Trump’s hush money trial verdict could come this week. Here’s what each outcome could mean for the election

posted in: Politics | 0

Julia Terruso | The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)

Twelve jurors in New York City are poised to make history when they reveal the verdict in the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president.

Related Articles

National Politics |

Voter outreach groups targeted by new laws in several GOP-led states are struggling to do their work

National Politics |

Prosecutor says Trump tried ‘to hoodwink voters’ while defense attacks key witness in last arguments

National Politics |

Biden says each generation has to ‘earn’ freedom, in solemn Memorial Day remarks

National Politics |

As states loosen childhood vaccine requirements, public health experts’ worries grow

National Politics |

As the election nears, Biden pushes a slew of rules on the environment and other priorities

The decision could influence some voters in a close presidential race in key swing states like Pennsylvania with six months until the election.

Closing arguments in former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial are slated for Tuesday with jury deliberations likely to start on Wednesday.

Prosecutors have alleged that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee engaged in a strategy to acquire and suppress unfavorable news stories, to impact the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Trump has pleaded not guilty to falsifying business records to cover up the purported scheme. It’s the first of Trump’s four criminal cases to go to trial, and likely the only one to be tried before the Nov. 5 election.

As the campaign barrels toward November, the hush money trial has done little to shift a tight race. That’s partly because polling shows few voters are paying attention to it.

In a recent YouGov/Yahoo News poll, just 16% of respondents said they’d been following the trial “very closely,” with one-third saying they were taking a mild interest in proceedings. More Americans said the trial made them feel “bored” or “angry” than interested.

That’s somewhat surprising given the salacious subject matter — a former adult film star detailing an alleged sexual encounter with a presidential candidate. But Trump has a long history of outrageous behavior, and if the facts of the case have not motivated voters en masse, a legal outcome of them might not either.

“I think even his most ardent supporters, given who he is, can believe everything they said he did,” GOP consultant Chris Nicholas said. “Whether it ends up being found to be felonious criminally is another story.”

Here’s what we’re watching for in the three scenarios that could play out.

If Donald Trump is found guilty

If the jury finds Trump guilty, he would be eligible for a prison sentence, an unprecedented scenario that the Secret Service is already taking preemptive steps to prepare for.

Each of the 34 felony falsification of business records charges that Trump is facing carries a sentence of up to four years in prison and a $5,000 fine. If Trump is found guilty, Judge Juan Merchan would have a lot of leeway. He could sentence Trump to probation, house arrest, or prison.

Given Trump, 77, has no prior criminal record, many legal experts say it’s unlikely the judge would impose a prison sentence. Trump would also likely appeal a guilty verdict, and any jail time would be stayed as the appeal continues through the court system, a process that could take months, if not years.

Still, the case against Trump for Democrats and Biden becomes easier to make with a guilty verdict. The Biden campaign is preparing to start referring to Trump as “convicted felon Donald Trump,” should he be found guilty.

And polling has indicated a guilty verdict could erode some support.

A March Politico and Ipsos survey found that a conviction could cost Trump more than one-third of independents. A February NBC News poll showed that a conviction in the New York trial could trigger a big swing from 18- to 34-year-old voters from Trump to Biden. And an ABC News/Ipsos survey from late April found that 20% of Trump supporters polled would “either reconsider their support (16%) or withdraw it (4%)” if he’s convicted.

There’s little sign that avid supporters have abandoned Trump over his legal troubles in states like Pennsylvania, but even smaller shifts could matter in a tight race.

Trump, meanwhile, will likely continue to run — and fundraise — off of the trial, no matter the outcome. He’s turned the indictments into unifying rallying calls to his supporters.

“Every time the radical left Democrats, Marxists, communists, and fascists indict me, I consider it a great badge of honor,” Trump said in his recent rally in Wildwood. “I am being indicted for you and never forget our enemies want to take my freedom because I will never let them take away your freedom. They want to silence me because I will never let them silence you.”

If Donald Trump is acquitted

As he did in Wildwood, Trump, for months, has categorized the case against him as a politically motivated prosecution. An acquittal would represent validation for Trump, his supporters, and his lineup of potential running mates, many of whom have packed the courtroom.

While he faces three other criminal trials, it’s unlikely any of those cases will conclude ahead of the general election, meaning an acquittal frees Trump from the possibility of running as a convicted candidate — or a candidate in jail.

That could help him among undecided voters with whom the outcome of the cases carries some weight.

Trump leads Biden in national polls and most swing states but in Pennsylvania his lead is narrow. His challenge has always been how to expand his base beyond a dedicated core. Running on an acquittal helps him make the case to moderates and independent voters.

It puts Biden’s Democratic surrogates in a more difficult position having spent months defending the trial against Trump.

And while an acquittal wouldn’t directly impact the other pending cases in Florida, Georgia, and Washington, it could shape public perception and influence potential juries in those states.

If the jury hangs

If the jury cannot reach a verdict, the judge will likely declare a mistrial. The Manhattan district attorney can then choose to retry the case with a new jury. But the runway to the election is shortening, making a retrial before November unlikely.

Trump would likely cast a mistrial as a win.

Whatever the outcome, how both candidates respond could carry almost as much weight as the decision. Biden has avoided commenting on the legal cases, but his campaign indicated he’ll make a statement on the verdict.

And Trump will be even more free to speak out with the trial behind him.

“The wild card, of course, is how does he respond?” Nicholas, the GOP consultant, said. “Once the verdict is in, he doesn’t have the gag order anymore, so he’s off to the races in terms of what he says.”

©2024 The Philadelphia Inquirer, LLC. Visit at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.