Skip to content

Trump set to be sentenced just days before Republican convention

Voters are more angry about high grocery, gas prices, GOP strategist says

Former President Donald Trump departs a courtroom after being found guilty on all 34 counts in his criminal hush money trial in New York on Thursday, flanked by attorney Todd Blanche. (Justin Lane-Pool/Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump departs a courtroom after being found guilty on all 34 counts in his criminal hush money trial in New York on Thursday, flanked by attorney Todd Blanche. (Justin Lane-Pool/Getty Images)

Donald Trump, the first former president to be convicted on criminal charges, is set to step on stage at the Republican National Convention in July knowing if he will serve jail time.

Juan Merchan, a New York state judge, announced a July 11 sentencing hearing moments after Trump was found guilty Thursday by a jury on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. The GOP convention is scheduled to begin July 15 in Milwaukee, with the nominee expected to deliver his acceptance speech three days later on July 18.

A nominee convicted of a felony accepting a major political party’s presidential nomination will be yet another unprecedented moment delivered by the former reality television star, playboy, product pitchman and New York real estate executive.

One Republican strategist on Thursday evening said Trump is likely to use the trial’s outcome to attempt “propelling” his standing among independent voters with a two-pronged message: The justice system is unfair and President Joe Biden has done little to drive down the prices of groceries and gasoline.

After the jury delivered its verdict, a visible angry Trump, whose campaign immediately began raising funds off the verdict, offered what could be a preview of his new campaign-trail stump speech and convention address — and so did the Biden campaign.

“This was a rigged, disgraceful trial. The real verdict is going to be Nov. 5 by the people,” Trump said. “And it’s OK, I’m fighting for our country, I’m fighting for our Constitution. Our whole country is being rigged right now.”

Biden and his administration have said for months they had nothing to do with the New York state officials’ investigation nor the decision to charge and try a former president.

The verdict and scene in Milwaukee, when he and Republicans in the arena likely will be railing against the justice system will bring more than a touch of irony. That’s because Trump’s loyalists for years chanted “lock her up” during his raucous political rallies.

To be sure, the jury’s decision will send ripples that will alter the tenor of the Milwaukee convention. Trump made as much clear after the court adjourned Thursday.

“And we’ll keep fighting. We’ll fight till the end and we’ll win,” he said. “We have a divided mess. We’re a nation in decline, serious decline. … And we will fight for our Constitution. This is long from over.”

GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said Democrats may use the verdict as a talking point, but Trump knows everything is counting on what voters believe in November.

“This verdict doesn’t change the fact that Joe Biden has a real problem on inflation, it doesn’t change the fact that Biden has a real problem on the open [southern] border,” O’Connell said in a phone interview.

“One thing that Trump does talk a lot about, that resonates with some independents in those big swing states, is the idea of a two-tiered justice system,” he added. “And this verdict just adds rocket fuel to that. … This is a man who is an earned media master, so I could see this propelling him in those swing states.”

Trump appeared to toggle into campaign mode during his post-trial court house remarks. “Because our country’s gone to hell. We don’t have the same country anymore,” he said, using some lines he drops at his rallies. “Millions and millions of people pouring into our country right now from prisons and from mental institutions, terrorists. And they’re taking over our country. We have a country that’s in big trouble.”

The Biden reelection campaign and Trump actually agreed on something following the verdict announcement: Election Day still matters.

“Today’s verdict does not change the fact that the American people face a simple reality. There is still only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: at the ballot box. Convicted felon or not, Trump will be the Republican nominee for president,” campaign spokesman Michael Tyler said in a statement.

“A second Trump term means chaos, ripping away Americans’ freedoms and fomenting political violence — and the American people will reject it this November,” Tyler added, offering a likely preview of Biden’s message as the general election enters another new phase.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were in Philadelphia on Wednesday trying to reach out to Black voters, a sign they have studied polling data showing some members of that key Democratic voting bloc is not excited about their bid for a second term. They used the appearance to warn about a Trump victory in November.

“Folks, Trump continues to lie by saying Black unemployment was at a record low on his watch,” Biden said Wednesday. “The fact is the record low unemployment happened on my watch, and we’re going to keep it going.”

But O’Connell said that even becoming the first former American commander in chief to be convicted on criminal charges would not alone decide the election.

“People are mad as hell about grocery prices and gas prices,” he said. “Democrats don’t understand how powerful that is. These aren’t luxury items.”

Recent Stories

Biden rules issued from now on vulnerable to repeal if he loses

Wyden wants more Medicaid funding to keep obstetric units open

Supreme Court’s redistricting decision could hurt map challengers

Does Joe Biden need a miracle or just a bit of good luck?

Graves decides not to run after Louisiana district redrawn

Garland won’t face contempt of Congress charge over Biden audio