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Donald Trump verdict: experts explain

31 May 2024
What you need to know
University of Sydney experts offer opinions on the guilty verdict for Donald Trump, who is now the first US President, serving or former, to have been convicted of a crime.

Donald Trump has become the first president in US history to be convicted of a crime. He has been found guilty of all 34 counts of falsifying business records in a criminal hush-money scheme to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. 

Trump now faces the prospect of jail, probation, or other restrictions set by the judge. The sentencing is set for 11 July, 2024, at 10am ET.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing.

University of Sydney academics from the School of Social and Political Sciences comment on what could happen next and what it could mean for the upcoming US election on 5 November.

Donald Trump can still run for presidency

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Professor Brendon O'Connor

Professor Brendon O’Connor, researcher and lecturer in the Discipline of Government and International Relations and a member of the US Studies Centre said Donald Trump can still run for presidency.

"It is important to remember that Trump can still run for the presidency as a felon (even from jail), but as a resident of Florida he might not be able to vote for himself because felons serving sentences cannot vote in that state," Professor O'Connor said. 

"It is very unlikely that Trump will be sentenced to jail time," he added.

"Trump will be the Republican nominee regardless of any conviction because he won the primaries and because fellow Republicans fear Trump’s supporters turning against them politically and violently if they moved against Trump being party nominee," he said.

Professor O'Connor said the big question is, will this matter with voters?

"Is there a small group of voters that would have otherwise supported Trump, but cannot support a felon. There is some polling suggesting this might be the case, but whether this holds up in practice is hard to tell.

"Trump has a Teflon quality with all his scandals and crimes. He has done so many scandalous things, a further scandal makes little difference."

Appealing the verdict

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Associate Professor David Smith

Associate Professor David Smith, is Associate Professor in American Politics and Foreign Policy in the Discipline of Government and International Relations. He said Trump's lawyers will appeal but the appeal could possibly only be heard after the election.

"Until then, (and if) his appeal succeeds, he is a convicted felon."

"His convictions could attract a prison sentence, but this would be both politically and logistically fraught," he said. "Trump would require secret service protection in prison, which would be extremely difficult. The judge may opt for a non-detention punishment such as probation."

Associate Professor Smith said it is impossible to say how this will influence the election. "Many polls have shown that at least some Americans say they wouldn't vote for Trump if he were convicted of a crime. Even if that is a small number, in an election this close it could be important. But now that he actually has been convicted, and people will be hearing a lot of political spin about it, their views may change."

Hero photo: Former US President Donald Trump returns to Trump Tower after a jury found him guilty on all 34 counts in his criminal trial in New York State Supreme Court in New York, New York, USA, 30 May 2024. Photo: Peter Foley/ EPA/AAP

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