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The potential impact of Former US President Donald Trump’s convictions in hush money case on the US election

By Yagiz Efe Parmaksiz
May 31, 2024 12:33 AM

Trump’s conviction sparks debate on its impact as the nation gears up for a contentious election, with implications reaching far beyond the courtroom

A New York jury convicted former President Donald Trump on all charges in his hush money case Thursday, marking a significant development just five months before the election in which he aims to recapture the White House.

Trump, 77, was found guilty on each of the 34 charges of falsifying business records related to a payment intended to silence porn star Stormy Daniels. The conviction makes Trump the first former U.S. president to face criminal trial and sets a historic precedent.

The verdict does not preclude Trump from running for the presidency again, even if Judge Juan Merchan were to sentence him to prison time, which legal experts suggest is unlikely given his status as a first-time offender.

Trump, who is expected to appeal, remained silent as the verdict was read, sitting still with his shoulders dipping.

Following the verdict, Trump took to his social media platform, Truth Social, to vehemently denounce the trial proceedings. He criticized Judge Juan Merchan, claiming the jury instructions were “unfair, misleading, inaccurate, and unconstitutional.” Trump alleged that the instructions were deliberately confusing and argued that there was no crime to be judged. He also accused the judge of preventing him from presenting evidence, including his tax records and legal expenses, due to an “unconstitutional gag order.”

In his posts, Trump labeled the trial as a “highly political, unconstitutional, and election interfering witch hunt,” asserting that his civil rights had been violated. He described the trial as an act of “election interference” and claimed that the nation was being mocked globally due to the proceedings. Trump maintained his innocence and continued to position himself as a victim of political persecution.

As he left the court, Trump declared that the “real verdict” would be decided by the American people in the upcoming November election. “This was a rigged, disgraceful trial. The real verdict is going to be November 5, by the people. And they know what happened here, and everybody knows what happened here,” Trump said. “I’m a very innocent man, and it’s OK. I’m fighting for our country. I’m fighting for our constitution.”

The trial concluded just weeks before the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, where Trump is expected to receive the party’s formal nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden on November 5.

The jury of 12 deliberated for over 11 hours across two days, following a five-week trial held in a Manhattan courtroom. Trump was found guilty of reimbursing his lawyer, Michael Cohen, for a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, testified in detail about an alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Trump, who was married at the time.

Prosecutors argued that the payment and subsequent cover-up were part of a broader scheme to prevent voters from learning about Trump’s actions, thus influencing the election’s outcome. Trump’s defense contended that his actions were part of the democratic process, arguing that he did nothing wrong.

The trial has significantly distracted Trump from his campaign to unseat Biden, although he has leveraged the media attention by delivering daily speeches outside the courtroom, where he has claimed to be a victim of political persecution.

Republican U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson described Donald Trump’s conviction on all charges in his hush money case as “shameful.”

“Today is a shameful day in American history. Democrats cheered as they convicted the leader of the opposing party on ridiculous charges, predicated on the testimony of a disbarred, convicted felon. This was a purely political exercise, not a legal one,” he said in a statement.

In contrast, U.S. President Joe Biden responded to the conviction by emphasizing the importance of the upcoming election. In a tweet, he stated, “There’s only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: At the ballot box. Donate to our campaign today.” Biden’s remarks highlight the political stakes and mobilize his supporters ahead of the November election.

President Joe Biden’s campaign, in addition, emphasized the principle of equality under the law. “In New York today, we saw that no one is above the law,” said Michael Tyler, the communications director for the Biden-Harris campaign.

Despite the verdict, Tyler underscored that the ultimate decision lies with the American people. “But today’s verdict does not change the fact that the American people face a simple reality. There is still only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: at the ballot box.” This statement reflects the Biden campaign’s focus on the upcoming election as the definitive arbiter of Trump’s political fate.

The identities of the 12 jurors were kept secret, a measure usually reserved for cases involving organized crime or violent defendants.

Despite earlier hints, Trump opted not to testify in his own defense, maintaining his denial of any sexual encounter with Daniels during a 2006 celebrity golf tournament.

As a result of the conviction, Trump faces possible prison time or probation. Although he could theoretically receive up to four years in jail for each count of falsifying business records, it is considered unlikely.

An appeal process could extend for months. If Trump were to win the presidency, he would not be able to pardon himself, as the charges were brought by the state of New York, not the federal government. Only the governor of New York could issue a pardon in this case.

In addition to this case, Trump faces federal and state charges related to attempts to overturn the 2020 election results and the retention of classified documents after leaving office.

Potential impact of Trump’s conviction on the US election

The polarizing nature of the case has fueled intense debate and speculation across the political spectrum. Despite the gravity of the charges, analysts predict that the impact on public opinion may be less significant than expected. “We live in a hyper-partisan system where voters often prioritize negative partisanship over policy issues,” remarked political scientist Nicholas Higgins. “Given this context, the jury’s verdict may not drastically alter perceptions of Trump among the electorate.”

Trump’s steadfast support base and consistent poll numbers throughout the trial suggest resilience in the face of adversity. Despite facing felony charges related to falsifying business records, Trump remains neck-and-neck with President Joe Biden in national polling, maintaining narrow leads in key swing states. However, the lingering question remains: will a conviction sway undecided voters or those on the fence?

While some argue that even a marginal decline in Trump’s support could tip the scales in a close election, others caution against overstating the trial’s impact. “Although the conviction may energize Trump’s base, it risks alienating crucial independent voters,” noted Jared Carter, a professor at Vermont Law and Graduate School. “In the end, it may prove to be a net negative for Trump’s reelection prospects.”

As the nation braces for a contentious election season, the repercussions of Trump’s conviction reverberate far beyond the courtroom. With the verdict likely to resonate with voters, the stage is set for a showdown at the ballot box in November. “In such a closely contested race, even minor shifts in voter sentiment could have significant consequences,” emphasized political analyst Ray Brescia.

Despite varying opinions on the trial’s significance, one thing is clear: Trump’s conviction has injected a new layer of complexity into an already turbulent political landscape. As the nation grapples with the aftermath, the stakes of the upcoming election have never been higher. With each passing day, the countdown to November continues, and the world watches with bated breath to see how this unprecedented chapter in American politics will unfold.

Source: Newsroom

Last Updated:  Jun 3, 2024 5:04 PM