Donald Trump Convicted of Falsifying Business Records to Cover Up Affair

Former president Donald Trump after being found guilty of 34 counts. CREDIT:AP

Donald Trump has become the first former US president in history to be criminally convicted, following a jury’s decision that found him guilty of falsifying business records to conceal an affair. This conviction, delivered less than six months before his anticipated election rematch against President Joe Biden, opens the possibility of Trump facing jail, probation, or other restrictions as determined by the judge. The case revolved around a hush money scheme intended to influence the 2016 election.

Trump, now 77, stood with a frown as he was found guilty on all 34 counts, a verdict that is set to significantly impact the 2024 presidential race and deepen the existing divisions within the nation. His supporters swiftly reacted on various pro-Trump platforms, including Truth Social, Patriots.Win, and the Gateway Pundit, with calls for riots, revolution, and violent retribution. Some extremist comments called for attacks on jurors, execution of the judge, and even civil war.

Trump’s sentencing is scheduled for July 11, just days before the Republican National Convention, where he is expected to be formally announced as the party’s presidential nominee. The charges, typically a misdemeanor in New York, were elevated to felonies by the Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office on the grounds that Trump was concealing an illegal campaign contribution. The prosecution had to prove Trump’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

“We did our job. [There are] many voices out there. The only voice that matters is the voice of the jury, and the jury has spoken,” Bragg stated at a press conference.

Outside the courtroom, Trump condemned the trial as “rigged” and “disgraceful,” insisting that the real verdict would come from the voters on November 5th. On his platform, Truth Social, he labeled Judge Juan Merchan as “HIGHLY CONFLICTED” and criticized the jury instructions. This elicited extremist responses, including threats and calls for violent action against the judge.

Trump’s legal team has indicated plans for a lengthy appeal, which could prolong the case for months and potentially delay any sentence. Throughout the trial, Trump was present on the 15th floor of the Manhattan Criminal Court, listening to testimonies from 22 witnesses about what prosecutors described as a criminal conspiracy to suppress damaging stories.

The conspiracy, according to evidence, began in August 2015 during a Trump Tower meeting with his then fixer and lawyer Michael Cohen and David Pecker, the publisher of the National Enquirer. Pecker promised to act as Trump’s “eyes and ears” during his campaign, which included burying stories like the alleged affair with Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal and an unverified claim about a love child.

The charges against Trump specifically relate to a $130,000 hush money payment Cohen made to adult film star Stormy Daniels. Prosecutors argued that Trump reimbursed Cohen and falsified records to hide the payment, thus breaching electoral laws. Trump’s defense attorney, Todd Blanche, argued that the payments were legitimate legal fees and denied any intent to defraud or influence the election.

Jurors requested to review portions of testimony and legal instructions during their deliberation, signaling the complexity of the case. Trump’s defense team has long claimed political motivation behind the case, citing the Democratic affiliations of both Bragg and Merchan.

Despite the possibility of a four-year jail sentence for falsifying business records, the judge has the discretion to impose a lesser sentence or probation, considering the non-violent nature of the crime and Trump’s lack of prior criminal history.

Outside the court, Trump’s supporters and opponents showcased their divisions. Trump’s followers displayed flags and banners, while critics chanted for justice and accountability. Reactions were mixed, with some seeing the conviction as a triumph for democracy and others perceiving it as political persecution.

The Biden-Harris campaign responded by emphasizing the importance of the upcoming election. Michael Tyler, Biden-Harris communications director, stated, “There is still only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: at the ballot box.”

As Trump navigates his legal battles, the 2024 presidential race is poised to become one of the most contentious in recent history, with the nation watching closely to see how these legal developments will influence the election’s outcome.