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Sunday, June 16, 2024

The verdict, Trump’s rant, and his future


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Donald Trump is a felon. Yesterday, he was convicted on 34 counts in his New York criminal trial; today, he delivered an unrestrained and dangerous series of remarks about the verdict and his political opponents. What’s next? I asked three Atlantic writers for their thoughts on Trump’s legal and political future.

First, here are three new stories from The Atlantic:


“The Runt of the Litter”

Donald Trump has been convicted on 34 felony counts, a first for an American president. Quinta Jurecic, an Atlantic contributing writer, watched the trial play out in person: “It was striking just how mundane everything seemed, despite Trump’s best efforts to make the proceedings into a circus,” she told me in an email. “The courtroom was dimly lit, with bad air-conditioning. Trump had to sit there all day without speaking. The New York courthouse might have been grimy and unimpressive, but Trump had no special power there.”

This morning, the former president went from silent to irate, going on what my colleague John Hendrickson called a “vocal rampage.” Trump called Judge Juan Merchan, who presided over the case, “a devil”; he called Joe Biden “a Manchurian candidate.” “His wild, unrestrained remarks today offered a rhetorical hint at the extremism to come in the remaining five months of this year’s presidential election,” John writes.

Judge Merchan set a sentencing date of July 11, meaning that soon we will know whether the former president will be sent to prison before the election. Meanwhile, Trump’s campaign claims that it has raised more than $34 million since the verdict. I asked three of my Atlantic colleagues what they’re thinking about in the lead-up to July—and to November.

***

Lora Kelley: What should we watch for as Trump’s other legal issues progress—and as his sentencing date approaches?

David A. Graham, staff writer: I’m watching for the Supreme Court’s ruling about Trump’s immunity from prosecution. That should come in the next month or so, and it will tell us a lot about the future of the federal case in D.C., about Trump’s efforts to subvert the 2020 election. That’s the one to keep an eye on, especially because it gets to the most serious accusations against Trump. Both the classified-documents case in Florida and the election case in Georgia seem to be stuck in procedural mire for now.

I’m very, very dubious that Trump would serve any time in prison before the election—even if he’s sentenced to it, the appeals process will probably help him delay serving it. But I’ve been wrong about lots of things in this case so far.

***

Lora: As the hush-money case progressed, critics across the political spectrum expressed skepticism that this was the strongest or most serious of the various criminal cases against Trump. Why was this case the first one to make it to a trial?

Quinta Jurecic, contributing writer: Of the four criminal cases against Trump, the Manhattan case was always the runt of the litter. It didn’t charge Trump with unlawfully holding on to power after 2020, like the Fulton County, Georgia, prosecution and the federal case in Washington, D.C., and it didn’t involve pressing concerns about national security like the prosecution in Florida accusing Trump of hoarding classified documents. It was also a case brought by a district attorney after federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York declined to bring charges on the same facts—a backstory that seemed designed to make commentators with backgrounds in the federal system sneer. There was a sense that this case just wasn’t important.

In the end, though, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg had the last laugh. The federal cases have both become snarled in delays thanks to the peculiar advantages afforded to a former president: In the January 6 case, the Supreme Court is weighing Trump’s claims of presidential immunity, while in Florida, he’s benefiting from the dawdling of a judge whom he himself appointed. But Trump had no such edge in New York state court. His efforts to stall the case failed. He’s sure to appeal, but victory in the appellate courts is far from certain. And even if he wins the 2024 election, he won’t be able to pardon himself on state convictions.

***

Lora: What does the verdict mean for Trump’s chances in the general election? What are the biggest unknowns about how voters will respond?

Ronald Brownstein, senior editor: We are very dug in as a country. But I do think that it would be a mistake to assume that this will have no consequence. This conviction raises a threshold question for voters: Are they willing to make a convicted felon the nation’s chief law-enforcement officer and commander in chief? I don’t think we’ll know the answer to that right away. But it’s likely that the conviction will increase the number of voters willing to make that calculation. Still, I would be surprised if it moves enough voters into that category to overcome all of Biden’s problems in the swing states that will decide the winner. Voters who really dislike the status quo will almost always find ways to rationalize voting for change—no matter how many doubts they have about the source of that change.

This conviction will likely weaken Trump—at least to some extent—but it is unlikely to improve Biden’s current situation, where his approval rating has been stuck around a dismal 40 percent and voters consistently say they trust Trump more than Biden to manage the economy. I often say that all of Trump’s problems are having the effect of throwing Biden a 17-foot rope; the problem is that Biden is currently standing in a 20-foot hole. With the conviction, the rope Trump is lowering to Biden might be lengthening to 18 or 19 feet.

Related:


Today’s News

  1. President Biden backed Israel’s multistage proposal for Hamas, which would start with a six-week cease-fire. He said that Hamas is “no longer capable of carrying out a major terrorist attack on Israel.”
  2. In a news conference, Trump decried the verdict in his New York criminal trial and said that many immigrants are coming from jails and “insane asylums.”
  3. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who said last year that he will not run for reelection, announced that he has switched his party affiliation from Democrat to independent.

Dispatches

Explore all of our newsletters here.


Evening Read

Photo-illustration featuring a hand caressing a woman's face
Illustration by Najeebah Al-Ghadban for The Atlantic

The Same Old Sex Talk Isn’t Enough

By Stephanie H. Murray

Growing up in a Catholic family, I spent a lot of my teen years being lectured to about the downsides of premarital sex. At their best, these talks, usually delivered in sex-segregated groups, contained a message that, looked at sideways, might have been described as feminist: Dating someone did not entitle them to your body, and a man’s libido was never to be favored over your own (spiritual) well-being. At their worst, they were objectifying and cruel; one speaker advised a group of middle-school girls to envision our purity as an apple that we would one day offer our spouse.

Now I have two daughters of my own. I want to offer them sexual guidance that recognizes the value of caution, but I also want to spare them the sort of shaming my peers and I were subjected to. Yet I’m not confident I know where the line between caution and shame lies.

Read the full article.

More From The Atlantic


Culture Break

An image of the main character from The Crow
Photo-illustration by Gabriela Pesqueira. Sources: Arthur Morris / Getty; Maximum Film / Alamy.

Watch. The Crow (out now on MGM+) is a 1990s cult classic that will be rebooted in August, Shirley Li writes. Can this story save the comic-book movie?

Read.The General Intendant’s Daughter,” a short story by Adam Ehrlich Sachs:

“The girl’s expressive gifts surpass those of all the members of his company, even the aging starlet Klamt. That is something the General Intendant of the City Theater can no longer deny.”

Play our daily crossword.


Stephanie Bai contributed to this newsletter.

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