White House race plunges into uncharted territory as Trump awaits July sentencing


By Luc Cohen and Jack Queen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Donald Trump, the first U.S. president convicted of a crime, will face a new milestone in his historic effort to regain the White House when a judge decides on July 11 whether to send him to prison or not.

Thursday’s guilty verdict catapults the United States into unexplored territory ahead of the Nov. 5 vote, when Trump, the Republican candidate, will try to win back the White House he lost in 2020 to Democratic President Joe Biden.

The charge he was convicted of, falsifying business records, carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison. Others convicted of that crime often receive shorter sentences, fines or probation, but the judge in the case said during jury selection that Trump faces a potential jail sentence.

The stakes are high, but incarceration would not prevent Trump from campaigning, or taking office if he were to win.

Trump fumed daily during his trial that being in court prevented him from campaigning. He now has six weeks to do so before Justice Juan Merchan, overseeing his case, issues a sentence on July 11, just four days before the start of the Republican National Convention where Trump is scheduled to clinch the party’s nomination.

After two days of deliberation, a jury of New Yorkers found Trump, 77, guilty of all 34 criminal counts he faced for falsifying documents to cover up a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels in the final days of his successful 2016 campaign.

Trump still faces three other criminal prosecutions – two for his efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat – but the New York verdict could be the only one handed down before Americans vote as the other cases have been tied up in legal wrangling. Trump has pleaded not guilty in all four cases, which he says are politically motivated.

“The real verdict is going to be Nov. 5 by the people,” Trump told reporters shortly after being found guilty, adding: “I am a very innocent man.”

Trump will not be jailed ahead of sentencing, and a source familiar with his campaign’s inner workings said the verdict was expected to prompt him to intensify deliberations on picking a woman as his vice presidential running mate.

An attorney representing him said they would appeal as quickly as possible.

PARTISAN DIVISIONS

Reactions to the verdict were sharply, even bitterly partisan, with Democrats praising the result and many Republicans embracing Trump’s assertions the prosecutions are a politically motivated attempt to prevent his return to power.

“No one is above the law, not even a former president,” said Democratic Senator Chris Coons, a member of the chamber’s Judiciary Committee. “I commend the jurors for their service and urge all Americans, no matter their party affiliation, to accept and respect the outcome of this trial.”

Republican House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson said, “Today is a shameful day in American history … This was a purely political exercise, not a legal one.”

National opinion polls show Trump locked in a tight race with Biden, and one in four Republican respondents in an April Reuters/Ipsos poll said they would not vote for him if he were convicted of a felony by a jury.

Some strategists voiced skepticism that Republicans would turn their backs on Trump after his relentless verbal attacks against the prosecutions.

“There’s only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: At the ballot box. Donate to our campaign today,” Biden said on social media after the verdict.

Some major Republican donors said they would continue to donate to Trump’s campaign despite the conviction.

EXPLICIT TESTIMONY

The jury found Trump guilty of falsifying business documents after a trial that featured explicit testimony from Daniels about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump in 2006 while he was married to his current wife Melania. Trump denies ever having sex with Daniels.

Trump’s former fixer and lawyer Michael Cohen testified that Trump approved a $130,000 hush money payment to Daniels in the final weeks of the 2016 election, when he faced multiple accusations of sexual misbehavior.

Cohen testified that he handled the payment and that Trump approved a plan to reimburse him through monthly payments disguised as legal work. Trump’s lawyers hammered Cohen’s credibility, highlighting his criminal record and imprisonment and his history of lying.

Falsifying business documents is normally a misdemeanor in New York, but prosecutors in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office elevated the case to a felony on grounds that Trump was concealing an illegal campaign contribution.

If elected, Trump could shut down the two federal cases that accuse him of illegally trying to overturn his 2020 election loss and mishandling classified documents after leaving office in 2021. He would not have the power to stop a separate election-subversion case taking place in Georgia.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen and Jack Queen, additional reporting by Andy Sullivan, Jarrett Renshaw, Alexandra Ulmer and Steve Holland; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Howard Goller)



Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top