In the first criminal trial against a former US president, the jury has retired to deliberate on the verdict. The jury must now reach a unanimous verdict.

In the trial against Donald Trump, Judge Juan Merchan dismissed the jury from the courtroom on Wednesday after giving the mandatory instructions to the twelve New Yorkers, as several journalists present reported. Normally, these deliberations last between a few hours and several days.

If he is found guilty, Judge Merchan will determine the sentence at a separate hearing. If convicted, Trump faces several years in prison, which could also be suspended, or a fine. The Republican has pleaded not guilty and could still run in the presidential election in November even if he is found guilty. If the jury cannot reach an agreement even after lengthy deliberations, the trial would collapse. It could then be reopened with a different jury.

Since mid-April, more than 20 witnesses have been heard in the trial. The prosecution accuses Trump of trying to improve his chances of winning the 2016 presidential election by paying $130,000 in hush money to porn actress Stormy Daniels and then illegally accounting for the flow of money.

Although the payment itself – which neither party disputed – was not illegal, the now 77-year-old is said to have manipulated documents when reimbursing the amount to his then personal lawyer Michael Cohen in order to conceal the true reason for the transaction. As a result, he is guilty of 34 counts of illegal campaign financing.

The verdict is also likely to have an impact on the current election campaign in the United States – but the question is: how much and to whose advantage? Trump is trying to turn the accusations into a personal advantage and mobilize his supporters by portraying himself as a victim of a politically motivated justice system.

Incumbent Joe Biden, who is seeking re-election in November, does not appear to have benefited from the trial against his challenger. Given the strong divisions in US society and the polarizing figure of Trump, US media speculated that it was more likely than in other trials that the jury would not be able to agree on a verdict.

Before the end of the trial, the defense and prosecution had one last opportunity on Tuesday to influence the opinion of the twelve jurors in their favor in the case that attracted worldwide attention. Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said: “This plot that these men hatched back then could well have led to President Trump being elected.” He referred to an alleged plan that Trump, his lawyer Cohen and the editor of a tabloid magazine are said to have forged to prevent unfavorable coverage of the Republican presidential candidate before the 2016 election. This ultimately led to the payment to Daniels.

Trump’s defense attorney, meanwhile, protested his innocence: his client had not committed a crime and the prosecution had not been able to prove its allegations, said Todd Blanche. He again attacked the credibility of the key witness: “You cannot convict President Trump of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt based on the testimony of Michael Cohen.” Trump’s former personal attorney had, as he often does, lied in his testimony. Cohen is “the biggest liar of all time,” said Blanche.