Trump says he will appeal historic conviction

By Luc Cohen, Helen Coster and Andy Sullivan

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Donald Trump said on Friday he would appeal the guilty verdict that made him the first U.S. president convicted of a crime, though he will have to wait until after his sentencing on July 11 before taking that step.

In rambling remarks at the Trump Tower lobby in Manhattan where he announced his first presidential run in 2015, Trump repeated his complaints that the trial was an attempt to hobble his comeback White House bid and warned that it showed no American was safe from politically motivated prosecution.

“If they can do this to me, they can do this to anyone,” Trump said in an unscripted 33-minute speech. Applauded by supporters, Trump, the Republican candidate in the 2024 election took no questions from reporters.

Thursday’s guilty verdict catapults the United States into unexplored territory ahead of the Nov. 5 vote, when Trump, 77, will try to win back the White House from Democratic President Joe Biden, 81.

The charge he was convicted of, falsifying business records, carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison. Others convicted of that crime often receive shorter sentences, fines or probation, but the judge in the case said during jury selection that Trump faces a potential jail sentence.

Incarceration would not prevent Trump from campaigning, or taking office if he were to win.

Trump will not be jailed ahead of his sentencing, which comes just days before the Republican Party is due to formally nominate him as its presidential candidate at its convention in Milwaukee.

After two days of deliberation, a jury of New Yorkers found Trump guilty of all 34 criminal counts he faced for falsifying documents to cover up a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels in the final days of his successful 2016 campaign.

Trump still faces three other criminal prosecutions – two for his efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat – but the New York verdict could be the only one handed down before Americans vote as the other cases have been tied up in legal wrangling. Trump has pleaded not guilty in all four cases, which he says are politically motivated.

A source familiar with his campaign’s inner workings said the verdict was expected to prompt him to intensify deliberations on picking a woman as his vice presidential running mate.

PARTISAN DIVISIONS

Reactions to the verdict were sharply, even bitterly, partisan with Democratic lawmakers praising the result and many Republicans embracing Trump’s assertions the prosecutions are a politically motivated attempt to prevent his return to power.

House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson said his fellow Republicans would stand by Trump and predicted the U.S. Supreme Court would overturn the verdict.

“President Trump is longer just an individual,” he said on Hugh Hewitt’s radio program. “He is a symbol of fighting back against this corruption of our system.”

National opinion polls show Trump locked in a tight race with Biden, and one in four Republican respondents in an April Reuters/Ipsos poll said they would not vote for him if he were convicted of a felony by a jury.

Strategists from both parties questioned whether the verdict would have a significant impact on the race.

On pro-Trump corners of the internet, some supporters called for riots, revolution and violent retribution.

Others said the verdict was a final breaking point. “You can’t get away with everything,” said Randy Drais, 71, a retiree who voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020.

Trump’s campaign said it raised $35 million from small donors after the verdict, nearly double its previous daily record. Several major Republican donors said they would continue to donate to Trump’s campaign despite the conviction.

Biden urged Americans to vote against him in November.

“There’s only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: At the ballot box,” he said on social media after the verdict.

EXPLICIT TESTIMONY

The jury found Trump guilty of falsifying business documents after a trial that featured explicit testimony from Daniels about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump in 2006 while he was married to his current wife Melania. Trump denies ever having sex with Daniels.

Trump’s former fixer and lawyer Michael Cohen testified that Trump approved a $130,000 hush money payment to Daniels in the final weeks of the 2016 election, when he faced multiple accusations of sexual misbehavior.

Cohen testified that he handled the payment and that Trump approved a plan to reimburse him through monthly payments disguised as legal work.

Falsifying business documents is normally a misdemeanor in New York, but prosecutors in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office elevated the case to a felony on grounds that Trump was concealing an illegal campaign contribution.

If elected, Trump could shut down the two federal cases that accuse him of illegally trying to overturn his 2020 election loss and mishandling classified documents after leaving office in 2021. He would not have the power to stop a separate election-subversion case taking place in Georgia.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen Jack Queen and Helen Coster in New York and Andy Sullivan in Washington; additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Doina Chiacu, Jarrett Renshaw, Alexandra Ulmer and Steve Holland; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Howard Goller)