Donald Trump Convicted on 34 Felony Counts of Falsifying Business Records

New York jury found Donald Trump guilty on all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records

In a landmark verdict, a New York jury found Donald Trump guilty on all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, marking the first conviction of a former U.S. president for a crime. The trial, which began on April 15 in a Manhattan courtroom, centered on a hush money payment made by Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to adult film star Stormy Daniels during the final weeks of the 2016 presidential election.

Trump, who pleaded not guilty to all charges, listened as the jury foreperson pronounced him guilty on each count after 9.5 hours of deliberation. Judge Juan Merchan praised the jurors for their dedication, while Trump's attorney, Todd Blanche, unsuccessfully moved for an acquittal. Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass emphasized that the law applies equally to everyone, urging the jury to hold Trump accountable.

The prosecution argued that the payment to Cohen was part of a long-running conspiracy to influence the 2016 election by silencing damaging stories about Trump, thus constituting election fraud. Although Trump was not charged with conspiracy, the falsification of business records to cover up a state election law violation elevated the offense to a felony.

The trial featured testimony from Cohen, who admitted to lying about Trump's involvement to protect him, and from Daniels, who described a 2006 sexual encounter with Trump, which he denies. Additional witnesses included former White House staffers, Trump Organization executives, and former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, who testified about efforts to quash harmful stories about Trump.

Despite his initial claims that he would testify, Trump did not take the witness stand. The defense's main witness, Robert Costello, testified that Cohen had told him Trump was uninvolved in the Daniels payment, but Cohen countered that he lied to Costello because he didn't trust him. Prosecutors also introduced evidence contradicting the defense's claim that the payments to Cohen were for legal services rendered.

Pecker's testimony detailed a 2015 meeting with Trump and Cohen where he agreed to monitor for potentially damaging stories, successfully suppressing two: one about a doorman claiming knowledge of a Trump love child, and another involving former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who alleged a months-long affair with Trump. Cohen testified that payments he received from Trump in 2017 were reimbursements for the Daniels payment, which the Trump Organization falsely characterized as legal fees.

Prosecutors presented evidence from Jeff McConney, a former Trump Organization executive, supporting Cohen's claims. McConney testified that Cohen's reimbursements were for the hush money payment, as evidenced by handwritten notes from the company's CFO, Allen Weisselberg, who did not testify due to a perjury charge.

Throughout the trial, Trump claimed the charges were politically motivated, even hosting Republican allies in the courtroom and using breaks to deliver political messages to supporters. Judge Merchan fined Trump $10,000 for violating a gag order by attacking witnesses and prosecutors.

Trump was indicted following a lengthy investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and his predecessor, Cyrus Vance. This conviction is one of several legal challenges Trump faces, including three other cases related to election interference and the handling of classified documents. None of these cases are expected to go to trial before the 2024 presidential election, where Trump remains the presumptive Republican nominee.

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