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FAU community reacts to historic Trump conviction

On May 30, a New York 12-person jury found former U.S. President Donald Trump guilty of 34 counts of falsifying business records. The unanimous decision has ignited diverse reactions within the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) community. Many consider it a historical moment that could significantly impact the current political climate, the broader societal landscape and...

On May 30, a New York 12-person jury found former U.S. President Donald Trump guilty of 34 counts of falsifying business records.

The unanimous decision has ignited diverse reactions within the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) community. Many consider it a historical moment that could significantly impact the current political climate, the broader societal landscape and the upcoming 2024 U.S. presidential election.

According to prosecutors, all felony counts are related to an alleged hush money payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels, a deal aimed at preventing voters from learning about the sexual encounter Daniels had with Trump years earlier, as he denies these allegations. 

As reported by the Associated Press, former Vice President of the Trump Organization and longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 before the 2016 presidential election to keep her from disclosing the details of a 2006 sexual encounter between her and Trump.

Investigators found Trump falsified business records tied to Cohen’s reimbursement. Separately, Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office charged Trump, alleging he hid information from voters to protect his campaign for the 2016 presidential election. He faces a potential sentence of one to four years in prison. However, due to his age and lack of criminal record, he may receive a shorter sentence or avoid incarceration altogether.

Donald Trump’s attorney, Todd Blanche, told CBS News that Trump’s legal team plans to challenge the verdict and is awaiting his sentencing on July 11. Despite the conviction, Trump will continue his campaign to reclaim the White House, as neither the conviction nor any potential sentence would bar him from serving as president.

Nicole Anslover, an associate FAU professor of American history and the director of the history department symposia, said that Trump’s conviction as a former president carries significant historical weight and potential future implications. 

“This is hard to compare to other times in American history because we have never had a convicted felon as a president before,” Anslover said. “So the precedent that this sets, we’re still waiting kind of to see. I think not just the verdict is, obviously, that’s significant and impactful, but I think we’re going to know more after the sentencing.”

She expressed skepticism that the verdict alone would shift public opinion but suggested that sentencing could have a greater impact. However, she believes Trump’s conviction isn’t the most crucial topic for the 2024 presidential election.

 “We’re talking about things like climate change, women’s rights, and whichever way people believe they should have a say in how our country runs… And so things very well could be completely different after this election. I don’t want to overstate, but I really do think this is probably the most significant election of our lifetime,” Anslover said. “It’s going to show us what Americans are willing to demand from their leaders, what Americans are willing to tolerate, what they want. So we’re going to get a different perspective on Americans’ priorities.”

Defining this time in history is uncharted territory, said Joao Brandao, an FAU political science alumnus. He believes the sentencing will affect both political parties in the presidential election.

“Potentially benefiting Trump by framing him as a victim of a political witch hunt – it’s going to affect the Trump campaign with those who have stated in various polls that they most likely will not vote for Trump because of his conviction,” Brandao said. “Despite the conviction, Trump has gained significant momentum, evident from the $100 million in donations his campaign received post-verdict.” He notes that people are looking at issues such as immigration, the economy, and foreign conflicts rather than focusing on the conviction.

Isabella Olofson-Ring, a senior political science major, expressed dissatisfaction with the verdict. She said this was a “politically motivated case against Trump” and described the legal system as “disrupted.”

 “The timing of the case, coinciding with Trump’s campaign, suggests an attempt to damage his political prospects,” Olofson-Ring said. “I just view Trump’s hush money case as a farce. This is a common practice. Hush money payments are used through and through. The payments, though ethically questionable, are used by many public figures to avoid these types of scandals.”

FAU political science alumnus Justis Siks sees the final verdict as an example of the justice system working correctly.

There has been a history of abuse and over-punishment for minorities within the justice system and breaks for those who hold power,” Siks said. “It is a prime example that nobody is above the law. I’m glad he will be held accountable for breaking the law.” 

He also expressed disappointment in the public’s reaction to the verdict on 34 felony charges, which seems to have bolstered Trump’s support rather than diminished it. 

“I thought this verdict would open people’s eyes to how corrupt he is as a politician, but instead, he has received over $30 million in campaign donations since the verdict, showing that his supporters do not care that he broke the law,” Siks said.

Benjamin Cohen, a graduate student at FAU pursuing a degree in history, said Trump’s case will have a lasting impact on how new generations understand the political landscape. 

“Regardless of political affiliation, everyone needs to recognize how significant of an event this is in American history and the story of the American presidency,” he wrote in a statement to the UP. “Sometimes, the significance of these events can be lost in the moment and only realized years later. This is something that students will learn about, but we have no way of knowing through which lens the story will be told.”

Trump still faces 54 charges in three other criminal indictments. He has denied wrongdoing in each case, and it is unclear when those trials will take place.

Sofia De La Espriella is the Editor-in-Chief of the University Press. Email sdelaespriel2022@fau.edu or message her on Instagram @sofidelaespriella for information regarding this or other stories.

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