On May 30th after 9 hours and 46 minutes of deliberation, a 12 member Manhattan jury of Americans returned a verdict in his election interference hush money case: guilty on all 34 counts: guilty guilty guilty… Every single count.

This is a very important moment in the history of our country. It is a much needed reaffirmation of the rule of law. Even with Trump and his MAGAs attacking the judge, (no judge should have to put up with what this judge put up with from Trump! even today the judge received death threats from Trump’s MAGA supporters!) the judge’s daughter, Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels, the District Attorney and others involved in this case, the trial went forward for 6 weeks, the judge was fair in his rulings, and the jury reached a verdict. The jury carefully considered the evidence. We know this because they asked for portions of the transcript to be read to them and they asked to hear certain portions of the judge’s jury instructions again.

The gravity of this moment for our country should not be underestimated. It is important to understand what this verdict means for the validation of our democracy. Donald Trump has broken the law many times and in many ways but he has never before been held criminally accountable. He has bullied and cheated his way out of criminal accountability. It is true that he has recently faced civil accountability: massive penalties in his civil fraud case and the E Jean Carroll case. But this time, with a jury of men and women sitting and listening to the evidence without the distortion of mis and disinformation from rightwing media, Trump finally met his match with these 12 American citizens.


Trump could face jail time in large part because of the way he behaved during this trial. He violated the gag order of this judge over 10 times. He showed contempt for the system. If he shows no remorse at time of sentencing on July 11, the judge might decide he needs to cool his heels in prison especially if the District Attorney requests jail time. DA Bragg has not yet said whether he will request that or not.  Even though Trump has no prior record of convictions and these violations were the lowest level felonies under New York law, Michael Cohen did time for this crime and Trump was the director of the crime.

Trump can still run for president under our legal system. He could even run for president if he were doing time in prison.

Trump will, of course, appeal the conviction.  Appellate courts generally will not overturn juries that have diligently listened to the evidence and come to their determination based on what they saw and heard in the courtroom. The jury is the trier of fact and judges credibility. The best possibility for some kind of successful appellate challenge might be the complexity of the charges and the way these misdemeanors were jacked up to felonies, or something in the jury instructions. But that challenge would take time on appeal to wend its way through the system.

Trump might try to get the Supreme Court to weigh in, but I cannot see even that corrupted court doing anything consequential before the election. If Trump is re-elected, however, he will find a way to erase this outcome and all of the other pending criminal cases by replacing people in positions of power with loyalists, and threatening  people if they refuse to obey him.

Whether or not Trump goes to jail, he will have to report to the probation office which itself is a humbling experience.

Fox and the MAGAs and so-called conservative media are already railing about the unfairness of this 34 count conviction, but this was not an unfair conviction. Quite the opposite. This could be the first big renunciation of the autocratic Christian Nationalist movement that has been bedeviling our country with Trump as its political standard bearer. This conviction could herald the start of a reaffirmation of our democracy and the rule of law. But only if Americans understand the danger and the stakes of the next election.

This conviction has not removed the danger of Trump and the MAGAs. If anything, this conviction will make Trump all the more desperate to cheat to win back the White House, his hidey hole, where he would be powerful and therefore safe.


On Tuesday, May 28th lawyers for the prosecution and defense presented closing arguments in Trump’s hush money election interference case.


Todd Blanche delivered closing arguments for the defense. According to attorneys in the courtroom, Blanche, a soft-spoken man with occasional outbursts that woke up the courtroom (including Trump who was napping a lot) when he suddenly shouted about Cohen being a liar, was hard to follow just as he had been on his cross examinations. He took a scattershot approach and focused heavily on Cohen being untrustworthy. He listed 10 top reasons why the jury should or could hold out against a guilty verdict. And he also asserted some notions that were probably heavily influenced by Trump’s view of the world and included at Trump’s insistence such as: “every campaign is a conspiracy”, “catch and kill is not a crime”. Blanche called Cohen the MVP of liars. But we all know the real MVP of liars is Donald Trump.  The truth is that no one can work for Donald Trump without being a liar.

Trump has also been creating a new image for himself in anticipation of the verdict that he has been expecting – that of an outlaw. The leader of Hells Angels showed up at Trump’s trial. Trump has embraced the January 6th insurrectionists and recast them as heroes.

Over the past week, Donald J. Trump rallied alongside two rap artists accused of conspiracy to commit murder. He promised to commute the sentence of a notorious internet drug dealer. And he appeared backstage with another rap artist who has pleaded guilty to assault for punching a female fan. (NYT)

Trump was readying his supporters to accept him after being convicted.

Todd Blanche, Trump’s lawyer, almost certainly urged on by Trump, also did something unacceptable in his closing argument and got reamed out by Judge Merchan. He intentionally defied the rules by telling the jury they can’t use what lying Michael Cohen said to “send someone to prison.” That exhortation by Blanche was totally impermissible in closing argument.  It would have raised the bar even higher for a jury that is already well aware that the defendant is a former president and possible future president. It also would have raised fears for members of the jury about reprisal if Trump becomes president again or his MAGA followers seek revenge. The judge, not the jury, is tasked with determining the punishment. As a former prosecutor, Blanche knew that. The judge was furious with Blanche. He read the jury a corrective instruction making it clear that punishment is up to the judge not the jury if the defendant is convicted.

It was obvious even in that effort by Todd Blanche to please Trump, that Trump’s micromanaging ways were again on full display, forcing this current attorney to do his bidding which includes rule breaking and lying if it helps Trump.  Of course Cohen lied. He lied for Trump. He was like so many other attorneys facing disbarment and sanctions for lying for Trump: Rudy Guiliani, Kenneth Chesbro, John Eastman, Jeffrey Clark, Jenna Ellis, Sidney Powell, and other attorneys who are less well known. In the world according to Trump, everyone is corrupt, out for himself and breaks the law all the time.  This is not true. It is a worldview that helps Trump justify his own lies and corruption. And it embroils his attorneys in behavior that leads to the loss of their livelihoods as lawyers.

No one can work for Donald Trump without being a liar.

Blanche’s goal in closing argument was to try to engage that one juror who would be a hold out for Trump and hang the jury by not believing the obvious evidence presented at this trial. Blanche failed to do that.  The case was strong and Trump’s actions even during the trial were evidence of his intent. Of course Trump directed the scheme! Of course he knew. He is a micromanager. He was also the person with something to hide, the person trying to become president and needing to pay off the porn star to shut her up. Not Michael Cohen. Yet Cohen is the only one until now who paid for the crime by going to prison.


The prosecution laid out the three straightforward points that the jury had to and did determine:

  1. Were there false business records? Yes.
  2. If so, were those false records part of a conspiracy entered into to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election? Yes.
  3. Did Trump make or cause these false business records to be made? Yes.

The closing for the prosecution by Josh Steinglass was detailed and exhaustive. He took a very methodical approach to the review of the evidence and told a full and consistent story that made sense of every bit of evidence. That closing and the jury instructions helped the jury reach its verdict quickly. The evidence was clear and the witnesses were mostly Trump’s own insiders like Hope Hicks and others who wanted him to be president and were part of his team.


The Access Hollywood tape caused Trump’s election team meltdown as donors fled from him. The possibility that Stormy Daniels, Dino the doorman and Karen McDougal would tell their icky stories about Trump created the fear it would have ended Trump’s hopes of getting elected. Whether or not that would have been true, the Trump campaign believed that. They were in meltdown crisis mode after the Access Hollywood tape.

That meltdown spawned the conspiracy to “catch and kill” bad stories that could hurt Trump by paying large sums of money to stop the stories from getting out. Then Trump’s own penny pinching ways, for which he is well known, got him into the mess that ended with this indictment. Trump failed to pay Pecker back for advancing money to Dino the doorman who was going to spill the love child story and Karen McDougal who would tell about their affair while Melania was pregnant. Trump’s failure to pay Pecker back for the $140,000 and $30,000 sums he had advanced resulted in Pecker refusing to “be a bank” anymore.

That left Trump in need of someone who would help him silence Stormy Daniels by paying her off. Which led to Michael Cohen stepping up to help Trump- using his home as collateral to get a loan and filling out false documents to get that loan for a fake LLC. Then they used Trump Org to set up a phony repayment scheme where it would look like Trump was paying for legal services but the truth was he was repaying Cohen for the hush money. Which led to Trump signing checks in the Oval Office after becoming president, to repay Cohen and grossing up the repayments to make Cohen whole and to avoid getting caught in an obvious repayment scheme.

Josh Steinglass also spoke about why this case matters so much- because the American people did not get to know who Trump really was before making him president in 2016. This was important information that could have affected the result of the election. It was withheld from the public because of a conspiracy Trump and David Pecker of AMI entered into to catch and kill stories that could hurt Trump before the 2016 election. Their agreement also included running shocking, fake and defamatory stories about political rivals.

As Pecker pointed out in his testimony, the front page of the National Enquirer is viewed every day by millions of Americans in their grocery stores as they go through the check out line. Trump was portrayed on those front pages as a successful businessman while Hillary Clinton was portrayed to be a despicable person who was dying of some terminal disease or part of a nefarious cabal doing evil. Day after day on the front page of the National Enquirer Trump was heralded as the great hope for America. Hillary was trashed. People noted the way the Enquirer was tilting the scale to help Trump at the time, but it was not until David Pecker confessed that he had entered into a conspiracy with Trump to affect the outcome of the election that we understood what had really gone down.


This conviction has the potential to be a reset button for America. Our legal system still works. But the danger from Trump and MAGA extremists is greater than ever because Trump is desperate. Americans need to vote for Biden and the Democrats in large numbers, especially in the battleground states if we hope to keep our democracy and make progress towards the ideal of a pluralistic country with freedom and fairness for every American.