UNITED STATES NEWS

The Latest | Trump becomes first former US president to be convicted of felonies

May 30, 2024, 3:15 PM | Updated: 7:00 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump on Thursday was found guilty on all 34 felony counts in his criminal hush money trial.

It was the first time a former U.S. president was ever tried or convicted in a criminal case, and was the first of Trump’s four indictments to reach trial.

Prosecutors accused Trump of falsifying internal business records to cover up hush money payments tied to an alleged scheme to bury stories that might torpedo his 2016 White House bid.

At the heart of the charges were reimbursements paid to Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen for a $130,000 hush money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels in exchange for not going public with her claim about a 2006 sexual encounter with Trump.

Prosecutors said the reimbursements were falsely logged as “legal expenses” to hide the true nature of the transactions.

The charges Trump faces are punishable by up to four years in prison. He has denied any wrongdoing and had pleaded not guilty.

Judge Juan M. Merchan has set Trump’s sentencing for July 11.

Currently:

— How Trump’s conviction affects the 2024 presidential race

— What to know about the guilty verdict in Trump’s hush money trial

— Inside the courtroom as Trump learned he’d been convicted

— Republican lawmakers come to Trump’s defense after his conviction

— Shares in Trump Media slump after former president’s conviction

— Trump hush money case: A timeline of key events

— Trump investigations: The status of the cases brought against him

Here’s the latest:

TRUMP’S LAWYER ON WHY HE DIDN’T TESTIFY

Defense lawyer Todd Blanche told CNN Thursday evening that Donald Trump wanted to testify in the trial, but “he listened to us and he relied on our counsel and he reached a decision that he thought was right.”

“Of course he wanted to testify. And I don’t say that because that’s what he has said,” Blanche said. “He wanted to get his story out.”

Blanche pointed to Judge Juan M. Merchan’s rulings about what could be asked of Trump if he took the stand, saying “some of those questions were really complicated to answer because there’s still appeals going on.”

“I don’t think there was a conviction because he did not take the stand,” Blanche added.

Asked why the defense didn’t call as witnesses former Trump bodyguard Keith Schiller and former Trump company finance chief Allen Weisselberg — whose names came up repeatedly during testimony — Blanche responded: “Because we happen to live in America and we don’t have the burden of proof.” He said the question should be why the prosecution didn’t call them.

EXONERATED ‘CENTRAL PARK FIVE’ MEMBER SAYS HE TAKES ‘NO PLEASURE’
IN CONVICTION

Exonerated “Central Park Five” member and current New York City Councilmember Yusef Salaam said he didn’t take pleasure in the former president’s guilty verdict “even though Donald Trump wanted me executed even when it was proven that I was innocent.”

Salaam won a seat on the City Council last year decades after being wrongly imprisoned for rape in a notorious case that roiled racial tensions in New York City in the late 1980s. At the time, Trump took out large newspaper advertisements calling for New York to reinstate the death penalty. Salaam, along with four other Black and Latino men, eventually had their convictions vacated in 2002.

“We should be proud that today the system worked. But we should be somber that we Americans have an ex-President who has been found guilty on 34 separate felony charges,” Salaam wrote in a post on the social media platform X.

“We have to do better than this. Because we are better than this,” Salaam said.

FORMER MANHATTAN DA PRAISES TRIAL, DOUBTS TRUMP WILL GO TO PRISON

Former Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance offered his congratulations Thursday to his successor, Alvin Bragg, on “conducting a nearly flawless trial in a very difficult situation.”

“I think it’s an important case that really helps define what the rule of law is supposed to mean,” Vance told The Associated Press.

The DA’s office investigated Trump while Vance had the top job, but did not bring any charges before the Democrat retired at the end of 2021 and Bragg took over.

Responding to claims from a former prosecutor that some in his office had called it a “zombie” case, Vance said he didn’t think he had ever referred to it that way. He said he wouldn’t go into the conversations he had with his staff about the case.

Vance said he doesn’t think it’s likely Trump will be sentenced to prison time in the Manhattan case, both because “the crimes don’t require it” and because it would be more trouble than it’s worth given Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for president.

“The idea of having him in custody is really hard to imagine, I think, given his role in the political theater of the country for the next six months,” Vance said.

POLITICAL STRATEGISTS PREDICT LITTLE FALLOUT FOR TRUMP POST-CONVICTION

Trump campaign advisers argued the case would help them motivate their core supporters. So many donations came into WinRed, the platform the campaign uses for fundraising, that it crashed. Aides quickly worked to set up a backup platform to collect money pouring in.

His two most senior campaign advisers, Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita, were not with him in New York, but in Palm Beach, Florida, where the campaign is headquartered.

And while it may take days or weeks to know for sure, Trump’s critics in both parties generally agreed that there may not be much political fallout, although some were hopeful that the convictions would have at least a marginal impact in what will likely be a close election.

TRUMP LAWYER SAYS HE PLANS TO APPEAL JUDGE’S CHOICE NOT TO RECUSE HIMSELF

Todd Blanche, Donald Trump’s lawyer in his hush money trial, said in an interview after the verdict that he expects to appeal the trial judge’s decision not to recuse himself.

Asked on Fox News on Thursday night if he thought Trump got a fair trial, Blanche responded: “No, I don’t think so.”

Trump and his lawyers repeatedly argued Judge Juan M. Merchan should not have presided over the case, suggesting he had shown signs of bias.

TRUMP HEADS TO FUNDRAISER

Donald Trump left Trump Tower shortly before 8 p.m. Thursday night to attend a fundraiser at a private residence in New York City, according to a person familiar with his plans who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The fundraiser, held at a private residence in Manhattan, had been scheduled by his campaign before it was known that a verdict would be coming Thursday.

Trump’s in-person event came as the campaign’s online fundraising platform briefly crashed shortly after the verdict came down. It was back up and running Thursday night.

____

Associated Press writer Michelle Price contributed to this story from New York.

COULD TRUMP SEE PRISON TIME?

The big question now is whether Donald Trump could go to prison. The answer is uncertain.

Judge Juan M. Merchan set sentencing for July 11, just days before Republicans are set to formally nominate him for president.

The charge of falsifying business records is a Class E felony in New York, the lowest tier of felony charges in the state. It is punishable by up to four years in prison, though the punishment would ultimately be up to the judge and there’s no guarantee he would give Trump time bars.

TRUMP HAS SEVERAL AVENUES FOR AN APPEAL

After Donald Trump is sentenced, he can challenge his conviction in an appellate division of New York state’s trial court and possibly, the state’s highest court. His lawyers have already been laying the groundwork for appeals with objections to the charges and rulings at trial.

The defense has accused the judge in the trial of bias, citing his daughter’s work heading a firm whose clients have included President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and other Democrats. The judge refused the defense’s request to remove himself from the case, saying he was certain of his “ability to be fair and impartial.”

Trump’s lawyers may also raise on appeal the judge’s ruling limiting the testimony of a potential defense expert witness. The defense wanted to call Bradley Smith, a Republican law professor who served on the Federal Election Commission, to rebut the prosecution’s contention that the hush money payments amounted to campaign finance violations.

But the defense ended up not having him testify after the judge ruled he could give general background on the FEC but couldn’t interpret how federal campaign finance laws apply to the facts of Trump’s case or opine on whether Trump’s alleged actions violate those laws.

There are often guardrails around expert testimony on legal matters, on the basis that it’s up to a judge — not an expert hired by one side or the other — to instruct jurors on applicable laws.

The defense may also argue that jurors were improperly allowed to hear sometimes graphic testimony from porn actor Stormy Daniels about her alleged sexual encounter with him in 2006. The defense unsuccessfully pushed for a mistrial over the tawdry details prosecutors elicited from Daniels.

Defense lawyer Todd Blanche argued Daniels’ description of a power imbalance with the older, taller Trump, was a “dog whistle for rape,” irrelevant to the charges at hand, and “the kind of testimony that makes it impossible to come back from.”

‘PUT HIM AWAY WHERE HE BELONGS,’ TOURIST SAYS

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — Following Thursday’s guilty verdict in Donald Trump’s hush money trial, public reaction varied. Some criticized the trial and the jury’s verdict while others felt it was the right outcome.

“Put him away where he belongs,” said Roy Chilton, 76, a tourist from South Africa who was visiting Oklahoma City’s Bricktown entertainment district with his wife, Celia Chilton.

Both said they were concerned about the impact that a Trump presidency would have on their home country’s trade with the U.S.

Celia Chilton said the guilty verdict confirms that in the U.S., no one is above the law.

“We feel that the U.S. justice system is better than ours,” she said.

‘I BELIEVE IN ACCOUNTABILITY’

MADISON, Wis. — Sharon Radbil Cooper, a 67-year-old retired special education teacher from Madison, Wisconsin, said her phone had been blowing up with messages after the verdict in Donald Trump’s criminal trial was announced.

She said she was afraid jurors wouldn’t see how serious Trump’s offenses were but they made the right decision in convicting him, proving the criminal justice system can still “respond intelligently.”

“I believe in accountability,” Radbil Cooper said. “People need to be held accountable for what they’ve done.” She said there’s no good label for her political leanings but she has always planned to vote for President Joe Biden because she feels that he’s honest. But she’s afraid the conviction won’t be enough to keep people from voting for Trump.

“My hope is the bloc of voters who are not informed will move in the direction of not voting for him,” she said.

US REP SLOTKIN: PRESIDENTS ‘SHOULD BE RESPECTABLE, SERIOUS PEOPLE’

Michigan’s top congressional and statewide leaders were gathered on Mackinac Island for a policy conference as news of the guilty verdict in Donald Trump’s criminal trial broke.

The situation created a surreal scene of many politicians reacting in real time next to journalists, island visitors and lawmakers from across the aisle.

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, the leading Democratic candidate for Michigan’s U.S. Senate seat, said she first heard the news while looking at a garden on the island with other people around, describing the situation as a “weird experience.” She said felt sad because presidents “should be respectable, serious people that kids can look up to.”

“I’m glad that no matter who you are, the justice system can work even when you’re under significant pressure, which I’m sure they felt,” Slotkin told The Associated Press.

Slotkin at one point passed Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, hugging her while joking, “Be careful, we have a reporter here with us.” Whitmer, the campaign co-chair for President Joe Biden’s campaign, walked away without providing a response to the verdict.

A VIEW FROM THE BORDER

MCALLEN, Texas — Voters along the border like Justin Gonzalez in McAllen, Texas, say the verdict in Donald Trump’s hush money trial might challenge their perception of the former president but still fall short of swaying votes come November.

“He’s a lot of things, but I never personally thought of him as a liar. I guess this would change my perception of him,” Gonzalez said after learning that Trump continues to cling to his innocence.

Gonzalez is excited about participating in his first national election but given the choice between President Joe Biden and Trump, he feels issues including immigration matter more.

“Out of all the other issues, this is still bad but it’s not enough to sway me to vote for Biden,” he explained.

RNC CHAIRMAN CALLS THE VERDICT PART OF AN ATTACK ON TRUMP

Donald Trump’s handpicked Republican Party chairman echoed the former president and presumptive GOP presidential nominee’s assessment of his felony conviction.

The verdict is part of a “campaign to weaponize the judicial system to attack President Trump,” Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Whatley said in a statement.

Whatley added a word-for-word echo of what Trump himself said outside the courtroom earlier Thursday after the jury rendered its guilty verdicts on 34 felony counts.

“The real verdict,” Whatley said, “will take place on November 5.”

Trump’s sentencing has been set just days before Whatley and his fellow Republicans convene in Milwaukee, to formally nominate Trump as their presidential nominee.

MANHATTAN DA SAYS JURORS MADE DECISION ON ‘EVIDENCE AND THE LAW’

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, standing in front of the trial prosecutors, told reporters: “The 12 everyday jurors vowed to make a decision based on the evidence and the law, and the evidence and the law alone.”

“Their deliberations led them to a unanimous conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant Donald J. Trump is guilty of 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree to conceal a scheme to corrupt the 2016 election,” he continued. “And while this defendant may be unlike any other in American history, we arrived at this trial and ultimately today in this verdict in the same manner as every other case that comes through the courtroom doors, by following the facts and the law and doing so without fear or favor.”

FLORIDA SUPPORTER: ‘I WOULD VOTE FOR HIM 20 TIMES’

MIAMI — A few Trump supporters in Miami arrived at the iconic Cuban restaurant Versailles, where Donald Trump made a stop a year ago after pleading not guilty in the classified documents case in Florida.

Supporters were waving Trump flags, while others were just stopping by or honking as they drove by to signal support for the former president and presumptive GOP nominee.

“This is so wrong. All of us Cubans stand with Donald Trump. This is so wrong,” said Michael Perez Ruiz, 47, who had arrived at the restaurant to order food. Perez said he still plans to support him in November. “I would vote for him 20 times,” he said.

Maria C. Gonzalez, a retired nurse, 67, said she wanted to show up to support Trump, who she thought made the country better.

“It was all arranged. It was not a fair trial,” she said. “I was not surprised. They don’t want him as president” she said referring to Democrats.

At one point two Trump supporters chased away an older man who confronted them saying he hoped Trump would be jailed soon. The three of them were arguing loudly on the street.

CHEERS AT ATLANTA BAR UPON READING OF THE VERDICT

ATLANTA — Reaction around the country to Donald Trump’s conviction largely seemed to track with partisan responses among political leaders in Washington.

At Atlanta’s Manuel’s Tavern, a popular liberal hangout near Jimmy Carter’s presidential library and the Carter Center, a small gathering of customers huddled at the bar to hear the verdicts.

They looked up at a television mounted next to a vintage portrait of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. As a news anchor relayed the verdicts, they cheered. Upon the 34th guilty verdict, one bartender rang the “tip bell” behind the bar.

One patron yelled profanity while calling Trump an “idiot.”

Soon, though, conversation turned to the fact that Trump has appeal options and still will be formally nominated by Republicans as their presidential nominee in July as he pursues them.

Outside the bar, Joan Marks, a 58-year-old Democrat, hailed the verdict but offered a firm prediction: “Get ready for a felonious president.”

HEAD OF NAACP CALLS VERDICT A ‘STEP TOWARD JUSTICE’

Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, called the verdict against Donald Trump “a monumental step toward justice for the American people.”

“Whether it’s an attempt to steal an election or overthrow our government, one thing has long been apparent — Donald Trump is unfit to represent American democracy,” Johnson said after the verdict was heard on Thursday.

Johnson, who leads the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, said the crimes that Trump has been convicted of ought to disqualify him as a candidate for the Oval Office.

“As Black Americans have been denied basic human rights due to less offensive crimes, any attempt to advance Donald Trump’s nomination for the presidency would be a gross advancement of white supremacist policy,” he said.

ARKANSAS’ CURRENT AND FORMER GOVERNORS HAD VERY DIFFERENT REACTIONS TO VERDICT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who served as Donald Trump’s White House press secretary and has been considered a potential contender to be his running mate, shortly after the verdict called his hush money trial a “politically-motivated sham trial.”

“The American people decide our elections,” Sanders posted on the social platform X. “Donald Trump will be our next president.”

Former Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination before dropping out earlier this year, later cautioned that the jury’s verdict should be respected.

“It is not easy to see a former President and the presumptive GOP nominee convicted of felony crimes; but the jury verdict should be respected,” Hutchinson posted on X. “An appeal is in order but let’s not diminish the significance of this verdict.”

TRUMP’S DJT STOCK DIPS

Shares of Trump Media & Technology Group, the owner of the social networking site Truth Social, slumped after Donald Trump’s guilty verdict was announced.

The shares, which trade under the symbol “DJT,” fell about 8% in after-hours trading Thursday as news of the verdict in his hush money case emerged. They have been extraordinarily volatile since the company’s debut in late March, frequently making double-digit percentage moves either higher or lower on a single day.

The shares peaked at nearly $80 in intraday trading on March 26. They closed regular trading Thursday at $51.84 before the verdict was announced.

MICHAEL COHEN REACTS

In a statement sent by text message on Thursday, Michael Cohen said: “Today is an important day for accountability and the rule of law. While it has been a difficult journey for me and my family, the truth always matters.”

He thanked his attorneys “for their invaluable guidance and support.”

UNLESS HE’S SENT TO PRISON, TRUMP CAN STILL VOTE

Donald Trump may have been convicted of a felony and reside in Florida, a state notorious for restricting the voting rights of felons, but he can still vote as long as he stays out of prison in New York state.

That’s because Florida defers to other states’ disenfranchisement rules for residents convicted of out-of-state felonies. In Trump’s case, New York law only removes their right to vote when incarcerated. Once they’re out of prison, their rights are automatically restored — even if they’re on parole, per a 2021 law passed by the state’s Democratic legislature.

“If a Floridian’s voting rights are restored in the state of conviction, they are restored under Florida law,” Blair Bowie of the Campaign Legal Center wrote in a post explaining the state of law, noting that people without Trump’s legal resources are often confused by Florida’s complex rules.

IN OVERFLOW ROOM AS THE VERDICT WAS READ

It was very quiet in the courtroom and an overflow room right before the verdict in Donald Trump’s criminal trial was read.

Due to the anonymous jury, monitors in the overflow room were off while the verdict was read, so members of the media and members of the public who were there to observe could not see Trump’s face as the first “guilty” was read aloud.

A court officer had warned the overflow crowd not to make any outbursts, but a hushed gasp could be heard in the room. The video feed resumed after the last charge was read aloud, showing Trump sitting with an expressionless stare as history was made.

OUTSIDE CROWDS REACT TO TRUMP’S GUILTY VERDICT

A group of around 100 Trump supporters who have gathered daily near the courthouse in lower Manhattan to watch the former president’s motorcade pass murmured in disbelief as news of the verdict in his hush money trial appeared on their phones.

A few shouted in anger. At a park across the street where small groups of people have been gathering daily to protest, Trump’s opponents let out cheers.

The cheering from the street could be heard all the way up on the 15th floor of the courthouse, in the hallway, as the decision was being read.

TRUMP ADDRESSES REPORTERS OUTSIDE COURTROOM

Donald Trump addressed reporters outside the courtroom following the reading of the guilty verdict in his hush money trial.

The former president called the verdict a “disgrace” and said the trial was rigged. He said he’s “an innocent man.”

“We’ll keep fighting,” Trump said. “We’ll fight to the end and we’ll win.”

BIDEN’S COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR REACTS TO VERDICT

President Joe Biden’s campaign sought to keep the focus on the November election even as it said Thursday that former President Donald Trump’s criminal conviction showed that “that no one is above the law.”

Communications director Michael Tyler said in a statement: “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 himself has yet to weigh in on the verdict. He is spending the night at his family’s beach house in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, after marking the anniversary of his son Beau’s death earlier Thursday at church in Wilmington.

Biden’s campaign has tried for months to remind Americans of what it sees as the peril of another Trump term in office, rather than the personal jeopardy faced by the former president in court.

“A second Trump term means chaos, ripping away Americans’ freedoms and fomenting political violence — and the American people will reject it this November,” Tyler said.

CONGRESSIONAL REPUBLICANS SWIFTLY CONDEMN VERDICT

Trump allies released a flurry of statements just minutes after the jury’s decision in Donald Trump’s hush money case was announced.

“The verdict in New York is a complete travesty that makes a mockery of our system of justice,” Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who is a potential vice president pick, posted on the social platform X.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican who is second in line to the presidency, in a statement called the trial “a purely political exercise, not a legal one.” Johnson added: “President Trump will rightfully appeal this absurd verdict—and he WILL WIN!”

Ahead of the jury announcing a verdict, one Republican urged people to respect the legal process.

Larry Hogan, the former governor of Maryland who is now running for the Senate, wrote on X that “all leaders—regardless of party—must not pour fuel on the fire with more toxic partisanship. We must reaffirm what has made this nation great: the rule of law.”

SENTENCING SCHEDULED FOR JULY

Judge Juan M. Merchan has scheduled Donald Trump’s sentencing in his hush money case for July 11, just days before Republicans are set to select him as the 2024 presidential nominee.

JUDGE DENIES DEFENSE’S POST-VERDICT REQUEST TO ACQUIT TRUMP

Defense lawyers in Donald Trump’s hush money trial moved for an acquittal of the former president after the jury had delivered its verdict.

Defense lawyer Todd Blanche told Judge Juan M. Merchan: “We move for a judgment of acquittal.”

“There’s no basis and no way this jury could have reached a verdict without accepting the testimony of Michael Cohen,” Blanche said.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass rebutted the assertion, saying “We, of course, disagree with Mr. Blanche’s characterization of Michael Cohen’s testimony.”

Merchan denied the motion.

JURY FINDS TRUMP GUILTY ON ALL CHARGES

The jury in Donald Trump’s hush money trial has found him guilty on all of the charges against him.

A LAST-MINUTE CHANGE OF PLANS

The “hurry up and wait” beat of jury deliberations in Donald Trump’s hush money trial has given way to anticipatory tension — and some surprise. The jury transmitted the news that it reached a verdict by note to Judge Juan M. Merchan at 4:20 p.m. on Thursday, just few minutes after he’d announced to the courtroom — minus the jury — that court would adjourn at 4:30 p.m. barring a verdict.

Merchan said his plan was to allow jurors to keep working until that time and then send them home to start fresh on Friday.

Moments later, that plan went out the window. The verdict will be read in court soon.

JURY REACHE
S A VERDICT AND REQUESTS EXTRA TIME TO FINALIZE FORMS

The jury in Donald Trump’s hush money case has reached a verdict. It asked for and additional 30 minutes to fill out the form.

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The Latest | Trump becomes first former US president to be convicted of felonies