Donald Trump lashes ‘rigged trial’, judge after historic verdict

Trump outside court

Source: MSNBC

Donald Trump has lashed his “rigged trial” and “corrupt judge” after the historic guilty verdict in his New York hush money trial.

“The real verdict is going to be November 5th by the people – and they know what happened here and everybody knows what happened here,” the former US president said as he left the Manhattan courtroom after Thursday’s verdict.

“I am a very innocent man and it’s OK, I am fighting for our country, I am fighting for our constitution.”

It follows the verdict from the New York jury, which meant Trump became the first US president to be convicted of a crime after being found guilty of falsifying documents to cover up a payment to silence a porn star ahead of the 2016 election.

It came as crowds began to gather outside the courthouse, with some cheering.

One protester was carrying a large sign that read “TRUMP CONVICTED.”

Another smaller crowd had reportedly gathered outside Trump Tower, awaiting Trump’s return there. CNN reported most appeared to be overseas tourists.

After deliberations over two days, the 12-member jury announced on Thursday (local time) it had found Trump guilty on all 34 counts he faced. Unanimity was required for any verdict.

Todd Blanche, Trump’s lead defence lawyer, quickly filed a motion for a judgment of acquittal.

“There’s no basis and no way this jury could have reached a verdict without accepting the testimony of Mr Cohen,” Blanche said, referring to Michael Cohen, prosecutors’ star witness.

The long-shot attempt was dismissed by Judge Juan Merchan.

The verdict plunges the US into unexplored territory ahead of the November 5 presidential election, when Trump, the Republican candidate, will try to win the White House back from Democratic President Joe Biden.

Trump, 77, had denied wrongdoing and hinted he would, as expected, appeal.

“This was a rigged decision right from day one, with a conflicted judge who should have never been allowed to try this case – never,” he said.

“We will fight for our constitution. This is long from over, thank you, very much.”

He also made more unfounded allegations about corruption in the Biden administration.

Trump will be sentenced on July 11. He faces a maximum term of four years in prison, though others convicted of the crime often receive shorter sentences, fines or probation.

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

Opinion polls show Trump and Biden, 81, locked in a tight race, and Reuters/Ipsos polling has found that a guilty verdict could cost Trump some support from independent and Republican voters.

The jury found Trump guilty of falsifying business documents after sitting through a five-week trial that featured explicit testimony from porn star Stormy 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 then-fixer Cohen testified that Trump approved a $US130,000 ($A196,000) hush money payment to Daniels in the final weeks of the 2016 election, when he faced multiple accusations of sexual misbehaviour.

Cohen testified he handled the payment, and that Trump approved a plan to reimburse him through monthly payments disguised as legal work. Trump’s lawyers hammered Cohen’s credibility, highlighting his criminal record and imprisonment and his history of lying.

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

Trump complained that he could not get a fair trial in his heavily Democratic hometown. He reiterated that complaint outside court on Thursday.

“They wouldn’t give us a venue change. We were at 5 or 6 per cent (of voter support) in this district, in this area,” he said.

The case was widely regarded as the least consequential of the four criminal prosecutions Trump faces. Jurors heard testimony of sex and lies that have been public since 2018, although the charges themselves rested on ledger accounts and other records of Cohen’s reimbursement.

It was known as the “zombie case” because Bragg brought it back to life after his predecessor opted not to bring charges.

This case was also likely to be the only one to go to trial before the election, as the others are delayed by procedural challenges.

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.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in all the cases, and has portrayed his various legal troubles as an effort by Biden’s Democratic allies to hurt him politically.

-with AAP

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