Donald Trump is convicted of a felony. Here’s how that affects the 2024 presidential race

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What you should know about Donald Trump’s conviction in the hush money trial

NEW YORK: The conviction of Donald Trump on 34 charges marks the end of the historic hush money trial against the former president, but the battle over the case is far from over.
Now comes the verdict and the prospect of a prison sentence. A lengthy appeals process is ahead. And in the meantime, the likely Republican presidential candidate has to deal with three more criminal cases and an election campaign that could potentially bring him back to the White House.
After more than nine hours of deliberations over two days, the jury in Manhattan found Trump guilty of falsifying business records. The case revolved around the payment of hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Trump angrily called the trial a “disgrace” and told reporters he was an “innocent man.”
Some important findings from the jury’s decision:
Prison sentence?
The big question now is whether Trump will go to prison. The answer is uncertain. Judge Juan M. Merchan has scheduled the sentencing for July 11, just days before the Republicans officially nominate him for president.
The charge of falsifying business records is classified as a Class E felony in New York, the lowest level of crime in the state. It is punishable by up to four years in prison, but the sentence ultimately rests with the judge and there is no guarantee he will impose a statute of limitations on Trump.
It’s unclear how much the judge will consider the political and logistical complexities involved in jailing a former president who is running to reclaim the White House. Potential penalties include a fine or probation. And it’s possible the judge will allow Trump to avoid serving a sentence until he has exhausted all appeals.
The conviction does not prevent Trump from continuing his campaign. Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump, who serves as co-chair of the Republican National Committee, said in an interview with Fox News Channel on Thursday that if Trump is convicted and sentenced to house arrest, he will hold virtual rallies and campaign events.
“We have to play with the cards we’ve been dealt,” she said, according to an interview transcript.
Opportunities for appointment

After conviction, Trump can appeal the verdict before a state appeals panel and possibly the state’s highest court. Trump’s lawyers have already laid the groundwork for an appeal by objecting to the charges and verdicts at trial.
The defense accused the judge of bias, citing the work of his daughter, who runs a law firm whose clients have included President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and other Democrats. The judge denied the defense’s request to recuse himself from the case, saying he was confident in his “ability to be fair and impartial.”
Trump’s lawyers could also challenge the judge’s decision to limit the testimony of a potential defense expert witness on appeal. The defense wanted to subpoena Bradley Smith, a Republican law professor who served on the Federal Election Commission, to refute prosecutors’ claims that the hush money payments constituted campaign finance violations.
But the defense ultimately didn’t let him testify after the judge ruled that while he could provide general background on the FEC, he couldn’t interpret how federal campaign finance laws apply to the facts of Trump’s case or comment on whether Trump’s alleged actions violated those laws. Expert testimony on legal issues often carries safeguards because it’s the job of a judge — not an expert hired by one side or the other — to educate jurors on the applicable laws.
The defense could also argue that the jury was wrongly given some graphic testimony from porn star Stormy Daniels about her alleged sexual encounter with him in 2006. The defense had unsuccessfully pushed for a mistrial because prosecutors tricked Daniels into providing the tawdry details. Defense attorney Todd Blanche argued that Daniels’ description of a power imbalance with the older, larger Trump was a “dog whistle for rape,” irrelevant to the charges at hand and “the kind of testimony you can’t come back from.”
A weak defense
The former president’s lawyers called just two witnesses in a sparse defense, including lawyer and former federal prosecutor Robert Costello. The defense sought to use Costello to discredit the prosecution’s star witness, Michael Cohen, the Trump lawyer-turned-adversary who directly implicated Trump in the hush-money plot. But the move could prove devastating, opening the door for prosecutors to question Costello about an alleged pressure campaign aimed at keeping Cohen with Trump after the FBI raided Cohen’s property in April 2018.
While Costello supported the defense by testifying that Cohen denied to him that Trump knew anything about the $130,000 hush money payment to Daniels, Costello had few answers when prosecutor Susan Hoffinger confronted him with emails he had sent to Cohen in which he repeatedly hinted at his close ties to Trump ally Rudy Giuliani. In one email, Costello wrote to Cohen, “Sleep well tonight. You have friends in high places,” and said there had been “some very positive comments about you from the White House.”
Cohen remained largely calm on the witness stand in the face of heated cross-examination by the defense, which sought to portray him as a liar with a vendetta against his former boss. The harsh, belligerent Costello, on the other hand, irritated the judge – at times in full view of the jury – but continued to speak and roll his eyes despite objections. At one point, after sending the jury out, the judge became angry, saying that Costello was staring him down. Merchan then briefly cleared the room of reporters and scolded Costello, warning him that if he misbehaved again, he would be removed from the courtroom and his testimony would be struck out.
Laying the foundation for a loss
While Trump and his campaign team exuded confidence, they spent weeks trying to undermine the case ahead of a possible conviction, repeatedly calling the entire system “rigged” – a term he also used to describe the election he lost to President Joe Biden in 2020.
“Mother Teresa could not refute these allegations,” he said on Wednesday, referring to the Catholic nun and saint as the jury began its deliberations.
Trump has slammed the judge, insulted Bragg and complained about members of the prosecution team, trying to portray the case as nothing more than a politically motivated witch hunt.
Trump’s criticism also extended to decisions apparently made by his own legal team, complaining that the prosecution had “failed to call many key witnesses” – even though his side had opted to call only two witnesses.
He also complained that a news blackout prevented him from speaking about certain aspects of the case, but chose not to testify. Rather than testify in the case – and face the associated risks of perjury and cross-examination – Trump has focused on the court of public opinion and voters who will ultimately decide his fate.
What it means for the election
In a deeply divided America, it is unclear whether Trump’s once-imaginable status as a convicted felon will have any impact on the election at all.
Leading strategists in both parties are convinced that Trump still has a good chance of defeating Biden, even though he now faces prison time and three criminal cases pending. In the short term at least, there were signs that the guilty verdict helped unite the disparate factions of the Republican Party, with GOP officials from across the political spectrum rallying behind their controversial presumptive presidential nominee and his campaign team expecting a flood of donations.
Some polls have been conducted on the likelihood of a guilty verdict, although such hypothetical scenarios are notoriously difficult to predict. A recent ABC News/Ipsos poll found that only 4 percent of Trump’s supporters said they would withdraw their support if he were convicted of a crime, although another 16 percent said they would reconsider.

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