Donald Trump found guilty in historic New York hush money case

A New York jury on Thursday found Donald Trump guilty on all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records — the first time a former U.S. president has been convicted of a crime.

The jury reached its verdict in the historic case after 9½ hours of deliberations, which began Wednesday.

He’ll be sentenced on July 11, four days before the Republican National Convention. He faces penalties from a fine to four years in prison on each count, although it’s expected he would be sentenced for the offenses concurrently, not consecutively.

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“This was a disgrace. This was a rigged trial by a conflicted judge who was corrupt,” Trump fumed to reporters afterward.

The verdict was read in the Manhattan courtroom where Trump has been on trial since April 15. He had pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records related to a hush money payment his former lawyer Michael Cohen made to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential election.

Trump looked down with his eyes narrowed as the jury foreperson read the word “guilty” to each count.

The judge thanked the jurors for their service in the weekslong trial. “You gave this matter the attention it deserved, and I want to thank you for that,” Judge Juan Merchan told them. Trump appeared to be scowling at the jurors as they walked by him on their way out of the courtroom.

Trump’s attorney Todd Blanche made a motion for acquittal after the jury left the room, which the judge denied.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg would not comment on what type of sentence he might seek, saying his office would do its talking in court papers.

“While this defendant may be unlike any other in American history, we arrived at this trial and ultimately today at this verdict in the same manner as every other case that comes to the courtroom doors — by following the facts and the law in doing so, without fear or favor,” Bragg said. Asked for his reaction to the verdict, Bragg, who was inundated with threats from Trump supporters during the probe, said, “I did my job. We did our job.”

Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, immediately set out fundraising off the news, posting on his website that he’s “a political prisoner” and urging his followers to give money.

Legal experts have told NBC News that even if Trump is sentenced to time behind bars, he’d most likely be allowed to remain out of jail while he appeals the verdict, a process that could take months or more. That means the sentence would most likely not interfere with his ability to accept the Republican nomination for president at the July convention.

And it likely wouldn’t impact his ability to be elected. “There are no other qualifications other than those in the Constitution,” Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney and NBC News & MSNBC Legal Analyst said following Thursday’s verdict.

President Joe Biden’s campaign praised the verdict in a statement but stressed that Trump needs to be defeated in November.

“In New York today, we saw that no one is above the law,” said the campaign’s communications director, Michael Tyler, but the “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.”

In his closing argument this week, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass told the jury that “the law is the law, and it applies to everyone equally. There is no special standard for this defendant.”

“You, the jury, have the ability to hold the defendant accountable,” Steinglass said.

Trump had maintained that the DA’s office had no case and that there had been no crime. “President Trump is innocent. He did not commit any crimes,” Blanche said in his closing statement, arguing the payments to Cohen were legitimate.

Prosecutors said the disguised payment to Cohen was part of a “planned, coordinated long-running conspiracy to influence the 2016 election, to help Donald Trump get elected through illegal expenditures, to silence people who had something bad to say about his behavior, using doctored corporate records and bank forms to conceal those payments along the way.”

“It was election fraud. Pure and simple,” prosecutor Matthew Colangelo said in his opening statement.

While Trump wasn’t charged with conspiracy, prosecutors argued he caused the records to be falsified because he was trying to cover up a violation of state election law — and falsifying business records with the intent to cover another crime raises the offense from a misdemeanor to a felony.

Trump was convicted after a sensational weekslong trial that included combative testimony from Cohen, Trump’s self-described former fixer, and Daniels, who testified that she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006 after she met him at a celebrity golf tournament. Trump has denied her claim, and his attorney had suggested that Cohen acted on his own because he thought it would make “the boss” happy.

Other witnesses included former White House staffers, among them adviser Hope Hicks, former Trump Organization executives and former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker.

Trump didn’t take the witness stand to offer his own account of what happened, even though he proclaimed before the trial began that he would “absolutely” testify. The defense’s main witness was Robert Costello, a lawyer whom Cohen considered retaining in 2018. Costello, who testified that Cohen had told him Trump had nothing to do with the Daniels’ payment, enraged Merchan by making disrespectful comments and faces on the stand. At one point, the judge cleared the courtroom during Costello’s testimony and threatened to hold him in contempt.

Cohen testified that he lied to Costello because he didn’t trust him and that he’d lied to others about Trump’s involvement at the time because he wanted to protect his former boss.

Cohen was the lone witness to testify to Trump’s direct involvement in the $130,000 payment and the subsequent reimbursement plan. Blanche spent days challenging his credibility, getting Cohen to acknowledge he has a history of lying, including under oath.

Cohen said he was paid the Daniels cash in a series of payments from Trump throughout 2017 that the Trump Organization characterized as payments pursuant to a retainer agreement “for legal services rendered.”

Prosecutors said there was no such agreement, and Cohen’s version of events was supported by documentary evidence and witness testimony.

Blanche contended that the series of checks then-President Trump paid Cohen in 2017 “was not a payback to Mr. Cohen for the money that he gave to Ms. Daniels” and that he was being paid for his legal work as Trump’s personal lawyer.

Testimony from Jeff McConney, a former senior vice president at Trump’s company, challenged that position. McConney said the company’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, told him that Cohen was being reimbursed for a $130,000 payment, and prosecutors entered Weisselberg’s handwritten notes about the payment formula as evidence. Cohen said Trump agreed to the arrangement in a meeting with him and Weisselberg just days before he was inaugurated as the 45th president.

Weisselberg didn’t testify. He’s in jail on a perjury charge related to his testimony in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ civil fraud case against Trump and his company. Cohen, McConney and other witnesses said Weisselberg, who spent decades working for Trump, always sought his approval for large expenditures.

In all, the prosecution called 20 witnesses, while the defense called two.

Trump had frequently claimed, falsely, that the charges against him were a political concoction orchestrated by Biden to keep him off the campaign trail. But Trump eventually managed to bring the campaign to the courtroom, hosting top Republicans, including House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana and Sens. JD Vance of Ohio and Rick Scott of Florida, as his guests in court. Trump also used court breaks to tout political messages to his supporters, while his surrogates sidestepped Merchan’s gag order by attacking witnesses, individual prosecutors and Merchan’s daughter.

Merchan fined Trump $10,000 during the trial for violating his order, including attacks on Cohen and Daniels, and warned he could have him locked up if he continued violating the order.

Cohen celebrated the verdict in a post on X. “Today is an important day for accountability and the rule of law. While it has been a difficult journey for me and my family, the truth always matters,” Cohen wrote.

Trump was indicted in March of last year after a yearslong investigation by Bragg and his predecessor, Cyrus Vance. The charges were the first ever brought against a former president, although Trump has since been charged and pleaded not guilty in three other cases. None of the three — a federal election interference case in Washington, D.C., a state election interference case in Georgia and a federal case alleging he mishandled classified documents and national security information — appear likely to go to trial before the Nov. 5 presidential election.

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