Trump Declares Court Battle ‘Long From Over’ as He Denounces ‘Rigged Decision’: Ex-President Faces Probation Report, Sentencing Hearing

The prosecution may cite the former president’s lack of remorse, and repeated violations of a gag order, as reason for a harsher sentence.

Stephanie Keith/Getty Images
President Trump arrives at Trump Tower on May 30, 2024, at New York City after being convicted of 34 felonies in state court. Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Thirty four times, the word guilty pounded the walls of the Manhattan courtroom on Thursday afternoon. Like 34 punches, the guilty verdict struck again and again and again. The Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, won a big victory. But the legal battle over the hush-money case is not over yet. 

“This is long from over,” Mr. Trump told reporters in the courthouse hallway at 5:18 pm, after he had exited the courtroom. “This was a rigged decision right from day one, with a conflicted judge who should have never been allowed to try this case, never. And we’ll keep fighting, we’ll fight ’til the end and we’ll win … We will fight for our Constitution,” Trump said. 

He will hold a press conference in the atrium of Trump Tower late Friday morning. On his social media platform, Truth Social, all Thursday evening, Trump repeatedly stated that, “The real verdict will be on November 5th by THE PEOPLE– they know what happened here.”

The former president has a right to appeal his verdict, and can do so after sentencing, which the judge set for July 11, four days before the Republican National Convention begins in Milwaukee, where the GOP will  nominate Trump as its presidential candidate for the upcoming election.    

Donald Trump, far left, watches watches as jury foreperson #1 delivers guilty verdicts with judge Juan Merchan listening on the bench in Manhattan Criminal Court, Thursday, May 30, 2024, at New York. Elizabeth Williams via AP

It was one of Trump’s defense attorneys, Todd Blanche, who had asked the judge for a sentencing date in July, because he must prepare beforehand for a three day hearing scheduled for another of Trump’s criminal cases in Florida in late June. Special Counsel Jack Smith has charged Trump with illegally taking classified documents from the White House when he left office in January 2021, and hoarding them at Mar a Lago. Even though the presiding federal judge, Aileen Cannon, has indefinitely postponed the trial, there is a hearing scheduled and Mr. Blanche, who is defending Mr. Trump in that case as well, asked the New York judge, Juan Merchan, for time to prepare and “not focus on this matter,” Mr. Blanche said, referring to the hush-money case. 

Mr. Blanche seemed sincerely distraught. His voice was shaking when he asked the judge, immediately after the verdict was read, to move for “a judgment notwithstanding verdict,” in other words, to dismiss the verdict. 

“There is no basis and no way,” the defense attorney stuttered in disbelief, “that the jury could have reached this verdict without the acceptance of Cohen’s testimony.” 

Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer and so-called “fixer,” who plays a central role in the hush-money case, testified during the trial, and Mr. Blanche now says Cohen committed perjury on the witness stand. Further, Mr. Blanche inferred that the judge knew Cohen, who has served prison time for lying to Congress, has admitted to lying on multiple occasions, was again lying. 

President Trump appears in court for his hush money trial at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 30, 2024 at New York City. Steven Hirsch-Pool/Getty Images

“You are not suggesting that I know that he committed perjury?” Judge Merchan asked Mr. Blanche in a stern voice. He then turned to the prosecution, who simply said that they disagreed. 

Cohen was a key figure in the case that Mr.  Bragg successfully brought against Trump. Cohen made the hush-money payment that triggered the charges when he wired to the adult film star Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, $130,000 two weeks before the presidential election in 2016. According to the prosecution, Cohen was ordered to issue that payment by Trump. The  presidential candidate, the prosecution says, wanted to silence Ms. Clifford and stop her from publicizing a one time sexual encounter she claims she had with Trump during a celebrity golf tournament at Lake Tahoe a decade earlier. Trump denies ever having had sex with Ms. Clifford and denies instructing Cohen to pay her. After Trump became president, the prosecution further alleges, he reimbursed Cohen, but fraudulently disguised the payment as a legal expense.

Barrett Blade (L), the porn performer and fourth husband of Stormy Daniels (R) attend the 2024 Adult Video News Awards at Resorts World Las Vegas on January 27, 2024 at Las Vegas, Nevada. Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Stormy Daniels testifies on the witness stand as a promotional image for one of her shows featuring an image of Trump is displayed on monitors in Manhattan criminal court, Thursday, May 9, 2024, at New York. Elizabeth Williams via AP

Throughout the trial, the defense argued, extensively, that Cohen acted on his own accord, because he was worried Ms. Clifford’s allegation would hurt Trump’s election campaign, especially after the “Access Hollywood” tape had been leaked to the public with just weeks to go before the election, throwing Cohen, Trump’s longtime “fixer,” into sheer panic. On that tape, Trump can famously be heard telling television host Billy Bush that women flock to famous men, allowing them to “grab them by the p—.” But in his closing argument, Mr. Blanche said of the audio that Trump “never thought it was going to cause him to lose the campaign, and indeed it didn’t.”

The jury instructions clearly characterized Cohen as an accomplice, not merely to the hush-money payment but also to the overall scheme to influence the 2016 election. On Thursday morning, the judge read almost all of the 31 pages of instructions out loud for a second time. He had already read them once on Wednesday morning before he sent the twelve jurors into deliberation. But the jury had sent a note on Wednesday, requesting him to read them again. By New York law, they are not allowed to receive a printed copy.    

President Trump, right, shakes his son Eric Trump’s hand as he walks out of the courtroom in Manhattan Criminal Court, Thursday, May 30, 2024, at New York. Elizabeth Williams via AP

“Under our law, Michael Cohen is an accomplice because there is evidence that he participated in a crime based upon conduct involved in the allegations here against the defendant,” the judge read in his monotone manner that made it difficult to follow along, especially as he read for roughly 40 minutes without changing the tonality of his voice one bit. 

“Our law is especially concerned about the testimony of an accomplice who implicates another in the commission of a crime,” the judge went on, adding that the “law provides that a defendant may not be convicted of any crime upon the testimony of an accomplice unless it is supported by corroborative evidence tending to connect the defendant with the commission of that crime.” 

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg leaves the podium after a news conference following the conviction of President Trump in his hush money trial on May 30, 2024 at New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The jury had specifically asked to hear parts of that “corroborative evidence” again in another note, sent on Wednesday, asking to hear portions of the testimony given by the former publisher of the National Enquirer, David Pecker. Two women, presumably court staff, then read the questions by the attorneys, both defense and prosecution, and the answers given by Mr. Pecker. 

The testimony corroborated that a meeting had taken place in Trump Tower in August 2015, during which Cohen, Mr. Pecker and Trump conspired to use the Enquirer to help Trump’s election campaign by publishing favorable stories about him and negative stories about his opponents. Mr. Pecker said that he promised Trump he would use the resources of his tabloid to be the “eyes and ears” of Trump’s presidential campaign. This testimony served to underscore the prosecution’s contention that the buying of stories from people who were threatening to publicize salacious stories about Trump, then silencing them through nondisclosure agreements, during an election, were indeed a form of illegal campaign contributions. 

The longtime publisher of the National Enquirer, David Pecker, testified all day for the prosecution on Thursday. Wikipedia
Judge Juan Merchan, left, listens as David Pecker testifies on the witness stand in Manhattan criminal court, Friday, April 26, 2024, at New York. Elizabeth Williams via AP

In the end, the jury agreed that Mr. Pecker’s testimony corroborated that of the “accomplice” Cohen, and that this proved the prosecution’s case.              

The judge denied Mr. Blanche’s motion for acquittal of the charges. He gave the attorneys a post-trial schedule for any further motions they wished to file. The defense must submit their requests no later than June 13, he said, and the prosecution would have to answer by June 20.  

The judge released Trump, who was not required to post bail, on his own recognizance. 

Trump will receive a probation report, as is standard in state court once a defendant has been convicted and faces sentencing. That report typically takes four to six weeks to compile.

Michael Cohen departs his apartment building on his way to Manhattan criminal court, Thursday, May 16, 2024, in New York. AP Photo/Andres Kudacki
Defense attorney Todd Blanche cross examines Michael Cohen in Manhattan criminal court. Elizabeth Williams via AP

The probation report, made by state probation officers, will provide the judge with information to assist in the determination of the sentence that he chooses to impose. The probation officer, or a social worker or psychologist working for the probation department, will interview Trump and evaluate his personal history and prior criminal record (Trump does not have one). Traditionally, the authors of the probation report also interview the victims of the convict’s crime. Trump’s attorneys will also have the opportunity to argue to the probation officers why their client is a good person, can point out his advanced age (Trump is 77 years old), and argue for a lighter sentence.

Another aspect that influences every judge’s sentencing is the defendant’s remorse, and admission of responsibility for their crime. Trump has clearly shown no remorse. On the contrary, he has continued to say he’s done nothing wrong, to denounce Judge Merchan and, challenging a gag order, to insult Cohen and Ms. Clifford without naming them. 

Judge Juan Merchan in his chambers at New York, March 14, 2024. AP Photo/Seth Wenig
Judge Juan Merchan presides over Donald Trump’s trial at Manhattan criminal court. Elizabeth Williams via AP

On May 29, Trump posted on Truth Social comments that clearly referred to Cohen as the “bum that got caught stealing from me.”         

During sentencing, the prosecution could, if they deem it necessary, argue that Trump repeatedly violated his gag order, which the judge imposed on him, and which prohibits him from making public comments about the witnesses involved in the case. After initially calling for Trump to be sanctioned for gag order violations, for which Judge Merchan fined Trump several thousand dollars but did not incarcerate him, the prosecution has been quiet about subsequent social media postings in which Trump insulted Ms. Clifford and Cohen without naming them. 

Trump attorney Todd Blanche listens as President Trump addresses the media as he arrives for his criminal trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 10, 2024 at New York City. Victor J. Blue – Pool/Getty Images

A possible reason for the prosecution’s silence about Trump’s comments could be that they are waiting for sentencing when they may argue that lack of remorse and repeated violations of the gag order should lead the judge to sentence Trump to prison. Another possibility is that they were quiet, because they wanted to move the case along and not get sidetracked. It is unclear what the prosecution’s idea for a just sentence is, if they hope for prison time, or if they hope for a fine and-or supervised probation.      

Mr. Bragg held a press conference after the trial was over, during which he called Trump a defendant “unlike any other in American history.” Regarding the upcoming sentencing of Trump, Mr. Bragg told reporters, “The judge scheduled sentencing for July 11th. We will speak in court at that time. We also set a motion schedule. We’ll speak as we have done throughout this proceeding.” 

The Manhattan district attorney, who was present in the courtroom when the verdict was read, but did not display any strong emotional reaction, applauded the jury, saying that “their service is literally the cornerstone of our judicial system.”

“Our job is to follow the facts and the law without fear or favor, and that’s exactly what we did here,” Mr. Bragg said, adding that while there are “many voices out there, the only voice that matters is the voice of the jury.”

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, left, and President Trump watch as the jury is polled after the verdict was read in Manhattan Criminal Court, Thursday, May 30, 2024, at New York. Elizabeth Williams via AP

Mr. Trump’s oldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, who did not attend any of the court proceedings in Manhattan, unlike her two brothers, Don Jr. and Eric, and her half-sister Tiffany, posted a photograph on her Instagram story on Thursday evening, of herself and her father when she was small child, three or perhaps four years old. The caption read, “I love you dad.”   

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