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Judge tells Trump jury they must be unanimous, but don’t have to agree on means


(The Center Square) – The judge overseeing the hush money trial of former President Donald Trump spent an hour telling the jury how to apply the law to the case, including that they must reach a unanimous decision but don’t have agree on the means.

Some jumped on the statement as circular reasoning. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio compared the trial to those of the Soviet Union.

Judge Juan Merchan read 55 pages of instructions to the jury Wednesday morning before deliberations began.

Among the instructions: “Although you must conclude unanimously that the defendant conspired to promote or prevent the election of any person to a public office by unlawful means, you need not be unanimous as to what those unlawful means were,” according to the instructions. “In determining whether the defendant conspired to promote or prevent the election of any person to a public office by unlawful means, you may consider the following unlawful means: (1) violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act otherwise known as FECA; (2) the falsification of other business records; or (3) violation of tax laws.”

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio lashed out on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

“Judge in Trump case in NYC just told jury they don’t have to unanimously agree on which crime was committed as long as they all at least pick on,” Rubio, R-Fla., wrote. “And that among the crimes the can pick from are ones Trump WASN’T EVEN CHARGED WITH!!! This is exactly the kind of sham trial used against political opponents of the regime in the old Soviet Union.”

Legal analyst Jonathan Turley called Merchan’s instruction a “coup de grâce.”

“He said that there is no need to agree on what occurred,” Turley wrote on X. “They can disagree on what the crime was among the three choices. Thus, this means that they could split 4-4-4 and he will still treat them as unanimous.”

The case centered around Trump’s alleged sexual encounter with an adult film actress in 2006 and a $130,000 payment to her in 2016 to keep her quiet ahead of the 2016 election. Trump has pleaded not guilty and denied the encounter happened.

Prosecutors allege that Trump covered up the payment to Stormy Daniels and another hush money payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal ahead of the election, falsifying records to claim they were legal payments.

Trump, 77, is the first former U.S. president to be charged with a felony.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg charged Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records related to money paid to Daniels and McDougal. Bragg has alleged Trump broke New York law by falsifying business records with the intent to commit or conceal another crime.

Prosecutors allege Trump falsified internal records kept by his company, hiding the true nature of payments that involve Daniels ($130,000), McDougal ($150,000), and Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen ($420,000). Prosecutors allege the money was logged as legal expenses, not reimbursements.

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