Former President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower Thursday found...

Former President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower Thursday found guilty on all 34 felony counts in Manhattan Criminal Court. Credit: Getty Images/Stephanie Keith

Early on Thursday, Donald Trump was the only indicted ex-president-turned-presidential-candidate in the history of the republic. By the end of the day, he’d become the first president, former or current, to be convicted of felonies — 34 counts, all related to the falsification of business records in his hush-money payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels amid the 2016 election.

Of the four criminal cases against him, this was a distinctly New York story. The dramatic verdict came in Manhattan, which created the Donald Trump that Americans would come to know as a celebrity, in a city full of mythical tabloid dramas about his property and his glitzy social life. Given those stamping grounds, Trump faced a true jury of his peers. As is the standard practice, defense and prosecution both had input into who served on the panel. Judge Juan Merchan, with professional restraint, withstood slanderous attacks outside the courtroom from Trump and his troupe.

Departing the courtroom, the Republican president unseated fair-and-square in 2020 reacted with an extra dose of his martyred hyperbole: The system is rigged, Joe Biden set this up, “our country has gone to hell,” and so on and so forth. The factual basis of this is easily dismissed and hopefully his loyal followers won’t be incited to overreact. Anyone who pays attention knows Trump always says everything is rigged against him. He even said the 2016 primary and general election were fixed — before winning both.

Respect is due the jurors who were attentive for many weeks to the testimony and arguments in a prosecution so controversial that they needed anonymity from the eyes of the world. Trump's defense attorneys were hampered by their client's insistence that he never had sexual encounters with Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, and that he didn't try to stop their stories from becoming public. That was just not believable and it hurt the credibility of the defense. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, showing a determination to pursue the case and let the facts play out, succeeded in fostering Thursday’s verdict.

The conviction will be appealed especially given some of the complexities and perceived gray areas of the law. The claim that the trial is an example of election interference is too consequential not to be reviewed.

The nation will have differing opinions of the case, especially because as things now stand, law enforcement’s confrontation with Trump cannot be easily extricated from the hot partisan narratives of the November election.

The status of the Republican presidential candidate sends the U.S. into uncharted electoral territory. In his otherwise dark, inaccurate and hyperbolic post-verdict statement, Trump may have hit a very truthful note when he said: “The real verdict is going to be Nov. 5 by the people.”

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.

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