BREAKING: Donald Trump found guilty on all 34 counts in hush-money trial, marking historic first for a former US president

Jury convicts Trump on felony charges of falsifying business records, sentencing hearing to follow amid ongoing legal battles.

BREAKING: Donald Trump found guilty on all 34 counts in hush-money trial, marking historic first for a former US president
AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool
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Jurors in Manhattan returned a guilty verdict on all 34 counts on Thursday in Donald Trump's hush-money trial in New York, making him the first former U.S. president to be convicted of a crime. The historic guilty verdict in the hush-money trial marks a significant moment in American political and legal history, with many decrying the verdict as a crossing of the Rubicon.

The verdict, which Trump's legal team is expected to appeal, comes after a contentious weeks-long courtroom battle in which the former president claimed he was the target of a "political persecution" as he campaigns for a second term in the White House, as reported in real time on X, as well as publications like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

The presiding judge is expected to schedule a separate hearing to determine Trump's sentence, with a possible sentencing for prison, as well as alternatives to imprisonment including probation or community service.

Notably, Trump's conviction does not preclude him from running for the presidency, even if he ends up serving time behind bars.

The case, brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, centered on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to conceal damaging information around the 2016 election as part of a "catch-and-kill" scheme. Prosecutors accused Trump of improperly masking reimbursements to his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, for a $130,000 payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence on an alleged extramarital affair. Trump allegedly classified these payments as legal expenses to hide their true nature.

Throughout the trial, Trump maintained his innocence, denying the affair with Daniels and pleading not guilty to the charges. His lawyers argued that there was no intent to defraud or influence the 2016 election. The trial, which began last month, featured testimony from nearly two dozen witnesses, including Cohen, Daniels, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, former White House aide Hope Hicks, and former federal prosecutor Robert Costello. Trump did not take the stand in his own defense.

Closing arguments took place on Tuesday, and jury deliberations began on Wednesday, with the 12 jurors making several requests for information, such as rehearing witness testimony and the judge's jury instructions. The guilty verdict was reached on Thursday, setting the stage for a sentencing hearing and potential appeals.

Throughout the trial, Bragg and Judge Juan Merchan faced intense criticism from Trump and his allies. House Republicans opened an investigation and filed complaints, raising concerns about potential bias and misconduct tainting the case. They focused on Merchan's past donations to groups supporting Democrats and his daughter's work as a political consultant for Democratic candidates. Merchan refused to recuse himself and issued a gag order to prevent Trump from commenting publicly on jurors, witnesses, and others linked to the case. Trump, claiming the gag order violated his First Amendment rights, continued to speak out and incurred thousands of dollars in fines as a result.

On Wednesday, Trump slammed the trial as 'rigged,' stating that even Mother Teresa would not be able to beat the charges levied against him.

"Today’s verdict represents the culmination of a legal process that has been bent to the political will of the actors involved: a leftist prosecutor, a partisan judge and a jury reflective of one of the most liberal enclaves in America—all in an effort to 'get' Donald Trump," wrote Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on X.

"That this case—involving alleged misdemeanor business records violations from nearly a decade ago—was even brought is a testament to the political debasement of the justice system in places like New York City. This is especially true considering this same district attorney routinely excuses criminal conduct in a way that has endangered law-abiding citizens in his jurisdiction," he continued.

"It is often said that no one is above the law, but it is also true that no one is below the law. If the defendant were not Donald Trump, this case would never have been brought, the judge would have never issued similar rulings, and the jury would have never returned a guilty verdict," added the governor.

"In America, the rule of law should be applied in a dispassionate, even-handed manner, not become captive to the political agenda of some kangaroo court," he concluded.

Following the trial, Trump spoke to the press outside the Manhattan court, declaring the case to be a "rigged trial, a disgrace." 

"This was a disgrace. This was a rigged trial by a conflicted judge who is corrupt. It's 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," said Trump. "The real verdict is going to be November 5th by the people and they know what happened here and everybody knows what happened here."

"You have the Soros-backed DA and the whole thing, we didn't do a thing wrong. I'm a very innocent man," he continued. "And it's okay. I'm fighting for our country. I'm fighting for our Constitution. Our whole country is being rigged right now. This was done by the Biden administration to wound or hurt an opponent, a political opponent. And I think it's just a disgrace. And we'll keep fighting. We'll fight 'til the end and we'll win, because our country's gone to hell."

"We don't have the same country anymore," stated Trump. "We have a divided mess. We're a nation in decline. Serious decline. Millions and millions of people pouring into our country right now from prisons, from mental institutions, terrorists. And they're taking over our country. We have a country that's in big trouble. But this was a rigged decision right from day one with a conflicted judge who should've never been allowed to try this case. Never. And we will fight for our Constitution. This is long from over. Thank you very much."

As Trump seeks re-election this year, three other criminal matters at the state and federal levels continue to loom over him. The former president has characterized these legal challenges as a politically motivated "witch hunt." It remains uncertain whether any of these cases will reach the trial stage before the November election.

 

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