Trump’s Guilty Verdict

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The May 30 guilty verdict in former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial in New York was historic. Trump is now the first former president to be put on trial and convicted of a felony.

The speed with which the jury reached its verdict was surprising — particularly given the novel combination of factual allegations and legal theories the prosecutors had to make to elevate their charges to felony counts and the complexity of the instructions the jury was told to follow in evaluating the charges. The jury took less than 11 hours to get that done.

Reactions to the verdict were predictable: Glee and high-fives on the left, derision of the process and promises to continue the fight on the right and a slack-jawed solemnity in the center that prompted practical questions about the verdict.

The overriding question, of course, is whether the verdict will make a difference in the November presidential showdown between Trump and President Joe Biden. The short answer is that no one knows.

But not knowing has never stopped the prognosticators. As a result, there is no shortage of projections about the verdict’s impact on the November vote, with opinions supported or contradicted by competing poll results that paint a confusing picture of voters’ reactions to the jury’s decision.

Most analysts agree that Trump’s core supporters will remain loyal no matter what happens in the New York case, or elsewhere. And they agree that Trump’s current lead in most polls relies on voters who have traditionally supported Democrats, including younger and nonwhite voters. How those voters react to the verdict and ensuing developments over the next five months might determine the November result.

In the meantime, political calendars are all marked with the much-anticipated June 27 televised debate between Biden and Trump. That will be followed by Trump’s July 11 sentencing in the New York case and then, just four days later, the July 15 commencement of the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, at which Trump will be nominated for president by his party.

We are in for a wild political ride. Trump and his supporters will continue to berate the legal process, the players and the result, and will bemoan Trump’s claimed victimhood. The Biden team will hammer on the character flaws of Trump and the perceived threat to democracy of another Trump presidential term. And both sides will weave in familiar arguments on many of the policy issues that concern voters.

While we are in unchartered political territory, the legal landscape is clear. As the campaign proceeds, we cannot allow inflammatory political rhetoric to diminish respect for the judiciary and the legal process. We are and remain a nation of laws.

Donald Trump will have every opportunity to challenge the sufficiency, legality and propriety of his criminal conviction. That is what the appeal process is all about. If Trump is correct, he will be vindicated.

If not, Trump and his supporters must still respect the rule of law, despite their displeasure with the result.

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