Anti-Trump Resistance Celebrates Conviction

Democrats Urged to Highlight Trump’s Policy Impacts

by Faruk Imamovic
Anti-Trump Resistance Celebrates Conviction
© Getty Images/Spencer Platt

The anti-Trump #Resistance has not celebrated this vigorously since November 7, 2020. While polls had painted a murky picture about the upcoming November elections, progressives are now hopeful that Donald Trump's recent conviction on all 34 charges of falsifying business records might be the definitive factor preventing a second Trump term.

However, it's essential to scrutinize this logic. Trump's personal eccentricities and baggage have been public knowledge for years. The act that prompted the hush money payment—allegedly cheating on his postpartum wife with an adult film actress—has been known since 2018. Can this latest development truly sway voters’ perceptions of Trump, both as a man and a politician? Are there potential voters who might reconsider their stance because of these bookkeeping irregularities?

The Republican Perspective

It's far more plausible that this will merely reinforce existing Republican beliefs. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and progressives may relish seeing "convicted felon" next to Trump’s name. However, Republicans are likely to echo Trump's claim of a “rigged verdict from day one.” This sentiment was amplified by the Biden campaign's controversial decision to hold a press conference featuring actor Robert De Niro outside the courthouse, adding fuel to the partisan fire.

The short-term impact on Trump's poll numbers might be a slight decline. However, by November, this verdict will likely be a distant memory or, more significantly, remembered by Republicans as further evidence of "elite" attempts to undermine Trump. He will be seen as a defiant figure who refused to back down.

Supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump react after he was found guilty
Supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump react after he was found guilty© Getty Images/Spencer Platt

Legal Consequences and Sentencing

Stacy Schneider, a criminal defense attorney in Manhattan, offers insights into what might come next. Given the unprecedented nature of this case, predicting whether Judge Juan Merchan will impose jail time on Trump is challenging. Historically, well-established businessmen in similar financial crime cases in New York have faced prison sentences. However, sentencing is at the judge's discretion, and every judge's approach differs.

Trump’s offenses could result in a variety of penalties, from time served, probation, or a fine, to a prison sentence ranging from 1 1/3 to 4 years for each of the 34 counts. Schneider predicts that if Trump receives a jail sentence, it will likely be no more than 1 1/3 years. Should the sentence be less than a year, Trump would serve time in the city jail, Rikers Island, known for its harsh conditions. A longer sentence would send him to a state prison upstate.

Probation seems a more likely outcome, though it presents logistical challenges for a presidential candidate and former president. Frequent reporting to a probation officer and obtaining travel permissions could impede Trump's campaign efforts.

Defense Critique and Appeal Prospects

Timothy C. Parlatore, a criminal defense attorney and legal commentator, critiques the defense's strategy, describing the case as defensible but poorly handled. The defense lacked a clear, coherent theme and failed to effectively challenge the prosecution's evidence, particularly the testimony of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer.

The defense needed to focus on the weakest aspect of the case: the lack of concrete evidence, apart from Cohen’s unreliable testimony, that Trump knowingly falsified business records. Instead, dwelling on Trump's alleged affairs inadvertently strengthened the prosecution’s narrative.

An appeal is expected, but any ruling will likely come well after the election. Parlatore points out that while there are potential avenues for appeal, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel is improbable due to the high legal standard required.

The Political Implications

Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist, urges Democrats to shift focus from Trump’s criminality to issues that resonate more directly with voters. Presidential elections are akin to job interviews, with the key question being what the candidate will do for the voters, rather than their moral character.

Trump's reaction to the conviction will likely involve his usual mix of grievance and conspiracy. Democrats should avoid validating his narrative and instead spotlight the potential negative impacts of Trump’s policies on the middle class. They should emphasize Trump’s stance on cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, rolling back environmental protections, and his Supreme Court appointments that overturned Roe v. Wade. Highlighting these issues could paint a stark contrast between Trump’s priorities and the needs of the average American voter.

Upholding the Rule of Law

Jennifer Rodgers, a former federal prosecutor, underscores the conviction as a triumph for democracy and the rule of law. The trial showcased the criminal justice system at its best: a fair-minded judge, an unbiased jury, and a reasoned verdict.

The upcoming sentencing will be challenging for Judge Merchan, who must balance Trump’s status as a first-time, non-violent offender against his lack of remorse and ongoing attacks on the justice system. The decision will undoubtedly be controversial, regardless of the outcome.

The Jury’s Verdict and the Road Ahead

Joey Jackson, another legal analyst, highlights the role of Michael Cohen’s testimony in securing the conviction. The jury found Cohen’s account credible and supported by enough corroborating evidence to establish Trump’s guilt.

The speed of the jury’s decision and their unanimous verdict on all counts were surprising. Many expected a split decision, reflecting the contentious nature of the trial. Yet, the jury’s determination suggests a strong belief in the prosecution’s case.