Donald Trump Hush Money Trial Verdict: What's At Stake?

New York:

Jurors will soon deliver a verdict in the New York trial of Donald Trump. Guilty or innocent, their decision will shake the United States.

They must decide whether the former and perhaps future president is a criminal, just months before an election that could put him back in the White House.

The panel of 12 ordinary New Yorkers started deliberations at 11:30 am (1530 GMT) on Wednesday. They must reach unanimous verdicts to convict on any of the 34 separate charges.

Here are some of the pressing questions ahead:

What is jury being asked to decide?

Much attention has been paid to the salacious details that emerged in the trial, particularly from porn star Stormy Daniels who claimed to have had a sexual encounter with Trump at a celebrity golf tournament in 2006.

But the case ultimately boils down to whether Trump knowingly falsified business records to reimburse his lawyer Michael Cohen for a $130,000 payment made to Daniels in an effort to prevent her story from derailing his 2016 presidential battle against Hillary Clinton.

The jury must decide not only if Trump caused the records of payments to Cohen to be falsified, but that he did so to cover up another crime — an undeclared campaign donation in this case — making it a felony.

Delivering his instructions to the jury, Judge Juan Merchan told them that in seeking a verdict they must “set aside any personal opinions you have in favour or against the defendant.”

What are their options?

The jury must come to a unanimous verdict on each of the charges for Trump to be found guilty or acquitted of that charge.

His defence team has sought to sow doubts in the minds of at least one member of the jury, which is all that would be needed to spare the property mogul a conviction, causing a mistrial.

The tortuous jury selection process at the start of the trial probed jurors’ media consumption and feelings towards Trump in microscopic detail, revealing that at least one follows the 77-year-old former Republican president on his Truth Social platform.

Could Trump end up behind bars?

Yes, former president Trump could go to prison.

He could be hit by a maximum of four years in prison for each of the 34 charges of falsifying business records.

Merchan has come close to jailing the far-right populist for breaches of a gag order in place to protect witnesses, the jury and family members of some of those involved in the unprecedented criminal trial of a former president.

But experts say a fine, probation or community service are all far more likely options for a first-time offender like Trump.

Would conviction impact Trump campaign?

A guilty verdict might hurt Trump’s standing with “law and order conservatives” who could be put off by a criminal record.

Religious, pro-family voters could also be deterred by the revelation that Trump allegedly cheated on his wife with a porn star.

A recent ABC News-Ipsos poll found 16 percent of Trump supporters would reconsider their support for him if he were to be convicted of a felony.

Trump would almost certainly appeal the conviction, kicking the issue down the road until after the November election in which he is set to face Democrat Joe Biden.

Whatever happens, Trump can still run for president, be elected and once again take the oath of office — even if he has been convicted or even jailed.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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