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Donald Trump guilty on all counts in hush money trial

Donald Trump guilty on all counts in hush money trial
Former US President Donald Trump leaves the courthouse after a jury found him guilty of all 34 felony counts in his criminal trial at New York State Supreme Court on 30 May 2024. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Justin Lane / Pool)

Trump, who has repeatedly attacked the case as Democratic election interference, could be sentenced to as many as four years in prison but is certain to appeal and may remain free during the process. Sentencing will take place on 11 July.

A New York jury found Donald Trump guilty of multiple felonies at his hush-money trial, making him the first former US president to be convicted of crimes.

Trump was found guilty on Thursday on all 34 counts of falsifying business records to conceal a hush-money payment to the porn star Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 election. Prosecutors said Trump led a broader scheme to influence the election by concealing stories of his alleged sexual encounters with women.

The conviction creates a daunting legal and political path for Trump as he faces President Joe Biden in November as the presumptive Republican nominee. Trump, who has repeatedly attacked the case as Democratic election interference, could be sentenced to as many as four years in prison but is certain to appeal and may remain free during the process. The judge has set sentencing for 11 July, just days before Republicans are set to select him as their 2024 nominee.

Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels and falsifying records.

The verdict is a consequential moment in the run-up to the 2024 election, forcing voters to decide whether they want a convicted felon in the White House. But Trump, a billionaire who made his fortune in real estate, retains an iron grip on the Republican Party despite his history of legal and personal scandals.

Trump (77) still faces criminal trials in Washington, DC, and Georgia over his attempt to overturn the 2020 election, and one in Florida about his failure to return classified national security documents that he took from the White House. His fundraising and political support remain strong, however, and he leads Biden in many polls. If elected, Trump cannot pardon himself in the hush-money case because he was convicted on state, not federal, charges.

Sentencing

The verdict, after two days of deliberations, followed five weeks of vivid testimony that riveted the nation. Prosecutors working for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg argued that Trump oversaw a scheme to influence the 2016 election by using Trump Organization records to hide the hush money scheme.

“Everything Mr Trump and his cohorts did in this case is cloaked in lies,” prosecutor Joshua Steinglass told Manhattan jurors in his closing arguments. “The evidence is literally overwhelming.”

Justice Juan Merchan, who oversaw the trial, could sentence Trump to time behind bars or impose a probationary term, citing his age and status as a first-time offender. Merchan warned Trump during the trial he could put him behind bars for repeatedly violating a gag order. He also acknowledged the security requirements of imprisoning a former president. 

Evidence

Much of the trial revolved around Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer who went to prison for lying under oath and other crimes. Cohen paid $130,000 to Daniels to stay silent about her alleged tryst with Trump in 2006. She threatened to go public in October 2016, after the release of the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump discussed sexually assaulting women.

“This is a disaster, total disaster,” Trump said about the tape, according to Cohen. “Women will hate me. Guys may think it’s cool, but this is going to be a disaster for the campaign.”

Cohen testified he repeatedly discussed Daniels with Trump, who blessed the hush money deal. He said Trump authorised a plan to reimburse Cohen a total of $420,000, covering the Daniels check, payments for another vendor, an allotment for taxes and a bonus.

Cohen told jurors he submitted invoices that falsely billed for legal fees, not a reimbursement. Prosecutors said the 34 false-business record counts spanned his 11 invoices as well as 11 checks to Cohen and 12 company vouchers.

The jury convicted Trump despite withering attacks on Cohen, the prosecution’s star witness. Trump attorney Todd Blanche assailed Cohen as a serial liar who went from loving Trump to hating him and then made millions of dollars on books and podcasts castigating his former boss.

Cohen is “the human embodiment of reasonable doubt,” Blanche said. “Michael Cohen is the ‘Gloat’. He’s literally the greatest liar of all time.” 

Trump never testified despite promising before the trial to take the witness stand. Still, jurors heard a secret recording that Cohen made of Trump, saw video clips of him, and read his tweets about Cohen and Daniels.

Trial highlights

Prosecutors said the conspiracy began in August 2015 during a meeting at Trump Tower attended by Trump, Cohen and David Pecker, the former chief executive officer of the firm that published the National Enquirer. Pecker testified he promised to serve as the “eyes and ears” of the Trump campaign, publish positive pieces and attack rivals. But more importantly, Pecker said he would tell Cohen whenever he heard about negative stories.

Pecker explained why his firm, American Media, paid $150,000 to former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal to keep quiet about her claims of a yearlong affair with Trump. He said he expected women to come forward with stories about Trump when he was running for president because he “was well-known as the most eligible bachelor and dated the most beautiful women”.

Jurors also heard from Daniels, who described in detail the sexual encounter that she said took place in Trump’s hotel room after meeting him at a Lake Tahoe golf tournament.

Trump frequently commented about the trial on the campaign trail and to television cameras outside the courtroom. Merchan found that Trump violated a gag order intended to bar him from commenting on jurors, witnesses and prosecutors.

The judge at one point threatened to jail Trump if he did it again. The former president did not. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Troy Marshall says:

    Donald Trumps new official anthems.
    1. It Wasn’t Me – Shaggy
    2. Jailhouse Rock – Elvis Presley

  • Gareth Searle says:

    The right wing Christians will love him more.
    the cult of trump is both unfathomable and unstoppable.

    • William H says:

      Yup. A bit like support for Zuma in this country. It doesn’t make sense, but there you have it, even in a first world country where pople are educated, they will support a bafoon like Trump. Is it any surprise then, that people support Zuma in SA?

    • Harold Porter says:

      It’s not unfathomable. He delivered on a number of their key concerns…now one might disagree with their key concerns, but, given that Trump delivered on them, it is perfectly rational for his supporters to continue to support him.

      • Rod H MacLeod says:

        Which of those concerns? Building the wall? Scrapping healthcare? Increasing employment? Promoting world peace? Making America great again? I think not, actually. They’re mostly people who want to BELIEVE he did all that, even though he did not.

  • Malcolm McManus says:

    He can still run for president. I won’t be surprised if he wins. Can’t be hard when your main rival is a senile old man who lies about almost every small detail of his life, so there we have it. Two serial liars running for President of supposedly the most powerful country in the world. Doesn’t bode well for democracy.

    • Lawrence Sisitka says:

      Thanks Malcolm – maybe this will lead to some understanding of my endless, and certainly very boring claim that there is not democracy, here, there, or anywhere. And then we might be able to start moving towards something that at least approximates real democracy – no presidents, for a start :)!

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      It’s more of a contempt of court and intergrity issue, if he gets voted to president the security of the country might see him evading jail time and elevated to the Whitehouse, as they always say the interest of the country comes first.
      It’s the reality of the world from a non christian perspective.
      That is how we end up with shrewd leaders staying in power.

      • Craig Cauvin says:

        Mmmmmm – I wonder where we’ve seen this movie before…… 🙂
        Ex-President, evading jail time, no integrity……

  • Bob Dubery says:

    Why is the picture upside down? Is there some tradition that says that pictures of a felonious President must be displayed inverted?

    • Troy Marshall says:

      An upside down USA flag is the symbol for the “stop the steal” movement – first seen 06 January 2021 at the Capital riots.
      Methinks someone at Daily Maverick has a sense of humour.

  • HENK CRAUCAMP says:

    What blows my mind is that we have people celebrating a case that has been politically motivated. I am not in any way a Trump fan. He is Looney Tunes to say the least. Worse is Biden who is pretty much brain dead at the wheel. But when parties use courts to assassinate the political opponents it becomes a tit for tat, and in one of the largest economies in the world, political uncertainty does not spell sunshine and roses for smaller countries like ourselves.
    I personally believe that this is exactly what Trump wanted. He wanted this to be found guilty. It will galvanise his support even more without him having to raise a finger. The Maga republicans will have more hot air to bluster at how corrupt the DM’s are. It’s a lose lose situation for us that these to dim-witted knuckle heads are the best a 1st World country can come up with…

    • Random Comment says:

      The only comment that makes sense of this matter.

      Strip the animus out and this is what an impartial observer sees.

    • Hilary Morris says:

      What on God’s green earth makes you allege that Biden is brain dead at the wheel? I am aware that we all see things as WE are, not as THEY are, but this is beyond comprehension. America has improved in so many aspects, employment, infrastructure, and, and, and, since Biden took over. He (apparently) has a better record than any other president. All the speeches I’ve heard him make have been lucid, logical, intelligent, compassionate and with a dash of humour. Nothing brain dead about Biden. Just saying…………….

    • Dave Reynell says:

      Well said Henk !

  • Agf Agf says:

    There is a simple solution and that is RFK Jnr. Unfortunately the woke left cling on to the profoundly senile Biden and the rotten to the core Washington elite and the evangelical Christians cling on to Trump. Both of them are awful. RFK isn’t.

  • Harold Porter says:

    I imagine Trump will appeal it…

  • PETER COMFORT says:

    The Trial outcome has restored some of my bruised and dented faith in the USA Justice system. Trump has repeatedly used his Power/ Money and vituperative assaults to blast his way through his dysfunctional life. America should now brush this poisonous insect of a man off, and get back to sane and rational behaviour.

  • Sonja Bakker says:

    And to think, all he had to do was say yes, I slept with a porn star, and it was an accounting error, instead he was lying about something that everybody knows that he did. But honestly, I am so tired of Trump and his antics. Politicians should have an expiry date, just like every one else that has to go on pension at 65. Then South Africa would not be sitting with Jacob Showerhead Zuma and America can bring in capable, rational thinking people that can actually stand up to Putin and sort out the mess with Isreal and Palestine. We can only pray……

    • Albertus Pretorius says:

      @Sonja, you hit the nail on the head with “And to think, all he had to do was say yes, I slept with a porn star, and it was an accounting error,..”… and bragged about it! The level of stupid-egoism is astounding.

    • Rod H MacLeod says:

      But Sonja, if he had said “yes, I slept with a porn star” he would have lost all his red-neck supporters because they would have been wildly jealous – all they get to sleep with are their sisters.

  • Rainer Thiel says:

    This so made my day! But wait, a friend of mine said, there’s SCOTUS lurking in the wings to gift this serial swindler absolute immunity.

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