Trump Trial Disinformation: How the right is trying to discredit the felony conviction

A historic day on Thursday, May 30, 2024 as the first former President in US history became a convicted felon. Found guilty on all 34 counts, Donald Trump finally faces the music for the first of his election-related criminal trials. Already the Trump trial disinformation machine is spinning up on the right, making wild claims about a politicized process.

The investigation into Trump’s fraudulent payments to Stormy Daniels actually began with Michael Cohen on July 18, 2017, when his bank First Republic Bank tipped off the FBI to some suspicious activity from the Trump’s fixer’s accounts. That investigation led to a 3-year sentence for Cohen for the same exact crime. Way back in 2018, we knew that “Co-conspirator 1” was Donald Trump — and now he has been convicted of that crime.

The federal case inspired an investigation into Cohen’s finances by the state of New York, where both he and the business were located. Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg inherited the case from former prosecutor Cy Vance, who began investigating Trump way back in 2018 after Cohen’s guilty plea, when Cohen admitted in court to making the hush money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels during Trump’s 2016 campaign. Vance ultimately declined to make a decision on the case before leaving office in 2021, leaving it open for his successor Alvin Bragg.

The Trump investigation: Multiple convictions

Vance did end up charging former Trump Organization CFO Alan Weisselberg with tax fraud, conspiracy, grand larceny, and falsifying business records. He pled guilty in 2022 and testified against the Trump Org, resulting in a conviction of criminal tax fraud against the company and a fine of $1.6 million.

Vance also worked with the Southern District of New York to prosecute the Michael Cohen case and 3-year sentence.

From hush money to election corruption

When new DA Bragg inherited the case that later came to be known as the “hush money” case in 2021, he was reportedly reluctant to make charges, causing 2 longtime prosecutors to leave. He did however end up charging Donald Trump in April 2023, on 34 counts of felony falsification of business records.

Bragg, a graduate of Harvard Law School, focused on fraud and money laundering cases during his tenure as a prosecutor at the Southern District of New York. He also led the team at the NY Attorney General’s office that secured a $2 million judgment and the dissolution of the Trump Foundation in 2019 for misuse of Trump’s charitable foundation. After looking at the facts of the hush money case, he ultimately decided that it was much bigger than simply paying off a porn star: “it’s about conspiring to corrupt a presidential election.”

Trump trial proceedings

The trial was conducted in a (mostly) orderly fashion by Judge Juan Marchan, with Michael Cohen, David Pecker, Stormy Daniels, and other high-profile witnesses. The courage of the 12 jurors should be foregrounded in the media coverage and in the historical memory — along with 6 alternates, a group of ordinary Americans took significant time out of their lives to hear as fairly as they could this case, and deliver a verdict. Even the “Truth Social juror” was convinced — the jury of our peers was unanimous.

The disorderliness came from Trump himself, who was held in content of court 10 times during the trial. So much for law and order. He also threatened the jury by various means — mobster style.

Now that the fiasco is over and Trump is a convicted felon, the right-wing is losing their minds. Whether it’s bellowing in rage on social media, outraging the outrageist rage, writing angry Congressional letters, or other form of tantrum — Republicans be mad. They are making the most absurd claims, including the delusional idea that “convicted felon” is *merely* a Democratic talking point instead of legal and historical fact.

Trump trial false claims

Timeline of the Trump trial

Fact: The investigation started long before Biden, in 2018.

Right-wing Claim: Biden is behind the Trump trial hush money / election corruption trial.

Debunk: In fact, the investigation was begun 3 full years before Joe Biden even took office. The earlier case — stemming from the same investigation — against the Trump Organization resulted in a guilty plea from former CFO Alan Weisselberg who is currently serving time for those crimes.

Rarity of criminal prosecution

Fact: Felony falsification of business records has been prosecuted more than 300 times in the past 5 years by this same office.

Claim: This type of crime is so minor it is not usually prosecuted.

Debunk: The DA’s office referred to this crime as the “bread and butter” of its white collar crime work. New York has a lot of white collar criminals! Trump is merely one of them.

Seriousness of the crime

Fact: It’s a felony in the state of NY that carries a potential sentence of 1-4 years in prison.

Right-wing claim: This is a trivial matter.

Debunk: They proved the falsified business records by simply presenting the documents, and they proved the conspiracy — in fact, Michael Cohen was sentenced to 3 years in prison for his part in the same crime. That’s the case.

Fairness of the Trump trial

Fact: Trump was found guilty by a jury of his peers.

Right-wing claim: The trial is rigged!

Debunk: 12 people in Trump’s home town that, according to their understanding of the law imparted by the trial, they believed Trump to be guilty of the crimes of conspiracy and falsification of business records — and that the prosecution had proven that beyond a shadow of a doubt. Both sides had a chance to strike problematic jurors from the pool, and both sides agreed on all the jurors and 6 alternates. This is our justice system at work.

Not totally unprecedented

Fact: Many other democracies around the world have convicted former leaders.

Right-wing claim: This is totally unprecedented! We are a banana republic now — this would never happen in a civilized country!

Debunk: Trump is just one of a long list of former heads of states convicted of crimes — for corruption, abuse of power, and many more. Here are some of the countries where national leadership has been convicted and even imprisoned:

  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • Croatia
  • Egypt
  • France
  • Georgia
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Malaysia
  • Peru
  • South Africa
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan

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