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National News

Trump found guilty on 34 felony counts in NY hush money trial

(Credit: Jabin Botsford-Pool/Getty Images)

Ashley Murray, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
May 30, 2024

WASHINGTON — Jurors in New York state court on Thursday found Donald Trump guilty on all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to cover up hush money payments to a porn star ultimately to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

The first-ever criminal trial of a former U.S. president wrapped up in Manhattan, marking an extraordinary moment in American history not only for a former leader, but for one who is seeking to again hold the Oval Office. Trump, the Republican Party’s presumed 2024 presidential nominee, is now a convicted felon.

The jury deliberated for more than 11 hours, beginning Wednesday just before 11:30 a.m. Eastern and delivering the verdict to Justice Juan Merchan just after 5 p.m. Thursday, according to reporters at the courthouse.

New York does not allow recording in the courtroom but provides public transcripts of the proceedings. States Newsroom covered the trial in person on May 20.

Trump now faces penalties ranging from probation to up to four years in prison for each charge of falsifying business records in the first degree.

Merchan set a sentencing date for July 11 at 10 a.m. That’s just days before the Republican National Convention, where Trump is expected to be officially nominated as the party’s presidential candidate.

New York state prosecutors charged 34 felonies against the former president for each of the 11 invoices, 11 checks, and 12 ledger entries tied to reimbursing his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

Cohen, often referred to as Trump’s former “fixer,” said during trial testimony that he wired $130,000 to adult film star and director Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 election to silence her about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump.

Three criminal cases, two federal and one in Georgia, also still hang in the balance for Trump, but the likelihood of another trial happening before November’s election is slim.

Trump speaks after verdict

Trump briefly spoke to news cameras outside the courtroom, criticizing the proceeding as a “rigged, disgraceful trial.”

“The real verdict is going to be Nov. 5 by the people, and they know what happened here and everybody knows what happened here,” Trump said in remarks live-streamed and cataloged on C-SPAN.

As he has repeated almost daily for the cameras, Trump again called Merchan a “conflicted” judge and falsely claimed the case “was done by the Biden administration.”

The charges were brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, whom Trump described during his post-verdict comments as “Soros-funded,” a common mantra from Trump’s party referring to Hungarian-American billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

During his roughly three-minute remarks, Trump also referred to immigration at the U.S. Southern border, a major campaign rallying cry for Republicans.

“We don’t have the same country anymore. We have a divided mess. We’re a nation in decline, serious decline. Millions and millions of people pouring into our country right now,” Trump said before exiting the hallway without answering shouted questions from reporters.

Despite being a convicted felon, Trump will still be able to vote in November in Palm Beach County, Florida, where he is registered, as long as he is not incarcerated.

That’s because Florida law only bars voting for convicts tried in a separate state if that state also restricts them; a 2021 New York law restored voting rights for convicted felons following a release from prison and regardless if they are on parole, according to reporting by PolitiFact.

House speaker sees ‘shameful day in American history’

Republicans in Congress and other top GOP officials gathered with Trump at the courthouse for support during the trial and members of the GOP immediately decried the verdict.

U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican who was among those who made the trek, released a statement saying the verdict marked “a shameful day in American history.”

“Democrats cheered as they convicted the leader of the opposing party on ridiculous charges, predicated on the testimony of a disbarred, convicted felon,” Johnson wrote. “This was a purely political exercise, not a legal one.”

Johnson was referring to the testimony from Cohen, who served time in prison for campaign finance crimes related to hush money payments.

Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, blasted it as the result of an unfair political process.

“This was never about justice. It was always about politics,” she wrote on X. “ Americans see through Democrats’ weaponization of our justice system and this sham trial as a desperate attempt to persecute Trump and block his re-election.”

The Trump campaign almost immediately solicited donations following the verdict, posting a link on his Truth Social platform to his WinRed donation portal.

Trump’s son Eric Trump reacted on X with “May 30th, 2024 might be remembered as the day Donald J. Trump won the 2024 Presidential Election.”

Video posted from reporters outside the courthouse showed a black SUV driving slowly outside the courthouse while members of the news media held cameras and some scattered in the crowd waved Trump flags and shouted “we love you.”

Trials in limbo in D.C., Georgia, Florida

The verdict brought to a close the historic first criminal proceeding against a former sitting American president, albeit at the state level.

Trump is currently mired in a fight for absolute immunity from federal criminal charges accusing him of scheming to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

A U.S. Supreme Court decision on his immunity claim is pending. Justices heard arguments in the case on April 25.

Meanwhile in Florida, federal District Judge Aileen Cannon has indefinitely postponed the U.S. case against Trump for mishandling and refusing to return classified documents that he hid at his Mar-a-Lago estate after he left office.

Trump faces another state case in Georgia, along with several co-conspirators, on racketeering and conspiracy charges related to the state’s 2020 presidential election results. The case has been held up due to pretrial disputes over alleged misconduct by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.

Biden campaign reacts

A spokesman for President Joe Biden’s campaign, Michael Tyler, said in a statement that the verdict showed “no one is above the law” and that Trump remained a threat to democracy whom voters should reject.

“Donald Trump has always mistakenly believed he would never face consequences for breaking the law for his own personal gain,” Tyler wrote. “But today’s verdict does not change the fact that the American people face a simple reality. There is still only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: at the ballot box. Convicted felon or not, Trump will be the Republican nominee for president.”

“The threat Trump poses to our democracy has never been greater,” Tyler continued. “He is running an increasingly unhinged campaign of revenge and retribution, pledging to be a dictator ‘on day one’ and calling for our Constitution to be ‘terminated’ so he can regain and keep power. A second Trump term means chaos, ripping away Americans’ freedoms and fomenting political violence – and the American people will reject it this November.”

The Biden White House had much less to say.

Ian Sams, a spokesperson for the White House Counsel’s Office, said in a one-sentence email: “We respect the rule of law, and have no additional comment.”

Members of Congress speak out

Rep. Scott Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican, called the trial a “Soviet-style show trial,” that had a predetermined outcome. “This is breathtaking outrage, and far beyond the bounds of politics and elections,” Perry said in a statement. “The future of our Democratic Republic has never been more at risk.”

Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, a staunch ally of the former president who has introduced legislation to rename Washington Dulles International Airport after Trump, blasted the decision in a social media post

“Joe Biden and Alvin Bragg weaponized our judicial system, turning our nation into a banana republic filled with kangaroo courts designed to target their political rivals. It’s the worst abuse of power in American history. Pray for our nation and President Trump,” he wrote on X shortly after the verdict.

Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Brendan Boyle was quick to slam Trump following the verdict. “Donald Trump is a convicted felon. He should be in prison, not the White House,” Boyle wrote on X.

“No one should be above the law in America, and today’s verdict is an affirmation of that important principle,” Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Dwight Evans wrote on social media.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, said in a statement the guilty decision from the jurors represented “a devastating defeat for any American who believes in the critical legal tenet that justice is blind.”

“This verdict will not withstand an appeal, and was only brought as an attempt to interfere with the 2024 election,” Scalise wrote. “The radical partisan Democrats behind this abuse of our justice system will not prevail. The voters will settle this on November 5th.”

Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, chair of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s federal courts subcommittee, released a statement saying that an “individual who has been convicted of 34 felony counts and shows zero respect for the rule of law is not fit to lead the greatest nation in the world.”

“It’s only in honest courtrooms that the former president has been unable to lie and bully his way out of trouble,” Whitehouse said. “Americans trust juries for good reason.”

North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis posted on social media that he was “shocked by the verdict considering that this case should have never been brought forward.”

Minnesota Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum said the jury’s decision showed that America’s justice system functioned the way it was supposed to.

“Today our system of justice worked, and former President Trump was found guilty on all 34 counts by a jury of American citizens,” McCollum wrote on social media. “No person is above the law.”

David McCormick, Republican challenger to Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, said it was “a terrible day for America,” in a press release shortly after the verdict. 

“This case should never have been brought in the first place, and this miscarriage of justice is despicable. I look forward to the appeal,” McCormick wrote

Pennsylvania state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia), is challenging incumbent GOP Auditor General Tim DeFoor and serves on the Biden-Harris National Advisory Board. “Today a former President has been found guilty of 34 felony charges. But make no mistake, this election will be won at the ballot box, not in a court house,” Kenyatta wrote on X.

A ‘sham’ or an ‘affirmation’? 

Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds wrote in a statement the trial was a “sham.”

“For years, Democrats like Alvin Bragg have been trying to put President Trump in jail with complete disregard for our democracy and the will of the American people,” Reynolds wrote. “The only verdict that matters is the one at the ballot box in November where the American people will elect President Trump again.”

Florida Democratic Rep. Jared Moskowitz wrote on social media that the jury’s guilty verdict wasn’t political.

“A former president being convicted is nothing to be celebrated, but it is an affirmation that nobody is above the law,” Moskowitz wrote. “This verdict was reached by a jury of Trump’s peers, by citizens of the American justice system, not by a judge or by a political opponent.”

Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, rejected the verdict, writing on social media it was a “travesty of justice.”

“The Manhattan kangaroo court shows what happens when our justice system is weaponized by partisan prosecutors in front of a biased judge with an unfair process, designed to keep President Trump off the campaign trail and avoid bringing attention to President Biden’s failing radical policies,” Jordan wrote.

Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine posted on social media the “verdict is proof that no one is above the law in this country.”

“It’s also tragic in this way — Americans put the reins of leadership in the hands of a person whose character is so far beneath the office that no rational adult would ever encourage young people to emulate … his behavior,” Kaine wrote.

“Trump’s lack of character has caught up to him,” Kaine added. “And Americans — once again — have received a clear warning about a person who wants to seize leadership once again. I pray that we heed the warning.”

House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer, a Kentucky Republican, said Thursday was a “sad day for all Americans.”

“This verdict in New York is another example of Democrats being relentless in their pursuit to weaponize the courts, abuse America’s judicial system, and target President Joe Biden’s political opposition,” Comer wrote. “One thing is clear: Democrats are afraid to face Donald Trump. Americans will make their voices heard this November.”

Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, the Republican nominee for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat, urged restraint in a social media post.

“Regardless of the result, I urge all Americans to respect the verdict and the legal process,” Hogan wrote. “At this dangerously divided moment in our history, all leaders — regardless of party — must not pour fuel on the fire with more toxic partisanship. We must reaffirm what has made this nation great: the rule of law.”

Jacob Fischler and Jennifer Shutt of States Newsroom’s Washington, D.C. bureau and John Cole of the Capital-Star contributed to this report.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Pennsylvania Capital-Star under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.