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Justice: So what? What Trump’s conviction means for the US election

Justice: So what? What Trump’s conviction means for the US election

The former President of the United States is now a convicted felon. But it looks like this will not affect Donald Trump’s ambitions for another term.

A convicted criminal as president? Not possible? Yes, it is. In the United States of 2024, nothing seems impossible. Donald Trump has already exceeded many limits of the imaginable. Now the Republican has secured a new unique selling point: The 77-year-old is the first ex-president of the United States to be found guilty in a criminal case – for concealing a hush money payment to a porn actress.

So what? As astonishing as the historic conviction of a former president and current presidential candidate is, it is equally astonishing that Trump will probably get away with no major damage. And that he can continue his attempt to move back into the White House undeterred for the time being.

The choice

The conviction does not legally prevent Trump from running in the presidential election in November as planned. The Constitution only stipulates three requirements: Candidates must be US citizens by birth, at least 35 years old and have lived in the US for at least 14 years. There are no other requirements. Trump could run for election even if he were in prison. There is even such an example from US history: The socialist Eugene Debs contested the 1920 presidential election from prison, albeit unsuccessfully.

Despite the guilty verdict, experts believe it is unlikely that Trump will actually end up in prison. The sentence will be announced on July 11 – four days before the start of the Republican nominating convention, at which Trump is to be officially chosen as the presidential candidate.

The judge could suspend the sentence, impose house arrest, impose a fine or order Trump to do community service. The fact that Trump has never been convicted in a criminal case before is a favorable factor in his favor.

Above all, he will appeal against the verdict, and the process is likely to drag on for months. It is considered unlikely that a legally binding and thus final verdict will be available by the election date on November 5. It could lead to the bizarre situation that the candidate for the highest office in the state has to comply with probation conditions in the middle of the election campaign, is only allowed to move around to a limited extent or may have to do community service. Otherwise, the guilty verdict does not technically stand in the way of his election.

The voters

It is questionable whether the verdict could still harm him in the vote because he would fall in favor with voters. In nationwide polls, Trump has been one to two percentage points ahead of the Democratic incumbent Joe Biden for weeks. The trial in New York did not change that, even though it revealed juicy details about Trump’s sex life and dubious business practices.

In individual surveys, a small proportion of potential Trump voters recently stated that they might “reconsider” whether to vote for the Republican if he were convicted. However, most of them said they would not vote for Biden, and would rather not vote at all if in doubt. It is therefore unclear whether this could turn the tide. Trump’s hardcore supporters are already firmly behind him. And in general, large parts of the US population are rather unimpressed by his missteps.

Far worse things are known about Trump than falsifying business records to conceal a hush money payment to a porn star – without any of it affecting him politically. The sad climax: Before the eyes of the world, Trump tried to reverse his defeat to Biden after the 2020 presidential election and incited his supporters to attack the heart of US democracy.

Three other criminal cases are pending against him for attempted election manipulation and other serious allegations. And just a few months ago, Trump was sentenced to pay millions in a civil case because the court found that he had sexually abused a woman in the 1990s and later defamed her.

None of this ended his political career. On the contrary, Trump has made it his speciality to turn every legal accusation into a personal advantage, to portray himself as a “martyr”, to mobilize his supporters and boost his fundraising.

His narrative that the political establishment is trying to eliminate him by legal means resonates with many Americans. In an absurd way, a guilty verdict only makes it stronger in the Trump universe and fuels a now-more-than-ever mentality, as reactions from Trump supporters after the guilty verdict show.

The party

Trump has his party more firmly under control than ever – despite all the scandals. After the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, it looked for a brief moment as if he was politically finished forever. At the time, even loyal companions initially distanced themselves from him. But out of fear of the party base, which sometimes blindly follows the Republican, one after the other returned to Trump’s side. His march through the party’s presidential primaries showed that he is the clear front man of the Republicans.

The entire party elite is publicly supporting the 77-year-old’s presidential bid and criticizing the legal action against him as politically motivated. It is not foreseeable that any of them could turn away because of the guilty verdict. On the contrary: At the trial in New York, Trump demonstratively had rows of party colleagues line up for the obligatory expression of solidarity – especially those who want to achieve something in his possible next government.

The other processes

The guilty verdict also has no significant impact on the other criminal proceedings. The former president is still charged in three other cases: Two cases in the capital Washington and in the state of Georgia concern his attempts to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election. In another case in Miami, he is accused of illegally storing highly sensitive government documents.

The allegations in these three cases are far more serious than those in the New York trial. One of the charges among many: conspiracy against the United States. But with delaying tactics and legal maneuvers, Trump has managed to torpedo all of these proceedings and postpone the start of the trial in all three cases.

The important election fraud trial against him in Washington is even completely in jeopardy. First, the Supreme Court, as the highest court in the United States, must decide whether Trump might not be immune from prosecution in the case. This will then also have an impact on the two trials in Georgia and Florida. At the moment, it looks as though none of these trials will take place before election day.

Source: Stern

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