Guilty on All Counts

Updated at 6:12 p.m. ET on May 30, 2024

Donald Trump is a convicted felon.

The former president was found guilty on all counts in his trial in Manhattan today. The jury returned with a verdict, delivered just past 5 p.m., after less than 12 hours of deliberation.

The result is historic and stunning, if not entirely unexpected. Trump is the first current or former president to be tried for any serious crime, and now he is the first to be convicted. Not only that, but he was found guilty on all 34 felony counts against him. The very fact of a verdict against Trump is remarkable: He has developed a reputation among both his fans and detractors as “Teflon Don,” able to wriggle out of any jam, but he found no escape in this trial.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg charged Trump with falsifying business records in order to cover up a hush-money payment Trump made to Stormy Daniels, an adult-film actor who alleges that she had sex with Trump in 2006. Bragg alleged that Trump had made the payoff in order to improperly hide information from voters ahead of the 2016 presidential election. Under New York state law, that stacking of crimes elevated what would otherwise have been a misdemeanor to a felony.

The verdict is vindication for Bragg, who faced intense criticism even from Trump critics for the case, which they deemed small-bore and based on a tenuous legal theory. But Bragg has now gotten a guilty verdict in the first criminal case against Trump—and what could very well be the only case to yield any verdict at all before the November election, in which Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee.

As prosecutors explained, Trump agreed to pay $130,000 to Daniels to buy her silence, but rather than pay her himself, he asked that Michael Cohen, then an employee of the Trump Organization whose main portfolio was skulduggery, do so. Trump later reimbursed Cohen via checks. Trump denied any relationship with Daniels, and he insisted that the checks were payment to Cohen for legal services. Trump’s lawyers also argued that he would not have been closely tracking the purpose of the payments, and thus had no intent to falsify records.

Prosecutors presented a methodical case over several weeks, including dramatic testimony from Daniels herself. But some of the most important testimony came from witnesses sympathetic to Trump (and whose lawyers were in some cases paid for by him), who testified that Trump was a micromanager who was highly attentive to expenses, blunting his claims of ignorance. They also testified that Trump was worried that if Daniels went public with her story, it would harm his campaign, which was reeling from the Access Hollywood tape at the time of the agreement.

Though much of the case hinged on documents, the crucial witness was Cohen himself, who testified that Trump had agreed to the plan as a cover-up. Trump’s lawyers mounted a furious attempt to erode Cohen’s credibility, accusing him of lying repeatedly on the stand, but they didn’t offer a compelling alternative narrative, and were evidently unable to persuade the jury.

One striking element of this case, as well as a recent defamation case against Trump, is how quickly the jury returned its verdict. Despite Trump arguing that the cases against him are flimsy or politically motivated or nonsense, jurors have moved swiftly against him—even in a case as complex as this one.

The verdict is only the end of one chapter in this case. No sentence will be decided until July, and Trump has said that he will appeal the decision, which will likely delay any punishment. He is eligible to run for president and serve even if convicted—and, indeed, even if incarcerated.

Another important question is how voters will respond to it. Pollsters have sought to measure how a conviction or acquittal might affect the course of the election, but this is a situation without precedent. One peculiarity of the case is that, although whether Trump might be convicted was in question, the damning matter at its center—Trump paying hush money to a porn actor—was never in dispute. Trump and his allies have long since deemed this case a political prosecution, and he blasted out a fundraising appeal within minutes of the verdict announcement, calling himself a “political prisoner.” (He is not a prisoner.)

“This was a disgrace,” Trump said outside the courtroom this evening. “This was a rigged trial by a conflicted judge who was corrupt.”

But for anyone following the case closely, the claim is hard to take seriously. Even if Bragg had political motivation to bring the charges, he had to prove them in an adversarial system. Trump’s lawyers had every opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, call their own, and make the arguments Trump wanted to hear in court, even if legal analysts sometimes found them unwise. Ironically, Trump’s ability to complain so fiercely in and out of court about the unfairness of the proceeding was proof of its fairness.

Regardless of the verdict, the simple fact of a relatively smooth trial has been a victory for the criminal-justice system. This was the first experiment the United States has ever had in trying a current or former president for a crime—though it will probably not be the last—and it has been a heartening demonstration that no one is above the law, no matter how powerful.