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  • Writer's pictureNorth Shore Democrats of Travis County

Popular Information debunks arguments against Trump’s 34-count felony convictions


Judd Legum calmly and precisely debunks Trump apologists’ blustering excuses for Orange Man’s 34 felony convictions in New York. (1)


Predictably, Trump complained the trial was “rigged,” just as he claims were the 2020 election, federal employment statistics, election polls, the January 6 Committee, the media, social media companies, search results, his impeachment hearing, the Pulitzer Prize, and the Emmys. All obviously “rigged.” (2)


Some politicians and talking heads have advanced numerous arguments suggesting that Trump's convictions were illegitimate, unfair, or inconsequential.


The June 3 edition of “Popular Information” (on Substack) critically examines each of these arguments.


A. The charges against Trump were "obscure" and "nearly entirely unprecedented”


Trump was convicted of falsifying business records in the first degree. That charge, which is a felony, involves falsifying the records with the intent to commit or conceal another crime. A March 2023 analysis by Just Security found that prosecuting the falsification of business records in the first degree is "commonplace" in the New York District Attorney's office and used "to hold to account a breadth of criminal behavior from the more petty and simple to the more serious and highly organized." The analysis summarized the dozens of similar prosecutions in a 24-page document. (3,4)


“Prosecutors argued that Trump falsified the business record in order to commit another New York crime, a conspiracy to promote an election by unlawful means. It is true that prosecuting someone for falsifying business records to conceal a campaign finance violation is uncommon — but that is because the crime itself is uncommon,” Legum wrote..


“The idea that the prosecution is unusual is important only if it suggests that the government routinely lets others get away with similar conduct. There is no evidence suggesting that this is true,” he said.


B. The prosecutors didn't reveal their theory of the crime until closing arguments


This is false. Prosecutors revealed that deceiving tax authorities was a component of the conspiracy on the first page of the "Statement of Facts," filed on April 4, 2023. The specific nature of these tax crimes — and other crimes that could elevate the falsification of business records to a felony — were discussed in great detail in a November 9, 2023 filing by the prosecution. (5,6)


C. The jury instructions allowed the jury to convict Trump without reaching a unanimous verdict


False.


To convict Trump of falsifying business records in the first degree, the jury needed to unanimously agree that Trump falsified business records with the intent to commit another crime, in this case, "Conspiracy to promote or prevent election.”


The judge was very clear in the instructions that the decision must be unanimous. "Your verdict, on each count you consider, whether guilty or not guilty, must be unanimous; that is, each and every juror must agree to it," Merchan said. (7)


D. The charges against Trump were not important


The charges against Trump stemmed from a conspiracy to conceal information from the public in the critical days before the 2016 election. Especially after the leak of the Access Hollywood tape, in which Trump brags about sexually assaulting women, Trump's moral character was at issue. News that he had allegedly had an affair with an adult film star would have been a major story.


At a minimum, it would have diverted attention from Hillary Clinton's email usage, which dominated coverage in the closing days of the campaign.

It's unclear how much of an impact Stormy Daniels story would have had on the electorate. But it wouldn't have had to do much to change the course of history. A shift of 80,000 votes across a handful of states would have tipped the balance to Hillary Clinton. (8)


E. There was nothing unlawful about how Trump tried to influence the election


Another argument is that the payments to Stormy Daniels did not violate federal campaign finance law because the money could be considered a personal expense, not a campaign expense. This argument ignores testimony from former AMI CEO David Pecker that there was an agreement to make these kinds of payments to protect Trump's campaign. 


But the prosecution did not just argue that the payments to Daniels violated campaign finance law. They also argued that the money paid to former Playmate Karen McDougal violated campaign finance law and was part of the same conspiracy. And that money was not paid by Cohen, it was paid by AMI. If this was a personal expense why would it be paid by a corporation and never reimbursed? Smith does not address the payment to McDougal at all. (9)


“This also helps explain why Trump needed to conceal the payments to Daniels by falsifying records. If those payments to Daniels were reported properly it would have opened up questions about similar payments to other women. And that could have exposed the illegal corporate contributions from AMI,” wrote Legum.


F. The jury was hopelessly biased against Trump


Baloney.


There is evidence suggesting that one or more of the jurors was politically conservative. According to the court questionnaires, one of the jurors who was selected said they relied on Truth Social, Trump's own social network, and X, which has taken a sharp rightward turn under Elon Musk, for news. (10)


Another juror reported regularly watching Fox News and MSNBC. And according to reporting, one juror said that "he believed Mr. Trump had done some good for the country." Another juror found himself "agreeing with some Trump administration policies and disagreeing with others." A third juror said she appreciated that "President Trump speaks his mind.” (11)


Not one juror voted “not guilty” on a single one of the 34 counts.


G. The judge was hopelessly biased against Trump


If not the jury, most be the judge, right?


Wrong. The argument is that Judge Juan Merchan donated $35 to liberal political causes in 2020 — including a $15 donation earmarked for Biden. (120


However, Merchan, who was randomly assigned the Trump case,  submitted the issue to an independent body, the New York Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics. The panel concluded that "these modest political contributions made more than two years ago cannot reasonably create an impression of bias or favoritism in the case before the judge.”


The New York Appellate Division rejected an appeal by Trump’s lawyers against Merchan’s decision to remain on the case. (13,14)



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