Trump hush money jury asks for Cohen, Pecker transcripts

NEW YORK — The jury in former President Trump’s hush money case returned its first two notes after beginning deliberations hours earlier Wednesday, making four requests to review critical pieces of testimony and asking to rehear the judge’s instruction before adjourning for the day.

The jurors will receive the requested information Thursday morning, when they will continue mulling Trump’s fate.

In the first note, the 12 New Yorkers made four requests, each pertaining to testimony from key witnesses: David Pecker and Michael Cohen.

The first note was announced by a loud bell that rang out in the courtroom 3.5 hours after the jury began its deliberations. Within minutes, Trump and attorneys on both sides returned to the courtroom, and the judge took the bench to announce the jury had sent a note. An hour later, another bell rang as the jurors sent over the second note.

In the initial note, the jurors first asked for a transcript of ex-National Enquirer publisher Pecker’s testimony regarding a phone conversation he had with Trump while in a meeting with investors in New Jersey, and testimony relating to the rights to Karen McDougal’s story.

The other two jury requests in that first ask relate to a key August 2015 Trump Tower meeting that prosecutors say kickstarted the so-called “catch-and-kill” arrangements underpinning Trump’s case.

On the call, Pecker said Trump referred to McDougal — who claimed she had an affair with Trump — as a “nice girl” and expressed concern about executing a hush money deal with the ex-Playboy model. Ultimately, Trump told Pecker that Trump’s ex-fixer Cohen would be in touch about the arrangement.

In closing arguments Tuesday, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass pointed to the call as a key moment linking Trump to the alleged scheme to clear his path to the White House in 2016, which Trump’s attorneys rejected.

Jurors also requested a transcript of Pecker’s testimony regarding his decision not to finalize and fund McDougal’s life rights.

Pecker testified that he believed McDougal’s story needed to be purchased because it would have been “very embarrassing” to Trump and his campaign. He coordinated with McDougal’s lawyer to pay her $150,000 for her lifetime rights and a slew of other benefits, with Cohen’s promise that the tabloid would be repaid by “the boss,” or Trump.

The original plan was to transfer McDougal’s life rights to a shell company established by Cohen, but Pecker pulled out last-minute after conferring with counsel. Pecker testified that a furious Cohen told him then that “the boss” would be “very angry” at him.

The New Yorkers requested to review testimony from the two people who attended the full Trump Tower meeting in August 2015 alongside Trump: Pecker and Cohen, who made the hush money payment to a porn actress just before the 2016 election.

Both sides began scrambling to assemble the relevant transcripts, plucked from thousands of pages that record every word of the trial.

A second note from the jury came shortly after, in which jurors requested to rehear the judge’s instructions. It took more than an hour to read the instructions Wednesday morning, and Merchan asked the jury to clarify whether they want the entirety read back or just a portion.

For now, however, Merchan dismissed the jury for the day after more than four hours of deliberating.

Updated 4:42 p.m.

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