Donald Trump

Just before news of a verdict dropped, Trump was smiling. Then the whiplash hit.

Author: Editors Desk Source: Politico
May 30, 2024 at 21:55
Illustration by Zé Otavio for POLITICO
Illustration by Zé Otavio for POLITICO

The first count landed like a hammer: “Guilty.”

In business-like fashion, the foreman of a Manhattan jury transformed Donald Trump — the former president of the United States and possibly the next one — into a convicted felon. Then he said it 33 more times.

“Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.” The cadence of a historic moment, set against the smashing of keyboards in a courtroom jammed with reporters battling failing Wi-Fi to deliver the news. Trump, the world would soon learn, will be sentenced — perhaps to prison — just days before he formally claims the GOP mantle to return to the most powerful job in the world.

Immediately after the verdict, Trump stared straight ahead, contemplating the moment. Then he whipped his gaze back toward the jury as each member individually confirmed that the judgment was unanimous: Trump had falsified 34 business records to cover up a payoff to porn star Stormy Daniels in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign, when Daniels was poised to go public with her account of having sex with Trump a decade earlier.

The trial was over. And minutes later, the jury was gone.

Though Trump and his allies had long predicted the outcome, the former president still appeared stung, grimacing on his way out of the courtroom before returning to his defiant form and declaring he would be vindicated in the November election. His campaign operation declared that he was already a “political prisoner,” echoing language he has used to describe the Jan. 6 rioters who stormed the Capitol in his name.

The most jarring aspect of the moment was its mundane efficiency. If you closed your eyes, it sounded no different than the end of a run-of-the-mill criminal trial, with the foreman ticking through the charges before a relatively standard statement of gratitude from the judge for the jury’s completion of its civic duty.

Justice Juan Merchan then released the jurors from their obligations to keep silent about their role in the case and said he intended to meet with them briefly before sending them back to their regular lives, likely forever changed by their brush with American history.

“I want to thank you very much for your service in this case. You were engaged in a very stressful and difficult task,” Merchan told the jurors after the verdict was read.

Donald Trump watches watches as jury foreperson #1 delivers guilty verdicts with Justice Juan Merchan listening on the bench in Manhattan Criminal Court.
Donald Trump watches as the jury foreperson delivers the guilty verdict with Justice Juan Merchan listening on the bench in Manhattan Criminal Court, on May 30, 2024, in New York. | Elizabeth Williams via AP
The drama of the moment was heightened, however, by the whiplash.

Just minutes before jurors revealed they had reached a decision, Merchan was preparing to send them home for the day with instructions to come back in the morning to continue deliberating. Trump appeared jovial, his allies predicting that the lengthening deliberation might signify a real battle in the jury room.


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