Judge Merchan's instructions to the Trump jury have angered the MAGA crowd. Here's why

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Former President Donald Trump and some of his supporters are complaining that the judge in his hush money criminal trial isn't requiring a unanimous verdict from the jury – but that's not quite right.

Twelve jurors in Trump's criminal case began deliberating yesterday. They are slated to re-hear at least a portion of the jury instructions from Judge Juan Merchan when proceedings begin Thursday at 9:30 a.m. EDT, as well as listen to portions of the trial transcript that will be read aloud.

Trump complained on Truth Social Wednesday afternoon that it's "RIDICULOUS, UNCONSTITUTIONAL, AND UNAMERICAN that the highly Conflicted, Radical Left Judge is not requiring a unanimous decision on the fake charges against me." He called it "A THIRD WORLD ELECTION INTERFERENCE HOAX!" in a post that mixed some all-caps and standard writing.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee wasn't the only one grumbling.

Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio posted on X (formerly Twitter) Wednesday that Trump's jury doesn't need to "unanimously agree on which crime was committed as long as they all at least pick one."

South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem posted on X the same day that the judge's jury instructions violate a U.S. Supreme Court ruling dealing with jury unanimity on violations under a federal law.

What Trump's judge told jurors

Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. Merchan instructed the 12 deliberating jurors that they must reach a unanimous verdict on each of those felony counts.

The wrinkle in the story has to do with the multiple findings jurors have to make in order to convict Trump on any of the counts.

Because Trump was charged with felonies, in order to convict him jurors must conclude not only that he falsified business records, but also that his purpose in falsifying them was to either commit or conceal another crime.

Prosecutors have alleged Trump falsified the records in order to interfere in the 2016 presidential election using "unlawful means." They have alleged Trump used three different unlawful means:

  • Violating federal campaign finance laws through a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels;

  • Falsifying yet another business record under New York law, such as bank records tied to former Trump fixer Michael Cohen's payment to Stormy Daniels' lawyer; and

  • Violating New York tax laws.

Jurors must agree Trump used some unlawful means to interfere in the election, according to Merchan, but they don't need to agree on which means it was.

"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," Merchan instructed.

But does the verdict need to be unanimous? Yes, Merchan clearly stated.

"Your verdict, on each count you consider, whether guilty or not guilty, must be unanimous; that is, each and every juror must agree to it," he said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Why jury instructions in the Trump trial have angered his supporters