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Jury Finds Trump Guilty on All 34 Counts in His New York Criminal Trial
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Jury Finds Trump Guilty on All 34 Counts in His New York Criminal Trial

The former president is a convicted felon—what now?

Happy Friday! We’d like to congratulate the winner of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Bruhat Soma, who had the great misfortune of doing something really cool at the same time some sort of important news broke.

Abseil. A-B-S-E-I-L. Abseil.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • A jury found former President Donald Trump guilty on all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in his New York criminal trial related to concealing hush-money payments paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels. Judge Juan Merchan scheduled Trump’s sentencing for July 11, four days before the Republican National Convention. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg didn’t specify on Thursday whether his office will seek jail time for the former president. “This was a rigged, disgraceful trial,” Trump told reporters after the verdict. “The real verdict is going to be November 5 by the people.”
  • President Joe Biden has reportedly granted Ukraine permission to use U.S.-supplied weapons to strike some targets in Russia. The dramatic policy shift allows Ukraine to hit Russian targets over the border from Kharkiv, in northeastern Ukraine, where Russia has opened a new front. The administration’s policy prohibiting U.S. weapons from being used for strikes deep inside Russian territory or on civilian infrastructure remains unchanged, according to unnamed sources. The White House has not publicly confirmed the shift in policy, but Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested Wednesday such a move could be coming. “At every step along the way, we’ve adapted and adjusted as necessary,” he said. “And so that’s exactly what we’ll do going forward.”
  • Israel’s National Unity party, led by war cabinet member Benny Gantz, submitted a bill Thursday to dissolve parliament and hold elections. The centrist party currently lacks sufficient support to pass the bill, but the move follows Gantz’s announcement earlier this month that he would pull his party out of the governing coalition if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t produce a plan for the end of the war in Gaza by June 8.
  • North Korea launched a series of suspected ballistic missiles on Thursday that landed in the Sea of Japan, outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone. South Korean officials suggested the launches could have been demonstrations for potential buyers, including the Russian government. The missile firings followed North Korea’s failure to launch a spy satellite on Monday after the rocket carrying the satellite exploded in midair.  
  • A third U.S. farm worker has contracted bird flu, the Michigan health department announced on Thursday. The dairy worker is the first to have developed respiratory symptoms from the virus after workers with the previous two cases suffered only eye infections. Dr. Nirav Shah, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday that the flu has not spread to any other people and that all three workers were exposed directly to dairy cows, suggesting the virus cannot yet spread between humans. But Shah also noted that the development of respiratory symptoms could increase the risk of person-to-person spread.
  • The NBA Finals are set, with Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics set to face off against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks in a seven-game series beginning on June 6. The Mavericks defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 124-103 on Thursday to win the Western Conference Finals; the Celtics completed a sweep of the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals earlier this week.

‘12 Everyday New Yorkers’

Demonstrators gather with banners after Donald Trump was found guilty in his New York criminal trial on May 30, 2024. (Photo by Selcuk Acar/Anadolu via Getty Images)
Demonstrators gather with banners after Donald Trump was found guilty in his New York criminal trial on May 30, 2024. (Photo by Selcuk Acar/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump has often ventured where no president has gone before: He was the first to have been divorced more than once, to be impeached twice, to try to obstruct the peaceful transfer of power, to have a social media account suspended, and the first to face a criminal jury trial. 

On Thursday, that list grew ever longer: Trump is now the first former president in U.S. history to be convicted on felony charges.

After fewer than 12 hours of deliberation, 12 Manhattan jurors convicted their former president on all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records—covering up hush-money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels—in furtherance of another crime. The conviction opens up another stage in the case: Trump will now face sentencing later this summer and likely try to appeal his conviction—all as the presumptive Republican nominee continues to campaign to be the next president. For some political partisans, the guilty verdicts—on charges widely viewed as the weakest of the four cases against Trump—will be a compelling reason to vote for a man they see as being persecuted and prosecuted on purely political grounds. But it’s still unknown how independent and less politically engaged voters across the country will digest this historic result and how it will figure in their voting calculus.

As Trump emerged from the courtroom on Thursday a convicted felon, his words were sharp even if his demeanor seemed flat. “This was a disgrace,” he told the assembled reporters. “This was a rigged trial by a conflicted judge who is corrupt. It’s a rigged trial and a disgrace.” 

“We didn’t do a thing wrong,” he added. “I’m a very innocent man.” 

Later Thursday evening, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg praised the “12 everyday New Yorkers” who did their “fundamental civic duty”—and, not for nothing, delivered Bragg the verdict of his career. “While this defendant may be unlike any other in American history,” he said, “we arrived at this trial and ultimately today at this verdict in the same manner as every other case that comes through the courtroom doors.”

So how did we get here? Bragg unsealed his office’s indictment of the former president in April 2023. The New York case was the first of the four criminal cases that federal and state prosecutors have brought against Trump, but also the one based on perhaps the most convoluted legal theory—if not also the seamiest allegations. The Bragg indictment alleged that Trump falsified business records, ordering that reimbursements to his longtime fixer and former lawyer Michael Cohen be misclassified as legal retainers. In the runup to the 2016 election, Trump had tasked Cohen with paying Daniels—who claims she had sex with Trump in 2006—$130,000 for her silence about the encounter (with a non-disclosure agreement to seal the deal).

The problem for Bragg was that the two-year statute of limitations had expired on the misdemeanor charge of falsification of business records. But, under New York state law, if the defendant is alleged to have cooked the books in an effort to conceal another crime, that’s a felony on which the statute of limitations had not run out. 

The trial, which began April 15, saw Manhattan prosecutors try to prove three things, as Sarah and Mike laid out in The Collision

To find Trump guilty, every juror must agree the evidence proved beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  1. The business records regarding payments to Trump attorney Michael Cohen were false;
  2. Trump was responsible for the false business records and had the “intent to defraud” (as in, he knew the records were false and didn’t want other people potentially reading the records to know the true nature of the payments); and
  3. Trump’s purpose for falsifying the business records was to cover up another crime.

In connecting those dots for the jury, prosecutors never had to prove that Trump had committed another crime or even decisively point to what the underlying crime was. But they did have to paint a picture of a presidential candidate who thought he might be committing a crime and was trying to avoid getting caught.

Prosecutors, therefore, built their case around the idea that the hush money payments and the efforts to cover them up were an attempt at election interference. They pointed to the timing of Cohen’s payment to Daniels: October 2016, one month before that year’s presidential election in which Trump was the Republican nominee. With testimony from Daniels and Cohen themselves, as well as former Trump aides and people in his orbit, like National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, prosecutors argued that Trump knew a story detailing a Republican presidential nominee’s affair with a porn star—while his third wife was at home with a young child—would be severely damaging for the campaign, especially in the aftermath of Trump’s leaked Access Hollywood tape in which he bragged about assaulting women. Indeed, in his closing statement this week, Manhattan prosecutor Joshua Steinglass pointed to testimony from Trump administration aide Hope Hicks, who recalled Trump telling her in 2018, “It would have been bad to have [the Daniels affair] story come out before the election.”

However, if jurors were not convinced by the election fraud narrative, they could still have convicted Trump for acting in furtherance of a different underlying crime—such as attempting to offset taxes—which prosecutors also alleged. That is why Steinglass added that election fraud is just “one of the many ways in which this unlawful conspiracy was acted upon.” (That distinction caused confusion and outrage Thursday after a reporter’s inaccurate tweet suggested Judge Juan Merchan had told jurors they didn’t have to be unanimous in their verdict. What Merchan actually told them was that they had to have unanimity in their verdict about guilt or acquittal, but not in their belief about what the underlying crime was the acts were in furtherance of.) 

As Sarah and David pointed out on an emergency edition of Advisory Opinions Thursday night, Trump’s legal team didn’t mount much of a defense, mostly attacking Cohen’s credibility—not necessarily a hard case to make since Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying under oath before. Cohen was the prosecution’s star witness, connecting Trump to the payments and their purpose. “The defense really didn’t put on much of a case,” Sarah said. “Their first choice was an acquittal or hung jury, but the second choice was definitely a conviction, over the third choice of defending yourself.”

Ultimately, the defense got their second wish: a conviction on every single count, ushering in the next, equally unprecedented stage of the case. After reading out the verdict, Merchan set the sentencing date for July 11—just a few days before the beginning of the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where Trump will officially be selected as the GOP nominee for president.

Trump’s conviction doesn’t change his legal eligibility to run for president. After all, socialist Eugene Debs ran for president from prison a century ago—after being convicted of sedition for criticizing the World War I war effort—and netted 3.5 percent of the vote.

But unlike Debs, Trump seems unlikely to actually end up in the pokey, though it’s certainly a possibility. Each of the 34 felonies of which he’s been convicted carries a maximum of four years in prison and a $5,000 fine. However, Trump’s sentence is largely up to Merchan’s discretion, setting up seemingly endless permutations of punishments for the former and perhaps future president: He could be ordered to pay a fine, serve some sort of probation or home confinement, or, indeed, go to prison—perhaps serving all the time concurrently, or spending only weekends there, or any number of other potential arrangements. Bragg on Thursday declined to say whether prosecutors will push for Trump to serve time, but the standard sentence for such a conviction ranges between probation and two years of jail time, as Mark Stobbe explained in a piece on the site earlier this month.

But Trump would be an unlikely candidate for prison even if he weren’t also a candidate for president. For one thing, he will be 78 at the time of sentencing, making him potentially vulnerable in a prison setting. “[Prison time] would really surprise me,” David said on the special edition of Advisory Opinions. “He’s a first-time, nonviolent felony offender.”

Nevertheless, David added, “There are circumstances where you have 34 convictions, you have zero expression of remorse, you have multiple contempt citations in the trial, all of those things are not optimal defendant behavior in the face of these convictions.”

The judge could also decide that any potential punishment would be served only after Trump has concluded any appeals he wishes to make—a process that’s likely to be lengthy, even extending beyond the November election. 

There are several potential avenues for appeal—which, by New York law, has to happen within 30 days of a conviction. In any eventual brief to New York’s appellate court, Trump’s lawyers could take issue with the extreme detail of Daniels’ testimony as being unduly incriminating, or with the jury instructions, or even with the legal foundations of the case in the first place. “The strongest part of this case are the facts,” David said. “The weakest part of this case is the law.”

The court of public opinion needed no invitation to weigh in on the day’s proceedings. After what was widely considered a flimsy prosecution with political motivations—Bragg, an elected Democrat, ran on his ability to prosecute Trump—allies and even some one-time foes of the former president took to their keyboards to decry his conviction. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, for example—never the most exuberant of Trump defenders—delivered a short and sweet rebuke of the conviction. “These charges never should have been brought in the first place,” he said. “I expect the conviction to be overturned on appeal.”

GOP Sen. Susan Collins—who voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment—expressed a similar sentiment: “The district attorney, who campaigned on a promise to prosecute Donald Trump, brought these charges precisely because of who the defendant was rather than because of any specified criminal conduct. The political underpinnings of this case further blur the lines between the judicial system and the electoral system.”

Trump’s former primary foe, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, called the verdict the product of a “kangaroo court.” But former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley—who said earlier this month that she would vote for the former president and who, like DeSantis, once stood on a debate stage with her hand aloft, agreeing to support Trump if he were the nominee and a convicted felon —had not made any public comment about the conviction by the time of publication.

While some critiques of the trial and its result were more measured, the usual suspects lined up to announce the end of the republic as we know it—with some racism and threats of violence thrown in for good measure. “Import the Third World, become the Third World,” ex-Fox News host Tucker Carlson tweeted on Thursday. “That’s what we just saw. This won’t stop Trump. He’ll win the election if he’s not killed first. But it does mark the end of the fairest justice system in the world. Anyone who defends this verdict is a danger to you and your family.”

Not to be outdone, Sean Davis, the co-founder and CEO of the Federalist, a pro-Trump opinion website, suggested a political purge. “In 2016, the presidential race was decided based on candidates releasing lists of potential Supreme Court nominees,” he posted. “In 2024, I want to see lists of which Democrat officials are going to be put in prison. This is what happens when you cross the Rubicon.” 

So overwhelmingly did Trump’s supporters rush to Trump’s aid, the Republican campaign fundraising platform, WinRed, crashed from overuse Thursday night. And while a handful of perpetually online figures suggested that, so incensed were they by the prosecution, they would now “crawl over broken glass,” to vote for Trump—even never having done so before—it’s not yet clear what the electoral consequences of his conviction will be for the average voter. Prior to the verdict, 67 percent of voters surveyed in a PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll released this week said a guilty verdict would make no difference for their vote in November, similar to responses in a Quinnipiac poll released last week. Those figures, though, may be moot now that a conviction is a reality and not simply a pollster’s hypothetical. 

President Joe Biden and his campaign seemed to read the room, treading carefully in public statements about the verdict. “We respect the rule of law,” a spokesman for the White House Counsel’s Office said Thursday, “and we have no additional comment.”  

Just minutes after the verdict, however, the Biden campaign weighed in. “Donald Trump has always mistakenly believed he would never face consequences for breaking the law for his own personal gain,” said campaign communications director Michael Tyler. “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.”

Biden’s campaign account posted a simple fundraising plea urging people to vote. In fact, it’s one thing Trump and Biden seem to agree on.

“The real verdict,” Trump said outside the courtroom Thursday, “is going to be November 5 by the people.”

Worth Your Time

  • Writing for the New York Times, Robert Draper caught up with departing members of Congress to ask why they and so many of their colleagues are leaving. “A total of 54 House members, or about one-eighth of the total body, will not be seeking another term this November,” he wrote. “As a matter of sheer numbers, the exodus is not history-making. What is striking are the names on the list. There are rising stars, seasoned legislators and committee chairs. But not a single bomb-thrower. For three of the 54, the issue was forced: one by expulsion (George Santos, the Long Island Republican) and two by being gerrymandered out of winnable districts (Representatives Wiley Nickel and Kathy Manning, both North Carolina Democrats). Two others died (Donald M. Payne Jr., of New Jersey, and A. Donald McEachin of Virginia, both Democrats). Another 18 members vacated their seats to seek a different elective office. That leaves 31 members—19 Republicans and 12 Democrats, 20 of whom were interviewed for this article—who have decided to leave the House of their own volition, with no electoral pressure to do so. … Every one of the 20 members interviewed for this article spoke with pride of their tenure in Congress. Nearly all of them cited extenuating circumstances—a young family, a chance to start a new chapter in life, a desire for tranquil golden years—that prompted their departure. Still, with few exceptions, they described an experience of diminishing rewards and increasing hardships.”
  • Some of the greatest baseball players in history are now formally considered Major Leaguers. For ESPN, David Schoenfield tells the story of some notable players from the Negro Leagues whose statistics were officially integrated into the MLB historical record earlier this week. “When Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 and the slow integration of Black players into the American and National Leagues began … the wave of talent coming out of the Negro Leagues was extraordinary,” Schoenfield wrote. “As Bill James once wrote, referring to Robinson, Roy Campanella, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks and Henry Aaron, ‘If those leagues could produce five players like that in seven years, what about the previous 40?’” Josh Gibson—whose career batting average tops Ty Cobb’s—may be one of the greatest baseball players of all time. “As I was scrolling through social media, I saw a poster write, ‘I had never heard of Josh Gibson.’ Now he has.”

Presented Without Comment

New York Times: Tulsi Gabbard Says She’d ‘Be Honored’ to Be Trump’s Running Mate 

Also Presented Without Comment

Defense Department Press Briefing, May 30, 2024:

Reporter: Thanks. I have kind of an unconventional question. As my colleague mentioned, North Korea sent balloons across the south, into the south that included human waste. Does the U.S. have any plans to reciprocate and send American poop across the 38th parallel?

Pentagon Spokeswoman Sabrina Singh: Thanks, Jeff. We do not.

In the Zeitgeist 

A new Clooney and Pitt flick? Heck yes!  

Toeing the Company Line

  • In the newsletters: Will explored how the growing demand for computational power is reshaping big tech, Mike and Sarah caught readers up on the final strands of Trump’s New York trial and optics issues surrounding Hunter Biden’s upcoming criminal trial, and Nick responded (🔒) to Matthew Franck’s argument for not voting for either Trump or Biden.
  • On the podcasts: Sarah and David livestreamed an emergency edition of Advisory Opinions to discuss the Trump verdict, and on their regularly scheduled episode, they are joined by legal scholar Akhil Amar to discuss unenumerated rights. 
  • On the site: John reports on Biden’s failure to reach out to Trump critics and Kevin argues that tariffs won’t solve America’s problems with China. 

Let Us Know

Did the jury reach the right verdict in this case? Do you believe it was a politically motivated prosecution?

Mary Trimble is the editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, she interned at The Dispatch, in the political archives at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), and at Voice of America, where she produced content for their French-language service to Africa. When not helping write The Morning Dispatch, she is probably watching classic movies, going on weekend road trips, or enjoying live music with friends.

Grayson Logue is the deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he worked in political risk consulting, helping advise Fortune 50 companies. He was also an assistant editor at Providence Magazine and is a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh, pursuing a Master’s degree in history. When Grayson is not helping write The Morning Dispatch, he is probably working hard to reduce the number of balls he loses on the golf course.

Peter Gattuso is a reporter for The Morning Dispatch, based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2024, he interned at The Dispatch, National Review, the Cato Institute, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. When Peter is not helping write TMD, he is probably watching baseball, listening to music on vinyl records, or discussing the Jones Act.