The world awaits a decision from the jury on the fate of ex-President Trump in his criminal trial in New York. NewsdayTV’s Steve Langford reports.  Credit: Ed Quinn; Photo Credit: Pool/Curtis Means; Bloomberg/Yuki Iwamura; AP/ Doug Mills; Charly Triballeau

This story was reported by Janon Fisher, Nicole Fuller and Michael O'Keeffe. It was written by Fuller.

The jury that began deciding the fate of former President Donald Trump in his hush money trial worked for a few hours Wednesday before it went home without reaching a verdict after the first day of deliberations in the historic criminal case.

State Supreme Court Justice Juan M. Merchan in Manhattan informed the court shortly after 3 p.m. that the jury sent a note asking to rehear the testimony of key witness David Pecker, former publisher of the National Enquirer tabloid. Jurors also want to rehear the testimony of prosecution star witness Michael Cohen, former Trump attorney and fixer.

The jury sent a second note at 3:51 p.m., asking Merchan to read them the jury instructions again.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of felony falsifying business records as part of what prosecutors alleged was a scheme to cover up the payment of hush money to adult-film star Stormy Daniels, who testified — in sometimes graphic detail — that she had a sexual encounter with Trump at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, in 2006.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Jurors in former President Donald Trump's hush money criminal trial started deliberations Wednesday morning in Manhattan Criminal Court.
  • Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of felony falsifying business records as part of what prosecutors alleged was a scheme to cover up the payment of hush money to adult-film star Stormy Daniels that she had a sexual encounter with Trump at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, in 2006.
  • The jury sent two notes Wednesday afternoon. Jurors asked to rehear the testimony of key witness David Pecker, former publisher of the National Enquirer tabloid. Jurors also want to rehear the testimony of prosecution star witness Michael Cohen, former Trump attorney and fixer. They also asked the judge to reread them juror instructions.

Trump also has denied having sex with Daniels.

Prosecutors have said the cover-up was part of a pattern of "catch and kill” schemes, the heart of a “criminal conspiracy” between Trump, Cohen and Pecker, to buy negative stories about Trump and bury them as he campaigned against Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2016.

Merchan began Wednesday’s proceedings in Manhattan Criminal Court by instructing the jury on the law and then asked the panel of seven men and five women to step into the jury room to deliberate. The jury deliberated for some 4 ½ hours.

The jury foreperson sent a note to the judge asking for four materials, including testimony from Cohen and Pecker about their meeting with Trump at Trump Tower in 2015, when prosecutors said the conspiracy to impact the election with the “catch and kill” scheme began.

The note also asked for Pecker's testimony about his conversation with Trump while in an investor meeting and his testimony about not finalizing the deal with Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who is said to have had an affair with Trump, over her nondisclosure agreement.

Merchan instructed the prosecution and defense to discuss and agree about which portions of the trial transcript will satisfy the jury's request. The requested testimony will be read back to the jury Thursday morning, the judge said, along with the rereading of the jury instructions, which will also happen Thursday.

Trump, 77, the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee, was accompanied by his oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., in court Wednesday.

Trump, in a yellow tie, criticized the case outside the courtroom after the jury was asked to begin deliberations at about 11:30 a.m.

“Mother Teresa could not beat these charges,” said Trump, perhaps seeking to lower expectations. “The charges are rigged.”

Outside the courthouse in lower Manhattan, there were about three dozen Trump supporters gathered at Collect Pond Park when jury deliberations began. Many were wearing red hats that said “Trump” or “Make America Great Again.” Some were carrying U.S. and Trump flags. They occasionally broke out into chants — “We love Trump! We love Trump!” — but mostly they milled around, chatting in disparate groups.

There was a woman selling Trump key chains made from bottle caps for $3. There were also a handful of counterprotesters holding signs saying “Convict Trump Now.” The scene was peaceful and nonconfrontational.

The first day of deliberations began after a marathon session of closing arguments that began Tuesday morning and didn’t end till just before 8 p.m.

Trump was portrayed by his defense as the victim of Cohen, his lying former personal attorney turned star prosecution witness.

The prosecution, however, depicted Trump as the lead perpetrator in subverting the will of the American public in the 2016 presidential election by falsifying business records to cover up an illicit liaison with an adult-film star.

“Michael Cohen, he’s the human embodiment of reasonable doubt. He lied to you,” Trump’s lead defense attorney, Todd Blanche, told the jury during his summation. “He is biased and motivated to tell you a story that is not true. … Michael Cohen is the GLOAT, greatest liar of all times.”

Manhattan prosecutor Joshua Steinglass retorted: “We didn’t choose Michael Cohen. We didn’t pick him up at the witness store. The defendant chose Michael Cohen to be his fixer.”

The charges of falsifying business records are misdemeanors, but were upgraded to felonies by prosecutors, who argued the crimes were committed in order to cover up another crime — conspiracy to promote an election by unlawful means.

Prosecutors have said the payments to Cohen, which were reimbursements for the $130,000 in hush money he paid to Daniels on the eve of the 2016 election plus additional fees to cover taxes, were illegally recorded in Trump Organization records as legal services as part of a retainer agreement, but neither the retainer nor the legal services existed.

In addition to dismissing Cohen as a serial liar and perjurer, Trump’s attorneys have argued that Trump paid Cohen $420,000, not to repay the Daniels’ payment, but for legal services rendered by Cohen who was in 2017 working as Trump’s personal attorney. Therefore the business records noting the payments were for legal services are entirely accurate — case closed — Trump’s defense has argued.

“President Trump is innocent,” said Blanche, in a summation that began Tuesday morning and lasted nearly three hours. “He did not commit any crimes and the district attorney did not meet the burden of proof.”

Blanche accused Cohen, who was the only witness to allege a direct link between Trump and the falsified business records, of lying while on the stand and cautioned the jury against convicting Trump based on the word of the now-disbarred attorney.

Blanche accused Cohen of lying about several parts of his testimony, and questioned a voice recording that Cohen made of Trump, in which they allegedly discussed a hush money payment to McDougal. The $150,000 alleged hush money payment to McDougal and a $30,000 payment to a door attendant who peddled a false story that Trump fathered a child outside of his marriage are not part of the charges against Trump, but prosecutors were permitted to include the allegations as part of their case.

Blanche cautioned jurors that they have “no idea about the integrity of this file” in which Trump is heard saying to pay “cash.”

“There’s no way that you can believe that President Trump knew about this payment without believing the words of Michael Cohen,” said Blanche. “And you cannot, you cannot believe the words of Michael Cohen.”

Steinglass, however, painted the recording as a watershed moment for the jury.

“This recording is nothing short of jaw-dropping,” said Steinglass. “This recording shows the defendant’s cavalier effort to hide the payoff. This shows the defendant suggested paying in cash. It doesn’t even matter if he’s referring to a bag of cash in one lump sum. This tape shows a presidential candidate actively engaging in a scheme to pay off Karen McDougal.”

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