Donald Trump Found Guilty: What’s Next for the Former American President?

Donald Trump Found Guilty: What’s Next for the Former American President?

On Thursday, Donald Trump became the first former American president to be convicted on criminal charges. As he aims for a second term in November against Joe Biden, Trump now faces the possibility of imprisonment or probation. What are the next steps for the billionaire? What are the consequences for his presidential campaign? Here are some key points.

The conviction of Donald Trump on Thursday, May 30, for 34 counts of falsifying financial records to conceal a payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels has ushered in a new phase in the billionaire’s legal troubles and plunged American politics into uncharted territory.

What Penalties Does Donald Trump Face?

Donald Trump now risks a prison sentence or probation. His sentencing is currently scheduled for July 11, but the former White House occupant will appeal this judgment, which could significantly delay subsequent events. Here are some questions that arise following this historic decision.

Could Donald Trump Go to Prison?

In theory, yes. Judge Juan Merchan has set Trump’s sentencing date for July 11. He could sentence the former president to a state prison term of up to four years for each count, with a maximum of 20 years.

However, it is more likely that the 78-year-old billionaire will receive a suspended sentence or even community service, as he has no prior criminal record and the offense is non-violent.

For now, the billionaire remains free and has not had to post bail.

Will Trump Appeal?

Donald Trump has systematically appealed court decisions against him to delay proceedings or bring his case before a potentially more favorable court. The New York case will be no exception.

In the event of a conviction, one of Trump’s lawyers has already announced that he will appeal “as soon as possible.”

“The procedure can then take months, even a year. It can possibly be expedited in exceptional circumstances, but it is unlikely to be completed before the November presidential election,” explained Eric Lisann, a legal expert and former federal prosecutor, on France 24.

Can Trump Pardon Himself If Re-elected?

If Trump manages to regain the White House, he cannot pardon himself or order the charges to be dropped since it is a state procedure in New York, not a federal one.

How Could a Prison Sentence Affect His Voting Rights?

A prison sentence could deprive him of his right to vote in Florida, where he resides at Mar-a-Lago, according to CNN. In this southern state, felons lose their civil rights “as long as they have not served their full sentence and paid their fines.”

For a Floridian convicted in another state, Florida relies on the conditions set by that state, in this case, New York, to allow the restoration of the convicted person’s voting rights.

A law passed in New York in 2021 stipulates that individuals convicted of a felony regain their voting rights after serving their sentence. Therefore, the former American president might not be able to vote in Florida if he is behind bars during the November 5 election.

Can Trump Still Run for President?

Despite Trump’s historic guilty verdict, it does not prevent him from running for president. As public law professor Richard L. Hasen notes on his blog, “Nothing legally changes for candidate Trump.”

“The Constitution only sets limited conditions to run for election (being at least 35 years old, being a natural-born citizen, and having resided in the United States for at least 14 years),” explains the jurist.

Moreover, American states cannot prevent him from running due to his attempts to overturn the 2020 election results. In early March, the Supreme Court overturned a decision by the Colorado judiciary declaring Donald Trump ineligible in that northwestern state for his actions during the January 2021 Capitol assault.

Has Anyone Campaigned from Prison Before?

If incarcerated, Donald Trump would not be the first presidential candidate to campaign from a cell. Two years before the 1920 election, socialist Eugene Victor Debs was imprisoned for sedition due to his opposition to the U.S. involvement in World War I. He lost the election to Warren G. Harding but garnered almost a million votes, becoming a symbol of free speech.

Impact on Trump’s Campaign

So far, polls show Joe Biden neck-and-neck with Donald Trump, with the Democrat trailing in some key states. This verdict “probably won’t move many votes,” predicts Keith Gaddie, a political scientist at Texas Christian University, speaking to AFP. But in “particularly tight races, it could tip the scales one way or the other.”

Nonetheless, Trump has demonstrated resilience over the years, often presenting himself as a victim of a conspiracy orchestrated by the Democratic camp. “I am a political prisoner,” declared the Republican candidate in a fundraising appeal on Thursday evening, criticizing a trial he claimed was instigated by incumbent President Joe Biden.

“Every time Donald Trump has faced a setback, he always seems to come out on top. His brief arrest in Georgia last summer, for example, gave a financial boost to his campaign, and he raised seven million dollars from his electoral base,” recalls Douglas Herbert, international columnist at France 24.

Other Legal Issues

The New York jury’s decision will not affect the progress of three other criminal cases involving Donald Trump. The Supreme Court is set to rule from the end of June on his request for presidential immunity, a way to avoid prosecution for attempting to overturn the 2020 election results.

In the classified documents case, the trial has been postponed indefinitely by Aileen Cannon, a federal judge appointed by the former president. Finally, a trial in the Georgia election interference case is unlikely to happen soon. Trump’s team managed to force the court to examine for weeks a potential conflict of interest involving the prosecutor in charge due to her intimate relationship with an investigator. No trial date has yet been set.

Trump’s Response

On Friday, Donald Trump denounced a “scam” after being found guilty at the end of his criminal trial in New York, comments deemed “irresponsible” by his Democratic opponent, President Joe Biden.

The campaign for the November 5 presidential election between the Democratic president and his Republican predecessor has been plunged into uncertainty since a Manhattan court jury found Thursday that the billionaire was “guilty” of financial record falsifications. No former American president had ever been convicted on criminal charges.

From his Trump Tower skyscraper in Manhattan, Donald Trump called the trial “very unfair” and even rigged, but without providing any evidence, and promised to “appeal this scam” once the sentence is pronounced on July 11.

In a rambling speech lasting over half an hour, the 77-year-old New York businessman, who in a decade has disrupted American democracy, also accused his 81-year-old successor, who defeated him in 2020, and his “gang” of being “sick” and “fascists” responsible for his legal troubles.

“This is reckless, it’s dangerous, it’s irresponsible for anyone to say that (this trial) was rigged just because they don’t like the verdict,” said the current White House occupant, running for re-election.

In his speech, without taking any press questions, Donald Trump appeared “confused, desperate (…). This man cannot be president of the United States,” asserted a Biden campaign official in a statement.

On X (formerly Twitter), the president himself drove the point home: his predecessor “threatens democracy.” “First, he questioned our electoral system. Then, he questioned our judicial system,” reads Joe Biden’s X account.

From the moment the shocking guilty verdict for financial record falsifications was announced Thursday, Donald Trump has turned it into a campaign argument. “I am a political prisoner,” he claims in a fundraising appeal.

According to his campaign, he raised over $52.8 million in 24 hours, a staggering amount. “Crooked Joe and the Democrats, with their witch hunt, have awakened the MAGA (‘Make America Great Again,’ Donald Trump’s slogan) movement like never before,” celebrated his campaign advisors.

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