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The Trump Verdict Is a Travesty—but Come November, It Won’t Matter

Newsweek – “The real verdict is going to be [on] November 5, by the people,” solemnly declared former—and perhaps future—president Donald J. Trump on Thursday, just after a Manhattan jury reached a guilty verdict on all 34 counts of business records falsification brought by county district attorney Alvin Bragg in March 2023. Trump is due to be sentenced on July 11. Nothing he has done is believed to merit incarceration, but one never knows.

All charges in the trial were time-barred misdemeanors elevated to felonies on the theory that the purported records falsifications were made in the commission of another crime. Exactly what that crime is has remained elusive since Bragg indicted Trump last year, and it remains elusive now. Along with disallowing potentially exculpatory evidence, ignoring obvious personal conflicts of interest in the case, and issuing highly manipulative and likely illegal instructions to the jury, Judge Juan Merchan defied solid case law and substantial precedent to tell the jury that it could identify any combination of crimes to reach a guilty verdict—a “show me the man and I’ll show you the crime” approach recalling the excesses of the Soviet Union.

As even many anti-Trump legal analysts find fault with what Trump has repeatedly called a “rigged trial” and a “disgrace,” the presumptive GOP presidential candidate, who intends to appeal the verdict, can rest assured that his unprecedented conviction will have minimal effect on the outcome of the November election.

Across Trump’s four indictments—three of which are languishing due to questionable charges, faulty lawyering, or sheer incompetence—the New York case has widely been considered the weakest. According to an AP-NORC poll released in April, only 35 percent of Americans believe the actions for which Trump was indicted in New York were actually illegal, the lowest figure among all his cases.

Weeks of biased courtroom procedures and the predictable result—announced just two days after President Joe Biden‘s reelection campaign held a high-profile event outside the courthouse—are unlikely to change many minds as Trump consolidates his modest national popular vote lead over Biden and his more substantial advantage over the president in the 2020 swing states. If the latter holds, it will mean a blowout electoral college victory for the former president. In the hours after the verdict, Republican fundraisers reported record-high donations to Trump’s campaign and related PACs—in some case so voluminous that they crashed online payment systems. The Trump campaign reported a record of nearly $35 million in donations in the 18 hours following the verdict’s announcement.

This may be an overreaction. According to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College poll released the morning of the verdict, 82 percent of respondents were either unmoved (67 percent) or more likely to vote for Trump (15 percent) in the event of his conviction. Only 17 percent—and crucially only 11 percent of independents—said they would be less likely to vote for him. An ABC/Ipsos poll released earlier this month revealed that a mere four percent of voters would “withdraw” their support from Trump in the event he were convicted. And even that statistical nullity does not distinguish between the present county court conviction and the final result of Trump’s planned appeal, which is widely expected to reverse the conviction on ample constitutional and procedural grounds.

Prosecutorial overkill has consistently benefited Trump in a country where the southern border, the economy, crime, and a host of other real issues far outrank his legal travails in importance. Indeed, his conviction and its highly questionable circumstances strongly reinforce the former president’s longstanding narrative that he is the victim of a corrupt national establishment demonstrably out to “get Trump,” a phrase Bragg and multiple other prosecutors used as campaign slogans.

It is also a stark reminder that if the administrative state can bear down hard on a billionaire presidential candidate on what are widely believed to be specious charges, it can bear down even more capriciously on anyone else. The episode further guarantees that from now on every U.S. president will almost certainly face legal prosecution for crimes, real or imagined—as a naked tool of politics rather than a principled application of law.

Americans are concerned. Beyond Trump’s favorable numbers in anticipation of his conviction, Gallup found for the first time last year that a majority of respondents no longer trust our judicial system, which has now followed mainstream media, higher education, the federal government as a whole, and many other elements of state and society into popular disrepute.

However nobly leftists may crow about how no one is above the rule of law in “Our Democracy,” Bragg and Merchan have disastrously weakened the very institutions they claim to protect, moving the country closer to a banana republic than it has ever been—all in the name of stopping a candidate who still remains likely to win no matter what they and their confederates do.


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