🔒 Trump convicted: Justice prevails in a divided USA – Timothy L. O’Brien

In a stunning turn of events, Donald Trump, the controversial figure who’s spent decades defying norms, has been brought to justice. After a tumultuous presidency and subsequent legal battles, New York prosecutors have secured a conviction for criminal fraud. Despite Trump’s protests, the verdict stands—a crucial step towards accountability in a nation he’s deeply divided. As the legal saga continues, the ultimate judgment rests not with the courts, but with the people, come November.

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By Timothy L. O’Brien

Donald Trump, who turns 78 in June, has spent decades circumventing and flouting civil and civic society. He spent his presidency and the years since going well out of his way to undermine the rule of law. And the law finally caught up to him. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

New York prosecutors said he and his co-conspirators cooked the Trump Organization’s books to mask payments to former lovers to prevent tales of their trysts from derailing his 2016 presidential bid. A jury of Trump’s peers (two of whom were lawyers) agreed and found him guilty of criminal fraud on Thursday afternoon.

Trump, predictably, remained unbowed.

“This was a disgrace. This was a rigged trial by a conflicted judge who was corrupt,” he said outside the courtroom after the verdict was read. “The real verdict is gonna be Nov. 5, by the people.”

“Our country’s gone to hell,” he added, in case you needed a bit of cheering up. “We don’t have the same country anymore. We have a divided mess.”

Trump, who has been a primary architect of the divided mess that is the United States, knows of what he speaks. He has routinely deployed lies, racism and us-versus-them paranoia to help undermine Americans’ faith in one another, in our institutions and in the world around us. He has romped along, merrily stoking conflagrations wherever he could, unchecked.

Congress impeached Trump twice, but Republican allies put the acquisition and retention of power ahead of civic duty and let him elude accountability. Three other criminal trials are still in motion against him, but they’ve been bogged down by a blend of judicial malfeasance and ineptitude and prosecutorial lapses. But a handful of New York law enforcement officials, in a prosecution that was fated from its very beginnings to be labeled a witch hunt, finally brought Trump to heel.

This was long overdue. There may be violence in the streets in response to this verdict. But it was long overdue. There may be political fissures that take years to mend. But it was long overdue. There may be a generation of voters and citizens permanently soured on the courts and their neighbors. But it was long overdue.

As the Supreme Court, which has been a weak ally to justice in the Trump years, has noted in Trump rulings, no American, including presidents, is above the rule of law. Holding on to the rule of law during times of chaos and fear is when holding on to the rule of law matters most. It was important that Trump be fairly tried in New York, which he was. It was important that the jury found him guilty of his crimes, which he was.

All of this is hardly over. Trump, a presidential candidate who is now a convicted felon, still faces a sentencing hearing on July 11 with Justice Juan Merchan, who has overseen a trial that Trump tried to turn into a circus. Merchan, a meticulous and courageous jurist who went out of his way to treat Trump fairly, will still have to decide how severe a penalty he wants to impose. He has latitude. He could sentence Trump to as much as four years in prison or let him avoid that nightmare with less weighty sanctions.

Trump will surely appeal that sentence and this verdict all the way to the US Supreme Court if he has to, so there may still be a long and winding judicial road ahead — one that will possibly not reach its end before the presidential election in November.

Trump’s supporters will continue to savage the courts, prosecutors and Merchan, of course. Cultists have a hard time absorbing stark reckonings. Legal scholars will disagree on the merits and weaknesses of the New York case. Trump himself will do whatever he can to portray himself as a martyr for a cause that has never really transcended his own self-aggrandizement and self-preservation.

Even so, Trump did put his finger on an important thing when he found himself shell-shocked, humbled and moaning outside Courtroom 1530 at 100 Centre Street in lower Manhattan, just miles away from where he was born and where his father began assembling the family fortune about a century ago.

And it bears repeating: “The real verdict is gonna be Nov. 5, by the people.”

This is certainly true. Trump can run for president and execute the office’s powers from prison, if it comes to that. The ultimate verdict that would prevent this particular and peculiar outlaw from continuing to wield political power and fracture his country’s well-being would be rejecting him for a second stay in the White House.

It will all be in voters’ hands, as it always has been — ever since Trump rolled down a Trump Tower escalator to declare his presidential bid nine long years ago.

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