Closing arguments and verdict: Trump’s secret money trial enters its final stretch | Donald Trump News

After more than four weeks and nearly two dozen witnesses, former US President Donald Trump’s hush money trial is now entering the final stretch.

Prosecutors and Trump’s defense team will present their closing arguments starting Tuesday morning in the New York courtroom that has been host to a series of heated exchanges and memorable moments since testimony began in late April. .

The jury will then be asked to deliberate and reach a verdict, just months before the country goes to the polls for what is expected to be a closely contested November election between Trump, a Republican, and his Democratic rival, President Joe Biden.

Trump, who faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business documents in connection with hush payments made to an adult film star before the 2016 presidential election, has pleaded not guilty.

Here’s everything you need to know about the landmark case – the first criminal trial against a former US president – ​​and what comes next.

What’s happening this week in Trump’s hush money trial?

Prosecutors and defense attorneys will have their last chance to address the jury in closing arguments, which are expected to last much of Tuesday.

The arguments serve as hour-long summaries of the key points each side wants to make before jurors begin their deliberations.

The defense team will go first, followed by the prosecution.

What will each side argue?

Prosecutors have tried to argue throughout the trial that Trump participated in a hush money scheme aimed at stifling bad press that could have hurt his chances in the 2016 presidential election, which he won.

They showed the jury financial statements and questioned several witnesses, including Stormy Daniels, the adult film star whose alleged affair with Trump is at the center of the case. Trump has denied that she had any sexual encounter.

The prosecution’s star witness, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, also He testified that the former president was directly involved in the scheme and authorized the payments.

The defense, for its part, has tried to discredit witnesses, including painting Cohen as a serial liar. Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal charges related to hush money payments, as well as lying to the U.S. Congress.

But this week, Trump’s team doesn’t have to prove anything or convince the jury of his innocence.

To avoid a conviction, they need to persuade at least one of the 12 jurors that prosecutors have failed to prove Trump’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard for criminal cases.

The defense can also claim for the last time that Trump was more concerned about protecting his family from lewd stories, not winning the election, when it comes to the money paid for silence.

Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, was the prosecution’s star witness (Eduardo Muñoz/Reuters)

What is the jury asked to decide?

While the courtroom drama has dominated media coverage of the trial, the case boils down to whether Trump knowingly covered up a $130,000 hush payment to Daniels in an effort to prevent her claims from derailing his 2016 White House bid. .

The jury must decide not only whether Trump caused the falsification of payment records, but also whether he did so to cover up another crime: in this case, an unreported campaign donation. Both findings would make the alleged crimes felonies under New York state law.

In an interview with Al Jazeera at the start of the trial, Gregory Germain, a law professor at Syracuse University in upstate New York, summarized “the two essential elements” of the indictment: “Where is the fraud and where is the crime (secondary)? ?”

After each side presents their closing arguments, the judge overseeing the case, Juan Merchán, will give the jury extensive instructions on how to interpret the law and the evidence during their deliberations. This could happen as early as Wednesday.

How do jury deliberations work?

The deliberations will take place in secret in a room specifically reserved for jurors and in an intentionally opaque process.

During their deliberations, jurors will have access to all the evidence and will be able to ask questions of the judge, who will consult with prosecutors and defense attorneys before deciding how to respond.

There is no time limit on how long it takes the jury to deliberate. Jurors must weigh 34 counts of falsifying business records, so that could take some time and a verdict may not be reached by the end of the week.

To reach a verdict, whether guilty or not guilty, all 12 jurors must agree with the decision for the judge to accept it. If the jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict, it deadlocks and Merchan would declare a mistrial.

Once the jurors inform the court that they have reached a verdict, Merchan will call the parties into the courtroom to hear their reading from the jury foreman. Merchan has yet to confirm the verdict and issue a final sentence. Either party can ask you to effectively set aside the jury’s ruling.

What happens if Trump is convicted?

If Trump is convicted, it will likely take several weeks or months until he is sentenced.

As a first-time offender of a nonviolent crime, the former president and presumptive 2024 GOP presidential candidate would likely be free on bail in the meantime.

The maximum penalty for Trump’s falsification of business records is up to four years in prison. But while prison time is a possibility, experts said a fine, probation or community service are much more likely options.

Will a conviction affect Trump’s electoral chances?

That remains unclear.

An ABC News/Ipsos poll from early May found that an overwhelming percentage of Trump supporters (80 percent) said they would back the former president in November even if he were convicted of a felony.

But 16 percent said they would reconsider their support if he is found guilty, while 4 percent said they would withdraw it, the survey showed.

Another poll, released last week by Quinnipiac University, showed that 6 percent of Trump voters said they would be less likely to vote for Trump if he is convicted, 24 percent said they would be more likely to vote for him and 68 percent said they would. It does not affect his choice.

While the percentage of voters who said they would abandon Trump if he is convicted is low, it could matter in a neck-and-neck race between Trump and Biden.

“Will a conviction sink Trump? The vast majority of his supporters say it wouldn’t be a big deal. But in an extremely close race, that 6 percent could tip the balance,” said Quinnipiac University polling analyst Tim Malloy.

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