Dissecting Trump’s Guilty Verdict // A conversation with CNN senior legal analyst and former federal and state prosecutor Elie Honig

For the first time, a former US president has been convicted of a felony. The prosecution of Donald Trump in a New York court on 34 charges of falsifying documents was the first of the criminal court cases against him to come to trial, and it concluded with him being found guilty on all counts.
Although falsifying documents on its own is just a misdemeanor in New York law, when it is intended to cover up another crime, it can be a felony. In this case, the jury determined that the falsification was in the furtherance of another crime.
The sentencing in the case will take place on July 11, and the possible penalties range from probation to a fine to four years in prison.
To better understand the case and its legal ramifications, I spoke with Elie Honig, an attorney and legal commentator. He formerly served as assistant United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, where, among other things, he prosecuted over 100 members of the mafia. Honig has worked with both Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney who prosecuted the Trump case, and with Trump’s main defense lawyer in the case, Todd Blanche.

What was your first reaction to the verdict?
To the fact that we had a verdict so quickly, or that it was guilty?

Let’s talk about both.
I’d been doing wall-to-wall coverage on this for CNN all day, every day. We were getting ready to wrap up, because word had come in around 4:00 that the judge was going to dismiss the jury for the day at 4:30. I was on the set with Jake Tapper. The way it works on CNN is that we have a big pillar that flashes our updates, which is basically the same way you see them on TV. They pop up one after another at tech speed. It was saying that the parties were gathering their stuff together and getting ready to go home and the judge was getting ready to come out to dismiss everyone. Then all of a sudden an update flashed: “The jury has a verdict.” We were in a commercial break, so we came right back into it. The timing of the verdict wasn’t super surprising. Jake asked me on air if it was a quick or a long verdict, and I replied that it was neither. They deliberated for just over 11 hours, which is about what you would probably expect, although that might be slightly on the shorter end.

And with regard to the verdict itself?
In that respect, the conviction was not a surprise. I said in writing many times for my New York Magazine pieces and on air that conviction was always the most likely outcome in this case. I raised questions about the way it was brought, charged and prosecuted. I wrote a piece where I lay all those things out, but the conviction itself was never a shocker. I think that when you look at the conduct itself and Donald Trump’s overwhelming unpopularity in Manhattan… I’m not saying that he was unfairly charged—Manhattan would be the absolute correct place to bring the charges—but let’s not be naïve. The fact that Donald Trump is extraordinarily and intensely unpopular in Manhattan matters. He got 12% of the vote in Manhattan in 2020, which means that he had more than 87% of voters against him. I don’t think he had an unfair jury; I think it did its job and did it well, but you also can’t tell me with a straight face that he would have had the exact same chance of conviction or acquittal if he’d been charged in a county in Oklahoma where he got 80% of the vote.
Let’s talk about that for a moment. A jury is charged by the judge to do certain things.
“Put aside your personal views,” blah, blah, blah.


To read more, subscribe to Ami