April 26, 2024.

Jane Rosenberg | Reuters

Editor’s note: This is developing news and will be updated throughout the day.

The jury in the criminal hush money trial of Donald Trump resumed deliberations Thursday after rehearing portions of testimony from David Pecker, the former supermarket tabloid publisher who helped suppress negative stories about the Republican during the 2016 campaign that ended with his election as president.

Jurors also reheard testimony by Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, whose $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election is the basis for criminal charges in the trial.

The 12-member jury additionally heard portions of instructions on the law it received Wednesday from Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan before they began their first day of deliberations.

Jurors met in secret to discuss a potential verdict for several hours before sending out two separate notes on Monday afternoon to request the read-backs of portions of Pecker’s and Cohen’s testimony, as well as Merchan’s instructions. The judge sent them home for the day after saying they would hear those requests on Thursday.

Trump is charged in the case with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records detailing his and his company’s reimbursements to Cohen for the Daniels payoff, which kept the actor from telling media outlets about an alleged sexual tryst with Trump a decade before the election.

Those records claimed that the reimbursements were for legal expenses.

Prosecutors, and Cohen, say that hid the fact that it was actually to prevent Daniels from harming Trump’s then-wobbling campaign.

“Mother Teresa could not beat these charges,” Trump told reporters after jurors began deliberating Tuesday. “These charges are rigged.”

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee claims that this criminal case, and three others he faces, are designed to harm his chances against President Joe Biden in the November election.

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The portions of Pecker’s testimony that jurors heard Thursday detailed a phone conversation the ex-American Media Inc. publisher had with Trump during an investor meeting in June 2016, and his testimony about a meeting with Trump and Cohen at Trump Tower in Manhattan in August 2015.

They also reheard Pecker’s testimony about the proposed transfer of the so-called life rights by former Playboy model Karen McDougal to Trump, which was never finalized by American Media.

Pecker’s company had purchased McDougal’s life rights for $150,000 in 2016 as part of a scheme to keep her from writing or telling reporters about her alleged time as Trump’s mistress.

Trump denies having sex with either McDougal or Daniels, but Cohen testified that he was directed by Trump to arrange the hush money payments to both.

In this courtroom sketch, Michael Cohen testifies during former U.S. President Donald Trump’s criminal trial on charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, in Manhattan state court in New York City on May 14, 2024.

Jane Rosenberg | Reuters

In Pecker’s testimony about the Trump Tower meeting, he said Trump and Cohen “asked me what I can do and what my magazines could do to help the campaign.”

“I said what I would do is I would run or publish positive stories about Mr. Trump and I would publish negative stories about his opponents,” Pecker testified. “I said I would be the eyes and ears because I know that the Trump Organization had a very small staff.”

“And then I said that anything that I hear in the marketplace, if I hear anything negative about yourself or if I hear anything about women selling stories, I would notify Michael Cohen, as I did over the last several years, I would notify Michael Cohen and he would be able to have them kill in another magazine or have them not be published or somebody would have to purchase them,” Pecker testified.

Cohen in his testimony about the same meeting corroborated Pecker’s account.

Cohen testified that Trump said he told both Cohen and Pecker, “The two of you should work together. Anything negative that comes, you let Michael know, and we’ll handle it.”

Pecker followed through on that promise, alerting Cohen about salacious stories being shopped around about Trump, and published smears in The National Enquirer about his Republican primary opponents and the Democratic presidential nominee that year, Hillary Clinton.

In the late June 2016 phone call with Trump, Pecker testified, the then-presidential candidate said, “I spoke to Michael. Karen is a nice girl.”

Trump went on to ask, “Is it true that a Mexican group is looking to buy her story for 8 million dollars?” Pecker testified.

“I said: ‘I absolutely don’t believe that there is a Mexican group out there to buy a story for $8 million,’ ” Pecker testified about his response to Trump.

“And then he said: ‘What do you think I should do?’ ” Pecker testified. “I said: ‘I think you should buy the story and take it off the market.’ “

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