An angry Trump pledges to appeal ‘this scam’ conviction as Republicans vow resistance

Republished from Kentucky Lantern


WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump, now a convicted felon, vowed to launch an appeal based “on many things” he considered unfair during his New York trial, he said Friday in the lobby of Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan.

Meanwhile Friday, legal and political analysts predicted he will spend little if any time in jail depending on the outcome of that appeal, fundraising among supportive Republicans appeared to surge and eight GOP members of the U.S. Senate pledged they will not support any Democratic priorities or nominations.

The reactions came as Americans continued to digest the news that on Thursday, a jury in Lower Manhattan found the Republican Party’s presumed 2024 presidential nominee guilty on 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree, a felony in New York.

Kentucky Republicans stand by Trump, blame Democrats for former president’s convictions

The roughly seven-week proceeding marked the first-ever criminal trial of a former U.S. president.

“We’re going to be appealing this scam,” Trump said at his late-morning press conference, referring to New York Justice Juan Merchan as a “tyrant.”

Over about 30 minutes of often misleading or false comments delivered in his familiar stream-of-consciousness style that jumped from topic to topic, Trump complained about aspects of the trial, said the case shouldn’t have been prosecuted at all and made campaign-style appeals on immigration and crime.

Trump has centered his public relations defense on the idea that the prosecution was politically motivated, often blaming the Biden administration, and he repeated the theme throughout his Friday remarks.

“If they can do this to me, they can do this to anyone,” he said.

President Joe Biden said Friday that Trump “was given every opportunity to defend himself.”

“It was a state case, not a federal case. It was heard by a jury of 12 citizens, 12 Americans, 12 people like you, like millions of Americans who’ve served on juries. This jury was chosen the same way every jury in America is chosen. It was a process that Donald Trump’s attorney was part of,” Biden said from the White House before delivering remarks on the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Biden said Trump now has the opportunity “as he should” to appeal, just like anyone else who is tried in the U.S.

“That’s how the American system of justice works,” Biden said. “It’s reckless, it’s dangerous, it’s irresponsible for anyone to say this was rigged just because they don’t like the verdict.”

Jail time?

Trump told the crowd Friday morning he could spend “187 years” in jail for being found guilty of falsifying business records. It was not clear how he arrived at that number.

Most observers of his trial and the New York justice system disagree with that estimate.

Merchan set Trump’s sentencing for July 11 at 10 a.m. Eastern, just four days before the Republican National Convention kicks off in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where the GOP will officially nominate Trump for president in November’s election.

Trump is convicted of class E felonies, the lowest level felony in New York state, and each carries the possibility of probation to up to four years in prison.

Any incarceration sentence up to a year would be served in the city’s Rikers Island jail or another local facility. Incarceration beyond that time frame would be served at a state facility.

“If that jail sentence happens, it probably will be less than a year,” said Norm Eisen, former White House special counsel in the Obama administration, who has been commenting on the indictment and trial for months.

Eisen spoke during a virtual press conference hosted by the Defend Democracy Project.

New York state law experts say Merchan may not be inclined to imprison a former, and possibly future, U.S. president. And, if he sentences Trump to any length of incarceration, it will likely be stayed — a temporary stop to the action —pending appeal.

Trump could remain free on bail conditions set by the court, or no bail conditions, subject to a decision by the appeals court and potentially any other review if an appeals judge sends the case to the state’s highest court.

“When there is a stay pending appeal, generally, the process is expedited more quickly than it would be if the defendant was at liberty and there was no stay. But even so, this is going to go beyond the election,” said retired New York Supreme Court Judge Michael Obus at the press conference with Eisen.

Appeal strategy?

While Trump said Friday morning he plans to appeal the verdict based on “many things,” legal observers speculate his team’s approach may come down to a few options.

In New York, falsifying a business record is illegal in the first degree when the “intent to defraud includes an intent to commit another crime or to aid or conceal the commission thereof.”

While the jurors had to unanimously agree on an intent to commit another crime, they did not have to agree unanimously on what that underlying crime was, according to Merchan’s instructions to the jury prior to deliberations.

Merchan said jurors could consider three options for the other crime: violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act; falsification of other business records; or, violation of tax laws.

Obus said a “non-frivolous argument” that Trump’s team might use is that one of those underlying crimes was a federal, not a state crime.

“That’s the kind of argument that we might see on appeal — the argument being that New York courts don’t have the authority to prosecute the case with that being the object crime because it’s a federal crime,” Obus said. “I don’t think that’ll be successful.”

In addition to the challenge regarding federal election law, Shane T. Stansbury of Duke Law told States Newsroom in an interview Friday that he expects to see Trump’s legal team challenge evidentiary issues.

“For example, I would expect that the defense would make a claim that the salacious testimony by Stormy Daniels about the details of her sexual encounter with Donald Trump was unfairly prejudicial,” Stansbury said.

Also, Trump’s lawyers might challenge the judge’s decision to strike from defense attorney Todd Blanche’s closing statement a plea he made to the jury, asking them to not send Trump “to prison.”

The charge against Trump could, or could not, result in prison time.

“You can imagine the defense saying that that correction may have prejudiced the jury. Now, I should say that those kinds of evidentiary issues are a much steeper climb for the defense,” Stansbury said.

‘A legal expense’

Trump remains under a gag order imposed by Merchan in March to keep the former president from further attacking court staff and potential witnesses online.

Trump violated the order 10 times, leading Merchan to fine him $9,000 on April 30, and again $1,000 on May 6.

During his comments Friday morning, Trump complained of having to pay “thousands of dollars” because of his “nasty gag order.”

Still, Trump spent several minutes during his remarks talking about one of the prosecution’s star witnesses, his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

According to testimony and document evidence presented during trial, Cohen wired $130,000 of his own money to porn star Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 presidential election to silence her about an alleged affair with Trump. Trump then reimbursed Cohen the following year under the guise of “legal expenses.”

Prosecutors never should have brought the case accusing him of falsifying business records, Trump said.

The payments to Cohen were for Cohen to create a nondisclosure agreement with Daniels and secure her signature, which is legal, Trump said Friday. That was a legal service, and the payments were properly recorded that way, he said.

“I paid a lawyer a legal expense,” he said.

“The whole thing is legal expense was marked down as legal expense,” he said. “Think of it: This is the crime that I committed that I’m supposed to go to jail for 187 years for.”

Trump, who wouldn’t say Cohen’s name Friday because of the gag order, said Cohen was not a “fixer” as he is often described, but a lawyer in good standing.

“By the way, this was a highly qualified lawyer,” Trump said. “Now I’m not allowed to use his name because of the gag order. But, you know, he’s a sleazebag. Everybody knows that. Took me a while to find out. But he was effective. He did work. But he wasn’t a fixer. He was a lawyer.”

Trump said he wanted to testify at his trial, but was advised not to by his lawyers.

Attacks on Biden 

Trump pivoted nearly immediately after his remarks began to campaign-style attacks on Biden’s administration and the anti-immigration positions that comprise Trump’s most consistent policy message since his political career began in 2015.

He focused on immigrants from predominantly non-white countries and made false claims that many had been institutionalized in prison and mental hospitals.

“Millions and millions of people are flowing in from all parts of the world, not just South America, from Africa, from Asia and from the Middle East, and they’re coming in from jails and prisons, and they’re coming in from mental institutions and insane asylums,” he said. “And we have a president and a group of fascists that don’t want to do anything about it.”

He also called crime “rampant in New York.” He added that Biden wanted to quadruple taxes and “make it impossible for you to get a car,” neither of which are based on Biden’s actual policy positions.

In a statement, Biden campaign spokesperson Michael Tyler called Trump’s remarks “unhinged.”

“America just witnessed a confused, desperate, and defeated Donald Trump ramble about his own personal grievances and lie about the American justice system, leaving anyone watching with one obvious conclusion: This man cannot be president of the United States,” Tyler wrote. “Unhinged by his 2020 election loss and spiraling from his criminal convictions, Trump is consumed by his own thirst for revenge and retribution.”

GOP convention in less than two months

The Republican National Convention begins July 15. The Republican National Committee, which called Thursday’s verdict “rigged,” did not immediately respond to questions Friday about whether it will adjust plans in the event Trump is placed under any restrictions during his July 11 sentencing.

Trump encouraged supporters to continue backing his campaign as a response to the verdict, calling Nov. 5 – Election Day – “the most important day in the history of our country.”

Throughout his remarks Friday, he touted an online poll conducted by J.L. Partners and published in the conservative British tabloid The Daily Mail on Friday that showed Trump’s approval rating gained points after the verdict.

There were signs that showed Republican support, at least, consolidated even more behind Trump following the verdict.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign organization for U.S. Senate Republicans, said it had its highest fundraising day of the cycle Thursday, bringing in $360,000 in donations that the group directly attributed to the verdict in Manhattan.

Other official GOP channels, including the Republican National Committee social media accounts, echoed Trump’s message that the former president was the victim of a political prosecution and predicted the conviction would push voters toward Trump.

Elected Republicans throughout the country continued Friday to almost universally reject the verdict and defend Trump.

A group of eight U.S. Senate Republicans – Mike Lee of Utah, J.D. Vance of Ohio, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, Eric Schmitt of Missouri, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio of Florida and Roger Marshall of Kansas – signed a letter Friday pledging to increase their resistance to administration priorities in response to the verdict.

“Those who turned our judicial system into a political cudgel must be held accountable,” Lee said in a post to X. “We are no longer cooperating with any Democrat legislative priorities or nominations, and we invite all concerned Senators to join our stand.”

The Biden administration and congressional Democrats played no role in the trial, which was in New York state court.

‘No one is above the law’

The top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, said that Thursday’s verdict shows that “no one is above the law.”

Nadler was joined by Eisen, along with accountability advocates and historians, on a Friday webinar for the press hosted by watchdog group Public Citizen. Eisen participated in multiple press appearances Friday.

Nadler said that Republicans are attempting to sow distrust in the verdict, as the chair of the Judiciary Committee, Jim Jordan of Ohio, has already sent a letter to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg requesting that he testify in a hearing before the panel’s Weaponization of the Federal Government Subcommittee on June 13.

Nadler said he disagreed with Jordan’s decision to request testimony from the DA who prosecuted Trump.

“It’s a continuing attempt to bully the prosecutors into abandoning prosecutions and to tell the country the false story of persecution of the president (Trump) and to help undermine confidence in the criminal justice system,” Nadler said.

Nadler said the New York trial was important because it’s likely going to be the only trial that finishes before the November elections. Trump faces two federal criminal cases, and another criminal case in Georgia.

“It is very important for the American people to know, before an election, that they’re dealing with a convicted felon,” Nadler said.

Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a history professor at New York University who specializes in authoritarianism, propaganda and democracy protection, said during the virtual press conference that the trial was a demonstration of American democracy being upheld.

“The fact this trial took place at all and was able to unfold in the professional way it did is a testament to the worth and functioning of our democracy,” she said.

Kentucky Lantern is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kentucky Lantern maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jamie Lucke for questions: Follow Kentucky Lantern on Facebook and Twitter. Kentucky Lantern stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

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