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Trump will try to turn his guilty verdict into campaign fuel

NEW YORK (AP) — Being convicted of a felony — let alone 34 of them – is the kind of blow that would normally tank any politician’s ambitions.

Donald Trump will instead try to turn what might otherwise be a career-ending judgment into campaign fuel.

Trump will return to the campaign trail Friday with a news conference at his namesake tower in Manhattan a day after he was convicted of trying to illegally influence the 2016 election through a hush money payment to a porn actor who claimed they had sex. His lawyers and allies described him as defiant and ready to fight a verdict they argue is illegitimate and driven by politics.

No former president or presumptive party nominee has ever faced a felony conviction or the prospect of prison time, and Trump is expected to keep his legal troubles central to his campaign. He has long argued without evidence that the four indictments against him were orchestrated by Democratic President Joe Biden to try to keep him out of the White House.

“There is nobody who is more defiant,” said Trump spokesman Jason Miller on Fox News hours after the verdict was read. “He’s ready to get out there and start fighting again.”

Trump and his campaign had been preparing for a guilty verdict for days, even as they held out hope for a hung jury. On Tuesday, Trump railed that not even Mother Teresa, the nun and saint, could beat the charges, which he repeatedly labeled as “rigged.”

His top aides on Wednesday released a memo in which they insisted a verdict would have no impact on the election, whether Trump was convicted or acquitted.

The news nonetheless landed with a jolt. Trump, his team and reporters at the courthouse had been under the impression that the jury on Thursday would wrap up deliberations for the day at 4:30 p.m. Trump sat smiling and chatting with his lawyers as the proceedings seemed to be coming to a close.

Trump had spent the hours before the verdict was announced sequestered in the private courtroom where he had spent breaks throughout the trial, huddled with his attorneys and campaign aides, eating from a revolving lunch menu of McDonald’s, pizza, and subs.

As the jury was deciding his fate, he filled his time making calls, firing off social media missives and chatting with friends, including developer Steve Witkoff, who joined him in court, and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who is considered a top vice presidential contender.

In a sign that they expected deliberations to continue, Trump’s holding room was outfitted with a television Thursday, according to two people familiar with the setup who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the case.

Instead, Merchan announced that a verdict had been reached. Thirty minutes later, Trump listened as the jury delivered a guilty verdict on every count. Trump sat stone-faced while the verdict was read.

His campaign fired off a flurry of fundraising appeals, and GOP allies rallied to his side. One text message called him a “political prisoner,” even though he hasn’t yet found out if he will be sentenced to prison. The campaign also began selling black “Make America Great Again” caps to reflect a “dark day in history.”

Aides reported an immediate rush of contributions so intense that WinRed, the platform the campaign uses for fundraising, crashed.

Trump campaign spokesman Brian Hughes cited the outpouring as a sign “that Americans have seen this sham trial as the political election interference that Biden and Democrats have always intended.”

“November 5th,” he said, echoing Trump, “is the day Americans will deliver the real verdict!”

Trump has long complained that the trial limited his campaign appearances for several weeks. “I want to campaign,” he had told reporters Thursday morning before a verdict was reached.

It is unclear, however, how much Trump’s schedule will ramp up in the days ahead. He held only a handful of public campaign events as the trial unfolded, despite the fact that he had Wednesdays, as well as evenings and weekends, to do what he wished.

He’s set in the upcoming two months to have his first debate with Biden, announce a running mate and formally accept his party’s nomination at the Republican National Convention.

But before he goes to Milwaukee for the RNC, Trump will have to return to court on July 11 for sentencing. He could face penalties ranging from a fine or probation up to four years in prison.

Michelle L. Price And Jill Colvin, The Associated Press




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