May 31, 2024

Trump Verdict

Donald Trump became the first U.S. president to be convicted of a crime on Thursday when a New York jury found him guilty of falsifying documents to cover up a payment to silence a porn star ahead of the 2016 election… Justice Juan Merchan set sentencing for July 11, just days before the Republican Party is scheduled to formally nominate Trump for president ahead of the Nov. 5 election…

“As a standalone crime, falsifying business documents is normally a misdemeanor in New York, but prosecutors in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office elevated it to a felony on grounds that Trump was concealing an illegal campaign contribution… Jurors heard testimony of sex and lies that have been public since 2018, although the charges themselves rested on ledger accounts and other records of [former Trump lawyer Michael] Cohen's reimbursement.” Reuters

Here’s our previous coverage of the trial. The Flip Side

See past issues

From the Left

The left applauds the verdict, arguing that Trump had a fair trial.

“Consider [the] timeline, as laid out by the prosecution. On Oct. 8, the Access Hollywood tape was published by the Washington Post, sending Trump’s campaign into disarray. After a series of phone calls with Trump three days later, Michael Cohen began to set up his shell company to pay off Daniels. Trump then, however, tried to slow-walk the compensation to Daniels until after the election so that he wouldn’t have to pay her. Ultimately, that was untenable…

“On Oct. 26, the $130,000 payment to Daniels was deposited from Cohen’s personal HELOC account into the shell company he used to pay Daniels. On Oct. 27, the wire transfer was filled out from Cohen to Daniels’ attorney Keith Davidson. One day later, the story broke about the reopening of the FBI investigation of Clinton’s email scandal, completely upending the election…

“A little more than a week later, Trump won the presidency. Davidson texted National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard as the votes were being counted and as it was becoming clear that Trump would win: ‘What have we done?’

Jeremy Stahl, Slate

“Even if Bragg had political motivation to bring the charges, he had to prove them in an adversarial system. Trump’s lawyers had every opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, call their own, and make the arguments Trump wanted to hear in court, even if legal analysts sometimes found them unwise. Ironically, Trump’s ability to complain so fiercely in and out of court about the unfairness of the proceeding was proof of its fairness.”

David A. Graham, The Atlantic

“The political inclinations of Manhattan residents notwithstanding, there is no reason to believe it could not decide the case fairly. Two of the jurors are lawyers. One of them reported getting his news solely from Trump’s own Truth Social and Elon Musk’s X. In questioning before their selection, they did not come off as particularly immersed in politics, obsessed with the news, or consumed with strong feelings for or against Trump.”

Ruth Marcus, Washington Post

“It says something dark about the American legal system that it cannot deal promptly and effectively with a coup d’état. But it says something bright and hopeful that even an ex-president must face justice for ordinary crimes under the laws of the state in which he chose to live and operate his business…

“It’s justice instead of an especially ironic sort, driving home to the voting public that before Trump was a constitutional criminal, he got his start as a squalid hush-money-paying, document-tampering, tabloid sleazeball.”

David Frum, The Atlantic

“Trump’s attacks on John McCain, the Muslim ban, his demonization of a Gold Star family, the Access Hollywood tape, Michael Flynn, his first impeachment (for pressuring a foreign government to launch a phony investigation of a political rival), his disastrous handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, his fascistic response to racial justice protests, his attempted overturning of a lawful and legitimate election, and his second impeachment for inciting the January 6 insurrection—all were foisted as moments of reckoning…

“That reckoning never came. It is hard to imagine that a conviction—even a felony conviction—on paying hush money to an adult film actress would change that. Especially since [the] payment (and the related affair) have been known for years… In many ways, the last six weeks have been a distraction from the core argument against Trump—against the danger that he poses to the country, its institutions, and democracy itself.”

Alex Shephard, New Republic

From the Right

The right criticizes the verdict, arguing that the case was tainted by clear bias from both the prosecutor and the judge.

The right criticizes the verdict, arguing that the case was tainted by clear bias from both the prosecutor and the judge.

“Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg and Judge Juan Merchan got their way Thursday, maneuvering a jury of former President Donald Trump’s peers into finding him guilty of… something. We’ll have to wait to find out exactly what, since Merchan had told the jurors they didn’t even have to agree on what exactly Trump did wrong: They could individually choose any of the (vague) theories the prosecution presented as to what other crime was committed to turn the supposed misdemeanors into felonies…

The violations of basic fairness in the trial were legion: Merchan wouldn’t let the defense call an expert witness to testify that no federal campaign-finance law was violated; he routinely shut down the defense while letting the prosecution get away with gross violations… In this context, you can see why jurors didn’t realize that the only testimony indicating criminal intent on Trump’s part (something utterly necessary for a guilty verdict) came from Michael Cohen, a confessed serial liar who admitted to a personal vendetta against the defendant.”

Editorial Board, New York Post

“No one else in New York City would have been indicted, as Donald Trump was, on two expired misdemeanors, which the Manhattan DA magically turned into a felony. Then, he took the one alleged felonious act and magically turned it into thirty-four counts. What, you may ask, was this felony? Who the hell knows? It’s still not clear. Think about that for a moment. The former president was tried and convicted for a felony that dare not speak its name.”

Charles Lipson, Spectator World

“No one other than Trump would have had a prosecutor concoct such an absurd and disgraceful list of charges and twist the law to do so. It is indisputable that no person has ever been prosecuted as a felon for the misdemeanor recordkeeping crimes as Trump was. It’s odd, isn’t it, that the only person ever so charged should be a former president, the much-hated opponent of the current incumbent, who is leading in the polls only five months before Election Day. The only reason Trump was charged and convicted of this crime is because he is Trump. This is what banana republics do

“‘The real verdict is going to be Nov. 5 by the people,’ Trump said after hearing the jurors’ decision. ‘And they know what happened here.’ He is right. A Trump win this November could undo much of the damage Democrats have caused to the integrity of our electoral process. Till then, Democrats might want to remember the wisdom of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who told then-Nevada Democratic Sen. Harry Reid after he nuked the filibuster for judicial appointees, ‘You will regret this. You may regret this a lot sooner than you think.’”

Editorial Board, Washington Examiner

“Many voters will digest all of this and conclude that, while Mr. Trump may be a cad, this conviction isn’t disqualifying for a second term in the White House. Judge Juan Merchan tolerated Mr. Bragg’s legal creativity in ways that an appeals court might not. What if Mr. Trump loses the election and then is vindicated on appeal? If Democrats think that too many Republicans today complain about stolen elections, imagine how many more might next year…

“The conviction sets a precedent of using legal cases, no matter how sketchy, to try to knock out political opponents, including former Presidents. Mr. Trump has already vowed to return the favor. If Democrats felt like cheering Thursday when the guilty verdict was read, they should think again. Mr. Bragg might have opened a new destabilizing era of American politics, and no one can say how it will end.”

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

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