Trump and Allies Assail Conviction With Faulty Claims


After former President Donald J. Trump was found guilty of all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, he instantly rejected the verdict and assailed the judge and criminal justice system.

His loyalists in the conservative news media and Congress quickly followed suit, echoing his baseless assertions that he had fallen victim to a politically motivated sham trial.

The display of unity reflected the extent of Mr. Trump’s hold over his base.

The former president and his supporters have singled out the judge who presided over the case, denigrated the judicial system and distorted the circumstances of the charges against him and his subsequent conviction.

Here’s a fact check of some of their claims.

What Was Said

“We had a conflicted judge, highly conflicted. There’s never been a more conflicted judge.”
— Mr. Trump in a news conference on Friday at Trump Tower in Manhattan

This is exaggerated. For over a year, Mr. Trump and his allies have said Justice Juan M. Merchan should not preside over the case because of his daughter’s line of work. Loren Merchan, the daughter, served as the president of a digital campaign strategy agency that has done work for many prominent Democrats, including Mr. Biden’s 2020 campaign.

Experts in judicial ethics have said Ms. Merchan’s work is not sufficient grounds for recusal. When Mr. Trump’s legal team sought his recusal because of his daughter, Justice Merchan sought counsel from the New York State Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics, which said it did not see any conflict of interest.

The committee is likely to disagree with Mr. Trump’s characterization of Justice Merchan as the most conflicted judge ever, as it has recommended judges disqualify or recuse themselves in many cases because of conflicts of interest.

What Was Said

“Just so you understand this is all done by Biden and his people.”
— Mr. Trump in the news conference on Friday

This lacks evidence. To date, Mr. Trump has yet to offer proof that President Biden is personally directing the hush money case. The case was brought by Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney. Mr. Bragg is a local prosecutor, meaning neither Mr. Biden nor his administration has control over Mr. Bragg’s office or cases. Moreover, the inquiry over hush-money payments began in 2018, before Mr. Biden took office and under Mr. Bragg’s predecessor.

What Was Said

“We weren’t allowed to use our election expert under any circumstances.”
— Mr. Trump in the news conference on Friday

False. Justice Merchan did not bar the election expert in question — Bradley A. Smith, the former chairman of the Federal Election Commission — from testifying, but did limit what he could say. Ultimately, Mr. Trump’s lawyers did not call upon Mr. Smith.

In a pretrial motion, Justice Merchan ruled that Mr. Smith could testify generally about the Federal Election Commission and define terms that relate to the case, like “campaign contribution.” During proceedings in May, Justice Merchan noted that allowing Mr. Smith to testify would invite testimony from an election expert chosen by prosecutors, resulting in a “battle of the experts.”

Mr. Smith said on social media that Mr. Trump’s lawyers had decided not to call him, but criticized Justice Merchan.

What Was Said

“I’m supposed to go to jail for 187 years.”
Mr. Trump in the news conference on Friday

This lacks evidence. It is unclear how Mr. Trump arrived at his figure. The exact punishment he faces, and whether it includes jail time, will be determined by Justice Merchan at sentencing on July 11.

Each of the 34 counts carries a maximum prison sentence of four years, or a total of 136 years. But Mr. Trump would likely serve the sentence concurrently for a maximum of four years total, if he were to be jailed at all. It’s also possible that Justice Merchan could order probation, with no prison time.

An analysis of similar cases — examining about 10,000 cases of falsifying business records, including 400 brought by the Manhattan district attorney, since 2015 — found that about one in 10 results in imprisonment. Those cases, however, typically involve additional charges.

What Was Said

“Everybody said it was a noncase, including Bragg — until I ran for office and then they saw the polls, I was leading the Republicans, I was leading the Democrats, I was leading everybody and all of a sudden they brought it back.”
— Mr. Trump in the news conference on Friday

False. Mr. Trump has repeatedly and wrongly pointed to the timing of the case as evidence of an election-related scheme.

The investigation over Mr. Trump’s finances, including the hush-money payments, began in 2018 under Mr. Bragg’s predecessor. It hit many roadblocks along the way, and was described by one former prosector as a “zombie” case, dying and reviving again and again. That prosecutor resigned from the office in February 2022 after Mr. Bragg decided not to pursue charges against Mr. Trump, specifically for inflating the value of his assets.

But The New York Times reported that Mr. Bragg continued to pursue the hush money angle and was confident in the case by the summer of 2022. That spring, Mr. Bragg also publicly insisted that the inquiry into the former president was active. Mr. Trump announced his decision to run for re-election in November 2022. Mr. Bragg impaneled a grand jury in January 2023 and Mr. Trump was indicted in March 2023.

What Was Said

“This is a place where Donald Trump got 5 percent of the vote. There was no jury of his peers, it was a jury of his adversaries. Clearly, this was orchestrated. And they found the venue that he couldn’t win. I mean, there was no opportunity for him to get a fair jury and they refused to allow him a venue change. There’s a reason that the Florida trial is not coming out, because they’re afraid that he would be acquitted.”
— Representative Nick Langworthy, Republican of New York, in an interview on Fox Business Network on Friday

False. Mr. Trump and his allies have long complained about the overwhelming presence of Democrats in Manhattan and insisted he could not get a fair trial there. (Mr. Trump received 12 percent of the vote in New York County, not 5 percent, in the 2020 presidential election.)

It is true that Mr. Trump’s team tried, and failed, to move the case to federal court in Manhattan where prospective jurors would come from other counties in New York, including ones with more conservative voters.

But Mr. Trump’s defense also took part in jury selection, dismissing several prospective jurors. The 12 picked included several who did not have strong opinions about him, one who said she appreciated Mr. Trump’s candor and another who said the former president had done some good for the country and received his news from Truth Social, Mr. Trump’s social media platform. (It is also worth noting that some allies of Mr. Trump had predicted a hung jury, pinning their hopes on one particular juror who appeared to nod along with the defense at times and made eye contact with Mr. Trump.)

In Florida, Judge Aileen M. Cannon, who was appointed by Mr. Trump, has still not decided when the trial in his classified documents case will begin. And it is actually Mr. Trump’s lawyers who have sought these delays. Prosecutors, on the other hand, have tried to speed up the case.

What Was Said

“It didn’t matter that Judge Merchan, you know, told jurors that they don’t have to agree unanimously. I’m like, really? Well, I beg to differ.”
— Sean Hannity, the conservative news personality, on his radio show on Thursday

False. This misinterpretation of Justice Merchan’s jury instructions has been echoed by Mr. Trump and a number of his allies. In reality, Justice Merchan explained to jurors that falsifying business records — the charges faced by Mr. Trump — is a crime only if done to conceal or aid another crime. That other crime, according to prosecutors, was a state election law known as Section 17-152, which prohibits helping or preventing the election of a candidate “by unlawful means.”

Jurors “must conclude unanimously” that Mr. Trump broke that state election law, Justice Merchan explained, but “need not be unanimous as to what those unlawful means were.”

What Was Said

“The gag order, all of it, was — in my view — an unconstitutional restriction on his free speech.”
— Mike Johnson, the House speaker, in an interview on Friday on Fox News

This needs context. Mr. Johnson stated his opinion, but it is worth noting that an appeals court has rejected his view. Justice Merchan did impose a gag order on Mr. Trump, and an appeals court upheld that order, rejecting Mr. Trump’s argument that it had violated his First Amendment rights.

Under the order, Mr. Trump cannot make statements about witnesses concerning their participation in the investigation and court proceedings; about prosecutors, court staff members or their families if the comments are intended to interfere with the case; or any statements about jurors.

In his ruling approving the gag order, Justice Merchan wrote that Mr. Trump’s statements “went far beyond defending himself” against attacks and instead were “threatening, inflammatory, denigrating,” and targeted private individuals as well as public figures.

The appeals courts found that Justice Merchan had reason to believe that Mr. Trump’s statements posed a threat.

What Was Said

“We don’t know yet what the crime is, because they introduced a new crime in the jury instructions saying, oh, and by the way in addition to the federal election interference he was never charged with, you can also tie it as a felony — you can also turn it into a felony by tying it to some tax law in New York, something they never mentioned throughout the entire trial.”
— Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, in an interview on Thursday on Fox News

False. Falsifying business records is typically a misdemeanor offense, but prosecutors can bring felony charges if they believe the bookkeeping fraud was done to conceal another crime, though they do not have to prove that those crimes were committed. While Mr. Trump’s allies and some legal scholars have also questioned this legal rationale, Mr. Rubio is simply wrong that prosectors “never” mentioned it through the entire trial.

In the indictment, unveiled in April 2023, prosecutors repeatedly wrote that Mr. Trump falsified business records “with intent to defraud and intent to commit another crime and aid and conceal the commission thereof.” In the statement of facts, prosecutors argued that the other crimes were violating election laws and deceiving tax authorities. Prosecutors and Justice Merchan also referred to the other crimes throughout court proceedings.



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