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Former President Donald Trump walks to the courtroom upon arriving at Manhattan Criminal Court.
Former President Donald Trump was found guilty on 34 counts. Julia Nikhinson/AP

Donald Trump Is Now a Convicted Felon

New York jurors found the former president guilty on 34 counts.

Donald Trump was found guilty on all 34 counts of business document fraud on Thursday, making him the first former president in history to be convicted of a felony.

The jury announced its decision after five weeks of trial and nearly 10 hours of deliberation. Judge Juan Merchan set a sentencing hearing for July 11 — just four days ahead of the start of the Republican National Convention this year.

“This was a rigged, disgraceful trial. The real verdict is going to be November 5th by the people,” Trump said afterward, proclaiming himself innocent.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office charged Trump with 34 counts of violating New York law, alleging the former president falsified business records in a scheme to influence the 2016 election. Prosecutors argued Trump lied about the nature of payments made to his then-attorney Michael Cohen. Instead of “payments for legal services” to Cohen, prosecutors say Trump was repaying him for the $130,000 in hush money that Cohen gave porn actor Stormy Daniels to cover up an alleged sexual encounter between her and Trump. Trump’s lawyers denied the existence of any affair during the trial.

“I did my job,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said of the guilty verdict. “My job is to follow the facts without fear or favor.”

The jury heard from 22 witnesses throughout the course of the trial, ranging from Daniels herself to close former and current Trump associates and staff. Among them was the prosecution’s star witness: Michael Cohen.

Cohen’s four-day-long testimony placed Trump at the center of a plan to make sure Daniels’ story did not go public out of fear that it threatened his presidential campaign.

“[Trump] expressed to me: Just do it. Go meet up with Allen Weisselberg and figure this whole thing out,” Cohen testified, recounting when Trump directed him to his company’s chief financial officer to draw up the hush money payment.

Cohen took to the witness stand after the jury had heard others testify about the “catch-and-kill” practice the Trump camp organized with media executives at the National Enquirer to block stories that might be hurtful to Trump. Cohen said that after using money borrowed from a bank to pay Daniels, he was reimbursed via monthly invoices for “legal work” he didn’t perform. As someone with direct lines of communication with Trump at the time, Cohen’s insistence that Trump was heavily invested in the payoff details was at the center of the case.

The defense sought to make the case that the jury could not rely on the testimony of Cohen, who admitted to his own crimes on the stand, including stealing around $30,000 from the Trump Organization after falsely reporting IT expenses. He also said he did not commit the bank fraud and tax evasion that he pleaded guilty to in 2018. In the same case, he pleaded guilty to “campaign finance violations” in connection to the hush money payments made to Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

“Michael Cohen is the GLOAT. He’s literally the greatest liar of all time,” Trump attorney Todd Blanche told the jurors in his closing argument. “You cannot send someone to prison, you cannot convict somebody based upon the words of Michael Cohen.”

Trump’s lawyers also called Robert Costello to the stand in an attempt to undermine Cohen’s story. Costello is a Trump ally and lawyer who gave legal advice to Cohen in 2018. He testified that Cohen assured him in private conversations at the time that Trump did not know about the payments being made to Daniels. The defense rested its case after presenting only two witnesses.

The hush money trial is the only one likely to play out before November’s elections. At the trial’s outset, Republicans in Congress told NOTUS they weren’t diving into the details of Trump’s legal turmoils as other congressional matters took precedence. But they have been united with Trump from the beginning in calling all of the indictments a sham. Eventually, as the court’s daily proceedings made headlines, Republicans capitalized on the news moment, traveling to the New York courtroom to show loyalty to Trump and decry the trial as a weaponization of the justice system.

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Trump said after the verdict that the case was brought by the Biden administration to take him down as a political opponent.

“We’ll keep fighting,” he said. “We’ll fight to the end, and we’ll win.”

Meanwhile, Bidenworld is ramping up the effort to draw contrasts between the current and former presidents. Outside of the courtroom for closing arguments, the Biden campaign organized a press conference featuring actor Robert De Niro and two former Capitol Police officers who were present for the Jan. 6 attack. They each spoke broadly about the “threat to democracy” that would be a second Trump presidency, reminding voters of the day his supporters engaged in political violence at the Capitol.

The Biden campaign said after the verdict that it proved “no one is above the law” and urged voters to help them defeat Trump in November.

“Donald Trump has always mistakenly believed he would never face consequences for breaking the law for his own personal gain,” said campaign communications director Michael Tyler. “But today’s 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. Convicted felon or not, Trump will be the Republican nominee for president.”

Calen Razor is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.