Donald Trump Is a Convicted Felon. Let That Sink In.

Jurisprudence

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Getty Images Plus and Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images.

Read our ongoing coverage of Donald Trump’s  first criminal trial here .

At 4:37 p.m. on Thursday, gasps could be heard in the Manhattan courtroom where former President Donald J. Trump’s hush money trial was taking place. Justice Juan Merchan announced that the jury had reached a verdict.

After just under 12 hours of deliberations, the jury found Trump guilty of all 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. Trump now faces the potential for four years in prison for each count, though any sentence would likely be set to run concurrently—and the logistics of imprisoning a former president along with Secret Service officers may make such a sentence unlikely.

The end result is that Donald Trump is a convicted felon looking at possible jail time. He is unlikely to receive such a sentence during the course of the likely yearslong appeal. If he is elected again in November, he may never face justice for his crimes.

Before the verdict was read out, Trump sat cross-armed, glaring ahead as his lawyers Todd Blanche and Emil Bove whispered to him. His son Eric Trump briefly left the courtroom but returned immediately. (One reporter asked if there was time to use the restroom before the verdict was read, and an officer politely told her no, to laughter, adding, “Do you really want to leave now?”) District Attorney Alvin Bragg, whose team achieved the victory of the first prosecution and conviction of a U.S. president in American history, also joined the courtroom for the initial time following the news of the verdict, chatting with his seatmate and putting his hand to his chin as he waited in anticipation.

As they had done throughout the proceedings, none of the jurors made eye contact with Trump as they passed him on the way to the jury box. The courtroom was silent as the foreperson listed off “guilty” 34 separate times to each individual count related to the falsification of 11 checks, 11 invoices, and 12 ledger entries. And as he has done throughout the trial, after the verdict was read, Trump appeared to close his eyes. Blanche put his face in his hands.

Blanche requested that the verdict be thrown out based on the jury’s reliance on the testimony of Michael Cohen, who Blanche claimed perjured himself on the stand, but the request was quickly denied.

After each member of the jury affirmed that “guilty” was their verdict, Merchan thanked them for their service over the course of the six-week-long trial and set a sentencing date for 10 a.m. on July 11. As Trump left the courtroom, he seemed to reach to grab his son Eric. The tension and silence in the room were deafening, even as courtroom reporters struggled to relate the news due to downed Wi-Fi.

After the verdict was announced, the capstone of his career, Bragg stared ahead with a poker face.

“I think it is a real credit to the American jury system that they were able to deliver a verdict,” particularly given the amount of evidence in the case, former New York Judge Vincent J. Grasso told me as we left the courtroom. “After all the evidence that I saw, I thought it was a very fine verdict.”

Trump was, predictably, livid. “This was a disgrace,” he said in the hallway afterward. “This was a rigged trial by a conflicted judge who was corrupt. A rigged trial. A disgrace. They wouldn’t give us a venue change. We were at 5 percent or 6 percent in this district in this area. This was a rigged, disgraceful trial. The real verdict is going to be Nov. 5 by the American people.”

Ultimately, the prosecution told a coherent and convincing story: that Donald Trump had engaged his fixer Michael Cohen to pay off Stormy Daniels on the eve of the 2016 election as part of a conspiracy to unlawfully promote Trump’s victory, then falsified records in the ensuing scheme to cover up the reimbursement to Cohen.

The defense, meanwhile, struggled to convincingly explain the vast trove of documentary evidence showing that the $420,000 Trump paid Cohen in 2017 had been part of the reimbursement scheme and not for a “legal retainer,” even though no such physical document existed.

“This scheme, cooked up by these men, at this time, could very well be what got President Trump elected,” Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass said during closing arguments. “We’ll never know if this effort to hoodwink the American voter impacted the election, but that’s something we don’t need to prove.”

Looking back through the present lens—with the shock of Trump’s 2016 victory, his 2020 attack on the election, and his 2024 comeback playing into a sense of apparent invincibility—it is hard to credit the view that if the Stormy Daniels story had come out in October 2016, it would have changed anything.

When you look closer at the series of events as laid out at this trial, though, the impact of the criminal conspiracy, for which Trump has now been convicted, feels far greater than how we see it today.

Recall that had Hillary Clinton flipped a combined 80,000 votes in the Rust Belt, she would have been president. Also, the trial painted a portrait of a successful conspiracy to elevate Trump not only during the 2016 general election but throughout the Republican primary. Most importantly, this was all going on at a time when Trump himself didn’t know he would win. Indeed, almost all of the events in question happened when the election was very much up in the air. The key portions, indeed, happened after the release of the Access Hollywood tape—when Trump’s support had tanked but before the FBI announced that it had reopened an investigation into Clinton’s email scandal, trashing her own polling.

Consider that timeline, as laid out by the prosecution. On Oct. 8, the Access Hollywood tape was published by the Washington Post, sending Trump’s campaign into disarray. After a series of phone calls with Trump three days later, Michael Cohen began to set up his shell company to pay off Daniels. Trump then, however, tried to slow-walk the compensation to Daniels until after the election so that he wouldn’t have to pay her. Ultimately, that was untenable. After a series of phone calls between Trump and Cohen on Oct. 24, 26, and 28, Cohen finalized the deal on Trump’s orders. On Oct. 26, the $130,000 payment to Daniels was deposited from Cohen’s personal HELOC account into the shell company. On Oct. 27, the wire transfer was filled out from Cohen to Daniels’ attorney Keith Davidson. One day later, the story broke about the reopening of the FBI investigation of Clinton’s email scandal, completely upending the election. A little more than a week later, Trump won the presidency.

Davidson texted National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard as the votes were being counted and as it was becoming clear that Trump would win: “What have we done?”

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