Trump becomes the first former US president to be convicted of a crime

NEW YORK – Donald Trump became the first former president to be convicted of criminal offenses Thursday when a New York jury found him guilty of falsifying business records as part of a scheme to illegally influence the 2016 election by concealing cash payments to a porn actor who said they had sex.

The jury deliberated for 9.5 hours over two days before convicting Trump of all 34 charges against him. As the verdict was read, Trump sat with a straight face, and cheers could be heard in the courthouse’s 15th floor hallway from the street below – where supporters and critics of the former president gathered.

The ruling is a stunning legal decision for Trump and exposes him to potential prison time in a city where manipulation of the tabloid press helped catapult him from real estate mogul to reality TV star and, ultimately, president. As he seeks to return to the White House in this year’s election, the verdict provides voters with another test of their willingness to accept Trump’s groundbreaking behavior.

Trump is expected to quickly appeal his conviction and face an awkward vigorous as he tries to return to the campaign trail as a convicted felon. There are no campaign rallies on the calendar for now, although he is expected to hold fundraisers next week. Judge Juan Merchan, who oversaw the case, set sentencing for July 11, just days before the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee.

The penalty for falsifying business records is up to four years in prison, although prosecutors have not said whether they intend to seek a prison sentence, and it is unclear whether the judge: who at the beginning of the trial warned of a prison sentence for violating the silence order — would impose this penalty even if asked to do so. A conviction or even imprisonment will not prevent Trump from continuing his pursuit of the White House.

Trump’s faces three other felony indictments, but the New York case may be the only one to end before the November election, adding to the importance of the outcome. While the legal and historical implications of the verdict are clear, the political ramifications are less clear given its potential to reinforce rather than change already hardened opinions about Trump.

For another candidate running at a different time, a conviction could derail a presidential bid, but Trump’s political career endures. two impeachments, allegations of sexual abuseinvestigations into everything from potential links with Russia Down conspiracy to invalidate the electionsand personally salacious stories among others the emergence of a recording in which he bragged about grabbing women’s genitals.

Moreover, the broad charges in the case have been familiar to voters for years and, while tawdry, are widely viewed as less solemn than the charges he faces in three other cases in which he is accused of undermining American democracy and mishandling national security secrets.

Still, the verdict will likely give President Joe Biden and other Democrats room to sharpen their arguments that Trump is unfit for office, even as it provides fodder for the presumptive GOP nominee to make baseless claims that he is a victim of the criminal justice system and insists he is. it’s politically motivated against him.

Trump maintained throughout the trial that he did nothing wrong and that the case should never have been brought, criticizing the proceedings from inside the courthouse: where he was joined by a parade of high-profile Republican allies — and imposing financial penalties for violating silence orders with inflammatory extrajudicial comments about witnesses.

The first criminal trial of a former American president was always going to be a unique test for the judicial system, not only because of Trump’s stature, but also because of his merciless verbal attacks on the foundations of the case and its participants. But the 12-member jury’s verdict amounted to a rejection of Trump’s efforts to undermine confidence in the proceedings or potentially impress the panel with a show of GOP support.

The trial centered on allegations that Trump falsified business records to cover up secret payments Stormy Danielsa porn actress who stated that she had sex with the married Trump in 2006.

The $130,000 payment was made by Trump’s former lawyer and personal adviser Michael Cohen buy Daniels’ silence in the final weeks of the 2016 race in what prosecutors say was an attempt to interfere in the election. When Cohen was repaid the money, the payments were classified as legal expenses, which prosecutors said was an unlawful attempt to disguise the true purpose of the transaction. Trump’s lawyers say these were legitimate payments for legal services.

Trump has denied sexual contact, and his lawyers argued during the trial that his celebrity status, particularly during the 2016 campaign, made him a target for extortion. They argue that the hush-hush deals to cover up negative stories about Trump were motivated by personal considerations, such as the impact on his family and his brand as a businessman, rather than political considerations. They also tried to undermine Cohen’s credibility, key prosecution witness who pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal charges related to payments stemming from personal dislike of Trump as well as fame and money.

The trial included more than four weeks of sometimes fascinating testimony that revisited an already well-documented chapter of Trump’s past when his 2016 campaign ‘Access Hollywood’ exposure threatened a recording that captured him talking about grabbing women for sexual purposes without their consent and the prospect of other stories about Trump and sex disclosures that could damage his candidacy.

Trump himself did not testify, but the jury heard his voice through, among other things: secret conversation recording with Cohen, during which he and the lawyer discussed a secret $150,000 deal involving Playboy model Karen McDougal, who said she had an affair with Trump: “What do we have to pay for this?” One hundred and fifty? Trump’s words could be heard on the recording made by Cohen.

Daniels herself testified, presenting a sometimes graphic account of a sexual encounter that he claims took place in a hotel suite during a golf tournament in Lake Tahoe. Former publisher of the National Enquirer David Pecker, he testified about how he worked to keep stories damaging to the Trump campaign from being public at all, including by getting his company to buy McDougal’s stories.

The jurors also heard Keith Davidsonlawyer who negotiated hush money payments on behalf of Daniels and McDougal.

He detailed tense negotiations to compensate the two women for their silence, but also faced an aggressive round of questioning from Trump’s lawyer, who noted that Davidson had helped broker similar secret money deals in cases involving other prominent figures.

But by far the most crucial witness was Cohen, who spent days on the stand and gave jurors insight into the hidden money scheme and, in his view, Trump’s detailed knowledge of it.

“Just watch out for it,” he quoted Trump as saying at one point.

He offered jurors the most direct connection between Trump and the crux of the allegations, recalling a meeting in which he and the Trump Organization’s then-chief financial officer described a plan to reimburse Cohen for legal fees in monthly installments.

And he described with emotion his dramatic break with Trump in 2018, when, after a decade-long career as the then president’s personal fixer, he decided to cooperate with the prosecutor’s office.

“In order to remain loyal and do what he asked me to do, I violated my moral compass and suffered the punishment, as did my family,” Cohen told the jury.

The result provides some degree of justification for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Braggwho characterized the case as involving election interference rather than silencing money and defended it against criticism from legal experts who called it the weakest of the four cases against Trump.

But the case took on added significance not only because it went to trial first, but also because it may have been the only case to go to a jury before the election.

The other three cases – local and federal indictments in Atlanta and Washington for conspiring to overturn the 2020 election, as well as a federal indictment in Florida accusing him of illegally collecting top secret documents – have been stalled due to delays or appeals.

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