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Donald Trump found guilty on all counts in hush money case

Former president Donald Trump was convicted on Thursday by a New York jury on 34 felony charges for falsifying business records, making him the first former president in U.S. history to be convicted of a crime.

Trump sat sullenly looking down at the table before him as the verdict was read Thursday afternoon, bringing an end to a weeks-long trial that dominated headlines and led to a historic conviction that will be wielded against the presumptive GOP nominee throughout the rest of his 2024 campaign.

Addressing reporters outside the courthouse after the trial let out, Trump called the proceedings “rigged” and vowed to pursue an appeal to rectify what he sees as a grave miscarriage of justice.

“We will fight for our constitution. This is far from over,” Trump said.

Over the past six weeks at the state courthouse in lower Manhattan, the prosecution sought to demonstrate that Trump, his former fixer and attorney Michael Cohen, and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker participated in a conspiracy to defraud voters ahead of the 2016 presidential election by paying off women to conceal embarrassing stories about the then-presidential candidate’s sexual history, without properly recording those payments as campaign-finance expenses.

Trump’s defense team, meanwhile, countered that the hush-money payment to Daniels and the catch-and-kill scheme carried out by Pecker did not qualify as campaign expenses and were unrelated to Trump’s political ambitions.

The jury began deliberating on Wednesday after receiving instructions from Judge Juan Merchan about the relevant legal definitions and considerations. The case is complicated by the fact that the prosecution was tasked with proving that Trump falsified business records in order to conceal an underlying crime, which they argue was a conspiracy to defraud the American people.

Merchan set the sentencing hearing for July 11, four days before the Republican National Convention begins. Trump faces up to four years in prison, though most legal observers agree that he will more than likely be placed on probation. Merchan will be able to dictate the terms of Trump’s sentence, and his decision could have a major impact on Trump’s ability to campaign.

The ability to brand Trump a convicted felon will likely become a central feature of President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign, but it remains to be seen whether Trump’s charges will resonate deeply with voters.

Daniels alleges she and Trump had a sexual encounter in 2006, a claim Trump denies. She testified during the trial and gave graphic details of alleged sexual intercourse between the two.

Cohen is a disbarred former attorney who plead guilty to financial crimes and perjury, and he was the prosecution’s star witness against Trump. Cohen implicated Trump in the plan to pay off Daniels and reimburse him through a series of payments classified as legal expenses.

The defense cast doubt on Cohen’s credibility given his history of lies and prominent turn against his old boss. At one point during his cross-examination, Cohen admitted to stealing funds from the Trump Organization.

The trial’s first witness, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, testified about an agreement between himself, Cohen, and Trump to help the Trump campaign by killing negative stories. Prosecutors portrayed the “catch-and-kill” arrangement and the Daniels payment as an effort by Trump to suppress damaging information during the 2016 election cycle.

Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg and his team of prosecutors pursued the case against Trump in front of Judge Merchan. The prosecution relied on an expansive legal theory to expand the business-records charges to felonies, arguing the falsifications were used to cover up alleged campaign-finance crimes, namely hush-money payments designed to help Trump’s electoral prospects. However, those federal campaign finance crimes are not being pursued by federal prosecutors, and the prosecution did not discuss the underlying crimes until the closing argument took place on Tuesday.

Bragg is an elected Democrat and Merchan previously donated to the Biden campaign. One of Bragg’s prosecutors previously received payments from the Democratic National Committee and another donated to the Biden campaign. Similarly, Merchan’s daughter is a Democratic strategist whose clients have fundraised off the Trump prosecution.

Throughout the trial, Trump and his Republican allies accused Bragg and Merchan of waging a political prosecution against him to interfere in the 2024 presidential election. Merchan’s gag order limited Trump’s ability to criticize certain individuals connected to the criminal trial.

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