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Trump found guilty in hush money trial

<i>Justin Lane/Pool/Getty Images via CNN Newsource</i><br/>
Justin Lane/Pool/Getty Images via CNN Newsource

By Jeremy Herb, CNN

(CNN) — A Manhattan jury found Donald Trump guilty of all 34 charges of falsifying business records Thursday, an unprecedented and historic verdict that makes Trump the first former president in American history to be convicted of a felony.

Not only is Trump the first former president to be found guilty of a felony, he’s also the first major-party presidential nominee to be convicted of a crime in the midst of a campaign for the White House. And if he defeats President Joe Biden in November, he will be the first sitting president in history to be a convicted felon.

The verdict in the hush money trial was announced after jurors deliberated for nearly 12 hours over two days.

It will ultimately be up to voters in November to decide the significance of the guilty verdict delivered by 12 ordinary New Yorkers, which, on a legal basis, does not prevent him from being elected president again.

“This was a rigged, disgraceful trial. The real verdict is going to be November 5, by the people, and they know what happened here and everybody knows what happened here,” Trump said after leaving the courtroom, slamming the presiding judge and the prosecutor who brought the case. “We didn’t do anything wrong. I’m a very innocent man,” he said as he vowed to continue fighting.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, announced charges against Trump last year and presenting the first indictment of a former president, accusing him of falsifying the repayment of his former lawyer Michael Cohen in order to cover up a $130,000 payment Cohen made to adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep her from speaking out about an alleged affair with Trump before the 2016 election. (Trump has denied the affair.)

At a news conference Thursday evening, Bragg acknowledged the historic nature of the case and the conviction. While Trump is a defendant “unlike any other in American history,” the district attorney said the verdict was arrived at “in the same manner as every other case that comes through the courtroom doors” – “by following the facts and the law and doing so without fear or favor.”

“The 12 everyday jurors vowed to make a decision based on the evidence and the law, and the evidence and the law alone. Their deliberations led them to a unanimous conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant Donald J. Trump is guilty of 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree, to conceal a scheme to corrupt the 2016 election,” he said.

Throughout the seven-week trial, the district attorney’s office brought in 20 witnesses to illustrate to jurors how the hush-money payment to Daniels was part of a pattern of payoffs to keep negative stories about Trump out of view before the election, and how Trump was concerned about the impact to the campaign when the payment was made in October 2016.

Cohen was the prosecution’s key witness, describing how Trump directed him to pay Daniels and then approved the scheme to repay him in $35,000 monthly installments in 2017, an amount that was “grossed up” in part to account for taxes Cohen would have to pay.

Judge Juan Merchan set Trump’s sentencing date for July 11, 2024, at 10 a.m, just days before the start of the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee.

Todd Blanche, the former president’s attorney, told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on “The Source” that they will “vigorously fight” in post-trial motions due to Merchan in a few weeks. “If that is not successful,” Blanche said they would appeal following the sentencing.

Moments after Trump was found guilty, Biden said the only way to defeat his GOP rival is at the ballot box, with his campaign stressing the stakes of the 2024 election.

“There’s only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: At the ballot box,” Biden wrote on X, linking to a fundraising page.

His campaign said in a statement that the verdict showed “no one is above the law.”

“The threat Trump poses to our democracy has never been greater,” Michael Tyler, Biden 2024 campaign communications director, said. “A second Trump term means chaos, ripping away Americans’ freedoms and fomenting political violence — and the American people will reject it this November.”

Trump’s campaign also moved quickly to fundraise off the verdict, casting the case as a “political Witch Hunt trial,” a sentiment the former president’s allies echoed as they rushed to his defense Thursday.

“Today is a shameful day in American history,” House Speaker Mike Johnson said on X, calling the case “a purely political exercise, not a legal one.”

This story has been updated with additional developments.

Kaanita Iyer, Annie Grayer, Celina Tabor, Kara Scannell, Lauren del Valle, and Laura Dolan contributed to this report.

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