Thursday, May 30, 2024


 Donald Trump made history again on Thursday. Whatever you think about the New York verdict, it is the first time in history that a former president has been convicted of a felony. The Former Guy is going to be popping up in trivia contests for as long as American history is studied. He won’t be forgotten.

Personally, I’m surprised at the verdict. Like many others, I viewed Alvin Bragg’s case against Trump as the weakest of his legal troubles. The case seemed like a novel legal theory and there were legitimate questions about whether Bragg could prove Trump was complicit in a crime, especially one that reached the felony level.


By way of a quick review, to prove that Trump was guilty of a felony, Bragg had to prove two things. First, he had to prove that Trump falsified business records. Second, he had to prove that the falsification included an “intent to commit another crime or to aid or conceal the commission thereof.”

I thought this might be too much to prove, but the jury felt differently. Trump was found guilty on all 34 counts.

It wasn’t just a guilty verdict, it was a clean sweep. Hats off to Alvin Bragg.

Now that the verdict is in, there are more questions than answers. What we know so far is that Trump is not in jail. He will be sentenced on July 11, and it is possible that he won’t be sentenced to jail time then. On the other hand, given his bad behavior during the trial and lack of remorse, who knows?

We also know that he’s still in the presidential race. The Constitution does not exclude convicted felons from the presidency.

He will probably also be able to vote in the upcoming election. Trump is now a Florida resident and as the AP explains, Florida law defers to the prosecuting state penalties for out-of-state felons. Trump was convicted in New York and the Empire State allows felons to vote if they are not incarcerated. So three cheers or jeers for New York’s soft-on-crime laws!

Chances are virtually nil that Republicans will remove Trump from the ticket. They are already circling the wagons and claiming through some strange math that the conviction ensures his victory in November. No, there is no way that Republicans will dump Trump.

We can also be certain that Trump will appeal. If The Former Guy is good at anything, he’s good at drawing out legal battles, although in this case not quite good enough. The appeal won’t be heard before the election though. It’s unlikely that Trump’s other cases will go to trial before the election either (although we will see some Trump-related Supreme Court decisions.)

A question that we don’t know the answer to is how Trump’s conviction will affect the race. The one thing that I know for certain is that it won’t make as much difference as it should.

Trump’s Republican base will not desert him. If they’ve stuck with him this long, a little thing like a felony conviction won’t be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Fed on a steady diet of partisan quackery, Republicans will be certain that a) the fix was in and b) that Joe Biden is a devil-worshipping socialist pedophile who orchestrated Trump’s persecution and they have to vote Trump to save America.

On the other hand, undecided and independent voters are a different story. There is polling to suggest that a Trump conviction would sway some voters. An April CNN poll and a May Emerson poll both showed that about a quarter of voters might be less inclined to support Trump if he was convicted. More recently, a PBS Newshour/NPR/Marist poll found that 11 percent of independents and even 10 percent of Republicans would be less likely to vote for a convicted Trump. That’s not a lot, but the election is close and it matters.

A great many Republicans will say that Trump’s conviction unfairly influences the presidential election, but consider this: No one forced Republicans to vote for a candidate who was under (four) indictment(s). A great many people begged and warned them not to. My own opinion was it was just as foolish for Republicans to nominate an indicted candidate in 2024 as it was for Democrats to nominate a candidate under federal investigation in 2016. Those who refuse to learn from history are destined to make it.

I wrote recently that I am very concerned about the potential for widespread violence related to this year’s election. I do believe that prosecuting and convicting Trump makes violence more likely, but as I’ve said all along, that’s no excuse not to do it.

We don’t negotiate with terrorists.

My greatest concern at this point is the scenario that Trump will lose the election and then find that his conviction is thrown out or overturned on appeal. That situation would greatly inflame the entire country and such a scenrio is not unprecedented.

Back in 2008, Alaska Senator Ted Stevens was convicted of financial crimes just before the election, an election he lost narrowly. After the election, Stevens’ conviction was overturned due to gross prosecutorial misconduct, but by then, the electoral damage had been done.

I’m not saying that Trump’s conviction is on par with the railroading of Ted Stevens, but the (alleged) weakness of the case and the relatively unprecedented legal theory used by Bragg do leave open the possibility of reversals.

And while I’m on that topic, I’ll note that if you’ve heard that Judge Merchan told the jury that they did not have to reach a unanimous verdict, you should know that claim is a lie.

Judge Merchan’s instructions to the jury were that they must reach a unanimous guilty verdict to convict Trump, but that they could disagree on the underlying crime. In other words, if you remember the two-part legal test from the third paragraph, the jury would have to all agree that Trump falsified business documents with intent to commit or conceal a crime, but they could take different views of what that second crime was.

If you’ve come here looking for a prognostication of the future, I don’t know where this will lead. I don’t know if Biden will win or Trump will lose. I don’t know if Trump will go to jail. I don’t know if this is another step towards civil war.

What I do know, however, is that Trump had this coming for a long time. Whatever the future holds, holding Trump accountable was the right thing to do. Following the law and the judicial process were the right things to do. If the verdict gets reversed, that’s part of the process.

I just wish that this case had involved the January 6 insurrection because that was Trump’s greatest crime against America. That day is coming.

In closing, I salute the ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Despite MAGA claims that Trump could not get a fair trial in New York, this jury seemed to take its job seriously. The deliberations took two days. It was not a rush job.

And it could not have been easy to convict a former president. That’s especially true of a president with a cult following that has violent tendencies. These jurors will likely not sleep easily for a long time, if ever.

Voting to convict a former president with a fanatical following takes courage. That’s the kind of courage that I have not seen in the Republican Party since 2016, but it’s what we need to put America on the right track.

From the Racket NewsFrom the Racket News

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