Trump's conviction forces tough choice on Republicans

Rick Morain is the former publisher and owner of the Jefferson Herald, for which he writes a regular column.

The facts are as follows:

On May 30, a New York trial jury of five women and seven men unanimously convicted former President Donald Trump of falsifying business records regarding a hush money payment to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels. The payment, in several installments just before the 2016 presidential election, was made in order to prevent her claim about having sex with Trump several years earlier from going public, according to the jury finding. Trump denies a sexual encounter occurred.

The dozen jurors, from many occupations and personal backgrounds, agreed that Trump had approved the payment to fraudulently protect his chances of winning the 2016 election. That finding raised the alleged wrongdoing from a misdemeanor—issuing false invoices and checks—to a felony conspiracy on 34 counts.

The nonviolent crime for which Trump was found guilty is a Class E felony, New York’s lowest felony level. Judge Juan Merchan, who presided over the trial, set sentencing for July 11. Merchan has a number of sentencing options from which to choose: he could send Trump to prison for from 16 months to four years, subject him to house arrest, order him to perform community service, sentence him to probation, or impose a fine.

Trump and his lead attorney Todd Blanche have announced their intention to appeal the conviction on several grounds. Filing their appeal must wait until after the July 11 sentencing date. The appeal will go initially to the state court’s Appellate Division, First Department, in Manhattan. If Trump lost there, he could extend his appeal to the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, and possibly on to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In any event, it is unlikely that an appeals court would hand down a decision before the November 5 election. So if Trump becomes the Republican presidential nominee—an almost certain conclusion—he would remain convicted of felony offenses on election day. That status would not prevent him from appearing on the ballot or from serving as president if elected.

Those are the facts. Their political impact is another matter.

Politicians and pundits are all over the map on whether the conviction helps or hurts Trump. Will he gain support because voters think the decision to prosecute him and the guilty verdict were unfair, and based predominantly on politics? Will he lose support because voters don’t want someone convicted of felonies to lead the nation? Or does it matter to voters at all?

Republicans have a tougher choice in this regard than Democrats, of course. Most Democrats are going to vote against Trump anyway. Different polls report a variety of results when raising that question with independents. But Republicans have a lot invested in Donald Trump by now, both financially and psychologically.

If polls are to be believed, Trump has convinced most of his party’s base that the 2020 election was fraudulent, and that he should have won most of the electoral votes: in other words, that Joe Biden sits in the Oval Office illegally. Trump’s conviction in the New York case, piled on top of that kind of thinking, makes some Republican voters dig in their heels even further.

Then there are the three other criminal cases pending against Trump. He faces federal charges and state charges (in Georgia) based on his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, and federal charges related to illegally possessing and retaining classified government documents.

The former president is fond of claiming the American people have never before witnessed such levels of unfairness, or of corruption, or of voter fraud, or of something else: take your pick. One thing we have certainly never experienced is a former president convicted of a felony (34 of them, to be exact), let alone seeing him run for president once again.

A good friend recently observed, “The question is no longer about his character. The question now is whether character matters to you.”

About the Author(s)

Rick Morain

  • The question now…

    …is no longer about Trump’s character. The question is why the two main Presidential candidates are flawed and way too old. This is telling about the shape and morale of our country.

    By the way, home insurance costs in Iowa are announced to go up by 20 to 50% this year. The mental health and math skills of kids have not recovered from the Covid school closures. And gun sales are way up. Each party is pointing fingers but nobody is doing anything.

  • This case will go down in history as a model for law schools to study.

    AND ….

    The Gazette editors get it right. See page 6A.

    It’s not showing irresponsible bias to advocate for law and order and the propriety of the American judiciary and its courts and judges.

    This case, its roots in a political campaign, took prosecutors months in analysis of law and facts in the alleged crime, then sent it to a Grand Jury who authorized the indictment.

    Prosecutors took the case to a jury trial of 12 peers who issued an unambiguous verdict on all counts.

    The judge will eventually sentence the now-convicted man who will probably appeal.

    No “sham,” Governor Kim Reynolds. That’s democracy.. Protect it.

    Amen, Gazette editors.