Jury convicts Trump on all 34 felony charges in New York trial 

Former President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attends his criminal trial at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City, on May 30, 2024. ( Seth Wenig / POOL / AFP)
Former President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attends his criminal trial at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City, on May 30, 2024. ( Seth Wenig / POOL / AFP)

By Catherine Yang and Michael Washburn 
Contributing Writers 

NEW YORK — Former President Donald Trump was found guilty of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, as a jury of 12 unanimously returned their verdict on May 30 after two days of deliberation. With this result, Trump becomes the first-ever American president to be convicted of a crime. 

Trump’s attorney has previously vowed to appeal a conviction expeditiously. 

This comes after a six-week trial with 22 witness testimonies. Closing arguments were made on Tuesday, and the jury began deliberations shortly before noon the next day. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg had charged Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree, a class E felony. 

Prosecutors alleged that Trump fraudulently misclassified hush money payments to adult film actress Stephanie Clifford — aka Stormy Daniels — as part of an attempt to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.  

Trump has repeatedly called the criminal case political persecution and an act of election interference. He faces three other prosecutions in Washington, Georgia and Florida over his efforts to contest the 2020 election results and handling of classified documents. 

“It was a very unfair trial. It should never have happened,” Trump said outside the Manhattan courtroom on Wednesday after the jury began deliberation. 

New York Fraud Law 

Manhattan prosecutors charged President Trump with felony-level business records falsification, which requires the fraud to be carried out to commit or conceal another crime. 

Prosecutors alleged that the secondary crime is a New York election law that criminalizes conspiracy “to promote or prevent the election of any person to a public office by unlawful means.” 

The unlawful means identified by prosecutors were violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act, the falsification of other business records, or violations of tax laws. Judge Juan Merchan ruled that the jury did not have to unanimously agree on what the “unlawful means” was. 

The prosecution also did not have to prove that the secondary crime was in fact committed. 

The jury was instructed on the concept of accessorial liability, which explains that Trump did not have to commit the crimes himself to be held criminally liable. 

Merchan scheduled Trump’s sentencing for July 11. 

Competing Narratives 

During closing arguments on May 28, defense attorneys spent two and a half hours trying to convince the jury the government had failed to prove its case. 

Defense attorney Todd Blanche reminded jurors that key elements of the case — Trump’s knowledge and involvement, and the method for the allegedly misclassified payments — hinged on ex-lawyer and witness Michael Cohen, who shared personal reasons for wanting to see his former boss punished. 

“He lied to Congress. He lied to prosecutors. He lied to his family and business associates,” Blanche said of Cohen, calling him the “MVP of liars.” He asked jurors to question whether Cohen truly seemed the type to do work for Trump for no pay in 2017 and 2018, after receiving a $525,000 salary during his decade at the Trump Organization. 

Prosecutors spent five hours, twice the time the defense took, to recap their case and try to convince the jury there was “overwhelming” evidence. 

Prosecuting attorney Joshua Steinglass acknowledged their flawed witnesses, arguing the government didn’t “choose” Cohen to be their key witness, but that Trump “chose” him to be his “fixer.” He claimed Cohen was the only alleged coconspirator to have paid for his role in a scheme to influence the election, and his animosity toward the former president was only to be expected. 

“He made his bed. But you can hardly blame him for making money from the one thing he has left, which is his knowledge of the inner workings of the Trump Organization,” Steinglass argued. 

He pointed to a secret recording Cohen made of his boss, capturing a truncated conversation, and the contract Cohen signed to secure a story that he believed would damage the Trump campaign, arguing this showed a “cavalier willingness to hide this payoff” — the intent to defraud. 

34 Records 

The 34 records in question included 11 checks issued to Cohen, formerly a personal attorney to Trump, totaling $420,000 over 11 months in 2017, along with their corresponding invoices and vouchers. The additional single record is due to a lost check that necessitated the creation of a replacement to pay Cohen. 

Cohen testified that he paid $130,000 to Stephanie Clifford, better known as adult performer Stormy Daniels, in a non-disclosure settlement agreement, to prevent the publication of a story that then-candidate Trump believed would hurt his campaign. 

Clifford claimed she had a story about a sexual encounter with Trump from 2006, and that media outlets were interested in this story after an Access Hollywood tape of Trump recorded via a hot mic was released. At trial, Clifford testified about this alleged sexual encounter, which Trump has denied. 

Cohen testified that he made this payment in 2016 with the understanding that his employer, then-candidate Trump, would reimburse him. The deal was closed less than a month before the election, and Cohen testified he originally intended to delay payment until after the election, after which he claimed his boss said it would not matter if the story was published and thus the $130,000 would no longer need to be paid. 

On the witness stand, Cohen painted the picture of urgency in mid-October 2016, when representatives for Clifford pressed him for payment and said he only wanted to make his boss happy. He testified that, with Trump’s approval, he made the payment. 

He also testified to being intensely angry later that year, when he discovered his bonus had been cut by two-thirds from what he typically received. 

It prompted discussions with former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, who purportedly drew up plans to reimburse Cohen $130,000 for the payment to Clifford and $50,000 for an earlier payment to Red Finch, which he said he still hadn’t been reimbursed for. The sum was then doubled to $360,000 to account for taxes, and Weisselberg added $60,000 to supplement Cohen’s bonus. 

Prosecutors had claimed Weisselberg’s “grossing up” the figures for tax purposes was evidence he intended to “camouflage” reimbursement as income. 

This $420,000 was then paid to Cohen via monthly checks throughout 2017. At trial, prosecutors sought to show that Trump had caused false records to be entered when Weisselberg, acting as a co-conspirator, directed his comptroller Jeffrey McConney and bookkeeper Deb Tarasoff to process these payments. 

Trump was not directly charged with conspiracy, and prosecutors had no burden to prove either the goal or the state of mind behind any alleged conspiracy. 

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS