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Donald Trump’s New York criminal trial is over, but his legal odyssey is not

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Here in the United States, we are watching the aftermath of a criminal conviction. A jury of his peers said former President Trump was guilty on all 34 counts in his trial for falsifying business records. And as heard on this program on Friday, the ex-President made various claims about the trial.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: We're going to be appealing this scam. We're going to be appealing it on many different things. He wouldn't allow us to have witnesses. He wouldn't allow us to talk. He wouldn't allow us to do anything. The judge was a tyrant.

INSKEEP: For the record, the judge did allow defense witnesses but limited the allowable testimony of one witness who never took the stand. Other witnesses did, and the defense made its case before losing. NPR's Andrea Bernstein has been covering the trial and the aftermath and is with us once again. Andrea, good morning.

ANDREA BERNSTEIN, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: What is Trump's legal team doing about the appeal that he mentioned?

BERNSTEIN: So after the jury came back with a decision last week, the defense moved to set aside the verdict based on what it called Michael Cohen's lies on the stand. Judge Merchan said firmly, that motion is denied, but they can file more posttrial motions. Judge Merchan gave them a deadline of June 13, Thursday of next week, and prosecutors have two weeks after that to respond. That day, June 27, is the day of the first presidential debate.

INSKEEP: Wow.

BERNSTEIN: Meantime, the New York Probation Department will get to work on Trump's presentencing report. Usually, that involves an interview of the defendant by a probation officer. The New York Court's website says, quote, "the presentence interview is a chance for the defendant to make a good impression and explain why he or she deserves a later punishment."

INSKEEP: OK, you said usually, so we don't know if that happens here. And we've heard differing opinions about whether Trump could truly get jail time when we get to the sentencing, which is in July. What are the factors for the judge to consider?

BERNSTEIN: So on the one hand, Trump is a first-time offender and was convicted of an E felony, which is the lowest level felony in New York. And Judge Merchan signaled during summations that while sentencing is entirely in his hands, it could involve no incarceration.

Judge Merchan has been vocal in all of his rulings. He understands his actions are taking place in the context of a presidential campaign and that Trump has First Amendment rights. On the other hand, among the factors that judges take into account are remorse and an otherwise clean record.

INSKEEP: OK, Trump has definitely not shown remorse or admitted that he did anything wrong.

BERNSTEIN: In fact, he's shown the opposite of remorse, and he has three other indictments for dozens of felonies in other jurisdictions. He was recently ordered to pay in New York hundreds of millions of dollars in a civil fraud trial and another $90 million to writer E. Jean Carroll. After civil findings, he was liable for sexual abuse and defamation. And his company was found guilty in 2022 of 17 counts of felony fraud in the same courtroom in front of the same judge, Juan Merchan.

INSKEEP: OK, so assuming that he files the appeal, as he says he will, after sentencing July 11, how does that go?

BERNSTEIN: It could take years. Some legal analysts see very few grounds because of Merchan's care to eliminate inflammatory evidence and his relatively frequent rulings for the defense. And the New York law under which Trump was convicted, falsifying business records, is relatively common. But doing so to influence an election is not common, so Trump's lawyers may lean into that. As with so much else, we are in uncharted waters, and we will just have to wait and see.

INSKEEP: Uncharted waters - and our navigator is NPR's Andrea Bernstein. Thanks so much.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you, Steve.

(SOUNDBITE OF WAAN'S "OMI") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Andrea Bernstein
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.