Former President Trump lashes out at his opponents after historic guilty verdict

After his historic conviction in a hush money trial, former US President Donald Trump lashed out at his opponents. The witnesses who were on his side were “literally crucified,” Trump said in a speech in New York on Friday. He described US President Joe Biden and his “gang” as “sick” and “fascists.” Biden called Trump a threat to democracy in the US. Support for the right-wing populist came from the Kremlin, among others.

On Thursday, Trump became the first former president in US history to be found guilty in a criminal trial. The jury in New York found the 77-year-old guilty on all 34 charges. His sentence is to be announced on July 11, and a fine or suspended sentence is considered likely.

The date for the sentencing announcement is just four days before the start of the opposition Republican Party convention, at which they are expected to choose Trump as their presidential candidate.

Even a prison sentence, which is considered unlikely, would not prevent Trump from running for president. The US Constitution does not even prohibit the office of president from being held in prison.

Trump was found guilty of covering up a hush money payment of $130,000 (about 120,000 euros in today's value) to former porn actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election by falsifying business documents. The payment was used to trick Stormy Daniels into concealing an alleged sex affair that she claims to have had with Trump and which Trump denies.

Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen, who was the prosecution's most important witness, testified in the trial that he had paid the hush money with Trump's consent. According to the prosecution, Cohen was reimbursed by the Trump company disguised as legal fees. Cohen, who has become a bitter opponent of Trump, spoke of an “important day” for the rule of law after the guilty verdict.

Trump announced on Friday that he would appeal the ruling. The appeals process is likely to drag on until after the presidential election on November 5, in which Trump is expected to run for the Republicans against the Democratic incumbent Biden.

Shortly after the guilty verdict, Trump's campaign published a fundraising appeal entitled “I am a political prisoner!” Trump said in his speech on Friday that $39 million in donations had been received since then.

The Kremlin viewed the guilty verdict as evidence of the White House's persecution of political opponents. “The fact that a de facto elimination of political rivals is taking place there using all available legal and illegal means is obvious,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov in Moscow.

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini also agreed with this assessment. Trump was the victim of “harassment by the judiciary” and “a politically motivated trial,” wrote the head of the far-right Lega on the online service X.

“Donald Trump is threatening our democracy,” wrote US President Biden on the online service X. “First he questions our electoral system. Then he questions our legal system. And now you can stop him,” Biden wrote on Friday, calling for support for his election campaign.

In a speech at the White House, Biden later said that Trump's attacks on the court were “dangerous.” It was “irresponsible” to speak of manipulation “just because you don't like the verdict,” Biden said. “The justice system should be respected. We should never allow anyone to tear it down.” The verdict against Trump “reaffirmed the American principle that no one is above the law.”

Biden's campaign team had previously responded to the guilty verdict with an appeal to vote. The jury's decision shows that “no one is above the law.” However, it does not change the fact that citizens are confronted with a “simple reality”: “There is still only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: at the ballot box.”

After Trump's speech on Friday, the communications director of the campaign of Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, Michael Tyler, spoke of a “confused and desperate” appearance by the former president. “This man cannot be president of the United States,” he added.

In a poll published shortly before the jury's decision for the broadcasters NPR and PBS, ten percent of Republican voters and eleven percent of independent voters said that they would be less likely to vote for Trump if he were found guilty. Since another very close race between Trump and Biden is expected, only a few percentage points could be decisive in the election.

Trump is facing criminal charges in three other cases. Two of them involve his attempts to retroactively overturn his 2020 election defeat to Biden, and the third involves his taking secret government documents to his private residence in Florida. However, it is completely unclear when the trials in these cases could begin.