“An irreducible verdict”: Maddow and other experts clock in on Trump in his felon era

When the sun rose Thursday morning, Donald Trump was still a former president facing beaucoup counts in his New York criminal trial. Come dinner time, for many across the United States, he’s cemented in history, and in memory, as America’s first felon president. But whether that “president” title is a future and/or past thing, remains to be seen.

After hearing the jury tick off a verdict of guilty on all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the trial overseen by Judge Juan Merchan, Trump spoke to reporters outside the courtroom, bashing the “conflicted judge” that led to his Wikipedia page being updated to reflect the latest ding to his reputation, with lightning speed. And then he made a bee-line for his motorcade to ensconce himself in Trump Tower, a location that once held much different meaning in the middle of a city that Trump once thought held him in convenient favor. But as Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs sings in “Maps,” “Wait, they don’t love you . . .” 

In this instance, the song stops there.

Seconds after the jury handed down their verdict, which happened sooner than most — with the exception of, perhaps, Trump’s campaign team — anticipated, reactions began to roll in from experts in the political-sphere.

On MSNBC, Rachel Maddow all but cracked her knuckles before weighing-in with, “This is a definitive and this is an irreducible verdict . . . The sentencing process will go on and those will all be pressure points. But the legal system in this country treats any former president as any citizen.”

“The test for us as a country starts right now,” Maddow said elsewhere, pressing down on the “what’s next?” of it all.

Ty Cobb, a former member of the White House legal team who reported to Trump, told Salon that the verdict is “predictable.”

“I think most experienced trial lawyers would recognize that the jurors were going to look at the chronology that the government set forth and the government accurately portrayed Pecker’s testimony during the closing,” Cobb said. “Once the jury corroborated that, they were sort of on the path to conviction. The jury instructions were very favorable to the government, not unfairly so. With the variety of possibilities that were available for the jurors, they were about as favorable as they could have been. I think the speed of the verdict and the fact it was unanimous as to all counts suggests that they didn’t really have much difficulty in terms of going with their gut. I’m not sure they parsed the fine complex details that were presented, as those instructions were highly complex. This is certainly the product of the evidence that they were allowed to see on the indictment that was presented to them. I think that indictment will get closely scrutinized on appeal and it may or may not be upheld. I think the defense has a strong argument about whether it is constitutionally applied. They may not win on that but it will be seriously considered. All in all a predictable result. Whether it holds up on appeal is a little more of a toss-up than it typically is on conviction. But not by any means an uncertainty.  We’ll have the issue about if he is sentenced to an incarcerative period… Whether it impacts him politically, I’m not optimistic that it will have much impact. But you would think being a convicted felon would not enhance your presidential resume.”

And Bennett Gershman, a professor of law at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law since its founding as the Pace Law School in 1976, tells Salon in an email:

“As I predicted. Trump is now a ‘convicted felon.’ The verdict is a total vindication of the decision by District Attorney Bragg to bring the criminal charges, a masterful presentation of the evidence by the prosecution, and a brilliant summation. The jury should be saluted for their diligence and courage. I really have no way knowing how this verdict will play out politically. Trump and his handers are getting the disinformation machine into high gear to spread false and utterly ridiculous accusations about the judge and his instructions to the jury, and are essentially trying to spin another lame conspiracy theory which will be heard by millions of clueless Trump supporters and may have dire consequences, maybe the biggest being the potential for violence. But we need more time to digest what just happened.”

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Hillary Clinton, forced to carry the weight of “lock her up” chants until the day she slips from this realm, gave her first public reaction to the verdict well into the night, with one simple and well-earned line:

“Anything going on today?”

Amidst the “Home Alone” memes, the Gwyneth Paltrow “I wish you well” memes, and the general hoots and hollers of glee coming from some (most) corners of the respectable internet, many, like Biden campaign spokesman Michael Tyler, stressed that the celebrations should be short as . . . the guy could still win.

But, as Maddow said earlier in the evening on MSNBC, “This is the system working in a fair way.” And the right side of history is bracing to see how that works out.

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