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When CNN asked for your questions about former President Donald Trump’s first criminal trial – for his role in hush money payments made before the 2016 election to women who said they had affairs with him – we got a flood of input. Not all of it was fit to print.

But there were a lot of legitimate and very thoughtful questions, which we’ve updated now that the defense and prosecution have both rested and jurors may begin deliberations as soon as May 28. Keep reading for a representative sampling, which helps explain the case, along with context from CNN’s reporters and coverage.

Most of the questions come directly from reader submissions, but for others, I’ve taken the liberty of simplifying multiple submissions into one question. Trump, by the way, denies having the affairs and has pleaded not guilty in the case.

I went to CNN’s chief legal analyst Laura Coates for the single, most-asked question, which was asked in many ways but boils down to: Could Trump actually go to jail?

Coates: If Trump were to be found guilty of all of the counts, he could theoretically be facing more than a decade in prison. The 34 felony counts are classified as Class E felonies in New York, the lowest level felony in the state.

The maximum penalty for each of those counts is four years; however New York caps sentencing for this type of felony at 20 years. It is within the judge’s discretion to decide whether those sentences would run concurrently or consecutively. Because the crimes involve nonviolent offenses and Trump does not have a criminal record, the judge could also consider jailing him for a period that is but a fraction of the maximum penalty.

Another possibility is that the judge could forego prison entirely and place him on probation with the possibility of incarceration looming over his head if he fails to abide by the conditions set by the judge. If the judge should decide to incarcerate post-conviction, Secret Service would become the elephant in the, well, cell. The unprecedented nature of incarcerating a former president would raise questions about how best to ensure equal treatment under the law and security for a former president.

Watch Coates’ show weeknights at 11 p.m. ET where she’ll answer a lot more of your questions.

I reached out to the Secret Service to ask if they had planned for the potential that Trump could be imprisoned. Not surprisingly, I was told by a spokesman that this is “something we can not comment on at this time.”

But note that as a matter of US law, former presidents and their spouses are afforded lifetime Secret Service protection, unless they decline it.

This is ultimately a question of strategy. But testimony in previous proceedings has not gone well for Weisselberg, the former, longtime chief financial officer for the Trump Organization.

He is currently indisposed at Rikers Island, a prison in New York, where he’s serving time for admitting to perjury in the civil fraud trial that ended in a more than $400 million judgement against Trump for inflating his net worth to get friendly loan terms.

Prosecutors told Judge Juan Merchan they did not attempt to compel Weisselberg’s testimony in this trial even though he played a crucial role in payments to Trump’s former fixer, Michael Cohen. Defense lawyers said Weisselberg was not available to either side for testimony and would likely invoke his Fifth Amendment rights if called. Look for jurors to be given instructions about how to view testimony they heard about Weisselberg.

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Kaitlan Collins describes Trump's reaction to Cohen cross-examination
02:27 - Source: CNN

There is strong evidence that the campaign was in a state of panic after the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape in 2016. There is strong evidence from former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker about the desire to help Trump’s campaign by finding and neutralizing damaging stories. It’s clear that Cohen organized payments for Stormy Daniels, a woman who claimed an affair with Trump, and that he took out a loan to make them happen.

But Cohen is the only witness who said that Trump specifically made payments to Cohen to reimburse him for the payments to Daniels. Jurors will have to believe Cohen, an admitted liar and felon, that the payments were improper reimbursement and not simply lawyer fees.

'Nonsense': George Conway's sharp take on potential hung jury outcome
02:45 - Source: CNN

A unanimous vote is required for either conviction or acquittal. Anything short of a unanimous verdict would be a hung jury. The judge will try very hard to get the jury to reach a unanimous verdict.

A hung jury might be perceived as a net win for Trump since prosecutors would have to ponder whether to try him again on the same charges and there’s little chance it would happen before Election Day.

PALM BEACH, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 15: Former U.S. President Donald Trump and former first lady Melania Trump arrive for an event at his Mar-a-Lago home on November 15, 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump announced that he was seeking another term in office and officially launched his 2024 presidential campaign.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Hear Trump explain away Melania's absence from the campaign trail
02:50 - Source: CNN

The former first lady has not attended any of her husband’s criminal trial, although many of Trump’s political allies – senators, House members and more – have shown their support by attending some of the arguments.

Trump’s son with Melania, Barron Trump, graduated from high school in Florida during the trial and the judge canceled arguments that day so that the former president could attend the ceremony. Given that the trial included testimony from Daniels about her alleged affair – which Trump has denied – it is perhaps not surprising that Melania Trump would decide not to attend the proceedings.

First, Trump never signed a check to Daniels, and that is a major element of the case. Cohen engineered the hush money payment when he could not get the National Enquirer to foot the bill. Cohen took out a line of credit on his apartment to come up with the cash. Trump’s payments to Cohen after Trump won the White House were, according to Cohen, to pay him back for the Daniels payments, plus a bonus, and for other things like a bogus poll Cohen engineered.

Second, Trump did claim to give up control of the Trump Organization to his adult sons, Eric and Donald Jr., when he was in the White House. But the arrangement was universally criticized by ethics experts. Trump maintained his ownership stake in the business.

Some of his payments to Cohen were made from accounts associated with the trust set up to hold the Trump Organization while Trump was president. Other payments were made from a personal bank account, but all the payments were processed by the Trump Organization, according to prosecutors.

Trump isn’t technically accused of having an affair, which he denies and which is not illegal. The hush money itself, represented by a contract between two parties, is not necessarily illegal either. Hush money was paid by the Trump-supporting publisher of the National Enquirer to the former Playboy model Karen McDougal, and, separately, it was paid by Cohen to Daniels.

But in this case, the payments, which were intended to hide details from voters before the 2016 election, violated campaign finance law. National Enquirer’s parent company admitted wrongdoing, and Cohen pleaded guilty to violating campaign law and served time in prison.

Federal prosecutors, as a matter of Department of Justice policy, were unable to prosecute Trump for the payments when he was president and decided not to bring charges after he left office. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg then brought this case. Trump is accused of falsifying business records (a New York state crime) in an effort to use illegal campaign contributions to influence the 2016 campaign (a federal crime).

Yes. This is an important element of the case. Falsifying business records in New York is a misdemeanor. The felony charge here is falsifying business records to further another crime. And this is where the case against Trump gets unique. The other crime is a campaign finance violation to which Cohen has already pleaded guilty. It is a state crime made a felony by furthering a federal crime.

Federal prosecutors, by the way, decided not to pursue charges against Trump with regard to the campaign finance violation.

Jurors heard testimony about how nervous Trump’s campaign was after the “Access Hollywood” tape was published and they desperately wanted to tamp down on any unflattering stories. Trump’s defense is that he did not want the Daniels story to be published because he wanted to keep the information from his wife.

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Delay rejected; Hush money trial starts Monday
02:59 - Source: CNN

Nothing about any of this is normal. Trump’s stated legal strategy is to delay legal proceedings as much as possible in the hope that they do not conclude before the presidential election.

It’s a strategy that so far is paying off in federal court. His federal election interference case is stalled until the US Supreme Court rules on what most people consider to be a ridiculous total immunity argument. His federal trial on classified documents is on indefinite hold in Miami. His trial in Fulton County, Georgia, on state election interference allegations has been delayed by allegations of impropriety in the personal life of the DA bringing the case.

CLAREMONT, NEW HAMPSHIRE - NOVEMBER 11:  Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump delivers remarks during a campaign event on November 11, 2023 in Claremont, New Hampshire. The defense is scheduled to start presenting its case on Monday in Trump's fraud case. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
'Extraordinary accommodation': Reporter on rare location for Trump hearing
00:40 - Source: CNN

This is a great and essentially unanswerable hypothetical. First, it assumes multiple things will occur: Trump would have to be convicted, sentenced, exhaust appeals, report to prison and win the election. That’s a very specific scenario thrust upon a very unpredictable set of circumstances and a short timeline.

I talked to Frank Bowman, a law professor emeritus at the University of Missouri who is both an expert in criminal law and published a book on the impeachment process, for his thoughts on how to deal with a convict president. The Constitution, he said, theoretically allows a person to serve “even if he’s a convicted felon or even if he’s a convicted felon in the joint.”

Timing, however, would get in the way of this hypothetical ever occurring. “This stuff takes a long time, and the appeals would drag out,” probably beyond Election Day and Inauguration Day, Bowman said.

It’s also possible Trump’s opponents, after a conviction, could try again to either impeach him or object to his presidency based on the 14th Amendment, although those avenues have been tried and failed previously.

If somehow Trump was convicted in this state case, Bowman imagined there could be some argument by which the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause – which prohibits states from interfering in the exercise of constitutional powers – could be utilized to keep Trump from state prison. But it would be a novel thing.

If, on the other hand, Trump was somehow convicted in one of his two federal trials and sentenced to federal prison, as president he could theoretically try to pardon himself or order the Bureau of Prisons to do something like confine him at the White House. Again, this is uncharted territory that is unanticipated in US law and, Bowman argues, unlikely to occur.

This story has been updated with additional information.