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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

US court convicts Trump

The guilty verdict is the first in American history for a former president

Former US president and current presidential candidate Donald Trump has been found guilty of falsifying business records to influence the 2016 election, in a case related to alleged ‘hush money’ payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, charged Trump last year with 34 counts of criminal behavior, alleging that the Republican politician sought “to conceal damaging information and unlawful activity from American voters before and after the 2016 election.”

Read more: Robert De Niro calls Trump a ‘clown’ outside trial in Biden campaign message

The jury deliberated for two days and returned the verdict just before 5pm on Thursday: guilty on all counts, making Trump the first US president to ever be convicted of a felony.

“This was a rigged, disgraceful trial,” Trump told reporters after the verdict was announced. “The real verdict will be on November 5, by the people. And we will keep fighting, and we’ll fight till the end and we’ll win.”

The 34 counts refer to 11 invoices, 12 vouchers and 11 checks of Trump’s monthly reimbursement payments to his then-lawyer, for the $130,000 paid to Daniels. According to Bragg, this amounted to “falsifying business records.”

Read more: Trump’s son-in-law to redevelop NATO-bombed buildings

The case was based on claims by Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, that Trump instructed him to pay $130,000 to the adult film actress so she would keep quiet about an alleged affair with the presidential candidate. Trump has denied any relationship with the porn star. In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to charges of campaign-finance violations as well as tax and bank fraud, and spent two and a half years in a federal prison. He also lost his New York bar license.

Numerous Republicans have denounced the trial as a farce, saying that Merchan violated the state constitution by taking the case even though his daughter works for the Democrats.

If Trump is acquitted, “the country will see the damage done to our country by corrupt prosecutors,” former Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy told Fox News ahead of the verdict. “If he’s found guilty, they’ll see that a man is being sentenced for a crime that no one can actually name.”

“Either way, the real verdict is in November,” Ramaswamy added, referring to the date of the presidential election pitting Trump against the incumbent Joe Biden.

“Even a cursory review of the evidence shows this case does not have a leg to stand on,” Jonathan Turley, a Georgetown University professor and constitutional scholar, argued in a blog post. Turley pointed out that Bragg revived what could at best be an expired misdemeanor by claiming that it was done to influence the election, describing the entire argument as “so circular as to produce vertigo.”