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By Martin Liptrot

By Martin Liptrot

A week in America | 31 May 2024

Overnight (30th May 2024) the verdict came in on Donald Trump. Martin looks at what this means for the ex-President, the Republican Party and the November election.

What next for Trump?

The verdict is in.

Last night, Donald Trump learned his fate, as a jury of twelve New Yorkers each found him guilty on 34 counts of violating New York state law by falsifying business records in the first degree, a Class E felony.

The state had accused Trump of making false records “with intent to defraud and intent to commit another crime and aid and conceal the commission thereof.”

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg detailed the allegations that the falsified business records were meant to conceal hush money payments to three people alleging extramarital affairs by Trump and made the case that the payments were to illegally help Trump’s presidential campaign.

Manhattan Criminal Court demands a unanimous verdict to be returned otherwise the case is declared a mistrial. Trump’s legal team would have hoped at least one of the jurors would think Trump was telling the truth but after only a day of deliberations, and calling for the judge to reaffirm his guidance, the jurors made their historic decision.

For the first time a President – sitting or ex – had been found guilty of a crime.

Pretty rich stuff. But what happens now?

For Trump, he will return to court on 11 July for sentencing and could, maybe, find himself serving a custodial sentence.

As you would imagine, he has already called the trial a hoax, politically motivated, and a disgrace and, in typical Trump fashion, likened himself to Saint Mother Theresa. Persecuted. The victim.

The big question for politics watchers is how does this affect the November elections?

It isn’t quite a constitutional crisis, but it isn’t far off.

Intriguingly, there is no legal precedent for what to do with a candidate for the top job in the world who has a criminal conviction. Legal experts and even Supreme Court Judges – most of whom are political appointees of Trump – are searching for loopholes which allow him to vote, qualify to be on the ballot, let alone whether he can take the oath of office if – as seems likely – the free will of the American public is to vote him in.

But even that might be changing. Latest polling suggests there is a small number of his supporters who won’t back him now that he is convicted.

If Trump can’t get on the ballot, then the Republicans will have to find a replacement.

There is a case to be made that even if the constitution allows for a convicted felon to run for President, is that the way the Republicans want this to play out? It isn’t the best optics.

At the same time, Trump is looking for someone to be the Veep on his ticket. Those who do fancy being chosen had all spent a few days in New York ahead of the verdict showing solidarity with the ex-President, currying his favour in the hope they get picked to be the running mate.

This is causing all kinds of challenges for the big names in the GOP.

Do they hop on the Trump ticket now, serve in his administration and in the process position themselves as the likely candidate for the Republicans in 2028 after The Donald is term expired. Or do they sit back and hope if Trump is transferred from his Manhattan penthouse to a shared room with Bubba on Rikers Island they can step into his void and reach the Oval Office this November?

Ambition, ambition, ambition.

This dichotomy has clearly impacted some of the front runners for the post. Case in point, Nikki Haley.

Nikki was the last woman standing in the primaries forcing Trump to compete in all states rather than have a coronation. She has called Trump ‘unfit to lead’, ‘un-hinged’ and ‘diminished’ – even accusing him of being an apologist for the Klu Klux Klan.

She must be amongst the leading candidates to be the GOP’s replacement pick.

But despite these damning claims, she also served in Trump’s previous administration and swore she would never contest an election he was a candidate in.

If you think Kier Starmer is guilty of a little ‘flip-flopping’ over his past support for Corbyn and others – Nikki makes him look like a rank amateur.

Not satisfied with being at best ambiguous on where she aspires to be, who she will work with, or pledge her allegiance to, our Nikki has also gone gung-ho on the global stage also.

Nikki is a seasoned international relations politician. In Trump’s administration she held the politically sensitive role of US Ambassador to the U.N. – a position previously held by George H. W. Bush, Andrew Young, Madeleine Albright, and Susan Rice – charged with averting wars and global crises.

So, it was a bit of a surprise last week when Nikki visited Jerusalem and took time to meet with the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and visit a munitions arsenal, where, with a frightening lack of political awareness, she stood before the cameras and signed her name on an artillery shell with the slogan – “America Heart with solid fill Israel – Finish Them! Love Always, Nikki.

Wow. Not exactly a Hallmark card missive is it.

Irrespective of your views on the conflict in Gaza and the wider Middle East – it’s difficult to see how this eases tensions or positions you to broker peace.

But this is American politics. It is big, brash and in your face.

This news is still fresh so we await the views and reactions of others involved in the race for power. Biden has praised the judicial system, independent candidate RFK Jr. declined to comment and Ron DeSantis, long considered the most likely to beat Trump in the primaries hasn’t surfaced yet.

MAGA-hatted protesters are gathering. Shock jocks and TV news channels are whipping up division. Trump has called on his supporters to ignore the rule of law and make November 5th ‘Decision Day’.

One thing is certain, this is only going to become more intense, nastier and potentially violent.

While the UK is currently panicked by the somewhat colourful, slightly nasty, airing of views by Nigel Farage and his sidekick Richard Tice from the Reform Party PLC, America says – “hold my beer’.

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Martin Liptrot

Martin Liptrot is a Public Affairs, PR and Marketing consultant working with UK, US and Global clients to try and ‘make good ideas happen’.

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