The Conversation - Guilty on all 34 counts

+ when democracies prosecute former leaders ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

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Early in 2023, I wrote on social media, “My last five years can be summed up in the image of me standing in front of the TV, watching CNN, and asking, ‘Have we ever seen anything like this?’”

May 30, 2024, provided another one of those events. Late in the afternoon, I watched CNN’s Anderson Cooper report the news that Donald Trump, the former president of the United States and the presumptive 2024 GOP presidential nominee, was found guilty on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to conceal an alleged affair with an adult film star.

As I watched, I felt goose bumps: This was a moment I would remember for the rest of my life.

The politics editors at The Conversation U.S. have been preparing for the verdict for months. We’ve got three stories for you today: In the first one, criminal law expert Gabriel Chin answers editor Amy Lieberman’s questions, which range from why there were so many counts in the indictment – “each check, invoice or other document that the jury found had been falsified was a separate offense, which can be the basis of a separate count and punished separately,” says Chin – to whether Trump is destined for a prison cell.

Then, political scientists James D. Long, Victor Menaldo and Morgan Wack look at the effect of prosecuting leaders in democracies around the world.

“Prosecuting current or past top officials accused of illegal conduct seems like an obvious decision for a democracy,” they write. “Everyone should be subject to the rule of law. But presidents and prime ministers aren’t just anyone. … They are often popular, sometimes revered. So judicial proceedings against them are inevitably perceived as political and become divisive.”

And finally, historian Donald Nieman looks to the past to try to predict the future.

The verdict “isn’t likely to be the end of the matter,” writes Nieman. “The former president has had a symbiotic relationship with a legal system he frequently denounces but routinely uses to his advantage. That almost guarantees the case will continue to be part of his tale of grievance, persecution and a rigged system arrayed against him – and, by extension, against his supporters.”

[How faith and religion drive the world. Sign up for our weekly newsletter, This Week in Religion.]

Naomi Schalit

Senior Editor, Politics + Democracy

Donald Trump leaves the Manhattan courtroom after being found guilty on all 34 counts in his hush money trial on May 30, 2024. Justin Lane-Pool/Getty Images

Trump found guilty: 5 key aspects of the trial explained by a law professor

Gabriel J. Chin, University of California, Davis

The New York conviction of Trump is unlikely to end the legal saga, which could quickly be appealed and possibly rise to the level of the US Supreme Court.

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The Conversation News Quiz 🧠

  • The Conversation U.S. weekly news quiz

    Fritz Holznagel, The Conversation

    Here’s the first question of this week’s edition:

    Donald Trump was convicted on 34 felony counts at his trial in New York. The jury apparently did not buy defense attorney Todd Blanche's description of witness (and former Trump fixer) Michael Cohen as what?

    1. A. "A Mount Everest of misinformation"
    2. B. "The GLOAT ... Greatest liar of all time"
    3. C. "The King Kong of con men"
    4. D. "A stool pigeon who sings like another MC, Mariah Carey"

    Test your knowledge

 
 
 
 

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