Trump makes history as first criminally convicted former US president

Donald Trump has been found guilty on all 34 counts of falsifying business records as part of a conspiracy to corruptly influence the 2016 presidential election, marking the first-ever criminal conviction of an American president, who will now campaign once again for the White House as a convicted felon and fraud.

A jury in Manhattan deliberated for 10 hours before returning a unanimous verdict to New York Justice Juan Merchan on Thursday. An emotionless Trump sat at the defense table as the foreperson read “guilty” for each of the 34 counts against him. He craned his neck to watch each of the jurors confirm their decision.

The former president – who refused to testify in his own defense – faces up to four years in jail and thousands of dollars in fines when he will be sentenced on July 11 at 10am ET.

“This was a rigged, disgraceful trial,” Trump raged outside courtroom on Thursday.

“The real verdict is going to be November 5 by the people, and they know what happened here,” he added, referencing the 2024 presidential election.

“I’m a very innocent man,” he said.

Trump’s so-called hush money trial in New York marked the first-ever criminal proceedings of a current or former American president.

If elected, he will be the first president to serve as a convicted felon.

The verdict followed 16 days of witness testimony over nearly six weeks in a courtroom drama that scrutinized his alleged affairs and the power and influence he wielded to cover them up as he successfully campaigned for the White House.

“I did my job,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg told reporters on Thursday.

More than one year after Bragg brought a grand jury indictment against Trump, the district attorney said the verdict arrived “in the same manner as any other case that comes through the courtroom doors.”

Trump’s allies rushed to defend him, elevating baseless claims that the case was a Democratic-led conspiracy against him.

His eldest son Donald Trump Jr claimed on X that “Democrats have succeeded in their years-long attempt to turn America into a third-world s***hole. November 5 is our last chance to save it.”

He later insisted that Trump’s sentencing four days before the Republican convention showed that the whole ordeal was “election interference.”

Former Trump lawyer and New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani – among the former president’s co-defendants in a separate election conspiracy case in Georgia – was livestreaming as the verdict was handed down.

The verdict was “not a surprise,” he said.

“This city has been politically corrupt for most of the past 150 years,” he added. “You knew on day one Trump was going to be convicted.”

A White House official told The Independent that President Joe Biden has no plans to issue any response to the verdict as of now.

But the Biden campaign said that there’s “only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: at the ballot box.”

“Convicted felon or not, Trump will be the Republican nominee for president,” according to a campaign statement.

The campaign added that Trump’s threat to democracy “has never been greater,” and that his campaign has grown “increasingly unhinged” as it focuses on “revenge and retribution.”

Far-right influencer and former Fox News host Tucker Carlson wrote on X: “Import the Third World, become the Third World. That’s what we just saw. This won’t stop Trump. He’ll win the election if he’s not killed first.”

“But it does mark the end of the fairest justice system in the world. Anyone who defends this verdict is a danger to you and your family,” he said.

Duncan Levin, a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan, told The Independent that “the case was deeply corroborated, with testimony not built around one person but with texts and emails and phone records.”

“The prosecution case was methodical, and the jury clearly paid attention,” he said. “The defendant did everything he could to undermine the administration of justice, engaged in criminal contempt on ten occasions, and yet the system still gave him a trial that was fundamentally fair.”

Donald Trump, pictured, speaking to the media after a New York jury found him guilty following his hush money trial (Getty Images)
Donald Trump, pictured, speaking to the media after a New York jury found him guilty following his hush money trial (Getty Images)

Jury deliberations began on May 29 after 22 witnesses outlined the evidence in Trump’s months-long scheme to keep news of his sex scandals away from voters in the weeks before Election Day in 2016.

Less than one month before he was elected to the presidency, Trump directed his former attorney Michael Cohen to pay $130,000 in “hush money” to adult film star Stormy Daniels, whose story about having sex with Trump in 2006 threatened to derail his campaign 10 years later.

Trump then reimbursed Cohen through a series of payments in 2017 disguised as “legal expenses” that were never performed that year, under the terms of a “retainer” agreement that never existed. He signed the checks from the Oval Office.

Emails, phone records, text messages, invoices, checks with Trump’s Sharpie-inked signature, and other documents – including a hand-written note from Trump’s accountants that outlined the math for Cohen’s checks – gave jurors a paper trail of the conspiracy.

On Thursday after the verdict was handed down, Cohen wrote on X that “Today is an important day for accountability and the rule of law. While it has been a difficult journey for me, the truth always matters.”

Jurors heard testimony from former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, who promised to be the campaign’s “eyes and ears” by using his tabloid to “catch and kill” stories about Trump’s alleged affairs that he never intended to publish. He spent roughly $180,000 purchasing two scandalous stories but refused to spend more by getting involved with Daniels.

Trump’s former White House aide Hope Hicks – who testified to the campaign’s damage control after the release of the Access Hollywood tape – told jurors that Trump did not want the story from Daniels to come out before Election Day.

Cohen – who said he frequently sought approval for his “loyalty” to “the boss” – agreed to pay Daniels out of his own pocket, took out a home line of credit to front the cash, and created a shell company from which he could transfer the funds to her attorney.

Donald Trump speaks to the press, flanked by attorney Todd Blanche, after he was convicted in his criminal trial (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Donald Trump speaks to the press, flanked by attorney Todd Blanche, after he was convicted in his criminal trial (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Trump and Daniels also signed a nondisclosure agreement that blocked her from taking her story public, and her damning testimony in his criminal trial detailed exactly what Trump sought to keep secret, according to prosecutors.

Defense attorneys did not dispute the prosecution’s evidence but argued that there was no conspiracy, that Cohen was simply paid for his work as an attorney, and that testimony from Daniels and Cohen either warranted a mistrial or the dismissal of the case altogether. Both efforts were denied.

The prosecution’s case took roughly five weeks. But Trump’s lawyers introduced only two witnesses, including Robert Costello, a Trump-allied attorney who appeared to work with Rudy Giuliani to pressure Cohen against flipping against then-President Trump while his personal attorney was under federal investigation. Mr Costello’s flippant behavior drew a furious response from the judge, who cleared the courtroom to warn that his comments could get him tossed off the stand.

The 15th floor of the courthouse on Centre Street has become an extension of Trump’s 2024 campaign; he delivered rambling remarks to reporters in the hallway each day of the trial, and his attorneys drew out flattering depictions of the former president and his business in witness testimony and in their opening and closing statements to jurors.

A trial gag order that blocked him from publicly attacking witnesses and jurors did not stop him from doing so. After he was fined $10,000 and threatened with jail time, a parade of high-profile allies – including the nation’s highest-ranking Republican – joined him at the courthouse to deliver more attacks on his behalf.

Trump’s campaign – one defined by his role as a political victim fueled by vengeance and retribution – still must navigate 54 other criminal charges in three other jurisdictions.

He is criminally charged in Florida for withholding classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago compound, and he faces criminal charges in Georgia and in Washington DC for his attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Andrew Feinberg and Gustaf Kilander contributed to this report