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What next for Donald Trump after his guilty verdict?

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After more than nine hours of deliberations, a jury of Donald Trump’s peers found him guilty on Thursday of 34 felony counts over the cover-up of “hush money” paid in the run-up to the 2016 election to buy the silence of a porn actor who alleged an extramarital encounter.

The presumptive Republican nominee was mostly subject to the same legal proceedings as any criminal defendant in Manhattan, but his conviction is unlike any other in US history, and throws up a number of unprecedented legal and political questions ahead of the election in November.

Here is what could happen next.

Will Trump be jailed?

Probably not. The “falsifying business records” crimes of which Trump was convicted are the lowest level felonies in the New York state system, and carry a maximum prison sentence of four years. It is unusual for a first-time offender with no criminal record to be incarcerated for a non-violent, bookkeeping offence, especially at Trump’s age (77).

Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg, who brought the case, shied away from suggesting that he would seek to lock Trump up, saying his office would “speak through its filings” and at the sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for July 11.

A number of other punishments, including probation and financial penalties, could be meted out by Justice Juan Merchan. When selecting the appropriate sanction, Merchan might also “take into account the defendant’s behaviour throughout the course of the trial”, according to former Manhattan prosecutor Tanisha Palvia, and the fact that he violated a court-imposed gag order several times by attacking witnesses and jurors.

Can a convicted felon run for president?

There is nothing in the US constitution barring a criminal from standing for federal office. An attempt in the state of Colorado to ban Trump from appearing on the ballot on the grounds that he fuelled an insurrection was also thwarted by the Supreme Court earlier this year, which ruled it was a matter for Congress.

Problems may arise, however, if Trump is handed a jail sentence and then beats President Joe Biden in November. While this would not present a constitutional crisis per se, “the logic of the constitution” would dictate that the sentence be suspended until Trump left office, said Alex Reinert, a criminal law professor at Cardozo Law School. “Everyone would agree that a president cannot fulfil his constitutional obligations if he is sitting in a prison cell.”

Can a convicted felon vote?

That depends on the state in which they were convicted and whether they are incarcerated. Under New York law, Trump would not lose his right to vote unless he was sent to prison, and even then, he would be free to vote before or after he serves his time.

Trump can even vote in his home state of Florida, which does strip convicted felons of their right to vote, but not for those convicted in states where that right remains intact.

Can Trump appeal?

Yes. “If [Trump’s lawyers] are getting paid, they’re going to file a motion to set aside the verdict,” said Catherine Christian, who spent more than 30 years in the Manhattan district attorney’s office. That motion will probably be denied, but the former president can then petition New York’s intermediate appellate court, and then its highest court, the Court of Appeals, on a number of grounds, including the admissibility of testimony of Trump fixer Michael Cohen, a convicted perjurer.

The former president is likely to home in on the fact that this “was a case of first impression”, Christian added, emphasising that the crime of falsifying business records has “never been charged [this] way before”, by tying a paperwork misdemeanour in to a broader election law violation.

Trump’s team may also focus on a potential weakness in the prosecutors’ case: allowing jurors to pick from three potential underlying crimes that the former president allegedly conspired to cover up, without having to disclose which one, Palvia said. “If an appellate court were to hold that one of those underlying theories — just one — did not actually constitute a culpable offence . . . then the whole verdict could fall,” she said.

The appeals process will take months, and is unlikely to conclude before the election.

Could Trump pardon himself if he becomes president?

No, as the “hush money” case was brought by state prosecutors, not federal ones. The power to pardon New York state crimes lies with the New York governor — Kathy Hochul, a Democrat whose term ends in 2027. Her post-verdict statement did not suggest she was considering clemency — she said it “reaffirmed that no one is above the law”.

What about his other criminal cases?

Trump faces two election interference cases — one state and one federal — over his alleged attempt to thwart the 2020 election result, and separate federal charges over the alleged retention of classified documents.

None look likely to go to trial before the election, having been successfully delayed by Trump’s legal team via a flurry of motions and appeals. However, his conviction in New York does leave other judges with more room to schedule a trial before election day should they choose to do so, without worrying about clashing with the Manhattan proceedings.


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