News (USA)

Donald Trump found guilty on all 34 charges in hush money criminal case, a stain on his campaign

May 28, 2024; New York, NY: Former President Donald Trump sits in court before closing arguments for his criminal trial
May 28, 2024; New York, NY: Former President Donald Trump sits in court before closing arguments for his criminal trial Photo: Spencer Platt/Pool via USA TODAY NETWORK

A New York jury has found former President Donald Trump guilty on all 34 criminal counts in connection to a scheme to falsify business records regarding hush money payments his 2016 presidential campaign made to cover up his alleged extramarital affair with adult video actress Stormy Daniels.

The verdict makes Trump the first-ever U.S. president to be convicted of criminal charges.

“This was a disgrace, this was a rigged trial by a conflicted judge who was corrupt,” Trump said outside the courtroom shortly after the verdict was announced. “It’s a rigged trial, a disgrace, they wouldn’t give us a venue change… this was a rigged, disgraceful trial. The real verdict is going to be November 5th by the people.”

Trump will likely appeal the verdict, as he accused prosecutors, the judge, and President Joe Biden of all rigging the case against him in advance. The trial will now enter its sentencing phase, with a sentencing hearing scheduled for July 11, four days before the Republican National Convention is expected to formally nominate Trump as the party’s presidential candidate. Trump will likely use the conviction as campaign fodder, claiming it as part of a conspiracy to stop him from being re-elected in November.

Trump was convicted of Class E felony charges, which are the least severe under New York law. Each charge is punishable by up to four years in prison, though the judge will likely consider Trump’s 77 years of age and lack of previous criminal convictions when deciding his punishment. Possible other consequences may also involve at-home imprisonment, fines, restitution, probation, or other conditions.

However, the judge’s sentence may also take Trump’s behavior during the trial into account, CNBC reported. Trump violated the judge’s gag order 10 times during the trial by making public statements against jurors and witnesses.

“The last thing I want to do is put you in jail,” Judge Juan Merchan said on May 6 while addressing Trump’s violation of the gag order. “You are the former president of the United States and possibly the next president, as well. There are many reasons why incarceration is truly a last resort for me.”

Even if Trump appeals, the new trial could take months or years to occur, meaning that Trump won’t be able to overturn his conviction before the 2024 election. A recent PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll found that 67% of voters won’t be swayed by the verdict. However, 17% of voters in the poll said a guilty verdict would make them less likely to vote for Trump. This percentage could be large enough to make Trump lose crucial swing states in November.

Former Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) criticized Trump’s continued claims of a rigged trial, writing via X, “To save himself, [Trump] is trying to kill Americans’ faith in our system of justice, turning us against judges, prosecutors & any police who in doing their duty get in his way. This matters way more than the trial itself.”

The Trump hush money trial explained.

Trump and the Trump Organization were accused of hiding its hush money payments, made in 2016 and 2017, to silence potentially unflattering stories about Trump during the 2016 election. Trump and his organization misrepresented these payments to hide their breaking of federal campaign finance laws.

While falsifying business records is typically a misdemeanor offense in New York state law, the jury decided that Trump did so to cover up campaign finance violations, making the offenses federal crimes. Because the falsification occurred to hide another crime, prosecutors upgraded the state charges from misdemeanors to felonies.

Court documents alleged that Trump and his organization paid $130,000 to adult video actress Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about their alleged extramarital affair while Trump was married to his current wife, now-former First Lady Melania Trump. Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, established a shell company — Resolution Consultants, LLC — to make the Daniels payment seem unconnected to Trump.

Trump organized two other hush payments through American Media, Inc. (AMI), which owns The National Enquirer and other publications. AMI paid $125,000 to Playboy model Karen McDougal to keep her from alleging her own extramarital affair with Trump.

AMI also paid $30,000 to stop an unnamed Trump Tower doorman from claiming he had proof about a child Trump had out of wedlock. AMI “later concluded that the [doorman’s] story was not true,” but it still paid him to stay silent until after the election, court documents allege. AMI also allegedly misrepresented its payment to McDougal on its company ledgers.

AMI paid McDougal and the doorman money to “not publicize damaging allegations” against Trump in order to “influence” the 2016 election, court documents state — a media legal arrangement sometimes referred to as “capture and kill.”

After winning the 2016 election, Trump allegedly met AMI CEO David Pecker inside Trump Tower in Manhattan to invite him to the inauguration and a White House dinner as thanks for his silencing of McDougal’s and the doorman’s stories.

To repay Cohen for handling Daniels’s payment, Trump and the Trump Organization’s then-CFO Allen Weisselberg allegedly asked Cohen to submit a $35,000 invoice each month throughout 2017 as part of a “retainer agreement” and for “legal services rendered.”

“In fact, there was no such retainer agreement and [Cohen] was not being paid for services rendered in any month of 2017,” the court documents state. Rather, Cohen’s invoices were just reimbursements for the $130,000 he paid to Daniels and an additional $290,000 to reward Cohen for his work, court documents allege.

Trump allegedly signed off on each check from the Trump Organization to Cohen. Each check counts as a falsified business record, prosecutors say. In August 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance by mischaracterizing the Trump Organization’s payments. Cohen’s admission, prosecutors say, means that Trump essentially falsified business records to help his lawyer violate federal campaign finance law.

Don't forget to share:

Support vital LGBTQ+ journalism

Reader contributions help keep LGBTQ Nation free, so that queer people get the news they need, with stories that mainstream media often leaves out. Can you contribute today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated

Protesters enter New Hampshire capitol & demand governor protect trans kids

Previous article

Was Jasmine Crockett’s “butch body” clapback to Marjorie Taylor Greene homophobic?

Next article